TRANSFORMATION: All Passive

Bill Mounce has an interesting blog entry here:  To Be Changed (Transformed)

The topic is Transformation.  Bill summarizes in saying,

“But notice what these four uses of μεταμορφοω all have in common: they are all passives. The power to change does not naturally well up from within us but is the gift and the work of God’s Spirit.”

It was previously asked: “But how does this transformation happen?”

Answer: “There are two clues (outside of Rom 12:2). Paul tells the Corinthians, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (μεταμορφουμεθα) into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).”

Well, at least two passages come to my own mind here:

1)   “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Mt 13:23)

2)   “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.  Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”   (2Cor 9:8-15)

Thus, we see that Paul does not forget what he stated earlier (2Cor 3.18) by the time he gets around to 2Cor 9.13.  The Gospel itself is the SOLE means that God uses to workout God’s image, Christ Jesus (2Cor 4.4), in us.  And in what measure?  As He sees fit… “some a hundredfold, another sixty, and in another thrity.”

Ours then is always but a “passive capacity” in the way of salvation.  God alone is the prime mover, the “active” Operator.  The Cross itself was and remains emblematic of our always needing God’s intervention of salvationing.

SANCTIFICATION: God to man (not the inverse)

Here is an interesting conversation by the folks over at Reformed Forum along with Richard Gaffin.  What is interesting (at least in my mind) is how difficult a time these brethren have in calling Sanctification a work that is ENTIRELY God’s. 

If you care to listen to only part of the conversation where they get into the ‘nitty-gritty,’ try listening from 40:00 min onward.

Gaffin makes two very interesting remarks:

1)   The ‘Guilt-Grace-Gratitude’ model that many within the Reformed camp hold to does not hold up under Scriptural scrutiny.

2)   Referring to G.C. Berkower (though there is angst in his doing so by the others), he expresses quite plainly that “good works” in sanctification are “not the way of man to God, but of God to man.”  Meaning, it is entirely a work of God.

Sadly, as things are wrapping up, the other fellows toss in two comments that are seemingly polar to what Gaffin just finished saying.  Nonetheless, Gaffin is cordial enough to leave it at that; not to say that he himself entirely avoids working man’s will back into the equation during the course of the conversation. 

 Anyway, check it out here:  Sanctification and the Gospel

Left behind…for a godly purpose

Devon Berry faithfully preached:   

“…though the incarnate Christ has physically departed this earth, he has left behind physical evidence, in fact, he has left behind his body, for the good and comfort of believers and for the proclamation of his glory to unbelievers… You are in this together. You are who Christ has left all humanity with as physical evidence that he was here! To love and serve your fellow believer is to do nothing less than show Christ to the world in a way that makes God the Father look magnificent and glorious!  …Do you want to bring him glory? Then sacrificially serve and love your fellow believer.  …May we be ever-conscious of what is temporal and what is eternal – and then live as people who realize that this world is not our home.”

 

 

 

 

 

Faith = Faced toward Christ!

John Owen once wrote:  “It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.”

Casting off Law as Covenant

Ralph Erskine:   “…the believer is delivered from the power of the law, and the power of sin too; having cast off the law as a covenant, and finding nothing to satisfy and still his conscience but the blood and righteousness of Chirst, that satisfies divine justice; as in this way he finds rest from the curse of the law, so also some rest from the rule and dominion of sin; the faith of God’s love in Christ does purify his heart, and kill his natural enmity, insomuch that he can attest, to his sweet experience, that the faith of the love of God in Christ is so far from leading him to licentiousness of life, or encouraging laziness, that he finds it the hottest fire in the world, to melt his heart for sin; and the strongest cord in the world, to bind him to duty, while the love of God is shed abroad upon him.”

 

A New Letter and Pure Devotion

Paul’s words to the Corinthians (2Cor.5) sum up the essence of obedience in the New Covenant (3.6):

In 5.14, Paul speaks of our actions springing from the love of Christ for us, in His having died (5.15) for us.  This alone is the exclusive cause of our not living for ourselves but for His sake. 

For, in Christ, we are no longer regarded according to the flesh (5.16), but are now partakers of the new creation (5.17) through the ongoing transforming ministry of the Spirit (3.6,8,18); all of which is of God (5.18)!

We then are partakers of a most glorious and permanent ministry of righteousness (5.21; 3.9,11), and are equipped with the weapons of righteousness (6.6,7), not waging a fleshly warfare (10.3-5), according to a ministry of death and condemnation that no longer has any glory (3.7,9,10)!

So then, it is Jesus Christ we proclaim (1.19; 2.17), in whom all the promises of God are fulfilled (1.20) and by whom we are enabled freedom by the Spirit (3.17) from every defilement of the body (physical sins) and spirit (idolatry) (7.1) unto a maturing holiness unto the Lord. 

Our having fellowship with the Holy Spirit (13.14) – who writes His letter upon our heart (3.3) – is antithetical to a ministry of Stone (3.6). 

Being mindful of these things, we maintain a sincere and pure devotion to Christ and resist the Devil’s first lie (11.3) that mere knowledge of “right and wrong” suffices, which is nothing more than “another Jesus,”  a “different spirit,” and a “different gospel” (11.4). 

Christ justified (for Him and us)

Vos:   “For the supreme fruit of Christ’s justification, on the basis of passive and active obedience, is nothing else but the Spirit, and in turn the Spirit bears in Himself the efficacious principle of all transformation to come, the resurrection with its entire compass included.

“Christ’s resurrection was the de facto declaration of God in regard to his being just. His quickening bears in itself the testimony of his justification. God, through suspending the forces of death operating on Him, declared that the ultimate, the supreme consequence of sin had reached its termination. In other words, resurrection had annulled the sentence of condemnation.

Exhausted Resources

Ferguson: “This first thing to remember, of course, is that we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual … but from the New Testament’s point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about ourselves and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ethics in the Light of the Gospel

Ziegler:  “An ethic of justification will be one that “takes seriously the activity of the God who acts,” since the advent of justification establishes the reality-the moral field-within which the question of ethics is to be firmly set. Justification, says Lehmann following Calvin closely at this point, is that act of God by which our “true position in the world-as a pilgrim between creation and redemption-is put within the orbit of [human] knowledge and behaviour in the world.” It is the task of Christian ethics therefore to raise the question of the good and the right in light of the “disconcerting consequences” of God’s gracious action for the human creature in Jesus Christ. The repentance that flows from faith in this regard, transforms worry about virtue into desire for obedience, the strictures of duty into the gift of vocation.

Apart from the Gospel…Glory hurts!

Horton:  “Apart from the gospel, when we hear that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever,” our consciences are overwhelmed with dread. Yet when in Christ we are liberated from trying to give something to God rather than reflect his lavish benevolence, it becomes our heart’s delight. We can at last glorify and enjoy God in our praise of his grace and in our love for our neighbors. God declares to you even now, in your native darkness, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.””

Classic & Evangelical Monasticism

Horton:  “Gustav Wingren nicely summarizes Luther’s concern with the neighbor as the recipient of the believer’s good works. Instead of living in monasteries, committing their lives in service to themselves and their own salvation, Luther argues believers should love and serve their neighbors through their vocations in the world, where their neighbors need them. “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.  When one presents works before God in the kingdom of heaven, God’s order is disrupted in both realms,” Wingren summarizes. Offering our own works to God is in effect to try to “depose Christ from his throne,” while it also deprives our neighbors of good works since they are done “not for the sake of one’s neighbor, but to parade before God.”  In this way, no one is actually served.”