Monday, 11 April 2016

Why do you read the bible?

[But] interpretation is not an end in itself; reading the Bible is not fundamentally a comprehension exercise. Interpretation should serve only to lead us to an encounter with God as he actually presents himself to us in Scripture.[…]Many evangelicals worry about ‘getting Scripture wrong’. Of course we should be concerned to interpret the meaning of Scripture well, for every believer should be growing in knowledge and understanding of Scripture. However, our greater concern should be the ease with which we can content ourselves with learning the truth, while refusing to let God act in us with that truth as the sharp sword he intended it to be.
 - Timothy Ward, Words of Life, p.175 (italics original) 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 15

This is the post #31 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

It is important to recognise the three offices Jesus bears, Prophet, King, and Priest. As all three offices in the OT involved anointing with oil, it is appropriate that Jesus's title is Christ, the anointed one. Jesus brought the full and final message from God as the Prophet. Jesus as King rules eternally. Jesus as the Priest offered one perfect and final sacrifice, that is, Himself. Believers can be assured of their salvation and eternal security as they see the three offices. Because Jesus as the Prophet, brought the final and full revelation from God, we can be sure that we know who God is and what He demands of us. Because Jesus as King rules eternally over all things, we can be sure that He will not lose any of His people, no matter how madly the devil works against us. Because Jesus as the Priest offered the once-for-all sacrifice, completely satisfying God's wrath, believers can be sure that we will not fall under God's condemnation. One important note when thinking about Jesus as King is that He is rule before His return is not culminated. He rules primarily in spiritual terms, which means we, as His subjects, are not exempt from hardship of life. Even though He loves us and cares for us, we must expect to live a difficult life until He calls us home or He returns to bring the new heaven and earth.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 14

This is the post #31 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

This chapter is still about the Christology, particularly on the two natures in one person. Calvin shows from Scripture that Christ is God and man at the same time, although the eternal Word always existed, even before the incarnation. Interestingly, he takes the biblical phrase, "son of man" as showing the humanity of Christ while the phrase, "Son of God" as showing His divinity. It is possible that Calvin may have overlooked the significance of the phrase "son of man" in Daniel and in the gospels as pointing to His divinity, but I could be wrong.
In the later sections, Nestorianism (divided person of Christ) and Eutychianism (mixed natures of Christ) are explicitly rejected. Calvin further shows how his contemporary Michael Servetus was grossly wrong in his teachings about Christ.

The wonder of Christ, the God-man

"Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin's womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning!"
  -- Calvin, Institutes, II. xiii. section 4

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 13

This is the post #30 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

In this chapter, Calvin argues from Scripture that those opinions about Christ that He was not quite human like us are completely wrong. From Scripture, Calvin seems to say something similar to Anselm, that Christ became one of us in order to redeem us, human beings. Yet, He was sinless. There were some opinions about Christ that His genealogy and titles (such as "son of man") were metaphorical or indicates that He was somehow different human being from us. Against this, Calvin argues that Christ was completely human (and God at the same time) except He was sinless. This sinlessness does not make Him any less human, for sin is not part of the human nature, but only the corruption of human nature.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 12

This is the post #30 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

In this chapter, Calvin argues that Jesus is both true God and true man by appealing to the Scriptures. He dismisses the idea that even without Adam's Fall, Christ would have become man to be the head of humanity. He does so partly by arguing that such idea is a speculation that cannot be grounded in Scripture, and hence be rejected. He also shows that such idea is absurd when thinking about Christ's headship over the angels as He never "becomes" an angel to be the head. Calvin strongly opposes Osiander's view that man was fashioned according to the pattern of the Messiah to come in flesh (this was a subtle point with some significant consequences, but it was a bit hard to follow).
Calvin's view or summary of atonement is stated in section 3 as below:
"that man, who by his disobedience had become lost, should by way of remedy counter it with obedience, satisfy God's judgment, and pay the penalties for sin. Accordingly, our Lord came forth as true man and took the person and the name of Adam in order to take Adam's place in obeying the Father, to present our flesh as the price of satisfaction to God's righteous judgment, and, in the same flesh, to pay the penalty that we had deserved. In short, since neither as God alone could he feel death, nor as man alone could he overcome it, he coupled human nature with divine that to atone for sin he might submit the weakness of the one to death; and that, wrestling with death by the power of the other nature, he might win victory for us."

Monday, 8 February 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 11

This is the post #30 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

Calvin identifies 5 differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He means the Law given by Moses when he says the Old Testament in this chapter. The five differences are:
1) In the OT times, God willed that people would direct their minds to the heavenly things in visible and tangible things, whereas in the NT, He wants us to meditate on the heavenly things directly.
2) In the OT, only the images and shadows showed, whereas in the NT, the very substance is shown.
3) The OT was literal, while the NT is spiritual. (My note: this was a bit hard to understand.)
4) The OT bound the conscience of the people, while the NT frees it.
5) The covenant of grace was confined to Israel in the OT times, but now, it is open to all nations.
These differences don't indicate there is a change in God, but it is the consistent, never-changing God who accommodates to people who change, and also according to God's own deep and infinite wisdom.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 10

This is the post #29 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

In this chapter, Calvin refutes the opinion that God's covenant with people in the Old Testament was different from that of the New Testament. Calvin is essentially saying that both in the OT and NT, it is by being united with Christ by faith that anyone could be saved and indeed God's elect were saved. The patriarchs and other ancient figures are given as examples how they looked forward to the spiritual salvation not just the earthly kingdom and they were saved by God when they put their trust in God's promises.

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 9

This is the post #28 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

It is not that the Law was contrary to the Gospel. The promises of redemption was already in the Law and Israel was meant to look forward to its revelation. In the Gospel, in the appearing of Jesus, we can see so much more clearly how God forgives and saves us through the Mediator. Similarly, we, Christians who believe in the Gospel are to still have hope because the final consummation of things is yet to come, just as under the Law, the Israelites were to have hope, waiting for the Mediator. It is wrong to think that we have already "arrived at the destination" (contra Servetus). All this is to say that we must not pit the Law and the Gospel against each other to the extreme. More will be explained in the next two chapters.

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 8

This is the post #27 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

This chapter is about the Ten Commandments. Calvin expounds each of them, and here are some interesting or helpful points I've found.

Calvin takes that the Ten Commandments are still in force for Christians, although he seems to take the Sabbath law (the 4th commandment) with a caveat. He thinks the first commandment, by which he means to take the verse 2 as well as verse 3, is something of a preface to the whole law. This does not mean that it is not a commandment, but rather it is the whole sum of the law, which also introduces who God is and what He has done already for His people.

On the 3rd commandment, "You shall not take the name of Jehovah your God in vain": Calvin is against taking God's Word in vain too since it dishonours God. Also, even though some take such a view based on the Sermon on the Mount, Calvin believes and explains how taking oaths are not always wrong (see section 26–7).

On the Sabbath Day (the 4th commandment): Calvin is not as Sabbatarian as the Westminster Confession of Faith states. Calvin teases out three purposes for this law: 1) Causing Israelites to look forward to the spiritual rest, 2) taking a regular time for public and private worship of God, 3) giving a day of rest to people from their work. That first purpose is abrogated now that Christ has come, but the other two are still in effect. However, it is wrong to strictly insist on a certain way of observing the Sabbath day or the Lord's Day (Sunday) because that is superstitious. The Lord's Day is not a simple continuation of the Sabbath Day for Christians. We should use the Lord's Day to meditate on the eternal rest, and engage with God's Word in public and private worship, and give rest to anyone under our authority.

Calvin strongly argues against the opinion that "Do not take vengeance; love your enemies" is not a commandment but a counsel (advice, wisdom).

Calvin also argues against the notion that there is a distinction between mortal sins and venial sins. He argues that all sins are mortal in that it incurs God's righteous judgment, that is, death.

"Let the children of God hold that all sin is mortal. For it is rebellion against the will of God, which of necessity provokes God's wrath, and it is a violation of the law, upon which God's judgment is pronounced without exception. The sins of the saints are pardonable, not because of their nature as saints, but because they obtain pardon from God's mercy." (Calvin, Institutes, II. viii. section 59.)

(There are many other great insights, which I quoted in separate posts.)