Book Review: Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

 Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

by John Piperwilliam-wilberforce.jpg

Over the last decade the title “politician” has taken on a whole new meaning. The picture that we have in this country of a politician is not all that becoming. The only bipartisan agreement among voters is that politicians are not doing a very good job. In light of these attitudes, the easy thing to do would be to give up. Personally, I have grown quite weary of politics. How can we possibly fix Social Security, or secure our borders, or [insert an issue here]? The answers to these questions may be found in history. The issue was quite different, and the opposition was far greater. But despite the innumerable odds William Wilberforce successfully fought to end slave trade and slavery itself in Britain. One man, firm in his convictions, changed an entire nations and eventually the world. In his book Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce, John Piper provides a brief biographical sketch of Wilberforce, and this great high calling. In his youth, Wilberforce was not the man that we know him as today. Quite frankly he was a rich, spoiled, young brat. His immaturity even carried over into his first years in Parliament. As he himself described, “The first years I was in Parliament I did nothing – nothing to any purpose.” However, this all changed as God began to work in Wilberforce’s life. Piper describes the story of Wilberforce’s salvation as “a great story of the providence of God pursuing a person through seemingly casual choices.”

It was through the influence of his close friend, Isaac Milner, that Wilberforce began to soften to the Gospel. And it was through a meeting with the famed evangelical, John Newton, that Wilberforce was strengthened for the task God had prepared for him. Newton wrote to Wilberforce: “It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of a nation.” These words would prove to be prophetic.

“Beginning not long after his conversion and lasting until he was married eleven years later, he would now spend his days studying ‘about nine or ten hours a day…’” As Piper astutely points out, “He was setting out to recover a lot of ground lost to laziness in college.” On October 28, 1787, Wilberforce wrote in his diary, “God Almighty has placed me before two great Objects, the Suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [morals].” This is exactly what Wilberforce did. He was ostracized, alienated, and threatened yet through it all he remained unwavering. Finally, “the night – or should I say early morning – of victory came in 1807.” The abolishment of slave trade had passed! “In that… hour Wilberforce turned to his best friend and colleague, Henry Thornton, and said, ‘Well, Henry, what shall we abolish next?’”

The next task Wilberforce set himself to would be the abolishment of slavery itself. Three days before Wilberforce died the slavery was outlawed in the British colonies. Thomas Buxton, who continued Wilberforce’s fight after he retired from Parliament, said, “The day which was the termination of his labors was the termination of his life.”

In addition to the historical information behind these events, Piper goes to great lengths to portray Wilberforce the man. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from cover to cover. The only problem was that at 76 pages there was not a lot of time to enjoy it. This would be a great read for anyone who would like an introduction to the life of William Wilberforce. Additionally, this book would be profitable for young people and children to read. I would highly recommend adding this book to your family’s summer reading list.

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The Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter VIII – Of Christ the Mediator

1. It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and men, the prophet, priest, and king; the head and Savior of the Church, the heir or all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did, from all eternity, give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

>Anything I would add to this statement would be far to insufficient.

 2. The Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof; yet without sin: being conceived by he power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. >Here we find a brief explanation of the truths found in Galatians 4:4-6. Specifically we see that Christ was fully God and fully man.

3. The Lord Jesus 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, in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell: to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.

>The Father called the Son to execute the office of Mediator. The Son, who was fully qualified accomplished all that was necessary to execute the office of mediator.

4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

>Jesus willingly “endured [the] most grievous torments” so that he could receive glory at the right hand of the Father, interceding for the elect.

5. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.

>2 Cor 5:21. By doing what no man was able to do Christ purchased reconciliation and everlasting inheritance for those given to Him by the Father.

6. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated into the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent’s head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same and for ever.

>Here we see how god could save the OT saints and remain just. The answer is the same way he saved the NT saints and remained just (Rom 3:26).

7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes, in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.

>1 Timothy 2:5-6

8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.

>This is how true believers remain, and bear fruit. Christians are to bear fruit because Christ is at work in and on behalf of the true believer!

Digging Out

Memorial Day weekend is always a jam packed weekend for my family. Every year we have our youth car wash, youth BBQ, and youth promotions on this week. Which means by the time Mondays rolls around I am more than ready for the day off. The problem is that everything that I would have done on Monday joins up with everything that I am supposed to do on Tuesday to make for one long day. As expected I arrived early this morning to find materials from the car wash on my desk, and then a few last things to be put away in the kitchen from the car wash. I say all of this to let you know that I am digging out of a proverbial hole today, and consequently the material here on COCT will be somewhat light. However here are a few random thoughts that you just might find interesting:

  • THIS is what I was doing last year the week of Memorial day.
  • THIS is what I watched this weekend and I really enjoyed it.  It was clean, funny, and just a fun movie.
  • THIS is one of the best sermons I have ever heard.
  • THIS is almost unbelievable.
  • THIS is making by blood pressure go through the roof.

Tomorrow we will pick up where we left off in our look at the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Jude 7: A Region that Rebelled Against God


III. The example of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7)

a. The sin of the cities

The third example of the condemnation of the fake Christians that has already been written about follows the same pattern as the first two examples. In v. 7 Jude compares the judgment of the fake Christian in v.4 with the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude writes, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” Here we see that Sodom and Gomorrah also serve as examples of God’s judgment on the rebellious. Peter, in his second epistle, says the exact same thing,

… He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;

The account of Sodom and Gomorrah serve as examples to the “ungodly” in the same way that the previous OT accounts were examples. The cities rebelled against God, and then God punished them. Jude tells us that the people of these cities “indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.” This rebellion against God’s order is graphically depicted in Genesis 19:1-11. There we see exactly what Jude meant by “gross immorality” and going “after strange flesh.” What makes this sin so horrible is the impure heart that is the source of these evil actions. The apostle Paul described this impure heart in Romans 1:24-17,

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

The people of the city participated in these evil relations because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The rebelled against the Creator and they worshipped the creation. God dealt swiftly with this rebellion.

b. The Judgment of God

The Bible records God’s judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:23-25,

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

God poured out His wrath on the rebellious people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jude tells us that this wrath is an example of the eternal wrath that all the rebellious will face. All who rebel against God will undergo “the punishment of eternal fire.”

Conclusion:

As we look back at the unbelief of a people saved by God, the rebellion of angels who saw the face of God, and the ungodliness of a region that revolted against God it would be easy to dissociate ourselves from their rebellion. However, we must remember that Jude used these examples to demonstrate the outcome of rebellion. As we look at what happened in these examples it is sort of like the dream sequence in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (I want to be careful with this example because these events really did happen.) Do you remember the story? Everything has gone wrong for George Bailey, and then he makes the wish that he had never been born. Then his little angel friend, Clarence, makes it happen. George Bailey gets to see what life would have been like if he had never been born. And of course the town is falling apart, his brother died, his kids were never born, and his beautiful wife was transformed into a homely old maid; all because George was never born. After seeing all of this George pleads with Clarence to make things normal again, because he saw how good he had it. In Jude vv. 5-7 we get to vividly see the result of rebellion. Jude demonstrates very clearly how God dealt with the unbelief of a people saved by God, the rebellion of angels who saw the face of God, and the ungodliness of a region that revolted against God. Additionally Jude makes the application that the individuals who claimed to be Christians but lived a life of rebellion (v.4) would face the same destruction.

The implications for us are clear. We are not to follow rebellious individual like these. These people despised the idea of Jesus as Lord, and they used the grace of God as an excuse for sin. In their rebellion they were twisting the Gospel to fit their lustful desires. It would be very easy for us to follow men like this instead Jesus. These men say we can gratify our sinful desires and be Christians at the same time. However, Jude has clearly demonstrated to his reader that following teaching such as this will only lead to destruction.

Now that we have the seen the result of rebellion we must commit ourselves to the faith (v. 3). We must submit to Jesus, and what he has revealed in Scripture. And we must be willing to fight for the faith (v. 3).

Jude 6: The Rebellious Angels

II. The illustration of condemned angels (v. 6)

a. The sin of the angels

The second example of the condemnation of the fake Christians that has already been written about is a little bit more complicated than the first example. In v. 6 Jude compares the judgment of the fake Christian in v.4 with the judgment of angels. Jude writes, “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day…” What makes this verse so tricky is identifying just who these angels are. There are really only three possibilities that could explain who these angels are, and it is my position that only one adequately explains all the biblical evidence on the subject. First let me outline the three views on this passage, and then we will look at the biblical evidence. After we have examined the biblical evidence I think we will be in a position to make some conclusion.
The first view is that these are the angels referred to in Genesis 6:1-4, and Jude is describing how they took women to be their wives. Genesis 6:1-4 says,

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

In this view the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6 are fallen angels who took human women to be their wives. Thus when Jude said that the angels “did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode” he was referring to this act.

The second view on this passage teaches that Jude is not referring to Genesis 6 at all, but rather to the fall of angels in Satan’s rebellion. Thus when Jude said that the angels “did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode” he was referring to the rebellion of Satan, and the fall of angels.

The third view that could be held on this passage teaches that Jude viewed the story of the angels who had produced children with women as a legend, and he was only using that legend as an illustration. It would be like me using a story from a novel or a movie to illustrate my point.

We have now seen the different views on this passage, but what does the bible say? There is a lot of information that it important to this passage, but I think that it can all be boiled down to a handful of indicators.

  1. Jude links the sin of the angels with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in v. 7: “just as (ὡς) Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these (τούτοις is a masculine plural pronoun that is not referring to the feminine plural πόλεις but rather to the masculine plural ἀγγέλους from v. 6) indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh…”
  2. Both Jude in this passage, and Peter in both of his epistles refer to imprisoned angels (2 Pt.2:4-10; 1 Pt 3:18-20). We know that this imprisonment is not the direct result of the angelic fall because Scripture tells us of fallen angels (demons) roaming the earth.
  3. Both 2 Peter 2:4-10 and 1 Peter 3:18-20 link these imprisoned angels with the judgment of the ancient world during the time of Noah (the Flood).

It would seem from the immediate context of Jude 6 along with the two parallel texts from the NT that Jude is referring to the account recorded in Genesis 6. This would mean that Genesis 6 is an account of fallen angels engaged in immorality with human women. But will a close look at Genesis 6 reveal that these were not angels or that Jude was only referring to some ancient legend? Let’s find out.

The main interpretive issue in Genesis 6:1-4 is the meaning of the phrase “sons of God.” There is much debate over the meaning of this phrase but as James Boice said, “so far as the biblical use of the phrase ‘the sons of God’ is concerned, there is every reason to take it as referring to angels.” (Boice, Volume 1: Creation and Fall Genesis 1-11, pg 307) Boice was able to make this statement because this same phrase is used only three other times in the OT (Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7), and all three times it is clearly referring to angels (fallen or not). With this in mind, along with the evidence from the NT, it is quite reasonable to hold the view that Genesis 6:1-4 is an account of fallen angels engaged in immorality with human women. This would explain why Jude compared the rebellion of the angels with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, it would explain why fallen angels are imprisoned, and it would explain why Peter linked these imprisoned angels with the judgment of the ancient world during the time of Noah.

To say that Jude was simply recounting an ancient legend as an illustration seems to ignore the contexts of the passage; this illustration is right in the middle of two OT illustrations. To say that Jude was referring the fall of angels and that Genesis is not even about angels seems to ignore what other relevant passages teach. Consequently we are left with the view that these are the angels referred to in Genesis 6:1-4, and Jude is describing how they had immoral relationships with women. There are some people who would object to this based on Christ’s teaching in Matthew 22:30,

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

However, Christ said that the angels in heaven were not given in marriage; he never said anything about the fallen angels. I think that Christ’s words show us that angels are not supposed to be given in marriage, not that is it impossible. In fact, the harsh punishment for the angels who did have immoral relationships is evidence that the angels were not supposed to be involved with women.
How exactly these relationships worked I do not think we can know for certain. However, why Jude uses this account as an illustration is perfectly clear.

b. The Judgment of God

The point of this passage is to demonstrate God’s judgment on the rebellious. Remember, Jude is elaborating on v. 4 with three different examples of God’s judgment on the rebellious. Here in v. 6 the rebellious angels are the illustration. God cast them out of heaven to exist as demons in the world; however they did not keep their domain. Instead, they left their proper place for immoral relationship with women. Because they did not keep their own domain God is now punishing them by keeping them in eternal bonds under darkness. Their current imprisonment will only be ended by a permanent imprisonment when God finally judges all of creation.

In the same way as these angels the fake Christians of v. 4 had rebelled against God. Just as the demons knew all about God so to these fake Christians had been exposed to the faith (v. 3). But instead of submitting to God they lived ungodly lives by perverting the grace of God and denying the lordship of Christ (v. 4). Because the rebellion of the fake Christians was like the rebellion of the angels the judgment that these fake Christians would face would be like judgment the rebellious angels faced.

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter VII – Of God’s Covenant with Man

1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him, as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescencion on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

>The chasm between Creator and creature is so great that only by “condecencion on God’s part” is any type of relationship possible.

2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

>Two things are worth noting with respect to this point. First, the actual word covenant is never used in Genesis 2 with respect to God’s relationship with Adam. Second, nowhere in this account does God explicitly promise life to “Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition pf perfect and personal obedience.” I am not necessarily contradicting the divine on this point, I just making several observations. Clearly if Adam and the rest of the human race would have completely obeyed God things would have been different. But this is only speaking theoretically for it didn’t happen.

3. Man, by his Fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

>This was the plan all along. We see this clearly in Genesis 3:15.

4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

>Adam’s sin necessitated the Covenant of Grace.

5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.

>God executed this Covenant of Grace differently in different dispensations (eras). The OT elect only had signs, allusions, and precursors to the full Gospel we now know through the resurrection of Christ.

6. Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed, are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.

>Here we see how God administers His grace in the current dispensation (era). Clearly though, it was this one plan of salvation all along that made God’s grace possible (Rom 3:26). I would also add that inclusion does not presuppose exclusion. In other words, not that God has initiated the Church with Jews and Gentiles it does not mean that God has to be done working with Israel at a national level.

Book Review: Did God Write the Bible?

Did God Write the Bible?
by Dan Hayden
did-god-write-the-bible.jpg

Have you ever wondered how the Bible that we have today came into existence? It did not just appear out of thin air. So where did it come from? Who is its author? Is it even worth reading? These are the questions that Dan Hayden deals with in his brand new book Did God Write the Bible?

I would highly suggest this book to anyone who has ever wondered about the historicity and authenticity of the Bible. Questions about the Bible are not always easy to answer but in this book Hayden has provided his readers with a resource to deal with hard questions. Hayden carefully works through the doctrine of Bibliology (the doctrine of the Bible) in such a way so as to make it understandable to anyone. As Hayden says,

Many other books have been written from a Christian perspective in defense of the Bible as Holy Scripture. But here I ask the hard questions and attempt to answer them as if we were having a personal discussion. I walk through the issues – not merely assuming a point that has to be proved. After all, if there is such a thing as truth, it ought to withstand and scrutiny. And if indeed the Bible is “the Truth,” as it claims, our sincere questions and close examination can only validate its claim.