God the Comforter

March 28th, 2010

Martin Luther, speaking of John 14:16, shows that the true God is the God of comfort:

What are the devil, death, and all things over against the eternal, almighty majesty of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who want to be and are our Comforter? For if He who is sent is called a Comforter, then both He who sent Him and He by whom He is sent must be the same Comforter. Then there is surely no God besides Him who is a Comforter. And henceforth he who wants to know God aright and name Him appropriately must call Him “Comforter” or, as St. Paul terms Him in Rom. 15:5, “the God of Comfort,” namely, for those who are frightened and have no other comfort. They must not conceive of God otherwise than as a Comforter of the wretched and troubled. They must give the lie both to the devil, who threatens with God’s wrath and with hell, and to their own heart, and say to the devil: “You are a false spirit of lies!” and to their heart: “You are a false, foolish heart!”

(From Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 14-16, which is v.24 of the 55-volume Works edited by Jaroslav Pelikan.)

John Calvin, Commentary on Titus 3:4

Goodness and love. He has with propriety assigned the first rank to “goodness,” which prompts God to love us; for God will never find in us anything which he ought to love, but he loves us because he is good and merciful. Besides, although he testifies his goodness and love to all, yet we know it by faith only, when he declares himself to be our Father in Christ. Before Paul was called to the faith of Christ, he enjoyed innumerable gifts of God, which might have given him a taste of God’s fatherly kindness; he had been educated, from his infancy, in the doctrine of the law; yet he wanders in darkness, so as not to perceive the goodness of God, till the Spirit enlightened his mind, and till Christ came forth as the witness and pledge of the grace of God the Father, from which, but for him, we are all excluded Thus he means that the kindness of God is not revealed and known but by the light of faith.

Hunger will be Satisfied

March 14th, 2010

Geerhardus Vos, The Eschatology of the Old Testament, p.7, speaking of Romans 8 says:

This is a longing, a prayer, a beseeching of God that only the redeemed subject of religion can experience. The groaning of the irrational creature is left far behind by it. The Christian alone can experience it and does experience it with such intensity that it became to Paul in itself a prophecy of fulfillment. It is like the craving hunger that knows there must be bread somewhere.

Is anyone else reminded of C.S. Lewis?

How Does Faith Justify?

March 7th, 2010

The Reformed Orthodox were very clear that faith is justifying only because it is receptive of Christ. Heinrich Heppe collects evidence of this in his, Reformed Dogmatics, pp.553 and 554:

The condition to which the attribution of Christ’s righteousness is attached is not the performance of a work (for by works fallen man can merit nothing nor satisfy God in any way), but only faith in Christ and his work of redemption. But this faith effects justification not as a meritorious work or as the root of good works, but purely as a causa instrumentalis, not for one moment as a condition fulfillable by man,—for a condition of justification can only be laid down by the law, but not by free grace, and the single real condition of justification is perfect obedience to the law.

  • Mastricht (VI, vi, 14): “It is worth while inquiring how faith inflows into justification.—(1) It does not do so as the meritorious cause of it.—Nor (2) because of faith;—but we are justified through faith”.
  • Witsius (III, viii, 52): “Nor does it seem to me an accurate statement, that faith is the condition which the gospel demands of us, that we may be held righteous and innocent with God. Strictly speaking the condition of justification is nothing but perfect obedience. — This the law enacted. Nor did the gospel substitute another; it teaches that the law has been satisfied by our sponsor Christ. It is at once the duty of faith to accept and by accepting to make its own satisfaction offered for it.”
  • Crocius 1223: “So not only are those works excluded from the act of justification, which are emitted by a man before faith and conversion, but also those which proceed from faith.”
  • Burmann (VI, v, 25): “Indeed faith is so opposed to works in this matter that it even excludes itself, if it is considered as a work. Although regarded by itself it is a work, in justification it is not regarded after this manner but purely as an instrumental work.”
  • Bucan (XXXI, 34): “In what sense are we said to be justified by faith? It is not regarded in its own intrinsic dignity or merit, nor as a work or a new quality in us, nor in its force and efficacy minus love; nor because it has love added to it or works through love; nor because faith imparts the Spirit of Christ, by whom the believer is rendered just because we are bidden seek righteousness not in ourselves but in Christ; but because it seeks and embraces the righteousness offered in the Gospel Rom. 1:16,17. As regards justification faith is a purely passive thing, bringing nothing of ours to conciliate God, but receiving from Christ what we lack.”
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    Faith is not a meritorious cause of justification; faith does not meet the demands of the law; faith does not justify because it produces good works, nor do the good works that proceed from faith play any role in justification. The only reason we are justified by faith is that faith apprehends Christ our righteousness.

    The weak know God’s power

    March 4th, 2010

    Thomas Manton, “Sermons Upon Mark 10:17-27” in Works, v.17

    The less power we have in ourselves, the more experience we have of God’s power: Isa. 40:29, ‘He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.’ So Deut. 32:36, ‘The Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left.’ When human help begins to fail and is spent, then God’s power is seen. The lean cheeks, and the faint voice, and the pale colour of a hunger-starved beggar moves more than all the canting entreaties of a sturdy one. When we are sufficiently humbled in the sense of our own unworthiness, and can entirely cast ourselves upon God, out of a confidence of his power, help will not be far off, for he really pities those that are indeed miserable, and have a sense of it, and sets his power on work for their relief.