Friday, January 29, 2010

3 Christ's Merit and Our Salvation: Covenant and Justification in Olevianus's "Exposition of the Apostles' Creed"

Yesterday I mentioned that i've just obtained the new work by the German Reformer, Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed, newly published by Reformation Heritage Books in the Classic Reformed Theology series, edited by Scott Clark. The first in the series was the excellent exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism by William Ames, the English Reformer, entitled A Sketch of the Christian's Catechism, published last year, and which I also very highly recommend.

As I have begun to get into this work, I keep digging up nuggets of gold. Witness this one that I just ran across this morning, from the Introduction by Olevianus, immediately following the piece I quoted yesterday:
"We can see from the following that this covenant between God and us is a gracious one and does not rest upon any condition of our own worthiness or merit, but exists through faith alone. For so far as God is concerned, He, strictly speaking, makes the covenant with us when He seals in our hearts through His Spirit the promise of gracious reconciliation offered in the gospel (Titus 3:5-7; 2Tim 1:9; Gal. 3:6, 28-29). So far as we are concerned, we receive it through faith alone when we are graciously endowed with the Holy Spirit who brings it about that we want to believe and are able to believe the gracious promise of reconciliation through Christ (Eph. 1; Joel 2; Isa. 59). If you look at the Mediator, our heavenly Father has indeed received from Him the price of reconciliation and we have satisfaction in Him. For in the same way the Mediator was graciously sent and given to us, and also imputes to use that merit, the covenant is also gracious. So this whole covenant is purely gracious and exists through faith alone. With respect to God, the offering of the promise of grace and the giving of Christ Himself is gracious. The reception on our part is also gracious because it is the action of God in us by which He seals His promise on our hearts. He does this so that having been acted upon, we might act, that is, that having been made believers by Him, we might believe (Eph. 2:1, 5-10). All of these things are clearly described in that promise of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31 that I referred to above.

The reason why God wanted this covenant to be completely gracious was so that all glory might redound to Him alone...." (pp. 14-15, Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed)
Despite the objections of some in the Federal Vision camp, or those more recently who seem to want to echo the Federal Vision's objection to ANY discussion of merit, the grounding of salvation in God's gracious election and the just imputation of Christ's righteousness to His elect is an OLD idea - is not the product of any newfangled hermeneutic. Olevianus, one of the architects of the Reformation in Europe, as one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, clearly teaches here in this little section of the introduction to this work - and elsewhere within, and (Scott Clark will confirm this I'm sure, as a recognized scholar of Olevianus) throughout his writings - that Christ's merit, the merit of the Mediator, is applied to us. We are reckoned FULLY righteous in the sight of God - and that righteousness is, sorry to say to some recent objectors - a meritorious righteousness, for it is CHRIST's righteousness, properly speaking.

How glorious is our Lord - how magnificent is His salvation, for He has granted and imputed the fully meritorious righteousness of Christ to filthy and depraved sinners such as you and me. We have to grasp both the depth of our sin, and the stupendous height of the righteousness we are imputed with, in order to really begin to understand the matchless grace of God...and, as we increase in our appreciation of the magnificence of this grace, we have all the more motivation toward thanksgiving and praise... and all indeed does to redound to God's glory!

Again, though my time in this book is small, I have to say it will be well worth the price. Grab a copy, which you can buy here and hear how this elder brother in the faith fleshed out the doctrines of the creed. You won't be sorry you did.

Our date for discussing this book and Caspar Olevianus with Dr. Scott Clark is now set - February 16 - on Covenant Radio. Look for the podcast (check the right-hand sidebar of this page for subscription instructions) and be on the lookout for rebroadcasts on our streaming station, Sola5 Radio. Daily announcements of programming highlights at Sola5 Radio may be accessed at the Sola5 blog.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

0 New from RHB: Caspar Olevianus on the Apostle's Creed

Reformation Heritage Books and series editor R. Scott Clark have just released the second in the series entitled “Classic Reformed Theology". I am very happy to see this series begun, and hope to see it well received. These neglected classics of the Reformed orthodox writers, if the first two are any indication at all, will prove great blessings to the church.

According to the series introduction, the publisher and editors intend to bring out at least one volume per year from "some of the more important but generally neglected texts of the orthodox period. I'm not sure what's on tap further down the road, but if the first two volumes are any indication, we'll be seeing works from significant early reformers that address important themes and theological perspectives of their times.

The first was an absolutely outstanding volume of expositions of Scriptural texts by William Ames, organized by the Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Days. The book is entitled "A Sketch of the Christian's Catechism", and it is quite simply gold. I have blogged on it here several times in the past year, and found it extremely helpful as something to read alongside one's study of the Heidelberg.

The second, now published, is an important text by Caspar Olevianus, well known as one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, entitled "An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed". I've just received my copy in the mail, and I'm looking forward to diving in. It's a brief volume, but from skimming over the contents, it looks like a very meaty package. The tone is set by the introductory chapter, of which the first paragraph is exemplary:
"The kingdom of Christ is offered to us in the Articles of the Faith and is experienced by believers even here in this life.

It is certain that there are two spiritual kingdoms, even in this world: the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. Every person necessarily belongs to one or the other here in this life, for Christ the King Himself speaks to His chosen vessel as follows: 'For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness of the things which you have seen.' And a short while later: 'To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26[:16,18]). So also in Colossians 1[:12-13]: 'Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.' " (p. 9,10, Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed)
Later, Olevianus clearly distinguishes the visible from the invisible church - a helpful distinction that has been maintained by the orthodox Reformed since the early days in which he wrote:
"What the kingdom of Christ is, in which the new covenant is administered

Let us then see what the kingdom of Christ is, which begins in the faithful in this world and is also called, with the same meaning, 'the kingdom of God' and 'the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. 3:2, Luke 4:43; 7:28). The kingdom of Christ in this world is the administration of salvation by which Christ the King Himself outwardly, through the gospel and baptism, gathers to Himself and calls to salvation a people or visible church (in which many hypocrites are mixed). To those in this congregation who have always been His elect, He Himself administers and bestows that slavation to which he calls them. He makes the outward call efficacious, granting them repentance and faith by which they respond to the One calling them. Those He calls in this way He also justifies, not imputing their sins to them. And those He justifies He also glorifies, purging them daily more and more of their sins, and training, forming, and perfecting them in all godliness, righteousness, and eternal life so that the glory of Christ the King may shine in them. To that end He uses the public, domestic and private dispensation of His Word and sacraments by suitable minsters, as well as the diligent administration of His discipline, as it relates not only to repentance and ceremonies but also to one's whole life. (p. 10, Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed)
This is just the beginning. Through the chapters which follow, this faithful German divine and forefather in the Reformed faith exposits all the points of the Creed, and gives helpful comments that show us the fact that the early Reformers were indeed connected vitally to the earliest of Christian credos, the Apostles' Creed.

I believe we are much indebted to Reformation Heritage Books, and Drs Clark and Bierma, who have labored over this volume. Get your copy now - among the outlets selling this volume are Reformation Heritage Books and the bookstores at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Westminster Seminary California.

Covenant Radio News, related:

We've just set up an interview concerning Caspar Olevianus and his theology, and An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed, with Scott Clark, at Covenant Radio, set for February 16! We're looking forward to a very fruitful discussion and hope you'll grab the podcast at the Covenant Radio website when we've done the program. We'll also stream the program in our rotation of rebroadcasts on Sola5 Radio (our Reformed streaming internet radio station) the following week, beginning February 17. You can grab the internet feed here, and we hope that you do!

0 Sodium Chloride

34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:34-35, ESV)
A very brief exhortation to restoring meaning and practical visibility to our profession... for what good is our professed faith in Christ if there is no visible manifestation of it? We live in an era in which we are told to keep our faith to ourselves (never mind the fact that the faith of the secular humanist is out there for all to see and its principles, thought patterns, ethical considerations and behavioral standards are assumed to be and promoted as the 'right way' to think and behave in public. Christ presents another way - let us hear, who have ears to hear.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

3 Sola 5 Radio Needs Listeners Soon or It's Done

My Covenant Radio co-host, Bill Hill, and I had hoped we'd get somewhat more of a listener base than we've had over the past few weeks of our running our streaming venture, Sola5 Radio. We've put together, I think, a good schedule of psalms and hymns, bible reading, teaching on the Reformed faith and Reformation church history, and solid exposition of the Word of God given from a confessionally-Reformed foundation, in addition to the re-airing of select Reformed podcasts. We've just added more teaching on the Puritans, and a class on the Westminster Larger Catechism. We were, at the outset now about six weeks ago, very excited for the prospects of providing this content to a fairly large number of listeners, given the unique character of what we're doing.

Given the absolute dearth of such programming available by streaming on the internet, we really thought we might attract a few more than the one or two listeners (besides Bill and me) that we seem to have most of the time. Certainly it's understandable that nobody can be listening all the time - but we're really getting very few listeners. If this continues, we'll be pulling the plug soon... so if any of you do wish to tune in and see if you like what we're providing - but haven't yet - please do so. If you have listened now and again and find what we're doing worthwhile, I hope you'll be willing to spread the word to friends and relatives who might be interested in our streamed content.

If we don't get substantially more listeners than we have now, we're going to have to pull the plug. Bill has just started seminary full time, and I, as a college professor, really don't have much time at all to devote to this project - though I have put in some and would love to continue, if it seems worthwhile. At this point, with only a couple listeners online apart from Bill and me, both of us are fairly well convinced that it's not.

So, we're trying to get some help in advertising Sola5... it's really a unique venture, and about the only place you'll hear on an internet stream the programming we've put together. If you've not tried us out, PLEASE do so... and let us know you're listening. We would dearly love to keep putting this programming out there, but if we don't get listeners, we really can't justify the time and effort.

Click here for our programming guide.

Tune in live at this location to listen with your browser. If you wish to listen with iTunes, here's how.

Monday, January 18, 2010

0 Sola5 Radio Programming for January 18, 2010

As I've noted before, we're very excited to officially launch 24/7 programming at Sola5 Radio as of today, January 18, 2010. We hope you're edified and blessed by the teaching and music we're streaming live. Please tune in and tell your friends!

Today's featured programming at Sola5 radio is found here:

Featured Programming for January 18, 2010

As well as music from the inspired hymn book, hymns of the faith, classical and jazz music hours here are the featured programs for Monday, January 18, 2010:

8 AM ET (replay 8 PM ET): Dr. Joel Beeke continues in his series on Genesis in the OT lecture hour. The Ark Preserved in the Flood

10 AM ET (replay 10 PM ET): Dr. Joe Morecraft continues his series of lectures on the history of the Reformation. Henry VIII and Puritanism

12 Noon ET (replay 12 Midnight ET): Reformed podcast, Covenant Radio #107 The Piety of John Calvin with guest Dr. Joel Beeke

2 PM ET (replay 2 AM ET): Dr. Alan Cairns continues his series on the book of Romans in the NT Lecture Hour. Revelation of the Wrath of God, part 1

4 PM ET (replay 4 AM ET): Puritan Paperback hour (NEW FEATURE of Sola5 Radio): Robert Traill's book Justification Vindicated: An Introduction to Robert Traill

Tune in live at this location to listen with your browser. If you wish to listen with iTunes, here's how.

For the daily programming schedule, click here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

0 The Perfection of the Sacrifice

Horatius Bonar wrote one a very important book in 1874 entitled The Everlasting Righteousness, which should be required reading for any student of theology, indeed anyone wanting to understand the glory of Christ's righteousness and the immeasurable riches of God's grace in salvation.

Bonar makes a point early on in the book that is critical regarding salvation by faith. It's been repeated again and again in various ways, but his statement still rings forth with a brilliant tone:
With a weak faith and a fearful heart many a sinner stands before the altar. It is not the strength of his faith but the perfection of the sacrifice that saves; and no feebleness of fiath, no dimness of eye, no trembling of hand, can change the efficacy of our burnt offering. The vigor of our faith can add nothing to it, nor can the poverty of it take anything from it. Faith, in all its degrees, still reads the description, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." If at times the eye is so dim that it cannot read these words, through blinding tears or bewildering mist, faith rests itself on the certain knowledge of the fact that the inscription is still there, or at least that the blood itself (of which these words remind us) remains in all its power and suitableness upon the altar, unchanged and uneffaced. God says that the believing man is justified: Who are we, then, that we should say "We believe, but we do not know whether we are justified?" What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
The question as to the right way of believing is that which puzzles many and engrosses all their anxiety to the exclusion of far greater questions as to the work of him who is the object of their believing. Thus their thoughts run in a self-righteous direction and are occupied, not with what Christ has done but with what they have yet to do to get themselves connected with his work. (pp. 12-13, The Everlasting Righteousness)
There are as many struggles with faith as there are Christians... and yet one thing remains true: as Bonar writes earlier, "That which satisfies the holiness of God cannot but satisfy the conscience of the sinner. God, pointing to the altar, says 'That is enough for me'; the sinner responds and says, 'It is enough for me.'" (pp. 12, The Everlasting Righteousness) Christ's life and death - his righteousness - satisfies for the believer's sins, and propitiates them. Completely. It is finished, as Christ said, dying, on the cross.

Let us NEVER think that anything in our believing qualifies us - or any wavering of our trust in difficult times DISqualifies us. We contribute zip. We are His because HE made us His, drew us with irresistible grace, and accounts us His children. We are His because HE gave us faith - led us to trust Him for all - and, because we remain frail men and women, we sometimes struggle to keep the constant strength of faith that we sometimes exhibit. Christ has died, Paul said. Christ is risen. Christ shall come again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

0 Covenant Radio: Joel Beeke on Christian Piety and John Calvin, Tomorrow

On Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 6:30 PM ET we at Covenant Radio will be speaking with Dr. Joel Beeke on the book The Soul of Life: The Piety of John Calvin. This is a fantastic little book which includes a biography and summary of Calvin's teaching on the Christian Life by Dr. Beeke, and short selections from his commentaries, sermons and the Institutes of the Christian Religion. It's a treasure trove of thoughts on piety by our elder brother in the faith, and we are privileged to be able to talk with Dr. Beeke on Covenant Radio about the book, and Calvin's teaching on piety.

Our intention is to broadcast this discussion live on Sola5 Radio (more information on that will be released Wednesday or Thursday so check back often). It will also be accessible in the usual Covenant Radio podcast, which is available by subscribing either at iTunes, Zune, or from this direct address. You can also go to the Covenant Radio website to browse past programs.

In this particular broadcast we are going to be offering a discount code for those who are interested in purchasing one of the books in this series. So be sure to tune in and listen either to the live broadcast or via podcast.

This series commences tomorrow, but will encompass all the books in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality Series published by Reformation Heritage books.

Monday, January 04, 2010

0 Office Hours: Horton and Clark Switch Chairs

On the latest Office Hours broadcast from Westminster Seminary California, Scott Clark gives up the interviewer's chair and takes the position of interviewee... Mike Horton has the honor of turning the tables on Clark, and asking him questions about the federal vision, Clark's latest book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, and other topics. Not to be missed. You can hear this and archived episodes of Office Hours at the WSC Office Hours site. Check the directory where you can browse All Office Hours Episodes here.

If you find these programs edifying, you will find the option of subscribing to Office Hours in iTunes or via RSS attractive.

Also, catch back-issues of Office Hours at Sola5 Radio, the streaming internet venture of Covenant Radio, hosted by Bill Hill and yours truly. One of our progamming blocks is Reformed podcasts, and we use those hours to play not only Office Hours, but Christ the Center, White Horse Inn, and, of course, Covenant Radio programs. See the schedule of Sola5 broadcasting at

3 Ryle: It is that Simple

HT to the Ryle Quotes blog:

“Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it; that will not advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.”

~ J.C. Ryle

Practical Religion, “Bible Reading”, 131.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

0 Caryl: The Character of an Upright Man

I was struck by a brief paragraph in Caryl's Exposition of Job, in which he is commenting on the first verse of the book:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1 ESV)

In the older translations, "blameless" was rendered "perfect". Caryl explains:
"Job himself professed, (Job 9:20) If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse; he acknowledges, (Job 7:20) I have sinned. The perfection here spoken of is not an absolute, a legal perfection.

For the clearing of the word, we may consider there is a twofold perfection ascribed to the saints in this life. A perfection of justification, and a perfection of sanctification.

The first of these, in a strict sense, is a complete perfection: the saints are complete in Christ, they are perfectly justified, there is not any sin left uncovered, not any guilt left unwashed in the blood of Christ, not the least spot but is taken away. His garment is large enough to cover all our nakedness and deformities. In this respect, they may be called perfect, they are perfectly justified, By one offering Christ has perfected forever them that are sanctified. (Heb. 10.14) (pp. 24-25, Exposition of Job, vol. 1)
Two things about this remark that I think are critical: that the perfection one might speak of - the blamelessness one might describe of a believer - is alien to them. It cannot be absolutely held by the individual, for as Paul writes to the Romans, ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is nobody of whom it may be said, in an absolute sense, "he is perfect". None, that is, except Christ. Those who are in Christ, however, are justified - perfectly complete - perfectly without sin and perfectly righteous, having the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. In this sense, Job, and Abraham before him, and all those who are Abraham's true children, are perfect. This is not a perfection that can be taken away, nor is it one that can be lost in any way. Justification is a declaration of the verdict of the last day, given to us in time and space prior to that day - it is a declaration of righteousness that is ours as we walk and live and breathe on this earth, though we sin, though we fall short daily in our walk with Christ. It is a complete and total absolution, granted through the blood of Christ, by grace, through the Word of God who declares all His children "just". None who are in Christ by faith (and that as the gift of God, Eph. 2:8-10) will ever fall - and none will receive a verdict on the last day different than that that they possess now. This is much convoluted today, and much disputed.... but justification is irrevocable.

Now, after discussing a little the perfection of sanctification, Caryl comes to the paragraph that hit me more directly tonight:
"Or thus, we may say that the perfection here spoken of is the perfection of sincereity. Job was sincere, he was sound at the heart. He did not act a part, or personate Religion, but was a religious person. He was not gilded, but gold. So the word is interpreted. Some render it "Job was a simple man" (not as simple is put for weak and foolish, but as simple is put for plain hearted; one that is not, as the Apostle James phrases it, a double-minded man). Job was a simple-minded man, or a single-minded man, one that had not a heart and a heart. He was not compound, speaking one thing and meaning another, he meant what he spoke, and he would speak his mind. ... So that to be a perfect man, is to be a plain man, one whose heart you may know by his tongue, and read the man's spirit in his actions. Some are such jugglers that you can see little of their spirits in their lives, you can learn little of their minds by their words; Jacob was a plain man, and so was Job; some translate it, "a sound man". It is the same expression that is given of Noah... he was sound, upright-hearted, or perfect with God, Gen. 6:9." (p. 25, Exposition of Job, vol. 1)
One of the things that strikes me in this is the following. If one is secure in his Lord, knowing his salvation is secure - knowing that all that matters is accomplished for him and promised to him, one should be able and willing to fear God rather than man - and to simply be who he is. Dissembling and false pretenses are SO common in society - there is such pressure to conform here, and to play a role there, so that everyone is pleased with you. Why are we such suckers for this kind of pressure? Why is it so easy to fail at this (at least I hope I'm not the only one who does!)? What causes the resolve to simply be who we are... to admit failure, and ask for forgiveness - to walk plainly as those bought by Christ's blood, and knowing Him to be the Way, Truth and Life? We fail, I think, because we forget who we are in Christ.... and that all is in His hands, that though the whole world forsake us, we are still rich in Him and secure in God's family. We fail because we fail to trust in the fulfillment of all things in Christ. We fail because we like to operate on the level of sight rather than the level of faith.

I think one of the reasons this particular passage struck me was that I had read together with this Mark chapter 9, wherein the man whose child suffered demonic convulsions admitted to Christ - was a plain man - that he failed in his trust: "I believe! Help my unbelief!" This is exactly it. The man openly admitted before Christ and the others that his belief was wavering - that he needed Christ's aid, even there, and not just for his boy. Let us all learn to be more like that plain man in all things, for that is the character of an upright man.

Friday, January 01, 2010

0 Machen Speaks into the 21st Century from the early 20th...

HT to Darryl Hart at the Old Life Theological Society blog for this snip from Machen, who died on New Year's Day, 1937. Machen was directing his comments that the theological liberalism of his day, but I can't say that anything is at all different today. What he was seeing then is exactly what we see now in full bloom. His Christianity and Liberalism would have made my 2009 top ten list, although I read it most recently in 2008 :)

. . . whatever the solution there may be, one thing is clear. There must be somewhere groups of redeemed men and women who can gather together humbly in the name of Christ, to give thanks to Him for his unspeakable gift and to worship the Father through Him. Such groups alone can satisfy the needs of the soul. At the present time, there is one longing of the human heart which is often forgotten — it is the deep, pathetic longing of the Chrsitian for fellowship with his brethren. One hears much, it is true, about Christian union and harmony and co-operation. But the union that is meant is often a union with the world against the Lord, or at best a forced union of machinery and tyrannical committees. How different is the true unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! Sometimes, it is true, the longing for Christian fellowship is satisfied. There are congregations, even in the present age of conflict, that are really gathered around the table of the crucified Lord; there are pastors that are pastors indeed. But such congregations, in many cities, are difficult to find. Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God. And sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world. (Christianity and Liberalism [1923], 180-81)


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