All Things for Good: Other People’s Sins? (Watson)

 Sin, of course, is not a good thing.  Sin is evil; sin is lawlessness.  However, in God’s sovereignty, he can use sin for the benefit of his people.  Paul said it very clearly: All things work together for the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28).  “All things” includes those instances when people sin and hurt us in doing so.  In “All Things for Good,” Thomas Watson listed several ways how the sins of others work for our good.  Here’s one of them worth contemplating:

“The sins of others work for good, as they are glasses [mirrors] in which we may see our own hearts.  Behold a picture of our hearts.  Such should we be, if God did leave us.  What is in other men’s practice is in our nature.  Sin in the wicked is like fire on a beacon that flames and blazes forth; sin in the godly is like fire in the embers.

Christian, though you do not break forth into a flame of scandal, yet you have no cause to boast, for there is much sin raked up in the embers of your nature.  You have the root of bitterness in you, and you would bear as hellish fruit as any, if God did not either curb you by His power, or change you by His grace.”

That’s a very insightful Christian thought!  When someone else sins, rather than bragging that I’m better, I remember that I too am sinful and if it weren’t for God’s grace and power, I too would act out in all sorts of evil ways.  So the sins of others should not make me proud, but humble.  It will still hurt when people are sinfully cruel to us, but as Christians we can be confident that God will use it for our good.

The above quote is found on page 47 of All Things for Good.

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

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Loving Other Saints Who Are Sinners (Watson)

 Christians mess up and make mistakes.  Followers of Jesus sin and don’t always act in a kind and loving way.  Sometimes Christians are even difficult to love!  However, we as God’s people are called to love each other with a fervent and forgiving love (Col. 3:12-14).  Whether in a marriage or between family and friends, Christians must love each other.  I like how Thomas Watson talked about this on page 82 of All Things for Good:

We love a saint, though he has many personal failings.  There is no perfection here.  In some, rash anger prevails; in some, inconstancy; in some, too much love of the world.  A saint in this life is like gold in the ore, much dross of infirmity cleaves to him, yet we love him for the grace that is in him.

A saint is like a fair face with a scar; we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a scar in it.  The best emerald has its blemishes, the brightest stars have their twinklings, and the best of the saints have their failings.  You that cannot love one another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?

Thomas Watson, All Things for Good, p. 82.

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

A Hypocrite Will Come to Church (Watson)

 When we pray the Lord’s prayer we ask our Father to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (NASB).  This is what Paul was getting at in Ephesians 4:32: “…forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (NASB).  Here are Thomas Watson’s comments on this reality:

He whose sins are forgiven is willing to forgive others who have offended him.  …A hypocrite will read, come to church, give alms, build hospitals, but cannot forgive wrongs; he will rather want (lack) forgiveness from God than he will forgive his enemies.  A pardoned soul agrees thus: “Has God been so good to me to forgive me my sins, and shall I not imitate him in this?  Has he forgiven me pounds, and shall I not forgive pence?”

…By this touchstone we may try whether our sins are pardoned.  We need not climb up to heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven, but only look into our hearts.  Are we of forgiving spirits?  Can we bury injuries, requite good for evil?  This would be a good sign that we are forgiven of God.  If we can find all these things wrought in our souls, they are happy signs that our sins are pardoned, and are good letters (of) testimonial to show for heaven.

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer, p. 242-3.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Justification Can Never Be Lost (Watson)

This is very good, very biblical, and very comforting:

Justification is ‘inamissibilis;’ it is a fixed permanent thing, it can never be lost.  The Arminians hold an apostasy from justification; today justified, tomorrow unjustified; today a Peter, tomorrow a Judas; today a member of Christ, tomorrow a limb of Satan.  This [Arminian doctrine] is a most uncomfortable doctrine.

Justified persons may fall from degrees of grace, they may leave their first love, they may lose God’s favor for a time, but not lose their justification.  If they are justified they are elected; and they can no more fall from their justification than from their election.  If they are justified they have union with Christ; and can a member of Christ be broken off?  If one justified person may fall away from Christ, all may; and so Christ would be a head without a body.

See from hence [this], that there is nothing within us that could justify but something without [outside] us; not any righteous inherent, but imputed.  We may as well look for a star in the earth as for justification in our own righteousness. The Papists say we are justified by works; but the Apostle confutes it, for he says, ‘not of works, lest any man should boast.’ (Eph 2.9).

Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 229.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

When Your Faith Is So Weak (Watson)

Sometimes a Christian doesn’t feel strong in the Lord.  Sometimes we know we should be serving Christ with more fervency and seriousness, but since we aren’t we feel like bad Christians – or sometimes we don’t even feel like a Christian at all.  What do we do?  Here’s how Thomas Watson answered this question:

“There is a great difference between the weakness of grace and the want [lack] of grace.  A man may have life though he be sick and weak.  Weak grace is not to be despised, but cherished.  Christ will not break the bruised reed.  Do not argue from the weakness of grace to the nullity [non-existence].  1) Weak grace will give us a title to Christ as well as strong grace.  A weak hand of faith will receive the alms of Christ’s merits.  2) Weak faith is capable of growth.  The seed springs up by degrees, first the blade, and then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.  The faith that is strongest was once in its infancy.  …Be not discouraged at thy weak faith; though it be but blossoming, it will by degrees come to more maturity.  3) The weakest grace shall persevere as well as the strongest.  A child was safe in the ark as Noah.  An infant believer that is but newly laid to the breast of the promise, is as safe in Christ as the most eminent heroic saint.”

Or, to put it in Scripture’s terms, “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Phil. 1:6 NLT).

The above quote by Thomas Watson is found in The Lord’s Prayer, p. 72-73.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

Since It Is God’s Law…

Product DetailsOur triune God has given us his law in Scripture.  Specifically, the Ten Commandments are at the heart of God’s law – summarized with the verb “love” (cf. Mt. 22:33-40).  Thomas Watson, thinking about God’s law and the preface to it (I am the LORD your God… [Ex. 20:1-2]), says because it is God’s law, several duties are enjoined upon us:

1) If God spoke all these words, then we must hear all these words.  The words God speaks are too precious to be lost.  As we would have God hear all our words when we pray, so we must hear all his words when he speaks.

2) If God spoke all these words, then we must attend to them with reverence.  Every word of the moral law is an oracle of heaven.  God himself is the preacher, which calls for reverence.

3) If God spoke all these words of the law, then we must remember them.  Surely all God speaks is worth remembering; those words are weighty which concern salvation.  God’s oracles are ornaments, and shall we forget them?

4) If God spoke all these words, then believe them.  See the name of God written upon every commandment.  The moral law fetches its pedigree from heaven.

5) If God spoke all these words, then love the commandments (Ps. 119:97).  The moral law is the copy of God’s will, our spiritual directory; it shows us what sins to avoid, what duties to pursue.  The commandments are our treasury to enrich us.

6) If God spoke all these words, then teach them to your children (Deut. 6:6-7).  He who is godly is both a diamond and a magnet: a diamond for the sparkling of his grace, and a magnet for his attractive virtue in drawing others to the love of God’s precepts.

7) If God spoke all these words, they must be obeyed.  If a king speaks, his word commands allegiance; much more, when God speaks, his words must be obeyed.  God, who spoke all the words of the moral law, will have them all obeyed.

Watson goes on to say that in a legal sense no one can obey the law because of the fall and our sinful nature.  However, he notes, in a gospel sense we can obey the law.  “Gospel obedience consists in a real endeavor to observe the whole moral law (Ps. 119:166):”

“Where my obedience comes short, I look up to the perfect righteousness and obedience of Christ, and hope for pardon through his blood.  This is to obey the moral law evangelically; which, though it not be to satisfaction, yet it is to acceptation [acceptance or approval].

Antinomianism downplays the law; legalism downplays the gospel.  Biblical and Reformed spirituality gives both their rightful place in the Christian life.  Watson’s discussion is a good example of this.  Note: The above seven points are abridged; you can read the entire section on pages 14-16 of The Ten Commandments.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

Satisfaction or Atonement?

A Body of Divinity: Contained In Sermons Upon The Westminster Assembly's Catechism By Thomas Watson Most of the time when we talk about Jesus’ death for us we use the term atonement.  That’s a fitting term which reflects biblical truth about Jesus’ life-giving death.  However, there’s another theological term that has also been used with reference to Christ’s work of salvation: satisfaction.

What’s the difference?  Basically, the word atonement specifically refers to Christ’s death while the term satisfaction refers more broadly to Christ’s life and death.  This is one reason why A. A. Hodge, for example, said the term “satisfaction” was preferable when speaking about Christ’s work to save sinners.  Here’s how Thomas Watson explains it when he discusses Christ’s priestly office.  He says that Christ’s satisfaction “consists of two branches:”

1) His active obedience.  ‘He fulfilled all righteousness” (Mt 3:15).  Christ did everything which the law required; his holy life was a perfect commentary upon the law of God; and he obeyed the law for us.

2) His passive obedience.  Our guilt being transferred and imputed to him, he suffered the penalty which was due to us; he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  …Sin could not be done away without blood (Heb. 9:22).  Christ was not only a lamb without spot, but a lamb slain.

Geerhardus Vos, in his third volume of Reformed Dogmatics, speaks similarly:

“What is the best designation to refer to passive and active obedience together?  The term ‘satisfaction’ (satisfactio) includes both and emphasizes what is common to both.” (3.4.54).

Both theological words are good and should be used.  But it is helpful when we think about Jesus’ death to remember that he did more than die for us – he also lived for us!  He obeyed God’s law and paid the penalty for sin in our place; he satisfied the claims of God’s justice for us.

shane lems