How does God rule?

QUESTION

Q. 11: How doth God execute His decrees?

A. 11: God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.

EXPLANATION

The previous begins a discussion on God’s decrees that will subsist of questions 11-15. We already laid the foundation for this question, and if you have not read it I encourage you to do so.

This question involves how God executes His decrees. In other words, we are focusing on the manner. It is similar to fixing a car. There are multiple ways an individual can approach this task. He can fix it himself. He can take it to a friend, or a shade-tree mechanic. Or, he can take it to the dealer. Those three options are how he can fix his vehicle.

What are God’s ways to execute His eternal purpose? (See question 10) The Catechism states, “God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.” There are two ways, then, that God fulfills His eternal purpose.

Creation

Creation will be addressed in the next question, so we will only highlight this point. By the work of creation the Catechism means God’s work in and through creation. His eternal purpose includes creation. Genesis 1:1 provides the summary teachings of Scripture, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (ESV) He created everything, all things seen and unseen, spiritual and fleshly, all varieties. He created everything. It is His creation, and He executes His eternal purpose with and in the work of creation.

Providence

The work of creation deals with the matter of God’s decrees. In other words, like clay in the potter’s hands, so creation is the clay in the Potter’s hands (cf. Rom. 9:19-24). He exercises His eternal purpose with creation through the works of providence (elaborated further in questions 14-15).

The works of providence are God’s governing and preserving His will. I encourage you to take time to read through the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, chapter 5. The framers of that Confession elaborate on the brief teachings found here in questions 11 and 14-15.

What we learn in this brief answer is that God directs His creation for His eternal purposes.

APPLICATION

We will have more meat for application when we get to questions 12-15. However, there is one application that I think we can draw: encouragement.

We can and should be encouraged by God’s execution of His decrees through creation and providence. Why? It means that everything that happens comes from His sovereign, fatherly hand. Read this remarkable words from the Confession, “God the good Creator of all things, in His infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, to the end  for the which  they were created according unto His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.” (2LCF 5:1)

Are you going through a difficult time? God is executing His eternal purpose. Are you discouraged with how your life has turned out? God is executing His eternal purpose. Are you in the throes of discouragement and depression? God is executing His eternal purpose.

Now, go back and read that excerpt from the Confession. Notice how many times the word good, goodness, mercy, and wise appear. It is not blind faith, it is the guiding and good hand of God. Couple that with the wonderful truth of Romans 8:28, and what we have is the antidote to the discouragements and ailments of this life. We have the cure to the disease of discontentment. We have the treatment for the cancer of doubt. We have the remedy to sinful thoughts, words, and actions. God executes His decrees through the works of creation and providence.


Question 10

Question 9

Question 8

Question 7

Question 6

Question 5

Question 4

Question 3

Question 2

Question 1

Is God in charge?

That is an important question with enormous ramifications. Depending upon your answer, you will either live a life of immense peace and joy or you will endure a life of constant anxiety and worry.Question 10 of the Baptist Catechism is important, practically and theologically.

QUESTION TEn

Q. 10: What are the decrees of God?A. 10: The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His will, whereby for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
(Ephesians 1:4, 11; Romans 9:22-23; Isaiah 46:10; Lamentations 3:37)

EXPLANATION

We return to our initial question, “Is God in charge?” The Baptist Catechism, building upon the teachings of Scripture, answers in the unequivocal affirmative. God is in charge. God reigns. He rules. The answer, of course, is more elaborate, and we would benefit greatly from taking our time.
First, the question focuses on decrees. This refers to God’s rule of His world. The Catechism answers that the decrees of God have four aspects (for lack of a better word): timing (eternal), object (his will), purpose (His own glory), sovereignty (He hath foreordained).

Timing of God’s Decrees–eternal

God is eternal, having neither beginning nor end. His purposes, according to Scripture (see Eph. 1:4 and 11), were present before any spec of creation was spoken into existence. Nothing, then, will take God by surprise, because nothing happens without His movement.

Object of God’s Decrees–according to the counsel of His will

The object of God’s decrees is according to the counsel of His will. Or, to put it another way, what God wanted God accomplished. Listen to Isaiah’s words, “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” (Isa. 46:10, ESV) What God wants, God does.

Purpose of God’s Decrees–for His own glory

God rules and reigns in everything so that He would be glorified. He is, as we have already established, the first and chiefest Being. It is right, then, that He be glorified. No one thinks it is wrong to remark on the beauty of the bride on her wedding day. No one blinks when the children thank their father for a perfectly grilled steak. Why do we have a problem that God seeks His own glory?
John Piper writes, “So, the deepest problem we have in dealing with God’s self-exaltation is not that we don’t like some kinds of self-exalting authority but that fallen human nature does not like any kind of divine authority over our lives.” (Piper, Providence, 41) That, I believe, is absolutely correct. We hate God, therefore His self-exaltation is despicable in our eyes. But God decrees all for His own glory.

Sovereignty of God’s Decree–He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass

Nothing, absolutely nothing that occurs happens without God’s foreordination. Now, this may come as a shock, particularly if you do not come from a confessional background (e.g., London Baptist Confession or Westminster Confession of Faith). However, it is biblical. The framers of the London Baptist Confession provide some additional light that is worth our attention.

God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears His wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing His decree.

2LCF 3:1

A perfect example of this teaching is found in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. In Acts 2:23, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Did you see how God moved in such a way that the death of His precious Son was definite, but the individuals were responsible for their sin? It is incredible, and God is glorious in His decrees.

APPLICATION

Now, I relish these theological truths. I love contemplating the divine sovereignty and providential rule God exercises over His creation. But how does this affect our daily lives?

Not surprisingly, it is incredibly valuable for our lives. Van Mastricht, a Dutch theologian from years ago, offers this practical blessing of God’s decrees, “…a devout reflection upon the divine authority and power builds a solid confidence in which we securely commit ourselves, our goods, all our fortune, efforts and undertakings, to God.” (van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology, Vol. 2: Faith in the Triune God, 450)

In other words, God is in control. While this does not absolve us from personal responsibility, it does mean that God is accomplishing His plans. Have you lost something dear to you? God has a reason for it. Do you ever wonder why so much evil abounds? God has a reason for it. Are you frustrated with your current circumstances? God has a reason for it.

Is God in charge? Yes, He absolutely is in complete charge. I close this section with words from John Piper.

“The providence of God–his purposeful sovereignty–is all-embracing, all-pervasive, and invincible. Therefore, God will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe.”

John Piper, Providence, 691

Question 9

Question 8

Question 7

Question 6

Question 5

Question 4

Question 3

Question 2

Question 1

To purchase a copy of Petrus van Mastricht’s volume II Faith in the Triune God, click here.

To purchase a copy of John Piper’s Providence, click here.

“The Life of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones” Favorite Quotes

I recently read Iain Murray‘s one volume biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I read Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching & Preachers, but I knew little of his life.

I should confess, I am a huge fan of Iain Murray’s biographies. My first was Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. But I digress. Back to MLJ. The book helped me in many ways, as a Christian, a husband, a father, and a preacher. Below are my favorite quotes, sometimes with comments (in Italics), but often without, for your blessing. Consider purchasing your own copy of the single or two volume work from the Banner of Truth Trust. I assure you, it will delight your soul.

Quotes

“After all, wrong-doing among the poorer classes was, so it was said, readily explicable: it was merely a problem of education, housing and economic improvement. Change their conditions and their environment and all would be well!” (47)

MLJ did not believe this, as you may have guessed. However, it reflects his society’s understanding of the nature of humanity. This idea, unfortunately, is still prevalent in our time.

“A preacher is not a Christian who decides to preach, he does not just decide to do it. It is God who commands preaching.” (67)

“He saw that just as it is disastrous to attempt to treat a case of real physical or mental illness with spiritual remedies, so it is equally wrong to treat a spiritual case with what may be of benefit to those who are genuinely mentally ill.” (176)

As a biblical counselor I appreciate his balance of physical and spiritual issues. It is popular in secular culture to treat humanity as merely physical beings while neglecting their spiritual natures. Likewise, it is popular in many biblical counseling situations to treat humanity as merely spiritual beings while neglecting their physical natures.

“We are still confident in our methods. It seems to me there is no hope until we shall have so realised the nature of the problem that we are driven to our knees, to wait upon God.” (234)

This hit me in the gut. I am so prone to self-dependency and independence that I often forget my utter dependence upon God.

“We must be patient and teach these people in a constructive manner. I write as one who has found it very difficult himself to learn this lesson, but as the years pass I have come to see more and more that the difficulty on the other side is really due to ignorance.” (296)

MLJ is discussing the differing views concerning sanctification and the Keswick understanding. What I found encouraging (and challenging) is the wisdom of approaching theological differences with patience and care. It is so popular today to write off those with whom we disagree. However, if we see it as ignorance, and work with individuals of differing views, we can all grow together (within biblical reasoning, of course).

“It is very interesting to note how the type of theology you hold will decide whether you are a reader or whether you are not.” (356)

I find this fascinating as well. We are all prone to imbalances, and it has been my observation that those within reformed circles tend toward the imbalance of being book-heavy and people-light.

“He wanted evangelical unity. He eschewed any kind of Calvinistic sectarianism which would break fellowship with fellow Christians of Arminian persuasion and, in this regard, he often pointed to the example of Whitefield’s brotherly relationship with John Wesley.” (357)

We must be careful that our circle of fellowship is not too open (particularly with those who hold to unbiblical views), however, we must be as equally careful that we do not tighten our circle too much.

“Our greatest danger is to live upon our activity. The ultimate test of a preacher is what he feels like when he cannot preach.” (450)

As I grow older, the significance of these two sentences weighs heavier upon my heart. Do I rejoice in the LORD, or in the work He has graciously given to me?

To purchase MLJ’s one volume biography, click here.

Three in One?

The 9th Question of the Baptist Catechism involves the trinity, that is, the triunity of God. Let us look, first, at the question and answer, and then, second, at the implications of a trinitarian view of God.

QUESTION NINE

Q. 9: How many persons are there in the Godhead?A. 9: There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.(1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19)


EXPLANATION

As we just learned through questions 1, 7, and 8, God factors into the Catechism’s teaching, and our understanding, at the foundational level. There is one God, only God, as the Scriptures teach. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4, ESV).


Question 9, however, asks about persons. The 2LCF helps clear up our possible confusion (which, if we are honest, will be much, for we are finite creatures and He is infinite). Chapter 2 is “Of God and of the Holy Trinity,” and we read these words in paragraph 3, “In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word (or Son), and Holy Spirit…” Subsistence is an uncommon word, but when the Catechism was authored the word was used to denote the different persons in the Godhead. This is what we refer to as the Trinity.

There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three persons, or subsistences, are God, and only one God. As with most things in church history, the Trinity has received much debate. Blood has been shed, councils held, and books upon books have been written upon this subject. Our purposes are not to delve into this debate. Rather, we seek to understand the collective teachings of the Catechism.


The unity (oneness) and trinity (three-in-one) are taught in this answer. But there is additional clarification offered. This information, based upon the teachings of Scripture, helps clear up confusion further and carefully and succinctly dismantle arguments that are heretical.


These three persons are “one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.” Without getting too philosophical, I find van Mastricht’s words helpful in defining essence. He writes, “by the word essence we intend nothing other than what Scripture designates by θεοτης, ‘deity’ (Col. 2:9)…God exists through essence, not simply a being, but the being par excellence.” (Van Mastricht, 2:85) It is, in my own words, His Godness.


APPLICATION


What does this matter to everyday lives? Does it change how we live? Does it motivate us to wake up and go to work? Does it affect how we treat our spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, etc.?
If you are feeling particularly nerdy, you can purchase a copy of van Mastricht’s work. He offers seven practical benefits of the Trinity.
To answer these questions, I turn to Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley, authors of Reformed Systematic Theology. They write, “The doctrine of the Trinity informs Christian spirituality in a number of ways. It traces a gospel pathway of communion with God via the Mediator: fellowship with the Father through the Son in the Spirit. It opens up the possibility of distinct communion with each person of the Trinity. And it brings an unspeakable fullness of glory that captures the whole person because the Christian’s communion is with the one and only God.” (Beeke and Smalley, 945)


For the previous questions, simply click the number below.

Question 8

Question 7

Question 6

Question 5

Question 4

Question 3

Question 2

Question 1

To purchase a copy of Petrus van Mastricht’s volume II Faith in the Triune God, click here.

To purchase a copy of Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley’s volume I Reformed Systematic Theology: Revelation and God, click here.

Biblical Studies Carnival # 183

With the first of June comes the newest edition of the Biblical Studies Carnival. I want to thank Phil for the privilege of hosting it again. Ruben Rus of Ayuda Ministerial/Resources for Ministry hosted last month’s BSC. If you have not looked at it, stop and go check it out! The next two BSC’s will be hosted by Brent Niedergall and Kenson Gonzalez.

184 June 2021 (Due July 1) – Brent Niedergall, @BrentNiedergall 
185 July 2021 (Due August 1) – Kenson Gonzalez Viviendo para Su Gloria @KensonGonzalez

Before we take a look at this month’s contributions, please consider hosting a Biblical Studies Carnival. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them each month. More than that, I have had the privilege of meeting new people. They have taught me with their expertise and knowledge in biblical studies (which is a broad category). You can contact Phil here.

Also, if you have a blog, or know of one that has not been featured, please contact the hosts. We would love to feature your contributions to the field of biblical studies.


Hebrew, First Testament Studies

Christopher Page, of In A Spacious Place, has continued a series called Travels with HP (Hebrew poet) covering the psalms. For the month of May, Christopher has discussed Psalms 3-7.

Though not technically written in the month of May, this republication of “Jethro in the Bible” by Elie Wisel is an excellent read on the Biblical Archaeology Society page.

Peter Goeman encourages us to commit to the Biblical languages (I include it in this section, though it could easily be placed in Greek, New Testament Studies as well). In his post, Goeman shares a variety of quotes that focus on Luther’s love of the original languages.

Bob MacDonald has been as busy as ever. He has published numerous posts on the Hebrew scriptures. Check them out here.

Julia Blum (Israel Institute of Biblical Studies) writes “The Hidden Message” out of Genesis 38. In one of the most perplexing accounts in Genesis (of which there are many), Blum works through the narrative while raising helpful issues within the Hebrew.

Greek, New Testament Studies

Phil Long (Reading Acts) is working his way through the Gospel of Matthew. You will have to weave your way through the insane amount of reviews Phil does (I am beginning to think he reads more than he breaths!), but they are good.

Elijah Hixson made us aware of an open access catalog here. If you work with Greek Textual Criticism, you will want to check this out.

Theological Studies

Christopher Page, of In A Spacious Place, has addressed an opinion piece from David Bentley Hart in two posts (first post, second post) that focuses on hell. They will provoke your own thoughts, regardless of your personal views.

Brent Niedergall has posted several videos in his 300 Seconds of Theology series. He has discussed the attributes of God, the Triunity of God, and the Names of God. These videos (which are short, as the name indicates) are great summaries of deep theological topics. He usually connects to something well known (often a pop culture reference) that would be well worth your viewing. He also published a post on “A Theology of Backgammon.” I know the name will pique your curiosity, so I do not have to sell you on it!

Jim West of Zwinglius Redivivus addresses the topic When to Imprecate and When to Be Silent. He quotes Martin Luther, “A christian for the sake of his own person neither curseth nor revengeth himself.” He also wrote a post, Adolf von Harnack Explains Luther’s Disdain for Invented Theological Terminology that is an excellent read.

Philip Stern answers the question, “When Did Monotheism Emerge in Ancient Israel?” at Biblical Archaeology Society. He begins his post with a provocative statement, “While many biblical scholars view monotheism as a relatively late development within Israelite religion, I believe–based on evidence from early Israelite poetry–that the origins of biblical monotheism can be located early in Israel’s history, most likely by early in the first millennium B.C.E.”

Books, ACADEMIA & Publishing Issues

Jim West of Zwinglius Redivivus shares the “ultimatum” concerns frequently found in academia. He also shared his commentary on the entire Bible available for purchase here. The Person in the Pew commentary is, in West’s words, “the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk.” Additionally, West points out the absurdity of Princeton not requiring students in classics to take Greek or Latin. Yes, you read that right, Princeton is not requiring students in classics to take Greek or Latin.

For those familiar with the BSC, it will come as no surprise that Phil Long of Reading Acts has reviewed numerous books over this month. They include: A Commentary on James, John Through Old Testament Eyes, Proverbs: A Shorter Commentary, Transformative Word Series (three volumes), and The Theology of Jeremiah.

Peter Gurry posted a review of The Daily Discoveries of a bible Scholar and Manuscript Hunter: A Biography of James Rendel Harris.

Travis Bohlinger posted the most recent academic jobs in Biblical Studies and Theology here.

How many gods are there?

Are there more gods than one?

QUESTION EIGHT

Q. 8: Are there more gods than one?

A. 8: There is but one only, the living and true God.

(Deuteronomy 6:4; Jeremiah 10:10)

EXPLANATION

How many gods are there? Well, that depends upon whom you ask. For example, if you ask a Hindu, their answer will exceed a million gods and goddesses. If you ask a Latter Day Saint, their answer would also be more than one. If you ask a Jewish person, they will say one, as would a Muslim. How would a Christian answer?

The Christian would answer, as the Catechism does, that there is one God. But what about the Trinity? We will get to that (in the next question, actually). However, remaining anchored to the Scriptures, Baptists will always acknowledge that there is but one only, the living and true God.

The passages cited help clarify our understanding of the oneness of God without neglecting the triunity of God. In Deuteronomy 6:4 we read these words, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (ESV). He is, as Moses declares to the people of Israel, one. He alone is God, and only God. There are no other gods or goddesses. The Scriptures teach the exclusiveness of God.

He is also the living God. Jeremiah tells us, “But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King” (Jer. 10:10, ESV). If you read on further in that chapter, Jeremiah contrasts God with false gods and goddesses, demonstrating the power of God to bring about creation (see 10:12-13). Idols are dead, they cannot hear nor see nor deliver (cf. Psalm 115:5 and 135:16). Only God, the God of Israel, is the one true and living God.

APPLICATION

There is one primary application that I would like to focus on today, though there are certainly many more. The application is: God is God and we are not. The first of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3, ESV). Yet, this is often the command we violate the most. Daily we attempt to live for ourselves, for our desires, our wills. This is nothing less than idolatry. God demands obedience, sole obedience. He does not share with anything or anyone.

Christians need to worship God and God alone. Let this Catechism remind us of this vital truth!