Tuesday, July 1, 2014

John Owen on the need to be constantly fighting against sin

Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion. Sin doth not only abide in us, but “the law of the members is still rebelling against the law of the mind,” Rom. vii. 23; and “the spirit that dwells in us lusteth to envy,” James iv. 5. It is always in continual work; “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” Gal. v. 17; lust is still tempting and conceiving sin, James i. 14; in every moral action it is always either inclining to evil, or hindering from that which is good, or disframing the spirit from communion with God. It inclines to evil. “The evil which I would not, that I do,” saith the apostle, Rom. vii. 19. Whence is that? Why, “Because in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” And it hinders from good: “The good that I would do, that I do not,” verse 19; — “Upon the same account, either I do it not, or not as I should; all my holy things being defiled by this sin.” “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would,” Gal. v. 17. And it unframes our spirit, and thence is called “The sin that so easily besets us,” Heb. xii. 1; on which account are those grievous complaints that the apostle makes of it, Rom. vii. So that sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting. Who can say that he had ever any thing to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did? And this trade will it drive more or less all our days. If, then, sin will be always acting, if we be not always mortifying, we are lost creatures. He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue. If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world.

John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers

Monday, June 30, 2014

Conviction and anguish over sin cannot save you from hell - William S. Plumer

Do not believe that your convictions are too deep and too strong ever to leave you. They are perhaps not stronger than those of Felix when he trembled, of Herod when he heard John and did many things gladly, of Ahab when he humbled himself, or of king Saul when he lifted up his voice and wept. Conviction of itself, is not a saving grace. It is itself no pledge of salvation. It may leave one midway between carelessness and conversion, just as Lot’s wife was left between Sodom and Zoar. If your convictions do not lead to Christ, and that speedily, you may become familiar with them, and their effect be lost up on you. Conviction of itself, is not conversion. Conviction can save no man. Misconceive not the terms of salvation. On this point there is much danger. Be specially guarded that you do not attempt to substitute your own distress of mind for the sufferings of Christ. Sin is neither pardoned nor expelled, by the anguish of any sinful worm. The more distressed men are, the stouter is the rebellion of your sins. Your own sufferings, in this world or the next, cannot save you. No tears, no blood, no cross, no death, no intercession but those of Christ can avail for any! Never lose sight of the blessed truth, that salvation is wholly by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus.

William S. Plumer, Vital Godliness: A Treatise on Experimental and Practical Piety - Chapter 7 - Cases of Religious Distress

Friday, June 27, 2014

RE: Pastor Mark Jones On Baptist Children

In a post entitled Daddy, am I really forgiven?, Pastor Mark Jones asked a series of leading questions for Baptists raising their children. I wanted to post my response to those questions in an effort for paedobaptists to better understand the position of baptists, and perhaps to help other baptists who encounter these types of questions.

1. When my children sin and ask for forgiveness from God, can I assure them that their sins are forgiven?

Yes. The apostle John says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ESV)

2. When I ask my children to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics?

There is one standard, which is God's, according to which both believers and non-believers are accountable. There are not two different standards. So the commandment for children to obey their parents shows no distinction of believers and non-believers, and neither does the commandment to parents to raise their children according to God's Word. As Paul writes, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV)

3. On what grounds do I ask my three-year old son to forgive his twin brother? Because it is the nice thing to do? Or because we should forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us?

On the grounds that it is according to God's righteous standard, by which all are accountable. We know this is true from the Scriptures when the apostle John writes, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (1 John 3:15 ESV)

4. Can my children sing "Jesus loves me, this I know" and enjoy all of the benefits spoken of in that song? ("To him belong...He will wash away my sin")

If they do not love Jesus, then no they should not sing it. In our family, we tell our children only to sing this song if they confess Jesus as Lord. This is also the same reason why we instruct our children not to sing the children's song "Father Abraham."

5. When my children pray during family worship to their heavenly Father, what are the grounds for them praying such a prayer? Do they have any right to call God their "heavenly Father"? Do non-Christians cry "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15)?

We know that there is "one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:6 ESV) God has the same names for both believers and non-believers. As to whether or not they pray by that or any other name in the right spirit by faith, that is only by the work of the Holy Spirit.

6. Should I desire that my children have a "boring" testimony? (Though a testimony to God's covenant promises can never be boring, of course). Is it not enough for them to simply say each day that they trust in Christ alone for their salvation?

Absolutely. I pray this for my children often, and hope they already have a "boring" testimony.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On 1 Corinthians 7:14 "as it is they [the children] are holy"

For the unbelieving husband is set apart for God by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart for God by the husband. Otherwise your children would be corrupt, but now they are set apart for God. (1 Corinthians 7:14 HCSB)
Most Bible versions translate hagios here to "holy" which is correct, except that it results in some interpreting the word in some salvific or new-covenant-inclusive sense by some paedobaptists, but I think the HCSB's rendering of "set apart" alludes to the correct understanding. The reason is this: The children are not made holy in the sense of being saved from the wrath to come. They are not justified. The only way that a child could be holy in a justified sense is according to the Scriptures, which is by their own faith, not because of the faith of their believing parent(s). So it follows that "holy" here means something other than faith. One common understanding shared by some, including John Calvin, is that "holy" here is in the context of a lawful marriage.

This understanding is further buttressed by the fact that the unbelieving husband is also made holy. There are at least two points to be gleaned here. First, if "holy" here means justification, then it follows that one may be justified without believing, or to put it more plainly, that there is such a thing as a justified unbeliever. We know from other perspicuous passages that this is not the case. The second point is that if Paul means that unbelievers are made holy/justified by their believing spouses, then a Christian marrying an unbeliever should be accepted, because the unbeliever would become a believer by virtue of their marriage. But we know this is not the case. In verse 16, Paul says plainly that the husband is not saved. Additionally, Paul teaches that unbelievers are not saved through marriage when he asks "what fellowship has light with darkness?" So an unbeliever married to a Christian is still an unbeliever, though Paul says that in some way he is "holy." It follows then that the unbeliever is not holy in a justified sense, but rather in some other way. The conclusion then is this: just as an unbelieving spouse is not made "holy" in the sense of justification or membership in Christ's covenant, neither are unbelieving children. Calvin's commentary on the passage is a more feasible solution.

For further support, again we see Paul using the term "holy" in a similar manner a few verses later when he writes,

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:34)

Again, Paul is contrasting someone who is "holy" and someone who is not. But in this case both persons are believers, so Paul cannot mean "holy" in the sense of justified, but rather he means "set apart," as I believe he also meant in 7:14.

The late Greek scholar A.T. Robertson also offers a helpful interpretation in agreement with Calvin,

7:14 Is sanctified in the wife [hēgiastai en tēi gunaiki]. Perfect passive indicative of [hagiazō], to set apart, to hallow, to sanctify. Paul does not, of course, mean that the unbelieving husband is saved by the faith of the believing wife, though Hodge actually so interprets him. Clearly he only means that the marriage relation is sanctified so that there is no need of a divorce. If either husband or wife is a believer and the other agrees to remain, the marriage is holy and need not be set aside. This is so simple that one wonders at the ability of men to get confused over Paul’s language. Else were your children unclean [epei ara ta tekna akatharta]. The common ellipse of the condition with [epei]: “since, accordingly, if it is otherwise, your children are illegitimate [akatharta].” If the relations of the parents be holy, the child’s birth must be holy also (not illegitimate). “He is not assuming that the child of a Christian parent would be baptized; that would spoil rather than help his argument, for it would imply that the child was not [hagios] till it was baptized. The verse throws no light on the question of infant baptism” (Robertson and Plummer).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Can a Christian man be a stay-at-home husband or a SAHH?


In this post I offer some arguments to consider the topic of stay at home husbands and attempt to answer one objection I encountered.

The objection is this: Isn't it true that there are other means of husbands providing for their families? Why then is financial support necessarily a function the husband should fulfill? Can't the husband provide for his household as a stay-at-home husband and father?

It is certainly true that there are many ways to provide for one's family, but I think the question we are dealing with here is, is it biblical for the wife to function as the primary financial support, while the husband stays at home and functions as the primary manager of the household? Another way of asking this is, Does the financial support role carry more weight than other roles, such that it should be assigned primarily to the husband, the head of the household? I think the answer to the first question is no and second yes. Let me offer some arguments to consider.

The first argument I have is this: That in our culture, financial support is the primary means by which a family is provided its most basic needs. I think we can all agree that without monetary resources, a family cannot survive. Every necessary provision, including clothing, food, and shelter require money to acquire these needs.

Other contributory functions such as teaching or food preparation are also critical for a family's well-being, but these tasks are not essential for providing basic life needs. While very important, a family could survive without them. A family cannot, however, survive without food or clothing or shelter. Teaching and food preparation do little good if the family is struggling with starvation or exposure. Biblically speaking, I think we see this illustrated in Proverbs. For example:

The one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. Proverbs 28:18-20

Here Solomon acknowledges that it is only by working that the basic need of food is provided. No work. No eat. Reading this in tandem with the understanding that the husband is primarily responsible for well-being of his family, I would argue that biblically the task of working to eat falls primarily to the husband.

Consider also this as a supportive passage,

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:28-31 ESV)

Here the argument is that if the husband, not the wife, is to love and nourish his spouse as part of his own body, the husband is responsible for provision, not the wife. The head, the husband, provides for the body, of which the wife is part. The body does not provide for the head, but rather the head for the body, while providing nourishment and delegating responsibility to the other parts, provides protection of the whole of the body. How can the head nourish the body by asking the body to nourish both itself and the head? Likewise, how can the husband nourish his wife by asking her to function in the primary role of protector and provider of basic needs? I would argue that in the latter scenario, the roles are unnaturally reversed.

So to me the question then is this, should the head of the household, the husband, the stronger vessel, put this heavier and more critical responsibility on the shoulders of the helpmeet, the wife, who is the weaker vessel? If God charges the husband as the protector/superintendent (proistēmi in 1 Timothy 3) of his family, does he fulfill his God-given calling to require of his wife the primary role which most protects and provides for his family's basic needs? In this role the wife, not the husband, becomes the primary protector and caregiver of her family. If she loses her job, the family's survival, at its most basic level, is at stake. To me it is clear then, that in these roles, the husband is no longer serving as the primary protector and caregiver of his family, because the survival of his family at its most basic level is primarily dependent upon the wife.

Consider also the instructions given in 1 Timothy 3 and 5:

In 1 Timothy 3 husbands are charged to proistēmi their households. In 1 Timothy 5 women are charged to oikodespoteō. These are two different words and two different meanings. The first means "rule, protect, care for, and superintend." The second means more "to rule or manage the family affairs." One role is subject to the other. Both share aspects of management, but only one superintends. The husband is specifically charged in chapter 3 with the superintendence, protection, and care of his family. The wife is charged with the management of family affairs, under the superintendence of her husband. How can a husband function as the primary protector and caregiver if his family's protection is dependent upon his wife's employment? If then the protection of one's family is dependent on the wife and not the husband, then I would argue that it is the wife that is primarily protecting the family, not the husband.

A few thoughts on 1 Timothy 5:3-8:

To me it seems that the primary charge to provide for the widow is to the children or grandchildren. This verse does not seem to be specifically addressing the idea of a husband supporting his family financially. Rather, it speaks of children or grandchildren providing for their widowed mothers, and it also seems to teach that members of a household must provide for one another as they are able. But then Paul shifts a bit to talk in the context of households, which in the context of other Scriptures, we know are to be ordered in a specific way. Who is primarily responsible for household provisions? It cannot be the children of the household, nor the wife, who are the weaker vessels. The overall responsibility then falls to the husband, the stronger vessel. The head of the household. Others can help out as necessary, but this too is done under the guidance and leadership of the household's head. The primary responsibility and accountability falls to him.

Another clue we find here is with regard to Paul's instructions for widow care. All references to the unmarried in need are always specific to women without a husband. There is no instruction in Scripture for the care of widowers. Why is this? I believe this is because the responsibility of care and provision primarily falls on the man, the head of the household, and if a man is a widower, he is still the head of his household. A man is expected to work if he is able, as Paul explained to the brothers at Thessalonica when he wrote, "For even when we were with you [brothers], we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living." (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ESV)

Again, Paul charges the men, not the women, with the responsibility of working quietly and earning their own living. This does not mean that a woman is in sin if she conducts business in the household, or even if there is a temporary season where the circumstances require the woman to be the primary provider of income. This may be necessary for the family's survival when the husband is injured or temporarily unemployed. But the husband, as the head, protector, and stronger vessel should feel the weight of that responsibility on him, to get better or find a new job as soon as possible, because God has charged him with the role of protector and caregiver of his wife, who is to be cared for and nourished as part of his own body.

Again, this does not mean that a wife cannot do business or help make ends meet. In some cases, she might even bring in more money than her husband. Proverbs 31 clearly provides an example of a noble and virtuous woman who does a great deal of business and earns income for her family, but notice that the passage does not teach that she is the primary caregiver and protector. Even with women of exceptional entrepreneurial talents, the wife should be able to fall back on the husband should her endeavors fail. If the wife cannot fall back on her husband, then I believe that the husband is not biblically fulfilling his charge to protect and provide for his family's basic needs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Aquinas: Should a Christian answer back to a reviler or mocker?

Whether one ought to suffer oneself to be reviled?

Objection 1: It would seem that one ought not to suffer oneself to be reviled. For he that suffers himself to be reviled, encourages the reviler. But one ought not to do this. Therefore one ought not to suffer oneself to be reviled, but rather reply to the reviler.

Objection 2: Further, one ought to love oneself more than another. Now one ought not to suffer another to be reviled, wherefore it is written (Prov. 26:10): "He that putteth a fool to silence appeaseth anger." Therefore neither should one suffer oneself to be reviled.

Objection 3: Further, a man is not allowed to revenge himself, for it is said: "Vengeance belongeth to Me, I will repay" [*Heb. 10:30]. Now by submitting to be reviled a man revenges himself, according to Chrysostom (Hom. xxii, in Ep. ad Rom.): "If thou wilt be revenged, be silent; thou hast dealt him a fatal blow." Therefore one ought not by silence to submit to reviling words, but rather answer back.

On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 37:13): "They that sought evils to me spoke vain things," and afterwards (Ps. 37:14) he says: "But I as a deaf man, heard not; and as a dumb man not opening his mouth."

I answer that, Just as we need patience in things done against us, so do we need it in those said against us. Now the precepts of patience in those things done against us refer to the preparedness of the mind, according to Augustine's (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 19) exposition on our Lord's precept, "If one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other" [*The words as quoted by St. Thomas are a blending of Mat. 5:39 and Lk. 6:29]: that is to say, a man ought to be prepared to do so if necessary. But he is not always bound to do this actually: since not even did our Lord do so, for when He received a blow, He said: "Why strikest thou Me?" (Jn. 18:23). Consequently the same applies to the reviling words that are said against us. For we are bound to hold our minds prepared to submit to be reviled, if it should be expedient. Nevertheless it sometimes behooves us to withstand against being reviled, and this chiefly for two reasons. First, for the good of the reviler; namely, that his daring may be checked, and that he may not repeat the attempt, according to Prov. 26:5, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he imagine himself to be wise." Secondly, for the good of many who would be prevented from progressing in virtue on account of our being reviled. Hence Gregory says (Hom. ix, Super Ezech.): "Those who are so placed that their life should be an example to others, ought, if possible, to silence their detractors, lest their preaching be not heard by those who could have heard it, and they continue their evil conduct through contempt of a good life."

Reply to Objection 1: The daring of the railing reviler should be checked with moderation, i.e. as a duty of charity, and not through lust for one's own honor. Hence it is written (Prov. 26:4): "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like him."

Reply to Objection 2: When one man prevents another from being reviled there is not the danger of lust for one's own honor as there is when a man defends himself from being reviled: indeed rather would it seem to proceed from a sense of charity.

Reply to Objection 3: It would be an act of revenge to keep silence with the intention of provoking the reviler to anger, but it would be praiseworthy to be silent, in order to give place to anger. Hence it is written (Ecclus. 8:4): "Strive not with a man that is full of tongue, and heap not wood upon his fire."

Source: Aquinas, Summa Theologica

Friday, June 6, 2014

A helpful rebuttal to the paedobaptist argument that Luke uses "brephe" (often translated "infant") in chapter 18.

The Greek for infants, or babes, is usually brephe ; but even this word is sometimes applied to children that are not infants. Thus, Luke, in his narrative of this transaction, once uses the term (v. 15) in the same way as paidia, —rendered in our Version by "infants". Here, however, the fact that Luke, in all other places in the passage, employs the word paidia, as is done in every case in Matthew and Mark, shows that children older than infants are meant; just as, in 2 Tim. 3:15, we read of Timothy, that " from a child" (apo brephous) he was " acquainted with the Scriptures" ; where brephos quite clearly does not mean a babe, or infant.

The manner in which the Evangelists narrate this transaction, proves beyond question, that the children spoken of were not infants but young growing children, capable, not only of walking, but of understanding speech. All three of the Evangelists represent our Lord as saying "forbid them not to come" elthein, erchesthai, —not, to be brought which idea would have been expressed by prosenecthenai, — evidently implying that the children could walk. And even more than this is said ; for Luke,—the very Evangelist who uses brephein one place, as we have seen,—says expressly, "Jesus called* [proskalesamenos having called ; showing that the children are addressed in person] them unto him."

The word brephos is applied in a number of places in the Greek Classics to children capable of intelligent action. Theocritus (who nourished 272 B. C.) uses it of a boy who was old enough to understand what his mother was saying about his father (Idyl 15,1.14). Moschus (fl. 154 B. C.) applies it to the ("runaway" Cupid (Idyl 1, 1. 11). Anacreon (fl. 559 B. C.) does the same, several times, in his Ode to Eros (Ode 4). Bee also Lucian, Toxaris, 26; and the Palatine Anthology, 7, 632. Other examples might he cited. For those here given, the Author is indebted to the research of his friend, Geo. Wyndham, Esq., of New Orleans. Source: History of the Early Baptists From The Beginning of the Gospel To the Rise of Affusion As Baptism, And Of Infant Baptism by William Cecil Duncan - January 1, 1857 (p. 145)