The Object of Faith (Warfield)

B. B. Warfield Collection (20 vols.)B.B. Warfield has a great section on “faith” in the collection of his writings called “Biblical Doctrines.”  Here’s a helpful part of it where he talks about the object of true faith.   I appreciate the redemptive-historical way he talks about faith:

It is, accordingly, solely from its object that faith derives its value. This object is uniformly the God of grace, whether conceived of broadly as the source of all life, light, and blessing, on whom man in his creaturely weakness is entirely dependent, or, whenever sin and the eternal welfare of the soul are in view, as the Author of salvation in whom alone the hope of unworthy man can be placed.

This one object of saving faith never varies from the beginning to the end of the scriptural revelation; though, naturally, there is an immense difference between its earlier and later stages in fulness of knowledge as to the nature of the redemptive work by which the salvation intrusted to God shall be accomplished; and as naturally there occurs a very great variety of forms of statement in which trust in the God of salvation receives expression.

Already, however, at the gate of Eden, the God in whom the trust of our first parents is reposed is the God of the gracious promise of the retrieval of the injury inflicted by the serpent; and from that beginning of knowledge the progress is steady, until, what is implied in the primal promise having become express in the accomplished work of redemption, the trust of sinners is explicitly placed in the God who was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). Such a faith, again, could not fail to embrace with humble confidence all the gracious promises of the God of salvation, from which indeed it draws its life and strength; nor could it fail to lay hold with strong conviction on all those revealed truths concerning Him which constitute, indeed, in the varied circumstances in which it has been called upon to persist throughout the ages, the very grounds in view of which it has been able to rest upon Him with steadfast trust. These truths, in which the ‘Gospel’ or glad-tidings to God’s people has been from time to time embodied, run all the way from such simple facts as that it was the very God of their fathers that had appeared unto Moses for their deliverance (Ex. 4:5), to such stupendous facts, lying at the root of the very work of salvation itself, as that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God sent of God to save the world (Jn. 6:69, 8:24, 11:42, 13:19, 16:27, 30, 17:8, 21, 20:31, 1 Jn. 5:15), that God has raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9, 1 Thess. 4:14), and that as His children we shall live with Him (Rom. 6:8).

 Warfield, B. B. (2008). The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Biblical Doctrines (Vol. 2, pp. 502–503). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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The Repentance of a Sinning Saint (Warfield)

Faith and Life Here’s a great snippet of a great sermon by B. B. Warfield on Psalm 51:

Thus we perceive that in its conception of God, of sin, of salvation alike, this Psalm stands out as attaining the high-water mark of Old Testament revelation. It was by a hard pathway that David came to know God and himself so intimately. But he came thus to know both his own heart and the God of grace with a fullness and profundity of apprehension that it will be hard to parallel elsewhere. And it was no merely external knowledge that he acquired thus. It was the knowledge of experience. David knew sin because he had touched the unclean thing and sounded the depths of iniquity. He knew himself because he had gone his own way and had learned through what thickets and morasses that pathway led, and what was its end. And he knew God, because he had tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious.

Yes, David had tasted and seen God’s preciousness. David had experience of salvation. He knew what salvation was, and He knew its joy. But never had he known the joy of salvation as he knew it after he had lost it. And it is just here that the special poignancy of David’s repentance comes in: it was not the repentance of a sinner merely, it was the repentance of a sinning saint.

It is only the saint who knows what sin is; for only the saint knows it in contrast with salvation, experienced and understood. And it is only the sinning saint who knows what salvation is: for it is only the joy that is lost and then found again that is fully understood.

 Warfield, B. B. (1916). Faith and life (pp. 21–22). Bellingham, WA: Longmans, Green, & Co.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

Jesus Came Not To Aid, But To Save (Warfield)

The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 5: Calvin and Calvinism One part of Reformed theology is sometimes referred to as “Calvinsim” or, as I prefer, “the doctrines of grace.”  Here’s how B.B. Warfield nicely described the God-centered aspect of the doctrines of grace:

What lies at the heart of his [the Calvinist’s] soteriology is the absolute exclusion of the creaturely element in the initiation of the saving process, that so the pure grace of God may be magnified. Only so could he express his sense of man’s complete dependence as sinner on the free mercy of a saving God; or extrude [force out] the evil leaven of Synergism by which, as he clearly sees, God is robbed of His glory and man is encouraged to think that he owes to some power, some act of choice, some initiative of his own, his participation in that salvation which is in reality all of grace.

There is accordingly nothing against which Calvinism sets its face with more firmness than every form and degree of autosoterism. Above everything else, it is determined that God, in His Son Jesus Christ, acting through the Holy Spirit whom He has sent, shall be recognized as our veritable Savior. To it sinful man stands in need not of inducements or assistance to save himself, but of actual saving; and Jesus Christ has come not to advise, or urge, or induce, or aid him to save himself, but to save him. This is the root of Calvinistic soteriology; and it is because this deep sense of human helplessness and this profound consciousness of indebtedness for all that enters into salvation to the free grace of God is the root of its soteriology that to it the doctrine of election becomes the ‘cor cordis’ [heart of the heart] of the Gospel.

He who knows that it is God who has chosen him and not he who has chosen God, and that he owes his entire salvation in all its processes and in every one of its stages to this choice of God, would be an ingrate [ungrateful person] indeed if he gave not the glory of his salvation solely to the inexplicable elective love of God.

Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Calvin and Calvinism, vol. 5 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2008), 359–360.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

Sanctification: A Slow Work of God’s Grace

Faith and Life  The Westminster Larger Catechism, among other things, says that sanctification is “a work of God’s grace” wherein his people “more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life” (Q/A 75).  Here’s how B. B. Warfield concludes a sermon on this topic from 2 Thessalonians 5:22-23.  This is an outstanding and much-needed reminder to be patient with God’s process of making us more like Christ.

“Certainly the gradualness of this process ought not to disturb us. It may be inexplicable to us that the Almighty God acts by way of process. But that is revealed to us as His chosen mode of operation in every sphere of His work, and should not surprise us here. He could, no doubt, make the soul perfect in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; just as He could give us each a perfect body at the very instant of our believing. He does not.

The removal of the stains and effects of sin—in an evil heart and in a sick and dying body—is accomplished in a slow process. We all grow sick and die—though Jesus has taken on His broad shoulders (among the other penalties of sin) all our sicknesses and death itself. And we still struggle with the remainders of indwelling sin; though Jesus has bought for us the sanctifying operations of the Spirit. To us it is a weary process. But it is God’s way. And He does all things well. And the weariness of the struggle is illuminated by hope.

After a while!—we may say; after a while! Or as Paul puts it: Faithful is He that calls us—who also will do it. He will do it! And so, after a while, our spirit, and soul and body shall be made blamelessly perfect, all to be so presented before our Lord, at that Day. Let us praise the Lord for the glorious prospect!”

B. B. Warfield, Faith and Life (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1990), 372.

rev shane lems

Not What My Hands Have Done (I Cast It All Away)

Faith and Life Here’s a snippet of  B.B. Warfield’s outstanding exposition of Philippians 3.9 found in Faith and Life (reblogged from July 22, 2011).

“All that he [Paul] is, all that he has sought after, all that he has done – though from a fleshly point of view far superior to what most men can appeal to – all, all, he counts (not merely useless but) loss, all one mass of loss, to be cast away and buried in the sea, ‘that he may gain Christ and be found in him.’  On the one side stand all human works – they are all loss.  On the other hand stands Christ – he is all in all.  That is the contrast.”

“The contrast is between the righteousness which a man can make for himself and the righteousness that a God gives him.  And the contrast is absolute.  On the one, in the height and the breadth of its whole idea – we cannot exaggerate here – Paul pours contempt, as a basis or, nay, even the least part of the basis, of salvation.  On the other, exclusively, he bases the totality of salvation.  The outcome is, that not merely polemically but alien righteousness, with the express exclusion of every item of our own righteousness.  The whole contents of the passage demands this as Paul’s fundamental thought.”

“The gospel, to Paul, consists precisely in this: that we do nothing to earn our salvation or to secure it for ourselves.  God in Christ does it all.”

“It must be faith or works; it can never be faith and works.  And the fundamental exhortation which we must ever be giving our souls is clearly expressed in the words of the hymn, ‘Cast your deadly doing down.’  Only when that is completely done is it really Christ only, Christ all in all, with us; only then, do we obey fully Paul’s final exhortation: ‘let your joy be in the Lord.’  Only then do we renounce utterly ‘our own righteousness, that out of law,’ and rest solely on ‘that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God on [by] faith.’”

What a great way to explain Paul’s teaching of sola fide and solus Christus – and what a comfort the gospel is, knowing that salvation belongs totally to the Lord, from start to finish, from beginning to end.

rev shane lems

Cast Your Deadly Doing Down

  Here’s a snippet of  B.B. Warfield’s outstanding Philippians 3.9 exposition found in Faith and Life

“All that he [Paul] is, all that he has sought after, all that he has done – though from a fleshly point of view far superior to what most men can appeal to – all, all, he counts (not merely useless but) loss, all one mass of loss, to be cast away and buried in the sea, ‘that he may gain Christ and be found in him.’  On the one side stand all human works – they are all loss.  On the other hand stands Christ – he is all in all.  That is the contrast.”

“The contrast is between the righteousness which a man can make for himself and the righteousness that a God gives him.  And the contrast is absolute.  On the one, in the height and the breadth of its whole idea – we cannot exaggerate here – Paul pours contempt, as a basis or, nay, even the least part of the basis, of salvation.  On the other, exclusively, he bases the totality of salvation.  The outcome is, that not merely polemically but alien righteousness, with the express exclusion of every item of our own righteousness.  The whole contents of the passage demands this as Paul’s fundamental thought.”

“The gospel, to Paul, consists precisely in this: that we do nothing to earn our salvation or to secure it for ourselves.  God in Christ does it all.”

“It must be faith or works; it can never be faith and works.  And the fundamental exhortation which we must ever be giving our souls is clearly expressed in the words of the hymn, ‘Cast your deadly doing down.’  Only when that is completely done is it really Christ only, Christ all in all, with us; only then, do we obey fully Paul’s final exhortation: ‘let your joy be in the Lord.’  Only then do we renounce utterly ‘our own righteousness, that out of law,’ and rest solely on ‘that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God on [by] faith.'”

What a great way to explain Paul’s teaching of sola fide and solus Christus – and what a comfort the gospel is, knowing that salvation belongs totally to the Lord, from start to finish, from beginning to end.

shane lems

sunnyside wa