Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Knowing Christ Aright

"He who knows Christ aright holds him fast, embraces him with both arms, is completely taken up with him, and desires nothing beyond him."

—John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (eds., Torrance, David W., and Torrance, Thomas F; trans. Parker, T. H. L.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 11.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Singing Whole Psalms

"We should do our best to find ways to use the whole Psalter [in corporate worship]. We should say or sing the puzzling and disturbing bits along with the easy and 'nice' ones" (N. T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential, HarperOne, 2013).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Power of a Passive Righteousness

Speaking of the righteousness of faith that God imputes to us through Christ apart from works, Luther says this of its surpassing worth:
Christians themselves do not adequately understand it or grasp it in the midst of their temptations. Therefore it must always be taught and continually exercised. And anyone who does not grasp or take hold of it in afflictions and terrors of conscience cannot stand. For there is no comfort of conscience so solid and certain as this passive righteousness. . . .
Therefore the afflicted conscience has no remedy against despair and eternal death except to take hold of the promise of grace offered in Christ, that is, this righteousness of faith, this passive or Christian righteousness, which says with confidence: "I do not seek active righteousness. I ought to have and perform it; but I declare that even if I did have it and perform it, I cannot trust in it or stand up before the judgment of God on the basis of it. Thus I put myself beyond all active righteousness, all righteousness of my own or of the divine Law, and I embrace only that passive righteousness which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and the forgiveness of sins." In other words, this is the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which we do not perform but receive, which we do not have but accept, when God the Father grants it to us through Jesus Christ.
—Martin Luther, "Lectures on Galatians 1535" (vol. 26 in Luther's Works; ed. Jaroslav Pelikan; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963), 5–6.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Free Gift of God

The famous Rom. 6:23 reads: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (translation mine). This is a well-worn and oft-quoted verse. But have we understood is aright? What is this "free gift of God"?

Well, isn't it obvious? Isn't it "eternal life"? Yes, it is. But it also isn't. It must be so in the same way that "the wages sin is death" in the first part of the verse. For these are parallel expressions. And in the first part of the verse it is clear that the wages of sin results in death. In other words, it is not that the wages of sin is defined as death or equals death.

And so likewise it seems best to understand the second half of the verse as saying that the free gift of God results in eternal life. And if this is correct, what then is "the free gift of God"? I believe that the parallel in Rom. 5:17 provides a clue.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Austin Owen, Child of God's Covenant Love

Our baby boy is going to be baptized next weekend at College Church in Wheaton. We're looking forward to his being baptized into Christ our King and Redeemer.

“Austin” is named after St. Augustin(e), whom the Puritans called Austin. Augustin(e) is known as the "doctor of grace” in the Church. He eloquently defended and articulated the doctrine of the sovereign grace of God in Christ, as well as anyone in the faith, having himself experienced it so potently as a thirty-two-year-old lecherous man. And it is our prayer that Austin will know God’s sovereign grace deeply, as did Augustin(e), to the “praise of the glory of God’s grace.”

His middle name “Owen” has nothing to do with the origin of the word or its present day meaning. Emily and I have given it to him after that greatest of English Puritans John Owen (one of his daddy’s most influential teachers). The center of John Owen’s theology is arguably steadfastly beholding "the glory of God in the face of Christ" (e.g., Owen cites 2 Cor. 4:6 more than any other verse in his works). Our prayer is that our little Owen would embrace the centrality of the glory of Christ in his life and steadfastly behold that glory all his dying days, being transformed into that same glory, to the glory of God.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Blessing of God

Oftentimes we hear of, or people pray for, the blessing of God in a vague and hazy manner. We ask for God to bless us, or to bless the missionaries, or to bless our families, or to bless the church. But what is it we're really asking for? What is the blessing of YHWH?

It is undoubtedly many things, material and immaterial. But what is at the heart of God's blessing? Can we see a center? I will not try to support my claim here with a comprehensive exposition of Scripture. However, I will assert that the answer is: Yes, there is a center to God's blessing. Search the Scriptures for yourselves, and see whether what I claim here is so, O Noble-minded Berean. I'll only cite one text.

In Psalm 133:3 we have our answer—it is life forevermore! It is not lots of American goodies for our three score and ten. On the mountains of Zion YHWH has commanded his blessing—eternal life! So when you think of, and pray for, God’s blessing, think of the life of God. God’s supreme blessing is the giving of life evermore in his Son, imparting his Spirit, the Spirit of eternal life. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

God's Work

"The farmer plowing his field, the craftsman producing his goods, and the sovereign capably judging and governing are as much God's work as the clergyman in the pulpit or in the confessional. They have all had a divine call to render service to the world, and thus they will also be judged by God" (Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, 316).

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Great Contest for Man

"The great contest of heaven and earth is about the affections of the poor worm which we call man."

—John Owen, The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded (vol. 7 in The Works of John Owen; ed. William H. Gould; Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1994), 395.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Great Shortfall Today

Dick Lucas:
In the long term I think being a preacher, missionary, or leading a Bible study group in many ways is easier. There is a certain spiritual glamour in doing it, and what we should be doing each day is easier to discern, more black and white, not so grey. It is often hard to get Christians to see that God is willing not just to use men and women in ministry, but in law, in medicine, in business, in the arts. This is the great shortfall today.
—Quoted in Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work (New York: Penguin, 2012), 115.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Back to Blogging (Semi-Regularly)

So I'm going to go ahead and start blogging again. At least some. It's been good to take a break from the blog and many other things over the past year, during which time the Wencels have had our hands full.

However, I do not intend to blog with any regularity. And I do not intend to post much original thinking of my own. No time for that. But I will post from time to time some things I'm reading that I think are worth recalling and sharing.