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Showing posts with the label William Boekestein

WCF 13: Of Sanctification

By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: The purpose of your life is to be holy as God is holy. God is “majestic in holiness” ( Ex. 15:11 ). His holiness—his complete lack of character flaws—is the theme of angelic praise ( Isa. 6:3 ). And God aims to manifest his holiness among his people ( Ez. 28:22 ). This will surely happen. Those whom God justified by a declaration of righteousness, he will one day glorify by perfecting in them actual righteousness ( Rom. 8:30 ). But believers must begin to reflect God’s perfection now. The entire Christian journey from justification and glorification is called sanctification. In this process God renews us after his image and enables us more and more to die to sin and live righteously. [i] “Holiness … is the purpose of our justification.” [ii] God delivers his people from the hand of the enemy that they “might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness” ( Luke 1:74–75 ). Hymn-writer Augustus Toplady gets to the point: “We ar

WCF 12: Of Adoption

By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: Martin Luther said that justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. And justification is a vital, glorious reality. God declares that because of Christ’s righteousness the claims of the law are satisfied for everyone who believes. Justification is a verdict of “no condemnation” for hell-deserving sinners ( Rom. 8:1 ). But God’s kindness is deeper and richer than we could even imagine. He not only forgives our debts; he also receives us into his family. Those whom God justifies he also adopts as his dear children, both sons and daughters. Scripture commonly speaks of the “sonship” of believers not to exclude females but to emphasize the full right of inheritance to all believers which in the ancient world was the privilege of males. In quoting 2 Samuel 7 Paul explicitly expands God’s promise to be a father to David’s son saying, “and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the

WCF 11: Of Justification

By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth : Those whom God “predestined he also called” ( Rom. 8:30 ). The Father will draw to himself all those he has eternally given to the Son as his reward ( John 6:37 , 44 ). In the effectual call God changes sinners by giving them genuinely holy interests. Regenerated sinners truly know and love the Lord. We now want to live for his glory. But what about our existing relationship to God and his law? If we only had changed minds, hearts, and wills we would still lie under the law’s curse ( Gal. 3:10 ). To be reconciled to God we must gain a new, upright status before him. We must be justified. Thankfully, “those whom he called he also justified” ( Rom. 8:30 ). Justification was the doctrine at the heart of the reformation controversy. It also speaks to the personal destinies of sinners like us. The Doctrine of Justification By nature, because of original sin and our actual sins we have a righteousness problem. God is righteous; we are not

WCF 10: Of Effectual Calling

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: Salvation is like a treasure that becomes more precious to us the better we understand it. One way of better understanding our salvation is to study what theologians call the ordo salutis , or the order of salvation, the “process by which the work of salvation … is subjectively realized in the hearts and lives of sinners.” [i] Romans 8:30 is the classic text on how God saves: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Embedded in those terms are additional concepts that fill out our understanding of salvation, but this verse provides biblical warrant for itemizing the motions of divine grace. Ultimately, salvation is like a single golden chain, one unified work of God. Still, to get to know our great salvation we can study each of the links in turn. The first link is election, God’s eternal and gracious choice to save some sinners. But to

WCF 9: Of Free Will

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: It’s a common objection to the doctrine of particular redeeming grace: What about free will? With a free will can’t we desire God, and decide to follow him on our own initiative? But that argument begs the question; what needs to be proven is merely assumed. We need to know what Scripture teaches about the human will. Our will is what we desire or determine to do, our inclinations. If in some way our wills are impaired—or as Luther put it, if our wills are in bondage—we are dependent on God “both to will and to work for his good pleasure” ( Phil. 2:13 ). Following Saint Augustine we can speak of human nature in its four-fold state. Nuancing humanity’s condition as created, fallen, redeemed, and glorified will help us more accurately understand free will and its implications . Man’s Will in a State of Innocence (9.1–2) God created our wills upright and free ( Eccl. 7:29 ). Before sin entered the world the human will was neither “forced

WCF 8: Of Christ the Mediator

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: One complaint against theology is that it complicates simple matters. Do we really need doctrine if we believe the Bible and trust Jesus? Might we not lose our first love while stockpiling spiritual information? We might. And so we must resist replacing faith with mere knowledge. But the objection that theology complicates faith is also naïve. In no other worthy endeavor does it make sense to reject deep and intimate knowledge in favor of a primitive attachment to an idea. Love should be fed by knowledge. Faith in Jesus must be child-like ( Matt. 18:1–4 ) but not childish. We should press on, leaving behind “the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” ( Heb. 6:1 ). Faith can be as simple as “Jesus loves me.” But it should want to know more of how Christ the mediator loves sinners, even when that knowledge is intricate. The work of a mediator implies estrangement and disagreement. In our natural alienation with God ( Rom.

WCF 7: Of God's Covenant with Man

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth : Every relationship needs definition. Without clear terms we are unsure how to interact with each other. Marriage is a good example of how definitions aid relationships. Upon marriage an otherwise unrelated man and a woman become united by covenant. In the presence of witnesses each partner promises to fulfil responsibilities. Signed records formalize the covenant. So it is with God’s relationship to people. Imagine if God had created humans but never introduced himself or articulated what he expected of them or what they could expect of him. Our debt of obedience and the penalty for non-compliance would still have existed but we wouldn’t have known it. And how could we enjoy God ignorant of how the sovereign Creator would treat us from one moment to the next? From the beginning God has defined his relationship with his people through covenants . The Covenant of Works (5.1, 2) Scripture doesn’t explicitly identify a pre-fall covenant

WCF 6: Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: One of the first questions friends ask parents of newborns is, “Does she look like mom or dad?” Often it’s hard to say; kids inherit traits from both their parents. Children share more than their parents’ looks. They also acquire their nature. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” ( Gen. 5:3 ). That sentence is both happy and sad. Seth was a gift from God, a new start. But Seth was born to sinners; the likeness he now shared with his father and mother was marred. And so the human story has continued. To know ourselves we need to understand what happened to our first parents when they tried to make their own way in the world contrary to God’s truth. The First Sin (6.1–3) The event of the first sin is narrated in Genesis three. Satan, taking the form of a serpent, seduced and deceived Eve ( 1 Tim. 2:14 ). Eve disobeyed God and ate fruit from a forbidden tree, as did A

WCF Chapter 5: Of Providence

By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” ( Eph. 1:11 ). We study God’s decree—his eternal plan—to grapple with his sovereign foreknowledge. We reflect on God’s providence —his working all things—to appreciate his present involvement in our world. God has not left us to fend for ourselves. Still, the relation of God’s decree and his ongoing work in this world raises challenging questions. We wonder how providence affects human choices. We struggle to relate providence to human sin. And, if God works all things for the good of the church, why does providence sometimes seem hard even for Christians? We can’t answer all these questions to the satisfaction of our curiosity. We can’t perfectly harmonize Scripture’s teaching on how a good God can be totally in charge of a broken world. But trying to understand God’s work in our world can help us develop more mature trust in him. How Does God’s Providence Work? (5.1–3, 7) “G

WCF Chapter 4 - Of Creation

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: Have you ever told someone, “I must have missed the first part of your story. I don’t understand”? Without a context most stories lose meaning. So it is with the story of humanity. Ignorance of our beginning breeds confusion and purposelessness. Even the drama of salvation by grace makes sense only in light of history’s opening act. Mainstream science tells a different origins story. But at least one leading biochemist admits that, “At present all discussions on principle theories and experiments in the field” concerning the problem of the origin of life, “either end in a stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.” [i] In reality, Scripture and nature say the same thing. We don’t always see how they harmonize. We might misinterpret scientific data or misunderstand Scripture. But our first allegiance is to the Bible through which God communicates “more openly.” [ii] The biblical story of the world opens with the eternal, triune God cr

WCF Chapter 3: Of God's Eternal Decree

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: When studying God one quickly has to answer challenging questions. How far does God’s authority extend? How much of what happens in this world is God responsible for? For those who take Scripture seriously God’s eternal decree cannot be avoided. Paul sums up what the entire Bible reveals: God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” ( Eph. 1:11 ). He wills and does all things. You must believe that. And in the abstract, for God to be sovereign is just what anyone might expect. But the teaching gets hard when we apply it to specifics. How does God’s sovereignty relate to evil in this world? Does God’s decree undermine human responsibility? Is the eternal punishment of the wicked really God’s will? Clearly “this high mystery … must be handled with special prudence and care.” We must “deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner … with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anx

WCF Chapter 2: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity

 By William Boekestein - Posted at Place for Truth: Most theological and moral failures can be traced back to a wrong view of God. We charge God with being unfair only if we think he must submit to our concept of fairness. We will contentedly live one way in public and another in private only if we believe him to be local and limited like us. We can only believe in universal salvation if deny God’s fierce hatred of sin. To think and live well we need to know God as he truly is. This is why God gave us his word. Some truths about God are obvious from nature—he exists and is unparalleled in power ( Rom. 1:19–20 ). But to more intimately know his character, his unity and diversity, and how he relates to his creatures, we need the Bible. Scripture is God’s revelation, his self-disclosure. From cover to cover Scripture tells us essential truths about God, and of the Holy Trinity . God Is Perfect in All His Attributes (2.1) We may think about God as he is in himself, without relation to crea

WCF Chapter One: Of the Holy Spirit

By William Boekestein - Posted at Place For Truth: If you were going to introduce Christianity to someone where would you begin? You might start with God and his holiness. The first fact is that “there is one simple spiritual being, whom we call God.” [i] Or you might lead with our need for God to deliver us from Satan’s tyranny. [ii] Both approaches are valid. Here is another idea. Start with the basic notion of revelation. How can we move beyond nature’s evidence for God and truly know him? This is how the Westminster Confession of Faith begins its magisterial summary of Christianity. What we believe about Scripture shapes how we think, not just about faith but about all of life. The ten sections of this first chapter —aptly, the confession’s longest—beautifully articulate four attributes of Scripture as God’s written revelation. Continue here...