Home Video With Gordon Clark

Recently I posted a link to a video of Dr. Clark giving prayer at his grandson’s wedding. That is one of three videos of Dr. Clark that I know of. Here is another, where he makes some appearances in a home video. The third video I know of, but do not have access to, is a recording of the Clark-Hoover debate at Covenant College which I’m told exists.

The image on this video is Ruth, Dr. Clark’s wife. Dr. Clark himself appears a number of times in the video, including a turkey carving starting at 4:09

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Gordon Clark and Exclusive Psalmody

While Gordon Clark never wrote a book or an article directly on the topic of exclusive psalmody, comments in his writings clearly show his opposition to it.

Clark’s unwillingness to follow his RPCES denomination in the joining and receiving with the PCA in 1982 led him to seek a new denomination. Following this search he wrote to OPC minister Greg Reynold about the various denominational options and, in doing so, noted his opposition both to exclusive psalmody and to idea that instruments are not to be used in worship.

“I did not apply for membership in the OPC. There is so much animosity against me there, I could not face a fight to get in. So I joined the Reformation Presbytery [Covenant Presbytery]– just one Presbytery, almost 25 or 30 ministers scattered from Pa to Florida. I would have been theological[ly] comfortable in the German Reformed Church, but I didn’t know a single person there, and their center is in the Dakotas. They are the ones who refused to merge into the Ev. + Ref. Ch. 25 or 30 years ago. I would have been most comfortable with the Covenanters, but I cannot agree that only Psalms should be sung and that no instruments used. Yet these two points are major + vigorously defended by them. At any rate, I have never enjoyed Presbytery meetings, nor faculty meetings, and I do not expect to play any even half prominent role in my new Presbytery.” – Gordon Clark to Greg Reynolds, 12/9/1983.

In a “Religious Travelogue” written following a long European vacation with his family in 1954, Clark specifically noted his dislike of the musical style used with the Psalm-singing of the Free Church of Scotland.

“The forms of worship in the various countries vary somewhat. The hymns and music of the French churches struck me as noticeably superior to the more jazzy American style. In the German-speaking churches, both of Switzerland and Germany; the music, by reason of a strange succession of major and minor chords, was often difficult and unpleasant, at least to me. The Free Church of Scotland had the worst music of all, led by a precentor without instruments; but it had the best sermons. In England the music was more like our own. In some churches the people stood up to sing and sat down to pray. But usually they stood up for prayer and sat down while singing. On the continent a person upon entering the church would offer a prayer standing, before he sat down. In America we sit down first, and perhaps forget to pray.” – Gordon H. Clark, “Religious Travelogue,” The Witness (c. 1954): 19-20.

The actual arguments against exclusive psalmody in Clark’s writing however are relatively few. Where he writes most at length is on the two verses (Colossians 3:16 and Ephesian 5:19) that refer to “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”

First, in his commentary on Colossians, Clark writes:

“The present writer’s spiritual and physical ancestors, whom he indeed reveres, used this verse in their argument for restricting congregational singing to the Psalms of David. The three terms were supposed to be three divisions of Psalms. But these three titles seem to be insertions in the Septuagint without Hebrew evidence. However that may be, neither this passage nor the parallel in Ephesians speaks of formal congregational worship at all. They rather picture a daily occurrence, presumably at home, or in some cases a workshop owned and operated by Christians. It is an unorganized and spontaneous worship. No doubt it carries implications relative to the assembly on the Lord’s Day; but the Covenanters seem forced to prohibit hymns on a cotter’s Saturday night. At the same time, singing hymns does not imply that the cheap catchy ditties of some modern evangelism, if it is evangelism at all, are superior to the Psalms of David. And a hymn book without a good proportions of Psalms is not fit for a church service.” Gordon H. Clark, Colossians, 1979, 121.

And then more at length in his commentary on Ephesians:

It is a misuse of a phrase in Pliny to conclude that the word each other implies antiphonal singing. In fact the passage does not specifically refer to a church service at all. No doubt it includes church services; we should certainly sing in our weekly worship; but we are also to sing in our homes and social gathering as well. Since the time of the Reformation some Protestant bodies have used this passage to restrict music in a worship service to the singing of the Old Testament Psalms without instrumental accompaniment. The Covenanters are one such group; the Church of Christ rejects musical instruments but does not limit itself to Psalms. The latter group argues, with some plausibility, that the New Testament provides no example of instrumental music in church services, though there may be trumpets in heaven. The Covenanters hold that the words psalms, hymns, and spiritual song sare three divisions of the Psalms, and that hence God approves only of Psalms in church services. The Hebrew text of the Psalms does not make this threefold division. It has been inserted in the Greek LXX. This is a very flimsy support for exclusive Psalmody. On other other hand Meyer’s assertion that ‘the Christian, filled by the Spirit, improvised psalms is clear from 1 Corinthians XIV:15, 26’ is even more flimsy. Nor am I at all impressed with the claim that certain New Testament verses are quotations from early Christian hymns. Something, but not much, can be learned from the usage of the words. Psalmoi of course is the Greek term which gives us the English word psalm or Psalm. Originally the word meant a tune played on a stringed instrument, the sound of a harp. Later it meant merely the song sung. Umnos, our English hymn, meant an ode, particularly the one sung in honor of gods and heroes. Ode (omega with an iota subscript, our English word ode) just means a song. Since psalm originally meant the tune played on a harp and since even the Covenanters admit that the Old Testament approves of the use of musical instruments, it is hard to accept their view that the New Testament has abolished instrumental music. On one occasion I attended a Covenanter church for several Sundays. The auditorium was filled to capacity. The singing was vigorous. The preaching was superb. At the end of the service, either immediately before or immediately after the benediction—I forget which—the congregation burst forth with Psalm 150. It was all new to me, and I could hardly refrain from laughing. Read Psalm 150 and compare, or contrast, what the Psalm commands and what the Covenanters did not do. Not that I wish to ridicule the Covenanters: I with other denominations were half so good. – Gordon H. Clark, Ephesians, 1985, 180-182.

And in Clark’s commentary on First Corinthians he notes of chapter 15, verse 26 (“What then, brethren? Whenever you assemble each one has a psalm, a doctrine, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation.”):

“Hodge surmises that the ‘psalm’ was not a Psalm of David, but a composition specially prepared for the occasion. The Covenanters would not appreciate this suggestion.” – Gordon H. Clark, First Corinthians, 1975, 2nd Edition 1991, 241.

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Sermon on Romans 5:6-11 – “Much More Assurance”

Sermon on Romans 5:6-11 – “Much More Assurance”

September 16, 2018 at Dillingham Presbyterian Church

INTRODUCTION

“Billy” Lee was a servant—a slave—of General George Washington. For eight years before the Revolutionary War, he had served as valet, huntsman, and butler at Washington’s Mount Vernon home. Coming along with Washington into battle, Billy Lee, it is said, would attempt to stand between Washington and enemy gunfire while verbally encouraging the General to find safety. Billy Lee—who should himself be considered a great man—loved Washington and recognized him as a great man; a leader of the revolution, and a man he was willing to risk his life for.

The story of Billy Lee is notable because it is rare for a man to be willing to risk his life for another. Few are the men who are willing to die for another man. And usually, or exclusively, a man is only willing to die for another if it is some great man for whom he is to die. Billy Lee risked his life for George Washington, but not for any lesser officer, and certainly not for any common soldier.

In our passage from Romans, Paul tells us:

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–”

Yet, in Jesus Christ, we have one not only willing to die for a great man, but one who did die for wretched sinners. And so, while the story of Billy Lee is rare, that of Jesus Christ is entirely unique. It is one of a kind. As the commentator William Hendricksen has said “God’s love is both unprecedented and unparalleled.”

And it is this unique fact about Jesus Christ—that he died for sinners—that Paul uses in our passage today to lead us finally to a proof of the assurance of our salvation. Paul uses the fact of God’s love for us in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross to encourage his readers to have an assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ. Repeat: (An Assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ).

But before we get to that main point—assurance—we need to look at how Paul frames that point in the passage.

This really is a fascinating passage, both theologically and structurally.

I. “3 WHILES”

The first structural element to notice in the passage is what I call the “3 whiles.” (Repeat: the “3 whiles”)

They are:

1) While we were still weak
2) While we were still sinners
3) While we were enemies (of God)

These “3 whiles” all point back to a time BEFORE we had faith in Jesus Christ. In that time we were weak, we were sinners, and we were enemies of God. We were not neutral nor in any position to decide for God ourselves. In fact, we had already decided against him. We were sinners. And because of this we were God’s enemies.

And then Christ came, not to a bunch of people who had it all figured out, but to a mass of sinners whom God had chosen before the foundation of the world and whom He had elected to salvation in Him.

Christ’s life, and particularly his death on the cross, should be seen as the central point of all history. We have in Western society delineated our time as B. C. (before Christ’s birth) and A. D. (Anno Domini), the estimated year of the Lord’s birth. But in many ways it is Christ’s death on the cross that forms a more central point in history than even Christ’s birth. It was on the cross that we were objectively justified. It was on the cross that Jesus bore our sins. It was on the cross that Jesus said “It is finished.”

The central date in history thus was not so much the year of Jesus’ birth, 1 A. D. (or even 4 B.C., which is more likely the year of his actual birth), but the central date in history is the day of Jesus’ death, very possibly April 3, 33 A. D.

In our modern times, an important date is Sept. 11, 2001. This past week marked the 17thanniversary of that dreadful day when America was attacked by terrorists. And you have may see many promoting the message “Never Forget, 9/11/2001.” But the most central event in world history is Jesus’ death. We might remind ourselves, Never Forget, April 3rd, 33 A. D.

So Paul’s “3 whiles” are before this date, matching the time before Jesus’s death on the cross. And then, corresponding to the time after Christ’s death, Paul has “3 nows.”

II. “3 NOWS”

The “3 nows” are set in contrast with the “3 whiles.” So we haver another— a second—notable structural element in the passage. The “3 nows.” They are:

1) now (we have) been justified by his blood,
2) now that we are reconciled
3) now (we have) received reconciliation

These emphasize our regenerated, redeemed, justified, and adopted situation NOW that we do have faith in Jesus Christ.

The contrast between the “3 whiles” and the “3 nows” marks that difference between our former selves and our new selves, being reborn in Jesus Christ.

And Paul’s repetition brings out the emphasis. It makes sure we don’t miss his point. Jesus came not to holy men, but to sinners. To enemies of God. But NOW we are reconciled, justified by His blood.

III. CHIASM – POINTS TO “HOW MUCH MORE”

Then there is third interesting structural element in this passage.

The passage forms what is called a chiasm.

A chiasm is literary technique commonly used (particularly by Jewish writers) to focus the reader’s (or listener’s) attention on a central point. Chiasm is related to the Greek letter “chi” which is like our letter “X.” The letter X, when you look at its shape, starts open on the top, closes in the middle, and opens again on the bottom. It has a symmetry. A chiasm or chiastic construction then is when a passage starts AND ENDS with the same comment or comments, framing a central middle point. That central point then is central.

Chiasms can have any number of framing elements.

In our passage today there are two levels of framing elements:

In verses 6 and 11—the outside of the frame—Paul states what Christ has done for us. He has died for the ungodly. He has provided brought us reconciliation.

Then, in verse 8 and 10—the inner part of the frame—Paul states what condition man was in when Christ saved us. We were “still sinners” and “enemies of God.”

Then, in the center of the “X” we have his central point of the passage. With a chiasm, the central point is easy to find. X marks the spot.

IV: A LOT MUCH MORE

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” This is the central point.(Repeat:“much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.)

Some Bible translations turn this into a question, asking, “HOW much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath?” (REPEAT: “HOW much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath?”)

And the answer is in the very asking of the question. How much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath? Pardon my poor grammar: A LOT MUCH MORE! How much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath? A LOT MUCH MORE!

This answer is clear in seeing that Paul is working from the lesser to the greater.
God loved us even WHILE we were to all appearances unlovable sinners.
NOW that God
– has justified us
– paid a price for us
– and has worked sanctification in us
– now that we have the Holy Spirit of the living God in us
– and now that we are part of his body, the church,

HOW MUCH MORE shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath? Now that God has done all of those things for us, How much more clear is it that God loves us? A LOT MUCH MORE! A WHOLE LOT MUCH MORE!

V. SALVATION

But what does Paul mean when he says “we shall be SAVED by him from God’s wrath”?

What is it to be saved?

Salvation is one of the most commonly used words in our Christian vocabulary. But what does it mean? What is salvation?

Is it that we are saved from our sin? – Sure. The angel said to Joseph that he is to name his son Jesus, for Jesus (the Hebrew name meaning “God is salvation”) will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

Is Salvation that we are saved from this world? – Sure.
But ultimately, salvation is to be SAVED from the wrath of God. (REPEAT: salvation is to be SAVED from the wrath of God)

The wrath of God will bypass us because of Jesus Christ.

It is no wonder therefore that Paul says we are to rejoice. We can rejoice in the reconciliation we have in Christ; the salvation which saves us from the wrath of God.

Paul has said a lot about the wrath of God so far in the book of Romans. And he has more to say throughout the book. In fact, of the 36 times where the “wrath” in mentioned in the New Testament, 11 of them are in Romans. Almost 1/3 of all references to “wrath” are here in Romans.

And what does Paul say about wrath?

Paul teaches that the wrath of God comes down on ungodly and unrighteous men who do evil, and that this wrath manifests itself both in pains of this life and in particular in the “day of wrath” to come when men shall be judged. But we—believers—shall be saved from wrath through Jesus Christ. It is only here in Romans 5:9 out of the whole New Testament that this exact explicit point is made. We shall be saved from the wrath of God.

And this is not a maybe, it is a “shall be,” a secured future promise because it is from the Lord. We have God’s promise of salvation.

VI: ASSURANCE

The purpose of this whole passage is to give us assurance of salvation; assurance that we are saved from the wrath of God.

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

There is a very similar verse later in Romans.

Romans 8:32. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Jesus Christ died, not for great men, but for sinners.

And, if He loved us WHILE we were enemies of God, how much more can we be sure that He love us NOW that we are reconciled with God? A LOT MUCH MORE.

We—God’s people—were bought at a price. God will not then discard us. We belong to God, for keeps, forever. And are sheltered by the blood of Jesus Christ from the wrath of God.

Because of Jesus Christ we have ASSURANCE of salvation. Assurance not based on ourselves, but on Christ.

Assurance, as we teach in the Reformed church, solidifies and completes the good news of salvation. Those who don’t teach assurance don’t have good news as we do. If the gospel is without assurance, it just isn’t good news. Without assurance, there is a salvation that is only temporary, incomplete.

The Roman Catholic church teaches against assurance. For them, to say that you are assured of your salvation is presumption. Because they teach salvation by grace and works, you can never know that you’ve done enough works, or good enough works to be assured of salvation. So if say you are sure of your salvation they think it is arrogance. But we don’t believe in salvation by grace plus works. Salvation is entirely of God’s grace. And we have assurance not in our works but in God’s grace. There is no arrogance; for we do not trust in ourselves for salvation, we trust in God for salvation. We have assurance because Jesus paid it all.

Arminian theologians likewise also do not accept assurance. The Arminian cannot be assured of his salvation because that same erroneous “free will” by which he claims to have chosen God may turn on him, and may ruin him tomorrow. Assurance does not come from trusting in our own decisions.

Only trusting in God, do we have assurance. With faith wehavefreedom from doubt; a confidence that salvation awaits.

Assurance is taught in a number of places in the New Testament:

John 10:28-29 where Jesus says of his people:

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

And Paul says in Ephesian 3:11-12
11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with CONFIDENCE through our faith in him.

And in First John 5:13 the apostle tells us:
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.

And in 2 Timothy 1:12:
But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am CONVINCED that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

And finally, later in Romans (10:9) Paul writes,
9 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you WILL be saved.

Assurance is CONFIDENCE, the sure KNOWING that you WILL be saved and no one can snatch you out of God’s hand.

Assurance is what is spoken of in the famous hymn “Blessed Assurance.”

Heir of salvation
Purchase of God
Born of His Spirit
Washed in His blood

All of these are ACCOMPLISHED and assured. Heir, purchase, born, washed. All past tense.

Because of this assurance, we can, like Paul, rejoice.

That is why we sing:
“This is my story, this is my song, PRAISING my savior all the day long.”
Blessed Assurance. Jesus is mine!
And assurance is taught in the Old Testament as well.

Psalm 23:6 “SURELY goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Job 19:25-26 “For I KNOW that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand up the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

APPLICATION # 1: STRUGGLING WITH DOUBT

But what if you don’t believe you have assurance? What if you are doubting your salvation? It is important to note that you’re not alone. Many Christians have struggled with assurance of salvation.

The Westminster Confession tells us:
“a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of assurance.”

and,
“True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted”

and,
“This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened”

But, the Confession also explains:
[faith] gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

So, while struggling with assurance does not mean you are not a Christian, we are not to encourage doubt, but, asking not whether we have had sufficient faith, we are to point to Jesus Christ and rest assured in the His promise of salvation.

If you are struggling with assurance. Do not look inward trying to muster up greater faith, but look outward. Look to the Promises of the Lord. Know that much more will he save you from the wrath to come.

APPLICATION #2: ASSURANCE LEADING US TO GOOD WORKS

Because of our assurance of salvation, we can joy in doing good works. Not out of guilt, trying to appease God. But out of joy knowing that our salvation is assured.

Assurance of salvation should bring you great joy, praising God, and rejoicing in His name. And this joy overflows from you into doing good works also in His name. Good works then are the fruit of our justification, not the grounds of our justification. They result from our already being justified, and with assurance we are to seek the Lords will, doing good things in His name as the Holy Spirit leads us both to will and to do.

CONCLUSION

So, we conclude.

You have faith in Jesus Christ that he died for your sins. Therefore, also be assured that you will be saved from the wrath to come. Much more should you be assured. A LOT MUCH MORE. Amen, Let us pray.

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Review of Gospel Truth of Justification by David J. Engelsma

Gospel Truth of Justification, Proclaimed Defended Developed, by David J. Engelsma, Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2017, 510 pp.

My greatest interest in Christianity has long been soteriology, the study of salvation. It was a study of salvation years ago that convinced me of the truth of the Reformed Faith over and above the views of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in which I was raised. In recent times I’ve been studying those sometimes overlooked soteriological doctrines of sanctification and glorification. But it is always beneficial to get back to studying that centrally important topic of justification.

David Engelma’s Gospel Truth of Justification is a learned defense of the Reformed view of justification by God’s grace alone through faith alone. But this is not your basic outline of the commonly discussed questions of justification. Gospel Truth of Justification wades into deeper waters, answering difficult questions, and driving even a studied reader to consider justification more thoroughly.

Throughout the book Engelsma argues for the Reformed, Confessional view over against the axis of Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, Federal Vision, the New Perspective on Paul, and Evangelicals and Catholics Together. It is seen that these groups each hold essentially the same error on justification. That is, in some way they each sneak works into the equation. Engelsma, who has written against Federal Vision previously (Federal Vision, Heresy at the Root, 2012) has chapters on each of these views well explaining their respective histories and problems.

While the majority of the book puts forward views that shouldn’t be controversial among Reformed and Presbyterian theologians (Federal Visionists aside, who have no honest place teaching in churches in which they disagree with the subscribed confession), there are a few chapters that get into challenging intramural discussions. Two of these are chapter 12 on “Assurance of Justification” where Engelsma holds assurance to be of the essence of faith (rather than a fruit of faith), and chapter 13 “Justified, When” where he supports a view of “eternal justification.” These chapters, and others (like his three chapters on merit and rewards) deserve engagement in their own right. I hope that many will take notice of them and write articles discussing them. But, because Engelsma is in small the Protestant Reformed Church of American (PRCA) which many hypo-Calvinists slander as hyper, and because even the Christian world is sadly disinterested in doctrine, I fear that this book will not get the readership and engagement it deserves.

While there might be some teachings in the book that I’m not fully comfortable with (either because of my previous ignorance of them or because of genuine disagreement) I strongly recommend this book. It will most certainly challenge even Reformed readers to more thoroughly work out their understanding of the doctrine of justification.

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Sandemanian Pandemonium

Sandemanian Pandemonium:

Saving Faith in the Views of Gordon H. Clark and Robert Sandeman

by Rev. Douglas J. Douma

The publication in 2004 of Gordon Clark’s What is Saving Faith, a combined edition of his Faith and Saving Faith (1983) and The Johannine Logos (1972), occasioned renewed discussion of Clark’s view of saving faith. In that same year, Orthodox Presbyterian Church minster Alan D. Strange reviewed the book in Mid-America Theological Journal.[1] He praised aspects of Clark’s thought on faith but ultimately concluded that Clark’s position “falls short of a full, biblical definition.” Also before the year was out, Doug Barnes, a United Reformed Church pastor, followed with critical comments on Clark’s view of faith in a four-article series in Christian Renewal, the final part of which was soon republished in Banner of Truth along with a response letter from John Robbins.[2]

Robbins’s letter was a response not only to Barnes’s four-part article, but also to the article “Sandemanianism at the Westminster Conference” by Geoff Thomas in Banner of Truth.[3] There, Thomas seems to be the first in writing to suggest a Clark–Sandeman connection. He wrote:

Sandeman held that bare assent to the work of Christ is alone necessary. … His works are repetitive and of low intellectual worth. What form has Sandemanian’s understanding of faith as bare assent taken in the 21st century? Some in the Conference suggested the worst kinds of ‘History of Redemption’ preaching with its absolutising of exegesis. Also there are study groups, Protestant and Catholic, which assure those who say they now believe the teaching of the first few lessons that that believing has made them Christians. One also privately thinks that the late Gordon Clark’s definition of saving faith is too near Sandemanian ideas to be acceptable.

This is the entirety of the comment on a Clark–Sandeman connection; an opinion Thomas notes of an un-named person, and without any accompanying argumentation. Following this one comment, pandemonium has generally reigned on discussion of the topic.

While Banner of Truth titled their section publishing Robbins’s letter as “Further Development, ‘Gordon Clark was not a Sandemanian,’” Robbins never actually stated a conclusion on that question in his letter. Rather, he wrote that Sandeman is being used “as a bogeyman to scare people away from reading Dr. Clark” and that the true question should be “Does Clark agree with Scripture?” He then defended Clark on that point.

While the most important question with respect to Clark’s view of saving faith is whether it agrees with scripture, the question of whether Clark’s view is near Sandeman’s has intrigued me enough to research it. Thus, answering that question will be the main purpose of this article.

SAVING FAITH IN THE VIEW OF SANDEMAN AND GLAS

Robert Sandeman (1718-1771) was a Scottish minister perhaps most well known for his view of saving faith. On this doctrine, like many others, Sandeman followed the teachings of his father-in-law, minister John Glas (1695-1773). Opposing the idea of a national church and favoring Congregationalism[4] Glas was deposed in 1730 from the ministry of the established Church of Scotland. He went on to form a denomination known as the Glasites. Sandeman later served as an elder in multiple Glasite churches in Scotland and traveled to America to plant additional churches. Sandeman’s death in 1771, coupled with the denomination’s overly strict church discipline and Loyalist sympathies in the American War of Independence contributed to its stunted growth and slow but eventual demise.

Theologically, Sandeman got nearly all of his views from Glas. In fact, one dictionary biography of Sandeman claims, “Sandeman added nothing to the principles of theology and church polity adopted by Glas.”[5] But because Sandeman’s Letters on Theron and Aspasio found a wide audience, the views he shared with Glas became more commonly known as Sandemanian. Since Sandeman and Glas held essential the same views—inclusive of their view of saving faith—it is worth noting Glas’s writings on the subject as well as Sandeman’s.

The view of saving faith held by John Glas is seen in his 1729 The Testimony of the King of Martyrs Concerning His Kingdom. There, Glas wrote:

Thus the scripture notion of faith agrees with the common notion of faith and belief among men, a persuasion of a thing upon testimony, but that faith whereby we believe the gospel has been very much darkened, by the many things that have been said in the description of it, while that which is most properly faith has been either shut up in a narrow and dark corner of the description, or almost excluded from it, as a thing presupposed unto faith, and not that very faith itself, whereby we are justified and saved. And some have so defined faith, as to take into its own nature the whole gospel obedience. Agreeably to this, we have heard in sermons, that it has two hands, one to receive Christ, and another to give ourselves away to him; and when we are pressed and exhorted to believe in Christ, it is as if we were urged to put forth some (we do not know what act of the will) or to give forth something towards Christ by God’s help, by which we are to be saved, on account of the connection made in the promise betwixt salvation and that deed, whatever it be, which is called faith. By this means the hearers of the gospel are set on to seek to do that deed, that work, called faith, to save them, and entitle them to eternal life; and serious souls are perplexed with many fruitless inquiries in themselves whether they have this thing called faith, while that which lies at the bottom of the most part of their doubts, is either the weakness or the want of the persuasion of this truth, and their taking no notice of it, because it is not much noticed in the accounts of faith that are made to them; and it is foolishly reckoned by many, that the belief of the truth is a common thing, and that it is no great matter to attain unto it, tho’ the apostle hath said ‘God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the spirit, and belief of the truth,’ 2 Thes. ii. 13. This glorious truth containing in it Christ the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believe it, is able to give rest to the weary soul, to make a blessed calm in the most troubled conscience, and to raise up the most desperate sinner unto a lively hope.”[6]

Sandeman followed this Glasite view in his Letters on Theron and Aspasio (1757).[7] There, addressed to Anglican minister James Hervey (1714-1758), Sandeman wrote against “popular preachers” who “make offers of Christ and all his benefits unto men, upon certain terms, and to assure them of the benefits on their complying with the terms.”[8] Sandeman’s driving purpose was to avoid adding anything of human merit to the Gospel of God’s grace. He wrote:

“I speak of those teachers, who, having largely insisted on the corruptions of human nature, concluded the world guilty before God, eloquently set forth the necessity of an atonement, zealously maintained the scriptural doctrine concerning the person and work of Christ; yet, after all, leave us as much in the dark as to our comfort, as if Jesus Christ had never appeared; and mark out as insuperable a task for us, as if he had not finished his work; while, with great assiduity and earnestness, they are busied in describing to us, animating us with various encouragements, and furnishing us with manifold instructions, how to perform that strange something which is to make out our connection with Christ, and bring his righteousness home to us; that somethng whch has got many names, and includes divers considerations; all which have been supposed to be comprehended under the scriptural expression FAITH; as to which, after all they have told us about it, we are at a great loss to tell distinctly what it is, or what we are doing when we perform it, if not greater, than when they began.”[9]

And he illustrated his point well in the following:

“Methinks I see first a decent respectable company advancing to the house of prayer, and then stepping forward with a graceful assurance, beginning their address thus: ‘We give thee thanks, O God, for the aversion we feel to sin, and for every other amiable qualification by which thou hast distinguished us from other men; we bless thee for every fine endowment wherewith thou has ornamented us, and more especially for the peculiar right thou has given us of advancing our claim to all the blessings of the kingdom of thy Messiah; whom we prize above all things, and to whose merits we are indebted for every advantage we enjoy. We humbly acknowledge that our qualifications are by no means the ground of our right. For, had it not been for thy grace assisting our feeble efforts, we might have been as yet like other men, drinking up iniquity like water. We acknowledge the righteousness of thy Messiah to be the only meritorious cause of all our happines. For his sake, therefore, we earnestly beg the continuance of thy grace, that we may always come into thy house of prayer with a comfortable assurance, and may never be filled with confusion of face in thy presence. Behind them, at some distance, I see an abject company approaching, with remorse in their faces, as if they had just come from the gratification of some guilty passion. They dare not venture beyond the porch, as if afraid to polluate the sacred mansion, but pointing toward the inner recess where the propitiatory stand, they are encouraged to utter these words, “God be propitious to us sinners.”[10]

Following these criticisms, some pages later Sandeman explained his own view:

“The testimony of the apostles, concerning God well pleased in his beloved Son, conveys to the ends of the earth the knowledge of what they saw. Every one who believes their testimony, or is persuaded that it is true, has the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, even as the apostles had the sight of it. And this knowledge gives light or a ray of good hope toward God in the heart, where nothing but darkness or despair took place before. So all who have this knowledge, are said to be called out of darkness into his marvellous light.”[11]

Thus Sandeman held that saving faith was equivalent to belief. And he warned against adding anything else to it:

But one thing in the general may be freely said, that where the faith necessary to justification is described, every epithet, word, name, or phrase, prefixed or subjoined to Faith, not meant as description of the truth believed, but of some good motion, disposition, or exercise of the human soul about it, is intended, and really serves, instead of clearing our way, to blindfold and decoy us; to impose upon us, and make us take brass for gold, and chaff for wheat; to lead us to establish our own, in opposition to the divine righteousness; even while our mouths and our ears are filled with high sounding words about the latter.”[12]

Such additions Sandeman saws as fruits of faith rather than elements essential to faith. He wrote:

If in this, or any other part of the New Testament, more be meant by receiving Christ, than by knowing him, or believing on him, then I am ready to show, that more than faith is meant, namely, faith with its fruits and effects.13

GORDON CLARK’S VIEW OF SAVING FAITH

Looking at their theological views more broadly, Glas and Sandeman were, in some ways, precursors to the Restorationist Movement. While, unlike the Restorationists, they held to a Calvinist soteriology and were paedobaptists, they did hold to congregationalism and were opposed to having written confessions; hallmarks of the later Restorationist Movement. Also like the Restorationists, the Glasites/Sandemanians looked to the New Testament church as a model for their own, and in so doing they settled on practices such as foot-washing, holy kissing, and communion as a meal.

As a confessional Presbyterian Clark would have naturally opposed many of the Sandemanian views. Other than the proposed similarity between Clark’s and Sandeman’s view of faith, there is no indication that Clark was influenced by Sandeman. Having gone through Clark’s published works, articles, personal papers, and correspondence, I’ve not found a single reference to Robert Sandeman or John Glas. If Clark’s view is in some way similar to Sandeman’s it is more likely coincidence than influence.

Evidence of Clark’s view of faith comes as early 1939 when, in a letter to J. Oliver Buswell, he equated faith and belief, and distinguished saving faith from the faith of the devil. He wrote,

We put our faith or belief in Christ’s finished work for us; the devil does not.”[14]

By the time of Clark’s 1957 article “Faith and Reason” his view was definite. There in a section labeled “The Element of Trust,” he wrote:

In describing the nature of faith, fundamentalists, evangelicals and even modernists in a certain way stress the element of trust. A preacher may draw a parallel between trusting in Christ and trusting in a chair. Belief that the chair is solid and comfortable, mere intellectual assent to such a proposition, will not rest your weary bones. You must, the preacher insists, actually sit in the chair. Similarly, so goes the argument, you can believe all that the Bible says about Christ and it will do you no good. Such illustrations as these are constantly used, in spite of the fact that the Bible says, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”[15]

Then in 1973, writing the entry for “Faith” in Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Clark noted:

The early Reformers were inclined to include assurance of salvation in their definition of faith. But there were many variations. Cunningham (cf. bibliography) reports seven different views. Later Reformed theologians definitely excluded assurance (cf. the Westminster Confession), but came to add fiducia,as a third element in addition to knowledge and assent. They failed, however, to give an intelligible account of fiducia,restricting themselves to synonyms or illustrations (cf. Thomas Manton, Exposition of the Epistle of James, pp.216ff., Marshallton, Del., Sovereign Grace Book Club, 196-). This defective view is so common today that many ministers have never heard of the earlier Reformed views.”[16]

He further critiqued the addition of fiducia to the definition of faith in an article on “Saving Faith” in the Trinity Review in 1979:

The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.”[17]

The place were Clark’s views on faith are most thoroughly detailed however is his Faith and Saving Faithpublished in 1983. There Clark surveyed the history of views of saving faith and brought together arguments for his own position. Some of these will be noted later in this article.

Having read the views of saving faith in Clark and Sandeman/Glas, I believe it is of value to list some elements in common in their views.

SOME ELEMENTS IN COMMON BETWEEN THE VIEW OF SAVING FAITH IN CLARK AND SANDEMAN

Common Element #1. Faith is belief.

That Sandeman held that faith is belief is evident not only in what I’ve quoted previously, but also noted by John Howard Smith in The Perfect Rule of the Christian Christian, A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century. Smith wrote:

“No distinction is made between ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ in Sandeman’s thought. The terms are used interchangeably and regarded as identical, regardless of whether they are found in the Synoptic Gospels, John’s writings, or the epistles of Paul.”[18]

And likewise for Clark, in addition to quotes provided earlier, let this one from his Faith and Saving Faith suffice:

“It is clear that the Greek verb pisteuo is properly translated believe; and it would have been much better if the noun pistis had been translated belief.”[19]

Common Element #2. Saving Faith is a species of generic faith to be distinguished in the object believed, not the psychology of the believer.

Rather than thinking the apostles had invented some new usage of the term “faith” when applying it to that saving instrument in the Scriptures, Clark, like Glas and Sandeman, held that the Biblical writers were using the term just as it was known in the common language of the day.

First, we see that John Glas wrote:

“Thus the scripture-notion of faith agrees with the common notion of faith and belief among men, a persuasion of a thing upon testimony.”[20]

Likewise, John Howard Smith notes of Sandeman:

“He [Sandeman] repeatedly argued that the concept of faith used in scripture is no different from the ‘common’ usage of the term.”[21]

Clark’s view, matching Glas and Sandeman, is as clear if not more so:

“But saving faith is a species of faith in general.”[22]

“faith in pickles and faith in God are psychologically identical; the difference lies in the object.”[23]

Common Element #3. Opposition to a third term in the definition of faith.

Having defined faith as belief, Clark, like Sandeman and Glas, opposed adding any additional terms to the definition. It should be noted that they actually opposed not only the addition of a third term to the definition of faith, but a fourth term, a fifth term, etc., for theologians have added all sorts of additional terms (most often trust, assurance, love, or even “awe”).

We start again with Glas, repeating a quote from earlier:

And some have so defined faith, as to take into its own nature the whole gospel obedience. Agreeably to this, we have heard in sermons, that it has two hands, one to receive Christ, and another to give ourselves away to him; and when we are pressed and exhorted to believe in Christ, it is as if we were urged to put forth some (we do not know what act of the will) or to give forth something towards Christ by God’s help, by which we are to be saved, on account of the connection made in the promise betwixt salvation and that deed, whatever it be, which is called faith. By this means the hearers of the gospel are set on to seek to do that deed, that work, called faith, to save them, and entitle them to eternal life; and serious souls are perplexed with many fruitless inquiries in themselves whether they have this thing called faith.”[24]

And repeating a quote from Sandeman:

“they are busied in describing to us, animating us with various encouragements, and furnishing us with manifold instructions, how to perform that strange something which is to make out our connection with Christ, and bring his righteousness home to us; that somethng whch has got many names, and includes divers considerations; all which have been supposed to be comprehended under the scriptural expression FAITH; as to which, after all they have told us about it, we are at a great loss to tell distinctly what it is, or what we are doing when we perform it, if not greater, than when they began.”[25]

And finally, repeating a quote from Clark:

In describing the nature of faith, fundamentalists, evangelicals and even modernists in a certain way stress the element of trust. A preacher may draw a parallel between trusting in Christ and trusting in a chair. Belief that the chair is solid and comfortable, mere intellectual assent to such a proposition, will not rest your weary bones. You must, the preacher insists, actually sit in the chair. Similarly, so goes the argument, you can believe all that the Bible says about Christ and it will do you no good. Such illustrations as these are constantly used, in spite of the fact that the Bible says, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’”[26]

While these three similarities between the views of saving faith in Clark and Sandeman might be the most notable, it is not an exhaustive list. One might add also that they each make a strong distinction between faith and the effects of faith.

While some elements in common between the view of saving faith in Clark and Sandeman have been noted that does not mean they are in agreement on all points. Without the rigorous analysis perhaps necessary, I might note that one difference might be that Glas held that the belief of devils is not saving because it is of a different nature than that of a saved man[27] while Clark held that it was not saving because it is of a different object (or insufficient propositions).[28] Other differences, though I haven’t been able to fully discern them, might be in the theologians’ respective views of the relationship of faith to assurance and repentance, and perhaps in the role in which they grant man in believing (Sandeman/Glas arguing man is entirely passive, and Clark perhaps holding that while passive in receiving faith, man is then made active in believing.)

CONCLUSION

While there are differences between the respective views of saving faith of Robert Sandeman and Gordon Clark, the elements in common are substantial and noteworthy. Yet while Clark‘s view of saving faith has significant elements in common with Sandeman, one could perhaps as easily note his many similarities to Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, or a number of other theologians.

Here we return to Robbin’s question: is Clark’s view of saving faith Biblical? Since I see so much confusion in those who have critiqued Clark, I recommend a very thorough study and consideration of Clark’s Faith and Saving Faith before you form your own conclusions.

[1] Alan D. Strange, Review of What is Saving Faith? by Gordon H. ClarkMid-America Theological Journal, 15, 2004, 217-226.

[2] Doug Barnes, “What is Gordon Clark’s Saving Faith?,” Christian Renewal, October 27, 2004; “Calvin & Machen: Clark’s Allies?,”Christian Renewal, November 17, 2004; “Salvation by belief alone versus Scripture,”Christian Renewal, December 1, 2004; “Trust – The missing element,” Christian Renewal, December 15, 2004. See also: “Gordon Clark and Sandemaniansim,”Banner of Truth, January 10, 2005. https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2005/gordon-clark-and-sandemanianism/

[3] Geoff Thomas, “Sandemanianism at the Westminster Conference,”The Banner of Truth.https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2004/sandemanianism-at-the-westminster-conference/

[4] Though, according to John Hornsby, the Glasites were not strict Congregationalists. He writes, “The Glasite societies represent a form of church order which might be denominated Presbyterian Independency or Congregational Presbyterianism rather than strict Congregationalism such as that taught by Robert Browne and other Fathers of Independency in the late Sixteenth and early Seventeenth centuries.”—John Thomas Hornsby, “John Glas.” PhD diss., Edinburgh University, 1936, 114.

[5] Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. L., Russen—Scobell, New York: MacMillan, 1897, 256.

[6] The Testimony of the King of Martyrs Concerning His Kingdom, John Glas, 1729, reprinted 1776, Edinburgh: J. Mennons, 209-210.

[7] Hervey is said to have brought the views of the Marrow Men to England. “In England attention was drawn afresh to the Marrow when celebrated James Hervey adopted the views of the Scottish Representers, especially on the subject of faith and the element of appropriating assurance in every act of that saving grace.” … Soon after the English clergyman wrote thus to a friend: “I never read the Marrow till this instant (1755) and I find by not reading I have sustained a considerable loss. It is a most valuable book; the doctrines it contains are the life of my soul and the very joy of my heart. Whatever some people may think of them I sincerely wish to live and die under their influence.” (Introduction by the Editor to The Marrow of Modern Divinity, ed. C. G. M’Crie, Glasgow: David Bryce and Son, 1902, p. xxvi – xxvii). The views of Glas and Sandeman should in some ways be seen as a reaction to the errors of Marrow. Opposing the well-meant offer of Marrow, Sandeman wrote, “The gospel, which foretells the final perdition of so many of its hearers, so many seriously and zealously exercised about it, can never warrant us to persuade every one who hears it, to believe that Christ died for him; unless we shall say that Christ died for every individual of mankind, and consequently, that none of mankind owe their salvation wholly to his death.”—Letters on Theron and Aspasio by Robert Sandeman, 1757, 1838 edition, New York: John S. Taylor,12.

[8]Letters on Theron and Aspasio by Robert Sandeman, 1757, 1838 edition, New York: John S. Taylor, p. 19. As to who these preachers were, Sandeman comments, “I have nowhere observed the Jewish disgust at the bare truth, or, which is the same thing, the bare work of Christ, more evident than among the admirers of the doctrine of Messrs. Marshall, Boston, Erskines, Whitefield, Wesley, and such like.”—ibid., 86.

[9]Letters on Theron and Aspasio by Robert Sandeman, 1757, 1838 edition, New York: John S. Taylor, 7-8.

[10] Ibid., 40-41.

[11] Ibid., 95.

[12] Ibid., 282.

[13] Ibid., 319.

[14] Gordon Clark to J. Oliver Buswell, Feb. 9, 1939. See: Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark, ed. Thomas W. Juodaitis and Douglas J. Douma, Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2017, 87-91.

[15] Gordon H. Clark, “Faith and Reason” Christianity Today, Feb. 18 and Mar. 4. 1957. Vol I., No. 10, and Vol I, No. 11. http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/faith-and-reason-by-gordon-h-clark/

[16] Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Faith. 1973. http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/faith-by-gordon-h-clark/

[17] Gordon H. Clark, “Saving Faith” The Trinity Review Dec., 1979 http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=10

[18] The Perfect Rule of the Christian Christian, A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century, John Howard Smith, Albany: SUNY Press, 2008, 74.

[19] Faith and Saving Faith, Gordon H. Clark, Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1983, 2nd edition 1990, 98.

[20] The Testimony of the King of Martyrs Concerning His Kingdom, John Glas, 1729, reprinted 1776, Edinburgh: J. Mennons, 209.

[21] The Perfect Rule of the Christian Christian, A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century, John Howard Smith, Albany: SUNY Press, 2008, 74.

[22] Faith and Saving Faith, Gordon H. Clark, Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1983, 2nd edition 1990, 3.

[23] Faith and Saving Faith, Gordon H. Clark, Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1983, 2nd edition 1990, 78.

[24] The Testimony of the King of Martyrs Concerning His Kingdom, John Glas, 1729, reprinted 1776, Edinburgh: J. Mennons, 209-210.

[25] Letters on Theron and Aspasio by Robert Sandeman, 1757, 1838 edition, New York: John S. Taylor, 7-8.

[26] Gordon H. Clark, “Faith and Reason” Christianity Today, Feb. 18 and Mar. 4. 1957. Vol I., No. 10, and Vol I, No. 11. http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/faith-and-reason-by-gordon-h-clark/

[27] “Even Glas was obliged to affirm that mere belief, such as the faith of devils, possesses no saving quality—that belief of the truth is ‘of a different nature from their belief,’ as is shown by its fruits, though he will not allow that ‘there must be more in faith, than the belief of the truth of the gospel.’”—John Thomas Hornsby, “John Glas.” PhD diss., Edinburgh University, 1936, 240.

[28] “The belief that causes the devils to shudder is the belief that God is one.”—Religion, Reason, and RevelationGordon H. Clark, Hobbs, NM: The Trinity Foundation, 1961, 2nd Edition 1995, 102. See also: “[Faith of the devils] is no more than a belief in monotheism.’”—Faith and Saving Faith, Gordon H. Clark, Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1983, 2nd edition 1990, 47.

 

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The Christian Observer

My article “Using God’s Money for Man’s Kingdom” has been covered in the Christian Observer. Check it out:

http://christianobserver.org/using-gods-money-for-mans-kingdom-a-short-history-of-a-financial-scandal/

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Sermon on Romans 5:1-5 – “The Benefits of Faith in Jesus Christ”

Sermon on Romans 5:1-5 – “The Benefits of Faith in Jesus Christ”

September 16, 2018 at Dillingham Presbyterian Church

Introduction

In the first four chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans we learned that salvation is through faith alone—not through works, not through the sacraments, not through priests, nor any combination of these things. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith produced by the Holy Spirit in us so that no one may boast.

We previously saw also that Paul addressed challenges that would come up against his doctrine. Having so abundantly argued against the work’s righteousness of legalism, he apparently had concern that some would call him an antinomian. But this too he argued against, saying that we by no means overthrow the law, but we uphold it.

So then Paul, always ready for the next question, addresses in our passage today the “so what”—the question of why does having faith matter. Or, in our modern context the question might be, “What good does it do me to be a Christian?” (REPEAT: What good does it do me to be a Christian?”)

And so Paul now explains The Benefits of Faith in Jesus Christ. (REPEAT: The Benefits of Faith in Jesus Christ.”

We might ask, is being a Christian all pain and suffering?
— I have to wake up early on Sunday morning (of all days!) and go to church!
— My faith makes me an outsider at my school or my job.
— I’m looked upon as an imbecile for not believing the world’s latest theories of evolution, psychology, ethics, or on any number of other subjects.
Is being a Christian all pain?

What are the benefits of being a Christian? What are the benefits of having faith in Jesus Christ? That is the question Paul addresses here in Romans chapter 5. And Paul’s answer is just as valid today as it was in his own day.

In our text today, Paul gives four benefits of having faith in Jesus Christ. They are:

(1) We have peace with God. (Repeat)

(2) We stand in God’s grace. (Repeat)

(3) We rejoice in hope of the Glory of God. (Repeat)

(4) We rejoice in our sufferings. (Repeat)

This is not an exhaustive list of the benefits of faith in Jesus Christ, but Paul has certainly mentioned some central and important benefits. And it is upon these four benefits of faith that today’s sermon is structured.

Let us look first at the first benefit:

Benefit #1. We have peace with God.

When a person knows the end of their life is near, the specter of death is liable to come over him. Lying on his death bed a great fear comes over him. It is then, when he works some things out in his own mind, that the world says “HE HAS MADE PEACE WITH GOD.” (REPEAT: HE has made peace with God.)

But what presumption! What audacity! What pretension!
HE has made peace with God! HE, the person, has done so!

I don’t think so!

The wrath of God is not appeased by the wishes of man, nor by the dream that man has earned God’s mercy. The wrath of God is not appeased by ANYTHING man does, for man is sinful and the holy God is revulsed by him. God is filled with disgust when He looks at man. And He will punish those who do not believe with the eternal pains of Hell for their sins.

Peace with God is not made by sinful man.
Peace with God cannot be had in such a manner.

The Lord God is a terror against sin, a sword of judgment, with fearsome wrath against His enemies so that they are consumed like the fat of lambs in a fire.
No, man cannot make peace with God. Man cannot appease God’s wrath.

God is only appeased through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Christian, usually long before he comes to his death bed, has peace with God. Not of his own making, but as a benefit of faith in Jesus Christ. We have peace with God because we have reconciliation with Him through the death of His Son.
Our peace with God is peace in the sense that the war is over. We are saved not only from our sins, but FROM the wrath of God. God is no longing warring against. Wrath and terror are replaced with love, mercy, and peace.

And we have this peace as a benefit of faith in Jesus Christ who has turned God’s wrath away from us and brought us peace.

Some have aptly said:
“God saved you FROM himself, FOR himself, and BY himself.”

We’ve certainly covered the last of these three in previous sermons. God’s salvation is BY himself. Our works do not add to God’s grace.

And we know that God does all things for His glory and so has saved us FOR himself, for His own purposes.

But what we see here in Paul’s first benefit of faith—peace with God—is that God has saved us FROM himself; from his wrath.

We now have peace with God. And that is a wonderful thing.

But—and to risk sounding like a salesman on an infomercial—that’s not all. While peace with God is a great benefit of faith. There are others.

Benefit #2.We stand in God’s grace.

Having been saved from God’s wrath we now stand in His grace! This is Paul’s second “benefit of faith.” Through faith we stand in God’s grace.

And that we have God’s grace is assured and guaranteed. It is where we stand. It is not something we are moving through; being once in God’s favor and in some future time falling out of His favor. No, we stand in God’s grace. Thus there is a certainty of salvation in faith.

But not all believers have great assurance of their salvation. Many people struggle with assurance, with certainty. This does not mean that they are without faith. In the Gospel of Mark chapter 9, a man—apparently trusting in Jesus’ power, comes to him to have his son healed. When Jesus says to him, “all things are possible to him who believes” the man responds “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” This too should be our prayer when we struggle to believe. When you are struggling with assurance, do not look inward asking whether you have strong enough faith, but look outward to God and the promises of salvation in the Scripture. The Bible assures us of the solid place in which we stand in the grace of Jesus Christ.

In the vocabulary of the Reformed church we say of this assurance that there is a “perseverance of the saints.” It is the “P” on the famous TULIP acronym. Perseverance of the saints —those whom God has granted faith have salvation in Him, and can never be plucked out of His hand. Paul says “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end.” (Phil. 1:6) Paul assures his hearers of salvation in Christ. He assures us that God finishes the works He begins. If God gives you faith, He will also give you salvation, sanctification, and glorification.

R. C. Sproul, and others, like the term “PRESERVATION of the saints” rather than “PERSEVERANCE of the saints.” While the traditional “perseverance of the saints” is fine if rightly understood, the phrase, as Sproul points out, has a dangerous possible connotation of suggesting that perseverance is something we do in and of ourselves. Sproul prefers instead “preservation of the saints” because, as he notes, “the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God.” I might use both terms by saying God preserves us, and we persevere only because His Holy Spirit dwelling in us, leading us both to will and to do good things.

Whether we use the phrase “perseverance of the saints” of “preservation of the saints,” these are better than the relatively modern saying of “once saved always saved.” Many who use the phrase “once saved, always saved” tend to focus on some perceived ability of man to choose salvation. For example, they might teach in error that saying a sinner’s prayer when you’re a teenager at camp make you “once saved” and therefore excused from all the rest of the Christian life. They make salvation out to be a reward for men who are capable of having faith, rather than preaching the Biblical truth of salvation through faith as a gift from God, procured not by our ability to have faith, but by Jesus’ death on the cross. So one most certainly will always be saved if saved as a result of God’s great salvation, but one is never saved to begin with if they are merely trusting in their own selves for salvation.

So we STAND in God’s grace. This is a great benefit of having faith. We do not move into God’s grace and out of God’s grace, but have a solid position, standing in God’s favor through faith in Jesus Christ.

But though we’ve now listed two great benefits of faith, again … that’s not all.

Benefit #3.We rejoice in hope of the Glory of God.

Paul’s next “benefit of faith” is that through Jesus Christ we rejoice in hope of the Glory of God. [Repeat: We rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God]

Hope here is a noun, rather than a verb. So it is not “hoping” but “hope.” It refers to something we hope in.

And the Scriptural hope is not a “maybe it will happen, maybe it will not.” The Scriptural “hope” is something we can be assured of because it is a promise of the Lord. It is an expectation of what is sure. We have hope, and it is no fleeting hope.

But what is that object of hope?

It is, Paul says, the hope of the Glory of God.

The glory of God that we hope for is what is called our glorification. Glorification is an oft-overlooked element on the Ordo Salutis, the order of salvation. It is much more common to talk about Regeneration, or Adoption, Effectual Calling, Justification, or even Sanctification. But the final stage, the final goal, of God’s salvation is our glorification.

And our glorification is guaranteed in that promise of the perseverance of the saints. God will bring us through to the end, to his goal of our glorification.

In what some call the “Golden Chain of Salvation,” Paul tells us the following later in his letter to the Romans. He writes,

“And those whom he [God] predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he alsoglorified.” – Romans 8:30

There is a one-to-one-to-one-to-one correspondence. ALL who are predestined by God are effectually called to faith. And ALL who have faith are justified. And ALL who are justified are glorified. Thus it is the same CHOSEN people throughout. And God the Father (who predestines) and God the Son (who justifies us) and God the Holy Spirit (who effectual calls us) are “on the same page.”

We then have this hope of the glory of God; of glorification.

But what is glorification?

For one, It is that we will one day have resurrected, glorified bodies.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

But glorification is not only having glorified bodies.

Our Westminster Catechism tells us:

“The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.” A37

So glorification is not only having glorified bodies, but also that we will bask and rejoice in the glory of God. We have no glory of ourselves, but the Confession explains God “manifests His own glory in, by, and upon His creatures.”

In glorification also we are “made perfect in holiness” as our sins are finally removed and we sin no more.

Think about this benefit of faith; sinning no more. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. To sin no more. No more hurt, no more hurting anyone else, no more breaking the laws of God, no more guilt, no more shame, no more of the consequences of sin, no more disease, no more sickness. No more sin.

In this benefit of faith—in this assured and certain hope of glorification—we can certainly rejoice!

But, that’s not all.

Benefit #4. We rejoice in our sufferings.

We then move on to Paul’s fourth “benefit of faith”: we rejoice in our suffering.
Now, doesn’t that sound odd? – We REJOICE in our sufferings!?

Why would we rejoice in our sufferings?

He writes, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

I’ll try to explain what this all means.

First, we suffer in tribulation as we carry on the work of the Lord. These tribulations which Paul is referring to are not your every-day sufferings that all men everywhere suffer from. Rather, they are primarily the extra and specific tribulations—the persecutions—put upon us for the sake of being Christians.

And as we endure and persevere in these struggles they change our character. As, as we suffer, it is revealed to us how weak we are and how much we need Christ. Suffering is part of the sanctification process. We then find our hope in God’s glory rather than some glory of our own. Like the martyr’s of old, and even those today, we are not to pity ourselves, but to rejoice in our sufferings—and to glory in our tribulations—because by them the Lord grows our character and leads us to hope.

Our hope does not put us to shame. Or, in other words, what God has promised will come to pass. John Calvin says of this passage: “These evils then cannot render us miserable, which do in a manner promote our happiness.”

The Christian then rejoices EVEN in suffering. Anyone can rejoice when good things comes their way, but we can rejoice even in the worst of times. And what a great witness that makes Christians who show their joy even in tribulation.

On this my mind returns again and again to the story of the missionary Bruce Hunt. Now, for some this might be an unknown name, but for others he is quite famous and quite familiar, even thought of as “uncle Bruce.” Bruce Hunt was a presbyterian missionary to Koreans. In the early 1940s he was evangelizing a population of Koreans who lived in an area of China called Manchuria. But at that time the Japanese were in control as foreign invaders. Because Bruce Hunt would not worship the Japanese emperor, he was sent to prison. But despite his suffering for the gospel, he rejoiced in the Lord. He sang hymns in his prison cell. He wrote verses on the wall. And in all this, he didn’t even need to be in prison, for the Japanese would have let him out if only he returned to America. But he wanted to suffer with the Korean Christians who were put into jail as well for their faith. He wanted to wear the wooden number 22 badge with his fellow Christians. And he certainly did suffer. He lost a dangerous amount of weight. And when he was released on December 6th, 1941, it was only for 1 day; for the following day was a day that has lived in infamy. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the Christians in Manchuria were sent back to jail. Yet the Lord used Bruce Hunt and many other missionaries to show their joy in tribulations, and their work is not put to shame, for in time many Koreans have come to Christ, even today sending their own missionaries to foreign lands.

APPLICATIONS

Some applications:

1. Next time that you are suffering, consider what the Lord is doing. He is not having you suffer just for no reason. It is not suffering needlessly, but suffering to build character. If we were not such stubborn sinners our sanctification process might be a lot easier.

2. These benefits of faith give us not only hope in glorification, but strong reasons to embrace live in the here and now.

When I think of the benefits of faith in Jesus Christ, it is above all else, the benefit of hope in God’s glory that I reflect on. In ages past when the minds of all people in the Western world were either believing the Christian Faith or significantly impacted by the Christian culture around them, there was almost no such thing as suicide. There was a general hope for life.

It has been my concern for some years that suicide is strongly correlated with a lack of hope. As our world falls further and further away from the teachings of Scripture, it knows not the benefits of faith in Jesus Christ. It knows not hope. And without hope many struggle for a reason to live.

As we think about the benefits of faith, knowing that we have peace with God, stand in His grace, and have hope in His glory, we find reason not only to live, but to rejoice in all things; even our suffering.

CONCLUSION

While there are many struggles in the Christian life, and while in fact we are told that we will have more hardships in being a Christian, the benefits of faith so outweigh and overpower the difficulties of the Christian life, that we are to embrace life here and now and praise God for the gift of faith and its many benefits.

PRAYER OF SUPPLICATION
Let us pray. Lord, you have heaped blessings upon blessings upon us. Not only have you given us the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, you have given us the gift of faith, and you have given us all the benefits of faith. In this we know that you truly love us. And we find assurance in knowing that in your unchanging character that you will never cease to love us but will preserve us till the end and even glorify us in eternity. For this Lord, we can in no way give adequate thanks. But praise you for all your gifts for us, and rejoice in all things, even in tribulation, as you have given us reasons for living and hope for tomorrow. Though we are undeserving, your love has conquered our sin and given us blessings and the benefits of faith. For this, and in all thing, we give thanks to you. Amen.

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