The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology

Some books are a chore to read – because of content and/or style and/or the author’s competence as an author. Some books are a joy to read – the content is excellent, the style is engaging and the book is well written and Holy Spiritorganized. This book is such a book – joy unspeakable! Yet about this book, I will speak.

I received this book from a friend who manages a library at a Christian Seminary and wanted someone to read and review it. He got first peek at the review, ya’ll get it as a close “second”.

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology

edited by Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas

One area many reformed theologians tend to ignore is the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There is a legitimate concern by most preachers about exalting the Lord Jesus and being faithful to His gospel, but no preaching or evangelism or Bible study would be worthwhile if the Spirit of the living God did not faithfully attend each of these. This book – a compilation of articles on various works of the Holy Spirit, written by 9 Baptists and 9 Paedobaptists – is a wonderful examination of the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It was written in tribute to the work He has done in the life Geoff Thomas, a faithful gospel minister who has served half a century in the local church our Lord called him to. I have personally benefited greatly from Geoff Thomas’ commentary on Daniel and was most eager to read this book.

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology is divided into four sections – Geoff Thomas: Faithful Instrument of the Spirit in part I; Salvation and the Spirit of Christ in part II; Growth and the Spirit of Holiness in part III; and Ministry and the Spirit of Counsel and Might in part IV. As you can see from the section titles, the authors recognize and highlight myriad functions and characteristics of the Holy Spirit. The reader will come away from this book with a heightened sense of the power and majesty of the third person of the Holy Trinity.

I will highlight one chapter to give you a taste of the quality and penetrating theology the authors provide. Fred Malone’s chapter, #6, is titled The Holy Spirit and Human Responsibility – a topic I think many Christians fail to properly comprehend. Malone opens with an observation from Geoff Thomas’ book, The Holy Spirit: Man is fully responsible for his behavior and God is fully sovereign in His work to conform man to the image of His dear Son. In stark contrast to the “higher life” movements which advocate a theology of “let go and let God” and the self-improvement psychology, a biblical view of sanctification acknowledges the tension Thomas proclaimed.

Infamously promoted by the Roman Catholic Church is the conflation of justification and sanctification, leading to confusion about both doctrines. Justification is completely monergistic – by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Sanctification involves man’s effort, so it is not the monergistic work of God alone – yet neither is it rightly called synergistic. This term conveys a process which depends on both elements – in the case of sanctification those are God and man. The truth of biblical sanctification is this: man cannot sanctify himself apart from the indwelling work and power of the Spirit of God; but the Holy Spirit can and does sanctify man without the man’s cooperation, though this should not be our aim. Our responsibility before God is to work with the Holy Spirit, not grieve Him.

In outlining this concept, Malone tells us, “Man does not regenerate himself; God does not repent and believe for man.” Sinners are made able and willing to repent and believe by the Spirit’s work of regeneration. Our nature is changed and we then “choose Christ” – because He first chose us. Our author points to Philippians 2:12-13, saying it “presents the earthly pursuit of Christlikeness as one hundred percent a sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit who works with us and also one hundred percent the work of man with his new God-given ability. If this two hundred percent sum sounds illogical, then we must bow to God’s Word, not man’s logic.” Let all the saints say, Amen!

Malone gives the reader a couple of wonderful paragraphs on the individual’s role in sanctification, with many Scripture passages (pages 76 and 77) and follows up with a short warning: “We cannot blame God for our lack of conformity to Christ.” He explains, “Every step we take forward in Christlikeness brings one hundred percent glory to God alone. However, if we are lacking in that conformity, we must take one hundred percent of the responsibility for that failure and press on by faith.” If this exhortation does not convict as it encourages us to trust all the more in the Lord, then “let a man examine himself to see if he be in the faith.”

This chapter ends by proclaiming the critical nature God’s Word plays in the justification and sanctification of God’s saints. As is pointed out elsewhere in this book, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture, equipped the men who put the Word into print, accompanies the reading and preaching of the Word to do His unique work in each predestined child who awaits (unknowingly) his redemption. “So Christians must give full attention to learning the Word of God to grow thereby (1 Peter 2:1-2).” Christian, do you value the Word of God? By this, I ask, do you read it with a humble heart seeking to meet with your maker and judge and Savior? I leave you with one more quote from Malone – “to the degree we live believing the indicatives of grace revealed in the Word – the love of God for us in Christ’s salvation, the unfailing faithfulness of God to His promises to work in us – so we grow in obeying the imperatives of the Word unto further sanctification and Christlikeness.”

Dear reader, the Holy Spirit is God and He works in and through His Word, to raise spiritually dead men to new life, to give them a new nature that loves rather than hates God, to cause us to want what is good and hate what is evil. This book provides a most valuable look at the depth and breadth of His work, highlighting what He does mostly in secret because His role is to bring honor and glory to the Father and the Son. Praise Him!

Spiritual Shipwreck of the Word-Faith Movement – Part 2

Rise Up O’ Men of God

Where are the men in our churches who are willing to stand for what is right? We have bought into the world’s philosophies and the church has become feminized. Men, God has given a divine order for the reason that we might show the picture of Christ and His Bride to the nations. If we are going to advance in the battle, we must have men with a rod of iron in their backbone. May God forgive us for ever quitting in the first place!

HT: Jeremy B. Strang

A Few Sighs from Hell

John Bunyan’s pastor, John Gifford, often wrote prefaces to Bunyan’s work. In his introduction to A Few Sighs imagesfrom Hell, Gifford offers the following advice to the Christian. I pray it causes the reader to pause and consider his standing before God – to be comforted and drawn near to the Savior, or be rebuked and fall down before Him crying for mercy. To the reader, from Pastor Gifford:

 

And if thou beest a Christian (to whom this may come) that hast not only had a prize in thy hands, but wisdom given thee from above to make use of it, and art one who (whilst others are seeking to make this world and hell together sure to themselves) spendest thy time, and makest it thy only business, to make sure of the one thing necessary, and heaven to thy soul, I shall lay two or three things before thy thoughts.

First. Walk with a fixed eye upon the world to come. Look not at the things that are seen, that are temporal, but at the things which are not seen, that are eternal (2 Cor 4:18). A Christian’s eye should be upon his journey’s end, as our Lord Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross (Heb 12:2). When the stones flew about Stephen’s ears, his eyes were lifted up to heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55,56). What though thou at present mayest lie at the rich man’s gates, yet a few days will translate thee into Abraham’s bosom. Though Israel had a sharp voyage through the wilderness, yet Caleb and Joshua, men of excellent spirits, had their eye upon the good land they were going to.

Though graceless souls are too dull sighted to see afar off (2 Peter 1:9), yet thou that hast received the unction from above, dost in some measure know what is the hope of thy calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.

Secondly. Be satisfied with thy present condition, though it be afflictive, for it shall not last always. Thy sorrows shall be short, and thy joys long; roll thyself upon the Lord, for there is a heaven will pay for all; Christ first endured the cross before he wore the crown. David, before he was a king, was a shepherd. The poor man spoken of in this ensuing treatise, before he was carried into heaven, had experiences of sorrow and sufferings on earth. Let the flesh be silent in passing judgment on the dispensations of God towards thee, and the men of this world, in this present life.

David, by prying too far herein with his own wisdom, had almost caught a fall (Psa 73). Though God’s judgments may be too deep for our reason to dive into, yet are they always righteous, and his paths mercy and truth to those that keep his covenants (Psa 25:10). When Jeremiah would debate with the Lord concerning his judgments in the wicked’s prosperity, he would lay this down as an indubitable truth, that his judgments were righteous (Jer 12:1). And his end was not to charge God, but to learn understanding of him in the way of his judgments; and although the ways of his providence may be dark to his people, that they cannot discern his  footsteps, yet are they always consistent with his everlasting covenant, and the results of the favour he bears to them. If the wicked flourish like the grass, it is that they should be destroyed for ever (Psa 92:7). And if the godly have many a wave beating upon them, yet will the Lord command his loving-kindness in the day time (Psa 42:7,8). And, after a little while being tossed to and fro in these boisterous waves, they shall arrive at the heavenly haven, this world being not their resting-place, but there remains one for them (Heb 4:9).

Thirdly. Let the faith and hopes of a glorious deliverance get thy heart up above thy present sufferings, that thou mayest glory in tribulation who hast ground of rejoicing in hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:2,3). For whatsoever thy present grievances are, whether outward afflictions, or inward temptations, this may be thy consolation that a few days will rid thee of them; when thou shalt sigh no more, complain no more, but those shall be turned into praises. Thou hast (if I may so call it) all thy hell here; let thy life be expired, and thy misery is ended; thy happiness begins, where wicked men’s end; and when thine is once began, it shall have no more end.

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM – Part 4

This is part 4 of analysis of the 19th century theological invention known as dispensationalism. Part 3 can be imagesfound here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/18/95-theses-agai…onalism-part-3/  Following are the next ten theses from the NiceneCouncil.com’s concise but thorough examination of the critical errors with the theological system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is, like most other systems, not comprised of a monolithic group who all believe alike. So please bear in mind this series in not an attack on any person, but an examination of a system.

21. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ central affirmation of the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) employing (alleged) literalism, the depth of Scripture is such that it can perplex angels (1 Pet 1:12), the Apostle Peter (2 Pet 3:15-16), and potential converts (Acts 8:30-35); requires growth in grace to understand (Heb 5:11-14) and special teachers to explain (2 Tim 2:2); and is susceptible to false teachers distorting it (1 Tim 1:7).

22. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim to be following “the principle of grammatical-historical interpretation” (Charles Ryrie), they have redefined the method in a way that is rejected by the majority of non-dispensational evangelicals (and even “progressive dispensationalists”) who see that the Bible, while true in all its parts, often speaks in figures and types—e.g., most evangelicals interpret the prophecy in Isaiah and Micah of “the mountain of the house of the Lord being established as the chief of the mountains” (Isa 2:2b, Mic. 4:1b) to refer to the exaltation of God’s people; whereas dispensationalism claims this text is referring to actual geological, tectonic, and volcanic mountain-building whereby “the Temple mount would be lifted up and exalted over all the other mountains” (John Sailhammer) during the millennium.

23. Despite the dispensationalists’ conviction that their “plain interpretation” necessarily “gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage” (Charles Ryrie) and is the only proper and defensible method for interpreting Scripture, by adopting this method they are denying the practice of Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament, as when the Lord points to John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah’s return (Matt 10:13-14) and the Apostles apply the prophecy of the rebuilding of “the tabernacle of David” to the spiritual building of the Church (Acts 15:14-17), and many other such passages.

24. Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism in pointing out that “the prevailing method of interpretation among the Jews at the time of Christ was certainly this same method” (J. D. Pentecost), they overlook the problem that this led those Jews to misunderstand Christ and to reject him as their Messiah because he did not come as the king which their method of interpretation predicted.

25. Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism by appealing to the method of interpretation of the first century Jews, such “literalism” led those Jews to misunderstand Christ’s basic teaching by believing that he would rebuild the destroyed temple in three days (John 2:20-21); that converts must enter a second time into his mother’s womb (John 3:4); and that one must receive liquid water from Jesus rather than spiritual water (John 4:10-11), and must actually eat his flesh (John 6:51-52, 66).

26. Despite the dispensationalists’ interpretive methodology arguing that we must interpret the Old Testament on its own merit without reference to the New Testament, so that we must “interpret ‘the New Testament in the light of the Old’” (Elliot Johnson), the unified, organic nature of Scripture and its typological, unfolding character require that we consult the New Testament as the divinely-ordained interpreter of the Old Testament, noting that all the prophecies are “yea and amen in Christ” (2 Cor 1:20); that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10); and, in fact, that many Old Testament passages were written “for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11) and were a “mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Col. 1:26; Rev 10:7).

27. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ claim that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’” (Charles Ryrie), many such prophecies were not fulfilled in a “plain” (Ryrie) literal fashion, such as the famous Psalm 22 prophecy that speaks of bulls and dogs surrounding Christ at his crucifixion (Psa 22:12, 16), and the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy regarding the virgin, that “she will call His name Immanuel” (cp. Luke 2:21), and others.

28. Despite the dispensationalists’ argument that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’” (Charles Ryrie), they can defend their argument only by special pleading and circular reasoning in that they (1) put off to the Second Advent all those prophecies of his coming as a king, though most non-dispensational evangelicals apply these to Christ’s first coming in that He declared his kingdom “near” (Mark 1:15); and they (2) overlook the fact that his followers preached him as a king (Acts 17:7) and declared him to be the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5) in the first century.

29. Despite the dispensationalists’ central affirmation of the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) by which their so-called literalism provides “a coherent and consistent interpretation” (John Walvoord), it ends up with one of the most ornate and complex systems in all of evangelical theology, with differing peoples, principles, plans, programs, and destinies because interpreting Scripture is not so “plain” (despite Charles Ryrie).

30. Despite the dispensationalists’ argument for the “literal” fulfillment of prophecy, when confronted with obvious New Testament, non-literal fulfillments, they will either (1) declare that the original prophecy had “figures of speech” in them (Scofield), or (2) call these “applications” of the Old Testament rather than fulfillments (Paul Tan)—which means that they try to make it impossible to bring any contrary evidence against their system by re-interpreting any such evidence in one of these two directions.