Category Archives: 2007 BOT MC

Ferguson: Supporting the imperatives to holiness

Ferguson: Supporting the imperatives to holiness

At the 2007 Banner of Truth conference this Spring, Sinclair Ferguson made the following note after reading Titus 2:11-13 (“For the grace of God has appeared … training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”). He says,

“The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. … Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.”

- Sinclair Ferguson, message from the 2007 Banner of Truth Conference, Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase.

Along with Titus 2:11-13, Ferguson cited 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 8:28-29 and 15:16. Ferguson preached from John 15:9 the next day where Jesus’ call for fruitful disciples is wrapped in His call for them to “Abide in my love.” Ferguson challenges preachers to root the commands to be holy in the grace of our electing Father, the work of His Son on the Cross and the ongoing work of the indwelling and filling Spirit towards our holiness. The challenge is not to avoid the commands, but make certain our indicatives are strong enough to support them. Preaching from the indicatives assumes the preacher is first living daily in the indicatives of God in his private study.

Sinclair Ferguson: No such ‘thing’ as grace

tsslogo.jpgNo such ‘thing’ as grace
by Sinclair Ferguson

“There is nothing between the person of the Lord Jesus and the person of the believer as that union and communion develops and grows. I think this is a very important thing for us to grasp. Let me put it the way I sometimes put it: The union with Christ we have is not that we somehow or another share His grace. Because – follow me carefully – there actually is no ‘thing’ as grace. That actually is a Medieval Roman Catholic teaching. There is a ‘thing’ called grace that can be separated from the person of Jesus Christ. It is something Jesus Christ won on the Cross and He can bestow it on you. And there are at least seven ways it can be bestowed on you and they all, as it happens, turn out to be in the hands of the church. And you can have this kind of grace, and this kind of grace, and this kind of grace … There is no such ‘thing’ as grace! Grace is not some appendage to His being. Nor is it some substance that flows from us: ‘Let me give you grace.’ All there is is the Lord Jesus Himself. And so when Jesus speaks about us abiding in Him and He abiding in us – however mysterious it may be, mystical in that sense – it is a personal union. Do not let us fail because of the abuse of expressions. Do not let us fail to understand that, at the end of the day, actually Christianity is Christ because there isn’t anything else. There is no atonement that somehow can be detached from who the Lord Jesus is. There is no grace that can be attached to you transferred from Him. All there is is Christ and your soul.”

-Sinclair Ferguson on John 15 at the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Grantham, PA this Spring.

Index > 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers Conference

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2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference
Complete Index

The Shepherd’s Scrapbook was on location for the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference on the campus of Messiah College in Grantham, PA (May 29-31). Here is a complete index to the addresses and photographs, tours, etc. from our conference coverage.

Day 1 (Tue.)
1. Photos from the first day.
2. Ben Short, “The Antidote to Discouragement” (Tues. 3:30 PM)
3. Sinclair Ferguson, “Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase” (Tues. 7:00 PM)
4. Sinclair Ferguson’s walk through the bookstore (Tues. PM)

Day 2 (Wed.)
5. Derek Thomas, “Union with Christ: The Architectonic Principle of Holiness in Calvin’s Institutes” (Wed. 9:00 AM)
6. Sinclair Ferguson, “Our Holiness: Abiding in Christ’s Love” (Wed. 10:45 AM)
7. Derek Thomas, “Mortification and Vivification: The Shape of Holiness in Calvin’s Institutes” (Wed. 7:00 PM)
8. Warehouse tour of the Banner of Truth (Carlisle, PA)

Day 3 (Thur.)
9. Derek Thomas, “Meditation and the Future Life: The Goal of Holiness in Calvin’s Institutes” (Thurs. 10:45 AM)
10. Notes from the addresses by Jonathan Watson, Patrick Harrison and Mark Johnston.
11. Final Conference Reflections

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Derek Thomas walked into a world of trouble for not dressing up for the conference. Though, he defended himself nicely. I have photographic proof to back up his case.

BoT > Session 6 > Derek Thomas on John Calvin

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Session 6 – (Thurs. 10:45 AM)
“Meditation and the Future Life: The Goal of Holiness in Calvin’s Institutes”
Derek Thomas

GRANTHAM, PA – Thomas began his final session with some background and advice to reading Calvin’s Institutes. He recommended using a guide to help get through them for the first time. [I would agree having been greatly helped by T.H.L. Parker’s, Calvin: An Introduction to His Thought (Westminster/John Knox: 1995)]. Thomas cautioned against using the Institutes as ones introduction to John Calvin but rather recommended readers begin with Calvin’s rich sermons. Sermons on the Beatitudes (Banner of Truth: 2006) was presented as a particularly marvelous and fresh exposition although the cover image is one of the most awful images of Calvin, he said. “I’ve seen bad images of Calvin but this one takes the biscuit.”

Thomas highly recommends others read Calvin’s chapter on prayer in the Institutes. The chapter is one of the longest (see 3.20.1-52, pp. 1:850-920). Why, he asked, is Calvin’s teaching on prayer not better known? Calvin’s treatment on prayer is marvelous and all should read it.

Thomas then began his final message with three Scripture readings: Romans 8:1-11, Ephesians 4:17-24, Colossians 3:1-4. It’s important to note that Calvin’s teaching on mortification ends with this chapter: “Meditation on the Future Life” (3.9.1-6, pp. 1:712-719).

Calvin and the Puritans

Our love for the Puritans is a love of their experiential exposition of Scripture. We are drawn to the most obscure language of John Owen and endure the Ramist subdivisions of Owen’s subplot because he and other Puritans speak to our hearts. Today we long for God’s Word to be addressed not only to our mind and intellect but also to our hearts and affections. We long to have the question: So what? What is the purpose of the passage? What is it calling me to do and feel? The Puritans redress the mistakes of our day.

Calvin intimidates readers more than the Puritans because we think that Calvin does not speak to the heart as the Puritans. This is to buy into a division between Calvin and the Calvinists. The Puritans – all of them – knew, read and loved John Calvin. All the Puritans read Calvin’s Institutes, commentaries and sermons. Perhaps the best way to dismantle this error of separating Calvin from the Calvinists is to plumb the depths of book 3 in the Institutes because here Calvin teaches us that the heart is more important than all else.

Reformed Spirituality

For Calvin, piety was fundamental and the Institutes are a deliberate contrast to the medieval theology of Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas. Calvin’s Institutes are a Summa Pietas (sum of all piety) rather than a Summa Theologica (sum of all theology). For Calvin, his theology is a theology of the heart, addressing the totality of anthropology. If we don’t see this in the Reformers it shows a serious misunderstanding on our part.

The Reformers produced a Reformed spirituality! Reformed faith, by design, encompasses the totality of life including piety and the spiritual. Our theology informs our doctrine, prayers, understanding God’s means of grace, the imperatives of Scripture, preaching, corporate gatherings and liturgy. Their theology informed their spirituality. For Calvin and the Reformers there is a decided shape to spirituality and piety. There is a union with Christ first and then communion with Christ (as we saw earlier)!

So where did J.I. Packer get the title of his bestselling book, Knowing God? From the Institutes of course! Having sold over 1,000,000 copies, what makes it such a popular work? Because, who does not want to know God? This is Calvin’s intent in the Institutes. For Calvin piety in the sense of having a right relationship with God – in knowing Him, giving heartfelt worship, believing, offering filial prayers, etc. – is exactly what the Institutes are all about! Calvin says, “I call ‘piety’ that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces” (1.2.1, p. 1:41).

Future Together

For Calvin’s faculty psychology the mind is hugely important. “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding” (Ps. 32:9). Calvin says the mind, yes, but also the heart, too! We are to be like newlyweds in their continual talking over their future together. They are thinking about the house and kids they want in the future. In book 3, Calvin says we need to be like newlyweds longing, ever more in love with Christ by which we have been drawn into union and anticipating our future together with Him.

But sin, the world and Satan all seek to draw us away from this anticipation. These are the enemies that prevent this love from blossoming. So we are required, with resolve and effort, to maintain and grow in this love. This resolve and effort comes, for Calvin, in the act of meditation on the future life. For Calvin, like that of the Puritans, they were following a line of sanctification with medieval roots. We live in this world but we anticipate the world to come.

Meditating on the Future Life

What shape does this anticipation take in Calvin?

1. Renovation of the Mind. Not only do we need a renovation in what we think but a renovation in how we think. In his book, The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded (7:260-497), Puritan John Owen asks: What is it you think about then you are not thinking? When your mind is in the default/neutral position, what is it you think about? We force our thoughts to Christian thoughts. Calvin says nearly the same thing as Owen (did Owen read Calvin’s Institutes?).

Colossians 3:1-4 is very significant here.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Calvin says Paul calls us to we are called to “assiduity” (or diligent effort) in our thinking of the things above. Calvin warns us of stopping at the resurrection of Christ. Christ was crucified, buried, raised and now is seated in heaven. Calvin’s thoughts follow redemptive history.

We have made too little of the ascension of Christ. By Christ’s being brought into heaven, we have been brought into heaven. We are with Him! This means the ascension of Christ is critical to meditation. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).

This renovation of our minds includes repentance and a rigorous discipline of our minds. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6).

2. Detachment from the present world. Like Augustine, Calvin warns against an improper love for the present world. It is dangerous to set our affections on the things of the world because it brings us into bondage and prevents services. But by nature we are slaves to this world. This world is a shadow and a vapor passing away. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were meant to enjoy the provisions of the garden to see the beauty of the Creator of the beauty, to see the One Who is Beauty Himself. Sin, as Calvin says, turns our hearts into idol factories. We tease ourselves by thinking this world is all there is.

We see in our day the idolatry of health and exercise as though we can live to be 350 years old. Is this not a reflection that even Christians have set their minds on the things of this earth?

As this conference comes to a conclusion many of us have our bags packed and we are ready to leave to the airport to go home. Calvin says this is how we should live our lives on this earth. We should have our bags packed and on our way home. If this earth is not our homeland what is this life but an exile? Calvin has “gobs” of things to say on the proper value of enjoying Christian liberties in this life. But heaven is our home. Calvin says, “no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection” (3.9.5, p. 1:718). Calvin calls us to know how to die well.

For Calvin, meditation is not mindless humming but a cognitive discourse on the Word of God. Imagine a preacher in your head expounding, applying and reminding us not to set our roots deeply in this world.

Trails are the primary means God uses to detach us from this world. For the Christian, our crosses are ladders by which the mind and heart ascend into heaven. The Christian is a marcher on the way to glory.

We should maintain a proper contempt for this world. Calvin asks: Where will true and lasting joy be found? Not in this world or the relationships of this world. The greatest joy in this world will pale to the bursting joy of heaven when we shall see Jesus in His glory and splendor (1 John 3:2)!

3. Heaven as our ultimate destiny. There are three tenses to our salvation – we are saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. Only in glory will we be fully saved from the remnants of corruption and freed from the temptations of Satan.

The real world is the unseen world. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). The Cherubim and Seraphim and archangels … this is the real world for Calvin. The privilege of being in Christ is that trouble does not shake us. We feel pain but Christ is always the rock beneath our feet and the security that cannot be taken away. In times of our greatest physical weakness we see beyond the groanings of this world to see with the eye of faith what cannot be shaken.

Psalter and Reformed Spirituality

So how do we meditate on the future life? The discipline of meditation is seen in the realities portrayed of this life in the Psalms. The Psalms are crucial to define the nature of the spirituality of the Christian life. Here we see the anatomy of all parts of the soul. This is why Calvin was adamant in commissioning a Psalter for his congregations to sing from. The Psalms are realistic. If the Psalmist is angry he says it. The Psalms range through a full spectrum of emotion and this displays the contours of our Christian lives. If we don’t sing the Psalms we miss the shape and identity of Reformed spirituality! If we do not sing of the brokenness of this world we will not anticipate the world to come.

And nothing portrays the anticipation of the future life more than prayer. The Psalms are prayers. Prayer is being drawn into heaven. The Holy Spirit groans to enables our voices to carry into heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. Romans 8:26 is central for Calvin’s understanding of the Spirit. The Spirit is given to enable us to pray. The Spirit works for us and with us to bring our feeble voices into the presence of the Father in heaven! If you read the prayers of Calvin you will notice how many of them are eschatological in nature.

Thomas closed his session by reading some of these precious prayers of Calvin. I close with a personal favorite:

“Grant, Almighty God, that as we now carry about us this mortal body, yea, and nourish through sin a thousand deaths within us; O grant that we may ever by faith direct our eyes toward heaven, and to that incomprehensible power, which is to be manifested at the last day by Jesus Christ our Lord, so that in the midst of death we may hope that thou wilt be our Redeemer, and enjoy that redemption which he completed when he rose from the dead, and not doubt that the fruit which he then brought forth by his Spirit will come also to us when Christ himself shall come to judge the world; and may we thus walk in the fear of thy name, that we may be really gathered among his members, to be make partakers of that glory which by his death he has procured for us. Amen”

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT > Session 5 > Derek Thomas on John Calvin

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Session 5 – (Wed. 7:00 PM)
“Mortification and Vivification: The Shape of Holiness in Calvin’s Institutes”
Derek Thomas

GRANTHAM, PA – Thomas returned to the Institutes to look at the shape of holiness according to John Calvin, but he began the session with a reference to his current study of John Bunyan (for a future biography). Referring to his own personal friendships with the men in the chapel, Thomas noted that in reading The Pilgrim’s Progress he was struck by how Bunyan weaves friendships into Christians’ sharing of the joy, temptations and losses of the Christian life.

Thomas would especially draw attention to mortification rather than vivification [mortification is dying to self and sin, vivification is coming alive to righteousness in Christ]. The focus in this session would be on the struggle against sin, bearing the Cross in affliction and self-denial.

Thomas opened by reading Colossians 3 with a special emphasis on verse 5: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Calvin expands on the relationship of union and communion with Christ. Justification, sanctification and glorification all flow from an existential union and this union is now being worked out in our lives by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the “comforter,” which is Latin meaning “to strengthen” or “to enable.” Calvin expounds on this in a John/Paul fashion. Our union with Christ takes the shape of death and resurrection. We are involved in a union, a template of death/resurrection, so our lives take the shape of this death/resurrection pattern. Calvin develops this like Paul in Romans 8:13 (“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”) and Colossians 3:3 (“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”). This same twin element of crucifixion/death/burial/resurrection is seen in Colossians 2:12 — “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” There are Romans 6 parallels to Colossians as we commune and take part in the death of Christ that works itself out in mortification. Mortification identifies us with Christ. Christ calls His sheep to follow His life as a pattern.

In Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus says the Church will grow and prevail although She is being built in enemy-controlled territory. This is the program of the New Covenant age between the two comings of Christ. This is now where we live, too. In this program of church growth in enemy territory, Jesus establishes the pattern of the Christian life. And this life is one of self-denial and Cross-bearing (see vv. 24-28). We are called to deny ourselves and pick up our Cross and “own” the life of Christ. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (v. 25). Only as we identify with the life of Christ will we save our lives. Any other course of life is to lose one’s life.

In Cross-bearing and self-denial we are putting to death the remaining sinful corruptions. On mortification Calvin builds especially off Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5. Calvin says, prepare for the knife.

Before continuing, Thomas makes two notes. First, he feared that by talking about mortification it makes him look as an expert who has made great advancements over sin in his own life. He humbly admitted that he is not superior in holiness to those in the room. Mortification actually becomes more difficult as you mature, he said. And second, talking about mortification makes guilt easier to communicate than grace. Calvinists who believe in the third use of the Law are very capable of generating guilt. This is easy. But the more Thomas reads Calvin and volume 6 of John Owen (‘the quintessential book’ to understanding the Puritan concept of mortification) the more he sees an emphasis on grace in Calvin that excels Owen. Calvin wants to emphasize grace in mortification. We need mortification because we are sinners, but we can never forget our justification!

The Struggle of Mortification

There is a reality of indwelling sin and remaining corruption. A war rages within. Calvin does not see Romans 8 as a progression from Romans 7. There is no way out of chapter 7 and into chapter 8 in the Christian life. In other words, chapter 7 is not a sub-Christian experience. For Calvin, chapter 7 and especially verses 14-ff are not the struggle of an unconverted Jew but the paradigm of the Christian life. The “I” later in chapter is the same “I” that is in union with Christ early in the chapter.

Passive sanctification seems to abound in the Church today. As soon as the demands of the Christian life are emphasized – ‘do this’ or ‘avoid that’ – people automatically label it ‘legalism.’ The third use of the Law for Calvin is a model for the Christian life as a man in union. But this obedience is never to gain the favor of God. Neither is obedience lessened because of grace already received.

The picture of the slow growth of the Christian striving against sin is seen in the following quotes by Calvin [and one of my personal favorites from the Institutes].

“But no one in this earthly prison of the body has sufficient strength to press on with due eagerness, and weakness so weighs down the greater number that, with wavering and limping and even creeping along the ground, they move at a feeble rate. Let each one of us, then, proceed according to the measure of his puny capacity and set out upon the journey we have begun. No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight. Therefore, let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal; not fondly flattering ourselves, nor excusing our own evil deeds, but with continuous effort striving toward this end: that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself. It is this, indeed, which through the whole course of life we seek and follow. But we shall attain it only when we have cast off the weakness of the body, and are received into full fellowship with him” (Institutes, 3.6.5 or pp. 1:689)

This is the lifelong battle until we are glorified. Athanasius and Augustine both viewed Romans 7 as an ongoing battle between the renewed self in union with Christ and remaining corruption. In Romans 8:23 Paul says “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Creation groans and we, too, groan. Calvin calls this groaning a “warfare of patience” (Commentary on Rom. 8:24).

Being united to Christ we are a mass of contradiction. At our height, the good we want to do we don’t do. What we don’t want to do, we do (Rom. 7:15).

The Ground of Mortification

The ground of mortification is the simple fact that we can mortify the flesh! Reformation logic says, “If I ought to, I can.” Not by native ability, but because of our union to Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and because the old Adam has died to sin. “Reckon yourselves” dead to sin (Rom. 6:11)! “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Live as those who have died. We are dead men walking. Christ died to destroy sin. We take this view that sin and its demands have all been paid. Christ has purchased for us both justification and sanctification. God carries this out in His own people as they gain the upper hand over sin. Sin continues to dwell but no longer reigns over His people.

Evil desires take on a life force of their own. But Calvin wants us to see the basis of engaging in mortification is because we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness. Sin no longer reigns.

The Motive of Mortification

The motive of mortification is the fear of God. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:5-6). Calvin, in his commentary, is especially clear that the wrath of God is coming upon those who do not engage in mortification. This becomes a motive to our mortification. The same theme is found in Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” If we don’t engage sin, we will die.

To say that you are united to Christ but don’t engage sin is to have, as Calvin puts it, a “mutilated faith.” Our engagement and victories over sin give us assurance that we are truly children of God.

Engaging in Mortification

So how do we mortify? First, we need a big picture. Mortification is not only concerned with specific and individual sins but all the entrails of the old man. Mortification is an engagement at the whole of sin, not just its parts.

The key to mortification is the mind. Book three and chapters 9-10 were added to the Institutes later as the whole comes to completion. It’s what we would call “faculty psychology.” For Calvin and the Puritans, the mind is the priority over the will and affections. Holiness begins in the faculty of the mind and in our thinking. For Calvin, we act according to our thoughts. So mortification begins in the mind. Remember in book one, Calvin calls the heart the “perpetual factory of idols.” And for Paul, he does not go into the details of sexual immorality but rather focuses on the idolatry of sexual sin and the idolatry of all sin. In James, the dynamic morphology of sin begins in the mind with the thoughts. So the way to deal with sin is to deal where it’s rooted – in our minds! Don’t think about sin. Guard your thought world. Guard your mind.

If we allow our minds to think about sin, the sin will develop a life of its own. Unguarded sinful thoughts motivate the will and the affections. Once the affections are set upon a sin, the sin takes on a life force of its own that will run its course. It will not be stopped. So deal with sin when it first rises in the mind. [This is a great illustration of the “life force” of sin.]

It is here that Calvin gives us one of the most eloquent passages of the Institutes.

“We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal (Rom. 14:8; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19). O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone” [3.7.1, p. 1:690].

This is not only mortification in particular besetting sins but part of a wider picture because we live in a sinful world. We have two zip codes: one planted in this world and one planted in the world to come. Being rooted in a world that is groaning is a call to self-denial and Cross-bearing. The highest calling of the Christian is self-denial. So bear the Cross!

Cross Bearing

Of particular usefulness, Cross-bearing teaches us to trust in the grace of God. We will suffer poverty, bereavement, and disease in this world in order for God to present us faultless (Jude 1:24). In Calvin’s teaching on the book of Job, Calvin preached through the book himself in great pain and in the midst of personal warfare. Calvin was a walking encyclopedia of pain.

For Calvin, the essential message of Job is understood through the eyes of Elihu. Elihu understands pain is educative. It’s not punishment for some particular sin, but rather the pain brings out the potential sin that was resting dormant.

The climax of Job is God shutting Job’s mouth. Paul takes this same theme in saying the purpose of the Law is to shut the mouths of sinners (Rom. 3:19). Every time we speak, we spew idolatry, self-worship and self-exaltation. The beauty of the Cross is that self-denial causes us to trust patiently in God. Unbelievers are chastened and they only grow weary. Believers are chastised and they are matured. A Cross without Christ does no good, but a Cross with Christ is God pulling out His chisel on the edges of our lives and our angular characters. He will present us as trophies of grace in Christ. Afflictions teach us about Christ. Nowhere is the chasm of the 16th century church and the church today more revealed than in our understanding of trials. Calvin says, it’s not all about me! The fact is that the closer we are to the King, the more likely we are to draw enemy fire and taste affliction. As Christ suffers so shall we.

[For more on Calvin’s understanding of Job see Dr. Thomas’ excellent book, Calvin’s Teaching on Job (Christian Focus: 2004). “Elihu sees adversity as educative rather than necessarily retributive” (p. 227).]

When Paul is converted on the Damascus road, why does Christ say, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)? Because Stephen was one of His (7:54-8:1). You touch one of Christ’s little ones, and you touch Christ.

The Experience of Mortification

Calvin is not calling us to Stoicism. In our grief and sorrow, Calvin points us to our great consolation in the hands of our indulgent Father! For Calvin, what gives him joy and vigor and strength in the Romans 7 struggle with sin and Cross-bearing is the fact that this world rests in the hands of our Father. And there remain no doubts of the extent of God’s love for us — He sent His only Son for us!

In the words of Thomas a Kempis: if you bear the Cross, it will bear you. No matter where you are, carrying the Cross or burdened by sin – the Cross will bear you!

———-

Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT > Session 4 > Sinclair Ferguson

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Session 4 – (Wed. 10:45 AM)
“Our Holiness: Abiding in Christ’s Love”
Sinclair Ferguson

GRANTHAM, PA – Ferguson began his session with a reminder that while sanctification is a fight against sin to the death, we are inclined to forget about abiding in Christ and naturally move on into the more “manly” aspects of sanctification. Architecturally, as people who think systematically about holiness the struggle of sanctification, this is right. But at the end of the day, sanctification is a matter of personal character. Holiness is who we become in Jesus Christ. This is why it’s very insightful to see the way Walt Chantry designed the conference topics and themes.

The centerpiece of the Christian faith is love, of the Christian abiding in the love of Jesus Christ. This is what produces genuine holiness. False holiness does not come by abiding in the love of Christ, and as a result it’s a ‘holiness’ that does not attract unbelievers and weak believers. In the Gospels Jesus shows true Christlikeness in a character that attracted unbelievers and those who were particularly weak. This is a test case for our own holiness. The evidence of true holiness is not in my appearance, but rather in my devotion to those who have little of God. True Christlike godliness draws the weak, which is to say that those abiding in the love of Christ have an atmosphere noticed by others.

The Vine and the Branches

In this morning’s session Ferguson would center his teaching on the vine and branches (John 15:1-11) with a particular emphasis on Jesus’ command in verse 9 to “Abide in my love.” The full text reads,

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

To abide in Jesus love is the quintessence of true holiness. I am genuinely holy only to the degree that I abide in His love. There are no substitutes for growing in holiness than to abide in Jesus’ love.

Abiding in Christ’s Love

The text was broken down by Ferguson into three points: 1. The love in which we abide; 2. The union by which we abide; and, 3. The character of those who abide in Christ’s love.

1. The love in which we abide. Due to a lack of teaching, people make this “abiding” in Christ into some mystical reality that cannot be put into words. But using words is exactly how Jesus describes this abiding. Jesus gives us a carefully expounded teaching of the pattern of abiding. It is to love the Son.

In John there are many references to the Father’s love for the Son but only one reference to the Son’s love of the Father. This Son is the eternal Word who is face-to-face with the Father (John 1).

There is an eternal bond of love between the Father and Son. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (3:35). “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing” (5:20). The love of the Father towards the Son is extraordinary because no secrets are hidden from the Son in God’s daily work. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (8:42). If you knew who I was, Jesus says, you would love me like the Father loves me. Jesus prayed, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:23,26). And the most significant of all: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17).

We must grasp the love of the Father towards His Son! Here is eternal intimacy, mutual admiration, loving esteem, and a full enjoyment of one another. This is fellowship.

In Genesis we get a picture of the mutual love of the husband and wife as Adam and Eve enjoying their perfectly loving relationship. This is a glimpse of the eternal and divine relationship. So what was God doing before creation? What did He spend His time doing? He was enjoying His Son! God needed nothing more for His own joy! This is beyond our imagination to grasp, but we do get a taste of this fellowship at a conference like this one. We come together to meet with pastors we have not seen in a long time and the time together is rich fellowship. It’s fellowship, not because we are accomplishing some task together, but simply in the fact that we are enjoying the presence of one another! Fellowship is not always about doing something; often it’s about enjoying one another. This is the oneness, the fellowship that makes the church the church (John 17:11,21-23).

That the Father loves the Son for His willingness to die on the Cross reveals a love between them capable of growth and development (John 10:17). Some of the basis of the Father’s love towards the Son is for the work of the Son. So the love that we abide in is an eternal love also capable of growth and development. In other words, the Atonement of Christ on the Cross is an act of love whereby sinners may receive even more love from the Father. The Atonement is not the end, but the beginning of an eternally growing and developing love from God. So salvation is not the end, but the means to restoring God’s love to the soul so we can enjoy greater love in communion with Christ! [This reminds me of a quote by John Piper that "God is the Gospel."]

A. This is a “love of complacency” (John Owen). The Atonement is the stepping-stone and foundation of every other blessing. God delights in those who have been atoned. Because of the Cross we are now objects of His pleasure and satisfaction. John Owen says, “The love of Christ is a love of complacency.” This love and delight flows in more love and joy (Zeph. 3:14-17, John 15:11). [Owen defines “complacency” as the delight and joy displayed by one fully satisfied in the object he has fixed his love upon (See Communion with God, 1:25).]

Jesus promises, “My joy will be in you.” Once our sins are atoned, there is a love in Jesus’ heart that overflows in sheer delight over us. Bathe in this truth! We are prone to beat ourselves into the dust over our remaining sinfulness rather than abide in Jesus’ love. Remember, Jesus’ love towards us is a love of complacency.

B. This is a “love of value” (John Owen). The saving love of God expresses valuation. Because Christ died for us and we are in Him, God values us as nothing less than His own Son. We love what we value (Matt. 6:21). We are loved because we are His treasure.

C. This is a “love of friendship” (John Owen). In verses 13-15 we see that we are loved like a friend. We are no longer servants. To the extent that I understand this truth and the dynamics of God’s love is the extent it will affect the character of my holiness.

[It appears Ferguson was pulling concepts from John Owen’s book Christologia. This book is available online and found in The Works of John Owen (1:2-273). Especially note chapter 13 (1:150-161).]

2. The union by which we abide. The union by which we abide in Christ is a very personal union. The Greek word for “to believe” (pistos) is more literally translated “to believe into.” Our union with Christ is a union of personal like that of marriage. This is Christ dwelling in the Father and He in me. This is the union we share with Christ is a union of His person. We do not merely share in the graces of Christ, but in His entire person. His person and the grace from Him cannot be separated, as the Roman Catholics attempt, in order to make grace something mediated and dispensed by a church. There is no such concept. We have union with the full person of Christ and all His graces. Christianity is Christ. Union with Him is personally grounded in the incarnation. Our holiness is forged in us because we become like the One we most love!

This spiritual union is forged by the Holy Spirit. It is important to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal union with Christ (see John 14:15-31).

This union is regulated by Scripture as the Word abides in our hearts (Col 3:16 and Eph. 5:18). It’s important to note that we as pastors do not stand on the Word of God as expert interpreters. Preachers are deep-sea divers, diving down into the depths to search for pearls to bring to the surface. Preaching is bringing the pearls to the surface. We are explorers in a world of grace. Preachers are below this Book!

Some think we will become infinite in heaven. This is not true. In our union with Christ, we are always finite creatures. Even in eternity we will forever have a past, present and a future. Because of this we will, each day, have increasingly more reason to love Christ throughout eternity!

3. The character of those who abide in Christ’s love. Due to time restraints these points were given as a list. The Christian abiding in Christ’s love will show itself in …

a. A universal obedience to Jesus’ commands (v. 14).

b. A life aware of Christ’s friendship (vv. 13-15). We are sinners saved by grace and in need of further cleansing, yet Jesus calls us friend!

c. A love for what Jesus has accomplished (v. 13).

d. A universal love for all those Christ has purchased (vv. 12,17).

e. A willingness to suffer in Him and with Him (vv. 18-20). To see death as the way to life.

f. A constraint to witness to others (vv. 26-27). In the context of evangelism, Paul says, “the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). The Holy Spirit is the witness of Christ because the Spirit has been united with Jesus eternally. Abiding in Christ and witnessing of Christ are inseparably linked.

g. A full joy (v. 11). Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” What does this mean? Two things: He is the cause of our joy and we are the cause of His joy!

Understanding this mystery of abiding in Christ’s love will transform our ministries. Let us bathe in this truth!

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT > Session 3 > Derek Thomas

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Session 3 – (Wed. 9:00 AM)
“Union with Christ: The Architectonic Principle of Holiness in Calvin’s Institutes”
Derek Thomas

GRANTHAM, PA – Even if a word like “architectonic” was too big for 9 AM, one of the great anticipations of the conference for me was to learn more about John Calvin and his theology (part of my preparation for this conference was the Humble Calvinism series we started in January). Derek Thomas is a man well qualified to teach on Calvin. Thomas originates from Whales Wales but now ministers in Jackson, MS as professor of systematic and practical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Minister of Teaching at First Presbyterian Church. Recently we looked at Thomas’ excellent book, Calvin’s Teaching on Job (Christian Focus).

Thomas is very familiar with the Banner of Truth Conference, first attending in 1974. He began his address with kind compliments and thankfulness for the past 30+ years.

Thomas was encouraged to make one theologian his lifelong hobby. In seminary he discovered Calvin when studying Calvin’s Institutes. No one should graduate from seminary without studying them, he said.

Thomas’ messages for the conference would center in book three of the Institutes and especially upon a small section published by itself as the Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life (still in print). This small book has enjoyed, Thomas said, “a life of it’s own.” [The content of this small book can be found in the third book of the Institutes (3.6-3.10 or pp. 1:684-725 in the McNeill/Battles edition).]

Thomas began by reading the sixth chapter of Romans and a short reading from the Institutes. Coming out of Book 2, where Calvin explained the person and work of Christ, he goes on in Book 3 to explain how this is applied to the Christian. Calvin begins Book 3 by writing:

“How do we receive those benefits which the Father bestowed on his only-begotten Son – not for Christ’s own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy men? First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us” (3.1.1, p. 1:537).

This quote provides the critical bridge between Book 2 (the work of Christ, His Cross and the Resurrection) into Book 3 (the application of grace to the sinner). Without union to Christ, the application the work of Christ does not happen.

History of the Institutes

The Institutes first appeared in 1536 as a small book but would grow through many editions until the final French edition in 1560. The plan of the original Institutes was different than the final. The first edition followed the structure of a catechism. But in 1559 the Institutes would be remodeled to follow the outline of the Apostle’s Creed – following a Trinitarian design of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some other significant changes include the moving of predestination from the opening chapters of the doctrine of God, into Book 3 being placed under the application of the Holy Spirit — because as Calvin says, “Election is the secret of God’s people.” Once you are born again, then predestination makes sense (similar to how predestination fits into the flow of Romans). Another change was that Calvin’s teaching on the Christian life formerly was a conclusion to his teaching on the church, but in the final edition is a subsection of Book 3 as can be seen from the third book’s title: “The way in which we receive the grace of Christ: What benefits come to us from is, and what effects follow.”

So if you look at the headings of Book 3, Calvin begins with a section on the Holy Spirit and then addresses faith, regeneration, repentance and justification. This is no proper ordo salutis! But Calvin is not attempting here to write an ordo salutis. Calvin is in a place where salvation by faith alone is charged as antinomian by his Roman Catholic critics. Therefore, Calvin first sets up sanctification to remove the ground of his opponents before jumping into justification. In other words, justification by faith alone does not undermine sanctification.

For Calvin, regeneration is not a one-time event that happens in the past. Rather, regeneration is an ongoing process of renewal in our sanctification. [The example of the Christian’s continued repentance for sin throughout life is an act of regeneration. Calvin writes, “in a word, I interpret repentance as regeneration, whose sole end is to restore in us the image of God that had been disfigured and all but obliterated through Adam’s transgression” (3.3.9, p. 1:601)]. It is important to know how Calvin uses the term “regeneration.”

Union with Christ

Union to Christ is the key truth of the application of His work. This union is a multifaceted and multidimensional truth. There is a mystical union with Christ brought about by the Holy Spirit where we are brought into spiritual union with Christ. But this union also incorporates Christ and believers whereby we share communion also in human nature, body and soul together. Christ identifies with believers in both a spiritual and physical union. Calvin’s eschatology includes an existence after glorification where we will have physical bodies and be in an incarnate union with Christ. Christ is the firstborn, elder brother in the family we are adopted: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29). We are engrafted into Christ and we draw from the sap and vitality of Christ (Rom. 11:17). We put on Christ and grow into One Body with Him (Gal. 3:27-28).

Calvin expands on this union with Christ and its significance to sanctification.

1. Basis of holiness. Christ possessed a spiritual wealth to give to the needy and He prays to His Father that this spiritual wealth would be to the believer’s sanctification. This profound truth is reflected in the prayer of Jesus, “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:19). On this passage, Calvin writes in his commentary on John,

“It is, because he consecrated himself to the Father, that his holiness might come to us; for as the blessing on the first-fruits is spread over the whole harvest, so the Spirit of God cleanses us by the holiness of Christ and makes us partakers of it. Nor is this done by imputation only, for in that respect he is said to have been made to us righteousness; but he is likewise said to have been made to us sanctification, (1 Cor. 1:30) because he has, so to speak, presented us to his Father in his own person, that we may be renewed to true holiness by his Spirit.”

Thus, our union with Christ achieved both justification and sanctification for believers. Our sanctification is the result of Christ’s sanctification and it is His perfect sanctification now being worked out in our own lives! This is the union. So how are we saved? Calvin says, not by Christ but rather in Christ. A most common phrase of Paul is to be “in Christ” and this “in Christ” is the key to our justification and the key to our sanctification. Our holiness is His holiness, our righteousness is His righteousness.

Our union with Christ as the basis of holiness is evident in the beginning lines of First Corinthians. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2). The Corinthians have two zip codes – one zip code that places them in this world where they are attacked and tempted, but a second zip code that sets them in heaven because they are united with Christ. In this union with Christ we have a divine nature in this world, which means we can put off all vices of the flesh (2 Pet. 1:4).

2. Means of holiness. The Holy Spirit is the applier of the works of Christ. It’s the same Spirit that indwelt Christ in His Incarnate life. See the references to the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9, 1 Pet. 1:11). The Holy Spirit is the bond uniting us to Christ. None know Christ more intimately nor has experienced more fellowship with Christ than the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ.

So where is Christ now? Christ is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father, but we are still united with Him. In the Lord’s Supper there is a deep mystery here. Calvin speaks of the Holy Spirit drawing us into fellowship with Christ as the Spirit draws our affections towards Him. Our hearts are lifted into communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. The Spirit comes to us because of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

To signify the Spirit being poured over the Body from its Head (Christ), Calvin builds from the image of Psalm 133: “It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” (v. 2). Christ is our Head. He pours His Spirit over Himself and the oil of the Holy Spirit runs down from the Head over the rest of His Body the Church. Sanctification from the Spirit of Christ flows from our union with Christ.

3. Shape of holiness. The Christian receives all the fullness of Christ in all of His accomplishments (justification, sanctification, glorification, etc.). Grace reigns through righteousness. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:2). As Calvin writes, “Medicine does not foster the disease it destroys” . We have died to sin and the claims of sin have been fully met (Rom. 6:10, 23). “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6). The body of sin has been destroyed. Sin was manifested in the body and now righteousness must be manifest in the body, too. The believer has been freed from sin, freed from guilt and the power of sin. The bondage has been broken.

Being freed from sin’s bondage is no mere speculation for Calvin. For Calvin, communion with the death of Christ energizes the imperatives that follow. The imperatives – like “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” — come after the indicatives (Rom. 6:11). The template of holiness is union/communion with the death/resurrection with Christ. Calvin sounds so Pauline. This is why when we have a hard time understanding the Pauline texts, Calvin is most helpful. He thinks so much like Paul.

So what does it mean to commune with Christ? Communion with Christ functions in our lives and is manifested in the perpetual death/resurrection cycle of life. The cross is the way to victory and death is the way to life. Don’t be surprised that to know life and joy we must first experience death and crucifixion. Christ is the one who blazes the trail for the Christian and we follow Him (Heb. 5:9).

So reckon yourselves dead and look to heaven where Christ is. The Christian life is not about the imitation of Christ. WWJD is not a sufficient ethic for the Christian life. We act in the Spirit of Christ, not to the details of Christ’s life.

The same Spirit that indwelt Christ is the same Spirit that molds us and takes us along the path of crucifixion and resurrection on our path to glory. Don’t be surprised if that is an increasingly difficult path as we die to self, die to the world, die to the devil, and live more for Christ and His glory.

———-

Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT > Session 2 > Sinclair Ferguson

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Session 2 – (Tues. 7:00 PM)
“Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase”
Sinclair Ferguson

GRANTHAM, PA – It was unfortunate Walt Chantry was not able to speak at this year’s conference (his book, The Shadow of the Cross is a treasure). Sinclair Ferguson was his chosen replacement. Ferguson, who has been a friend of Chantry for 30 years, took time at the beginning of his address to honor his friend.

Ferguson is one of the great contemporary preachers in our age. He serves as Senior Minister of The First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC and as professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas. What I love about Ferguson is that he is a Cross-centered scholar. A Puritan, really. And the opening night of the conference was a special treat because his address centered on how the Son purchases our sanctification.

Ferguson began by reading Titus 1 — words directed to a Gospel minister — with an emphasis on verses 11-15 where Christ’s redemption is tied to our sanctification.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2:11-15)

The three messages on holiness (“Our Holiness”) at the conference are titled: 1) The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase, 2) Abiding in Christ’s Love, and 3) Walking in the Spirit. This excellent, God-centered division was outlined by Chantry.

Ferguson shared many helpful personal questions and reflections throughout his message, beginning with this statement (and continuing throughout my notes below).

Fill in this statement: My people’s greatest need is (blank). Is it my improved preaching? My improved pastoral skill? Overall church attendance and growth? Or, is my people’s greatest need my personal growth in holiness? We all come in here knowing this is our great weakness, but excellence in holiness is one of the supreme qualifications for pastoral ministry. In fact, in the lists of qualifications for elders, giftedness and skillfulness are not the dominate characteristics of the qualified pastor. But holiness is! Holiness marks out pastors as authentic believers.

We are timid of this fact because this means that others should see our progress. These questions have haunted me constantly with other ministry friends: Are they seeing my progress in holiness over the years? Is my congregation seeing my progress in godliness over the years? There are few other things more important to consider than our own personal holiness.

But here is the great encouragement. The great Gospel imperatives are rooted in the indicatives of grace that sustain those imperatives! As preachers, often our indicatives are not big enough or gracious enough to sustain the weight of our imperatives. Preaching then becomes a rod to beat holiness, but all we see are our own failures. We lose sight of the Gospel.

And we need to remember how the imperatives of holiness are grounded in the NT in the Triune God. “To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Woven into the warp and woof, holiness is grounded in God. This holy God has in Himself, by Himself, for Himself, and is committed by Himself to bring about sanctification of His own people. Paul writes, “because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit”(Rom. 15:15-16). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).

Elected to Holiness

Our holiness has been planned eternally by God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). The grace of God has appeared, and this produces holiness. That the grace of God has appeared is a reference to Christ. He has appeared and this eternal planning shows that our holiness is the fruit of eternal planning.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). A living Calvinist is marked by compassion, humility, kindness. If you don’t look like this, you are not a Calvinist. This holiness is rooted in the eternal counsel of the eternally blessed God. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). The divine and eternal purposes of God are shown in our conformity to Christlikeness. This is holiness. It is of supreme importance that we understand that Christlikeness is holiness, not plus or minus anything else. We may have all types of abilities, theological knowledge, intellectual ability and affection towards the Gospel, but if I am not like Him I am not holy.

Election grounds our holiness. John Owen asked the question, how do we know if we are truly elect? The answer: Has God destined you to be holy? His chosen are to be like Himself (See Owen’s Works, 3:597-598). I still have powerful sin in me and without grace I would utterly fail at holiness. God’s eternal plan is the necessary inducement to holiness. God has seen His portrait fractured in the Fall and rebellion has set in. God wants His portrait back and He is getting rid of what is not Christlike in us. He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son. In Romans Paul goes on to say that nothing will thwart this plan? Satan? Who can stand in God’s way? Charge them? Destroy them?

God is bending all circumstances and pain, He is chiseling and doing one thing – riding the universe of what does not reflect Christ. He deconstructs us to reconstruct our character, lives, to be Christlike. God is determined that you will be transformed into Christ. Holiness is not a threat but a cause of joy, wonder, worship and humility because this holiness has been purchased by the work of the Son.

Christ and Sanctification

The role of Christ in sanctification extends beyond purchase, but we should see holiness is purchased by Christ – not as an additional work. Justification and sanctification are linked together. My sanctification is as much purchased as any other aspect of salvation (Heb. 2:14-17). We can get so focused on the blood of Christ which pardons that we lose sight of Christ purchasing our sanctification and holiness. There are no gospel blessings that come apart from the crucified Christ. The conduit is His death. We receive nothing in the Christian life unless He purchased it by His obedience and Atonement.

The death of Christ is a multifaceted reality. Just look at how many Hebrew nouns are used in the Old Testament to communicate the multidimensional, sinister, twisted, fallen, nature of sin. And these are not all synonyms. The Spirit comes and loosens the flesh. Sin is not a single independent mass in our hearts, but rather sin is woven multidimensionally into our lives. The salvation in the Blood of Christ is a corresponding Atonement to this sin. We are to be totally sanctified which means there will be no remnant of sin.

Our understanding of the Cross is often superficial. Shame on me if I expound to my people multiple dimensions of sin without expounding the multiple dimensions of the Cross! How is it possible that redemption purchases salvation from sin in all dimensions?

The Cross and Sanctification

1. Christ propitiates God’s wrath (Rom. 3:21-24). Christ answers the wrath of God for the sins of Romans 1-3:20. But propitiation is more than mere justification. Under the wrath of God (or a fear of future wrath from God) I will be emptied of all hope in sanctification. It is not psychologically possible to be under the wrath of God and desire to be like Him. We have been freed from God’s wrath, are exalted in Christ, and we now stand before God with the identical confidence of Christ. His righteousness is mine! “Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.” Propitiation is significant for sanctification.

2. Christ expiates defilement. “How much more will the blood of Christ … purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). In the Cross our sins are washed away. But our hearts and our consciences are cleansed, too! Too often we miss this.

3. Christ dies to sin. Our holiness is affected at the Cross because in the Cross Christ died to sin. “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God” (Rom. 6:10). It does not say here Christ died for sin but rather that He died to sin. This point may be controversial. The context is in explaining Christian baptism. We no longer live in sin because Christ died to sin. We have been set free from the reign and dominion of sin in order to yield ourselves to Jesus. Christians do not die for sin but rather we die to sin which is to say that we have died to sin because Christ has died to sin. Since sin reigns in death, it was in Jesus’ death that His humanity came under the reign of sin in the process of overcoming sin. Christ not only purchased justification from the wrath of God and cleaned our consciences, but He also purchased that freedom from the dominion of sin that makes it possible to live endlessly to the glory of God. John Owen said there are two primary problems for the pastor, convincing sinners they are under sin and convincing the redeemed they are no longer under sin. Nearly all pastoral situations come back to this!

4. Christ frees from Satanic bondage.
Jesus entered enemy-occupied territory and defeated Satan. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Without redemption in Christ, we are lifelong slaves to the fear of death. We see this in all non-Christian funerals. There are no windows, it is bleak, there is a concerted effort to celebrate but nobody in the room has conquered the fear of death. In a truly Christian funeral there is hope and a future. Even in the loss and grief we rejoice for the one taken into the presence of Christ. The fear of death is the mother of all fears. Psychobabble abounds over the fears people have. The world is awash in insecurities. Only Christ delivers from the fear of death. The Resurrection of Christ is such a glorious thing! Arguments to prove the Resurrection is one thing, but to be overwhelmed by the powerful reality of being saved from death is another. To be “dead to sin” is to be raised into newness of life. This is the glorious power of the Resurrection. Has it made my life different? When people look at my life do they say, ‘Someone must have been raised from the dead’?

5. Christ purchases the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because of the work of Christ on the Cross the Holy Spirit comes. Jesus said to the disciples, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Later in John’s Gospel we see that John was struck that blood and water flowed from the side of Jesus (John 19:34). This is because John understood that Jesus was not only the source of Atoning blood, but also the river of living water. He is the One for Whom the river flows, He is the true Jerusalem where the thirsty go to drink (Rev. 22). When Christ ascended into the clouds He entered behind a curtain where we can no longer see Him. We don’t know exactly what happens behind the curtain but Peter says, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). In the ascension, Jesus pours out His life transforming Holy Spirit. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The point is that Christ purchased everything we need. We are purchased by Christ, therefore we glorify Him in our lives (1 Cor. 6:20). We are owned by Him and nobody else. Once we are purchased, we begin taking baby steps in holiness that are apparent towards others. Has anyone thought of your life, ‘There is something in this man’s life that looks like Jesus’? It is not great gifts that God blesses in the ministry but a likeness to Jesus (M’Cheyne). And this likeness to Christ is eternal.

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT > Final Conference Reflections

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2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference (US)
Final Conference Reflections

This year I’ve had the honor of attending two new conferences (new to me, anyway). One of these was the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Grantham, PA. The Banner of Truth conference is different than other conferences in that it’s a publisher’s conference with a smaller audience and a traditional atmosphere (like singing from the Psalter and Hymnal to a piano). But there was also a sober reverence towards God in the atmosphere. One of the delights of a conference like this one, or in attending a traditional Reformed church, is a deep sense of affection and reverence towards God. This was certainly communicated throughout the music, prayers and teaching at the conference.

Here are some other reflections from the conference in no particular order.

… There was a large contingent of younger pastors and first-time attendees. The dorm housing in Grantham was nice and the cafeteria buffet was more reminiscent of a restaurant than a college mess hall. It’s a beautiful campus to hold retreats and conferences of this size.

… With all of the great foreign accents from the speakers and attendees I felt like I was in another country. It was great, especially the first time someone commented on the uniqueness of the American accent. Americans don’t have accents, right? (ethnocentric humor)

… I’m now aware that attempting to liveblog Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas (pictured) was simply a bad idea. I should have known better. The amount of content was almost impossible to keep up with and trying to get the message notes edited and posted at the conference was an overwhelming goal (I’ve never claimed to be Tim Challies). So I’ve decided to take my handwritten notes and type them and publish them on this blog next week beginning on Monday. This will give me more time to chase down some Hebrew nouns, scripture citations, and biblical allusions in the messages. In the wealth of content, we see the seriousness of preparation each speakers took in the crafting of their messages. It will be a joy to share these messages with you next week.

… The bookstore at the conference was well stocked with excellent books at excellent prices (40- to 65- percent off). The Sinclair Ferguson trip around the bookstore after the conference session Tuesday night brings fond memories (and chuckles). Sinclair began the tour of the bookstore with memories of his seminary days. He said the good Evangelical books in print that helped him would fit easily on two short bookshelves. In other words, it was not too long ago when good and helpful books were not readily accessible. Thankfulness for God’s abundant blessing upon the publishing world was the context for the rest of the evening. … He warned that a library of only Banner of Truth volumes is a bad choice. Building a library without a significant amount of Banner titles is equally bad. … I now regret not brining my audio recorder to capture the event.

… Of all the highlights and strengths of the Banner conference none compare to the encouragement I recieved. Flying from Cincinnati into Harrisburg I asked myself the question: In a conference on holiness, what expectations and anticipations do I bring? What am I looking for in the teaching? What would make for a successful conference? What came to mind was an expectation and anticipation of a preaching that exalted the Cross in the progress of sanctification. I am growing in my understanding of the depth of application to the Cross and deepening my understanding of what Christ accomplished at the Cross. But I am also sadly aware that in the pursuit of holiness, the Cross often takes second place to the practical pursuit of mortification (killing remaining sin). This is a misunderstanding of sanctification. So for me, my anticipation of the conference included this the hope – that the Cross would take center stage. And this is exactly what happened. All the messages, but especially the messages of Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas, broadened my understanding of the Cross as it applies to sanctification. In the coming days I’ll be digesting electronically the extensive notes I took at the conference. I can tell you the depth of content connecting sanctification, mortification, and the pursuit of holiness to the Cross was breathtaking and you will see for yourself how Ferguson (through Scripture) and Thomas (through Owen, Calvin and Scripture) developed this panorama of Cross-centered holiness. This focus makes a growth in godliness a joy-filled pursuit.

… So what was the conference like from the eyes of a newcomer? Well, it was great. Especially through the personal efforts of Steve Burlew, I and the other newcomers were integrated into the fray and warmly welcomed. Without Steve I’m certain my experience would have been much more isolated and overall greatly different. Steve understands the growth of a conference like this one will be through personal contacts with men and he brings this strength to the conference. He initiates the contacts online and through his travels and then follows through with caring for these newcomers personally at the conference. If you are considering making your way to the Banner conference for the first time I would encourage you to take the first step and get in touch with Steve at his blog.

Overall, I come away with from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers Conference having been ministered to and encouraged. It was (and always will be) the Cross that truly encourages us towards holiness. The beautiful 21st century Puritanism on display — boasting only in the Cross — made for a wonderful conference!

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

Banner of Truth Tour (Carlisle, PA, Wed. PM)

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Banner of Truth Tour
Carlisle, PA, Wed. PM

One personal highlight from the trip East was a tour of the Banner of Truth warehouse in Carlisle, PA (about 30 minutes from the conference). The tour was pushed back until late Wednesday night. But it was worth the wait.

Steve Burlew, who manages the US branch of the Banner of Truth, has become a close friend through months of electronic fellowship by way of email and our blogs. Steve was gracious enough (at 11:00 PM last night!) to drive me down so I could see the warehouse. It was a great treat.

The Banner of Truth offices and warehouse in Carlisle are sandwiched by condos in what seemed to be a residential area. The Banner building itself is a very long and narrow with two levels of offices in the front and warehouse in the back. The first books you see in the entry are the damaged volumes (most only slightly damaged). These volumes sell at 50-percent off. Also in the entry are a few desks (one of another Banner friend, Beth). Another set of offices is directly upstairs. From the entry you walk back to the packing room. This room holds a handful of copies of each Banner book and a table outfitted for packaging. From this packing room and through an industrial door, you enter in to the large warehouse. The warehouse is mainly a large metal structure where the pallets and bulk stacks of individual volumes are stored. The paperbacks are stored on the second level and the hardcover books on the main level. The warehouse was very tidy. To the far back of the warehouse and along one of the walls were the new arrivals from Edinburgh. Many of these volumes were on crates and simple boxes.

I was greatly surprised at the volume of works warehoused and (by consequence) gratefully surprised at the amount of books the Banner must sell on a regular basis. So having personally seen the impact of authors like John Bunyan in my own life, it was an especially moving experience to see a stack of hundreds of copies of his works. Or to see thousands of copies of Expository Thoughts on John by J.C. Ryle or stacks of boxes of the Works of John Owen or a pile of Spurgeon’s autobiography or to see 10,000 copies of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. Walking through the Banner warehouse was a powerful experience — not merely as a bibliophile – but as a Christian who has experienced the powerful content of these works in drawing me closer to Christ and His Cross.

What will become of this stack of John Bunyan or Jonathan Edwards? This will be left in the hands of our Sovereign God. But we can be sure there will be new readers who, through the work of the Banner staff, will be introduced to a new world of reading, to new authors and new books. And through this introduction these readers will be eternally changed for the glory of God. My personal experience of these volumes and my expectations for a new generation of readers is what made a tour of the Banner warehouse so special. It was a great experience, even if it was midnight before we returned to Grantham.

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A few choice pictures. Here are some books in the packing room.

Stacks of boxes filled with Spurgeon’s autobiography.

The Works of John Bunyan. Isn’t this beautiful?

Two crates filled with Edwards’ Religious Affections (perhaps 10,000 copies).

The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray.

Ryle on John (vol. 3).

The warehouse.

And my friend Steve Burlew (Steve wanted me to let everyone know this picture was taken at midnight after a long day at the conference. Apparently he’s more handsome in the daytime or something).

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Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

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