The Spirit’s Means of Grace

The primary* means of grace in the church that give us faith, sustains faith and strengthens faith is the preaching of the word of God by a man lawfully called, faithfully proclaiming the true Gospel, the word of God, supported by the sacraments properly administered. Both preaching and sacraments point to Jesus  Christ and it is he who speaks and signifies to us through them by his Holy Spirit.

*Prayer, Bible reading, study and memorisation, godly fellowship and faithful witness are secondary means.

Message

Joshua Engelsma, Doon PR Church

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Communion with God (43)

The conjugal (marriage) love of Christ for his saints, consists in these four things:—

  1. Delight. 2. Valuation. 3. Pity, or compassion. 4. Bounty.

The love, also, of the saints unto Christ may be referred to these four heads:— Delight; Valuation; Chastity; Duty. Note two of these are of the same kind (delight and valuation), and two distinct; as is required in this relation, wherein all things stand not on equal terms.

Christ delights in us (Zeph. 3:17) and we delight in him.He is our joy, our crown, our rejoicing, our life, food, health, strength, desire, righteousness, salvation, blessedness: without him we have nothing; in him we shall find all things Gal. 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He has, from the foundation of the world, been the hope, expectation, desire, and delight of all believers. The promise of him was all (and it was enough) that God gave Adam in his inexpressible distress, to relieve and comfort him, Gen. 3:15. Abraham “rejoiced to see the day of Christ; he saw it, and was glad,” John 8:56; the thoughts of the coming of Christ, which he looked on at the distance of two thousand years, was the joy and delight of his heart.  Hence, Haggai 2:7, he is called “The Desire of all nations.” Him whom their soul loves and delights in, [they] desire and long after. So is the saints’ delight in him made a description of him, by way of eminence, Mal. 3:1: “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in.” “He whom ye seek, whom ye delight in,” is the description of Christ. He is their delight and desirable one, the person of their desire. Song of Solomon is full of this attitude-JK. The spouse tells us that she sits down under his shadow with great delight, Song.2: 3.

Adapted.

Communion with God (42)

Heb. 10:19; it is “by the blood of Jesus:” so Eph. 3:12, “In him we have boldness, and access with confidence;” — not standing afar off, like the people at the giving of the law, but drawing nigh to God with boldness; and that upon this account:— The dread and terror of God entered by sin; Adam had not the least thought of hiding himself until he had sinned. The guilt of sin being on the conscience, and this being a common notion left in the hearts of all, that God is a most righteous avenger thereof; this fills men with dread and horror at an apprehension of his presence, fearing that he is come to call their sins to remembrance. Now, the Lord Jesus, by the sacrifice and the atonement that he has made, has taken away this conscience of sin; that is, a dread of revenge from God upon the account of the guilt thereof. He has removed the slaying sword of the law, and on that account gives us great boldness with God; discovering him unto us now, no longer as a revenging Judge, but as a tender, merciful, and reconciled Father. Moreover, whereas there is on us by nature a spirit of bondage, filling us with innumerable tormenting fears, he takes it away, and gives us “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father,” and behave ourselves with confidence and gracious boldness, as children: for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” 2 Cor. 3:17; that is, a freedom from all that dread and terror which the administration of the law brought with it. So now there is no grace more acceptable to him than that boldness which he is pleased to afford us in the blood of Jesus.

OUR COMMON AIM IN WALKING WITH GOD?

The end of God is the advancement of his own glory; none can aim at this end, but only in the Lord Jesus. The sum of all is, that the whole wisdom of our walking with God is hid in Christ, and from him only to be obtained.

Communion with God (41)

I continue excerpts with adaptations from Owen’s monumental work:

OK so agreement is made, acquaintance given, and a way provided; yet if we have no strength to walk in that way, what good will it do us? Of ourselves we have no strength, Rom. 5: 6, — poor weaklings, not able to go a step in the ways of God. We either throw ourselves down or fall down, or temptations cast us down, and we make no progress: and the Lord Jesus tells us plainly, that “without him we can do nothing,” John 15: 5; nothing we do is acceptable to God. Neither can all the creatures in heaven and earth give us any assistance. Men’s contending to do it in their own power, comes to nothing.

The answer?

All strength to walk with God is from him. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me,” saith St.Paul, Phil. 4:13, who denies that of ourselves we have any sufficiency, 2 Cor. 3:5. We that can do nothing in ourselves, we are such weaklings, can do all things in Jesus Christ, as giants; and therefore in him we are, against all oppositions in our way, “more than conquerors,” Rom. 8:37; and that because “from his fullness we receive grace for grace,” John 1:16. From him have we the Spirit of life and power, whereby he bears, as on eagles’ wings, swiftly, safely, in the paths of walking with God. He first takes us by the arm and teaches us to go, until he leads us on to perfection. He has milk and strong meat to feed us; he strengthens us with all might, and is with us in our running the race that is set before us. HALLELUJAH!

HOW CAN WE WALK WITH THE ONE WHO IS A CONSUMING FIRE AND DREADFUL AVENGER OF ALL SIN? tbc

Communion with God (40)

3. A  way.

The broad and narrow ways (Pilgrim’s Progress).

We are assigned a new way to walk in if ever we think to hold communion with God. It is hid in Christ. All the world cannot, but by and in him, discover a path that a man may walk one step with God in. And therefore the Holy Ghost tells us that Christ has consecrated, dedicated, and set apart for that purpose, “a new and living way” into the holiest of all, Heb. 10: 20; a new one, for the first, old one was useless; a living one, for the other is dead: therefore, saith he, verse 22, “Let us draw near;” having a way to walk in, let us draw near. And this way that he has prepared is no other but himself, John 14:6. In answer to them who would go to the Father, and hold communion with him, he tells them, “I am the way; and no man comes to the Father but by me.” He is the medium of all communication between God and us. In him we meet, in him we walk. All influences of love, kindness, mercy, from God to us, are through him; all our returns of love, delight, faith, obedience unto God, are all through him; — he being that “one way” God so often promiseth his people: and it is a glorious way, Isaiah 35:8, — a high way, a way of holiness, a way that none can err in that once enter it; which is farther set out, Isaiah. 42:16 (Where Christ is called the covenant i.e. our divine friend who walks with us-JK). All other ways, all paths but this, go down to the chambers of death; they all lead to walk contrary to God.

Adapted from John Owen.

Our High Priest of Good Things to come

The ark-Old Testament symbol of God’s presence.

Are you a pessimistic, anxious, fearful Christian? Take heart because our Lord Jesus Christ is called  “an high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11). He is committed to doing all his people NOTHING BUT GOOD throughout their lives and into eternity… our COVENANT HEAD promises..” they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.”  Jeremiah 32:39-42.

The Covenant with Adam

The Westminster Confession, bulwark of  Reformed and Presbyterian churches states in chapter 7, “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”

Herman Hoeksema, theological father of the Protestant Reformed Churches states in his Reformed Dogmatics, ” Adam had life but not eternal life.  Nowhere do we find any proof in Scripture for the contention that God gave Adam the promise of eternal life if he should obey the particular commandment (not to eat of the forbidden tree). A command is no covenant.”

But was it not just continued blessed earthly life that would have been Adam’s had he not fallen?  He was earthy (I Cor.15:47). Only since, have Christians interpreted it as ETERNAL LIFE. There was no way he could attain immortal heavenly life. Hence Goodwin, one of the Westminster delegates, and others deny the possibility of eternal (spiritual) life for Adam if he obeys, and how long would he have to obey before the reward? Scripture is silent on this hypothesis.

But Adam had friendship with God which is the essence of every divine and unconditional covenant.  But the Holy Spirit in him was not the eternal indwelling Spirit in every New Covenant believer. He could be lost! When he sinned he incurred separation from God which is death, and then ultimately would physically die in time to come. He transgressed the covenant (Hosea 8:1) but God’s unconditional covenant of grace based on election stood firm and is unbreakable from the divine viewpoint. He fell “into the arms of Christ”. “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Jer. 31:3). As soon as he fell he was given the promise of the gospel (Gen.3:15) which would make him and his wife enemies of Satan and hence renewed friends of God and this by the sacrifice of the animal (typical of Christ) who would die to clothe them.

A condition, posited by followers of WCF, implies ability and any covenant of works, as was also the Sinaitic covenant taken on it’s own (no grace behind it) is doomed to fail because man cannot keep God’s law whether it’s “Don’t eat from that tree” or “Keep my (10) commandments and live.” This is the case because firstly Adam was fallible and secondly because all men like fallen Adam are slaves to sin, hence man can never merit with God as Paul points out in Romans 4:4 .Indeed the purpose of the law is gracious because it was added to expose transgressions and to lead men to Christ.

Yes Adam was federal head and stands in federal headship to all humanity just as Christ does to saved humanity but I deny he failed in a covenant of works that Christ then obeyed perfectly. He transgressed his version of the covenant of grace  but could not break it because God would rekindle the friendship through the future promised Messiah. Adam’s election governed the covenant with him. Then  God put his law and Spirit in Adam’s heart that would last eternally because of Christ so that for the first time he possessed eternal life.

Thanks to Marco Barone a fellow CPRC church member for his theological help with this!

Sure and steadfast

Many of us men were at one time in the Boys’ Brigade but it’s fair to say we knew little of what their motto really meant! It is taken from Hebrews 6.

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” Hebrews 6:17-20.

An anchor  that is properly stuck fast, is something fixed and immovable guaranteeing that the ship will remain where it is. Our hope in Christ, who is already in heaven, indeed Christ himself, is our hope, our certainty that one day we will be with him. He is fixed there, reigning in glory and all the blessedness in him is promised, indeed sworn to be given us, as it was to Abraham thousands of years ago (v18).

Covenant (a summary for those not well aquainted).

Based on Calvin’s writings.

Calvin and God’s covenant

“The Psalmist, “calling to remembrance” God’s covenant promises, especially “I will dwell in the midst of you,” and “trusting to that sacred and indissoluble bond,” does not hesitate to portray all the godly, no matter what their earthly miseries may be, “as partakers of this celestial glory in which God dwells.” Resting in the indissoluble bond of the covenant, the believer knows that all God’s “suffering” people will dwell with Him eternally in heavenly bliss, nay, are already “partakers of this celestial glory in which God dwells” (cf. John 17:20-23; Eph. 2:6). The covenant assures us that God dwells in us and we will dwell with God both now and forever.” Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 102:12.
Calvin explains God’s “spiritual covenant” as our being “join[ed],” “bound” and “united” with Him, so that we “cleave” to Him and enjoy a “real participation” in His blessedness.
Calvin considers “the very formula of the covenant,” which, he observes, is the same in every age: “For the Lord always covenanted with his servants thus: ‘I will be your God, and you shall be my people’. This covenant formula, Calvin notes, is frequently used in the Old Testament as a summary of all of salvation: “The prophets also commonly explained that life and salvation and the whole of blessedness are embraced in these words.”
For he (God) did not declare that he would be a God to their bodies alone, but especially to their souls. Still, souls, unless they be joined to God through righteousness, remain estranged from him in death. On the other hand, such a union when present will bring everlasting salvation with it.
In the Protestant Reformed Churches the truth of the covenant, as a bond of friendship and fellowship between God and His elect in Jesus Christ, has been developed and maintained most fully, consistently, antithetically and systematically. This has resulted in increased insight into and/or practical help regarding, for example, the living fellowship within the Holy Trinity, the covenant with Adam, Old Testament history, sovereign grace, infant baptism, Reformed worship, the unbreakable bond of marriage, Christian schooling, and the Christian life as one of God’s friend-servants keeping His covenant.
For Calvin, the covenant promise to be our God, applies not only to us in body and soul and in this world and the next, but it also applies to our (elect) children.
Even in the Old Testament, God’s covenant promise for body and soul, for time and eternity and for us and our children, was through Jesus Christ, the mediator
The saving benefits found in the covenant include: Christ as redeemer, salvation, eternal life, adoption, redemption, gospel, union with God, eternal salvation, life, blessedness, inheritance, privilege, access to God, reconciliation, pardon, forgiveness of sins (justification), adoption into salvation, regeneration or sanctification, resurrection, and the believer’s future and eternal happiness, all of which is due to God’s covenantal mercy and grace.
As Calvin eloquently puts it, “Since therefore this covenant contains solid and perfect blessedness, it follows that all who are excluded from it are miserable.
God has joined these two things together, viz., that he will be propitious to his sons [i.e., justification], and will also renew their hearts [i.e., sanctification]. These benefits are joined together by an everlasting and indissoluble bond, so that those whom he illumines by his wisdom, he redeems; those whom he redeems, he justifies; those whom he justifies, he sanctifies. I Cor. 1:30.
Calvin describes the sacrament of baptism (the New Testament equivalent of circumcision) as a sign and seal of both justification and sanctification: Calvin refers to the blessings of both justification and sanctification through believing partaking of the Lord’s Supper, for it is “a mirror in which we may contemplate Jesus Christ crucified to take away our offences [i.e., justification] and raised again to deliver us from corruption [i.e., sanctification].” And mentions the  third which depends on the second, and that is the illumination of the mind as to the knowledge of God” (Comm. on Heb. 8:10).
All by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, from the scripture alone and to the glory of God alone.

Full articles here:

Covenantal thought.

My most loved Scriptural doctrine which permeates the whole Bible is that of the COVENANT. This book, written by a faithful local pastor from Crumlin is full of gems in tracing  covenant theology through the ages……e.g.” The origin of  this grace and the benefits enjoyed by those in covenant were always rooted in the election of God. The evidence of the covenant of grace depended on God alone. He answered for both parties in the covenant and worked both willingness and enabling in man by the Holy Spirit…God everywhere reserves to Himself and exercises the right independently of fixing the terms of the relation between Himself and man.” Fellow Christian seek out the truth of the covenant, God’s friendship with man.

Articles

Oh that so many in Roman Catholicism and other false religions would grasp this truth that underlay the Reformation namely salvation from sin is by GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE, in CHRIST ALONE, revealed in SCRIPTURE ALONE and to the GLORY OF GOD ALONE.

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