Dr. Sinclair Ferguson preached this at our Good Friday service this year. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest sermons I have heard him preach. He preached from Matthew 27:45-54.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson preached this at our Good Friday service this year. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest sermons I have heard him preach. He preached from Matthew 27:45-54.
The resurrection of Christ:
1. Proves that Jesus is God.
2. Proves that Jesus has the power over sin and death.
3. Proves that God the Father approved fully the sacrifice of His Son and therefore secures our justification. (Romans 4:25)
Therefore, if Christ is not raised, we are still dead in our sins, our faith is in vain and we are people to be most pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Soli Deo Gloria.
“No Confidence in the Flesh” a Biblical Reflection by John Hendryx
In chapter 3 of The Epistle to the Philippians Paul gives us one of the best definitions of a Christian available in the Bible. He also contrasts this with the marks of false teachers.
Paul begins the chapter by contrasting the wondrous gift of grace against the hopeless pit of sin. He warns the Philippians against false teachers; those, he says, who have confidence in themselves. That is, anyone who adds conditions for salvation, in addition to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul likens to Gentile dogs, those who fail to recognize that salvation is wholly of Jesus.
But then in stark contrast to false teaching, Paul defines what a Christian looks like:
“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”
He calls true Christians “the real circumcision”, i.e. the true covenant people of God. Then he gives three characteristics of Christians in verse 3. He says true Christians are those who:
1) Worship in the Spirit of God
2) Glory in Christ
3) And put no confidence in the flesh
(1) The first mark of a Christian is that they are those who worship in the Spirit. They are the true circumcision, Paul says. They do not worship in the flesh. The “flesh” here is not referring to our physical bodies, for there is nothing inherently wrong with physicality. God created all matter and our bodies and declared them “good”. What Paul is contrasting is human effort or trust in ancestry, that is, trusting in it for our redemption. In Scripture, “In the flesh” is always set in contrast to “in the Spirit”. They define two states of being or nature – those with the Spirit (regenerate) and those without the Spirit (unregenerate). “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8) and “… the flesh counts for nothing.”… But “the Spirit gives life.” (John 6:63). And “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of … the Spirit (John 3:6; Ezek 36:25-27). Worship in the Spirit of God also means that the source of our daily spiritual life and walk in Christ is the Holy Spirit who unites us to Jesus Christ. Gal 5:25 likewise says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Thus both our conversion and our sanctification can be attributed to the work of Christ, applied by the Spirit.
(2) Christians are also defined as those who “glory in Christ” — those who have no hope save in Christ Jesus alone. The mark of a Christian here, Paul says, is that they glory in Christ. Our full weight rests on Him and not anything else. To glory in someone means one will have affection and desires which are driven by that someone. Christ is the one the Christian will cherish above all. No doubt, with all of the distractions around us, this is a constant struggle, even for a regenerate Christian. In fact the more mature we become the more we recognize the darkness of our own hearts. There is a constant heavy pull in the world and our flesh to glory in ourselves or in something else, but the Spirit who lives in us preserves by working in us to will according to His good purpose. This constant tug by the flesh to return to the covenant of works (relying on self-effort to justify ourselves) is something we constantly struggle against. We think we can find or justify ourselves in something that is less worthy than the real thing, and so we disbelieve God’s promises. But the Holy Spirit uses such instances to discipline us as children to draw us nearer to Himself. In Romans, Paul describes some of his old unbelieving Jewish friends in this way:
“I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
This passage is really a warning against thinking that all is well as long as we have good motives. As the Lord tells us so plainly, “I desire obedience, not sacrifice.” So what was their disobedience? These Jews are being rebuked for trusting in something else in the place of Christ alone. Lest we think we Christians are beyond the possibility of falling into this false gospel of self-effort, take heed lest you forget that it was the gospel that saved you and even now preserves you. I believe this is actually one of the greatest dangers of modern evangelicalism. The gospel easily gets lost and tends to become good advice rather than good news. Often more about what we do for Christ than grounding all of our doings in what He has done for us. Christ alone is our Savior, not someone who helps us save ourselves. Don’t make a savior out of your duties.
(3) Lastly a true Christian is one who has “no confidence in the flesh”. This means they have utterly despaired of themselves … are spiritual bankrupt. When the Holy Spirit does a work of grace in someone, He convicts them of their sin. Not just sins, but convicts of the fact that they are sinners by nature and can do nothing to save themselves. There is no pride in physical decent or in natural abilities. This means one who is brought to faith, repents of both their good works and their evil works. Both are equally worthless to God. False teaching glories in something other than in Christ alone, always pointing to something that we can do; a resumé we can bring before God to curry His favor, not realizing that He has already adopted us as sons. Not unlike the older brother in the Prodigal son who glories that he has worked for his father all his life, not realizing that God does not first ask us to meet conditions to obtain his love. Those who have confidence in the flesh also tend to believe in Christ PLUS this or that. That Christ saved them, but they must maintain their own justification before God. Glorying in Christ is the antithesis of glorying in the flesh. Pharisees boast before God of what they have done for him. The Christian is one who has empty hands every day and can only thank God for His mercy. He thus relies solely on the righteousness of Christ.
It is the new Covenant in Christ’s blood which “reminds God” not to treat us as our sins justly deserve. True Christians flee to Christ as their only hope. A mark of maturity is that we no longer are constantly worrying about our own spirituality but rather our focus is on Christ and His accomplishments. Those who are glorying the flesh will exhaust themselves because they are contstantly looking to their own resources. The cross alone is where we find sanctification. Christians flee to Christ as their only hope casting aside all self-confidence and autonomy. Remember, Paul calls everything other than Christ “rubbish”. Are we trusting in rubbish or in Christ? A.W. Pink, I believe captures the point in a sentence:
“Just as the sinner’s despair of any hope from himself is the first prerequisite of a sound conversion, so the loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace.”
Posted by permission by John Hendryx. Original post is found here.
“Look more at justification than sanctification. In the highest commands consider Christ, not as an exacter to require, but as a debtor, an undertaker, to work in you and for you. If you have looked at your resolutions, endeavors, workings, duties, qualifications, etc., more than at the merits of Christ, it will cost you dear.”
“You must be born again.” – John 3:7b
For your conviction, consider these few things: REGENERATION IS ABSOLUTELY necessary to qualify you to do anything really good and acceptable to God. While you are not born again, your best works are but glittering sins; for though the matter of them is good, they are quite marred in the performance.
Consider, that without regeneration there is no faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). Faith is a vital act of the new-born soul. The evangelist, showing the different entertainment which our Lord Jesus had from different persons, some receiving Him, some rejecting Him, points at regenerating grace as the true cause of that difference, without which never any one would have received Him. He tells us, that “as many as re- ceived him,” were those “which were born of God” (Joh 1:11-13). Unregenerate men may presume, but true faith they cannot have. Faith is a flower that grows not in the field of nature. As the tree cannot grow without a root, nei- ther can a man believe without the new nature, whereof the principle of believing is a part. Without regeneration a man’s works are dead works. As is the principle, so must the effects be: if the lungs are rotten, the breath will be unsavoury; and he who at best is dead in sin, his works at best will be but dead works. “Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Ti 1:15- 16). If we could say of a man, that he is more blameless in his life than any other in the world, that he reduces his body with fasting and has made his knees as horns with continual praying, if he is not born again, that exception would mar all. As if one should say, “There is a well-proportioned body, but the soul is gone; it is but a dead lump.” This is a melting consideration. You do many things materially good; but God says, “All these things avail not, as long as I see the old nature reigning in the man,” “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal 6:15).
If you are not born again:
(1) All your reformation is naught in the sight of God. You have shut the door, but the thief is still in the house. It may be you are not what once you were; yet you are not what you must be, if ever you see heaven; for “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Joh 3:3).
(2) Your prayers are an “abomination to the Lord” (Pro 15:8). It may be, others admire your seriousness; you cry as for your life; but God accounts of the opening of your mouth as one would account of the opening of a grave full of rottenness, “Their throat is an open sepulchre” (Rom 3:13). Others are affected with your prayers, which seem to them as if they would rend the heavens; but God accounts them but as the howling of a dog: “They have not cried unto me with their hearts, when they howled upon their beds” (Hos 7:14). Why, because you are yet “in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity!” All your struggles against sin in your own heart and life, are naught. The proud Pharisee afflicted his body with fasting, and God struck his soul, in the meantime with a sentence of condemnation (Luk 18). Balaam struggled with his covetous temper, to that degree, that though he loved the wages of unrighteousness, yet he would not win them by cursing Israel: but he died the death of the wicked (Num 31:8). All you do, while in an unregenerate state, is for yourself: therefore it will fare with you as with a subject, who hav- ing reduced the rebels, puts the crown on his own head, and loses all his good service and his head too.
Be convinced, then, that you must be born again. The Scripture says that the Word is the seed, whereof the new creature is formed: therefore take heed to it, and entertain it, as it is your life. Apply yourself to the reading of the Scripture. You that cannot read, get others to read it to you. Wait diligently on the preaching of the Word, as by divine appointment the special means of conversion; for “it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe” (1Co 1:21).
Receive the testimony of the Word of God concerning the misery of an unregenerate state, the sinfulness there- of, and the absolute necessity of regeneration. Receive its testimony concerning God, what a holy and just One He is. Examine your ways by it; namely, the thoughts of your heart, the expressions of your lips, and the tenor of your life. Look back through the several periods of your life; see your sins from the precepts of the Word, and learn, from its threatening, what you are liable to on account of these sins.
By the help of the same Word of God, view the corruption of your nature. Were these things deeply rooted in the heart, they might be the seed of that fear and sorrow, on account of your soul’s state, which are necessary to prepare and stir you up to look after a Saviour. Fix your thoughts upon Him offered to you in the Gospel, as fully suited to your case; having, by His obedience unto death, perfectly satisfied the justice of God, and brought in ever- lasting righteousness. This may prove the seed of humiliation, desire, hope and faith; and move you to stretch out the withered hand unto Him, at His own command.
Let these things sink deeply into your hearts, and improve them diligently. Remember, whatever you are, you must be born again; else it had been better for you that you had never been born. Wherefore, if any of you shall live and die in an unregenerate state, you will be inexcusable, having been fairly warned of your danger.
- Thomas Boston (1676-1732)
“Though we be Pauls and Apolloses we cannot save a soul; though we be as eloquent as Demosthenes, as subtle as Aristotle, as convincing as Plato, as persistent as Socrates, we cannot save. And though we be non of these, but a plain man with lisping lips, that can but let fall the Gospel truth in broken phrases – we need no eloquent Aaron for our prophet. We need only God for our Master. It is not we who save, it is God; and our place is not due to our learning or our rhetoric or our graces, it is due to the honouring of God, who has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens.” – B.B. Warfield
“Let it be counted folly, or frenzy, or fury, or whatsoever. It is our wisdom and our comfort; we care for no knowledge in the world but this: that man hath sinned and God hath suffered; that God hath made himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God.”
— Richard Hooker
“It was come to this: either we must die eternally, or the Son of God must spill his blood; either we, or God’s own Son must suffer God’s wrath, one of the two; either miserable worms of the dust that had deserved it, or the glorious, amiable, beautiful, and innocent Son of God.
The fall of man brought it to this; it must be determined one way or t’other and it was determined, by the strangely free and boundless grace of God, that this his own Son should die that the offending worms might be freed, and set at liberty from their punishment, and that justice might make them happy. Here is grace indeed; well may we shout, “Grace, grace!” at this.
And beside, God did not do this for friends, but for enemies and haters of him. He did not do it for loyal subjects, but for rebels; he did not do it for those that were his children, but for the children of the devil; he did not do it for those that were excellent, but for those that were more hateful than toads or vipers; he did not do it for those that could be any way profitable or advantageous to him, but for those that were so weak, that instead of profiting God, they were not able in the least to help themselves.
God has given even fallen man such a gift, that He has left nothing for man to do that he may be happy, but only to receive what is given him. Though he has sinned, yet God requires no amends to be made by him; He requires of him no restoration; if they will receive His Son of Him, He requires neither money nor price; he is to do no penance in order to be forgiven. God offers to save him for nothing, only if he will receive salvation as it is offered; that is, freely through Christ, by faith in Him.”
— Jonathan Edwards, “Glorious Grace“
HT: Of First Importance / Img Credit: Wikipedia
It’s a common view that’s been around for a long time. It’s a wrong view of what heaven will be like. Most people believe that heaven is a place where our incorporeal selves will float around sitting on clouds with harps for all eternity. This is a very popular but very incorrect view of what heaven will be like. Hellenistic gnosticism was a view that taught that the physical was evil. That view is alive and well today. In fact, most funerals have a touch of gnostic heresy anytime you hear it said that the deceased never again has to deal with a physical body. While it’s true that they will never again have a sinful body of death, it’s not Biblical to discount the physical body as being absent in heaven. Scripture values the physical and so should we.
When God created the heavens and the earth He said it was good. After the Fall, God cursed man and as a result all creation also bears the sinful weight of the Fall. As Paul tells us, “the creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Romans 8:22) Paul expounds this thought that even creation eagerly awaits Christ’s return so that it too will be set free from corruption. (Rom. 8:21) You see, what God will do at the return of Christ is to create a new heaven and a new earth. At the return of Christ believers will receive new physical, glorified bodies like Christ’s resurrected body. (Philippians 3:20-21) We will live for eternity in physical bodies that will not die, have pain or injury. It’s a concept far above our finite minds to fully comprehend but something that we can so look forward to. We’ll live on a restored earth that is absent of sin. Again, something that I don’t think any of us can grasp. Not a second goes by that we are not affected by sin and its affects. To live without sin is something that we as believers long for and is truly too glorious for us to comprehend.
Now let’s take it a step further. We’ve established that heaven is an eternal state where believers are given new gloried bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body that will live forever on a new earth free from sin, death and Satan. Those are all wonderful benefits but the true wonder and beauty of heaven is that we will forever be in the unhindered presence of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. That is the number one reason why heaven is heavenly. John Piper posed a very striking question in one of his books asking, “would you be happy in heaven if Christ were not there?” Sadly, many are looking forward to seeing loved ones more than seeing Christ. Yes, there is wonderful joy in knowing that we will see our loved ones in Christ, but the ultimate joy far above our family is the joy of being in the presence of Christ for all eternity with a sweet fellowship that is sealed with the merits and righteousness of Christ.
Doctrine is vitally important. It’s not just for the theologians and scholars. Biblical doctrine is the responsibility and joy of every believer. Right doctrine produces right living and right thinking. This is especially important as we seek to be lights of Christ in a dark world and seek to live in a way that is pleasing to our Lord. While we’re on this topic of the new heaven and the new earth, it’s common for some believers who have a wrong view of heaven to imagine heaven to be boring. They may be imaging an eternity’s worth of harp playing on a cloud. But we know that the Scriptures teach otherwise. The Scriptures also teach us what we need to know about God. One of the things about God that overwhelms me is that He is infinite. He has no beginning and no end. No starting point in time and no ending point. He never diminishes nor ever will. This is truly beyond our comprehension. He is the Great I AM. While we truly cannot comprehend this attribute of God, it opens up a world of marvel when it comes to a taste of what heaven will be like.
It’s my humble opinion that one of the things that will make heaven so awesome is that we will spend all eternity in the presence of God and will never get to the end of Him. We are not timeless beings and it appears from Scripture that heaven will also be time-bound. (Revelation 22:2) We will experience time and every second that goes by we will continue to learn more and more about God. But there will never come a point in time – even in all eternity in heaven – that we will ever reach a point where we have exhausted everything there is about God. For every second that goes by we will still be learning and growing in our knowledge, awe and wonder of the one true triune God. No one will ever come up to you in the new heaven and earth and tell you that he’s figured God out.
As believers, think about how excited that you get when even after many years of being a Christian and reading the Scriptures that you learn something new about God. That excitement is battled through our indwelling sin. Now, imagine all eternity in the absence of sin and its hindrances to us constantly learning, marveling and studying our great God and never reaching the end of Him. As Paul tells us in his doxology at the end of Romans 11, He is truly unfathomable and unsearchable.
This is an encouragement for us to keep our mind on things above and not on things of the earth. Paul encourages us to set our mind on the things that are pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8) and there is absolutely nothing more pure and lovely than Christ. Let us look forward to heaven the way Scripture has taught us. Let us rejoice in Scripture’s most awesome description of heaven: “they will see His face.” (Revelation 22:4; emphasis mine)
Until that great day comes when Christ comes to collect His Bride, judge the world and restore the heavens and the earth, let us “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.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Soli Deo Gloria
I’ve been reading through Johannes Vos’ commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism, and his notes on Q. 80 of the catechism focuses on a believer’s assurance and the contrasts of false assurance in those who only profess Christ but are not truly saved.
Here is Q. 80 of the Westminster:
Q. 80. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
A. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.
In this section below, Voss does a great job explaining how we can test the genuineness of our own assurance.
How can we test the genuineness of our own assurance?
Dr. A.A. Hodge in his Commentary on the Confession of Faith, gives forecasts by which true assurance can be distinguished from false or presumptuous assurance. These are a) True assurance produces unfeigned humility; false assurance leads to spiritual pride. b) True assurance results in increased diligence in the practice of holiness; false assurance leads to slothfulness and self-indulgence. c) True assurance leads to candid self-examination and a desire to be searched and corrected by God; faults assurance leads to the disposition to be satisfied with appearance and avoid accurate investigation. d) True assurance leads to constant aspirations after a more intimate fellowship with God; fault assurance does not .
You can grab Vos’ commentary on amazon here.
Soli Deo Gloria.