Archive for the 'Quotes' Category

Aversation To God

The quote below is so far one of the key texts, in my mind, of the third book of the trilogy on sin and temptation in Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, which I’m only part of the way through. I’m reading the edition edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor. They keep a lot of the difficult words, but provide short definitions as footnotes. Those are provided here for the words that have a dotted underline which you should be able to hover over or touch.

Even when we have been regenerated and have the Holy Spirit dwelling and working in us, we still have an aversation “unto God and everything of God”. Many insist that since we have the Holy Spirit and we are slaves to Christ, that the enmity towards God is gone, but I will submit Job 21:14, Romans 7:19, Galatians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:11, just as a small sampling so that we can see that this nature, or “law of sin” (Genesis 6:5), as Owen describes it, is always with us. We are deluding ourselves if we pretend that isn’t the case. Our tendency is to ignore God–not necessarily willfully–and want to sin, although we are freed from having to be slaves to sin; through Christ’s death and resurrection we have become a [re]new[ed] person in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:2 NIV, Ephesians 2:14-16, Isaiah 40:31, as another small sampling).

In addition to keeping our minds on things that are above (Colossians 3:1) we also need to “watch and pray” (Colossians 4:2), and to be careful that we don’t fall if we think we’re standing firm (1 Cor 10:12).

Carry about a constant, humbling sense of this close aversation unto spiritualness that yet lies in our nature. If men find the efficacy of it, what should, what consideration can, be more powerful to bring them unto humble walking with God? That after all the discoveries that God has made of himself unto them, all the kindness they have received from him, his doing of them good and not evil in all things, there should yet be such a heart of unkindness and unbelief still abiding as to have an aversation lying in it to communion with him—how ought the thoughts of it to cast us into the dust! to fill us with shame and self-abhorrency all our days! What have we found in God, in any of our approaches or addresses unto him, that it should be thus with us? What iniquity have we found in him? Has he been a wilderness unto us, or a land of darkness? Did we ever lose anything by drawing nigh unto him? Nay, has not therein lain all the rest and peace which we have obtained? Is not he the fountain and spring of all our mercies, of all our desirable things? Has he not bid us welcome at our coming? Have we not received from him more than heart can conceive or tongue express?

What ails, then, our foolish and wretched hearts, to harbor such a cursed secret dislike of him and his ways? Let us be ashamed and astonished at the consideration of it, and walk in a humbling sense of it all our days. Let us carry it about with us in the most secret of our thoughts. And as this is a duty in itself acceptable unto God, who delights to dwell with them that are of a humble and contrite spirit [Isa. 57:15], so it is of exceeding efficacy to the weakening of the evil we treat of.

Labor to possess the mind with the beauty and excellency of spiritual things, so that they may be presented lovely and desirable to the soul; and this cursed aversation of sin will be weakened thereby. It is an innate acknowledged principle that the soul of man will not keep up cheerfully unto the worship of God unless it has a discovery of a beauty and comeliness in it. Hence, when men had lost all spiritual sense and savor of the things of God, to supply the want that was in their own souls, they invented outwardly pompous and gorgeous ways of worship, in images, paintings, pictures, and I know not what carnal ornaments; which they have called “The beauties of holiness!” [Ps. 110:3]. Thus much, however, was discovered therein, that the mind of man must see a beauty, a desirableness in the things of God’s worship, or it will not delight in it; aversation will prevail. Let, then, the soul labor to acquaint itself with the spiritual beauty of obedience, of communion with God, and of all duties of immediate approach to him, that it may be rifled with delight in them. It is not my present work to discover the heads and springs of that beauty and desirableness which is in spiritual duties, in their relation to God, the eternal spring of all beauty—to Christ, the love, desire, and hope of all nations—to the Spirit, the great beautifier of souls, rendering them by his grace all glorious within; in their suitableness to the souls of men, as to their actings toward their last end, in the rectitude and holiness of the rule in attendance whereunto they are to be performed. But I only say at present, in general, that to acquaint the soul thoroughly with these things is an eminent way of weakening the aversation spoken of.

John Owen, The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin

Owen on Healthy Introspection

Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves. They know their outward estates, how rich they are, and the condition of their bodies as to health and sickness they are careful to examine; but as to their inward man, and their principles as to God and eternity, they know little or nothing of themselves. Indeed, few labor to grow wise in this matter, few study themselves as they ought, are acquainted with the evils of their own hearts as they ought; on which yet the whole course of their obedience, and consequently of their eternal condition, does depend. This, therefore, is our wisdom; and it is a needful wisdom, if we have any design to please God, or to avoid that which is a provocation to the eyes of his glory.

–John Owen, The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin

When I Confess sin, as part of the ACTS (or ATCS in my case–not easy to say as a word) way of prayer, I often ask God to show me sin I’m not aware of. He is merciful in limiting how much he shows me at once. I’m grateful for God’s speaking in this way, because he’s speaking to us, which is a marvelous thing, and it’s one of the ways God works in conforming us to the image of his Son.

Does God Tempt Us?

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
Genesis 22:1 KJV

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
James 1:13 KJV

I’m reading the second book of the trilogy of Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen titled Of Temptation, [super long rest of the title goes here].

Owen writes this, and if this is hard to understand, don’t worry about it, I didn’t at first either:

[T]emptation in its special nature, as it denotes any evil, is considered either actively, as it leads to evil, or passively, as it has an evil and suffering in it: so temptation is taken for affliction (James 1:2); for in that sense, we are to “count it all joy when we fall into temptation”; in the other [actively], that we “enter not into it.”

Again, actively considered, it either denotes in the tempter a design for the bringing about of the special end of temptation, namely, a leading into evil; so it is said that “God tempts no man” (James 1:13), with a design for sin as such—or the general nature and end of temptation, which is trial; so “God tempted Abraham” (Gen. 22:1). And he proves or tempts by false prophets (Deut. 13:3).

It might be said that we actively sin–sometimes tempted by the devil; we are passive as trials are put on us–sometimes by God (Hebrews 12). If that crude description helps at all. (If it doesn’t, keep reading.)

Then Owen goes on to write about how God tempts people. I’m thinking, This can’t be right. On the flip side, Calvin writes, “But the whole doctrine of scripture seems to be inconsistent with this passage; for it [scripture] teaches us that men are blinded by God, are given up to a reprobate mind, and delivered over to filthy and shameful lusts.”

I know that older translations (up through the ASV) use the word temptations where contemporary translations (approx. RSV onward) will use trials, tested, or troubles in James 1:12. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) uses the same root word for tempted in Genesis 22:1 as the Greek words in James 1:12-13. So it seems that modern English translators have chosen to make a distinction between verse :12 and :13 where the same root word is used. (Italic added)

Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
James 1:12-13 NIV

If this idea is new to you–and maybe it’s only new to us who read old theologians–you may like to read what John Calvin has to say on this. However, it goes beyond semantics of that word. Calvin writes about the issue of God “giving people over/up” to various sins, like the quote above, as can be found throughout Scripture–repeatedly in Romans 1:24-28 as an example. To a lesser degree, God ordains all kinds of things (Lam 3:37-38). Us modern people seem to emphasize James 1:13 where Calvin is thinking of what is said about God more often in Scripture in that regard.

Let no man, when he is tempted. Here, no doubt, he speaks of another kind of temptation [contra Gen 22:1]. It is abundantly evident that the external temptations, hitherto mentioned, are sent to us by God. In this way God tempted Abraham, (Gen 22:1) and daily tempts us, that is, he tries us as to what are we by laying before us an occasion by which our hearts are made known. But to draw out what is hid in our hearts is a far different thing from inwardly alluring our hearts by wicked lusts.

This above is very similar to what Owen writes. “Inwardly alluring our hearts” would be like Owen’s actively, which God doesn’t do according to James. Trials often contain temptations. God wants to test our hearts and uses them to help us persevere or endure, as James 1:12 says, along with Romans 5:3-4 among others.

When Scripture ascribes blindness or hardness of heart to God, it does not assign to him the beginning of this blindness, nor does it make him the author of sin, so as to ascribe to him the blame: and on these two things only does James dwell.

Scripture asserts that the reprobate are delivered up to depraved lusts; but is it because the Lord depraves or corrupts their hearts? By no means; for their hearts are subjected to depraved lusts, because they are already corrupt and vicious. But since God blinds or hardens, is he not the author or minister of evil? Nay, but in this manner he punishes sins, and renders a just reward to the ungodly, who have refused to be ruled by his Spirit. (Rom 1:26) It hence follows that the origin of sin is not in God, and no blame can be imputed to him as though he took pleasure in evils. (Gen 6:6)

The meaning is, that man in vain evades, who attempts to cast the blame of his vices on God, because every evil proceeds from no other fountain than from the wicked lust of man. And the fact really is, that we are not otherwise led astray, except that every one has his own inclination as his leader and impeller. But that God tempts no one, he proves by this, because he is not tempted with evils* For it is the devil who allures us to sin, and for this reason, because he wholly burns with the mad lust of sinning. But God does not desire what is evil: he is not, therefore, the author of doing evil in us.

*Literally, “untemptable by evils,” that is, not capable of being tempted or seduced by evils, by things wicked and sinful. He is so pure, that he is not influenced by any evil propensities, that he is not subject to any evil suggestions. It hence follows that he tempts or seduces no man to what is sinful. Being himself unassailable by evils, he cannot seduce others to what is evil. As God cannot be tempted to do what is sinful, he cannot possibly tempt others to sin. The words may thus be rendered, —

James 1:13 “Let no one, when seduced, say, ‘By God I am seduced;’ for God is not capable of being seduced by evils, and he himself seduceth no one.”

I hope my own commentary wasn’t inaccurate and didn’t cause any confusion. I wanted to convey how I came to start to have some sort of an understanding of this. I will hopefully understand more as I read more of the book and Scripture. Clarifications and observations are always welcome.

Quotes on Mortification of Sin and Sanctification

I’m reading Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen (edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor) which is three books in one. I just finished the first one which is originally titled Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers.

As written in a previous post, this isn’t a book I’d choose according to the title, but I want to read Owen’s works, and after reading The Glory of Christ, I chose this one next because of all of the accolades this has received. It’s a more difficult read than The Glory of Christ, but it’s extremely important material and not written about very much. I’ve found it fascinating and vital to life as a Christian, being such an important part of sanctification. To repeat a quote of Owen’s, “The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.”

Owen sees mortification of sin as “a habitual weakening of sin” as opposed to elimination or perfection, although that could be done with various sins like using profanity, or constantly using the word “just” while praying publicly. Maybe the latter isn’t a sin, but it should be.

I’m not sure how helpful my notes would be on this, but I have three quotes from the Introduction that are all on the same subject, so I thought I would post them:

God’s working in us [in sanctification] is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or coordination of both produced the required result. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work.

–John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, as seen in the Introduction to Overcoming Sin and Temptation

Immediately following:

Owen’s own view is similar, seeing sanctification as the work of God in and through the life of the believer. This is not passivity, but active living empowered by the Spirit of life.

–Kelly Kapic in the Introduction to Overcoming Sin and Temptation

Two concepts commonly appear in early Reformed approaches to sanctification: mortification and vivification. Building on the language and imagery of Colossians 3:9-10, the idea of mortification was understood as a putting off of the “old man,” and vivification was conceived as the reality of being made alive by the Spirit. Although the actual language of “vivification” is found less often in Owen than in earlier theologians like John Calvin or the renowned Puritan Thomas Goodwin, the idea is clearly present. These twin ideas of sanctification require not only the shedding of sin but also renewal in grace.

–Kelly Kapic in the Introduction to Overcoming Sin and Temptation

Why Read Owen’s Books On Sin?

As far as the title goes, John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation, which is three books in one, wouldn’t be my first choice. But so many people have recommended it, and since I want to read a few more books by him, I decided this would be one of them. Here is a quote near the beginning of the first book that really compels me to read the rest:

The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.

For some reason, that was a bit of a surprise.

Good Book-Can’t Remember What It Said Though

Here is an excellent post about doing more than just reading a book:
5 reasons you should write in your books

I wanted to write about what I’ve started doing. I like to use Evernote for all kinds of things. I started a notebook called Books. Very clever title, I know. I’m pretty creative that way. In that notebook I have a note for each book I read. The most important thing is to write down the main things that I learned, or “takeaways”, as some people call them. Especially if it’s God’s opening my eyes up to something about Him, Scripture, myself–like sin, or whatever. I will write a post on what I ‘took away’ from Seeking the Face of God by Martin Lloyd-Jones.

I like to collect the quotes I liked. Sometimes just highlighting them in the book is enough, and later on you can flip through the book and revisit some gems. But putting them in Evernote makes them searchable, and you can put key words with them that might not be in the quote. If they are longer quotes, I’ll scan them into the computer and at the very least save it as an image and attach it there. I can also use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to make it editable text so that I can include it in a blog post. If you don’t have a scanner but have a camera, smart phone, or a tablet, you can do it that way too. There are apps for that, but they can be cumbersome.

I have other notebooks that I use too. If I came across a good description of a subject, like obedience of Christ or original sin (I need help on that one), I write it at the top of the page. But that obviously doesn’t do much good without something like Evernote. So I just write down the book and page number in a notebook called Subjects in Commentaries and Books, and if I need information on that subject, I can easily look them up. I also have a notebook for Scripture Subjects, which is like a personal concordance, and one for those funky scholar terms like or for example.

What I’m going to do from now on, starting with the last book I finished, it to re-read the quotes that I highlighted or saved and look at the notes that I took. That will help me to remember the things I learned from it for a longer period of time. Some life-changing books are hard to forget, but for most of us, we forget the majority of what we read (which is OK, because for me, much of the time, I worship when I’m reading) and could use help in retaining at least the main points.

Everything is saved in the cloud, wherever that is (will this information be in heaven?), so that everything is automatically backed up, and you can access Evernote from any computer.

Are there things you like to do when you read books or ways you like to organize information? I haven’t mentioned things like Goodreads for organizing my library of ebooks and paper books, Calibre for converting ebooks and organizing them on my computer, etc.

Also see:
5 Awesome Ways Evernote Makes A Pastor’s Life Easier | FaithVillage

a figure of speech that consists of the use of the name of one object or concept for that of another to which it is related, or of which it is a part, as“scepter” for “sovereignty,” or “the bottle” for “strong drink,” or “countheads (or noses)” for “count people.”
performance beyond call of duty: the performance of work beyond what is required or expected

Afflictions Under the Father’s Hand

Your afflictions may only prove that you are more immediately under the Father’s hand. There is no time that the patient is such an object of tender interest to the surgeon, as when he is bleeding beneath his knife. So you may be sure if you are suffering from the hand of a reconciled God, that His eye is all the more bent on you.

–Robert Murray McCheyne

HT: A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Me, Myself and The Holy Spirit

Some Christians have a disdain for commentaries, scholars, books, and even Bible teachers. I used to dislike study Bibles, because the notes were “just someone else’s opinion.” Although what bothered me the most is when people viewed the notes as if they were part of the Bible, which is another matter.

I came to my senses and have read through many commentaries in their entirety. They are just one man’s “opinion”, but that person has been gifted by God to help people read and understand the Bible better, fallible as they may be, as opposed to Scripture (so I’m not misunderstood).

It’s very arrogant (as Spurgeon says) and dangerous for people to think that they can interpret and apply Scripture just by themselves and with the Holy Spirit. Some of them have commented on this blog, but may have been offended too many times by quotes like the ones below. The Holy Spirit is our great teacher, among so many other things, but God has designed the church to have various parts to help each other learn and grow together. See what these two people have to say.

While we turn to the Holy Spirit throughout the process of interpretation, we still have our work cut out for us. There are things that the Spirit does not do. The Spirit does not give out new revelation on par with Scripture, guarantee that our interpretations are infallible, or give insights that no one else has ever had and with which no one will ever agree. The Spirit does not miraculously enable us to read biblical Greek and Hebrew and analyze it grammatically without having studied those languages. Above all, the Spirit does not force us to obey God in applying Scripture to our lives.

–Craig Blomberg, A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis

In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt.

–C.H. Spurgeon Commenting & Commentaries—Lecture 1

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head–Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
Ephesians 4:11-16 HCSB

Quote of the Day: Preparing for Suffering

Obviously, none of us can really be prepared for suffering because when it comes, it will be unlike anything we’ve experienced, or if we’ve experienced it before, we’ve probably forgotten what it feels like, unless it’s chronic.

I get the feeling that getting someone who’s life is going well to prepare for suffering is like trying to get a healthy person to exercise when they hate exercising. But when the extreme trial or preventable illness (which I realize can happen to those who are in the best of shape and eat all the right things) comes along, then the tune changes.

However, Ravi Zacharias quotes Charles Cooper regarding suffering in Cries of the Heart, “But what kept me going more than anything else was my confidence in the character of God.” So I think that knowing God–the most important thing–and preparing for suffering can be two very overlapping things. I’ve found that I’ve learned just as much about coping with suffering in reading books on basic theology as I have books specifically about suffering.

Which brings me to the meat of the post. C.S. Lewis says that we should prepare for suffering by doing mental/theological exercises. I think this can be tricky, because there can be a fine line between working on being “prepared” and worrying. I would presume the key is having an attitude of trust instead of fear. In the interest of transparency (I hate buzzwords but can’t think of a better one of my own), trust is one of my weaknesses, so I’m no guru. I’m very familiar with suffering though, which is why so many posts on this blog are on that subject.

In C. S. Lewis’s book A Grief Observed, he tells of how he found that all of his sage insights into dealing with suffering became nothing but so much meaningless rhetoric when he was faced with his wife Joy’s suffering. We can’t really understand suffering until we are involved in it; but we can prepare for it. In fact, we must do so. It is too late to learn a piano concerto when you walk onto the stage to perform it. It is past time to get into shape when you line up at the starting line for the marathon. In the same way, we try to prepare ourselves for suffering before it comes upon us. How do we prepare for suffering? By engaging in mental/theological exercises. It is a sound view of God and the world that can sustain us when the trials come, though we will still need God to undergird our resolve to honor him through it all.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

I highly recommend Michael Horton’s A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering for a book specifically on that topic.

Throw your burden upon the LORD,
and he will sustain you.
He will never allow the godly to be upended.
Psalm 55:22 NET

How To Give Bad Advice To Suffering People

I wish that everyone that gives unsolicited advice to those who are suffering, especially chronically, would be required to first read Job and at least a short exposition of it. That would remove so much heartache from so many sufferers. They would see what well meaning but bad acting friends are. Most of all, they would see God’s rebuke of Job’s “friends”. I believe they really were friends, but as time went on, they acted less and less like friends, and more like self-righteous people who want to prove themselves right.

Here is an excellent quote from What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About:

Job also demonstrates the damage that can be done to others, especially to those who are suffering, when “comforters” or “counselors” presume to analyze a situation and then deliver dogmatic pronouncements about what God is doing and what his purposes involve. Job 28 shows that there are situations in life where human finitude makes it impossible to understand the works and ways of God and that the proper course in such situations is to fear God and turn from evil (Job 28:28; cf. Eccl. 12:13). After Eliphaz counseled Job to turn from his sin and to ask God for forgiveness, Job observed how unhelpful such directives were because he did not know anything to confess. In chapter 6, he observed that what a suffering person needs in such circumstances is kindness from his friend rather than theological advice and analysis which, in Job’s case, only intensified his pain. Job himself asserted those who lack such care have forsaken “the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14), and Yahweh later affirmed how his anger burned against the three whose words were filled with foolishness (42:7). The book of Job, therefore, clearly warns against the arrogance of assuming that our theological categories constitute a comprehensive statement about how God works.

–Edward M. Curtis

One thing I noticed in this post The Sad Christian, is that the commenters who had the least experience with depression, especially the chronic kind, were somehow the ones who gave the most advice. The ones who are going through the same thing are ones who don’t give advice. They tell him they [truly] know what he’s going through, or that they’ll pray for him, as opposed to the platitudes, advice that he already knew about ten years ago, advice he’s already heard 25 times, etc. Books are written on that, and I could write a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that. If you want to look at the comments, you can see what I mean.

One comment I like there is, “So the question becomes how our faith helps us endure depression rather [than] how our faith stops us from being depressed.” He’s commenting on how the author of the post, who’s tried nearly everything, still has bouts of deep depression. Some people don’t believe this can happen to a solid Christian, but believe me, it does, as do all kinds of illnesses.

Most people really do care and really do mean well. But they should know better. And if you’re one of those people, now you do.

Also see:
What IS the Book of Job About? | Scripture Zealot blog
What Not to Say to Those Who are Suffering | CCEF

Galatians 3:12 and the Law

Here are some things I pulled together quite a while ago. I can’t remember doing this, but it was in my Drafts area and seems complete.

Laws have nothing to do with faith, but, “Whoever obeys laws will live because of the laws he obeys.”
Galatians 3:12 GW

But the man who shall do these things. The difference lies in this, that man, when he fulfils the law, is reckoned righteous by a legal righteousness, which he proves by a quotation from Moses. (Lev 18:5.) Now, what is the righteousness of faith? He defines it in the Epistle to the Romans,

“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom 10:9.)

And yet it does not follow from this, that faith is inactive, or that it sets believers free from good works. For the present question is not, whether believers ought to keep the law as far as they can, (which is beyond all doubt,) but whether they can obtain righteousness by works, which is impossible. But since God promises life to the doers of the law, why does Paul affirm that they are not righteous? The reply to this objection is easy. There are none righteous by the works of the law, because there are none who do those works. We admit that the doers of the law, if there were any such, are righteous; but since that is a conditional agreement, all are excluded from life, because no man performs that righteousness which he ought. We must bear in memory what I have already stated, that to do the law is not to obey it in part, but to fulfill everything which belongs to righteousness; and all are at the greatest distance from such perfection.

–John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries

The law itself is not opposed to faith (see 3:19-25 NLT; Rom 7:7-13 NLT), but trying to be righteous by keeping the law opposes righteousness by faith in Christ. Paul quotes Lev 18:5 NLT to show that life under the law comes by obeying rather than believing. Right standing with God is impossible on that basis (Galatians 3:10-11 NLT).

NLT Study Bible note on Galatians 3:12 NLT

Paul uses Lev. 18:5 ESV to show that the law is not of faith. It is likely that Paul means the same thing here that he meant in Rom. 10:5 ESV, where Lev. 18:5 ESV is equated with “the righteousness that is based on the law” (cf. Phil. 3:9) in contrast to the “righteousness based on faith” (Rom. 10:6). Some interpreters argue that the one who does them shall live by them (cf. Lev. 18:5 ESV) in its original context had to do with the temporal blessing and fullness of life that would come to the one who “does” the law. But it also seems to be a conditional promise within the law indicating that obedience would lead to righteousness (cf. Deut. 6:25 ESV); this promise, however, remains unfulfilled because it relies on the fulfilling of a condition that could never happen: i.e., it relies on a human “doing of the law” in a complete and sufficient way. Others argue the original context of Lev. 18:5 (see note) mainly concerns the means of enjoying life under God’s pleasure by keeping God’s statutes and rules. Because some think the meaning of Lev. 18:5 in the original context is incompatible with the negative way in which Paul is using the verse here, they believe Paul is citing it as a misused slogan of the Judaizers. It seems better, however, to understand Paul as reading Lev. 18:5 ESV typologically—that is, as seeing life in the land of Israel as a typological reference to eternal life. In the Mosaic covenant, salvation was through faith in God’s promise and his atonement, culminating in the Messiah. But now that the new covenant has come, those who insist on the entrance requirements of the old covenant do not have the benefit of sacrifices, so they must “do” all that the Mosaic law requires in order to “live” eternally (cf. Gal. 5:3 ESV).

ESV Study Bible note on Galatians 3:12

so that whatever man does the things contained in the law, that is, internally as well as externally, for the law is spiritual, reaches the inward part of man, and requires truth there, a conformity of heart and thought unto it, and that does them perfectly and constantly, without the least failure in matter or manner of obedience, such shall live in them and by them; the language of the law is, do this and live; so life, and the continuation of that happy natural life which Adam had in innocence, was promised to him, in case of his persisting in his obedience to the law; and so a long and prosperous life was promised to the Israelites in the land of Canaan, provided they observed the laws and statutes which were commanded them: but since eternal life is a promise made before the world began, is provided for in an everlasting covenant, is revealed in the Gospel, and is the pure gift of God’s grace through Christ, it seems that it never was the will of God that it should be obtained by the works of the law; and which is a further proof that there can be no justification in the sight of God by them, see Gal 3:21.

–John Gill, Commentary

Meditating on the Glory of Christ Must Be Rooted In Scripture

I hope people are still benefiting from the quotes by John Owen. I plan on posting more from The Glory of Christ and other books I plan on reading, since many people find his writing difficult.

It’s easy for us to say, “Since God is love”, which is Scriptural, “then He would certainly…” which may not be Scriptural. We need to make sure we don’t make jumps from one theological idea to another, without it all being within the theological framework of the Bible. We need to meditate (more, for most of us), but we need to worship and meditate in spirit and in truth.

The glory that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the real actual possession of in heaven can be no otherwise seen or apprehended in this world, but in the light of faith fixing itself on divine revelation. To behold this glory of Christ is not an act of fancy or imagination. It does not consist in framing unto ourselves the shape of a glorious person in heaven. But the steady exercise of faith on the revelation and description made of this glory of Christ in the Scripture, is the ground, rule, and measure, of all divine meditations thereon.

–John Owen, The Glory of Christ

Not Everyone Recovers From Suffering

Sometimes there is no visible silver lining, no redeeming value in sight. Sometimes those who endure difficulty feel that nothing is left but an empty shell. Some people never recover physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is not guaranteed that we will emerge on the other side of pain strengthened by the experience. It would be naive to suggest that suffering universally results in growth. S. Cairns suggests a more nuanced perspective as he elaborates on Simone Weil’s observation that “affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” He observes:

The occasions of our suffering are capable of revealing what our habitual illusions often obscure, keeping us from knowing. Our afflictions drag us — more or less kicking — into a fresh and vivid awareness that we are not in control of our circumstances, that we are not quite whole, that our days are salted with affliction.

I dare to suggest, however, that when we undergo trials, the biblical way to pray is for strength to carry on and acquit ourselves well. We should seek to honor God when life is at its lowest. We should strive to trust him even when hope is gone.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

These are things we need to pray for people who are suffering. I’ve said it before–if we only pray for healing, we are probably doing the sufferer a great disservice. Which is more important, temporal healing, which may or may not happen, or, if they are a believer, things that are Scripturally in God’s will and are a part of eternal things? (Both would be great.)

Many times in the Western world, we don’t see those suffering. Usually, the worse the suffering, the less likely we are to see them. So we go on thinking that as life goes on we make more money, really bad things shouldn’t happen to believers, otherwise they don’t have enough faith or somebody hasn’t laid hands on them yet, and it’s always darkest before the dawn. Not to sound morbid, but it can always get darker.

Some insist on going out in “faith”, testing God, and guessing His will, without praying for anything else. Praying is not gambling with God’s will. Certainly pray for the temporal situation and people’s physical needs. Pray for whatever bad is happening to stop. But pray for things that are definitely God’s will as what’s found in Scripture, and you will be participating as a slave of Christ in shaping that person’s or people’s lives. Use Paul’s prayers if you would like help in that regard.

Beholding The Glory of Christ-Read the Directions

Here are more quotes from John Owen’s The Glory of Christ. These are just short snippets. He goes on for a few (wonderful) pages after each of these [...] to expound on these ideas. All emphasis (italic) is his.

As usual, the emphasis is always saturation in Scripture. Here he is talking about something not very popular– (his word), or I would say, religiously–contemplating the glory of Christ. It is a duty of the Christian religion, but one we can enjoy so much if we are truly regenerated, and we can always ask God for help if this is a difficult area for some. Maybe duty isn’t the right word for this day and age, but there are duties we love to do, and this can, and really has to be one of them if we are to be healthy spiritually and stay on the right path.

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:11

Unto the diligent discharge of our duty herein I shall offer the ensuing directions:—
1. Let us get it fixed on our souls and in our minds, that this glory of Christ in the divine constitution of his person is the best, the most noble, useful, beneficial object that we can be conversant about in our thoughts, or cleave unto in our affections.

What are all other things in comparison of the “knowledge of Christ?” In the judgment of the great apostle, they are but “loss and dung,” Phil. 3:8–10. So they were to him; and if they are not so to us we are carnal.

2. Our second direction unto the same end is, that we diligently study the Scripture, and the revelations that are made of this glory of Christ therein. To behold it, is not a work of fancy or imagination; it is not conversing with an image framed by the art of men without, or that of our own fancy within, but of faith exercised on divine revelations. This direction he gives us himself, John 5:39, “Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testify of me.” The way whereby this is done is fully set before us in the example of the holy prophets under the Old Testament, 1 Peter 1:11–13.

We should herein be as the merchant-man that seeks for pearls; he seeks for all sorts of them, but when he has found one of “great price,” he parts with all to make it his own, Matt. 13:45-46. The Scripture is the field, the place, the mine where we search and dig for pearls.

3. Another direction unto this same end is, that having attained the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ from the Scripture, or by the dispensation of the truth in the preaching of the gospel, we would esteem it our duty frequently to meditate thereon.

Want hereof is that fundamental mistake which keeps many among us so low in their grace, so regardless of their privileges. They hear of these things, they assent unto their truth, at least they do not gainsay them; but they never solemnly meditate upon them. This they esteem a world that is above them, or are ignorant totally of it, or esteem themselves not much concerned in it, or dislike it as fanaticism. For it is that which no considerations can engage a carnal mind to delight in.

4. Let your occasional thoughts of Christ be many, and multiplied every day. He is not far from us; we may make a speedy address unto him at any time.

5. The next direction is, that all our thoughts concerning Christ and his glory should be accompanied with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving. For this is such an object of our thoughts and affections as, in this life, we can never fully comprehend, — an ocean whose depths we cannot look into. If we are spiritually renewed, all the faculties of our souls are enabled by grace to exert their respective powers towards this glorious object. This must be done in various duties, by the exercise of various graces, as they are to be acted by the distinct powers of the faculties of our minds. This is that which is intended where we are commanded “to love the Lord with all our souls, with all our minds, with all our strength.” All the distinct powers of our souls are to be acted by distinct graces and duties in cleaving unto God by love.

Also see:
Beholding the Glory of Christ is Our Greatest Privilege

diligent in application or attention

Quote of the Day: What Matters

This is a hard one for me. I wanted to write a post about how God speaks to us from a Reformed perspective. Instead, I will just post a quote. Interesting thing is, I was just thinking about the first part of this quote today, meaning, I was distressed about that same thing.

Whether some evangelical superstar embraces some mystical prayer form is less important to the kingdom’s future than whether I will pray faithfully for that little girl with the brain tumor.

It is true that the world out there matters. There are controversies that count. Martin Luther changed the world, facing bullies like David before Goliath. But when his beloved wife, Katie, trusted in the finished work of Christ alone, that changed eternity.

Not many of us worry about what we will eat or what we will wear. Sadly, that’s not because we’re so spiritual; rather, it is because we are so prosperous. Having been freed from such worries, do we then focus on pursuing the kingdom of God and His righteousness, or do we instead worry about the future of this theological coalition or the direction of that shared blog? Pursue the kingdom by pursuing His righteousness. And then all these things will be added to you. Stop your fretting. The future does not depend on you. It depends on the One on whom you depend.

–R.C. Sproul Jr., Someone is Wrong on the Internet

To Eric: you just had to correct me, didn’t you? (Inside joke from the last post’s comments)