John Calvin the Theological Bully… or Not

Calvin is usually the boogey man for a lot of different theological arguments.  One is Lordship Salvation (i.e. that Christians must display the fruit of salvation to have assurance of salvation).  Usually differing theologians like to picture Calvin, or those agreeing with him, as espousing another form of legalism.  Or, this doctrine as another way to “brow-beat” weak Christians.  In contrast with these characterizations  is reality.  Calvin’s point was simply that once one has been redeemed he begins, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to move in the direction of glorification (sanctification).  At times this process may seem extremely slow, but any progress is assuring.  As he put it:

No one…has sufficient strength to press on with due eagerness, and weakness so weighs down the greater number that, with wavering and limping and even creeping along the ground, they move at a feeble rate… No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight… Let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal…that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), III:6, p. 689.



“Speech Therapy for the Inarticulate”

David Powlison on Psalm 119:

We tend to be busy, noisy, distractible people. We live in a busy, noisy, distracting world. In the midst of that, this psalm teaches us to say, “I need time to listen and think if I’m ever to hold up my end of the conversation with God.” In a culture of instant access and instant information, this psalm rewards the slow. If you speed-read, all you get is, “Psalm 119 is about the Bible.” But if you take it slow and live it out, you find yourself saying things like this: “You are good and do good.” Or this: “I am Yours.” Learning to say that out loud and mean it will change your life forever. Psalm 119 is not information about the Bible; it’s speech therapy for the inarticulate.

Powlison, ‘Suffering and Psalm 119: “I would have perished in my affliction if Your words had not been my delight.”’, JBC, Fall 2004, p. 6.

Why Do Our Friends Suffer?

When we see our friends suffering it is tempting to start examining their lives to see what they have done that has brought this suffering upon them.  This is a natural tendency for us all.  Job’s friends did it.  The disciples did it with the man born blind.  We often do the same thing.  It’s common to man.  It is also misguided, unhelpful, & downright sinful.  Consider these words from Dan McCartney:

We know that we are Christians by our suffering.  Remember that Job was tested because God approved him (Job 1).  Jesus was severely tested immediately after God uttered his approval of him from heaven (Matt. 3:17).  We may be suffering not as a punishment but for exactly the opposite reason–because God approves of us. (Why Does it Have to Hurt?, 76)

The next time you see someone, especially a fellow believer suffering, resist the temptation to try and find a hidden sin causing their suffering.  It’s misguided because you are not God and you have not been given the “secret things.” (Dt 29:29)  It’s unhelpful because your job is not to determine the past causes, it is to help your friend to have a proper future response (1 These 5:14).  It’s sinful because the only reason you think that you can determine the hidden purpose of God & the hidden motives of your friends heart is PRIDE.

Instead of examining someone else’s heart why don’t you 1) pray for your friend, 2) examine your own heart, 3) encourage your friend, & 4) try to learn something about God through the circumstances (use Elihu in Job as an example).  This would be far more appropriate.

Affirmations about the Bible

The bible is God’s special revelation to His people.  This statement is more powerful than it might seem.  Think about the implications that this has on the way we view the bible!  Jesus said that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Mt 12:34).  The bible where God speaks, and thus in the bible we have the heart of God.  Several important implications must be noted:

  • Because they are God’s words, the bible is without error. (i.e. inerrant)  There are no errors in bible.  The heart of God could not be mistake or deceitful.  On everything that the bible speaks to it does so accurately.
  • Because they are God’s words, the bible is reliable. (i.e. infallible) The bible is a trustworthy guide.  God would not reveal the worn path to his people.  No matter how “unpragmatic” the bible might seem in our situation, as God’s people we must trust that the bible is the only eternally pragmatic guide.
  • Because they are God’s words, the bible is sufficient. (We don’t need more special revelation) We do not need anything else as God’s people for life & godliness than the bible.  This includes additional revelation, philosophical wisdom, or experiential helps.  God gave us what we need.
  • Because it is God’s revelation, the bible is understandable. (perspicuity) The bible is God’s revelation.  He did not provide it to conceal the truth from his people.  He gave it to reveal the truth to his people.  This means that when studied with the help of the Holy Spirit all of God’s people can identity the plain meaning of scripture.

Spurgeon on the Future of Israel

Commenting on Hosea 3 Spurgeon preached the following:

THIS passage refers, in the first place, to the Jews. If we read the whole verse and the preceding one, we shall see that they describe the present sad condition of God’s ancient people and inspire us with hope concerning their future—“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice, without ephod or teraphim. Af- terward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.” From this and many other texts of Scripture, we may conclude, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Jews shall, one day, acknowledge Jesus to be their King. The Son of David—who is here, doubtless, called by the name of David, and who, when He died upon the Cross, had Pilate’s declaration inscribed over His head, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”—will then be acknowledged by them as their King and then shall they be restored to more than their former joy and glory. God has great things in store for the seed of Abraham in the latter days. He has not finally cast them away and He will be true to that Covenant which He made with their fathers—and on Judaea’s plains shall roam a happy people who shall lift up their songs of praise unto Jehovah in the name of Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior! Whenever that shall happen, we, or those who will then be living, may know that the latter days have fully come because it is foretold here and in other passages that this is what will occur in the latter days. I am not going to attempt any explanation of the prophetic intimations concerning the future, but this one fact is plain enough—when the end of the world is approaching and the fullness of the Gentiles is gathered in, and all the splendor of the latter days has really commenced, then “shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness.” 

Excerpted from “A Fear to be Desired”, Originally Preached by Spurgeon in 1878, emphasis added.

Deuteronomy: Moses’s Swan Song


Theme:  God speaks through Moses one last time to reveal Himself & explain His law in preparation for entering the land.

Author:  Moses (note issue of the record of Moses’ death)


Farewell Sermons from Moses         Sermon Themes                                chpts
Moses’s First Sermons What God has Done 1-4
Moses’s Second Sermons What God Expects 5-26
Moses’s Final Sermons What God will Do 27-34


Key Chapters:

5 Decalogue (Ten Commandments) reiterated

6 The Shema – ‘Hear, O Israel’

28 Blessings & Curses

32 Song of Moses

34 Death of Moses


Key Verses:

4:2 Don’t add or subtract from the Word of God

6:4 “Hear O Israel…”

29:29 “secret things belong to the Lord”

31:6 “He will not leave of forsake you”

32:39 God governs life and death [GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY]


Key Themes:

The message & theology of Deuteronomy are tailored to prepare the people to be successful in entering and maintaing the land promised in the covenant.

  • Theology Proper (the character & attributes of God)
  • Moral Law for Covenant People (compare w/ ceremonial emphasis of Lev.)
  • Blessings for Obedience & Curses for Disobedience

Date:  January-February of 1405 (Immediately before entering the land) (1:3)