J.I. Packer On The Five Points

First, it should be observed that the “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance) put out by certain “Belgic semi-Pelagians” in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.) From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions: (1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

The Synod of Dort was convened in 1618 to pronounce on this theology, and the “five points of Calvinism” represent its counter-affirmations. They stem from a very different principle—the biblical principle that “salvation is of the Lord”; and they may be summarized thus: (1.) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him. (2.) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith and brought to glory. (3.) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect. (4.) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object. (5.) Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory. These five points are conveniently denoted by the mnemonic TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservation of the saints.

—J.I. Packer
Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ

The Comfort of Jesus’ Prayers

One of the most important sources of comfort with respect to the intercession of Christ in behalf of the believer is found in Jesus’ great High Priestly Prayer, which itself was a profound prayer of intercession. Remarkably, even we are mentioned in this great prayer of intercession. We read in John 17:1–9:

Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. … For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

Look again at verse 9: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” That’s the crux of the matter. Jesus is praying for all those who belong to God, not for everyone on the planet. The Father has chosen a people for Himself—and the same people belong to Christ as well. None of them is lost except the son of destruction—Judas—who being a son of destruction, was never God’s child to begin with. Those for whom Jesus prays are the people whom God has chosen, and none of them is lost (vv. 10–19). This includes not only the disciples in the Upper Room who witnessed Jesus’ prayer but also those of us who believe in Him today. I said that we are mentioned in Jesus’ prayer, and here we are: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (v. 20). We came to believe through the words of the Apostles, and so Jesus prays for us. This is Christ’s prayer. We persevere because we are preserved by our High Priest’s intercession.

If we take great comfort in the intercessory prayer of a friend or of a pastor, how much more comfort can we experience from the full assurance that Jesus is praying for us? We know that Jesus’ prayers never fail. He knows the mind of God perfectly. He knows what to pray for so that we persevere to the end. Moreover, Jesus says the Father will give us whatever we ask for in His name (15:16). If this is so, certainly the Father will not fail to give His own beloved Son what He asks for, and He asks for us to persevere.

—Dr. R.C. Sproul

Via: Ligonier Ministries

The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to beauty breaks.

Not as of old, a little child
To bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun,
That lights the morning sky.

O, brighter than the rising morn,
When He victorious rose,
And left the lonesome place of death,
Despite the rage of foes;–

O, brighter than that glorious morn,
Shall this fair morning be,
When Christ, our King, in beauty comes,
And we His face shall see.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And earth’s dark night is past;–
O, haste the rising of that morn,
That day that aye shall last.

And let the endless bliss begin,
By weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong,
And truth shall be extolled.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light and beauty brings;–
Hail! Christ the Lord; Thy people pray,
“Come quickly, King of kings.”

—John Brownlie
Hymns of the Russian Church

How Should the Books of the Old Testament Be Ordered?

In The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (esp. 181–234), Roger Beckwith has convincingly demonstrated that the oldest arrangement of the OT is the tripartite division into Law, Prophets, and Writings. This arrangement is reflected in the words of Jesus in Luke 24:44,

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

This statement indicates that when Jesus thought of the Old Testament, he thought of three groups of books. These three groups of books broadly match the ordering in printed Hebrew Bibles today: Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). This is the basis of the acronym TaNaK (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim—a list of the books is here). Ancient evidence for this tripartite division of the OT is also found in the prologue to the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, in the text found among the Dead Sea Scrolls known as 4QMMT, and in the Babylonian Talmud’s Baba Bathra 14b.

Another indication that Jesus thought of the OT in these terms is his statement in Matthew 23:34–36 paralleled in Luke 11:49–51. In these texts Jesus speaks of “the blood of all the prophets . . . from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah . . .” This seems to be Jesus’ way of referring to all the martyrs in the OT, from start to finish. The murder of Abel is near the beginning in Genesis 4, and the murder of Zechariah is near the end in 2 Chronicles 24. Jesus’ statement only works, though, if Chronicles is near the end of the OT. In the tripartite division of the OT into Law, Prophets, and Writings, Chronicles is in the last section, the Writings. The order of the OT books used in modern English translations makes it difficult to understand what Jesus was talking about.

Via: Dr. Jim Hamilton