Joel R. Beeke, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2017). 202pp. Paperback.
 
Being assured that we belong to God in Christ and that his Spirit dwells in our hearts is vitally important. Assurance that we are true Christians is a biblical duty (2 Peter 1:10), it is the lifeblood of holiness and perseverance (1 Jn. 3:1-3), and at least one epistle in the New Testament is devoted almost entirely to the subject (1 Jn. 5:13). 
 
Yet assurance of faith is also a long-standing problem in the church. Part of the problem is that many today do not recognize that it is a problem. One the one hand, not all who profess faith in Christ possess faith in Christ and “many” will be surprised at the Last Day to hear Christ say that he never knew them (Matt. 7:23). On the other hand, in some circles, Christians believe that living in perpetual uncertainty regarding their eternal welfare is a mark of genuine faith and humility. Joel Beeke leads people of various spiritual conditions by the hand through what the Bible teaches about this important topic, employing the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Puritans to help him do so. The result is a solid book on assurance that is marked by biblical fidelity and pastoral sensitivity that will like finding rich treasure for everyone who reads it.
 
The author is particularly suited to write this book. Having wrestled with the question of assurance from his teenage conversion, through his doctoral studies, and with roughly fifty years of experience, he treats the subject with gentleness and care. He begins by treating what assurance is and why many people lack it, showing why assurance should be the normal experience of believers (chapters 1-3). Taking the lead of Westminster Confession chapter 18, he then argues that God assures believers through his promises, from the evidences of grace in them, and by the Spirit’s testimony and witness (chapters 4-6). He argues that the promises of God are the primary ground of our assurance of salvation, since the promises bring us directly to Christ, who is the ground of all assurance. Seeing evidences of the Spirit’s work in us as well as the Spirit special testimony, by which he brings Scripture truths home to some occasionally with extraordinary power, are secondary to and flow from being assured by resting on Christ through divine promises. He next expands the issues of cultivating assurance and addressing fluctuations in our assurance (chapters 7-8). An exposition the Spirit’s role in assurance in light of Romans 8 comes next (chapter 9), followed by his resolution of five common questions about assurance (chapter 10) and his experimental and evangelistic conclusion of the whole (chapter 11). This approach is well-ordered and easy to follow. It is also theologically balanced in that every problem related to assurance is resolved in the work of the triune God, particularly directing readers to seek all that they lack from Christ. 
 
This is the book that this reviewer has been looking for since he became a Christian. Many modern treatments of assurance tend to mute the evidences of the Spirit’s work in believers in favor of the promises of God. Some older treatments of assurance unintentionally make our evidences the object of faith rather than Christ himself. Beeke revives the use of such evidences by attaching them to God’s promises to us in Christ and the Spirit’s work in us. This means that Beeke’s book recognizes that not all professing Christians are genuine Christians without falling into the pitfall of a kind of introspection that moves us further from the Savior rather than towards him. This volume provides the kind of pastoral realism and theological balance that is so desperately needed in treating a topic in which the personal stakes are so high. Read this book for yourself, regardless of where you are in your Christian walk. Give it to those struggling with assurance who should not as well as those who never struggle with it yet should. Lend it to those who don’t believe in Christ so that they can learn what they are missing. Above all, don’t pass it by and digest it prayerfully.

The Life of John Geree

John Geree is thought to have been born in 1601 in Yorkshire County in the north of England. He entered Magdalen Hall, Oxford University in 1615 and graduated B.A. in 1619 and M.A. in 1621. While it may seem extraordinary to us to have a Master’s degree by age 20, this was par for the course in seventeenth century England.[1]

Geree was then ordained to the ministry of the Church of England and ministered in the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire County, on the western border of England and Wales. Because of his “Puritan” sympathies in not conforming to all the ceremonies of the Book of Common Prayer, he was silenced sometime after 1624 by the bishop of Gloucester, Godfrey Goodman (1582/83–1656). As an aside, I should mention that “Puritan” is not a theological term in opposition to “Anglican,” for example. Those who were considered “Puritans” were English Reformed pastors and theologians who desired the wellbeing and continual reformation of the English Church, but differed with non-“Puritan” colleagues on what that continual reformation looked like.[2]

Geree was not restored to the ministry until 1641 at the beginning of the English Civil War between Parliament and King Charles I (1600–1649). Parliament has establish a “Committee for Plundered Ministers,” initially tasked with restoring pastors to their congregations. Then in 1646 he was appointed to serve in the city of St. Albans in Hertfordshire County. This was roughly 19 miles/31 kilometers north of London. His final ministry began in 1647 with his appointment to the unusual London parish of St. Faith under St. Paul’s. It was there that he was supposed to have died and been buried.

The Writings of John Geree

A survey of Geree’s major writings reveal that while he was a “Puritan” in the sense that I described above, he was conservative and moderate. He defended the standard Protestant and Reformed doctrine of infant baptism against John Tombes (1603–1676), a Baptist and former fellow-student, in Vindiciae Paedo-baptismi: or a vindication of Infant Baptism, in a full answer to Mr Tombs his Twelve Arguments alleged against it in his Exercitation and whatsoever is rational, or material in his answer to Mr Marshals Sermon(J. Field for Christopher Meredith: London, 1646). Tombes would respond to Geree’s treatise, to which Geree re-responded with Vindiciaw Vindiciarum: or a vindication of his Vindication of Infant-baptisme: from the exceptions of M. Harrison, in his Paedo-Baptisme Oppugned, and from the exceptions of M. Tombes, in his chief Digressions of his late Apology(A.M. for Christopher Meredith, London 1647).

While he wrote against the English Church’s traditional episcopal government (rule by a hierarchy of ordained ministers), he did so as a royalist, whom Richard Baxter said, “died at the news of the king’s death.” In this vein he wrote, A Case of Conscience Resolved. Wherein it is cleared that the king may without impeachment to his oath touching the clergy at coronation consent to the abrogation of Episcopacy. And the objections against it in two learned treatises, printed at Oxford, fully answered (M. Simmons for J. Bartlet: London 1646). In this treatisehe soughtto make a way for the king to abolish episcopacy without breaking his coronation oath. He then wrote a follow-up entitled, Σινιοῥῥαγία. The Sifter’s Sieve Broken, or a reply to Doctor Boughen’s sifting my Case of Conscience touching the king's coronation oath: wherein in cleared that bishops are not jure divino(London: printed for Christopher Meredith, 1648).

He wrote against the Roman Catholic Church in The Down-Fall of Anti-Christ: or, the power of preaching to pull down Popery. In a briefe treatise on 2 Thessal.ii.8(R. Oulton for J. Bartlet; London 1641). In contrast to Rome, he wrote in defense of the English Church, its further reformation, but not separating from it: Vindiciae Ecclesiae Anglicanae: or, ten cases resolved, which discover, that though there bee need of reformation in, yet not of Separation from the Churches of Christ in England, etc (R. Cotes for Ralph Smith: London 1644).

About the Modern Edition

In the edition available on ReformedResources.org,  I have done several things to help modern readers. I have modernized spelling, adding footnotes with the original wording where needed. Since in the original there are over one hundred marginal notes to Scripture passages being alluded to, I have added these to the footnotes as well. One should not skip over this impressive feature to see how Geree utilized Scripture in his arguments. Finally, I have also added headings to divide up the treatise for ease of reading, seeing the flow of Geree’s argument.

Tolle lege. Take up and read!

 


[1]The History of the University of Oxford, Volume IV: Seventeenth-Century Oxford, ed. Nicholas Tyacke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

[2]For an accessible survey of the massive academic debate about the use of the term “Puritan,” see Ian Hugh Clary, “‘Hot Protestants’: A Taxonomy of English Puritanism.” Puritan Reformed Journal 2:1 (January 2010): 41–66.

 

 

The exposition on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper concludes three final articles that address Lutheran consubstantiation and the blasphemy of the Roman Mass. The doctrine that was fully explained in article 25, ‘in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation,' and article 28 ‘the Body of Christ is… eaten… only after an heavenly and spiritual manner,’ is made still more explicit in article 29: Anglicans do not hold to the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence.
 
XXIX—Of the Wicked Which Eat Not the Body of Christ in the Use of the Lord's Supper

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.
 
Article 29 was a new article in 1563. It was written by Archbishop Parker and approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York, but removed by the direction of Queen Elizabeth I. Article 29, therefore, has the distinction of being the only article approved by the elders of the church but eliminated by the government. As we saw last time in article 28, Archbishop Parker thought that article 28’s 1563 revision lacked precision. An additional article was required that set out a further clarification of biblically faithful doctrine of the Supper that protected the integrity of the two natures of Christ.
 
The political climate of the next eight years left the Reformed Protestant Church of England with an unfinished confession. Historians think that Elizabeth spent the 1560s hoping for an alliance with the Lutheran princes, but by 1571 was prepared to choose doctrinal clarity over political pragmatism. Undaunted, Archbishop Parker reinserted the Crown promulgated the article in 1571 and with the other 38. Even the Bishop of Rochester who was sympathetic to the Lutheran view became resigned to the fact that there is a fundamental difference in the Anglican and Lutheran doctrines of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Supper. In 1577 the Lutheran Formula of Concord responded in kind to anathematize anyone who believed the doctrine of article 29, although not naming it explicitly.
 
Article 29 is one of only two articles that refer to an ancient church father (Jerome is alluded to in article 6 on the status of the Apocrypha). It has a direct quotation from Augustine’s Homilies on the Gospel of John, Tractate 26.18 on John 6:41-59. Augustine, in his sermon on John 6, points us to the examples of Israel’s manna in the desert and Judas in the Upper Room in 26.11-12 to prove his point that pressing with your teeth only does harm. Augustine asserts that the two examples are severe warnings, alluding to 1 Corinthians 11:29 in 26.11 and 26.18.
 
Anglicans are indeed not somewhere halfway between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In fact, Anglicans are not even somewhere halfway between Luther and Calvin. Article 29 unambiguously commits Anglicans to the Reformed understanding when it comes to the sacraments, and unequivocally denies the Lutheran belief. Article 29 is for the serious Christian who wants to understand clearly the Anglican doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. The key to the article's teaching is the phrase, "lively faith." A lively faith is genuine trust and confidence of the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at God's hand. If a lively faith is not there, the spiritual benefit cannot be gained. Such hypocrisy is a dangerous presumption, not because the elements themselves have any power in themselves to harm, but the spiritually blind, cut off from God’s grace, abuses his great gift. As the "Exhortation" says before reception of the elements confirms,
For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord's Body; we kindle God's wrath against us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries. 
Article 29 remains relevant today, particularly for Anglicans in North America. It is troubling how North American Anglicans omit article 29 from their report on the ecumenical dialogue between the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Lutheran Church – Canada (LCC), On Closer Acquaintance: An Interim Report 2016. Still more seriously, in section 11 on Holy Communion, the ACNA representatives referred to an implied acceptance by the ACNA of the Lutheran view of presence in an earlier joint statement with the American Lutheran Church (NALC). Worse of all is how the ACNA representatives persuaded the Lutherans delegates that the Forty-Two Articles (notice how the reference is cleverly made to the 1553 42 articles, not the 1571 historical formulary that includes article 29) or the final rubric of the 1662 Lord’s Supper (known historically as the Black Rubric) are not “Anglicanism’s last word on the sacramental presence of our Lord” (p. 9). Adding that the “current ACNA communion liturgy does not have the Black Rubric at all!” (p. 9). Should such a vital article and its accompanying doctrinal confirmation by Scripture, Chalcedon, Church Fathers, Anglican forebears, other articles, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – the historical formulary, be exchanged for such a bowl of ecumenical pottage?
 

Meet the Puritans is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting us.


For previous articles in this series, see:
  1. Introduction
  2. One God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity (Art. 1)
  3. The Incarnation and Atonement (Art. 2)
  4. The Work of Christ (Arts. 3-4)
  5. The Holy Spirit (Art. 5)
  6. The Rule of Faith: Part 1 (Art. 6)
  7. The Rule of Faith: Part 2 (Art. 7)
  8. The Rule of Faith: Part 3 (Art. 8)
  9. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 1 (Art. 9)
  10. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 2 (Art. 10)
  11. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 3 (Art. 11)
  12. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 4 (Art. 12)
  13. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 5 (Arts. 13-14)
  14. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 6 (Art. 15)
  15. Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Part 7 (Art. 16)
  16. Grace Alone! (Art. 17)
  17. Christ Alone! (Art. 18)
  18. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 1 (Art. 19)
  19. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 2 (Art. 20)
  20. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 3 (Art. 21)
  21. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 4 (Art. 22)
  22. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 5 (Art. 23)
  23. The Visible and Invisible Church: Part 6 (Art. 24)
  24. The Sacraments: Part 1 (Art. 25)
  25. The Sacraments: Part 2 (Art. 26)
  26. The Sacraments: Part 3 (Art. 27)
  27. The Sacraments: Part 4 (Art. 28)

 

In several articles, I have referred to the so-called antinomians” by which I mean the 17th century English theologians who were labelled antinomians. In this article, I will provide a brief explanation of English antinomianism.
 
The term “antinomian” was a term of abuse and rejected by most if not all of the accused. Nevertheless, the accused were set apart by a number of shared beliefs and concerns, not least of which was the belief in the abrogation in some sense of the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments. The term “antinomian” therefore was not completely unwarranted or inappropriate despite the fact they did not advocate licentious living. It must also be noted that there was a good deal of diversity within the antinomian movement. David Como has identified two basic types of antinomianism in early Stuart England: “perfectionist” and “imputative.” The latter type was moderate and by far the most popular.
 
John Eaton was the recognized leader of the imputative or moderate type of antinomianism. Indeed, he is often regarded as the father of English Antinomianism. This is true, not in terms of being the first to introduce antinomian ideas in England, but in terms of prominence and influence. Reacting against mainstream Puritan doctrine and practice, Eaton sought to convince the church of his own views, which he believed were in line with the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther. He thought that the Church of England had been tainted by legalists who had corrupted the doctrine of justification with “a swirl of covenants, conditions, works, threats, and penalties, all reinforced by mortifications, fasts, and other ‘legall devotions.’” Hence, the church needed to be called back to her reformation roots. This he labored to do until his death in 1642.
 
The mantle was then passed on to Tobias Crisp, who has been sometimes regarded as the high priest of English Antinomianism. Having probably imbibed Eatonist ideas through John Emersone in the late 1620s, Crisp moved to London in 1642 where he quickly became an influential leader, along with John Simpson and Giles Randall, of the antinomian movement. His time on the center stage was short lived, however, because he died from smallpox the following year. Nevertheless, his friend and fellow antinomian Robert Lancaster saw to it that his teaching lived on by having a collection of his sermons printed shortly after his death entitled, Christ Alone Exalted. Two more volumes of his sermons with the same title came off the presses in 1644 and 1646. All three volumes were combined into one volume and republished, along with ten previously unpublished sermons, in 1690 by Samuel Crisp, the author’s son. The 1690 edition was reprinted in 1755 in two volumes with explanatory notes and a memoir of Crisp by John Gill. The Gill edition remains in print today.
 
A number of people have summarized the main tenets of seventeenth century English Antinomianism. Richard Baxter judged that there were forty characteristics of Antinomianism, but two key ones that undergirded the whole system: justification from eternity, and denial of the conditionality of the covenant of grace. John Flavel addressed ten errors in his book against antinomianism, whereas Robert Traill noted seven doctrines that properly deserve the epithet “antinomian.” More recently, Barry Howson, in summarizing the theology of antinomianism lists seven tenets. Similarly, David Como, while acknowledging significant intellectual differences among proponents, is of the opinion that there are seven antinomian tendencies or characteristics. Although these lists are not identical, they are similar and reflect an emphasis on the freeness and fullness of justification and the sovereignty of God in redemption. As a result, man’s role in salvation, in both justification and sanctification, is downplayed significantly, if not removed entirely. All forms of human endeavor, including faith, are disconnected from playing any active part in salvation. This is the reason, for example, there are no conditions in the covenant of grace. Faith is not the instrumental condition of justification and good works are not the way to salvation or the antecedent condition for glorification. Thus, antinomianism, as a system, is constructed to prohibit even a whiff of legalism or moralism.
 
*This post is an excerpt from my ThM thesis, “Anti-Antinomianism: The Polemical Theology of Daniel Williams.”

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire...[1]

Though this is arguably the most famous sermon ever preached on American soil, Jonathan Edwards preached just as much—if not more frequently—on the anticipated joys of heaven as he did the fears of hell. My goal today is to catch a glimpse of his ministry, both in the pulpit and in the mission field.

Edwards the Pastor

It was during this time in New York City that Edwards penned many of his "resolutions" which have proved beneficial to readers over the years.[2]For a short time Edwards settled as the pastor of a congregation in Bolton, Connecticut. However, it was to another congregation that Edwards would be called and would make his mark on history. Edwards's life as pastor in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton is perhaps best known. In 1726, the congregation of the church in Northampton voted to call Jonathan Edwards to assist his grandfather Solomon Stoddard in pastoring the church. A few months after his arrival in Northampton, Edwards married his sweetheart Sarah and so began an "uncommon" marriage of many years. Edwards gave years of service to the spiritual care of the Northampton congregation. He preached at least twice on Sunday and several times during the week. He is said to have spent upwards of twelve to thirteen hours a day in his study and he read with quill in hand and produced a voluminous body of semi-private notebooks, the best known simply as his "Miscellanies."[3]

It was during his time at Northampton that Edwards became best known as an advocate for the Great Awakening. This defense of the "surprising" work of God did not sit well with everyone in the New England colonies, causing dissension even within his own congregation. Societal changes also affected Edwards' relationship to his congregation. More open and democratic ways were coming into vogue and Edwards did not always share an appreciation for these. One incident is indicative of the tensions developing at Northampton. This is sometimes called the "bad book" incident. Some young men (in their twenties) in the congregation got a hold of a midwifery book that described intimate details of the female anatomy and these young men used this information to taunt young women in the congregation and town. Edwards and the church had to do something about this problem and this he sought to do. Unfortunately he did not handle the situation as well as he could have. 

In 1749 and into 1750 Edwards' pastoral troubles came to a head when he had a change of mind about the requirements for communion. For years Edwards followed the practice of his grandfather Solomon Stoddard who opened the Lord's Table to all those who affirmed orthodox Christian doctrine and lived an outwardly moral life. Edwards understandably came to question this view and sought to convince his congregation that candidates for admission to the Lord's Supper ought to give evidence of grace. While his view would become the majority report among New England congregations, it was not so at home.[4]Eventually a ministerial council was called to help settle the dispute between Edwards and his congregation. The council, for various and complicated reasons, voted with the congregation to remove Edwards from his charge. Oddly enough, the congregation would have to draw upon Edwards for pulpit supply for up to another year. Eventually God in his providence provided a new work for Edwards further west in the Massachusetts colony. 

Edwards as Missionary to the Stockbridge Indians

After his Northampton deposition Edwards would eventually receive a call to serve as a missionary at the far west outpost of Stockbridge and as pastor to the English speaking community that had been built up there. Edwards would serve in this capacity for more than seven years. Sometimes this chapter in his life has been painted as if he had little or nothing to do. The contrary was in fact the case. During his time at Stockbridge (later made famous as the home of painter Norman Rockwell), Edwards ministered to the Indians of the region, gave oversight to a school for Indian children, battled continually with members of the Williams clan (the same family, relatives of Edwards, who gave their name to Williams College in Williamstown in western Massachusetts), and penned some of his most well-known theological and philosophical treatises. During this time he also carried on voluminous correspondence with persons high and low in the colonies and in Europe. 


Jeffrey C. Waddington (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is stated supply at Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He also serves as a panelist at Christ the Center and East of Eden and is the secretary of the board of the Reformed Forum. 


[1]Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 22: Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742 (Harry S. Stout, Nathan O. Hatch, Kyle P. Farley, eds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 411.

[2]The "resolutions" can be found in The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 16: Letters and Personal Writings (George S. Claghorn, ed., New Haven: Yale University, 1998), 252-59.

[3]There are four volumes of the Yale edition of Edwards' Works which are devoted to his "Miscellanies." These are: The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 13:The "Miscellanies," a-500 (Thomas A. Schafer, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 18:The "Miscellanies," 501-832 (Ava Chamberlain, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000); The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 20:The "Miscellanies," 833-1152 (Amy Plantinga Pauw, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); and The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 23:The "Miscellanies," 1153-1360 (Douglas A. Sweeney, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

[4]Writings related to the communion controversy can be found in Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 12: Ecclesiastical Writings (David D. Hall, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994).

 

John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is a polemical work, designed to show, among other things, that the doctrine of universal redemption is unscriptural and destructive of the Gospel. There are many, therefore, to whom it is not likely to be of interest. Those who see no need for doctrinal exactness and have no time for theological debates which show up divisions between so-called Evangelicals may well regret its reappearance.

Some may find the very sound of Owen’s thesis so shocking that they will refuse to read his book at all; so passionate a thing is prejudice, and so proud are we of our theological shibboleths. But it is hoped that this article will find itself readers of a different spirit. 

There are signs today of a new upsurge of interest in the theology of the Bible: a new readiness to test traditions, to search the Scriptures and to think through the faith. It is to those who share this readiness that Owen’s treatise is offered, in the belief that it will help us in one of the most urgent tasks facing Evangelical Christendom today—the recovery of the Gospel. 

This last remark may cause some raising of eyebrows, but it seems to be warranted by the facts. 

There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead.

This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical Gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that Gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. 

Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic Gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. 

The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. 

One way of stating the difference between this new gospel and the old is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be “helpful” to man—to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God. The old Gospel was “helpful,” too—more so, indeed, than is the new—but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace.

The old Gospel's center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old Gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old Gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of Gospel preaching has changed. 

From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.” Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for His sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered; it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self-esteem.)

However this may be, the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical Gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that Gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God’s love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in. 

It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe. But it needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical Gospel. The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this matter. To recover the old, authentic, biblical Gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need. And it is at this point that Owen’s treatise on redemption can give us help. 


Editor’s Note: This article comes from An Introduction to the Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Find more from this booklet at ReformedResources.org.

In the last article, I looked at how interactions with the so-called antinomians over important soteriological issues required Westminster divine Anthony Burgess to discuss the doctrine of God. The antinomians, at times, appealed to divine attributes, such as immutability and impassibility, in order to defend their particular positions on salvation, including justification before faith. In response, Burgess attempted to demonstrate the compatibility between the typical Reformed view of salvation and the traditional doctrine of God. I want to look briefly at how he did that in this article.
 
Burgess did not budge on the traditional doctrine of God. He firmly embraced the doctrine of divine simplicity, affirming that “we must not hold that there are any accidents in God; or that he can be a subject recipient of such, because of his most pure and simple Essence; so that whatsoever is in God is God.” He did the same with immutability, noting that “it must be readily granted, That God is unchangeable” because mutability or potential indetermination is an imperfection. Still further, Burgess acknowledged that God “can have no losse or injury, for he is always the same happy and immutable glorious God.” God is unchangeable and impassible.  
 
Nonetheless, Burgess also maintained God’s meaningful interaction with the world. He noted that we must hold that “Scripture doth represent God doing and working such mercies and judgments as seemeth good to him.” God administers different degrees of punishments to people for the same sin. God loves then hates, and hates then loves. God related to Adam first as a child of favor, then after the fall as a child of wrath. God hated a believer before his conversion and then loved him when he was united to Christ. Our sin “is a reall offence and dishonor” to God and we can, by our sin, rob God of his honor and glory.  
 
How do these two truths hold together? That is the question. The answer is found by making the right and necessary distinctions. One important distinction that Burgess made is between divine attributes and their effects. Take for example the attribute of justice. Burgess stated that there “is a great deal of difference between Justice, as it is an essentiall property in God, ad intra, and between the effects of it, ad extra.” God is unchangeably just in terms of his essential attribute of justice. He never becomes less just or more just. However, there is variation with respect to the outworking or effects of the attribute of justice in the world. Burgess wrote: “God’s essentiall justice doth not receive more or lesse, but the effects of his Justice may be more or lesse: If many men in the same sin, and God doth punish some of them with a remarkable temporall judgment, we may not say, God dealeth more justly with these then the other; yet we may say, the effects of his Justice are greater upon some then others.”
 
A similar distinction is that of immanent and transient acts. An immanent act, such as God’s decree, is an eternal act that exists in God and is identical with God. A transient act, such as creation, is the outworking of God’s immanent act in time and is equivalent to the effect of God’s decree. Transient acts not eternal or identical to the nature of God.  
 
Consider creation as an example. God willed to create from all eternity. Creation as an immanent act is eternal. But that does not mean that creation itself is eternal. Immanent acts are distinct from any outward effects or positive changes. At the same time, when God brought the universe into existence he “did not then begin to have a will to create: but he had a will from all eternity, that the world should exist in time.” This latter point is important because some have argued for the eternality of all created things in order to maintain God’s immutability and simplicity. They argue that if something is done in time then there must be some new act or will in God, and that God is now something that he wasn’t before such as a creator. A new will or attribute would imply that God is mutable and that is rightly unacceptable. But then so is the conclusion that all is from eternity.
 
Transient acts, however, do not imply new divine acts of will or attributes. Everything that comes to pass in time is according to God’s eternal will that does not change. Thus, when events do come to pass they do “cause an extrinsecall denomination to be attributed to God, as now he is a Creatour, and was not before” but that is only in relation to the creature and “not because any new accident is in [God].” As Burgess says, “There is no change made in God, but the alteration is in the creature.” God’s immanent act doesn’t change. His will is immutable. But the effects of his will (transient acts) do produce change and involve many changes in the creature. God doesn’t change his will, but he does will many changes.
 
Burgess used this distinction to answer the antinomian argument for eternal justification and their consequent denial of a historical transition from wrath to grace in the life of the believer. Predestination is an immanent act, but the rest of God’s saving acts, such as regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification are transient acts. Justification, therefore, unlike predestination, is not eternal. The perpetual mistake of the antinomians is that they confound “God’s decree and purpose to justifie, with justification, God’s immanent action from all eternity, with that transient, which is done in time.”  
 
The believer, therefore, does undergo a historical transition from wrath to grace. He moves a position of condemnation and wrath to a position of justification and sonship. Or in terms of love and hate, the believer transitions from a “state of hatred” to “a state of love and friendship.” As we saw in the example of creation, this doesn’t imply any change in God. God himself doesn’t increase and decrease in love or in any other attribute. God’s love is immutable and eternal. But the effects of God’s love change and change us. The “grosse mistake” that people make is to confound “the love of God, as an immanent act in him, with the effects of this love.” 
 
God loved his elect before they believed with a love of election and a purpose to save them in time. He loved them from all eternity. But many of the effects of his love are not exhibited until his appointed time in history. In other words, the elect do not experience certain effects of God’s love until they are regenerated, believe and walk in holiness. Indeed, so long as they are only under the love of election they are said to be hated in the sense that they are under the wrath of God because for them “there is no actuall remission of sin, no acceptance or complacency in [their] person or duties.” God’s electing love, however, does produce the effects of love and that is what produces the historical transition from wrath to grace. Burgess writes:
“Here we are to conceive a love of God electing us from all eternity, which doth produce another love of God (not immanent in him, for so nothing is new in God, but transient in us) and that is justification; from this love floweth another effect of love, which is glorification…And whereas the Opponent saith, God loved us before we did believe; it is true, with a love of purpose; but many effects of his love are not exhibited till we doe believe. He loveth us and so worketh one effect of love in us, that that effect may be a qualification for a new and further effect of love. He loveth us, to make us his friends, and when he hath done that, he loveth us with a love of friendship. God loved us before he gave Christ, for out of that love he gave us Christ, that so when Christ is given us, he may bestow another love upon us. Now because it is ordinary with us to call the effect of love, love, as the fruit of grace is grace; Therefore we say, In such a time God loved not one, and afterwards we say, He doth love the same, not that herein is any change of God, but several effects of his love are exhibited.”  
Another distinction that Burgess used in his interaction with the antinomians was between the internal attributes of God and the external good things that his creatures owe him. This distinction upholds divine impassibility. With respect to the internal attributes of God such as justice, wisdom, glory and happiness, God cannot suffer loss or injury. But with respect to what we owe God such as honor, praise and reverence, then we may take these away by our sin so that “God have lesse of this external Honour and Glory then he hath.” Burgess noted that depriving God of his external honor is no minor affair even though it does not “make to the internal Happiness of God” because God is pleased with it and threatens to punish those who refuse to give it. Besides, he further argued, the necessity of Christ’s death is proof that “sinne is a reall offence and dishonor to him.”  
 
How does an unchanging God relate to a changing world? How can we maintain divine immutability, simplicity and impassibility on the one hand and God’s meaningful interaction with the world on the other hand? Anthony Burgess used three distinctions to answer these questions: attributes and their effects, immanent and transient acts, and internal and external attributes.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.[1]

So said Jonathan Edwards in arguably the most famous sermon ever preached on American soil. In fact, if you are like most people, the only exposure you have had to Edwards is this sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Typically included in American literature anthologies, this sermon is taken as a specimen of the fire and brimstone sermon preached to scare the living daylights out of its listeners. Truth be told, Edwards preached just as much, if not more frequently, on the anticipated joys of heaven as he did the fears of hell. Edwards did not preach such sober sermons merely to scare his hearers, but to warn them of the very real dangers facing them and calling them to flee to Christ. This and other sermons and writings are filled with vivid and concrete images. Edwards was such a master of this expressive and picturesque language that we to want to know more about him. 

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a Reformed Congregational pastor, theologian, missionary, and for a brief period of time, college president. The story of Edwards is fascinating and often told. He is the subject of more than four thousand books and articles. My goal in this article is to crack the book cover and reveal some of the early chapters of Edwards' storied life. Before Edwards became famous as a philosophically-inclined theologian, he was a son, a student, and a husband. Let's blow the dust off the story of Edwards's life and settle in for some good reading.

Edwards's Childhood

Jonathan Edwards was a son of the manse. His father was the Reverend Timothy Edwards, pastor of the Congregational church in East Windsor, Connecticut, and his mother was Esther Stoddard Edwards, daughter of the influential pastor Solomon Stoddard. Jonathan was the only boy in his family and was surrounded by seven sisters. Edwards was educated at home with a view toward the ministry.

As you might expect, Edwards was reared with the rigorous Christian piety of his Calvinistic Puritan heritage. His father's congregation in East Windsor was visited with seasons of revival and Edwards was not left untouched by them. His spiritual life had its ups and downs and there were times when Edwards thought he had true faith in Christ. But it was not until he was a college student that he "closed with Christ" in a saving way.

Edwards at College

As was typical of the day, Edwards entered the "Collegiate School" (Later Yale University) at the young age of 13 in 1716. His student years were not all that wonderful. Edwards tended to be shy, studious, and somewhat judgmental towards his less than fully committed classmates. He experienced illness and periods of depression at college too. But it was at college that he came to faith in Christ.

After completing his bachelor's degree Edwards stayed on to work on his MA degree with a view to the pastoral ministry. On 20 September 1723 Edwards graduated from Yale and presented his "Master's Quaestio" on the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone.[2]Between the completion of his M.A. studies and his graduation Edwards briefly pastored a splinter scotch Presbyterian congregation in New York City. Eventually Edwards returned to Yale where he served as a tutor for the next two years (1724-26). Being on campus allowed him access to some of the most significant books of his day in the Dummer collection. 

I should mention one more important thing about Edwards' time in New Haven: It was here that he met his future wife, Sarah Pierpont, the daughter of a well-known minister in the New Haven area.


Jeffrey C. Waddington (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is stated supply at Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He also serves as a panelist at Christ the Center and East of Eden and is the secretary of the board of the Reformed Forum. 


[1]Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 22: Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742 (Harry S. Stout, Nathan O. Hatch, Kyle P. Farley, eds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 411.

[2]This thesis can be found in Latin and in English in The Works of Jonathan Edwards/Vol. 14: Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729 (Kenneth P. Minkema, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 47-66.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published on reformation21 in December 2011.

 

Moving on from a Puritan theology of the covenants, we come to consider the foundation of such in the person and work of Jesus Christ. To some extent, we have been introduced to Christ in our consideration of him as the second person of the Trinity, and specifically to our understanding of the doctrine of eternal generation. So, while we will consider the Christ of the early creeds, we will not cover that vital topic in this post. 
 
First, Christ as “the eternal Son of God, became man” (WSC, Q21) in order to fulfill his role as a Redeemer (WSC, Q21).  God, who was determined to have a people for himself could only secure them as such through the “restoring” action, says William Ames (The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, 1627), of a mediator between God and fallen and alienated humanity (1 Tim 2:5). He shows his “fitness . . . to perform the work of redemption” of men by taking on flesh, argues Ames. “Christ took our flesh,” notes Thomas Watson, that he might suffer in the same nature as sinners and know “how to pity” them in the process (A Body of Divinity, 1692).
 
Second, Christ in his incarnation was, and continues to be one person in two natures as the God-man. The Puritans affirmed the orthodox Christology of the early ecumenical councils while repudiated the faulty ones of the day (e.g. Socininianism). So, they upheld Christ’s full deity (with Nicea, 325) and humanity (with Constantinople, 381), and the hypostatic union (“one subsistence” with a “twofold way of subsisting” - Ames) of the two natures in one person (with Ephesus, 431, and Chalcedon, 451). As Mark Jones observes, this certainly did not take away Reformed concerns for Roman Catholic and Lutheran tendencies to overwhelm the humanity of Christ with his divinity while affirming the “twofold consubstantiality” of Christ (of the same substance with man and God). Thus, the Reformed orthodox were careful to maintain “the integrity of the human nature” of Christ regarding both his states of humiliation and exaltation (Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology, Reformation Heritage, 2012). 
 
We can see something of this endeavor in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q21-22), which evidences a detailed emphasis on Christ’s humanity. So, Q22 picks up from the two-natures-one-person language of Q21 to more explicitly address manner of the incarnation of Christ who took  “to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.” The Confession (8.2-3) supplements these crisp thoughts with mention that Christ: took “upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities” yet as sinless; exhibited “two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, . . .  inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion”; and “in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure, having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 
 
Third, in this union of two natures there exists “a personal communication of properties” without “transfusion” (Ames). In other words, Christ performs everything as a person even though their exist operations proper to each nature. Ames observes, “the properties of the one nature” may be “attributed. . . to the whole person” (e.g. Christ died) or to the “other nature because of the person” (e.g. God received to glory 1 Tim 3:16) or things “proper to the whole person” get “attributed to either nature” (e.g. “man” Christ as mediator 1 Tim 2:5). This communication is not just words, yet neither “is it so real that the property of one nature doth pass” to the other.  So, we see in Christ “two understandings,” one divine and all-knowing (John 21:17) and the other human “whereby he knew not some things as yet” (Mark. 13:32). Likewise, he had “two wills, one divine (Luke 5:13) and the other humane together also with a natural appetite (Matt 26:39).” With a proper focus on the communication of attributes (communication idiomatum), Ames rejects Roman Catholic and Lutheran abuse of such in the Lord’s Supper where a real communication of properties wrongly allows the human nature of Christ to be “in many places at once.” He also points out the Roman Catholic “real donation” in which the human nature gets divine abilities (e.g. denied in Matt 26:39).
 
Fourth, Christ showed his “fitness” as our Redeemer, in part, by undertaking his “office” to “obtain salvation for men” (Ames).  By way of the eternal covenant of redemption, notes Ames, the Father “ordained his Son to this office” as he agreed to “make himself a sacrifice for sin.” This threefold mediatorial office (in line with Reformation, Medieval, and Patristic theology) is “Of a Prophet, of a Priest, of a King” as Christ, respectively: “revealed the whole Will of God that bringeth salvation” (e.g. Deut 18:15), “purged by sacrifice the sins of men, and obtained the favour of God for them” (e.g. Rom 5:10), and “doth dispense and administer all things with power and authority” (e.g. Dan 2:44).  Each aspect of this mediatorial office gets fulfilled in both the humanity and divinity of the Redeemer, says Ames (“each nature doing that which is proper to itself,” WCF 8.7). He had to be God, to “keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation” (WLC, Q38). Likewise, he had to be man,  to “advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace” (WLC, Q39).
 
Fifth, Christ as a mediator “purchased redemption” by his “perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself” in which he “fully satisfied the justice of his Father” (WCF 8.5).   While the priestly satisfaction by Christ mentioned in the WCF does not employ the explicit language of penal substitution, this does not mean a return to Anselm’s satisfaction view where Christ, instead of being punished for transgressors, makes payment to restore the infinite dishonor done to the Father (See discussion in J.V. Fesko, The Theology of the Westminster Standards). Notice most importantly that he is said to satisfy the “justice” of the Father and not his honor specifically (WCF 8.5 and WSC,Q25). So, Thomas Watson, in discussing the priestly satisfaction of Christ (which he also calls an “atonement”), makes abundantly clear what Christ does for sinners: “Unus peccat, alius plectitur [One man sins, another takes the punishment]” (A Body of Divinity, 1692). Likewise, Watson’s focus on the active and passive obedience as satisfaction finds agreement with Edward Leigh who notes that through Christ we must not only “satisfy God for our unrighteousness, but also perform perfect righteousness, else we could not be admitted to his favor” (A System or Body of Divinity, 1654).
 
Sixth, this satisfaction occurred for all whom the Father has given Christ, the elect (WCF 8.5, cf. 3.6). At first glance, WCF 3.6 and 8.5 seem to make clear that Christ as a mediator purchased redemption particularly for the elect only. In popular language (based on the misleading T.U.L.I.P. expression), Christ’s was a “limited atonement.” Certainly, the Arminian (Remonstrant) contention that Christ died effectively for all (and by implication died definitely for none) gets rejected here. However, as Fesko notes, Confessional expression on the extent of the atonement seems more nuanced than a strict particularism of Christ dying only for the elect. Looking to the scholarship of Chad Van Dixhoorn (The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1652, 5 vols., Oxford, 2012) and in line with the research of Richard Muller, Fesko discusses evidence that the Assembly never openly rejected the British hypothetical universalism (e.g. John Davenant, John Preston, and James Ussher) present at the time. This seems likely based on Assembly debates on extent of the atonement and the later testimony of Richard Baxter about them. Hypothetical universalism had surfaced clearly at the Synod of Dort (e.g. Davenant) and was considered in line with its Canons. It basically proposed, somewhat in line with the common Reformation and Medieval argument that Christ died sufficiently for all and efficiently for the elect, that Christ’s death was ordained to make all humanity saveable yet was efficiently applied to the elect only. This goes beyond the more common idea that Christ’s death was of sufficient value to save all while being ordained for the elect only. Likewise, this ordination of a universal satisfaction for all humanity conditioned on faith differs from Amyraldianism (e.g. Moises Amyraut and John Cameron) setting forth a hypothetical decree of predestination of the whole human race conditioned on faith. Subsequent to this decree, the Amyraldian argues that God decrees faith for the elect only apart from which they would never believe. We may not accept the claims of the hypothetical universalist, but we must give serious consideration to its prevalence and acceptance among the Puritans. 
 
 

Meet the Puritans is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting us.


For previous posts in this series, see:

  1. What is Puritan Theology?
  2. William Ames and Puritan Theologizing
  3. William Ames and Shorter Catechism Q&A 1
  4. The Two Lights
  5. Scripture
  6. God Is
  7. Trinity
  8. God's Decrees
  9. Creation and Providence
  10. Covenants
Introduction
In the movie The Princess Bride, Westley has to leave his fiancé Buttercup in order to make his fortune. Buttercup is worried that she will never see him again. Westley reassures her: “This is true love-you think this happens every day.”
 
True love is the reason they will always be together. The rest of the movie puts that reason to the test. Buttercup is forced to marry the prince after she hears about Westley’s death. Westley, however, is not dead. He tracks her down before the wedding and says, to her, “I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?” “Well…” she says, “you were dead.” Westley replies: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” Although they face more obstacles, their true love wins out in the end. They live happily ever after.
 
“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” That is a beautiful sentiment. You can make it work in movies, fairytales and books. But you can’t make it work in real life because love can’t overcome death.
 
Death
Death will bring an end to us and our relationships regardless of how much we love or how much we are loved. ______’s death is another vivid reminder of this sad reality. The Bible says, “…it is appointed for man to die…” Death is universal.
 
Nonetheless, we know that there is something terribly wrong with death. A human body shouldn’t be lifeless or soulless. A wife shouldn’t be without her husband, a mother without her son, and a man without his friend.
 
Death fills us with tremendous sorrow and grief. And rightfully so, because death is our enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). We may try and convince ourselves that death is natural or just the way things are. But we know better, don’t we? The grief and sorrow tell us that this is not the way it is supposed to be.
 
The Bible teaches us that God made us in his own image to love him and to love one another. He made this world for us to live in it and to enjoy it. He didn’t make us to live just a few years and then die for no good reason. Death is an intruder into God’s good creation. Death is our enemy. It teaches us that all is not well with the world.
 
But why? Why do we die? The answer is us. We all die because of who we are and what we do. The Bible typically uses the word “sin” to refer to our problem. Sin is essentially rebellion against God. To sin is to do what is evil, as defined by God. The Bible says that we are all sinners who sin, and that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). That is how evil sin is. Sinners deserve death. Death, therefore, also teaches us that all is not well with us.
 
This is why love in the real world can’t stop death. Our love can’t overcome God’s just punishment of death for our rebellion against him. But that is not true for God. Death does not stop God’s love for those who are in Christ Jesus. His love is true love.
 
True Love
The well-known Bible verse John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Even though we rebelled against him, God loved us. He so loved us that he sent his Son, Jesus of Nazareth, to be the Savior of the world. 
 
How Jesus is able to save sinners from sin and death is quite extraordinary, and it involves his death and resurrection. But the main point that I want you to see is simply this: God saves sinners in and through Jesus. Paul says: “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
 
Salvation or the gift of eternal life, however, is not like a one-way ticket that you hand out to people. Eternal life is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In John 11, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus himself is resurrection and life. You need to hitch your wagon to his in order to share in his resurrection and life. Or to use a biblical metaphor, you need to be married to Jesus in order to receive what he has.
 
A man and a woman are joined together in holy matrimony by taking a wedding vow. How are we married to Christ? We are married to Christ by faith. We believe in him and look to him to save us and to lead us to glory. That is why John 3:16 says whoever believes shall not perish but has everlasting life.  
 
______ believed in Jesus. He was united to Jesus by faith. He loved Jesus. More importantly, Jesus loved ______. Jesus loved ______ with true love. At the end of the day that is what really counts because no Christian loves Jesus perfectly. ______ didn’t. I don’t. No Christians does. One day we will, but not in this life.
 
We don’t love Jesus perfectly in this life because we are not yet in glory. We are on the road to glory but not yet in it. Let me explain what I mean by using ______ as an example. When ______ became a Christian, he was saved from sin and death and given the gift of eternal life. But he was saved in this broken world. In other words, God didn’t immediately transport ______ into heaven or into the world to come.
 
Practically speaking, this means that ______ didn’t experience the full salvation that God has promised him in Christ. In fact, the Bible speaks of salvation in the past tense and in the future sense. We have been saved and we will be saved. 
 
Jesus says in John 5 that whoever believes in him has eternal life. He will not come into judgment (i.e. condemned) but has passed from death to life. Or as Paul put it: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus.” All believers are saved right now in the sense that their sins are forgiven and they no longer stand condemned before God. They won’t be eternally punished for their sins.
 
But there is also sense in which we have yet to be saved. In Galatians 5 Paul says that by faith we wait for the hope of righteousness. In Romans 8 he says we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
 
This distinction between past and future salvation explains why Christians still die. All of this talk about salvation from death might seem untrue since Christians die like everybody else. They physically die like everybody else because they have yet to receive the redemption of their bodies. That won’t happen until Jesus returns and raises the dead. This aspect of salvation is still future. And as long as it is future, Christians will continue to die like everyone else.
 
But it must also be said that Christians don’t die like everybody else because they have already passed from death to life. They already have a saving, loving relationship with God in Jesus. Thus, when they die, they don’t go into judgment. Rather, they go into the presence of God in heaven. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  They go to be with Jesus in heaven, where they will be until Jesus comes back to make everything perfect forever. This is why ______s’ former pastor rightly said, Christians don’t die, they go from life to life.  
 
This distinction between past and future salvation also explains why Christians still sin. Again, all of this talk about salvation from sin might seem untrue because Christians still sin, like other people. Indeed, some Christians commit terrible sins. David, a man after God’s own heart, slept with another man’s wife and then had him killed. God’s people still sin. They still sin because they have yet to receive their salvation in full.  
 
One of the beautiful promises of salvation that we Christians have in Christ is that Jesus washes us thoroughly from our sinfulness. By that I mean he will make us perfectly righteous so that we will love him perfectly and love one another perfectly. We have to be perfectly righteous in order to dwell with God and live with him in glory forever. After all, sinners would defile heaven. They would ruin it in the same way we ruin this world with our selfishness, envy, murder, bullying, adultery, lying and so on. Christians need to be saved thoroughly from their sinfulness. They will be so saved by God’s grace but not in this life. That is why they still struggle with sin.
 
So, we don’t presently experience salvation in its fullness. We have been saved and we are on the way to salvation. In this sense, Christians are like Israel in the OT. They have been delivered from slavery in Egypt and they are on the way to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  
 
Now since we haven’t arrived in glory yet, we might doubt whether we will actually make it. The present reality of sin and death might suggest that we aren’t saved or that we won’t be saved. Will my sins as a Christian keep me from being with Christ? What if I struggle with sin right up to the end of my life or commit a sin that results in my death? Will that ruin everything?
 
Absolutely not! You don’t save yourself. Entering glory is not based upon how much you haven’t sinned. It is not based on how many good things you have done. It is based upon Christ and what he has done for you and in you. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ Jesus, then you have resurrection life!
 
In Romans 8 Paul says that God is for us. And if God is for us then who can be against us? Nothing. Even our sins can’t be against us. Why? Because as Paul says, God has justified us. He will freely give us all things. Christ has died for our sins and he was raised from the dead and he is at the right hand of God interceding for us. Christ is the reason our sins as Christians won’t condemn us!
 
Paul goes on in Romans 8 to say that he is persuaded that nothing, absolutely nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, either now or in the future. Even when we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13).
 
So how do I know that nothing has separated ______ from God? True love. That is how I know. God’s true love. Nothing can stop the love of God. Not sin or death. God’s love in Christ is all saving and all powerful. 
 
Conclusion
______’s pilgrimage on earth has ended. His struggle with sin is over and he is at rest. He is with his savior in heaven, which is far better.
 
If you do not know Jesus and trust in him, I hope and pray that you do so now. Life is short. Come to Jesus and live. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but has eternal life.