Welcome to The Spurgeon Blog

chspurgeon

Both Reformed and Calvinistic Baptists can trace their history back to the Puritan and Particular Baptists in Great Britain.  Of those Baptists none was more well known than Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Even today Spurgeon is regarded as one of the most articulate voices of the doctrines of grace.  He was a man for his time and a man ahead of his time.  And while this blog is called the “Spurgeon Blog”, it is not about exalting a man.  In fact, Spurgeon once said:

“Remember, dear brethren and sisters, if you would be preserved from falling, you must be schooled in humility, and keep very low before the Lord. When you are half-an-inch above the ground, you are that half-inch too high. Your safety is to be nothing. Trust Christ, but do not trust yourself. Rely on the Spirit of God, but do not rely on anything that is in yourself.”

This blog exists to pursue thought and discussion of Reformed theology.  Spurgeon never saw the worth of theology independent from right living.  Join with me in that endeavor – to know and to do, all to the glory of God!

Putting Christus Victor in Proper Perspective

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Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan responds to an online dialogue about Christus Victor vs. Penal Substitution.  Rev. Buchanan makes some excellent points.  Ad fontes is a two-edged sword.   The patristic age cannot be viewed as a single source on any doctrine.  The continuing revelation of scripture — from Genesis through Revelation — reveals the Bible’s position on the atonement.

1. Why do some think that one motif related to Christ’s atonement (or some other loci) precludes or excludes another?

2. A lot of people today want a Jesus whose presence or centrality is not brought on or in any way necessitated by divine wrath.

3. An integrated Bible, a common faith (essentially/principially the same) for both OT and NT saints, is a foreign concept to many modern Christians. If the coming of Jesus introduces a different kind of religion or relating to God–for whatever reason: e.g. dispensational “Messiah rejection” bringing in a church-age parenthesis–then no appeal to OT concepts by which Christ may (ought to) be understood will be seen as legitimate. Jesus has to “break out” of even the concepts by which someone like Isaiah presents him to an OT audience. Not even apostolic “appropriation” of the OT is seen as validating the prophets, but more like “adaptation,” unless such use is viewed as little more than residual reflexive appeal to (outmoded) authority, while waiting for a new body of NT literature.

4. A common tactic for those seeking to replace one view by something else, is the ad fontes appeal. After all, this is what the Reformers used in the 16th century against Rome. One frequently hears that Christus victor was the dominant theme for the atonement in the early church. This depends, of course, on how one defines “early,” and it also calls for an explanation of “dominant.” Also, why does some particular view have said dominance?

By no means is the early church record devoid of the language of substitution, and payment for sin. Note, it is not the Penal-Substitutionists who feel the need to “explain away” statements of various ECFs that highlight a CV theme. There is no sense of a need to exclude such a thing from the historical notices. However, like Romanists trying to explain away “by-faith-alone” statements of the ECFs, some modern CV proponents cannot live with the idea that “richness” of Atonement themes is as old as the first fabric of Christian theology.

In the end, I suppose that the real issue is the reality that the true message of Christianity is offensive. It always has been, note 1Cor.1. But people today–even those who go out to preach–believe something different. When they encounter dramatic resistance to basic concepts of Christianity, their theological grounding in vague and sentimental “God is love” ideas (which are not the biblical notions that gave us that language originally) cannot be reconciled to their experience. The old message of guilt and grace is, accordingly, too “out of step” with the nature of the men to whom they were sent with the appeal of the gospel.

And so (they decide) the message is the wrong one, at least for the audience of the present hour. God isn’t dealing with us as his ENEMIES, but treats us entirely as his darlings who have been cruelly taken by his foe and ours. There is no room in this view for the difficult truth that when God comes to save us, we love our sin despite the horrific damage it does. And we are at that time in no way disposed to accept God’s offer to save us–especially when it comes with a very clear demand for submission, servitude, even slavery to God. We prefer our “freedom” under Satan, the original rebellion by which we believed his lie and fell from our first estate. It takes an act of God to open our eyes to the harsh reality that we’ve been deceived the whole time.

Christus victor is one facet of the the Atonement that Penal Substitutionists don’t need to jettison; any more than they would shy away from Satisfaction (Anselm). However, Penal Substitution deserves the emphasis is has received, because as far back as Paul (Rom.1-3) God’s wrath against sin in rebels themselves, along with the OT legal treatment of sin’s consequences, highlights the grace of the gospel in stark relief. Losing that contrast will be the high cost of lowering (or worse, eliminating) PS’s profile in our message. It is a consequent lessening of the power of the gospel.

I think the deeper issues are tied right in to TULIP, and the consistency of the message.

Rev. Buchanan is the pastor of ChainOLakes Presbyterian Church, CentralLake, MI.

A Character Built on Repentance

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”
- 2 Samuel 12:13

David was a man of contrasts. As a young man he was zealous for God’s glory (1 Sam. 17); refused to lift his hand against God’s anointed (1 Sam. 24; 26); and displays great compassion (2 Sam. 9).  But David also committed serious sins. He committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11); conspired to have Bathsheba’s husband killed (2 Sam. 11); tempted God through a census (2 Sam. 24); and was a poor father who refused to deal with the sin of his children (2 Sam. 13).  So, why does the Bible call David a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) even though he had such a flawed, sinful character?  Perhaps it is because David was tenderhearted when confronted over his sin.  When Nathan the prophet confronted David for his sins of adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband, David’s response was one of confession and repentance.  Unlike his predecessor, Saul, David did not try to justify his actions (c.f. 1 Sam. 15).  David understood his sin, readily confessed it, and turned from it.  That is a sign of a regenerate heart. 

It is time for Christians to wake up Part Deux

Yesterday’s post resulted in some misunderstanding on the part of some.  Nothing that I wrote yesterday should be misconstrued as advocating Christian inaction. The Church, and individual believers, should engage in the serious issues of the day such as abortion, racism, biblical marriage et. al.  The Bible contains the answers to the problems society faces and we should not shy away from saying so. What we should beware of is placing our faith in secular political parties instead of God. I hope this eases the concern of some.

It is time for Christians to wake up.

tebowThe recent admission by NBA player Jason Collins that he is gay has been embraced by the media.  This is really not news.  The media has been in the tank for Gay Rights for decades.  In the beginning their bent was veiled.  Now it is nothing less than open advocacy.  This used to be the domain of the Left, but no longer.  Recently a major GOP PAC, American Unity PAC, lead by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, has come out in favor of same-sex marriage.  So much for social conservatism.  The GOP has always been one step behind Democrats on social issues.  Believe it or not, I think this is a good thing.  I welcome the media discarding even its last bit of pretense.  I welcome the GOP’s honesty in revealing it’s all about votes and power, not conviction.  I take an opposite view than most Christians.  Thank you mainstream media and the GOP for your honesty.

For too long the religious Right in America courted the favor of the GOP while vilifying the Democratic party.  Conservative office holders and candidates would throw the religious Right a few table scraps – enough to keep them satisfied and retain their vote.  But now the Republican Party realizes that it cannot win on a national basis without embracing the social mores of the day.  Even though that means turning their backs on the religious Right, Republican strategists figure that the socially moderate to liberal voting block has more of an ROI.  Politically active Christians have been nibbling at the heels of third party candidates or even Ron Paul.  They are looking for someone to validate their values and their message.  Unfortunately they are looking in the wrong place.

America’s hope rests in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  After every political party has finished kicking the Church to the curb, the Gospel still remains “the power of God unto salvation for all who will believe” (Rom. 1:16).  The world is a fallen place.  It is corrupt from head to foot.  Nothing this world has to offer can satisfy man’s deepest need and greatest longing.  Even if your political party won the presidency and both houses of Congress, society’s headlong rush into sin and depravity would nary be stopped for a nanosecond.  But the Gospel!  Ah, that is a different story.  The Gospel’s success is not measured by an electoral college, but by repentance from sin and true faith in the risen Son of God.  Perhaps God is in the process of pruning His Church.  As times goes by those Christians that have counted the cost, and decided to remain resolute in their profession, will almost certainly feel the wrath and scorn of a “tolerant” society.  But happy they will be!  Better to suffer for the sake of Christ, then to compromise and receive the praise of the world.

Please do not take my words as a suggestion not to be politically involved.  Political participation is certainly an option.  But be involved with your eyes wide open.  Beware of yoking yourself to a political party instead of Christ and His Church.  That is why I think good will become of today’s social and moral collapse.  Light always shines brightest in the darkness; and as society darkens the beacon of the Gospel will shine brighter.  Many will be saved out of this present darkness and their citizenship transferred to the kingdom of light.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Focus on Spurgeon: Cheer Up, My Dear Comrades!

Cheer Up, My Dear Comrades! is a sermon that Charles Spurgeon preached in 1880 at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle.  The purpose of the sermon was to encourage those who were either involved in the Lord’s work, or should be involved in the Lord’s work (which is every Christian); but were facing discouragement, doubt, adversity, lack of appreciation, and lack of success. While Spurgeon’s emphasis was Christian service, in the larger context this sermon would apply to whatever our work is; whether in Christian service or the business world.  If God is sovereign then all things are under His domain, and serving God in secular employment is as serving God in Christian ministry.

At the center of Spurgeon’s message is the unveiling of our heart attitude.  Our motivation.  Do you desire to serve God where He has placed you?  It does not matter whether you are a pastor, elder, or deacon.  It does not matter whether you are a student, businessman, or farmer.  Are you desirous of serving God?  I am not asking whether you think it is a good idea to serve God or whether it is the right thing to do.  I am asking whether you truly desire to serve Him.  If that is your motivation (that you truly desire to serve Him), then God can, and will, use you.  You can serve Him to the limits of your ability, and even beyond, by the equipping power of the Holy Spirit.

In his sermon Spurgeon writes:

And, first, I would speak a little to THOSE WHO THINK THAT THEY CAN DO NOTHING. They will tell me that in such a sermon not a sentence can concern them: if I am to encourage men to the service of the house of the Lord, it will be in vain for them, as they can do nothing at all. Well, dear friends, you must not take that for granted; you must make quite sure that you cannot do anything before I may venture to speak to you as if it were a matter of fact; for sometimes there is a want of way because there is a want of will. Though I do not go so far as to allege that this is your case, we know too well that “cannot” often does mean “will not,” and not to have triumphed may mean that you have not tried. You have been so discouraged that you have excused yourself for inaction, and your inaction has grown into indolence.

Some people think they are useless when it comes to serving God.  This feeling of uselessness can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Think you are useless long enough and useless you will become.  But there is no need to feel or be useless in the Lord’s service.  Spurgeon goes on to recount a story about King David in 1 Samuel 30:24-25:

Now, I want to encourage you first by reminding you that the law of the Son of David is the same as the law of David himself; and you know the law of David about those that went to the battle. There were some that were lame, and some that were otherwise incapable of action, and he left them with the baggage. “There,” he said, “you are very weary and ill: stop in the camp: take care of the tents, and the ammunition, while we go and fight.” Now, it happened once on a time that the men that went to fight claimed all the spoil. They said, “These people have done nothing: they have been lying in the trenches: they shall not carry off a share of the booty.” But King David there and then made a law that they should share and share equally—those that were in the trenches and those that engaged in the fray. “As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel.” Nor is the law of the Son of David less gracious. If by sickness you are detained at home,—if for any other reason, such as age or infirmity, you are not able to enter into actual service, yet if you are a true soldier and would fight if you could, and your heart is in it, you shall share even with the best and bravest of those who, clad in the panoply of God, encounter and grapple with the adversary.

Even if God, according to His providence, prevents you from the level of service you would like to perform,  serve Him to degree that you are able.  An act of compassion, a kind word, a display of hospitality, intercessory prayer; these things may lack notoriety or seem inconsequential, but they are equally as vital as preaching the Word or going on the mission field.  The littlest act, performed in faith, is a mighty deed in God’s eyes.

Matthew 25:34-40  34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me somethingto eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Blog Focus: The Confessing Baptist

confessing baptistThe Confessing Baptist is a well designed Reformed Baptist blog run by Junior Durán, Jason Delgado, and Javier Hernandez.  Besides having a bit of eye-jazz, it has great content.  Case in point is a podcast interview featuring Pascal Denault, author of the book The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology.

I highly recommend this blog to all Reformed and Reformed-interested believers, but especially to fellow Reformed Baptists.

Radical Consequences and a Radical Transformation

In his book Better Than The Beginning (2013, Reformed Baptist Academic Press), Richard Barcellos writes:

Man was created to reflect who God is and what He does more than any other aspect of God’s creation.  Man, and man alone, was created in the image of God.  That is why Adam’s sin, Adam’s failure to be a good image of God, has such radical consequences.

What are the “radical consequences” that Barcellos mentions?  In Romans 5:12 we read:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned —

Before Adam sinned death was something that the human race had never experienced.  It remained a promised consequence if sin were to enter the world.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”

Adam disobeyed God’s command.  God, being true to His word, pronounced judgment – not just on Adam, but on the all of Adam’s posterity.

Genesis 3:17-19 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

Adam was a unique creation.  He is the only human being never to be born of a woman.  He was never an infant or child.  He was created with a fully developed intellectual capacity.  Because his mind was free from sin at his creation, Adam was not saddled with the war that is constantly waging in our members – the struggle between obedience and sin.  It can be said that Adam was the most perfect of God’s creation.  Adam was made Imago Dei, in the image of God.  No other aspect of God’s creation was made in His image.  In a real sense Adam was our fair and just representative.  He was acting on behalf of the human race; either through his obedience or disobedience.  When Adam sinned he corrupted the Imago Dei, not just for himself, but for all of future humanity (c.f. Rom. 5:12).  Radical consequences indeed.

Thankfully, God provided the means by which the radical consequences of Adam’s sin could be reversed.

1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.”  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

The last Adam is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus was born sinless, He was able to keep God’s commandments – His law – perfectly.  Whereas the first Adam simply became a living soul (God gave Adam physical life), the last Adam, Jesus, became a life-giving spirit.  That “life-giving” is nothing less than the gift of eternal life, given to all who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ.

No matter what type of mess your life has become because of sin, it is not beyond the transforming power of Jesus Christ.  Jesus can forgive you sins and bring you into a right relationship with God by repenting (turning from) of your sins and placing your faith wholly in Him.  Instead of radical consequences, the message of the Gospel offers radical forgiveness and transformation.