Author Archives: Mark Herzer

Larger Catechism #1, Pt. 1

The Larger Catechism

Question 1

1.   Q. What is the chief and highest end of man?

A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God[1], and fully to enjoy him for ever[2].

Scriptural Proofs and Commentary

[1] Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. 1 Corinthians 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  [2] Psalm 73:24-28. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works. John 17:21-23. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.


The Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer have been cited by many, even by non-Presbyterians. Its brevity and simplicity make it profound. The Larger Catechism’s (LC) first question and answer differ very little from the Shorter Catechism (SC). Its additional adjective and adverb offer insignificant benefits to the brilliance of the SC’s first question. Nonetheless, both focus on the same question and both give the same answer and their singular theme of God’s glory distinguishes these catechisms from the rest.[1] Not unexpectedly, the question looks somewhat similar to James Ussher’s (1581-1656) A Body of Divinitie (1645).[2] Though Ussher’s two questions might have some differences, they focus on the same matter as the Assembly’s first question:  “tell mee wherein doth the happinesse of man consist?… How may wee come to enjoy God?”[3] Ussher’s question possessed all the salient features of the Westminster catechisms (man’s ultimate aim and enjoying God). Some say he greatly influenced the Assembly though he was never a sitting member.[4] Nonetheless, one can see clear parallels between the divines and Ussher.

Herbert Palmer † (1601-1647) also had asked a very similar question before the Assembly met: “What is mans greatest businesse in this world?” His answer differed slightly from the later Westminster SC and LC. “A mans greatest businesse in this world is to glorifie God, & save his own soule, 1 Cor. 6.20. 1 Cor. 10.31. Mat. 16.26.”[5] Both Palmer and the divines made God’s glory first and foremost. Whereas the Assembly added enjoying God as the second part of the great business of man, Palmer listed the salvation of one’s own soul as the addition. We will not argue how significant this difference might be but one cannot deny the great similarity. Furthermore, both Ussher’s and Palmer’s questions and answers point to what would become the Westminster divines’ first catechism question. In the end, only the Assembly’s question would be remembered.

God’s Glory

Surely this first question continues to be one of the most important questions a man could ask: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” In answering it, he determines his great purpose, his chief end, his sole business, or the true meaning of his life. It guides his entire life and this goal pulsates through in his whole being. William Strong† (d. 1654) stated that a “mans treasure and chief good is that which is first in his eye and aime in the whole bent and course of his life, that which hath the priority in all his intentions, that is his chief good.”[6] The LC answer calls us to make God “first” in our eyes.

Warfield put it like this:

This is simply to say that the ideal a man has will determine the whole life of the man; of course, it must determine his notion of virtue, of duty, of motive—it determines also his whole character, motives, modes of life. The man for instance who, practically, considers wealth the highest good in human attainment, will necessarily think it virtuous to turn the world over in the effort to get money, and it may soon not matter much to him how he gets it so only he get it; he will hold it his duty to acquire and save it even unto cheater and miserliness; he will act on money-making motive; he will sink finally into a mere minting machine.[7]

So surely money, pleasure, man’s praise, etc. cannot be man’s highest good. What then is man’s summum bonum (his highest good)? The Bible makes it clear that the great end, the single purpose of creation and our existence, is to glorify God: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God…

Scripture is replete with the theme of God’s glory. God acts in behalf of His glory. In Prov. 16:4, it says, “The Lord hath made all things for himself.”[8] God made all things for Himself (Heb. 2:10, “for whom are all things, and through whom are all things”). The creation exists for Him (Rom. 11:36, “through him and to him are all things”; Col. 1:16, “all things… created by him, and for him”).  Saying that all things were created for and to Him means that God’s own chief end is His glory.

God created and redeemed a people for Himself that they may declare His praise (Is. 43:20-21, “The beasts of the field will glorify Me; the jackals and the ostriches; because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people. The people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise.”). God will re-establish His people that He might be glorified (Is. 60:21, “that I might be glorified”).  Jeremiah declares that God’s people were to serve His glory, “that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory” (Jer. 13:11).  Salvation is wrought and the redeemed purchased “to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12).  For this reason, the redeemed of the Lord declares: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Ps. 115:1).  Believers labor in this world and use all their gifts “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet. 4:11, 16). Paul gives this unqualified rule: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31).

God’s Chief End

God Himself aims at His glory and created us to do the same. Theologians have rightly distinguished between God’s essential glory and His declarative glory. God’s essential glory is the glory He possesses in Himself (His essence).[9] God is already glorious; we cannot make Him more glorious than He is. His essential immutable glory cannot be diminished or increased —His excellencies or perfections remain full, perpetual, infinite and eternal.

What then does it mean to glorify God? This is where God’s declarative glory comes in.  We cannot add to Him; God cannot be more glorious than He already is. He cannot be improved upon or grow into something better.  “He glorifies himself, when he demonstrates or shows forth his glory; we glorify God him by ascribing to him the glory that is his due, —even as the sun discovers its brightness by its rays, and the eye beholds it.  God glorifies himself by furnishing us with matter for praise; we glorify him when we offer praise, or give unto him the glory due to his name.”[10] Simply put, it is the recognition of who He is and the acknowledgment of what He has done (to give the credit where credit is due).  To glorify God, therefore, does not add to Him but it acknowledges Him as He is. ““The glory of God,” says Calvin, “is when we know what He is.” Bengel says “Glory is the divinity manifest.””[11]

The Bible uses various verbs to describe our responses to God’s glory.  1) Habu (Wbh): “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name” (1 Chron. 16:29) or “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name” (Ps. 96:8; cf. Is. 42:12). 2) Sim (~yf): It also says, give God glory: “give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him” (Josh. 7:19). 3) Natan (!tn): “you shall give glory to the God of Israel” (1Sam. 6:5); “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory” (Ps. 115:1; cf. Is. 42:8; 48:11; Jer. 32:16). Various OT verses call us to glorify our Lord.

We also list various NT verses that teach the same.  “Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Lk. 17:18);  “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:23); “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,” (Rev. 4:9); “‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.'” (Rev. 14:7); “And men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues; and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory.” (Rev. 16:9);  “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Rev. 19:7)

From these verses, one might get the distinct impression that man materially gives something to God and that God receives something from us He didn’t have before. It almost looks like man was adding to God when he gives Him glory.  The various verbs the Bible uses (like the verb give) seem to imply this. But all these and related verses clearly show that we are acknowledging who God is (in particular, a certain attribute of God).  For example, in the Joshua passage (7:19), Achan was to acknowledge the truthfulness of God’s statement regarding his own sins: “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” Achan glorified the truth of God by confessing his sins. In Rev. 16:9, the wicked were judged because they did not acknowledge the truthfulness of God’s judgment against them by repenting and so they did not glorify Him.

Illustrations will help us here. To say that a rose smells lovely, or that a picture is beautiful, or that the meal was delicious glorifies the object in question. The praise, acknowledgment, recognition, etc. merely attribute to the object something that is appropriate and meet. My acknowledgment of the beauty of the picture does not change the inherent quality of the picture nor does it add to it. In a similar way, we do the same with God when we glorify Him, we acknowledge what remains inherently already true of God.

We must glorify God because God has displayed or manifested His glory in everything He has done. Robert Shaw put it like this:

‘The Lord hath made all things for himself,’ for the manifestation of his infinite perfections; and all his works proclaim his almighty power, his unbounded goodness, and his unsearchable wisdom. His glory shines in every part of the material universe; but it would have shined in vain, if there had been no creature to contemplate it with an eye of intelligence, and celebrate the praises of the omnipotent Creator. Man, therefore, was introduced into the habitation which had been prepared for him…[12]

In the end, when we glorify God, our value or estimation of His excellencies increases (valuation).  The change occurs in our eyes and we begin to see God for who He really is.  In a sense, we finally recognize the truth and reality of God because we value, see, estimate, desire, etc. God as He has revealed Himself.  It is meet, fitting and most appropriate.  It is like a trained musician appreciating one of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas.  A rough unskilled listener may find the piece boring and unaffecting, but the trained musician perceives the brilliance of the masterpiece and is greatly moved by the music.  His appreciation does not add to the musical piece; he only recognizes the musical piece for what it is. Watson says we glorify God by appreciating Him (in having high thoughts of Him); by adoring Him (or worship); by our affections, namely, that we love Him; and by submitting to Him: “This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service.”[13] Furthermore, the same author said in another place, “Though nothing can add the least mite to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others.”[14]

The wicked will also glorify God.  They will not enjoy doing it but they will be compelled to glorify Him. Pharaoh was raised up “so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Ex. 9:16).  God endures the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” because one day, they will “make known his power” when God shows His wrath (Rom. 9:22). All of creation declares His glory (Ps. 19) and even the wicked will be induced to declare His glory on judgment day.

[1] The Prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church focuses on God creating man to share in His blessedness. This remains somewhat close to the WLC but differs in its overall emphasis. The Luther’s Small Catechism begins with the Ten Commandments.

[2] James Ussher was invited to be a member of the Assembly (twice) but he refused to participate being loyal King Charles I. See Crawford Gribben, The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2003), 86.

[3] James Ussher, A Body of Divinitie, or the Summe and Substance of Christian Religion, Catechistically Propounded, and Explained, By Way of Question and Answer: Methodically and Familiarly Handled (London, 1645), 4.

[4] See Gribben, The Irish Puritans, 86-87. Gribben cites A. A. Hodge of the nineteenth century and Mitchel and Struthers.

[5] Herbert Palmer, An Endeavour of Making Principles of Christian Religion, Namely the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lords Prayer, and the Sacraments, Plaine and Easie (London, 1644), 1. The † symbol indicates that the author being cited was a Westminster Divine.

[6] William Strong, The Certainty of Heavenly, and the Uncertainty of Earthly Treasures (London, 1654), 24-25.

[7]B. B. Warfield, “The Bible’s ‘Summum Bonum’,” in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, 2 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co., 1970), 1:131-132.

[8]The KJV translation has been debated; it could be for itself or for His purpose. Cf. R. E. Murphy, Proverbs, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 22 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 118, 120. Murphy believes that the practical effects are the same.

[9]“Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is co-natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it. The creature’s honour is not essential to his being. A king is a man without his regal ornaments, when his crown and royal robes are taken away; but God’s glory is such an essential part of his being, that he cannot be God without it. God’s very life lies in his glory” (T. Watson, A Body of Divinity  [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974], 6).

[10] Thomas Ridgeley, A Body of Divinity: Wherein the Doctrines of the Christian Religion Are Explained and Defended, Being the Substance of Several Lectures on the Assembly’s Larger Catechism, 2 Vols. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 1:4.

[11]Cited in A. Whyte, The Shorter Catechism, ed. M. Dods & A. Whyte, Handbooks for Bible Classes and Private Students (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, nd), 2.

[12]R. Shaw, An Exposition of the Confession of Faith (1845; repr., Lochcarron, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 1980), 62.

[13] Watson, Body of Divinity, 8.

[14] T. Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture (1666; Carlisle, PA: BOT, 1992), 129.

Christ’s Exaltation and His Resurrection

I will be removing all my Larger Catechism posts eventually because I am updating all of them. The updated versions will directly interact with many of the Westminster divines. If the author quoted has a † symbol, then it denotes that he was one of Westminster divines. I am close to finishing my first draft of my study on the Larger Catechism but I did not incorporate the divines own writings. This post on LC 51 & 52 will serve as an example of my first attempt at interacting with the divines for this study. If the Lord wills and grants me the grace and strength necessary, I hope to re-write my entire study of the LC. I am finding it to be stimulating, arduous, and at times tedious. I consider it a great privilege to read through the enormous corpus of published works by our divines. If the Lord does not permit me to finish this study, the time spent in pouring over these godly divines will have benefited my soul nonetheless. For that, I am grateful to my heavenly Father. Soli deo gloria.

The Larger Catechism

Questions 51-52

51.       Q. What was the estate of Christ’s exaltation?

A. The estate of Christ’s exaltation comprehendeth his resurrection,[202] ascension,[203] sitting at the right hand of the Father,[204] and his coming again to judge the world.[205]

52.       Q. How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?

A. Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death, (of which it was not possible for him to be held,)[206] and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof,[207] (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life,) really united to his soul,[208] he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power;[209] whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God,[210] to have satisfied divine justice,[211] to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it,[212] and to be Lord of quick and dead:[213] all which he did as a public person,[214] the head of his church,[215] for their justification,[216] quickening in grace,[217] support against enemies,[218] and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.[219]

Scriptural Proofs and Commentary

[202] 1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. [203] Mark 16:19. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. [204] Ephesians 1:20. Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. [205] Acts 1:11. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 17:31. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. [206] Acts 2:24, 27. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it…. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. [207] Luke 24:39. Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. [208] Romans 6:9. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. Revelation 1:18. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. [209] John 10:18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. [210] Romans 1:4. And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. [211] Romans 8:34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. [212] Hebrews 2:14. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. [213] Romans 14:9. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. [214] 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. [215] Ephesians 1:20-23. Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Colossians 1:18. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [216] Romans 4:25. Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. [217] Ephesians 2:1, 5-6. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Colossians 2:12. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. [218] 1 Corinthians 15:25-27. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. [219] 1 Corinthians 15:20. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

The Estate of Christ’s Exaltation

Without the estate of exaltation, Christ would have labored in vain. The two phases, humiliation and exaltation, conveniently summarize Christ’s full work.  Quite often, many forget or do not consider these facets. The four facets[1] of His exaltation consist in His resurrection, ascension, session, and return and judgment. Judgment can only come about with His return.

Vos has noted that His resurrection and ascension are past events (for us) and his Session is in the present and His return and judgment are in the future. Each one of these will be addressed separately. The ascended Lord’s present ministry is quite often overlooked because we readily speak about what He did for us in the past (His death on the cross) and about what He will do in the future (His return). His removal and departure cannot overshadow His present effectual ministry. Each phase of His exaltation must be carefully delineated.

The Importance of the Resurrection: Christ’s Exaltation

The resurrection was not a natural event but a supernatural one. It was more than a miracle; it was a supreme theological event, in that, it represents something of an epochal shift in history. It signified the transition from Christ’s state of humiliation to His exaltation. The Greek Orthodox, Lutherans, as well as the Papists believe that Christ’s exaltation began with His descent to Hell.[2]

Resurrection “is referred to explicitly in seventeen books of the NT and is implicit in most of the remaining ten. Nearly all of the letters within the Pauline corpus refer to it (the exceptions are 2 Thess, Tit, Philem). Indeed, Romans 10:9 makes confession of the resurrection the equivalent of acceptance of the lordship of Jesus Christ and a necessary condition of salvation…”[3] Romans 10:9 says, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That verse underscores the significance of the resurrection of Christ in the Christian faith. We take it to be one of the essential elements of orthodox Christianity. Most of us believe that the doctrine of the resurrection simply means that we will live again and receive a glorified body. Though those things must be maintained, much more must be understood and believed. 

For, example, how many of us would be able to say with Paul (Phil 3:10-11), “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” We can clearly confess our yearning to know Christ but what does knowing the power of his resurrection mean? Those words sound foreign if not unintelligible. Yet, Paul’s wraps his passion and piety in the truth and reality of the resurrection. I suspect very few of us have ever truly confessed and owned those words to be their very own.

What do those verses mean? Richard Vines† (1599/1600-1656) explained those verses to mean that the “power of Christ’s Resurrection…taketh place in a sinner that is sanctified and regenerated.” In fact, “Christ’s Resurrection” would be “copied out in every Christian that knoweth Christ” and that “the Resurrection of Christ is not onely an Article of your Creed, but is a mould into which every believer in Christ must be cast.” So the power of Christ’s resurrection would be “copied out” in each believer and that each believer would cast into the same mould of Christ’s resurrection. That is, what happened to Christ would happen in the believer spiritually: “The Resurrection of Christ hath a place in the spirituall quickning or the raising up a sinner from spirituall death.” [4]

Modern commentators have said something similar. They teach that Paul wishes “to know Christ by experiencing the power which he wields in virtue of his resurrection, to know him, that is, as the redeeming, saving Lord he now has become.”[5] Hawthorne adds, “He wishes to know him alive and creatively at work to save him from himself, to transform him from “bad” to “good,” to propel him forward toward a life of service to others, to inaugurate “newness of life,” life in the Spirit, in a word, to resurrect him from death in sin to life in God, to quicken and stimulate his whole moral and spiritual being…”[6]

In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians he prays that believers might comprehend “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead…” (Eph. 1:19, 20). Paul wants believers to know of this resurrection power working in them and in the Philippian verse, he himself wants to experience that power.

The other important part of the Philippian verse is “and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” The triumph of Christ’s resurrection power goes together hand-in-glove with suffering with Him.[7] It is often through suffering in Christ a believer begins to feel the power of the resurrection at work in Him. He wants to be fully identified with Christ, his suffering, death, resurrection, and glorification — that is the essence of Paul’s yearning. Again, Richard Vines explains, “It is not meant a share and a part in the Merit of his suffering; but ‘tis nothing else, but that I may know to suffer with him, to bear his cross, to indure his shame, to undergo, yea, to take up the cross, or any suffering, in the cause, and for the sake, of Christ.”[8]

Christ being raised is the firstfruits of those who belong to Christ (1Cor. 15:20, 23) – if we are united to Him by faith, we will be raised with him because “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2Cor. 4:14).  Resurrection means the new age has come; the old age and its ways have been dispensed. Mortality will give way to immortality; the perishable will put on the imperishable (1Cor. 15:53, 54). To be resurrected at Christ’s return means all is done, the end has come and we are glorified in Him. For that reason, experiencing the powers of the resurrection now means the intrusion of the end in the present (the already-not-yet tension). All this avail only for those who united to Christ by faith — “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom. 6:8; cf. 2Tim. 2:11).

The Nature of the Resurrection

The first thing the LC addresses is the nature of Christ’s body. The body that died did not see corruption: “Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death, (of which it was not possible for him to be held,)…”. The phrase “not having seen corruption in death” —  is taken from Ps. 16:10, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” This verse is used by Peter in Acts 2:27, 31 to prove the resurrection. Since David died and his body decayed (“he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” v. 29), it follows David was speaking about Jesus: “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (v. 31). Peter’s interpretation may seem odd since “my soul” and “the Holy One” seem to be referring to David but as it is, Peter’s Christological interpretation (an apostolic interpretation) is inspired and entirely appropriate. Though the Psalm may not read like it was speaking about the resurrection (at first glance) yet that remains the ultimate divine intention and meaning of the verse as interpreted to us by the Apostle Peter — it was about the Messiah.

The ravaging effects of death cannot take hold of Christ because He was raised from the dead. The phrase “not having seen corruption in death” means Acts 2 serves as the Scriptural proof for the resurrection in the OT. The phrase also has been interpreted to mean that God’s “peculiar hand of providence” prevented the body from being corrupted.[9] In addition, Ridgeley believes it might have been a further demonstration of Christ’s holiness since his body would not permit the filth of sin (i.e., corruption) to cling to Him. Daniel Featley† (1582-1645) argued something similar: “Christ by the divine unction was preserved from corrupting in the grave: because there was no corruption in his soule, his body could not corrupt, or at least God would not suffer it…”[10]

The other phrase “(of which it was not possible for him to be held,)” is taken from Acts 2:24, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”  Johannes Vos takes the phrase to mean the following two things. “(a) Because of his deity; being the Son of God, he could not remain under the power of death. (b) Because the penalty for sin had been completely paid and canceled; therefore death had lost its claim on him.”

The context of the verse adds another (if not a more) important element. It seems to be Peter’s way of saying that what was foretold had to be fulfilled; the prophecy demanded that the Messiah be raised. “If we ask why death could not hold back Jesus, Peter’s reply would be that Jesus was the Messiah (see the evidence in verse 22), and that the Messiah could not be held by death.”[11] The prophecies about the death as well as the resurrection had been foretold — He died and now the other part of the prophecy, His resurrection, had to come to pass. Because of God’s Word, promise, and prophecy, death no longer could hold Jesus.

Thomas Case† (1598-1682) offered another important element about the resurrection. He argues that God’s works of creation and providence provides another proof for the resurrection. Most modern theologians have never argued this peculiar, if not insightful, point. He observes that as the day dies in the evening so it rises again in the morning and as the corn dies in the sowing and burial so it rises again in the blade. Creation testifies to truth of the resurrection. The book of nature serves as a “Schoolmistress” to teach us about the resurrection. Thomas Case develops this argument from 1 Corinthians 15. Here is Case in his own words:

For, as Tertullian sayes, God printed resurrection in the Book of Works, before he writ it in the Book of the Word; He preach’d by his power, before he preach’d it by his promise: He set Nature to be our Schoolmistress, before he gave us Scripture to teach us; that being first trained up in the School of Philosophy, we might be the better Proficients in the School of Divinity.…The denial of a Resurrection is founded in a foolish neglect of God in his works of providence, especially in the quickening and raising of our seed, when it hath lien dead and rotting the ground: Thou fool, shall God give thy seed a body, and not his own seed?…The constant revolution of the Creature, is an infallible evidence of a Resurrection.[12]

That is not to say that one could guarantee that the resurrection was going to happen from the light of nature. Thomas Case simply argued that nature’s light remains consistent with God’s special revelation. John Wallis† (1616-1703), a non-voting scribe of the Assembly, argued the same point clearly: “the Doctrine of the Trinity; of Salvation by Faith in Christ; and the Resurrection of the Body; Are purely matters of Faith; and their Certainty depends onely on Divine Testimony. That God is Able to raise the Dead, and that there is no Inconsistence in the thing; may be discoursed from Natural Light.”[13] Edmund Calamy† (1600-1666) set forth pretty much the same argument Thomas Case and John Wallis did. The doctrine of the resurrection is “above reason, but not against reason: For there are many resemblances of this even in nature; which though they be not sufficient proofs, yet they are great inducements to cause us to believe this truth.”[14] Calamy even referenced the corn illustration from 1 Corinthians 15 like Thomas Case. Of course both writers were following Paul the apostle.

One of the reasons for insisting that the doctrine of resurrection was both above reason and yet not against it had to do with Socinians who insisted that articles of faith should not be received until it can be seen or proved by the light of reason alone (like the doctrine of resurrection). Francis Cheynell† (d. 1665) exposes and refutes the Socinian appeal to the sufficiency of reason.[15] Of the several articles of faith which reason on its own could not discover as true is “that there shall be a Resurrection of these selfe same bodies…”[16]

The Resurrection Body

The resurrection body was the same body that died. That is the meaning of the phrase “having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof”; the peculiar phrase “the essential properties thereof” simply means “the properties or characteristics which identified it as Christ’s true human body” (J. Vos).

Lutheran divines maintain that that the same body was raised which Christ had “assumed from the Virgin Mary.”[17] But the phrase “the essential properties thereof” quickly disposes of the Lutheran notion of the ubiquity of Christ’s body. Christ’s glorified body did not participate in the properties of divinity; it retained its “essential properties.”[18]

Though God raised Jesus with the same body, that resurrected body had been glorified as well. The LC adds the following parenthetical note: (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life,). The divines did not list all the common infirmities except one (death). Jesus was exempt from death on account of the resurrection. Jesus was raised “without mortality.” Romans 6:9 says, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (cf. Heb. 7:16) God glorified His Son (cf. Acts 3:13). 1Cor. 15:42-42 says this of the resurrection body, “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” No more fleshly infirmities can be found in Jesus since He has been “raised in power.”

A question is often asked about how much change did Jesus’ resurrection body undergo? Ridgeley says, “But how far his human nature was changed, as to all its properties, it is not for us to pretend to determine; nor ought we to be too inquisitive about it. Yet we may conclude that, though it was raised incorruptible and immortal, and exempted from the common infirmities of this life, it was not, while on earth, clothed with that luster and glory which was put upon it when he ascended into heaven.”[19]

This next phrase is rarely pondered because we do not sufficiently reflect on these truths. When our Lord died, what happened to His soul? The Catechism says that at the resurrection he was “really united to his soul.” What does that mean and how do we know that? First of all, we learn that when Christ died, his soul went immediately into paradise (Luke 23:43).[20] Edmund Calamy stated, “When Christ was crucified, his soul was not crucified; for while he was crucifying, he said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’”[21] In order for Christ to be fully human when he was resurrected, His raised body had to be united to his soul. Rev. 1:18 states “I am… the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” The same “I” who died is the same “I” who lives — when on earth, He had a human soul and when He rose from the dead, He was reunited to it. Perhaps more accurately, his soul was united to his resurrected and glorified body.

The Time of the Resurrection

Lastly, in describing the nature of the resurrection, they stated that “he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power.” This is simple enough but some matters should be explained. First of all, Scripture makes it clear that the Triune God is the author of the resurrection for a mere man cannot resurrect himself. Yet, we are told that the Father raised our Lord Jesus up (Rom. 6:4, “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father”; Gal. 1:1, “God the Father, who raised him from the dead”; 1Pet. 1:3, etc.). It also teaches that the Son raised Himself up (John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”; also see Jn. 2:19).[22] We are also taught in Rom. 8:11 that the Spirit Himself raised Jesus from the dead:  “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” However, the predominant emphasis in Paul’s writings is that the Father raised up the Son.[23]

Nonetheless, the divines greatly emphasized the Son’s role (to refute the Socinians).[24] He rose from the dead “by his own power.” One of the Westminster divines, Edward Reynolds† (1599-1676), said that Christ’s “exaltation was voluntarie …and from his own Power, for he was not to have any assistant in the worke of our redemption, but to doe all alone…”[25] He does not deny the Father’s role but emphasized Christ’s own power and the need for Christ to work out our redemption without assistance. The well-known divine, Thomas Goodwin† (1600-1680), explained why Christ had to raise Himself:

And the truth is, (my Brethren) it was necessary that he that was your Mediatour should be able to raise up himself. Why? Because in the works of Mediation, whereof this was one, he was to borrow nothing, it must all be his own. If he had borrowed any thing (mark what I say) it had not been a Mediator’s work, for he had been beholding to God. If there had not been some sense wherein what he did, and what he was, had been his own so as not his Father’s, all his works had not been works of Mediation…[26]

Jesus makes it clear that He would raise Himself from the dead when He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 2:19). Jesus’ own veracity was on the line. He will raise Himself up to show that He has the power and by implication proving His divinity since only God can raise the dead. Socinians denied this because they believed this was obscure and metaphorical.[27] Christ, the Socinians said, spoke of the power to raise His own body is an “obscure” passage.[28] They affirmed that He was raised from the dead by the Father but denied that He had power to raise Himself because they also rejected Jesus’ divinity. It is probably for that reason the divines emphasized the Son’s role in the resurrection. If we highlighted only the Father’s role, then it could make Christ look like any other man whom God raised. The Socinians could have easily denied Jesus’ divinity had He not been able to raise Himself up from the dead.

The Implications of the Resurrection

If Christ has been raised from the dead, then what are the implications? The LC answers this question by listing four important things. As Christ was raised by His own power, he was declared to be the Son of God — “whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God.” The text used to support this is Rom. 1:4, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,…” This verse does not mean that Jesus was not the Son of God before the resurrection but rather, the resurrection is the new phase of His sonship, from humiliation to exaltation. “By his resurrection and ascension the Son of God incarnate entered upon a new phase of sovereignty and was endowed with new power correspondent with and unto the exercise of the mediatorial lordship which he executes as head over all things to his body, the church.”[29] This verse does not teach that it was at this point Jesus became the Son of God. The divines seem to be concerned to show that Jesus’ divine Sonship since He raised Himself up. That is true but that is not particularly the burden of this verse. Again we cite John Murray:

What is contrasted is not a phase in which Jesus is not the Son of God and another in which he is. He is the incarnate Son of God in both states, humiliation and exaltation, and to regard him as the Son of God in both states belongs to the essence of Paul’s gospel as the gospel of God. But the pre-resurrection and post resurrection states are compared and contrasted, and the contrast hinges on the investiture with power by which the latter is characterized.[30]

The resurrection also means that Jesus must have satisfied God’s justice — “to have satisfied divine justice.”[31] If God raised Him from the dead, then God has been appeased; His righteous demands have been satisfied. The divines use this verse: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:34) The verse teaches that God no longer condemns us because Christ Jesus satisfied divine justice. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. In addition, Christ’s intercession also means that Jesus had satisfied divine justice.

In Hebrews 2:14, we read: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The resurrection means that the devil has been defeated since he had the power of death — “to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it.” In what sense did the devil have power of death? He has power secondarily and not primarily. William Gouge† (1575-1653) said that the devil has the power of death in this sense: “he is the executioner of God’s just judgment.”[32] He further adds that though the devil has “great power” yet has no more than what was given him.

Death entered on account of our sin and from that moment on, death has been passed upon all (Rom. 5:12). He has the power in the sense we continually remain in league with him through our disobedience to God (who is life). As long as we remain under sin’s dominion, the Devil is our father who “the prince of the power of the air.” In following him, death envelops us and his accusations against us ring true — we deserve death because we sin. The wicked one has power over us in the realm of sin and in that realm nothing but death reigns. Being in league with him plunges us into death.[33]

It is like a drug addict who comes under the power of the drug pusher. Because the addict is in bondage, as long as he remains under the bondage of drugs, he remains under the power of the pusher who can pretty much demand whatever he desires from the addict. The drug pusher has power over him. In a similar way, Satan has the power of death in our lives because we are sin addicts, under the bondage of sin. As long as we remain under the power of sin, the wages of sin (which is death) hang over us. Satan is instrumental in maintaining sin in our lives both by temptation and accusation so as to wield power over us.

So the resurrection means he vanquished death: “O death, where is your victory?” (1Cor. 15:55) It also means He destroyed the devil who had the power of death as Heb. 2:14 states. Because of this victory over death (as it was visibly demonstrated by His resurrection), He is now the Lord over all — “and to be Lord of quick and dead.” Romans 14:9 says, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”  F. F. Bruce says, “By virtue of his death he is Lord of the dead; by virtue of his resurrection he is Lord of the living. Therefore in life and death alike his people are his; he is Lord of all (Phil. 2:11).”[34] As we are united to him, Jesus’ lordship holds sway over our entire existence. In our life and death, Christ exerts His lordship. He has authority and power in both the realm of the living and the dead.

Sadly, many believe death is a means of escape from the miseries of this world or a means of just pushing everything out of our minds. Christ is Lord over all realms and as Lord, He will render to each man accordingly. We cannot escape Him.

The Benefits of the Resurrection

Believers benefit from Jesus’ resurrection. But in order for an individual to derive any benefit, Jesus’ resurrection must be for them. The Bible teaches that Christ’s resurrection affects His people: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor. 15:21-22). Paul says that “by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” We must remember that all that Jesus did, he did as a public person (“all which he did as a public person”). That is, He represented His people and His fortunes would benefit them. In particular, He would become the head of the church (“the head of his church”). We are told that the resurrection includes His headship. As the exalted and resurrected Lord, God gave Him as head over all to the church (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18).

Paul clearly taught that Christ was “raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25). For that reason, the catechism includes the important phrase “for their justification.” Thomas Schreiner says, “To say that Jesus was raised because of our justification is to say that his resurrection authenticates and confirms that our justification has been secured…”[35] Christ’s death enabled us to be justified.

The phrase “quickening in grace” denotes all those “graces” or benefits that emerge in the life of a believer. We were “made …alive together with Christ” and raised up with Him (Eph. 2:5, 6; Col. 2:12). Consequently, being made alive, we exhibit the holy traits and graces of our new life in Christ. All believers have been made alive and therefore they must and are enabled to make alive those “graces,” those good characteristics, etc. that accompany their salvation. Paul draws out some of the implications of being “raised with Christ” in Col. 3:1ff. — that is, we must “seek the thing that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

We understand the phrase “support against enemies” to mean that Christ has been raised to protect us and sustain us against our enemies, especially the devil. He is putting all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25-27) since He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18). God has made Him Lord and Christ (Acts 2) with His resurrection and therefore He is able to support us against all His and our enemies.

Lastly, the catechism states something that most of us tend to put first in the list of benefits: “and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.” Reynolds† similarly said, Christ’s resurrection “assures us of our resurrection; for as the head must rise before the members, so the members are sure follow the Head. The wicked shall rise by his judiciary power, but not by the vertue and fellowship of his Resurrection; as the faithfull, who are therefore called Children of the Resurrection, Luke 20.36. 1 Cor. 15.20.23.”[36] Though the LC does not mention the resurrection of the wicked on account of Christ’s resurrection, Reynolds connects Christ’s resurrection as the basis for Christ’s judiciary power to raise the wicked. Christ is the firstfruits of those who will rise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20). In our union with Christ, we have been raised up with him and have been seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). If we are Christ’s, then His resurrection guarantees ours. He acted as a “public” person. What befell him and what he achieved became ours through faith in Him.

[1] I chose the words “facets” and “phases.” James Fisher used the word “steps” in his exposition, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained (Totton: Berith Publications, 1998), 149ff. I suppose the differences between these words cannot be all that significant. James Ussher utilized the word “degree” in his A Body of Divinitie, or the Summe and Substance of Christian Religion, Catechistically Propounded, and Explained, By Way of Question and Answer: Methodically and Familiarly Handled (London, 1645), 183: “What is the first degree of this estate? His glorious Resurrection; for after he has in his manhood suffered for us, he did in the third day rise again by his own power from the dead, Eph. 1.19. Luc. 24.7. 1 Cor. 15.4.”

[2] Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2005), 224; John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934), 295-298; Joseph Pohle, Soteriology: A Dogmatic Treatise on the Redemption, 3rd ed., ed. Arthur Preuss (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1919), 91ff.

[3] “Resurrection,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, ed., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993).

[4] Richard Vines, Christ a Christians Onely Gain (London, 1660), 226-228.

[5] J. Hugh Michael, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, ed. James Moffatt, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary (New York; London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1927), 151.

[6] G. F. Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 43 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 197. G. Walter Hansen says, “The power of God is demonstrated in the life of the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13; 1 Cor 2:4-5). Paul knows by experience that the power of God that was demonstrated in the resurrection is now demonstrated by the power of the Spirit in his life and ministry. In contrast to all his attempts to experience the power of God through strict observance of the law, Paul now knows the power of God by knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection” (The Letters to the Philippians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009], 244).

[7] Cf. Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 331.

[8] Richard Vines, Christ a Christians Onely Gain, 229.

[9] Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 2 vols. (1855; reprint, Edmonton, AB Canada: Still Waters Revival Books, 1993), 1:607.

[10] Daniel Featley, “The Tree of Life Springing Out of the Grave: or Primitiae Sepulchri,” in Clavis Mystica: A Key Opening Divers Difficult and Mysterious Texts of Holy Scripture (London, 1636), 172.

[11] I. Howard Marshall, Acts, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP, 1980), 81.

[12] Thomas Case, Sensuality Dissected; Or, the Epicure’s Motto Opened, Censured, Improved (London, 1657), 13-15.

[13] John Wallis, The Resurrection Asserted (Oxford, 1679), 24

[14] Edmund Calamy, “Of the Resurrection,” in The Morning Exercise Methodized (London, 1659), 583-584.

[15] Francis Cheynell, The Rise, Growth, and Danger of Socinianisme (London, 1643), 40-42.

[16] Cheynell, The Rise, Growth, and Danger of Socinianisme, 41.

[17] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 4 vols. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 2:322. Cf. Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith (Philadelphia: The United Lutheran Publication House, 1905), 153-154.

[18] Admittedly, Lutherans do not argue for the communicatio idiomatum in the locus dealing with Christ’s two states but in locus dealing with Christ’s person. However, Geerhardus Vos also addresses the Lutherans when dealing with the nature of Christ’s exaltation and resurrection: “Yes; it must be material if it will truly remain a body. And as material it must also be subject to the limitations of matter, circumscribed in space. The conditions for its movement through space will differ considerably from those that apply to us, but in principle the relationship is the same. We do not believe with Lutherans in a ubiquity of the human nature, neither of the soul nor of the body.” See Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., trans. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016), 229.

[19] Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 1:612.

[20] Paradise is heaven as show in 2Cor. 12:3 (And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—) and Rev. 2:7 (He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’). Lutherans and Papists believe Christ’s soul went into hell, see Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2:356-358 (13.15.1-6).

[21] Edmund Calamy, “Of the Resurrection,” 579-580; cf. the same in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689: Being the Morning Exercises at Cripplegate, ed. James Nichols (Wheaton: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 5:440.

[22] An interesting point is made by W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2 vols. 3rd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), 2:278: “As God the Father raised Christ from the dead, and Christ also raised himself from the dead, so also God the Father deserted the human nature, and God the Logos also deserted it.”

[23] See Richard Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co., 1987), 62ff.

[24] Turretin explicitly pits the Reformed position against the Socinians on this question, see Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2:364ff. (13.17.1ff.).

[25] Edward Reynolds, An explication of the hundreth and tenth psalme (London, 1642), 523. He adds another important point related to Christ raising Himself: “it comforteth us in all other calamities of life which may befall us; hee that raised up himself from the dead, hath compassion and power to deliver us from all evill, and to keepe us from falling” (p. 525).

[26] Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D., Vol. 1 (London, 1681), 401. Goodwin offers several other reasons as well as the role the Father played. He also cites the classic Trinitarian rule, Opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa (pp. 401-402).

[27] See Ridgeley, 1:614; Turretin, Institutes, 2:364.

[28] Thomas Rees, The Racovian Catechism (London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, et al., 1818), 362: “…first, that testimonies so few in number, and so obscure, expressed in figurative language, cannot be opposed to so many plain testimonies of Scripture,…”

[29] John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-1965), 1:11.

[30] John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, 1:112

[31] See LC #38 for a full exposition of this phrase. Thomas Goodwin states the same, “for it is a sign that he hath satisfied God, for otherwise death would have held him…” (Works, 1:403).

[32] William Gouge, A Learned and very Useful Commentary on the Whole Epistle to the Hebrewes (London, 1655), 222.

[33] “As the one who through his seduction of Eve first brought death into the world, and as the one who loves to destroy, the devil stands for death as God stands for life. But his ‘power of death’ (like his designation as ‘ruler of this world’ in Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 NASB) is only temporary, until Christ’s victory over him (Mk 3:27; Lk 11:21-22). Now Christ’s own death has ‘broken his power’…” R. T. France, “Hebrews,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, rev. ed., vol. 13 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 55-56.

[34] F. F. Bruce, Romans, ed. Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP, 1985), 246.

[35] Thomas Schreiner, Romans, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998), 244.

[36] Edward Reynolds, An explication of the hundreth and tenth psalme (London, 1642), 524-525.

Basic Reformed Theology 7

Basic Reformed Theology 7

Reformed Theology (RT) must translate into real life! As those who have been humbly affected by what the Bible teaches, they seek to apply those wonderful truths to their lives. Too many seek to master the doctrines of grace and RT rather than to be mastered by them. Knowing these truths without being thoroughly changed and affected by them is a waste and places us in a guilty (culpable) state. These are some of the ways RT becomes concrete.

Means of Grace: Individual and Family Piety

People rightly taught and deeply influenced by RT give themselves to reading and meditating on God’s Word regularly since they cannot live without it (Mt. 4:4). We hear God through His Word (1Thess. 1:5). We do not seek to find God in our feelings, reason, culture, emotions, etc. Since RT is “word centered” (see BRT 1), each believer attempts to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). We believe God meets us as we prayerfully read and study His Word. Furthermore, since we are called to constantly pray (Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; 1Thess. 5:17, etc.), each believer gives himself to earnest prayer because he knows God hears him through Christ Jesus. If the believer has a family, then he seeks to instruct the members in the things of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) knowing God uses His Word to bring salvation to his children (2Tim. 3:15). To faithfully maintain this, he seeks to daily lead family worship.

Reading the Word of God privately, listening to sermons, praying regularly, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper during public worship are the primary “means of grace” – the channels through which God meets His people and conveys grace to them. He does not seek “extraordinary” means though he knows God often acts in extraordinary ways through the ordinary means. He believes God rewards “those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). He seeks God through God’s appointed means and attempts “to lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1Tim. 2:2). He aims at personal godliness and not personal fame — all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Reverent Public Worship

Since believers must not forsake assembling with God’s people (Heb. 10:25) and must worship God (Luke 4:8; Acts 13:2, etc.), we must worship Him according to His Word and not according to our desires. The Reformed believer takes worshipping God seriously and obediently; it is not an option. Knowing God to be infinitely Holy and majestic, humble believers do not approach Him in a cavalier manner as if He were a “buddy”. If fact, we are called to worship Him with reverence and awe: “let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28, 29). The manner is with “reverence and awe”. This does not mean in a gloomy fashion but with gladness; not somberly but soberly; not haphazardly but humbly; etc. We read that the 24 elders “fell down and worshiped” (Rev. 5:14), worship sometimes included fasting (e.g. Acts 13:2), worship can lead to serious conviction of sin (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23-25), etc. Worship in the NT is never glib, trite, comical, etc. but always serious and reverent.

The Word of God remains central to NT worship and prominent in RT. Therefore the public reading of Scripture (1Tim. 4:13; cf. Col. 4:16) and the preaching of God’s Word dominate Reformed churches. The believer listens to God from His Word. We must also recognize that OT worship does not regulate NT worship because we do not have the Levitical priesthood, the Temple, divinely ordained choirs, instruments, regulations, sacrifices, etc. The first four commandments always apply but worship robed in OT regulations fit the Old Testament (the old economy, the shadow of things to come). Because of the covenantal progression, we worship in accordance with the New Covenant requirements in Spirit and Truth (Jn. 4:24).

Submissive to God’s Providence

We see RT in its best practical form in the area of God’s providence. Since God is absolutely sovereign and is our good wise tender heavenly Father, the child of God recognizes that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (Rom. 8:28 NASB). He knows that nothing happens to Him “apart the will of your Father” (Mt. 10:29, NIV). Nothing “accidentally” happens to him, whether good or bad. For that reason, he humbly submits to what God brings into his life: “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him” (1 Sam. 3:18). At times, like David he will say, “I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you [God] who have done it” (Ps. 39:9). David took it as the Lord’s doing in allowing Shimei to curse him by saying, “the Lord has told him to” curse (2Sam. 16:11).

Being fully convinced of God’s absolute sovereignty, he does not murmur but knows that the difficulties are God’s loving ways of disciplining or sanctifying him (Heb. 12:4-11). Though some events and circumstances may defy simple explanations, the Reformed believer knows that God brought this upon him out of His goodness, love, and wisdom. God’s sovereignty does not threaten him but it sweetens the way he experiences the difficulties. When wonderful and good things befall his life, He knows it came from God and acknowledges it! He knows how he responds to circumstances reveal his deepest convictions about God, therefore he humbly submits to God in all conditions and glorifies Him by his responses. 

Confidence in Evangelism

Many of the most ardent and effective evangelists were Reformed (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennant, Asahel Nettleton, etc.). In obedience, he declares the good news being confident (not in himself or abilities) that God will sovereignly convert His people. God will not fail to bring His children into the fold and Reformed believers know God uses their feeble efforts and stammering lips to call the sheep into fellowship with His Son (1Cor. 1:9). RT encourages evangelism and emboldens the preacher because God and not the preacher converts sinners through the free offer of the gospel.

World and Lifeviews

Finally, RT teaches that the child of God must look at everything in biblical terms. He attempts to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor. 10:5). God’s Word regulates his view of purpose, ambition, sexuality, identity, money, relationships, family, marriage, politics, arts, education, etc. That does not mean a “distinct Christian” view emerges over everything but his commitment to Christ influences everything he does and pursues. In all things, God’s glory and will constrain him and not his own personal peace, prosperity, comfort, glory, etc. So the world is “surprised when you do not join them” in their same passions and goals (1 Pet. 4:4). RT affects the person’s private and public life comprehensively; Christ’s lordship touches every inch of the individual’s life!

Basic Reformed Theology 6

Basic Reformed Theology 6

Non-Reformed believers embrace a doctrine called “once saved always saved.” Strangely, many Christians embrace this doctrine without having a firm biblical and theological foundation for it. Wesleyans and Nazarenes deny this doctrine because of their insistence on man’s sovereign free will. To their credit, they fear a doctrine that encourages disobedience and they believe a true believer can turn to a life of sin and disobedience and deny Christ. That disobedient person will perish in hell and lose his salvation. RT does not believe the person was a real born again child of God and his apostasy only revealed his true unregenerate state.


The “P” in TULIP is the “perseverance of the saints.” All true believers will persevere to the end. Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt. 10:22; Mk. 13:13; Lk. 21:19) All professing believers are called upon to persevere through persecutions, afflictions, and difficulties. Paul encouraged the believers “to continue in the faith” saying to them “that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). In the parable of the Sower, Jesus said that tribulation or persecution will cause some to fall away (Mt. 13:21). The point is, the Bible calls believers to persevere but we know that not all who profess faith will. The parable of the sower (Mt. 13:1-23) teaches us what kind of circumstances will reveal the temporary faith of many. But we can be sure that the “elect” will persevere. Mt. 24:22 says that there will be a “great tribulation” (24:21) and had that time not been cut short “no human being would be saved.” Then Jesus adds, “But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (24:22) The elect will endure through the tribulation and God will ensure it.


Undergirding the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is God’s perseveration of His children. Jeremiah 32:40 (in reference to God’s new everlasting covenant) says this of God, “that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” (Jer. 32:40) God will make sure His people will not turn from Him! Jesus said He will give eternal life to His sheep “and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (Jn. 10:28, 29) Jesus’ people will never perish or be snatched away by another power! Jesus and the Father would have failed if His sheep perish! Remember, nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).

If believers receive the “eternal life” promised to them (Jn. 3:16; 6:47; 10:27, etc.), then they could not lose it because it is “eternal life.” God did not promise them a temporary life, conditional life, etc. If a person truly believes, he has eternal life. He cannot have eternal life after he believes and then lose it. If he had it at the beginning then he’ll have it eternally. Not everyone who says they believe truly and savingly believed and therefore they did not receive eternal life. Since they believed temporarily, they never had eternal life to start off with.

Jesus prayed that believers would be kept in His name and that they would be kept from the evil one (Jn. 17:11, 12, 15). God the Father heard the Son’s high priestly prayer and therefore believers are kept so as to persevere. That is, “by God’s power “ we “are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). His power guards us, keeps us (Jn. 17), and ensures that we are not separated from Him (Rom. 8:39). God “is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). The “stumbling” does not refer to occasional falling into sins but a stumbling away from the faith — He will keep us and we’ll be “kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1).

Believers really do persevere and God uses the warning passages from Scripture to preserve them (like the exhortations in Hebrews). God’s true children heed the warnings and persevere. John makes a startling claim about those who end up departing from the faith: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1Jn. 2:19) That is, their leaving and not continuing in the apostolic faith meant “they all are not of us”. Not persevering revealed that they were not truly God’s people. God requires perseverance in the faith, gospel holiness, remaining in Christ’s name, etc.  He preserves His people so that they can persevere unto the end!

God’s Children

The child of God is born again (Jn. 3:5), has God’s seed remaining in him (1Jn. 3:9), declared to be a new creation (2Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), has been adopted (Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:4-7) and “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Can this doctrine of regeneration be reversed? Will God send His Spirit into our hearts (Rom 8:14, 15) and make us His children and then fail to bring us to Him? Will God disinherit us, orphan us again, and re-make us into children of Satan? Most good earthly father would not do that and yet some believe our heavenly Father is capable of doing that! Can the hearts that truly cried “Abba, Father” cease to be God’s children? The very nature of new birth prohibits such a conclusion. We are born again to a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3) and as God’s children, He will keep us unto the end: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35) The answer is NOTHING!

Implications and Questions

• “I’ve seen genuine believers fall away from the faith.” Actually, the person saw how deceptive man can be and how deluded some professing believers are — their departure revealed that they were not truly part of God’s people (1Jn. 2:19).

• “If this is true, then we can do whatever we want – once saved always saved!” No, God’s children will act like His children. The Holy Spirit leads them unto holiness and they dare not grieve the Spirit of God (Eph. 4:30).

• “Doesn’t this encourage sloth, ungodliness, etc.?” True believers are humbled by this truth and feel compelled to live for Christ that much more (Gal. 2:20).

• Remember, there is difference between falling into sin, temporarily falling away, backsliding and apostatizing! All believers struggle with the first part but only those who are not true believers will fully fall away.

Basic Reformed Theology 5

Basic Reformed Theology 5

The Holy Spirit enables a sinner to believe. He is efficacious in His work and we call that “Irresistible Grace.” The Father elects, the Son redeems and the Spirit applies the work of Christ’s redemption. Each person of the Trinity effectually works in our salvation.

The External and Internal Call

Through the preaching of the gospel, all men are called to repent and believe (Mt. 28:18-20; cf. Mk. 16:15(?)). The external preaching reaches all who are within the earshot of the message. Yet we know not all who hear the preaching of the Word believe. When the gospel is faithfully preached, God uses the message to externally call all who hear to repent and believe. God commands repentance and faith through His preached Word; He calls them through the Word to believe. If they do not repent and believe then they will perish in their sins. The gospel imparts “a secret and hidden wisdom of God” but the unbeliever “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them” (1 Cor. 2:6, 14). The preaching reaches the ear but does not touch the heart; the sinner cannot or is not able understand it.

Some do believe. Why? We learn from the Bible that through the preaching, some are effectually called (the internal call). God who predestines calls them (Rom. 8:30). An efficacious call enables them to respond. The call is invested with the power to enable the person to enter into fellowship with Christ: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9; cf. Rom. 1:6, 7) He “called” us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet. 2:9). God does not call in vain: “who saved us and called us to a holy calling…” (2Tim. 1:9). These “call” passages all mean something like a summons. The call is more than a mere invitation (though it includes that) since it comes from God to those whom He predestined: “And those whom he predestined he also called…” (Rom. 8:30). An example of how that worked can be found in 1 Thess. 1:5, “our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” That internal call came through the external call of the gospel (not apart from it). God cannot fail to draw the sinner whom He predestined and called — the two (predestination and calling) remain inseparable. Paul says of himself and the Jews (as well as the Gentiles): “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles” (Rom. 9:24)!

Regeneration and Faith

Spiritually dead men cannot heed the call unless the sovereign Holy Spirit enables them.  Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail.” (Jn. 6:63) The Spirit must give life and this “life” denotes new birth, rebirth or regeneration (1Pet. 1:3, 23). This new birth is by the Spirit and from above (Jn. 3:5, 6). The Spirit’s work of rebirth is mysterious like the coming and going of the wind: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn. 3:8) Just as we cannot control the wind so we cannot determine the work of the Sovereign Spirit. We cannot see or enter heaven without being born “of water and the Spirit” (Jn. 3:3-7). The “water” in Jn. 3 is another way of referring to the work of the Spirit as in Ezekiel 36:25-27 (not referring to baptism) — a cleansing or washing by the Spirit (cf. Titus 3:5).

Paul said that we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3) but God made us alive (Eph. 2:5). That life is none other than the new birth Jesus spoke about. Jesus says we must be “born again” (Jn. 3:7) or “born of God” (1Jn. 3:9; 5:14; cf. Jn. 1:12, 13)! The Spirit changes us by making us alive and in turn we see and understand the things of God. The Spirit enables us to “understand the things freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). Because we have been born again by the Spirit, we can see and enter the kingdom God (Jn. 3:3, 5)! For that reason we call all believers a “new creation” (2Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). This new birth is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit and man does not cooperate in his new birth!

So faith and repentance must be viewed as divine gifts. God gives repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2Tim. 2:25, 26) and faith (Acts 13:48, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed”; Eph. 2:8-10). Luke says Paul helped those “who through grace believed” (Acts 18:27). Paul says this of the Philippians, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” (1:29). It has been granted to them to believe!


Man will always resist the Gospel. The external call makes man more culpable. If he refuses the invitation and command to repent and believe, he only has himself to blame! The Spirit is not at fault for not converting the sinner — He has mercy on whom He has mercy.

Man is obstinate as well as dead in his sins. But man cannot be viewed as being omnipotent against God. That is, man’s utter rejection and refusal can be overturned. God can make a man alive in Christ Jesus. As God can change the king’s heart (Prov. 21:1), give sight to the blind and make the lame walk (Mt. 11:5), so the Lord opens the heart to respond to the gospel (Acts 16:14, “and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul”).

The Spirit will never fail to regenerate whom the Father calls into fellowship of His Son! If God is faithful by whom we were called into the fellowship of his Son (1 Cor. 1:9), then would He fail to affect His purpose? At His time, God will call specific sinners to enter into a living fellowship with His Son to be forgiven, cleansed, justified, sanctified and glorified. That is, no person will enter into Hell because the Spirit was not able to regenerate him.

We do not know how the sinner will respond. We only know that we must earnestly plead with the person to repent and believe. The Spirit can will convert when and where He pleases.

The Spirit’s work may go far and never truly convert (as in Heb. 6). They could have a taste of spiritual things and yet come short of new birth. Many have been convicted and affected by the preached word and in either short or long time, they grow cold and indifferent to the gospel they seemingly warmed up to.

No person is impossible for God to convert and save. Since the Spirit is sovereign, at the appointed time, the sinner whom the Father elected will be converted. Therefore, we can never say that the person’s opportunity has closed or that his obstinance is too great to overcome. There is not a sinner that cannot be powerfully converted when God wills it.

Basic Reformed Theology 4

Basic Reformed Theology 4

No part of Reformed Theology (RT) is as much rejected as the doctrine of Limited Atonement in TULIP (sometimes called “definite atonement” or “particular redemption”). Yet this biblical doctrine coheres well with the rest of RT and to deny it would put disharmony into the Trinity. Limited Atonement means that Christ died only for those whom the Father gave to Him (Jn. 10:28, 29). Jesus paid the full penalty for the sins of those chosen by God the Father. Remember, His name is Jesus “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt.1:21).

The Nature of Atonement

In the OT, God provided animals to make atonement for the people’s sins. Since life is in the blood, they were forbidden to eat blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Lev. 17:10) The shedding of blood meant death and without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness of sin (Heb. 9:22). Yet the blood of “bulls and goats” could never “take away sins.” (Heb. 10:4) Those provisional sacrifices were always limited to God’s people and for specific offenses.  The priests never offered the atoning sacrifices for everyone without exception. For example, only God’s people benefited from the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32). If a specific individual did not comply with the requirements of the atonement, he would be “cut off from his people” (v. 29). That provisional and definite atoning sacrifice washed away the sins for whom it was offered.

Design and Accomplishment

Those chosen by God the Father had to be redeemed by God the Son. Particular election requires a definite atonement. God gave a people to His Son and He was to raise them up on the last day: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raiseit up on the last day.” (Jn. 6:39) God’s design was for the elect and Christ accomplished his redemption by dying for them.

If Christ died for everyone without exception then Christ labored in vain for those who would perish. The Son always pleases the Father (Jn. 8:29) and the Father is well pleased with Him (Mt. 3:17). Jesus said He accomplished the work given to Him (Jn. 17:4; cf. 5:36). If Jesus paid the penalty for everyone, then why doesn’t the Father forgive everyone? Isn’t the Father pleased with the Son’s work given to Him? The Father is pleased with the Son and will lose none for whom the Son gave eternal life (Jn. 10:28-30). No discord exists between the Father and the Son. For that reason, Jesus only prays for the ones the Father gave Him: “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (Jn. 17:9)


All theories of atonement limit either their effectiveness or extent. Universal atonement limits its effectiveness because it secures no one’s redemption. It makes all men “salvable” and technically Christ’s death could have secured no one’s salvation (only made salvation “possible” for all upon the condition of faith). It is like a very wide bridge that never makes it across the river though everyone could go on it. Limited atonement limits the extent. Christ’s atoning sacrifice fully atoned the sins of God’s elect and it is effective for them alone. Using the same bridge analogy, this narrow bridge goes fully across to the other side but only for the numerous elect of God. The Son came to seek and save (Lk. 19:10; 1Tim. 1:15), to deliver us (Gal. 1:3, 4). Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us… to purify for himself a people” (Titus 2:14). He did not come to make sinners salvable, deliverable, redeemable, purifiable, etc. Jesus “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). He died to bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18) and gave himself for the church (Eph. 5:25).

Christ’s death secured everything for the specified sinners (full atonement, full forgiveness, full work of the Spirit as a gift, full acceptance with the Father, etc.). The sinner does not “add” his faith to secure the benefits of Christ’s death but his own faith is the gift because Christ removed all the righteous legal barriers (his guilt, sin, judgment, etc.). He has secured all the spiritual blessings for the elect (Eph. 1:3, 4).


We don’t know for whom Christ has died so we can’t say Christ died for you. It doesn’t matter. We can unreservedly declare that Christ died for sinners and that He will save all who believe in Him. God will draw the elect and enable them to believe.

All and World? What about Jn. 3:16 and the other passages that refer to “all” (Rom. 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; Heb. 2:9; 2 Pet. 3:9) and “world” (Jn. 1:9, 29; 4:42; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Jn. 2:1, 2; 4:14)? The word “world” in Jn. 3:16 refers to the wicked world of sinners — he loves them and whoever would believe will be saved. God’s general love for all does not mean He loves everyone the same way. We are all required to love everyone but we do not love them all the way we love our family, close friends, parents, etc. Usually the word “all” denotes all men without distinction but not all men without exception. God does desire the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:4) but it does not mean He will surely save all. Jesus’ ransom for all (“who gave himself as a ransom for all” 1 Tim. 2:6) perfectly illustrates all without distinction. If it was “all without exception”, that means all have been ransomed (not all have been “ransom-able”). If it was for everyone without exception then everyone has been truly ransomed, bought or purchased — that cannot be correct since not everyone is saved.

Efficacious or efficient for the elect but sufficient for all! Some have carefully noted that Christ’s death was sufficient (of such worth and value) that it could have technically saved everyone without exception. Limited atonement no way diminishes the value of Christ’s work on the cross. The design or intent behind Christ’s death was only for His people. The benefits of His death would be applied only to God’s chosen people; it is efficacious to them alone.

How do I know if he died for me? Remember, that is not the question you should be concerned about. He died for sinners and if you would repent and believe you will be forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Then you’ll be able to say that Jesus “loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Basic Reformed Theology 3

Basic Reformed Theology 3

Most people recognize this part of Reformed Theology (RT). In TULIP, the “U” (for ‘Unconditional Election’) stands out to many as the distinctive feature of RT. The Bible’s teaching on election should not be overlooked, understated, or denied. We would not say this doctrine is the “heart” of RT but it remains a very important part of it.

From Eternity

Paul says that God “chose (elected) us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). God’s people’s names were written in the Book of Life “before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; 17:8). God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2Tim. 1:9). God’s elect are “vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom. 9:23). We know that God works all things “according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11) and we can conclude from the context that part of His eternal counsel included the election of His people (v. 4). That means God chose certain individuals before He created the world and before individuals came into being. Though a mystery surrounds this mind blowing doctrine (which means we cannot understand everything about this doctrine) we can nonetheless conclude from Scripture God certainly elected some to eternal life before creation.


Most people assume God only elected those who would choose Christ. He saw from eternity if an individual chose Christ. On that basis or condition, God chose the individual. That means God reacted in response to our choice. He had to choose because we chose! This would make God’s choice dependent and conditional and therefore secondary and not primary. The word “unconditional” in unconditional election means that man’s actions and behavior did not condition or influence God’s choice. God did not choose His people because they chose Christ first or because they deserved it, were wiser, smarter, prettier, more promising, influential, powerful, etc. (1 Cor. 1:26-31).  He chose to love us because He loved us (Deut. 7:8). Jesus’ statement to his disciples applies to the Bible’s teaching on election, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (Jn. 15:16).

Regarding Jacob and Esau, the Bible says “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls…” (Rom. 9:11), that is, God’s electing purpose and not Jacob’s choice (before either of them did anything) determined the final destiny of the two individuals. God’s choice denotes God’s mercy: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). Man’s will does not determine God’s election: “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Rom. 9:16) “Human will or exertion” simply means “man’s desire or effort” (NIV). Man’s desire or effort does not influence or control God’s mercy/election. We choose Christ because God chose us: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

Some Implications and Objections

That means that God’s children were chosen before the foundation of the world and that each person converted has been elected from eternity. We don’t know who or how many have been elected (a fixed number, cf. WCF 3.4) but God does. The doctrine is a source of consolation for God’s people; it should not be the concern of the unconverted because his duty is to repent and believe in Christ.

Why evangelize? Because Christ commanded us to preach the gospel. Through the free offer of the gospel God gathers His sheep (cf. Jn. 10:16, 27). We preach to everyone without exception and those appointed to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48).

It’s not fair! If we want absolute fairness, then we would all receive what we all deserve, namely, eternal damnation. We rightly merited damnation. Eternal life is God’s gift of mercy and He can give it to whomever He wishes (Rom. 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy…”). He could give it to all; to none; or to some. God chose to give it to many.

What about foreknowledge? Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:1, 2 speak of God’s foreknowledge. Doesn’t that mean God elected those whom He foreknew would choose him? Romans 8:29 says “whom he foreknew” — not “what he foreknew” (a masculine and not neuter relative pronoun) — a foreknowledge of persons. God knew them beforehand and predestined them — it does not say he knew what they would choose and then he chose them! 1 Peter 1:1, 2 speaks of the same personal foreknowledge, they are “those who are elect… according to God’s foreknowledge”. As the person Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20) to redeem or ransom (vv. 18-19) so the elect were foreknown by God the Father whom the Son would redeem. It simply means God chose whom He loved beforehand (cf. Amos 3:2) because God foreknew everyone and everything. In these passages, God’s fore-knowledge connotes an intimate knowledge (like “fore-loved”).

It doesn’t matter what I do! Paul takes on that exact question in Romans 9. After teaching that God can show mercy to anyone He wills, Paul answers the question that often arises from such a teaching: “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (Rom. 9:19) That is, “How can I be held guilty? I can’t resist or control whatever God does!” In short, Paul says God can do what He wishes with fallen man. Some will become vessels of mercy (v. 23) and other will receive what we all deserve, become “vessels of wrath” (v. 22). Man is still responsible for his actions and will be condemned because of their sin and for refusing to repent and believe!

Why? So no one can boast! “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:26-31) God gets all the glory!!

Basic Reformed Theology 2

Basic Reformed Theology 2

The Bible teaches that man is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13) and therefore man is spiritually dead and resistant to the things of God. RT calls this “total depravity.” The origin of many theological errors can be found in one’s understanding of man’s fallen condition.  

Original Sin

Adam, who served as the representative (by God’s appointment our “federal head”) for all of humanity, sinned (Rom. 5:12-21).  Adam’s sin (the Fall) led to what we call “original sin” (the effects of the Fall in our nature). All of us have been affected by the Fall and we all inherited “original sin.” This sin brought death (Rom. 5:12) and pervaded our nature. 

None of us come into the world with a clean untainted nature; we are born in sin, “estranged from the womb” and we “go astray from birth” (Ps. 58:3). David says he was “brought forth in iniquity” (Ps. 51:5). That means babies are not born innocent but tainted with sin.  Everybody sins because everyone was born in sin: “for there is no man who does not sin” (2 Chron. 6:36) because “no man living is righteous before” God (Ps. 143:2). 

Pervasive Sinfulness

Man is not simply morally crippled but pervasively sinful. All his faculties have been affected by sin. Rom. 3:9-18 poignantly proves this. The passage simply states that we are “all under sin” (v. 9). Sin dominates man. Verse 10 teaches forthrightly that “none is righteous, no, not one.” Verse 11 states that “no one” really understands God. In fact, he does not seek Him (v. 11b). Man does not know God rightly and therefore does not understand Him (cf. 1:21, 22). Man has turned aside and refused to do good before God (v. 12; cf. 1:23, 25). 

Verses 13-18 depict man’s pervasive evil. It is a poetic way of saying that from head to toe, he is full of sin. Man uses his throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, and eyes against God’s way: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (3:18). Paul did not go and show how every inch is covered with sin but has demonstrated by the language of the text that man is pervasively and resolutely “under sin.”

Ecc. 9:3 states that “the hearts of men are full of evil” while Jeremiah declares that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt” (Jer. 17:9). Early in man’s history, God saw “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). 

We tend towards evil and not the good. There is a futility or vanity in our minds (Eph. 4:17) since we have a “darkened” understanding and a “hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18). Man is “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In fact, we are slaves to sin: “every one who commits sin is a slave to sin” (Jn. 8:34). 

Opposed to God and the Gospel

Man suppresses the truth about God in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18ff.) and are in fact spiritually “dead in our trespasses” (Col. 2:13; Eph. 1:1, 5).  We are “by nature children of [God’s] wrath” (Eph. 2:3). Man actually follows “the prince of the power the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2; cf. Jn. 8:44; 2Tim. 2:26). We are “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18) and our minds remain “hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7). 

That means when it comes to spiritual truth, we won’t accept it and are unable to: “The natural person does not acceptthe things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them…” (1 Cor. 2:14). Man, whose mind is set on the flesh, “does not submit to God’s law” and is unable to submit to it (Rom. 8:7).  The gospel is “folly” to the unbeliever (1 Cor. 1:18). 

The god of this world, the devil prevents people from understanding the gospel: “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2Cor. 4:4). He steals the Word from people’s hearts: “the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in the heart” (Mt. 13:19). 

Gospel preaching is to “open” the eyes of unbelievers “so that they many turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). 

Some Implications

Everything that a man does is tainted by sin. Though we are not all equally sinful, all of us have been affected by sin in every aspect of our persons. Nothing we do escapes the taint of sin. We can never please God in and of ourselves. 

Man may perform some “civil” good and may be restrained from sinning as he would (like Abimelech in Gen. 20:6) but he cannot escape the fact he continues under the power of sin.

Man is spiritually dead. Dead people cannot respond to the gospel. Unless the Lord works in the heart, the unbeliever will reject the gospel every single time (100%).

Man is spiritually blind (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:9,14). He cannot appreciate, love, believe, and accept the gospel. He sees nothing in it. The god of this world has blinded him.

Man’s will is not free. Man being enslaved to sin (Jn. 8:34) can freely act only according to his nature. His will expresses his nature and therefore, being dead in sin and hostile towards God, it will always oppose and refuse God: “being captured by him [the devil] to do his will” (2Tim. 2:26).

Man does not seek God (Rom. 3:11), is not able to submit to Him (Rom. 8:7), and is considered a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3)— man is a rebel. If a million years were added to us and a million opportunities offered to us to turn from our sins and to believe in Christ, we would never repent and believe because of our sinful condition.

Basic Reformed Theology 1

Basic Reformed Theology I[1]

Doctrine simply means the setting forth of what the Bible teaches on a certain topic. Paul said to Titus, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1) “Doctrine” here means teaching (e.g., 1Tim. 4:16 uses the same Grk word, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…”). A set of doctrines convey a particular “theology” that no one can evade or avoid. Reformed Theology simply refers to teachings or doctrines that have been taught by the Reformers (especially Calvin, Bullinger, Bucer, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, Luther, etc.) and by the various confessional denominations that profess a similar theology (like the Presbyterians). This theology faithfully presents the Bible’s teaching. The Reformers did not “invent” its theology but carefully and clearly set forth what the Bible teaches. Seven key ideas make up Reformed Theology (RT). Most evangelicals would generally embrace the first one but only RT gives a prominent place to the other six ideas.  

Word Centered

RT teaches that the Bible is inerrant (without error) and fully authoritative (1Tim. 3:16, 17). Since the Bible reveals what we are to believe concerning God as well as what duties He requires of us, its teaching takes precedence (when rightly interpreted and understood) over man’s reason, experience, and culture. Fallen sinful man cannot think of God correctly (Rom. 1:18ff.) and must depend entirely upon the Holy Spirit to enable him to understand the truths of the Bible savingly and correctly. 

God Centered

This is God’s world which He created and sustains for His own glory. The Bible starts off with “In the beginning God…” RT believes the Bible’s story is about God’s redemptive acts and purposes. God created, God speaks, reveals, promises, redeems, protects, etc. The Bible is God centered and man was created to know, worship, and have fellowship with Him. We were created for Him: “all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16); “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” (Rom. 11:36) That means we exist for God’s purpose — that is why we were created.

The Sovereignty of God

RT unapologetically proclaims that God is absolutely sovereign. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God (Mt. 10:29) and He has numbered the hairs of our head (Mt. 10:30). “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (Rom. 8:28 NASB). No purpose of God can be thwarted (Job 42:2) and “he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”” (Dan. 4:35) That means God governs everything and nothing happens in creation without God’s will and purpose: “to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). That is why when we plan, we humbly say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

Covenant Theology

RT looks at the Bible in terms of “covenants.” God enters into covenants with His people in the Bible (Adam, Hos. 6:7; Noah, Gen. 9:9; Abraham, Gen. 15, 17; Moses & Israel, Ex. 6:4; 19:5; 24:7, etc.; David, 2 Sam. 7; New Covenant, Jer. 31; Mt. 26:28, etc.) and in Christ, we entered into the New Covenant. The covenant with Adam was considered a “Covenant of Works” in which God required perfect obedience (which he failed). After that, God established a Covenant of Grace expressed differently in redemptive history. Covenants help us to interpret God’s dealings with man since man can only have a relationship with Him by way of a covenant.


Since RT is God centered, everything should be for God’s glory, to His praise. Our ambitions, our lives, all that we do, etc. should be for the glory of God: Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be glory!). “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31). We welcome one another “for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7)! “To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36; cf. Gal. 1:5). Eph. 1 punctuates the rhythm of the long sentence with “to the praise of his glory.” RT gives all the glory to God in our salvation (He gets all the credit), in our worship (God centered worship), in our lives, and in our theology. In any discussion of theology (Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Pentecostal, etc.), we should ask, “Who gets the glory?” Many theological formulations end up glorifying or crediting man (Arminian) or the church (Roman Catholicism) but God’s glory remains central in RT.

God’s Commandments

Though not under the law for our justification and life, we are not “outside the law of God but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). What counts is “keeping the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). RT recognizes the importance of the God’s law in the life of a believer not as a means of life but as a “rule of life informing” believers “of the will of God” (WCF 19.6). Believers have a duty to obey the Ten Commandments and the Spirit enables them to obey God’s Word (Jn. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1Jn. 2:3-4; Rev. 12:17; 14:12).

The Creeds and the Reformation

RT is Calvinistic in its doctrine of salvation (“soteriology”). But not all “Calvinists” are actually “Reformed” because their teaching is Reformed only in the area of “salvation” and not in other areas. RT is expressed in its various confessions and creeds. The well known ones include The Westminster Confession of Faith and its Catechisms (Larger and Shorter); the Heidelberg CatechismThe Canons of Dort, and The Belgic Confession. These more or less offer comprehensive statements regarding all the major doctrines of the Bible (Loci Theologici). 

[1] Much much more could be said than what we are about to cover in this study. This very brief overview seeks to introduce some of the basic points of Reformed Theology. Note: “We are living in a day in which practically all of the historic churches are being attacked from within by unbelief. Many of them have already succumbed. And almost invariably the line of descent has been from Calvinism to Arminianism, from Arminianism to Liberalism, and then to Unitarianism. And the history of Liberalism and Unitarianism shows that they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to sustain itself. … Where the God centered principles of Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong tendency downward into the depths of man centered naturalism or secularism.” (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Faith)

A Practical Guide to Prayer

A Practical Guide to Prayer[1]

Before they call I will answer. Isaiah 65:24

Introduction: George Swinnock offers some very helpful and practical steps to praying. He presents several things we should meditate on before praying. It may be appropriate to take each topic separately and then pray in response. He lists six categories on which we can meditate.

Meditation prepares the heart for prayer. “Meditation is the best beginning of prayer, and prayer is the best conclusion of meditation. Prayer is a building which reaches up to heaven, meditation lays in all the costly materials which are requisite for this building.” (p. 112)[2]

1. Meditate on your sins, and hunt them out of their lurking holes; this helps in our confession.[3] “Your duty in prayer is to indict, arraign, and condemn and execute those malefactors and transgressors of the royal law, which can never be done till they are apprehended. If you want to kill those foxes that spoil the vine, those lusts which hinder your regenerate part from thriving, your care must be by meditation to hunt them out of their lurking holes and take them.” (p. 113) [Name the sins before God in your meditation and confess and repent of them.]

2. Meditate on your needs, for God is fully able to supply them. Consider what you need—pardoning mercy, strength for victory, power against sin—that you may entreat God to give them to you. “Consider…what sin you lately prevented, and are afraid it will recover again, that you may beg strength to pursue the victory; what lust lately got the better of you, that you may entreat pardon of it, and power against it… This consideration of your needs, with the weight of them, will make you more urgent and instant with God for supply; they that feel hunger, how hard will they beg for bread!” (p. 114) [Consider your spiritual needs more than your material needs.]

3. Meditate upon his mercies to you from birth. Look at the dangers you have been delivered from, the journeys you have been protected in, the seasonable help he has sent you, the suitable support he has afforded you in distress, the counsel he has given you in doubts, and the comforts he has provided you in sorrow and darkness. These are present with you by meditation. Every breath in your life is a gift of mercy. Do not forget the former favours bestowed on you and your family. An empty perfume bottle still smells when the perfume is gone. “These thoughts before prayer may stir you up to bless the giver. If you should bless men when they curse you, much more should you bless God, when he blesses you.” (pp. 115-116) [Look over all the specific mercies God has given you.]

4. Then meditate upon your present mercies. How many do you enjoy—your house, family, body, and soul, are all full of blessings! Think of them particularly. Spread them out like jewels to your view. Meditate on how freely they are bestowed, on their fullness and greatness. But O, your soul’s mercies—the image of God, the blood of Christ, eternal life, and seasons of grace! Your whole life is a bundle of mercies. These stir us up to bless the Giver.  [Consider both “body-mercies” (things that benefit your body, physical life, etc.) and especially “soul-mercies” (things that benefit your soul) you receive on a daily basis.]

5. Then meditate on God to whom we pray. O how we are ashamed of our drops when we stand by this ocean! “As God rises in our thoughts, self falls. That sun discovers all our dust… This serious apprehension of your distance will quicken you to reverence. God’s greatness and man’s vileness are both arguments to make man humble and serious in the worship of God.” (p. 116) [Go through His attributes in your mind and consider how infinitely higher He is than you. This helps us to maintain a proper perspective in prayer.]

6. Meditate on his mercy and goodness.[4] These like Moses’ strokes will fetch water out of a rock. God delights to be sought and found. He delights to see men joyful in the house of prayer. God will not send you away sad. When you have by mediation put the wood in order upon the altar, you may by prayer set fire to it and offer up a sacrifice of sweet smelling savour. “Believe before you pray, that your hand of prayer shall not knock at heaven’s gate in vain, that God will not send you away sad.” (p. 116) [As a believer, this is the one thing you must be convinced of in your prayer or your prayers will be drudgery, legal, burdensome, and something you will want to dispense with as soon as possible. “Believe before you pray!”]

[1] Enlarged from Nov. 11, Voices from the Past, Vol. 1 (George Swinnock, Works, 1:111-117). The editor extracted this reading from Swinnock’s The Christian Man’s Calling. In particular, it represents a portion from chapter 12 entitled, “How a Christian may exercise himself to godliness in prayer.” I added extra sentences from the original work to the selection from Voices from the Past.

[2] This along with the rest of the quotes will be modernized.

[3] Swinnock says three things relate to us, “thy sins, wants [needs], and mercies.”

[4] “…what promises He has made to prayer, how bountiful he is to those who call upon Him. He does more than they can ask or think; he gives liberally without upbraiding.” (p. 116)