The Triune God by J. Gresham Machen
(J. Gresham Machen [1881-1937] was Professor of New Testament, first at Princeton Theological Seminary, and afterwards at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Excerpt from The Christian Faith in the Modern World.)
The Bible tells us there is a personal God, Creator and Ruler of the World. God, according to the Bible, is not another name for the mighty process of nature, and He is not some one part or aspect of that process, but He is a free and holy person, who created the process of nature by the fiat of His will and who is eternally independent of the universe that He has made.
Now we ask more in detail what the Bible tells us about God. When we ask that, I know we shall be met with an objection. We are seeking to know God. Well, there are many people who tell us that we ought not to seek to know God. Instead of seeking to know God, they tell us, we ought simply to feel Him; putting all theology aside, they say, we ought just to sink ourselves in the boundless ocean of God’s being.
Such is the attitude of the mystics ancient and modern. But it is not the attitude of the Christian. The Christian, unlike the mystic, knows Him whom He has believed. What shall be said of a religion that depreciates theology, that depreciates the knowledge of God? Read more…
Many Christians are confused by the various theories about the timing of the rapture to the Second Coming of Christ. I think the answer lies in the words used to describe the Second Coming in the Greek NT: parousia (personal appearance, arrival), epiphaneia (appearance, manifestation), and apokalupsis (unveiling, revelation). Robert Brown has written an excellent essay analyzing the use of these key words in the NT and shows that these words cannot justify separating the Second Coming into two stages separated by 7 years (or 3 ½ as some hold). Brown’s essay can be downloaded here:
(From Bishop Ryles tract: Evangelical Religion)
1. The Absolute Supremacy of Holy Scripture
Show us anything, plainly written, in that Book, we will receive it, believe it, and submit to it. Show us anything contrary to that Book, and however sophisticated, plausible, beautiful and apparently desirable, we will not have it at any price.
2. The Doctrine of Human Sinfulness and Corruption
Man is radically diseased. I believe that ignorance of the extent of the Fall, and of the whole doctrine of original sin, is one grand reason why many can neither understand, appreciate, nor receive Evangelical Religion.
3. The Work and Office of our Lord Jesus Christ
The eternal Son of God is our Representative and Substitute. We maintain that people ought to be continually warned not to make a Christ of the Church. We hold that nothing whatever is needed between the soul of man the sinner, and Christ the Savior, but simple child-like faith.
4. The Inward Work of the Holy Spirit
We maintain that the things which need most to be pressed on mens attention are those mighty works of the Holy Spirit–inward repentance, faith, hope, hatred of sin, and love to God’s law. We say that to tell men to take comfort in their baptism or church membership when these all-important graces are unknown, is not merely a mistake, but positive cruelty.
5. The Visible Work of the Holy Spirit in a Person
We maintain that to tell a man he is “born of God” or regenerated, while living in carelessness or sin, is a dangerous delusion. It is the position we assign to these five points which is one of the grand characteristics of Evangelical theology. We say boldly that they are first, foremost, chief and principal things in Christianity.
Bishop J. C. Ryle [1816-1900], Anglican Bishop, pastor, and scholar was a ‘historic premillennialist’. In a work entitled, Coming Events and Present Duties, he wrote of his premillennial belief:
“I believe that the world will never be completely converted to Christianity, by any existing agency, before the end comes. In spite of all that can be done by ministers, members, and churches, the wheat and tares will grow together until the Harvest; and when the end comes, it will find the earth in much the same state that it was when the flood came in the days of Noah.
I believe that the widespread unbelief, indifference, formalism, and wickedness, which are to be seen throughout Christendom, are only what we are taught to expect in God’s word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold, are things directly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help to confirm my faith. Melancholy and sorrowful as the sight is, if I did not see it I should think the Bible was not true.
I believe that the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be a real, literal, personal, bodily coming; that as He went away in the clouds of heaven with His body, before the eyes of man, so in like manner, will He return.
I believe that, after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth shall be renewed, and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that, before He comes, there shall be neither resurrection, judgment, no Millennium; and that not till after He comes shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
I believe that the Jews shall be ultimately gathered again, as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ.
I believe, finally, that it is for the safety, happiness, and comfort, of all true believers to expect as little as possible from churches, or governments, under the present dispensation, to hold themselves ready for tremendous conversions and changes of all things established, and to expect their good things only from Christ’s Second Advent.”
The following e-book “A Commentary on The Westminster Confession of Faith – With Scripture Proofs” By A. A. Hodge is a thorough defense and explanation of the Westminster Confession. It is practically a Reformed/Calvinistic systematic theology.
Note: this is a large file of 197 pages!
“We have probably little idea how much deep truth is contained in the book of Psalms. No part of the Bible perhaps is better known in the letter, and none so little understood in the spirit. We err greatly if we suppose that it is nothing but a record of David’s feelings, of David’s experience, David’s praises, and David’s prayers. The hand that held the pen was generally David’s. But the subject matter was often something far deeper and higher than the history of the son of Jesse.
The book of Psalms, in a word, is a book full of Christ–Christ suffering–Christ in humiliation– Christ dying–rising again–Christ coming the second time–Christ reigning over all. Both the advents are here–advent in suffering to bear the cross–the advent in power to wear the crown. Both the kingdoms are here– kingdom of grace, during which the elect are gathered–the kingdom of glory, when every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. Let us always read the Psalms with a peculiar reverence. Let us say to ourselves as we read, ‘A greater than David is here’.”
(Text quoted from Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994)
“It is quite common, particularly in dispensationalist circles, to say that the Second Coming of Christ is “imminent.” If by “imminence” it is meant that no predicted event needs to occur before Christ comes again, this view gives us difficulties–since, as we have seen, the New Testament teaches that certain things must indeed happen before the Parousia occurs…
…there is no sound biblical basis for dividing the Second Coming of Christ into these two phases. Although the signs of the times are indeed present throughout the entire history of the Christian church, it would appear that before Christ returns some of these signs will assume a more intense form than they have had in the past. The signs will become clearer, and will move on to a certain climax. Apostasy will become far more widespread, persecution and suffering will become “the great tribulation,” and antichristian forces will culminate in “the man of lawlessness.” As we shall see when we look at the individual signs more closely, the Bible does indeed point to such a final culmination of the signs of the times. To say therefore that no predicted events need to happen before Christ returns is to say too much. We must be prepared for the possibility that the Parousia may yet be a long way off, and the New Testament data leave room for that possibility. On the other hand, to affirm with certainty that the Parousia is still a long way off is also to say too much. The exact time of the Parousia is unknown to us. Neither do we know exactly how the signs of the times will intensify. This uncertainty means that we must always be prepared. Instead of saying that the Parousia is imminent, therefore, let us say that it is impending. It is certain to come, but we do not know exactly when it will come. We must therefore live in constant expectation of and readiness for the Lord’s return. The words of the following motto put it well: Live as though Christ died yesterday, arose this morning, and is coming again tomorrow”.
(About the author: Anthony Andrew Hoekema (1913-1988) was a Calvinist theologian and Dutch Reformed minister who served as professor of Systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, MI for twenty-one years. He was an amillennialist. His book Amillennialism can be found at http://www.the-highway.com/amila_Hoekema.html.)
[article (c) Fred Zaspel, used with permission. More of his writings can be found at: www.biblicalstudies.com]
Country Club Christianity
By Fred Zaspel
I have never been a member of a country club, but I have visited a few with friends who were members. And the experience has always been a good one. Country clubs exist because people are social beings. We like to mix with other people, make friends, and we like to share common interests – whether golfing or other amusement or perhaps a particular social agenda. Of course for some, it seems, belonging to a particular country club is a matter of pride – there may be a certain prestige associated with the membership. But still, the country club can serve a good purpose. Friendships, amusements, activities, entertainment, social agendas – these are good things.
Even so, the country club is limited. Its purpose is not to address issues of eternal significance. It is not designed to help its members come to know God, find the forgiveness of sins, prepare for the final judgment, or provide instruction how to live faithfully before their Creator. These matters are simply not in its purview. It exists for other, more secular and temporal purposes.
The Christian Faith in the Modern World e-book contains 18 transcriptions of lectures by J. Gresham Machen in 1936, shortly before his death.
Dr. Machen was an American Presbyterian scholar and apologist. He was a principal founder of Westminster Theological Seminary and what is now the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He served as president and professor of NT at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Machen is regarded as one of the leading reformed apologists in the modern era.
The debate on the exact nature of the Trinity has been going on since the early days of the Church. I have read many articles and essays on the Trinity and this one by Loraine Boettner is one of the best:
(5 Basic Truths for Knowing God from J. I. Packer in Knowing God, pages 15-16)
In his classic book Knowing God J. I. Packer shares five basic truths that serve as foundational principles for knowing God:
1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
2. God is Lord and King over His world; He rules all things for His own glory, displaying His perfections in all that He does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore Him.
3. God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as His sons, and to bless them accordingly.
4. God is Triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it, and the Spirit applying it.
5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. This and nothing else is true religion.
(reblogged from http://www.kevinhalloran.net/category/bible-theology)
A quote from Spurgeon’s sermon: Motives for Steadfastness, May 11, 1873):
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Beloved, be ye steadfast. By this the apostle means, first, be ye steadfast in the doctrines of the gospel. Know what you know, and, knowing it cling to it. Hold fast the form of sound doctrine. Do not be as some are, of doubtful mind, who know nothing, and even dare to say that nothing can be known. To such the highest wisdom is to suspect the truth of everything they once knew, and to hang in doubt as to whether there are any fundamentals at all. I should like an answer from the Broad Church divines to one short and plain question. What truth is so certain and important as to justify a man in sacrificing his life to maintain it? Is there any doctrine for which a wise man should yield his body to be burned? According to all that I can understand of modern liberalism, religion is a mere matter of opinion, and no opinion is of sufficient importance to be worth contending for. The martyrs might have saved themselves a world of loss and pain if they had been of this school, and the Reformers might have spared the world all this din about Popery and Protestantism. I deplore the spread of this infidel spirit, it will eat as doth a canker. Where is the strength of a church when its faith is held in such low esteem? Where is conscience? Where is love of truth? Where soon will be common honesty? In these days with some men, in religious matters, black is white, and all things are whichever color may happen to be in your own eye, the color being nowhere but in your eye, theology being only a set of opinions, a bundle of views and persuasions. The Bible to these gentry is a nose of wax which everybody may shape just as he pleases. Beloved, beware of falling into this state of mind; for if you do so I boldly assert that you are not Christian at all, for the Spirit which dwells in believers hates falsehood, and clings firmly to the truth. Our great Lord and Master taught mankind certain great truths plainly and definitely, stamping them with his “Verily, verily;” and as to the marrow of them he did not hesitate to say, “He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned;” a sentence very abhorrent to modern charity, but infallible nevertheless. Jesus never gave countenance to the baseborn charity which teaches that it is no injury to a man’s nature to believe a lie. Beloved, be firm, be steadfast, be positive. There are certain things which are true; find them out, grapple them to you as with hooks of steel. Buy the truth at any price and sell it at no price.
(Quote on Lordship Salvation from John Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, Brentwood: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991, pp. 251-253, 258-259)
“The Church is presently faced with a struggle equal in importance to the fourth century Nicene battle for the deity of Christ and the Reformation struggle for the doctrine of justification by faith. In both of these previous controversies, the very gospel of Jesus Christ was at stake. The situation is no different today. We have shown throughout this volume that Dispensationalism teaches a different gospel. The gospel of Dispensational Antinomianism declares that a person may have Christ as Savior but refuse to accept Him as Lord of one’s life. This battle has been called the ‘Lordship Salvation’ controversy.”
An excellent e-book on “The Person Of Christ According To The New Testament” by reformed theologian B. B. Warfield:
“Justification By Faith” was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformers, and it remains the cornerstone of reformed theology today. The following article by W. J. Grier is a great explanation of justification by a reformed Irish theologian:
I previously posted a quote by Dennis Swanson on New Covenant Theology (NCT) that came from his essay published in the Masters Seminary Journal. I decided to post the full essay because it is a fair evaluation and summary of NCT for those interested in the subject:
(posted with permission of the author)
The Atonement: A Lecture By Dr. J. Gresham Machen
According to Christian belief, Jesus is our Savior, not by virtue of what He said, not even by virtue of what He was, but by what He did. He is our Savior, not because He has inspired us to live the same kind of life that He lived, but because He took upon Himself the dreadful guilt of our sins and bore it instead of us on the cross. Such is the Christian conception of the Cross of Christ.
This Bible doctrine is not intricate or subtle. On the contrary, though it involves mysteries, it is itself so simple that a child can understand it. “We deserved eternal death, but the Lord Jesus, because He loved us, died instead of us on the cross” — surely there is nothing so very intricate about that. It is not the Bible doctrine of the atonement which is difficult to understand — what are really incomprehensible are the elaborate modern efforts to get rid of the Bible doctrine in the interests of human pride.
“New Covenant Theology (NCT) is a relatively new system which, though not yet well defined, attempts to combine strengths of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology and to eliminate the weak points of the two. Its founders have come from Reformed Baptist circles who reacted against key tenets of Covenant Theology in rejecting such doctrines as the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. The movement has a strong emphasis on study of the Scripture in attempting to derive a biblically based theology. For the most part, NCT’s origins have been local churches rather than academic circles. Though its growth continues to be substantial, it has come about mostly through the channel of the Internet rather than works published through major evangelical publishing houses. Leaders of NCT include John Zens, John G. Reisinger, Fred G. Zaspel, Tom Wells, and Steve Lehrer. Among various programs promoting NCT are Providence Theological Seminary, Sound of Grace Ministries, The John Bunyan Conference, and In-Depth Studies. The progress of NCT’s grow is most obvious in the number of churches that have adopted the movement’s approach to Scripture, but the impact on mainstream evangelicalism has been minimal because of a lack of exposure through mainstream publishers, a lack of full endorsement by a noted evangelical scholar, its doctrinal differences from well-known historic documents of Covenant Theology, its newness historically, and its failure to produce a published systematic or biblical theology.
NCT’s most notable peculiarities include a rejection of Covenant Theology’s superstructure, its granting of priority of the NT over the OT, its rejection of OT ethical standards for Christians, and its rejection of infant baptism and the distinction between the visible and invisible church.”
(From Introduction To New Covenant Theology by Dennis M. Swanson, Vice President for Library and Educational Assessment, The Master’s Seminary)
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
“Let us today go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see Him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in Him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance His miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to His human nature the Holy One of God.
Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that He may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note His humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!
Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor”.
* Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000.
The original ‘rule of faith’ in the Early Christian Church as Bishop Irenaeus (130-202 AD) knew it, included the following:
“. . . this faith:
in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them;
and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation;
and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation,
and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead,
and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord,
and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father
to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race . . .”
Charles Hodge on Jesus Christ as the promised Redeemer and the only Way of salvation in both the Old and New Testaments:
Our Lord commanded the Jews to search their Scriptures, because they testified of Him. He said that Moses and the prophets wrote of Him. Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to the disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. The Apostles when they began to preach the gospel, not only everywhere proved from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, but they referred to them continually in support of everything which they taught concerning His person and work. It is from the Old Testament they prove His divinity; His incarnation; the sacrificial nature of His death; that He was truly a Priest to make reconciliation for the people, as well as a Prophet and a King; and that He was to die, to rise again on the third day, to ascend into heaven, and to be invested with absolute authority over all the earth, and over all orders of created beings. There is not a doctrine concerning Christ, taught in the New Testament, which the Apostles do not affirm to have been revealed under former dispensations. They therefore distinctly assert that it was through Him and the efficacy of His death that men were saved before, as well as after His advent. (Systematic Theology, Vol.II, p.370-371)
“There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth, and we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)
Conservative evangelicals believe that the Bible is inspired, and that this inspiration is both plenary and verbal. Verbal means that every word of Scripture is God-given, and plenary means that all parts of the Bible are equally authoritative. There have been many articles and books written on the subject but the following e-book Bible Inspiration: Plenary And Verbal by Dr. W. W. Gardner is the most detailed and thorough I have seen:
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15
Christ Jesus came to save sinners.
Not, then, merely to prepare salvation for them; to open to them a pathway to salvation; to remove the obstacles in the way of their salvation; to proclaim as a teacher a way of salvation; to introduce as a ruler conditions of life in which clean living becomes for the first time possible; to bring motives to holy action to bear upon us; to break down our enmity to God by an exhibition of His seeking love; to manifest to us what sin is in the sight of God, and how He will visit it with His displeasure. All these things He undoubtedly does. But all these things together touch but the circumference of His work for man. Under no interpretation of the nature or reach of His work can it be truly said that Christ Jesus came to do these things. For that we must penetrate deeper, and say with the primitive Church, in this faithful saying commended to us by the apostle, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners.
I am posting an outline of the tenets of Reformed Theology by Dr. James Means. Dr. Means is an Evangelical Free Church pastor and theologian and serves as Senior Professor of Pastoral Ministries and Homiletics at Denver Seminary. The value of this work is that it compares the Reformed position with that of Arminian and Dispensational (antinomian) theology. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
“A Primer On Reformed Theology – Reformed Theology Contrasted with Arminian, Dispensational, Keswick Theologies” by James E. Means, PhD. (2006):
(Posted with permission from Dr. Means)
I am posting another excellent e-book on theology “Fundamental Doctrines Of The Bible” by David Allen Reed. It is in outline format and covers 4 broad areas:
PART I: Concerning God,
PART II: Concerning Man,
PART III: Concerning Sin,
PART IV: Concerning Redemption
The longest and most detailed section is on Redemption, Reed credited A. A. Hodge’s “Outlines Of Theology” for much of the material there.
Some people have drawn wrong conclusions about Spurgeon’s theology because his sermons were frequently very evangelistic. And one popular edition of his sermons edited out his frequent criticisms of Arminianism. According to Andrew Chan “the result of such censorship is that today, while many know Spurgeon to be the “Prince of Preachers,” few know that he was a staunch Calvinist”.
The following article addresses Spurgeon’s strong support of Calvinistic theology.
“Spurgeon, the Forgotten Calvinist” by Godwell Andrew Chan:
The Covenant of Grace
A Key To An Understanding Of The Bible
By Calvin Knox Cummings
An excellent e-book for explaining the basic truths of the Christian faith from a Biblical, Reformed perspective.
Cummings directed this book to ‘young Christians’ which I take to refer not to age but to new Christians. It is used by some Orthodox Presbyterian Churches for new member classes.
The Scottish theologian John Murray is one of my favorite authors. His book “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” is a classic of reformed theology. I highly recommend this book! The following article is an excerpt from the book with Murray’s teaching on Justification:
About the author: Professor John Murray was a Scottish theologian and author. He served on the faculty of Princeton Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary.