Archive for the ‘Turkish Theology’ Category

Part 1: Exodus;20.7; The Third Commandment: Learning to honour God’s Special, Personal name Trinitarianly

September 25, 2022

This Week we are going to look at the following verse:

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 (from; NASB; Olive Tree software)

This was taken from wikipeadia by Mohammed Moussa. (The link is in the Bibliography)

Our Christian traditional lives are lived in an untraditional world and sometimes we find that members of the Church are persecuted for their beliefs.  This commandment is important because God’s honour is violated on a daily basis.  Some people blaspheme God’s name unknowingly (lack of knowledge) others do it knowingly. Even believers who should know better from whatever Church do it and they know they shouldn’t.  This is the first part in a two-part series.  In the second part we will look at the teachings of Herman Bavinck.  The second part will come out either next Week or the Week after as I am also going through the Sermon on the Mount.

7 לֹ֥א תִשָּׂ֛א אֶת־שֵֽׁם־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ לַשָּׁ֑וְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יְנַקֶּה֙ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־יִשָּׂ֥א אֶת־שְׁמֹ֖ו לַשָּֽׁוְא׃ פ Exodus 20:7

Taken from Bible hub: see Bibliography

Firstly

There are lots of things happening in this verse and although I am not a complete expert, I can say there are two verbs here working in tandem to show the seriousness of the LORD’s saying.   When I am commenting here, we need to realize that I am emphasising how English, and Hebrew are ‘not the same’. First, we have the qal.  It is in the active voice but imperfect.  In English the imperfect usually means as an action that isn’t completed or finished.  The qal in the Hebrew usually means incomplete action that can be in the past or the future or not even have a time stamp on it at all!

 In English “Imperfect” comes from the Latin imperfectus “unfinished”, because the imperfect expresses an ongoing, uncompleted action. The equivalent Ancient Greek term was paratatikós “prolonged”. From wiki; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperfect

In Hebrew the imperfect can also mean something that happens in the future.  Here though the qal has a secondary use because of the (‘not’).  When it is used in a negative command ‘it is emphatic’. 

With the piel ‘will (not) leave him unpunished’ (is in an intensive form).

Notes

Emphatic = expressing something forcibly and clearly.  (from Google; Oxford languages)

Intensive = ‘unpunished’ This particular person who commits the crime has a price to pay no matter what.

The command with the qal and the piel verbs working together this way means that God is saying something very strong and everybody needs to listen.

Secondly

We have repeating words:

  • Not; The not tells us that this is a negative command.
  • Vain; we will look at this a little deeper
  • The LORD (Tetragrammaton); The general word for God ‘Elohim’ is not used here but God’s personal name. 

The meaning of vain in this context

The following has been taken (scanned) from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament for ‘vain’ in Exodus 20 verse 7:

“…This noun appears fifty-two times in the ot most often in Ps (fifteen times) followed by Ezk (eight times), Job (six times), Jer (five times, only in the adverbial phrase /ashshaw’ *‘in vain, vainly, to no avail,’ and always preceding the verb: 2:30; 4:30; 6:29; 18:15 (perhaps); 46:11).  The most familiar use of shaw’ is in the third commandment, ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”’ (Ex 20:7; Deut 5:11).  Literally the sentence reads, ‘*You shall not lift up the name of the Lord your God lashshaw’,” the same construction as noted above in the Jer passages. Before examining the decalogue reference it will be instructive to observe how the word is used elsewhere.

That the primary meaning of shaw’ is *‘emptiness, vanity’’ no one can challenge. It designates anything that is unsubstantial, unreal, worthless, either materially or morally. Hence, it is a word for idols (in the same way that hebel ‘‘vanity”’ is also a designation for (worthless) idols, for example). Psalm 24:4 may then be rendered, *‘He who has not lifted up his mind to an ‘idol’.”’ Dahood (Psalms, I, AB, p. 151) lists the following passages: Ps 26:4; 31:6 [H 7]; 119:37; Isa 1:13; Jer

18:15; Job 31:5 with this implication, although some are dubious, the last one and Isa 1:13 especially. Not only are idols *‘deceptions’’ but so too the words of a false prophet which whitewash and sugar coat a gloomy situation (Lam 2:14, Ezk 13:6-9, 23). The evidence points to the fact that taking the Lord’s name (i.e. his reputation) ‘‘in vain”’ will surely cover profanity, as that term is understood today, or swearing falsely in the Lord’s name. But it will also include using the Lord’s name lightly, unthinkingly, or by rote. Perhaps this is captured by the Lxx’s translation of /ashshadw’ as epi mataio “‘thoughtlessly.””

Bibliography: Childs, B., The Book of

Exodus, Westminster, 1974, pp. 388, 409-12.

THAT, II, pp. 882-83.

V.P.H”

(From: Theolological Wordbook of the Old Testament; Moody Press; page 908; Victor P Hamilton)

The personal name of God

The Tetragramaton made up of y,h,w,h is a most Holy name in the Old Testament therefore I like to use ‘the Lord’. In Jewish usage they say Ha-Shem (which means ‘The-Name’).  When we read Genesis in the first creation story, we find Elohim used a lot but then later on God’s personal name is used.  So perhaps some of the liberal theologies that talked about E or P hadn’t taken into consideration the personal, religious depth of these Holy Scriptures of the Tanach / Old Testament (form and redaction criticism).  Here before us in these verses on the 10 commandments we have a covenant between the personal, living Lord God and Israel. 

A covenant and a contract are not the same thing.  A contract can be between two businessmen who strike a deal, and it is not personal at all.  For example, in the eyes of the Lord God, marriage is a covenant, and a promise is made before the Highest authority, our Creator.  This is not a business deal it is personal and it is done in sacrificial love.  In a business deal one is after profit in a covenant you are giving out of love for the other and death is the limit.

Reflection

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7

When it says that we should not take God’s name in vain.  As we read earlier:

‘It designates anything that is unsubstantial, unreal, worthless, either materially or morally’.

As believers within a Trinitarian framework, we should not take God’s name in vain.  God is described by many names in the Old Testament and New Testament.  I read somewhere (possibly Rabbi Sacks but I cannot remember where) that we live in a tradition in an untraditional age.  He was talking about Judaism, but this actually applies to Christianity and all the mainline religions.  This is a very powerful and true statement because society at the moment is taking secularism to its logical conclusion.  Although society pays lip service to the religions there is an onslaught of normalizing anti-religious values.  The human being for a long time in secular society has not been seen as having been created in the image of God but that humanity came to be through chance (evolution).  

Professionals from religious backgrounds are also being attacked through the changes in law.  One example is that if one takes seriously the Biblical teachings of a husband and wife (male and female).  If a teacher in class was to say he believes this, he/she could lose his job. There is a normalizing movement in the background going on and it is alienating the religious freedoms that were promised.  These promises came about originally in Europe because of religious persecution.

How can religious communities fight back against this normalizing.  For Christians we take the Bible seriously and we listen to the 10 commandments.  In this commandment we ought to be very careful how we use God’s name.  We believe in a personal God, and He has a personal name, let’s not abuse this name because this covenant we are in, is about love not power. 

Even though our faith is being trodden on; on a daily basis we are called to love our neighbour.  Our neighbour could be our enemy, but we ought to love regardless.  We need to remember as Paul said in Ephesians that we were also once alienated from God but by God’s gift of faith we were brought into the Church.  We do not stand in judgement over people with different lifestyles to our own but nevertheless we have a right to our opinions and ways of life too.

Next time we will look at Bavincks teachings on the third commandment.  This was a precursor because I felt it was important to look under the cars bonnet (figuratively speaking).

Bibliography

New American Standard Bible (Olive Tree Software)

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament; Moody Press; part 1; page 908; Victor P Hamilton

Hebrew Old Testament; Exodus 20:7  (Olive Tree Software)

Links

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperfect

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/exodus/20-7.htm

https://uhg.readthedocs.io/en/latest/verb_imperfect.html#function

image of Sinai taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Sinai#/media/File:Mount_Moses.jpg

Jesus’ relationship to the Law and the state of the Human Heart

June 19, 2022

Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20

At the time of Christ, the world was in movement and flux, and we know that there were many thriving religious communities thinking about the end times.  The Dead Sea Scrolls have shown us this to be the case.  There are many verses in the Bible especially the Pauline epistles that on the surface look like they are anti-law. Jesus was certainly not against the law but rather he was the fulfilment of the law.

We need to remember that there are various aspects of Jewish Law.  There is the ceremonial and the moral.  The 10 commandment and the moral law will never change but the other laws became obsolete.   I am not doing very well in explaining this, but Herman Bavinck certainly looked at this detail.  It is important for us to look at the nature of the law as this will influence how we look at Jesus our Lords interpretation of the law.

From this point I want to cover an earlier blog because it has direct importance for our understanding of how Jesus perceived the law.

We cannot always see everything; The legal people of Jesus time completely missed the point; We also need to humble ourselves

When we look at the content of the law Bavinck mentions the three branches:

1.       Ceremonial

2.       Judicial

3.       Moral

He hits the nail on the head when he says that the law has not been abolished but fulfilled.  Bavinck ebbs the Bible when he says:

 “The shadows vanish when the body is present. What was merely a type in the Old Testament is now exactly what is completely spiritualized and realized. The form has changed; the essence is the same. All sacrifices and priests culminate and find their full realization in the one sacrifice and in the one high priest, in the same way that all the prophets and Davidic kings find their purpose realized in Christ.” (From Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; page 222)

Digression

I’ve just completed writing my commentary on Hebrews 7 and 8 and I can see Scripture from their imbibed in Bavinck here. From https://weaver1hasonline.international/

The reality of the law is here through Christ.  Heaven has broken into this earthly shadowy world.  The earthly tabernacle, the Levitical high priesthood and the sacrifice are only shadows of the reality.  If you read Hebrews chapters 7, 8 and 9 you will see this to be the case.   The prophets and the Davidic kings are correct as well.  In the book of Hebrews there is a shift of accent who the messiah is in light of the Prophets and the Psalms (Royal, Messianic Psalms).    We find this pattern in the quotations of the Old Testament in the argument of Hebrews.  (My own opinion is that Apollos wrote Hebrews) So, the whole Law in the Old Testament including the ceremonial, judicial and moral law finds its realization and fulfilment in Christ. (Page 222).

God and the Moral Law

Having said this when Bavinck talks about law from this moment it will be about the ‘moral law’.   This should not surprise us as he is writing his Reformed Ethics.  Focusing on the moral law Bavinck finds three types of interpreters in scholarship:

1.       “According to some this law is based solely on God’s will: something is good only because God says it is good.

2.       For others the law is based entirely on God’s being.

3.       And for a third group the moral law is based partly on God’s nature—such as the first table of the Decalogue—and partly on God’s free will, as is the case with needing to celebrate the Sabbath on the seventh day, the prohibitions of polygamy and theft, and so on.”  (Taken from page 223 of Reformed Ethics)

So, then we will find out whether or not the law is based on:

1.       God’s will.

2.       God’s being and or not

3.       God’s nature.

Sometimes what looks like a dispensation such as Hosea marrying a prostitute or Moses killing an Egyptian.  I think this covers aspects of ‘God’s will; What God allows.  They are only examples.  Herman is just giving us an outline he is not giving reasons why these things happened. (From Page 223). ’These and more are interesting facts, but Bavinck does not go into detail as he is moves on to the relationship of Law to God’s being (nature).

What Bavinck says about Gods Nature and Gods Law page 223

The law is unchangeable because God in his nature is unchangeable.  Bavinck explains the law is spiritual and he gives us some references as well.  He starts from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and also quotes St Paul and Psalms.  As well as these we can take into account (which Bavinck he also quotes):

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt 22.37)

Both Jesus and the faithful followers of Christ see the law as spiritual.   Matthew chapter 5 is cited, and this is correct as Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it (verse 17 for example.  This reference is mine and is not found on page 223).

Bavinck then give us some examples of what this content of the law actually means, and he summarizes this:

“Nothing, then, can be added to it (the law) or taken away from it (the law), because the law orders us to love God and our neighbour, which is everything and includes everything.” (Page 223)

So, then we are to be perfect just like our Heavenly Father.  So how does the law work?

In Bavinck’s own words concerning the law:

“(a) all prohibitions include their opposite as a commandment, and vice versa—divorce is prohibited, so chastity is commanded.

(b) under the heading of a Virtue or vice all corresponding items are included—for example, the commandment to honour one’s parents encompasses love and obedience, including those toward other authorities.

 (c) with an external sin, its source and cause are also condemned—for example, the prohibition against murder includes anger (cf. Matt. 5:22; 1 John 3:15) and even the pretence of anger (cf. 1 Thess. 5 :22).” (Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; page 223)

So, who can keep the whole law without sinning?  The answer is no one.  Bavinck understands the nature of the law that it includes aspects also that are ‘unwritten’.  This is a very important point.   With the interpretation he gives all have failed to reach the perfection of the law.  The Master theologian shows that here isn’t a single man on earth except Christ could fulfil this law.

Old Reflection

On content of the law Bavinck has managed to capture the essence of what the law of God actually means but I wonder why he didn’t tackle the question of how we can approach God’s presence under such heavy circumstances.  I think he will probably do this in section of his book in ‘Converted Humanity’ which he will, but I think the beatitudes’ are seriously important for the believer.  Especially the fist one of Jesus’ sayings:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 NASB

If you actually go through all the sayings of Jesus in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 one comes to a realization that no ordinary person will ever reach these standards.  When we come to God, we need to realize that we are spiritually dead (running on empty).   Jesus gives the oracles of God and according to the Law we are all locked up in sin.  Our best is never good enough.  This was a seriously bitter pill for the pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes to swallow.  However, we should not point the finger just at them this includes all of us whoever we are.  This was difficult for the Pharisees and Sadducees because as far as they could see, they kept all the written laws.  I actually think they did but then a bombshell hit; This also includes all the laws that were unwritten!

We have all sinned and for Christians there is only one way, Jesus Christ.  In Jesus God became a man, lived among us and died on a cross. On the third day by God’s Authority, he conquered death.  We can only approach God if we first realize we have done wrong and ask God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit for forgiveness.   Jesus is at the door of your heart.  Making Jesus Lord in your life means taking on a new way of living.

Mini reflection

So, from my point of view essentially for Jesus the essential interpretation of the law ought to be spiritual rather than ceremonial.  When we look at the beatitudes, we see a staircase into the Divine Presence.  We need to realize in our selves there is essentially nothing that is good enough to allow us into God’s presence.  The prophets emphasised humility before a Holy God on the other hand those who practised the law and the ceremonies got puffed up with self-importance.  Jesus pointed out the pharisees and the Sadducees because they were the (spiritual) religious leaders of the day.  For me giving a 21st century twist on the pharisees and the Sadducees; we see them in every walk of life trampling on those who are needy and giving bad advice on how to best serve God and relating to their neighbours.

Jesus our Lord was purifying the essentials when it came to the law:

  1. Love towards God
  2. Love towards the neighbour

As I read somewhere else in Herman Bavinck that Faith is the root and good works flows from this by grace. 

We are now ready to go back to Jesus’ sayings:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18

As I said earlier Jesus interpreted the law as spiritual.  What does Calvin have to say about this?

[The Following has been copied from The Ages Library]

<400517>Matthew 5:17. Think not. With regard to the perfection of his life,

Christ might justly have maintained that he came to fulfill the law: but here

he treats of doctrine, not of life. As he afterwards exclaimed, that “the

kingdom of God is come,” (<401228>Matthew 12:28,) and raised the minds

of men with unusual expectation, and even admitted disciples by baptism,

it is probable, that the minds of many were in a state of suspense and

doubt, and were eagerly inquiring, what was the design of that novelty.

Christ, therefore, now declares, that his doctrine is so far from being at

variance with the law, that it agrees perfectly with the law and the

prophets, and not only so, but brings the complete fulfillment of them.

There appear to have been chiefly two reasons, which induced him to

declare this agreement between the law and the Gospel. As soon as any

new method of teaching makes its appearance, the body of the people

immediately look upon it, as if everything were to be overturned. Now the

preaching of the Gospel, as I mentioned a little ago, tended to raise the

expectation, that the Church would assume a totally different form from

what had previously belonged to it. They thought that the ancient and

accustomed government was to be abolished. This opinion, in many

respects, was very dangerous. Devout worshippers of God would never

have embraced the Gospel, if it had been a revolt from the law; while light

and turbulent spirits would eagerly have seized on an occasion offered to

them for entirely overthrowing the state of religion: for we know in what

insolent freaks rash people are ready to indulge when there is any thing

new.

Besides, Christ saw that the greater part of the Jews, though they

professed to believe the Law, were profane and degenerate. The condition

of the people was so decayed, every thing was filled with so many

corruptions, and the negligence or malice of the priests had so completely

extinguished the pure light of doctrine, that there no longer remained any

reverence for the Law. But if a new kind of doctrine had been introduced,

which would destroy the authority of the Law and the Prophets, religion

would have sustained a dreadful injury. This appears to be the first reason,

236

why Christ declared that he had not come to destroy the Law. Indeed, the

context makes this abundantly clear: for he immediately adds, by way of

confirmation, that it is impossible for even one point of the Law to fail,—

and pronounces a curse on those teachers who do not faithfully labor to

maintain its authority.

The second reason was, to refute the wicked slander which, he knew was

brought against him by the ignorant and unlearned. This charge, it is

evident, had been fastened on his doctrine by the scribes: for he proceeds

immediately to direct his discourse against them. We must keep in mind

the object which Christ had in view. While he invites and exhorts the Jews

to receive the Gospel, he still retains them in obedience to the Law; and, on

the other hand, he boldly refutes the base reproaches and slanders, by

which his enemies labored to make his preaching infamous or suspected.

If we intend to reform affairs which are in a state of disorder, we must

always exercise such prudence and moderation, as will convince the

people, that we do not oppose the eternal Word of God, or introduce any

novelty that is contrary to Scripture. We must take care, that no suspicion

of such contrariety shall injure the faith of the godly, and that rash men

shall not be emboldened by a pretense of novelty. In short, we must

endeavor to oppose a profane contempt of the Word of God, and to

prevent religion from being despised by the ignorant. The defense which

Christ makes, to free his doctrine from slanders, ought to encourage us, if

we are now exposed to the same calumnies. That crime was charged against

Paul, that he was an apostate from the law of God, (<442121>Acts 21:21)

and we need not, therefore, wonder, if the Papists endeavor, in the same

manner, to render us odious. Following the example of Christ, we ought to

clear ourselves from false accusations, and, at the same time, to profess the

truth freely, though it may expose us to unjust reproaches.

I am not come to destroy. God had, indeed, promised a new covenant at the

coming of Christ; but had, at the same time, showed, that it would not be

different from the first, but that, on the contrary, its design was, to give a

perpetual sanction to the covenant, which he had made from the beginning,

with his own people.

“I will write my law, (says he,) in their hearts, and I will remember

their iniquities no more,” (<243133>Jeremiah 31:33, 34.) f370

237

By these words he is so far from departing from the former covenant, that,

on the contrary, he declares, that it will be confirmed and ratified, when it

shall be succeeded by the new. This is also the meaning of Christ’s words,

when he says, that he came to fulfill the law: for he actually fulfilled it, by

quickening, with his Spirit, the dead letter, and then exhibiting, in reality,

what had hitherto appeared only in figures.

With respect to doctrine, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ

has freed us from the authority of the law: for it is the eternal rule of a

devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable, as the justice

of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform. With respect to

ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it

was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more

fully confirmed. The coming of Christ has taken nothing away even from

ceremonies, but, on the contrary, confirms them by exhibiting the truth of

shadows: for, when we see their full effect, we acknowledge that they are

not vain or useless. Let us therefore learn to maintain inviolable this sacred

tie between the law and the Gospel, which many improperly attempt to

break. For it contributes not a little to confirm the authority of the Gospel,

when we learn, that it is nothing else than a fulfillment of the law; so that

both, with one consent, declare God to be their Author.

So then I also found it interesting that there is a quotation from Jeremiah:

“I will write my law, (says he,) in their hearts, and I will remember

their iniquities no more,” (Jeremiah 31:33, 34.)

Reflection

As far as Jesus’ teachings are concerned Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and by faith, we have had God’s law ‘written on our hearts’ by the Holy Spirit.  There is nothing here external about the law as it has been written onto the tablet of our hearts.  The truth is we were dead twigs and the Holy Spirit brought us back to life that we can once again worship a Holy God.  The Sermon on the mount drills down into the intentions and attitudes of the human being and shows the filth of fake worship towards God.  Jesus also gives us the remedy that by believing in Him and obeying him, through the beatitudes by the Holy Spirit we can once again worship in Spirit and truth.

Do Pets Go To heaven? Dealing with the death of our pets.

May 14, 2022

Will Leo our Pet rabbit go to heaven at the Eschaton?

This week we lost a pet Rabbit. His name was Leo and we had him for about seven years.   I have to say that Leo has taught me a lot about love and compassion.   I’m not one of these people that believes that animals don’t have sentience.   I believe that animals were created by God. I also believe that there are animals in heaven. 

And why do I think this? 

Well, for example? 

Elijah was taken to heaven by a chariot of horses and animals, obviously in the Bible had a certain amount of intelligence. For example, when God commanded a donkey to speak to its owner, or the owner would have been killed by an Angel, or the time when the Ravens were commanded to go and feed Elijah. So, animals are very very pecial. Now for a lot of people they want to know if their pet is going to heaven. 

My own personal opinion is that I actually believe that pets can go to heaven.   I never really thought of it that deeply, but when you’ve been working with a pet and you’ve taken care of them and they’ve been your friend. And you see them every day and you do things with them. The thing about Leo was that he was bilingual. We spoke two languages. We spoke in Finnish, and we spoke in English. 

Every day I used to cut very fine apple for him because he wasn’t well and I’d say Leo,

“Where could the apple be? Where could it be?  He got really excited, and he would run around looking for it. He just he just ebbed with intelligence. 

But the main question today is: 

Is Leo in heaven?

Is there a possibility that Leo is in heaven?

Is there a possibility he’s going to be here after the resurrection at the end times? 

My conclusion is actually yes. 

I actually believe that animals, pets, especially, Comeback. It’s actually an indirect route in Scripture But I think that it’s a very interesting route. 

The first place I would probably start is before the Fall. One group God created the heavens and the earth We saw that.   When he created each part, he’d said that it was ‘good’. It was good. It was good so from God’s perspective when he created everything, it was good. It wasn’t bad. And I think that it’s important to start here even after the Fall. The world still gives us our food. It rains for us. 

You know, lots of good things come to us from the earth. So, it’s still good within some Christian traditions. It seems to be a little bit gnostic. 

What I mean is that when it comes to the material world, there’s a negativity about the material world that that it’s somehow bad. Just because there was a fall Doesn’t mean that everything is bad, they’re still good there. 

Now it is the case that. The main the main people Group that are going to find this salvic salvation or are believers who believe in Jesus Christ Where does that leave the theater? 

The theater that where we live the theater is our world. We’re on the stage and each of us has to play a part. I got some information from Herman Bavinck in his volume four of the reformed.  In there, after we’ve had our salvation, and that work is concluded. 

Even the world itself, the universe itself. Will be renewed. The world itself is going to be ‘born again’. 

It’s going to be regenerated. It’s going to be renewed. if the world is going to be regenerated and renewed, what does that actually mean? 

What a boring place it would be if there weren’t any animals. You know after the eschaton and we’ve gone to be to live with the Lord. My main drive really now is to go through that section of a Bavincks writings And to think about how creation is going to be re renewed. 

Obviously, it doesn’t directly say that Leo is going to be in heaven but if the whole world is regenerated.

Anyhow, the main thrust now is going to be to go through that section, and you might find you don’t have to read the whole section, but I just need to dig deep into what he actually says. 

I’m going to look at the verses a lot more closely than usual. The reason I’m going to look a lot more closely is because I want an answer to my question. Is Leo going to be with us in the resurrection? 

And that that to me is an important question. And I think that there are lots of people who’ve been thinking about other pets going to heaven. I have to say that the church doesn’t want to give any sort of answer to that sort of question for me it’s a very, very important question. 

My pet rabbit or our pet rabbit has brought me to the conclusion that animals have got lots of love and empathy and they’ve got a lot of feeling power. They have soft logic, but they also show filial love and devotion to their masters (good masters). 

Humans have hard logic. That’s why in a sense that we were created the image of God. The reason why this world ended up in a mess is because of the fall because of sin; Because we’re selfish, we put ourselves first, but it was never meant to be that way. 

Leo and the New Creation

In the end of time what will happen to this world and all the creature in it?

There are two extreme views:

  • The world will carry on the way it has forever
  • The world will be completely destroyed and replaced by a new one.

Scripture rejects both these views and is somewhere in the middle. 

  • The first view builds on the work of Aristotle into the present age.
  • The second view presumes that there is nothing worth salvaging in this world.

Both these conclusions are wrong, and we need to follow through what Scripture says.  The argumentation that I will be using is found in the Reformed Dogmatics volume 4 written by Herman Bavinck.

At the Eschaton of the Day of Judgement, Scripture is very graphic and there will be perishing but not complete dissolution of the elements.  This second part we will touch on later but not yet. Let us consider some verses:

20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner,

To set free those who were doomed to death, Psalms 102:20

4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,

And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;

All their hosts will also wither away

As a leaf withers from the vine,

Or as one withers from the fig tree. Isaiah 34:4

6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke,

And the earth will wear out like a garment

And its inhabitants will die in like manner;

But My salvation will be forever,

And My righteousness will not wane.

7 “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,

A people in whose heart is My law;

Do not fear the reproach of man,

Nor be dismayed at their revilings.

8 “For the moth will eat them like a garment,

And the grub will eat them like wool.

But My righteousness will be forever,

And My salvation to all generations.”

9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD;

Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago.

Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces,

Who pierced the dragon?

10 Was it not You who dried up the sea,

The waters of the great deep;

Who made the depths of the sea a pathway

For the redeemed to cross over?

11 So the ransomed of the LORD will return

And come with joyful shouting to Zion,

And everlasting joy will be on their heads.

They will obtain gladness and joy,

And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.

Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies

And of the son of man who is made like grass,

13 That you have forgotten the LORD your Maker,

Who stretched out the heavens

And laid the foundations of the earth,

That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor,

As he makes ready to destroy?

But where is the fury of the oppressor?

14 The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. 15 For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name). 16 I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:6-16

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;

For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing

And her people for gladness.

19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;

And there will no longer be heard in her

The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

20 “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,

Or an old man who does not live out his days;

For the youth will die at the age of one hundred

And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred

Will be thought accursed.

21 “They will build houses and inhabit them;

They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 “They will not build and another inhabit,

They will not plant and another eat;

For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,

And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

23 “They will not labor in vain,

Or bear children for calamity;

For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD,

And their descendants with them.

24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD. Isaiah 65:17-25

22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth

Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD,

“So your offspring and your name will endure.

23 “And it shall be from new moon to new moon

And from sabbath to sabbath,

All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD.

24 “Then they will go forth and look

On the corpses of the men

Who have transgressed against Me.

For their worm will not die

And their fire will not be quenched;

And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” Isaiah 66:22-24

Bavinck makes the point that ‘abad’ (to perish) when used on its own never means an absolute destruction of the substance of the world.  Indeed, when it comes to the judgement of God Hell does not only mean being separated from their creator but that they will live with this ‘ever conscious torment’.  The soul and spirit are not destroyed. 

He then looks at the word ‘create’ (bara).  He makes the point that it does not always mean ‘God creating from nothing’ (ex nihilo).   Bavinck then gives us a set of single verses:

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17

20 You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;

Your ears are open, but none hears. Isaiah 42:20

7 Everyone who is called by My name,

And whom I have created for My glory,

Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7

16 “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals

And brings out a weapon for its work;

And I have created the destroyer to ruin. Isaiah 54:16

18 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,

19 Creating the praise of the lips.

Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Isaiah 57:18-19

Activity for the above verses

Perhaps you should find every reference ‘to create’ in the above verses and see how they are used.  In the verb ‘create’ one can see ‘create’ is used in other contexts that do not have ex nihilo (out of nothing) as the driver of the verb.

Reflection

I find it interesting that he chose the Hebrew verbs ‘to create’ and ‘to perish’.

We found out that God does not always create out of nothing.

We also found out that when God Judges and works in the affairs of humans it never means the complete annihilation of substance but rather ‘purification’.

The master Theologian continues to explain that even when the world of Noah was destroyed by water, it was the corruption in the world.  In the same way when we look at the destruction of the world by fire it is a purification, and we are created new, but we haven’t lost our soul, but it has been transformed through a resurrection body.  Corruption needs to put on incorruption.  We as the human race needed to be purified first and through repentance and faith we are continually being purified by the Holy Spirit. 

According to Bavinck ‘the physical world’ will also be born again ‘regenerated’.  Through the death and resurrection of Christ in the end even the physical theatre in which we live in will be born again.

So, Bavinck wrote:

“For that reason, it also frequently alternates with planting, laying the foundations of, and making (Isa. 51:16; 66:22). The Lord can say (Isa. 51:16) that he begins the new creation by putting his word in Israel’s mouth and hiding them in the shadow of his hand.

In the same way, the New Testament proclaims that heaven and earth will pass away (Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:10; 1 John 2:17; Rev. 21:1), that they will perish and wear out like clothing (Heb. 1:11), dissolve (2 Pet. 3:10), be burned with tire (3:10), and be changed (Heb. 1:12). But none of these expressions implies a destruction of substance. Peter, for example, expressly teaches that the old earth, which originated as a result of the separation of waters, was deluged with water and so perished (2 Pet. 3:6), and that the present world would also perish, not-thanks to the divine promise—by water but by fire. Accordingly, with reference to the passing of the present world, we must no more think of a destruction of substance than (we would) with regard to the passing of the earlier world in the food. Fire burns, cleanses, purifies, but does not destroy. The contrast in 1 John 2:17 (“the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever”) teaches us that the first statement does not imply a destruction of the substance of the world but a vanishing of the world in its present, sin-damaged form. Paul, accordingly, also states very clearly that the present form (to oxnua, to schema) of this world passes away (1 Cor. 7:31). Only such a renewal of the world, for that matter, accords with what Scripture teaches about redemption. For the latter is never a second, brand-new creation but a re-creation of the existing world. God’s honour consists precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, and the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin. Just as anyone in Christ is a new creation in whom the old has passed away and everything has become new (2 Cor. 5:17), so also this world passes away in its present form as well, in order out of its womb, at God’s word of power, to give birth and being to a new world. Just as in the case of an individual human being, so at the end of time a rebirth of the world will take place as well (Matt. 19:28). This constitutes a spiritual renewal, not a physical creation.”  (From Reformed Dogmatics; Herman Bavinck; page 717; Translated by John Vriend; edited by John Bolt.)

In Christ God became a man and he died for us so that we might live.  This was a physical death, but he also had a physical resurrection.  When Jesus returns, it is a physical return.  Our election proceeds from the ‘the first born of the elect’.  Our election is ‘in Christ’ as Ephesians puts it.  As Karl Barth would put it ‘the Judge (God) was judged (God was judged) in our place’.  It so follows that Jesus is the true ‘image of God’.

The great reversal is taking place in human history.  When God created the earth, it was perfect.  Sin came into the world through the agency of Adam and Eve. However, God being rich in mercy and loving his ‘own creation’ came into this world to make things right.  Humans can be born again “regenerated” but in the end creation itself will also be purified and made perfect again. 

My own opinion

When God had created nature which included plants, animals, and humans he said that ‘it was good’.  This to me is a baseline for salvation.  God didn’t say that creation was bad, no he said it was good.  Recently our pet rabbit died and yes, I believe he has a soul:

“Every living thing has a soul, but humanity is special because God breathed into Him

10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind? “Job 12:10

Animals can show filial devotion to their masters.  Archaeologists all over the world have found animals buried with their masters throughout human history.  I know why that is.  The masters and their pets had a true bond of love and affection.

With these evidences, I believe I will see our pet rabbit again.  

Creation groans for the end times when it will be born again even as we as believers can be born again by the Father sending his son and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Easter Special

April 13, 2022

These events happened before the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans.  Up to this point, Jesus had been preaching for about three years.  Jesus’ popularity grew over this time and there were many who were jealous of this.  This would be the last time that Jesus would visit Jerusalem.  The next time will be at his Second coming.  These narratives found at the end of the Gospels are referred to as the Passion narratives.  They are central to the Christian message. 

By reading the Apostolic Writings of the New Testament in general they all point to these events. 

Before Jesus was actually captured, he told his disciple that he would be crucified:

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Matthew 26:2”

It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of the leaders wanted Jesus dead because he revealed the religious corruption that was going on.  Under Roman occupation these corrupt leaders could make a large profit.  However, if there were riots this could alter their game plan:

5 But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.” Matthew 26:5

Jesus had now reached Bethany about six days before the Passover.  He visited the house of Simon the Leper.  If Simon was a leper then according to purity rules Jesus ought not to have been there and then on top of that a woman comes in and anoints Jesus with very expensive perfume.   She anointed Jesus head with oil.  Jesus took this as a sign for his burial whilst the disciple were more interested in the cost of the perfume:

10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. Matthew 26:10

Jesus corrects the disciples’ assumptions:

12 For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Matthew 26:12

Judas on the other hand was a thief and his devotion to Jesus was not genuine although later on he commits suicide:

14 Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16 From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus. Matthew 26:14-16

The seed for Jesus’ crucifixion had been set.  Jesus and his disciples are now to celebrate the Passover for the very last time until Jesus returns.

The original Passover is about God saving the Israelites from Egypt and bringing them to a land of milk and honey.  The Passover lamb’s blood in the original story was put on to the door of every Israelite house.  When the angel of death came to such a house, He would Passover that house and they would not be affected with the death of their firstborn sons.  This was not the case for the Egyptians who lost many first-born sons up to Pharoah himself (His son).

For Christians this Passover would take on meaning.  The original Passover lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn sons.   For Christians Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ (Passover lamb).  Jesus’ death means that the second death of eternal judgement would Passover us and not affect us in any way.  So, it should not surprise you that Passover and Easter are in some way forever linked.  This Last Passover meal is a new covenant in Jesus’ blood. 

God has made various covenants with his people along the way but in a way this covenant is the seal of the covenants.

•          The covenant with Noah

•          The Covenant with Abraham

•          The covenant of Moses

•          The covenant with David

•          The seal of the covenants, Jesus’ death and resurrection

As we already said this covenant was instituted at the last Supper:

“The Last Passover

20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

The Lord’s Supper Instituted

26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

31 Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. Matthew 26:20-35”

You will find this in all mainline churches at Holy Communion.   Christianity is a religion of remembering, when we look back to what our Lord did for us.  Jesus died at the cross that we might have eternal life.  Jesus told us to remember him through the act of drinking wine and breaking bread. 

Different denominations have various takes on this, but I don’t want to get bogged down with the details.  For myself I believe that Jesus is present through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is about our union with Christ. 

I found this on the internet:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_with_Christ

Various churches place emphases on what this union is.  The following has been taken from the above wiki page:

Roman Catholic

Traditional Roman Catholic theology centres the union with Christ in a substantial sense on the unity of the institutional church, past and present. “The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head.”[7] Christians, according to Roman Catholic theology, are united to Christ through the sacraments.[8]

Medieval conceptions of union with Christ were influenced in large part by mysticism, such as in the preaching of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard applied the concept of bridal love in the Hebrew Bible’s Song of Songs to a “mystical union” with Christ, wherein Jesus was bridegroom & the worshipper/church (humanity) was His bride. In this conception, Jesus’ love for humanity was manifested in his sacrifice on the cross, something that was reenacted everyday in the Eucharist. In medieval mystical union theology, the sacrament of the Eucharist was the foremost conduit with which humanity found union with Christ.

Reformed

In Reformed theology, union with Christ is understood to be a comprehensive category that runs through the entire doctrine of Salvation.  John Murray observes: “Union with Christ is a very inclusive subject. It embraces the wide span of salvation from the ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the glorification of the elect.”

Sinclair Ferguson distinguishes six categories of union with Christ. Union with Christ is federal or covenantal in the sense that Christ’s obedience is accounted to believers. It is carnal or fleshly in the sense that Christ became incarnate and thus became one with humanity. Union with Christ is also a faith union in which by faith Christians depend on Christ for nourishment. It is a spiritual union because Christians are united to Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is an extensive union in that Christians are united with Christ in everything he has done, including his life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session. It is finally a union of life because Christ lives in Christians, and he is visible in their lives.

As a step in the order of salvation, union with Christ was seen by John Calvin to be the basis for both justification and sanctification. Alister McGrath notes that while Martin Bucer suggested that justification causes (moral) regeneration, Calvin argued that “both justification and regeneration are the results of the believer’s union with Christ through faith.”

Evangelical

Some Evangelicals see union with Christ as a discrete stage in the “order of salvation.”[13] The evangelical theologian William Shedd comments “The impartation of Christ’s righteousness presupposes a union with him.”[14] Robert Dabney, while avoiding deification, said that the bond of the union is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.[15]

Eastern Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox theology emphasizes the incarnation as the starting point for our union with Christ.  “In Christ God becomes one with us in order to make us one with him; he stooped to take our nature, in order that we might be restored to become partakers of his nature.””

The Wiki continues and speaks about the Scriptural basis for Union with Christ:

“12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:12-21”

In these Scriptures we have the rationale why God had become man.   Paul’s writings became a bulwark against the gnostic heresies of the early centuries. Having said that there are many who would deny the humanity of Jesus.

It is interesting what Irenaeus says in his Against Heresies:

“7. Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which “reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Romans 5:14 But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death’s) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death. For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behoved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, Romans 5:19 and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: “God, true are His works.” Deuteronomy 32:4 But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore, His works are true.” From AH 3.18:7

Reflection

So, then my friends at this time of Easter let us share the love of Christ to all.  Jesus died so that we might live.  Jesus died so that we could be brought back into a right relationship with God. The Last Supper is seriously important to all Christians.  No matter what denomination one belongs to Easter is very important and the climax is the last Supper with the thanksgiving meal (Eucharist= thanksgiving).

Unfortunately, sometimes because of the disputations instead of love there is hate…

The Eucharist has been interpreted in different ways.  For Protestants transubstantiation is a problem. The original Aristotelian logic made a differentiation between substance and accident.  So, for Protestants to actually say that the eucharist turns into the actual body and blood of Christ is anathema. Having said that even though I don’t agree I have to say that it probably developed this way as a refutation of Gnosticism which denied that Jesus was a real man. 

As Christians we ought to focus on loving God and our neighbour especially the invisible Church.  It is by faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit that we have access to our Father in heaven. 

The Bible teaches that we stand by the gift of Faith.  I don’t actually think that God cares about what denomination a person belongs to.  God sees the person He created who is living the life of faith.

Anyhow originally the Church may have met in synagogues that accepted the Apostolic teaching and, or, or both in people’s homes.  It was free flow and while the Apostles were alive, the Apostles were ‘The New Testament’.  When the Apostles died off the Christians who were left realized how important their writings were and put it together as what we now call the ‘New Testament’.  We also need to remember that the Holy Spirit has never left the Church; The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and teacher who points us to Christ and to our eternal home in heaven.

So, we have covered:

  • some passages from the Gospels surrounding Easter
  • The importance of the union with Christ
  • Christian theology in various denominations around the Eucharist
  • Irenaeus and his theology of recapitulation by his own words
  • The importance of empathy for other views on the Eucharist taking the historical contexts into account.

As well as loving those who are our brothers in Christ, the love of God should go out to the whole world.  As a Religious Educator I noticed that Passover, Easter and Ramadan actually converge this year:

Easter Sunday,17 April 2022

Pesach Friday, 15 April 2022

Ramadan Friday, 1 April and ends in the evening of Sunday, 1 May 2022

Regeneration and the New Birth in Christ and the doctrine of Election part 2

December 12, 2021

Some birds in my garden feeding.  

Bavinck earlier looked at preparations to the new Birth (born again).    Last time we looked at man’s problem that he is ‘spiritually dead’.  Today though we are focusing on the ‘struggle to rebirth’.  This is how Bavinck starts this section on page 258:

(“However, after one receives these preparations, the process can go in two directions. After all, with such a preparation there will be a struggle between the convicting Spirit in one’s conscience and the flesh. The Spirit knocks on the door of one’s heart and calls to conversion, to distance oneself from the world and its allurements. Even imperfect desires to be converted arise within the person. They would want to be converted, but the flesh and the world are opposed; they would have to surrender so much pleasure, so much sweetness, and sacrifice advantage. The flesh advises keeping the door of the heart closed. In this way, a struggle ensues, anxiety, doubt.”page 260)

Before we got to this point somewhere Bavinck said that the Christian has two natures. 

  1. ·        The natural man who by nature was created
  2. ·        The spiritual man who yearns for God

The natural man is interested in the things and pleasure of the world.  The spiritual part of us yearns to go home from whom we owe our existence.  So for Bavinck then there is a ‘tug of war’ for who will be our master.  The effects of this is that; if the natural man was to submit to the Holy Spirit then he would have to give up the pleasures of the world and ‘sacrifice advantage’ (page 260).

He goes on to say that some people who profess conversion turn back to the pleasures of the world and Bavinck quotes the words of Peter:

22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:22

The love of the sinful things of the world is opposed to God’s nature as he is holy.  So having tasted God’s goodness somehow it is equivalent to this. As he continues in Timothy by saying:

“for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica… 2 Timothy 4:10”

Bavinck goes on and says that some people don’t go completely back into the world because they like some of the trappings of the Church.  They are not born again and the Scriptures puts them in a particular category (Hebrews 6  1-8, Psalm 582-5).  They use ‘preparatory standards’ towards being born again and remain ‘half baked’ (Hosea 7 8). 

In contrast the elect (those who are truly born again, anew) may stay in a state of preparation for a long time before being born again but when it happens it is not half baked.  It is genuine and it is not full of hypocrisy.  This rebirth, regeneration, whatever you like to call it is a complete mystery to us, but it happens (John 38); “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8” (page 262)

In Christ by the Holy Spirit, we are kept from falling away from God.   The elect are a ‘new creation’.  The spiritually dead to the things of God are made alive to the things of God.  It is God who makes this possible.

As Bavinck says:

Without any cooperation on our part, God begins this regeneration in us by his irresistible grace, penetrating our conscience through to our heart and pouring into us a new life-principle. This enlightens our understanding, judgment, conscience, and memory so that the darkness disappears, and we evaluate ourselves, God, and Christ differently.” (Page 261)

 

The effect of this for Paul was that the scales fell from his eyes:

And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; Acts 9:18

The effect for Lydia was that the Lord opened her heart:

 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16:14

The new situation then being in Christ is that we are indeed a new creation, ‘a new person’:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

A dead twig cannot bring itself to life therefore the initial work of rebirth is done by the Holy Spirit.  The spiritual act and gift of faith flows from this beginning:

Mystical union arises (logically) after regeneration, simultaneously with and through faith. Becoming one with Christ, we therefore already have the organizing principle of life. But this life-principle now draws, as it grows, all its power, strength, and nourishment from Christ. And in order to be grafted into him who is the olive tree, we must already be living twigs. One does not ingraft dead branches.(Pages 262-263).

Reflection

As we have seen we were spiritually dead towards God, and we were alienated from the promises of God.  The big ‘I’ was the controlling factor in our lives.  Even though creation itself was perfect the Fall marred this creation and sin entered into the world.  God had to make a completely new creation in us.  Christ came into the world and did what he had to do in order that it would be possible for us to be brought into the life of God.  This is only possible in Christ. 

Election and reprobation are in the hands of God.  I don’t think we should focus on that and look at this problem logically because then we can come to some conclusions that don’t make sense.  Rather, this only makes sense when we realise that as well as God being Judge, he is also the lover of our souls and He in Christ by the Holy Spirit wants us to come into fellowship with him. 

Christians have various views on election, and some want to give us the decision and not God.  Of course, there is reciprocation but at all times I think it is important to allow God to keep His Sovereignty. 

Even when we talk about a natural birth there are many factors.  It is a miracle.  How much more of a miracle is it when we are ‘spiritually dead’. Calvin came to the conclusion of double election:

  • ·        The elect elected to eternal life
  • ·        The reprobate elected to eternal damnation.

This sounds very harsh and on the face of it a lot of theologians cannot accept this either.

Karl Bart tried to find a way around this by saying in the ‘Judge Judged in our place’ that Christ also paid the complete price for the reprobate.  Some have accused Barth of universalism.

I don’t think that theologians have arrived yet at a proper formulation of the doctrine of election.  Every viewpoint has its fault.  I think the reason for this is because our knowledge is limited whereas God’s knowledge is infinite.  God loves his creation because he told us in Genesis, and it is no accident that the Logos as God working in the creation is found in Johns Gospel.  We need to remember that it was the sin of Adam that led to this problem.  God is not to blame.  In fact, God became a man in order to sort this Fall problem out.

For these reasons and others, I speak of election as ‘mystery’ and because of this it is very apt that Jesus said:

Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7-8”

Having said that we need to respect God’s holiness, justice, mercy and love.  Bavinck holds all these elements in place.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ who did the work so that we could be saved.  The Holy Spirit as he who breathes new life into humans. He ought to be seen as the one Who turns the salvific key in us so that new birth can take place. 

Dictionary

Salvific = saving, salvation

Regeneration = born again, new birth

Bibliography

Reformed Ethics; by Herman Bavinck; edited By John Bolt; pages 258-263

We have confidence in Christ because he is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever! Hebrews 13.7-14

December 5, 2021

Confidence is a very important word.  We use the word in our daily lives.  When we set the alarm at night-time, we are confident that we will hear it the next day.  In order to go to work we confidently put the key into the ignition.  When we switch the power on our phones, we confidently expect it to run.  However sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we had planned.  I was confident that my Windows 10 home edition would work but unfortunately, I spend a few days trying to make it work. 

Spiritually this raises important questions, and it leads to an ultimate question; Do I put confidence in myself or in a higher power? (Namely God) The book of Hebrews has a lot to teach us about where we put our confidence.  Here are some snippets:

  • Hebrew 36  If we hold fast our confidence
  • Hebrew 416 with confidence to the Throne of Grace
  • Hebrew 1019 We have confidence to enter the Holy Place
  • Hebrew 1035  Do not throw away you confidence
  • Hebrew 136 So we speak confidently

Let us now look at this week’s text:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.  11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Hebrews 13:7-14

At first glance one might think there are various topics here and they don’t seem to jell together.  Commentators may ask what has leaders to do with Jesus being the same in time sequences in the following verse?

Verse 7

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

The ‘remembering’ here is in the imperative second person plural (Greek).  Apollos isn’t asking the believers to look at the conduct of their leaders.  No, my friends it is a command.  A lot of these leaders probably did not make it to old age.  Later on, we find out that Timothy is going to be released from prison.  What about Paul?  Tradition has it that he was executed.   James the Lord’s brother was according to Josephus also executed even though he was completely innocent.   How do your leaders stand out in the Church from the 21st century?  How can a person follow a leader that isn’t following the example of Christ in their everyday life?  No one is perfect but Scripture does give us a standard for leadership in the Church.   The New Testament stands on the authority of Christ and his Apostles.  The Apostles have been asleep for many centuries now, but we do have their writings as a guide by the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives us this continuation with the early church and the Apostolic standards.

Verses 8 and 9

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

Verse 8 is one of the most beautiful verses in the New Testament and because of its beauty we may miss the hay from the trees.  Taking the verse on face value it is an encouragement that Jesus is always the same.  He is in heaven interceding for us and we can take encouragement that his teachings do not change over time, but they are the same.  

Verse 9 is completely opposite, and we can spot the teachings of these capricious teachers a mile away.  The ancient Greek gods could change their minds on a whim so too these false teachers can teach false doctrine and change their meanings on a whim. 

However, we are certain and 200% sure that the teachings of the Bible have not changed for over 2000 years. 

Before we move on, I can simply say that this whole section touches on false teachings about food.  Perhaps somehow these false teachers were linking food to salvation somehow.   We need to remember that James in the book of Acts wrote a letter to all the churches stating that the only food Christians ‘jew’ or gentile was not to eat was food with the blood still in it. 

Verse 10

10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.

Apollos reminds us that the tabernacle we eat from gives no right to these earthly officials.  The earthly tabernacle is only a shadow of the real one.

Verses 11 – 14

.  11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Hebrews 13:7-14

These animals pointed only to the real sacrifice of the True Lamb of God.  These animals were sacrificed outside of the camp.    In that way the great sacrifice of Christ happened outside the city gates of Jerusalem.   Anyone hung on a tree was seen as cursed.  Jesus took our curse on himself so that we could be found holy and blameless before a righteous God.  As Jesus took on our curse which was a reproach against him, we too as his followers may we take on some of this curse, by living holy and blameless with this hope burning in our souls that one day we too will be before the celestial city gates. 

Reflection

Faith is a gift as we cannot save ourselves.  God is for us because Jesus is for us.  Jesus became a curse so that we in Him can be found righteous.  The road we walk is a walk of faith, full of appreciation in our hearts for what Jesus did for us.  Apollos teaches us to live this life confidently in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  If any of your leaders tell you anything different to take you away from Christ, then they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  

Personal note on the blogs

I would have finished this blog earlier, but my computer died.   In this digital age we need to stay faithful to Christ with computers and without computers.  If Apollos was around today, I wonder how this beautiful letter may have been written. 😊

A theological reflection on the steps to being born again (from above) Part 1.

November 30, 2021

 

Part one is all about thinking about the issues of salvation and eternal life and where we stand.  In the second part we are going to look at how Herman Bavinck explains the steps towards being born again.  Nowadays the term ‘born again’ gets thrown all over the place and it has lost its meaning in modern culture.  We forget about sin and the broken relationship with God.  For some people being born again is a lifestyle choice and there is no conviction of what sin actually is.  In some churches sin is probably not even mentioned because it causes offence. This is the whole point.  A patient has every right to know what the cause of the ailment is.  It is the same with spiritual truths.  Let us bite the bullet and look deeper into the social ills of our soul in the direction to finding the perfect cure.

I took this one evening when I went for a local walk.

 

“16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:16-21”

For some people to be born again is a lifestyle choice.  Presidents have claimed to be born again and it has been a very large winning vote in some parts of the world.  Only God really knows if these politicians were sincere in their belief in Christ or whether it was because they wanted power. Ultimate power resides in heaven and not on earth. 

God works in mysterious ways that we will never understand but we can have some understanding of his nature as revealed through Holy Scripture. By the Holy Spirit we can have some glimpses into God’s motives.  So from a very basic level what are some of the characteristics of God.  Off the top of my head thinking about Scripture here is a short list:

·        God is Love

·        God is Holy

·        God is righteous

·        God is Judge

·        God is Creator

·        God is omnipotent

·        God is omnipresent

·        God is omniscient

·        God became a Man

·        God sent His Son and he died on a cross

·        God the son rose from the dead

·        God in Christ by the Holy Spirit loves his Church

I’m sure one could make this list even longer.  What about Man (humans)

·        Man has Broken his relationship with God because he wanted to be God

·        Man is a Sinner

·        Man is Self-centred

·        Man is marred by the Fall

·        Man is capricious can love one moment and hate the next

·        Man can be judgmental based on false motives

·        Man can create new ways to sin

·        Man is powerless although some fool themselves to thinking they have power

·        Man can only be in one place at one time even through the internet knowledge is finite

·        Man is completely lost, and he cannot save himself.

·        Man’s knowledge is limited.

When we look at these two lists, we can see that there are very big differences between the God of the Bible and the nature of humans.  As humans we are perishing and there is no sight of salvation on the horizon.  We are like a ship without a rudder in a stormy sea.  Is there any hope for us?  O look over there I see a light house.  It is God who switched the light on, it is God who has thrown us a line to come to him!   I want to now look at some verses from John’s Gospel and try to start to understand what the issues are about being born again:

“16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:16-21”

“For God so loved the world”

When God created the world before the sin of Adam the world was perfect, and it was good.  The first chapter in Genesis tells us it was good.   Humans marred this beautiful creation yet even though this was the case God gave us a way through the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit through the gift of faith.  God’s motive is love because his nature is love so it does not surprise me that the text continues to say,

” That He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

The story of Noah points to this truth that we are all drowning, and we cannot save ourselves.  It is a salvage job by God to save a remnant.  From the two basic lists I made about God and Man at the beginning we could see that there was no way that Man can fix this broken relationship with God.  God have to take the first step.  God did a lot more than take the first step.  He sent His Son into the world and died for our sins.  This was a high cost.  Judgement is already on our heads because of the wrongs we have done.  Self-centredness is the biggest crime because it refuses God-centredness:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” 

 

What about Nicodemus in the passage when Jesus says to him “you must be born again”?   The literal translation is born from above (ἄνωθεν John 3:3) the root being ‘ana’ = above.  Looking at the context of the whole passage we can see that Jesus is talking about how to enter God’s Kingdom, but Nicodemus interpreted it as entering into the womb a second time. The usual word for again is actually παλιν (again). Jesus did not use this word but this is how Nicodemus understood it.

As well as the adverb from above in the Nicodemus story, John uses it in other place too:

·        “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. John 3:31

·        And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. John 8:23

·        Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason, he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11

 

I also found it interesting that James the Lord’s brother also uses ‘above’ with the same meaning as Christ:

·        Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

·        This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. James 3:15

·        But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. James 3:17

So then why did Nicodemus ask the question; “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” John 3:4

Nicodemus was half correct but missed the main meaning.  Nicodemus had to have a new birth, but he interpreted it in an earthly physical way.  

Reflection

When Jesus made the statement in his answer to Nicodemus:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Or

 , “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born a new he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Or

, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

God by the Holy Spirit has to make the first move in order that we can even see God’s Kingdom.  Nicodemus was a pharisee and represented the Law.  He could not see the kingdom of God and it had to be explained to him from Jesus our Lord.  This tells us that the law although it is good because God sent it, it cannot save us from our sins.   In part 2 I will be going through Bavincks ethics as he explains to us the steps to becoming a follower of Christ.  

The Trinitarian God and the gift of faith

November 13, 2021

 There has always been controversy on how we become followers of Christ.  The truth is we were dead in our sins and trespasses and there is no way a person who is dead towards God can become alive.  It is an impossibility. Faith is seen as a gift of God and so it should be.  St Augustine was living the sinful life and then he heard a child singing about opening a book. He took it as a command from God and he got converted after reading Romans:

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.Romans 13:13-14”

(Taken from https://www.midwestaugustinians.org/conversion-of-st-augustine )

Whilst walking 10000 steps this was the view! Beautiful

 

Faith is a gift because God has to make the first move and then there is the effect of salvation (mystical union).  I don’t understand how the work of salvation happens and the order.  It is a mystery:

“. . . God works in us without our help. ” Without any cooperation on our part, God begins this regeneration in us by his irresistible grace, penetrating our conscience through to our heart and pouring into us a new life-principle. This enlightens our understanding, judgment, conscience, and memory so that the darkness disappears, and we evaluate ourselves, God, and Christ differently.113 The scales fall from our eyes (Acts 9:18). God bends and turns around our will, so that sinners cannot resist, and drives them to Christ; he re-creates their inclinations and passions and rekindles in them a love for God and Christ. He opens the heart, as he did with Lydia (Acts 16:14), rips away the lock of the heart (Hosea 13:8), which until now was closed through prejudgments, and conquers the power and mastery of the flesh. The “new person” is born and the old has passed away (2 Cor. 5:17).” (Taken from Reformed Ethics; by Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; Baker publishing; page 262)

This is why faith should be seen as a gift.  If I was a car God had to turn the ignition key for it to start.  The engine would start, the lights would work, the mileage would show up and the tank of petrol would be full. Even though God created the whole of the universe and mankind, he also created a brand-new creation in the human being.  When a person was estranged from God one moment, the next moment they are worshipping him.  What a mystery!

In relation to this mystery Bavinck quotes Jesus:

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8”

As Bavinck says this new birth, regeneration ‘born again’ is completely mysterious to us.  We don’t even know how it happens:

“We do not know how life comes to the soul—Whether it is carried in from the outside or created from within.”  He also quotes revelations:

“And the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Revelation 1:18

God uses Scripture and it is the Holy Spirit who wields this sword.  Bavinck uses the metaphor of a hammer hitting us.

God the Holy Spirit has to make us ‘living twigs’ before we can be ingrafted into the olive tree:

He says “But the only way to come into fellowship with Christ is by faith; this assumes a spiritual act, and it thus already assumes spiritual life, rebirth.  Thus we arrive at this proposition: the initial life in regeneration is produced through and from the Holy Spirit, and that life is manifest in the work of faith, and that faith grasps Christ.118 Mystical union arises (logically) after regeneration, simultaneously with and through faith. Becoming one with Christ, we therefore already have the organizing principle of life. But this life-principle now draws, as it grows, all its power, strength, and nourishment from Christ. And in order to be grafted into him who is the olive tree, we must already be living twigs. One does not engraft dead branches.” (From pages 262-263)

Reflection

We now understand why faith is a gift of God. While we were sinners before the foundation of the world God had a plan for us.  God called us while deep in sin. I’m not going any deeper than this at the moment because my aim is to encourage believers to stay faithful to Christ.  A gift is a beautiful thing if it is from the heart.  God created us in the first place in the first creation.  We messed up really badly and we lost our way home to our spiritual father.  Therefore, God has made a new creation in us by writing his laws on our hearts.  To me election is like the wind we will never fully grasp it here on earth.  There is no guarantee that even after 10000 years we will understand the depths of election and how much God really loved us.    The main point is that we have been saved from eternal separation from our Trinitarian God.

What are the subjective causes of the spiritual life for the believer?

November 5, 2021


November the 16th is a very special day for those who enjoy Herman Bavincks Theology.  Volume 2 of his Reformed Ethics is published on that day.  I have ordered mine, but it will take time to arrive as it is through the post.  Here in Finland the clocks have gone back to the Wintertime and one can feel that soon the temperatures will be below zero.   It reminds me of the children’s story about the Moomin.  Autumn is almost finished and soon the snows will come and the Moomin will be hibernating except the young ones as they start their own adventures.  In the United Kingdom today is Bonfire Night.  This is a celebration of stopping a gun powder plot to blow up the houses of Parliament.  

So, our question today is: What are the subjective causes of the spiritual life for the believer?

 

When I was studying I made a box for my calliper

This raises serious questions about the steps to conversion (the origin of our spiritual life) being a follower of Christ.  Herman Bavinck points out that within the Churches there are many different views. So, what are the views?

“An actual preparation in the sense of using the light of nature by the free will of humans (Pelagius) or through the means of grace (Remonstrants, Lutherans) does not exist, of course. Remonstrants require that one longs for righteousness through Christ while still in a sinful condition”.  (From: Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; Book 2, chapter 7, page 255-256)

When looking at these different views Bavinck says it can become ‘stifling’. (Page 256) I can see where Bavinck is coming from, and it is so much easier to follow the Reformed view that ‘that regeneration is the absolute beginning of the spiritual life’(ibid). When I became a Christian, it was very simple; I heard the sermon God spoke to my heart and that I should follow Christ.  I was only 14 and I did not understand all the ins and outs and the truth is that when the Holy Spirit calls us it is God who is doing this work.  In our past sinful life, we were dead in our sins.  How can a dead person bring themselves to life?

So, what sorts of things precedes Christian conversion?

It is interesting that in the footnotes we have Ames’ ideas mentioned:

“Ames, Conscience, II.iv.1e7. This preparation includes self—examination based on “seriously looking into the Law of God,” resulting in a “conviction of conscience” (Rom. 1:20, 32; 2:20; 7:7), concluded by despair arising from our inability to save ourselves (Rom. 7:9, 13), followed by “a true humiliation of heart, which consists of grief and fear because of sin,” which “brings forth conversion” (Matt. 9:12)”. (Footnote 83 page 256)

Then Bavinck mentions the “British theologians at the Synod of Dort spoke similarly of “antecedents to conversion” such as the hearing of God’s Word, going to church, awareness of God’s will, a sense of sin, fear of punishment, thought of liberation, and hope of some pardon. Divine grace does not work through sudden enthusiasm; it assumes predispositions. “

Herman does not have a problem with preparatory thinking “as long as rebirth/regeneration remains the absolute beginning.” (Page 256)

Having said all of this Bavinck prefers the words ‘antecedent acts’ to ‘preparatory acts.’  The Master theologian gives us some very helpful Scriptural references:

·        Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus (Luke 1921—10).

·        Peters preaching ‘moved’ the crowd before the conversions (Acts 2)

·        The jailer was scared and confused with the earthquake (Acts 16)

·        Paul was struck to the ground and was blind (Acts 9)

With what we have been talking about Herman gives us some thing helpful when thinking about what preceded salvation (regeneration):

“The spiritual life never develops gradually from it, is not earned by it. Sometimes God regenerates apart from all those preparations, at once, suddenly. But ordinarily this preparation precedes, and that is why we must observe the outward means of grace: going to church, reading God’s Word, searching our souls in the light of conscience and Scripture, testing ourselves. God binds his blessing to the use of these means. To this extent we can agree with Prof. Shedd that someone who proceeds in this manner will probably be born again and converted.  At any rate, we must do what we can, taking the path God uses for conversion.” (Page 257)

Reflection

God calls us into his salvation.  We cannot save ourselves from being completely separated from God.  Before we come to a place to follow Christ, we all have our own story to tell. Our experiences vary but with God nothing is impossible.  I had a Catholic and Muslim background, refugee for a couple of days, displaced from Cyprus because of the troubles in 1974; Then divorce followed, and physical and psychological abuse filled my life. I failed school and as a teenager went to work in a couple of textile mills. I became a Christian in the very early eighties at the preaching the word of God.  The hymn was:

            Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

            This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.

This is my story, this is my song,

  Praising my Savior all the day long. https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/308

Following Christ is the best thing that happened to me.  I am not a ship without a rudder.   With the gift of faith all the bad is turned to good.  I left the mill went to college and became a theologian, teacher and now at the moment a carpenter.   Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith and I want to Finnish off with some verses from Hebrews:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 NASB

 

Next time I will follow Herman Bavinck teach us what some of these antecedent acts are. 

You might be a child, teenager, adult or a senior person.  All I can say is that God is love and he reaches his hand out to you no matter how good or bad you might have been.  The Trinitarian God offers you a genuine life in this life and eternal life in the next life.  There is true freedom in obedience.  If you want to know more consult with your local pastor or minister they can pray and support you as you look into these issues.

 

The Three Objective causes of the spiritual life. Part 1

October 30, 2021

 

29 10 2021

The Three Objective causes of the spiritual life.  Part 1

This is the sun rising.  Let us always see our cup half full.

 

So, Facebook has decided to change its name to meta (sounds like ‘dead’ (feminine form) in Hebrew.  מתה)  Anyhow people will go into this digital universe wearing these goggles and living their virtual world. A lot of people are not interested in the spiritual, but the fact is they practice it every day even without realizing it.  We all have a spiritual life something that cannot be touched, and it is not tangible in the everyday sense, but it does exist.  We see glimpses of the spiritual life in everyone we meet.  A smile can tell you that a person is feeling good inside.  When a person has a sad experience, they may shed tears.  Everyone is different but we cannot escape spirituality not even the atheist or the scientist although they may interpret spirituality in a way that I would choose not to. 

We now move into Bavinck’s world, and he is going to explain to us what the objective and subjective causes of the spiritual life are.  I want to begin by looking at his introduction to this topic.  He touches on election, so it is vital to have a proper understanding of the objective causes of the spiritual life:

The first objective cause of the spiritual life is election, which is the fountain of all blessings (Rom. 8:28). The Father gave the elect to the Son from eternity (John 6:37; 17:24). The second objective cause, the meritorious cause, is the obedience of Christ,” “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). This is signified and sealed in baptism, the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) …”

(From Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; Edited by John Bolt; Baker Academic; page 254)

There is also a third objective cause of the spiritual life:

“The third objective cause is the Holy Spirit: “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; cf. John 3:5: “born of water and the Spirit”). God the Father is also mentioned because the Triune God is the author of all life” (page 254 We will look at this last objective later on.)

 

Let us take a closer look at Romans 8:28:

“28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30”

As Bavinck says, “the first objective cause of the spiritual life is election.”  In this passage he quoted we see Jesus being described as the ‘First Born among many brethren’ and those who were predestined are to be conformed to “the image of His Son.”

We see a pattern in election; Christ first and then we are chosen and have our life in Christ.  Our election started in ‘eternity’ within the economy of God.  No human can see this far into the distance and know God’s mind because the Creator of the universe knows everything.  Compared to God’s creation (universe, universes) we are smaller than the smallest particle.   Bavinck the master theologian gives us some revelation from God’s word.  Herman quotes John 6. 37 but I want to quote the passage it is found in:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:37-40

From this passage we see Bavinck is correct in saying that God gave the elect to Christ.  Let us look at the next reference:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24-26

This is amazing stuff.  Our election is in Christ.  As God the Father loved the Son so in Christ God the Father loves us too.  The Son of God was chosen as the representative of God here on earth and we have our election in the Son of God. 

We have then covered the first objective cause of the spiritual life that God the Father gave the elect to the Son.

The second objective cause of the spiritual life is to do with ‘meritorious cause’.  When we see the word merit, it obviously implies some type of ‘work and action’ that could be pleasing to God.  This cannot be our works especially while we were still sinners (trapped because of the Fall).   As Herman Bavinck reminds us this second objective cause could only happen through the second Adam our Lord Jesus Christ as a reminder what we read earlier:

The second objective cause, the meritorious cause, is the obedience of Christ,” “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). This is signified and sealed in baptism, the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) …”

It is the obedience of Christ that abolished death:

but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 2 Timothy 1:10

 

 

 

Our deeds could never save us as it says here our renewing is through the Holy Spirit.

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5

The Master theologian then looks at water and how it is used to denote our spiritual washing and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This is an introduction to his third objective:

“The third objective cause is the Holy Spirit: “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; cf. John 3:5: “born of water and the Spirit”). God the Father is also mentioned because the Triune God is the author of all life” (From page 254)

Christ is also referred to in Scripture as the life-giving Spirit (1 cor. 15. 45) Within the internal working of the Trinity (economy, perichoresis) The Holy Spirit works in the world at many different levels.  Obviously, he regenerates and makes us new and holy on a daily basis. As well as the spiritual aspects here let us not forget what the Holy Spirit does for all life including the ‘natural man’.  This is an interesting quote from him:

“The Holy Spirit is the author also of all rational, moral life; wisdom, power, courage, bravery, intellect come from him. He is therefore the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2), the author of all that is spiritual in humanity. It is the distinctive characteristic of the Holy Spirit to influence the human spirit. All spirituality, intellectual competence, inclination, and activity depend on the Holy Spirit, the source of all spirituality.” (From page 255)

Reflection

We have seen three objective causes of the spiritual life that we live.

·        The first objective cause is that God the Father gave the elect (the Church to the Son)

·        The second objective cause is that the meritorious cause, is the ‘obedience of Christ’

·        The holy Spirit saves us not according to our powers but because of God’s own mercy on us by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.

We as believers in Christ are truly blessed.  God had a plan to save us from before the foundation of the world.  Great minds have tried to find a solution to the question of election.  There are varieties of theories on election, but I think they all fail somehow.  The most important fact however is that God loves us, and God is love and he created us.  He not only created us (Genesis), but he made a second brand new creation; giving us a new heart that can in Christ bring us into communion with the Divine life of the Trinity.  This is why we were created, to have fellowship with God forever and this is why we will now be allowed to eat of the tree of life amen.