No Condemnation (Hodge)

Select Sermons of Charles Hodge Here’s a nice excerpt from a sermon Charles Hodge gave on Romans 8:1 (Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. NASB):

Behold, O Christian the deed of thy inheritance.  …Jesus Christ came down from heaven to seek and save his people, to accomplish the condition on which their salvation was suspended and [say] “It is finished.” For these he has suffered and obeyed. The demands of the holiness and justice of God are completely satisfied. And since Christ has died and God has justified, who is that condemneth? Can Satan their accuser before God effect it? We answer no, because he that died, has risen and standeth at the right hand of God where he maketh intercession for us and he it is whom the Father heareth always. Can our own corruptions condemn us? We answer no because the salvation of Jesus Christ is a salvation from sin, every believer has the promise of the Holy Spirit to abide with him forever, to be in him as a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. The believers’ hold of heaven is not the grasp of his own palsied hand, it is the upholding of the Lord, it is being kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation.

Charles Hodge, “No Condemnation,” in Select Sermons of Charles Hodge (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Romans 8 and Certain Salvation (Hodge)

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes Charles Hodge has an excellent summary of Romans 8 in his Systematic Theology (III.XVI.8).  In this section he gives six arguments of Paul’s proving that those whom Christ has saved will never come into condemnation.  In other words, they will be preserved.  Here’s Hodge:

The whole of the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is designed to prove the certain salvation of all who believe. The proposition to be established is, that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” That is, they can never perish; they can never be so separated from Christ as to come into condemnation

The Apostle’s first argument to establish that proposition, is, that believers are delivered from the law by the sacrifice of Christ. The believer, therefore, is not under the law which condemns, as Paul had before said in Romans 6:4.

His second argument is that they have already within them the principle of eternal life. That principle is the Spirit of God; “the life-giving” as He was designated by the ancient Church. To be carnally minded is death. To be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The third argument for the security of believers, is, that they are the sons of God. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. That

The fourth argument is from the purpose of God. Those whom He has predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, them He calls to the exercise of faith and repentance; and whom He thus calls He justifies, He provides for them and imputes to them a righteousness which satisfies the demands of the law, and which entitles them in Christ and for his sake to eternal life; and those whom He justifies He glorifies.  There is no flaw in this chain.

Paul’s fifth argument is from the love of God. As stated above, the Apostle argues from the greatness, the freeness, and the immutability of that love that its objects never can be lost.

The sixth argument of the Apostle is that, as the love of God is infinitely great and altogether gratuitous, it is also immutable, and, therefore, believers shall certainly be saved.

The above list has been edited for length.  You can find the entire excellent discussion in volume 3 of Hodge’s Systematic Theology.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

Preservation, Perseverance, Persistence

I was reading Hebrews’ comparison of Moses and Christ (Heb. 3:1-6) when I found the following helpful comments by Raymond Brown in his commentary on Hebrews (note: this is not the same Raymond Brown who has written Roman Catholic works and commentaries).

Right before these comments, Brown noted the great balance in Hebrews between the believer’s promised security and his necessary perseverance.  Here are Brown’s comments on Hebrews 3:6:

First, the believer’s security is assured. Christians will not fail if they look dependently to their merciful and faithful high priest. So many temptations and pressures, insidious as well as blatant, can lure us away from Christ and the faith we profess. This epistle seems to demand so much from us in relentless pilgrimage, strenuous running and persistent continuance, but that is only part of its message. Time and again its firm truths sound out with ringing certainty: ‘He is able to help.’ ‘We are his house.’ ‘We share in Christ.’ ‘We have a great high priest.’ This is the ground of our confidence. We do not place our hope in what we do, but what he has done. Believers do not rely on what they are; that would be a religion of merit. They base their entire spiritual confidence on what he is.”

“Secondly, the believer’s continuance is essential. It is important to recognize the seriousness of this letter when it rightly insists on perseverance. F. F. Bruce describes this persistent endurance as ‘the test of reality’. There is no casual easy-going presentation of Christianity in these chapters. William Manson is perfectly right when he insists that to the author of this epistle, Christianity is ‘not a matter only of repenting and obtaining forgiveness, but of irrevocable commitment of life to a supernatural end.’  We are certainly in God’s house by faith in Christ but, to be real, that belief must be something more than the occasionally faltering faith which initially takes hold of Christ, or that excited faith which, with adoring gratitude, first renounces sin and comes to Christ for liberating pardon. It is hardly that vacillating faith which calls out in moments of bewildered dejection: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ It is a persistent faith which holds fast to its boldness and rejoices in the certain hope of better things. True Christian confidence is unwavering faith in a trustworthy God. He who has promised to keep us is eternally faithful and will not disappoint his people, but that truth is not meant to encourage careless complacency.”

Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 80–81.

Shane Lems

Vigor, Exertion, Diligence, Faith

Jacket William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity is a fascinating and helpful book first published in England in 1797 (with this title: “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity”).  In this book Wilberforce criticizes the notion of being a Christian in name only, but not in faith and practice.  I’m not yet finished with the book, so I can’t give a full review, but I did want to point out a helpful section where Wilberforce talks about vigor, exertion, and diligence in the Christian faith.  Basically, he rebukes those who say they are Christians but don’t put any effort into growing in knowledge, faith, and obedience.

“How criminal, then, must this voluntary ignorance of Christianity and the Word of God appear in the sight of God.  When God of His goodness has granted us such abundant means of instruction, how great must be the guilt, and how awful must be the punishment of voluntary ignorance.”

“And why are we to expect knowledge without inquiry and success without endeavor?  Bountiful as is the hand of Providence, it does not bestow its gifts to seduce us into laziness.  It bestows gifts to arouse us to exertion.  No one expects to attain to the heights of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or militant glory without vigorous resolution, strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance.”

“Yet we expect to be Christians without labor, study, or inquiry!  This is the more preposterous because Christianity, a revelation from God and not an invention of man, shows us new relations with their correspondent duties.  It contains also doctrines, motives, and precepts peculiar to itself.  We cannot reasonably expect to become proficient accidentally, as one might learn insensibly the maxims of worldly policy or a scheme of mere morals.

“…Scripture everywhere represents the Gospel by figures strongly calculated to impress on our minds a sense of its value.  It speaks of the Gospel as light from darkness, as release from prison, as deliverance from captivity, as life from death.  The early converts universally received it with thankfulness and joy.  At one time, the communication of it is promised as a reward.  At another, the loss of it is threatened as a punishment.  And the more general extension of the kingdom of Christ constitutes one of the  leading petitions of the short prayer taught by our blessed Savior.  What exalted conceptions of the importance of Christianity ought to fill us when we read these descriptions(!).”

William Wilberforce, Real Christianity, chapter 1.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

Ryan Job: Duty, Courage, Faith

There are certain people in this world that are just plain inspiring.  Maybe you know someone who is a solid Christian and also a principled helper and encourager – devoted to Christ, his family, and others.  These are people you enjoy being around because God uses them to bless you in various ways.  Ryan Job was a man like that.  Not only did he sweat and bleed his way through SEAL training (BUD/S), combat in Iraq, and a debilitating gunshot wound, he also was devoted to the Lord, his wife, his SEAL team, and many others.  Granted, Job had his flaws, but in the big scheme of things, God used this man to help a lot of people.

Robert Vera writes about Job in his book, A Warrior’s Faith (Nelson Books: Nashville, 2015).  This book isn’t a biography, but it does give a window into Ryan Job’s life and outlook on life.  The book is divided into three sections: 1) Tested, 2) Transformed, and 3) Redeemed.  Vera describes Job’s life in the SEALs, his perseverance through tough situations, his motivation to live each day, and his dedication to core principles.  I’ve thought of this before as well, since I was in the Army: some military principles are very helpful in the Christian life (e.g. duty, honor, courage, respect, etc.).  I don’t want to give all the details of Job’s story away, but suffice it to say that there are many aspects of his life that encouraged, motivated, and helped me in my own life.  I wasn’t familiar with Job’s story, so the whole thing was a treat to read.

My main (and really only) critique of the book is that the theology isn’t that great.  For example, Vera finds many parallels between Ryan Job’s life and the life of biblical Job.  Those seemed like a stretch to me.  Also, Vera several times notes that God speaks to people through random events, which is quite debatable.  The book was about faith and following the Lord, but it doesn’t really explain the gospel or other aspects of the Christian faith.

However, aside from my critique, one can still benefit from this book since Job’s story is an inspiring one.  Perhaps Vera heaped too much praise on Job – perhaps.  But the main point stands: God used Ryan Job to bless a lot of people, and Job is a good example of living a purposeful God-centered life.  I urge men to read this book – even teenage boys who need a “hero” (in the very best sense of the term) should read this book.  I’ll for sure give it to other men who could use some direction and encouragement in the Christian life.  Vera does a good job of weaving Ryan Job’s story with practical life application and guidance.  Even though I have some theological disagreements with this book, I do recommend it!

Robert Vera, A Warrior’s Faith (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015).

NOTE: I received this book as part of the BookLook blogger program, and was not required to write a positive review.

shane lems
hammond, wi

‘Kept for Jesus’ by Sam Storms: A Review

Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security Will I fall away from Jesus?  This is one question that sometimes comes up in the Christian life – and it is addressed in the Bible.  Sam Storms discusses this topic in his new book, Kept for Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).  This book isn’t an exhaustive explanation of perseverance (preservation) of the saints; rather, it is specifically a discussion of the texts in the New Testament that teach this truth.  Storms also takes some time to deal with the difficult texts that seem to teach Christians can fall away.  In this volume, Storms frequently quotes and builds upon the work of contemporary Baptist theologians such as John Piper, Tom Schreiner, and Wayne Grudem.

There are eleven chapters in this book (covering just over 190 pages).  In the first chapter, Storms talks about perseverance in John 6 and 10.  In the second chapter, he talks about some tough texts in Matthew – specifically the “Lord Lord” text from Matthew 7, blasphemy against the Spirit in Matthew 12, and the parable of the soils in Matthew 13.  Chapter 3 is Storm’s exposition of the vine text in John 15.  The next chapter (4) is where he discusses the steadfast love of God in Romans 5 and 8; in chapter 5 he discusses Romans 8 in more detail.  1 and 2 Corinthians is the focus of chapter 6, specifically 1 Cor. 1:4-9, 11:27-32, and 2 Cor. 1:21-22.  Difficult texts (Heb. 6 and 2 Cor 13) is what Storms writes about in chapter 7.  Storms talks about perseverance in other epistles in chapter 8, and in chapters 9-10 he works through some difficult texts (e.g. Rom. 11:22, 2 Cor. 6:1-2, James 5:19-20, etc).  The final chapter asks and answers the question: “Can a Christian commit the sin unto death?”

I have to admit the overall structure of this book seemed a bit random – I was hoping it would have a more unified outline or structure.  It sort of read like a collection of articles instead of an outlined book.  Another minor critique worth noting is that though the subtitle mentions “assurance,” there isn’t a whole lot of space devoted to it.   Storms also made the common mistake of equating “Reformed” and “Calvinism” in the introduction (p. 14); not to nitpick, but it is important to remember that there is a whole lot more to Reformed theology than Five Points!  This becomes evident since Storms doesn’t talk about (for just two examples) the covenant of grace or the intra-trinitarian covenant (which both show up in the NT).

I don’t want to be too critical, however, because the book is specifically only meant to be a defense of perseverance of the saints in New Testament passages.  Storms wasn’t out to write a Reformed systematic defense and description of perseverance in this book, so I can’t critique him for not doing so!  I especially appreciated the section where Storms talks about the unforgivable sin; his treatment was superb and pastoral.  His chapter on love from Romans texts was also very helpful and edifying – God’s love in Christ means nothing can separate the sheep from the Shepherd!  There are some obvious strengths to this book, and I’m glad to have read these sections I just mentioned.  Though some “difficult” texts weren’t discussed in much detail, the ones that he discussed in detail were explained pretty well.

If you’ve read other books on perseverance that discuss these key texts or if you’ve read quite a few other books on this topic, you might not need this one.  [Also, I’m not sure “convinced” Arminians would all appreciate this book because at times Storms notes what Arminians teach but does not cite his claims.]  However, if you need a Calvinist resource that discusses NT texts about perseverance, this is one to get!  It’s not overly difficult (though it isn’t structured for a book club/reading group) or too lengthy, and it has some good explanations of the truth that no one can snatch Christ’s sheep out of his hand.

Sam Storms, Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).

shane lems
hammond, wi

Perseverance: Three Impossibilities

Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security I’ve not ready anything by Sam Storms before, but the title/topic of this book got my attention: Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security.  It’s a Crossway title, so I’m pretty sure it’s a conservative evangelical exposition of the great truth of Scripture that God preserves his elect (perseverance of the saints).  I’ve not yet finished it, so I can’t say much about it, but I did appreciate the “three impossibilities” Storms listed from John 6.

1) Jesus says it is morally and spiritually impossible for a person to come to Christ apart from the ‘drawing’ of that person by God the Father.

2) Jesus says it is impossible for someone whom the Father draws not to come to him.  He says in verse 37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.’  In other words, just as it is impossible for people to come to Christ apart from the Father drawing them, so also it is impossible for people not to come to Christ if the Father does draw them.

3) [Jesus] says that when people do come through the drawing of the Father, it is impossible for them to be cast out.  Look again at verse 37: ‘And whoever comes to me I will never cast out.’  The point is that those whom the Father gives to the Son, who therefore come to the Son, will be received by the Son and shall never perish.  The verb translated ‘cast out’ in verse 37 is used several times in John (2:15; 6:37; 9:34-35; 10:4; 12:31) and always means to cast out someone or something already in.  Thus the emphasis here is not so much on receiving the one who comes (although that is true enough in itself) but on preserving him or her.

“Who would suggest that Jesus Christ would refuse to accept what his Father has given him?  If the Father was pleased to make a gift of certain sinners to his most blessed Son, you may rest assured that the Son will neither despise nor deny his Father’s gracious generosity.”

“…How can Jesus say he will raise up all the Father gives him if in fact he will not, because some who truly believe in him finally and forever fall away and forfeit eternal life?”

Sam Storms, Kept for Jesus, p. 21-22.

shane lems