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Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller was a Particular Baptist minister in England in the 1700s and into the 1800s. His most known work was The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. In the work he argued against the prevailing notion of day amongst English Particular Baptists that the gospel is only for the elect and should not be openly proclaimed (a.k.a Hyper-Calvinism). Fuller’s work against this belief was the tipping point which saw the Particular Baptists move to be more evangelic in their life and theology (proclaiming the gospel openly).

The other night I was reading a overview of Fuller’s work by Dr. Peter Morden, “Baptist and Evangelical: Andrew Fuller and the Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.” (Strict Baptist Historical Society, Bulletin 2011, Number 38). In his work Dr. Morden gives two influences which helped Fuller craft and argue his position: The Bible and Jonathan Edwards. I believe seeing these things at work in Fuller can help us as we work to understand the teachings of the bible. (Note: All quotes are drawn from Dr. Morden’s work)

The first is Fuller’s commitment to let the bible be the final authority upon what he believed. Fuller wrote the following as a personal ‘covenant’ to himself,

Let not the sleight of wicked men, who lie in wait to deceive, nor even the pious character of good men (who yet may be under great mistakes), draw me aside. Nor do thou suffer my own fancy to guide me. Lord, thou hast given me a determination to take up no principle at second hand; but to search for everything at the pure fountain of thy word. (Ryland Jr., Andrew Fuller, 1st edn., pp. 203-204)

Fuller committed himself to going back to the bible to let it be the authority as to what he believed. Fuller did know that he was susceptible to error. But it did not keep him from pursuing truth as much as he could.

Along with this commitment was a secondary influence of Jonathan Edwards. Not only did Fuller study the bible but he used the thinking of others help him understand what the bible taught. This was very apparent when it came to the issue of how we can offer the gospel to people who do not have the ability to believe it (non-elect). Fuller turned to the bible but he also turned to the writing of Edwards on the Freedom of the Will. And it was Edwards who helped him unlock the puzzle as Fuller describes (speaking of himself in the third person),

He had read and considered, as well as he was able, President Edwards’s Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, with some other performances on the difference between natural and moral inability. He found much satisfaction in the distinction; as it appeared to him to carry with it its own evidence – to be clearly and fully contained in the Scriptures .. The more he examined the Scriptures, the more he was convinced that all the inability ascribed to man, with respect to believing, arises from the aversion of his heart. (Fuller’s Works, Vol. 2, p. 330)

While thinking through the scriptures Fuller relied on Edwards to describe what the bible was teachings. And Edwards’ work was no light reading! Fuller took time and energy to read and grasp what Edwards was showing about how God can command men to do things which they do not have the ability to preform while not infringing upon His justice. Fuller considered what Edwards was saying against the teachings of Scripture. But without Edwards he would not have been able to develop what the scriptures were teachings with regards to this particular objection.

Thus, we see the blend of personal study with the aid of what others have studied. God wants us to use our personal minds to think through His word and discover, through the work of the Spirit, what is revealed there. But He also has the very same relationship with every other believer. With the bible as the norming norm we are to use God’s working with others as we think through what the bible is teaching.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

The Word of God is not a neutral thing. Based on one’s response to God’s spoken Word it can give life or it can give one over to death. Thus, coming to church can be a dangerous thing. Because when we come to church we sit under this Word.

We do not come and judge the word. We tend to think of ourselves as the judge of everything. We judge what ice cream we like, what we are going to wear, what TV shows we find acceptable and enjoyable, and many other things. But when we come to the Word of God the judge’s seat is taken from us. And this happens whether we think it does or not. God’s Word is the authority not us. His Word is the based by which all things are measured.

The Word judges us. The Word of God takes the judges seat and gives its pronouncement about our lives. The reality is we do not render judgment about the bible, even when we think we do! Instead we are judged by our response to what the Word says and its pronouncements are true no matter one’s response. If one stood condemned under the laws of our land their response would mean nothing. Their condemnation and punishment is final and real. And we are in the same state. We can either submit to the bible’s pronouncements or we cover our ears, and thus our hearts, and try to ignore it. But doing that leads to dangerous consequences.

We can become hardened by our refusal to heed the pronouncements of God’s Word. This is the frightening part. If we refuse to listen and so take the life offered to us we will become harden. Every time we refuse to heed the Word of the Lord another layer of lies encases our hearts. This builds up silently but firmly. The Word which would offer us life becomes death to us as our heart becomes more and more encased in the lies we tell ourselves to cloud out the Word’s pronouncements.

This should communicate a fearful respect of the Word and give warning. This Word is not a neutral thing to stand back render opinions about. It is a pronouncement to continually heed and enjoy or reject and be condemned by. We should know that we are not spectators when the Word is preached to us. We are having very life and death put before us! Our response to it, by the working of the Holy Spirit, will determine which one we obtain. But we should not think that just sitting and hearing the Word Sunday after Sunday, in and of itself, is a good thing. Indeed, it can be a deadly thing!

If we, however, cease putting up our lies and fall in submission to this Word we find the opposite of death: life! For the Word to us is simple at its heart, “Repent and believe!” Repent of your sin of not obeying the Word of the Lord. And believe in the finished work of Christ for all your payment of sin and restored relationship with God! That is the Word to us! When we heed this Word fear, shame, and guilt are gone and righteousness, power, and hope our ours. A new heart is given and we will find the commands of the Lord sweeter than the honey comb! Oh, that we would respond to God’s Word like this and find true life! May church not prove dangerous but life to you!

BibleOnPulpit

When we come to hear the sermon or take up Holy Scripture to read it, let us not have this foolish presumption of thinking that we shall easily understand by our own wit everything that is said to us and we read; but let us come with reverence waiting entirely on God, well aware that we have need to be taught by his Holy Spirit, and that without that we can in no way understand what is shown us in his Word.

-John Calvin, Commenting on 1 Timothy 3:9. Quoted in Peter Adam, Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1996), 144.

bible

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Everything in Scripture is profitable. There is a profit or, in other words, a valuable return in everything God has given to us in Scripture. Paul sets out where the profit is when he says, “and profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness ” When it comes to the attainment of godliness the Word of God gives a sure and bountiful return to investments in it. Here are two things which make it profitable:

1. Effectiveness. This means that the Word of God is effective. When God set His word out to accomplish His goal it will to accomplish it. Effectiveness is like the choice weapon which penetrates the armor of the enemy. What it sets out to do it will do. Nothing can hold it back.

A large implication from this is that the Word is not dependent on additions from man’s wisdom. When God spoke so that Christ would be known and that His people would have everything needed for faith and godliness it is sufficient in and of its self. It is effective on its own to accomplish What God wants it to do. It is not as if God’s spoken Word is dependent upon the effectiveness of man to come and bring His purposes to pass. No, God’s Word is enough, when preached and read, to fulfill what God meant it to fulfill.

2. Completeness. Everything we need for the attainment of godliness is given to us. When the bible is correctly, lovingly, wisely handled, interpreted, and communicated it yields all that is need for a person to please God with their lives. This means that we have the perfect number and sorts of weapons for the fight. Whereas effectiveness spoke of precision, completeness speaks for vastness. Everything we need for faith and godliness has been given. Every kind of weapon needed for the particular task is at our disposal.

A implication from this is that if it is not in the bible then it is not needed to please God. If we go and try to find a weapon for a battle and the weapon is not there the problem is not in the bible but in the battle. We are not actually engaged in a battle for godliness but a battle of our own making. There is so much joy and freedom found in knowing that God knows what battles we will face and has fully equipped us for them. We do not have to get distracted by battles we are not equipped to fight.

…the historical character of revelation may be found in its eminently practical aspect. The knowledge of God communicated by it is nowhere for a purely intellectual purpose. From beginning to end it is a knowledge intended to enter into the actual life of man, to be worked out by him in all its practical bearings…God has interwoven the supernaturally communicated knowledge of himself with the historic life of the chosen race, so as to secure for it a practical form from the beginning. Revelation is connected throughout with the fate of Israel. Its disclosures arise from the necessities of that nation, and are adjusted to its capacities…God has not revealed himself in a school, but in the covenant; and the covenant as a communion of life is all-comprehensive, embracing all the conditions and interests of those contracting it.

-Geerhardus Vos, “The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline”, in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation; Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. by R. B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillisburg: P & R, 1980), 10.

Who can tell us whether this aweful and mysterious silence, in which the Infinite One has wrapped himself, portends mercy or wrath? Who can say to the troubled consience whether He, whose laws in nature are inflexible and remorseless, will pardon sin? Who can answer the anxious inquiry whether the dying live on or whether they cease to be? Is there a future state? And if so, what is the nature of that untried condition of being? If there be immoratal happiness, how can I attain it? If there be an everlasting woe, how can it be escaped? Let the reader close his Bible and ask himself seriously what he knows upon there momentous questions apart from its teachings. What soild foundation has he to rest upon in regard to matters which so absolutely transcend all earthly expereince and are so entirely out of the reach of our unassited faculties? A man of facile faith may perhaps delude himself into the belief of what he wished to believe. He may thus take upon trust God’s unlimited mercy, his ready forgiveness of transgressors, and eternal happiness after death. But this is all a dream. He knows nothing, he can know nothing about it, except by direct revelation from heaven.

-John D. Woodbridge, ed., More Than Conquerors (Chicago: Moddy Press, 1992), p. 209.

One of the things you come across in studying the New Testament are claims about pseudonymous authorship of different New Testament letters. The claim is made that someone else wrote a letter and put Paul’s name on it.

The cost of this understanding is pretty plain. If Paul did not write 1 Timothy, for example, then there is no apostolic authority in the letter. Thus, with one quick sweep many books of the New Testament become letters communicating traditions of people and persons in New Testament times. All authority is lost.

Justin Taylor posted this very helpful bit of information when it comes to this issue. Let me quote it in full:

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Some critical scholars suggest that the apostle Paul didn’t really write some of the letters that are now ascribed to him. Ray Van Neste, writing the introduction to 1 Timothy in the ESV Study Bible, has a concise explanation of why the pseudonymity solution is untenable:

It is problematic to argue that these works were written under a false name since the early church clearly excluded from the apostolic canon any works they thought to be pseudonymous. While critics point to the common practice of pseudonymous writing in the ancient world, they usually fail to point out that this practice, though common in the culture, was not common in personal letters, and was categorically rejected by the early church (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2; 3:17; also Muratorian Canon 64-67; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.12.3). Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-225) wrote that when it was discovered that a church elder had composed a pseudonymous work, The Acts of Paul (which included a purported Pauline letter, 3 Corinthians), the offending elder “was removed from his office” (On Baptism 17). Accepting as Scripture letters that lie about their origin is also a significant ethical problem. Thus, there is a good basis for affirming the straightforward claim of these letters as authentically written by Paul.

In addition to the external evidence (e.g., whether or not pseudonymity [false naming] or pseudepigraphy [false attributing] were accepted practices in the first centuries), Van Neste also points to the internal evidence in 2 Thessalonians where Paul’s comments are relevant. These verses are worth quoting:

2 Thessalonians 2:2: “[Do] not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed . . . by . . . a letter seeming to be from us. . . .”

2 Thessalonians 3:17: “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.”

Given statements like these, it seems logically and morally incompatible to hold to pseudonymity / pseudepigraphy and the ultimate authority of God’s word containing no deception or error.

For more on this, see D.A. Carson’s essay, “Pseudonymity and Pseudepigraphy,” inDictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 857-64.

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Hopefully these facts will become plain. It will be very nice to research the New Testament books without having to waste time arguing that Paul wrote the book that has Paul’s name on it.

HT: Justin Taylor

I came across this and thought it was an insightful point about the genealogies of scripture which we tended to pass over

A key purpose of genealogies in some contexts is to show a divine purpose that moves history to a specific goal. It is easier to see the big picture when a wide-angle lens is used to look at the canon. Genesis begins with Adam, and the storyline quickly progresses through history, using genealogies, until Abraham arrives on the historical scene. The storyline follows Abraham and his descendants, and Genesis closes with Abraham’s grandson predicting that an individual from the family of a great grandson (Judah) would wield a ruling sceptre over all the nations and preside over an astonishingly fertile land (Ge. 49:8-12).

Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 47-48.

This is not to say every genealogy fits this model, they are different for different contexts. It does, instead, at least instruct us that there are purposes in the genealogies. The authors under the direction of The Author had reasons for putting them in. It is our task and joy to explore and discover what those reasons are.

From the outset of my Christian walk I have treasured the Book that speaks of the God of ultimate beginnings and ends, and illumines all that falls between. . . . An evangelical Christian believes incomparable good news: that Christ died in the stead of sinners and arose the third day as living head of the church of the twice-born, the people of God, whose mission is mandated by the scripturally given Word of God. The term evangelical—whose core is the “evangel”—therefore embraces the best of all good tidings, that on the ground of the substitutionary death of Christ Jesus, God forgives penitent sinners and he shelters their eternal destiny by the Risen Lord who triumphed over death and over all that would have destroyed him and his cause. That good news as the Apostle Paul makes clear, is validated and verified by the sacred Scriptures. Those who contrast the authority of Christ with the authority of Scripture do so at high risk. Scripture gives us the authentic teaching of Jesus and Jesus exhorted his apostles to approach Scripture as divinely authoritative. There is no confident road into the future for any theological cause that provides a fragmented Scriptural authority and—in consequence—an unstable Christology. Founded by the true and living Lord, and armed with the truthfulness of Scripture, the church of God is invincible. Whatever I might want to change in this pilgrim life, it would surely not be any of these high and holy commitments.

-Carl F. H. Henry quoted in D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, eds., God and Culture: Essays in Honor of Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 392–93

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