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classics

August 11, 2011

Christianity and Liberalism
With a week left to go before we begin, I wanted to remind you of the next Reading Classics Together. One week from today I will begin reading a classic Christian book and I’d love it if you’d read along with me (and with several hundred others).

The book we will be reading is The Cross of Christ by John Stott. Here is a brief description:

The work of a lifetime, from one of the world’s most influential thinkers, about the heart of the Christian faith. “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross… . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

With compelling honesty John Stott confronts this generation with the centrality of the cross in God’s redemption of the world- a world now haunted by the memories of Auschwitz, the pain of oppression and the specter of nuclear war. Can we see triumph in tragedy, victory in shame? Why should an object of Roman distaste and Jewish disgust be the emblem of our worship and the axiom of our faith? And what does it mean for us today?

Now from one of the foremost preachers and Christian leaders of our day comes theology at its readable best, a contemporary restatement of the meaning of the cross. At the cross Stott finds the majesty and love of God disclosed, the sin and bondage of the world exposed. More than a study of the atonement, this book brings Scripture into living dialogue with Christian theology and the twentieth century. What emerges is a pattern for Christian life and worship, hope and mission.

We will be reading the book one chapter per week over 13 weeks. And we’ll do it beginning next Thursday. If you would like to read it with us, simply find yourself a copy of the book and read chapter 1 (and the introduction, foreword, preface, etc.) prior to August 18. Then, on that date, drop by the site and there will be an article here that allows us to discuss that week’s reading. It’s that easy.

If you’d like to preview the book, you can do so at Google Books. Also, if you visit Westminster Book’s product page, you can download the table of contents, the foreword and the first chapter.

Here are some places you can get yourself a copy. This is probably a good book to buy in hardcover and keep for a lifetime. However, CBD does have it available in paperback if you want to save some money; meanwhile, ChristianAudio is offering the audio book at a nearly irresistible price:

February 11, 2010

And here we are, in the last reading from John Murray’s classic book Redemption Accomplished and Applied. This week brings us to the glorious subject of glorification.

Summary
Glorification is the final phase of this long application of the redemption to God’s elect. “It is that which brings to completion the process which begins in effectual calling. Indeed it is the completion of the whole process of redemption.” Glorification is the consummation of the promise that comes with the effectual call. It is not something we experience at the moment of death, though, but something greater than that. It is something we will experience only upon Christ’s return. “The redemption which Christ has secured for his people is redemption not only from sin but also from all its consequences. Death is the wages of sin and the death of believers does not deliver them from death. … Hence glorification has in view the destruction of death itself. … It is the complete and final redemption of the whole person when in the integrity of body and spirit the people of God will be conformed to the image of the risen, exalted, and glorified Redeemer, when the very body of their humiliation will be conformed to the body of Christ’s glory.” These are sweet words to the believer.

This truth that glorification depends upon Christ’s return indicates that it is something all Christians will experience together, at the exact same point in time. Those who died first will be glorified in the same moment as those who are still alive at his return. The whole church will experience this last event in unison. Here Murray offers a succinct understanding of this: “Glorification, then, is the instantaneous change that will take place for the whole company of the redeemed when Christ will come again the second time without sin unto salvation and will descend from heaven with the shout of triumph over the last enemy.”

He offers two important points. First, that glorification is associated and bound up with the coming of Christ in glory. “So indispensable is the coming of the Lord to the hope of glory that glorification for the believer has no meaning without the manifestation of Christ’s glory. Glorification is glorification in Christ. Remove the latter and we have robbed the glorification of believers of the one thing that enables them to look forward to this event with confidence, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Second, he wants the reader to know that “the glorification of believers is associated and bound up with the renewal of creation. It is not only believers who are to be delivered from the bondage of corruption but the creation itself also.” At the moment when believers are delivered from their sin, the whole of creation will be delivered from the effects of that sin. “When we think of glorification, then, it is no narrow perspective that we entertain. It is a renewed cosmos, new heavens and new earth, that we must think of as the context of the believers’ glory.” Doesn’t the believer’s heart long for this day?

Before he closes the chapter, Murray dispels modern day myths about the body and soul, myths that say that what is material is the source of our sin. This raises the body over the soul, as if the soul is pure and the body sinful. “This conception can be made to appear very beautiful and ‘spiritual,’ but it is just ‘beautiful paganism.’ It is a straight thrust at the biblical doctrine that God created man with body and soul and that he was very good. It is also aimed at the biblical doctrine of sin which teaches that sin has its origin and seat in the spirit of man, not in the material and fleshly.” This myth, alive in the day of the biblical writers and alive today, perhaps primarily in the influence of the New Age, must be rejected.

Your Turn
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

Next…
Stay tuned and in a couple of weeks I’ll let you know what classic we’ll be reading next.

February 04, 2010

Another round of Reading Classics Together is swiftly drawing to its close. We have one more chapter to read in John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied and then we will have reached the end. But before we do that, let’s talk about this week’s chapter which dealt with the doctrine of Union with Christ.

Summary
I’ll admit that this was a chapter that took me by surprise. I suppose I must not have thought very much about union with Christ in the past and how it fits within the application of redemption. So it surprised me a little to see how deep-rooted this doctrine is, to see how it is in many ways the doctrine that encompasses all the others. Murray says “Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ. … Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ. Indeed the whole process of salvation has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the realization of other phases of union with Christ.” Having read that, I knew I needed to sit up and pay attention.

Murray looks at both of these “phases” of union with Christ, first in the broad sense and then in the narrow. He looks first to the broad sense of the word and shows what Scripture teaches respecting it.

All who are elect were elected in Christ. “Those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from union with Christ—they were chosen in Christ. As far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its foundation we find ‘union with Christ’; it is not something tacked on; it is there from the outset.” From before the world, from all eternity, we were united in Christ as those who were predestined in him.

God’s people were in Christ when he lived, died and was born again. “We may never think of redemption in abstraction from the mysterious arrangements of God’s love and wisdom and grace by which Christ was united to his people and his people were united to him when he died upon the accursed tree and rose again from the dead.” So even when Christ died, we were united with him.

It is in Christ that God’s people are created anew. “It should not surprise us that the beginning of salvation in actual possession should be in union with Christ because we have already found that it is in Christ that salvation had its origin…” When we are born again, we are regenerated in Christ.

The believer’s life is continued by his being in Christ. “It is in Christ that Christian life and behavior are conducted.” We live day to day in union with Christ.

It is in Christ that believers die. “They have fallen asleep in Christ or through Christ and they are dead in Christ.” When we die, we die in Christ.

It is in Christ that God’s people will be resurrected. “It is in Christ they will be made alive when the last trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible.” When we rise again in the resurrection, we will be resurrected in Christ.

Through all of this we see that union in Christ is not confined to space and time. We have always been united to him, we live in him now, and we will be united to him forever. This is an amazing truth that stirred my heart. “[Union with Christ] has the expanse of eternity. Its orbit has two foci, one the elected love of God the Father in the counsels of eternity, the other glorification with Christ in the manifestation of his glory. The former has no beginning, the latter has no end.” Do you see this? There is a sense in which we who believe have been united to Christ since before the world began and in which we will always and forever be united to him. “It is a perspective with a past and with a future, but neither the past nor the future is bounded by what we know as our temporal history.” “Apart from union with Christ we cannot view past, present, or future with anything but dismay and Christian dread. By union with Christ the whole complexion of time and eternity is unchanged and the people of God may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It is our union with Christ that gives us hope and peace when we look to today, when we look to yesterday, when we look to tomorrow.

Now, though union with Christ is an important part of the application of redemption, Christians do not become partakers of Christ until redemption is actually applied to them. Here Murray turns to the second “phase” and offers a few words about this union.

First, this union is spiritual. It is spiritual in that the bond of this union is the Holy Spirit and also in that there is a spiritual relationship in view here.

Second, this union is mystical. Wanting to use this word in its best sense, Murray says, “A mystery is something which eye hath not seen nor ear heard neither hath entered into the heart of man but which God has revealed unto us by his Spirit and which by revelation and faith comes to be known and appropriated by men.” So this union is not mystical in the sense the word is used by eastern religions, but mystical in that there is a sense of mystery about it—mystery that is slowly being revealed in God’s revelation.

To draw attention to just what an amazing mystery this is, he says the following: “Of all the kinds of union or unity that exist for creatures the union of believers with Christ is the highest. The greatest mystery of being is the mystery of the trinity—three persons in one God. The great mystery of godliness is the mystery of the incarnation, that the Son of God became man and was manifest in the flesh. But the greatest mystery of creaturely relations is the union of the people of God with Christ. And the mystery of it is attested by nothing more than this that it is compared to the union that exists between the Father and the son in the unity of the Godhead.”

Returning again to the big picture of the doctrine of union with Christ Murray says, “Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. All to which the people of God have been predestined in the eternal election of God, all that has been secured and procured for them in the once-for-all accomplishment of redemption, all of which they become the actual partakers in the application of redemption, and all that by God’s grace they will become in the state of consummated bliss is embraced within the compass of union and communion with Christ.” Could he say it with more strength than this? We have no right or ability to think of the other doctrines without reference to this one.

Before he closes the chapter, he seeks to show on more critical fact about union with Christ, one more thing without which the doctrine would be incomplete. This union is more than union only with Christ—it is also a union with the Father and the Spirit. “Believers know the Father and have fellowship with him in his own distinguishing character and operation as the Father. They know the Son and have fellowship with him in his own distinguishing character and operation as the Son, the Savior, the Redeemer, the exalted Lord. They know and have fellowship with the Holy Spirit in his own distinguishing character and operation as the Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Sanctifier. It is not the blurred confusion of rapturous ecstasy. It is faith solidly founded on the revelation deposited for us in the Scripture and it is faith actively receiving that revelation by the inward witness of the holy Spirit.” In our union with Christ, we are united also with the Father and the Spirit. We “enter into the holy of holies of communion with the triune God and do so because we have been raised up together and made to sit together in the heavenlies in Jesus Christ.”

How is it, then, that I’ve never contemplated the scope of this doctrine?

Next Week
For next Thursday please read the final chapter—“Glorification.”

Your Turn
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

January 30, 2010

Once again, I’m a couple of days late with this next entry in Reading Classics Together. Being on the road for almost the entire week played havoc with my schedule (though I did remember to bring the book with me). Again I’m indebted to Rebecca Stark for providing a great post that I was able to “borrow.”

*****

John Murray starts this chapter by admitting that there are, at first glance, strong arguments against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We all know, from scripture and history and our own experience, those who have appeared to be genuine believers but have fallen away from the faith.

The first step, then, in building the case for this doctrine is establishing what it is not. “It does not mean,” he writes, “that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in the fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation.”

No, Jesus himself give us the criterion for determining true believers: true believers continue in the faith until the end. The kind of temporary faith that doesn’t endure can look very much like the real thing.

…[I]t is possible to have very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel, to come into such close contact with he supernatural forces which are operative in God’s kingdom of grace that these forces produce effects in us which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet be not partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life.

But true believers persevere. They sin, they may backslide, but they will not finally fall away because they “are kept by the power of God through faith” until the end.

What scripture does Murray appeal to in his defense of perseverance of the saints? He starts with Romans 8:28-30, the Golden Chain of Redemption. The called are justified and the justified are glorified. If true saints—those who are called and justified—can be lost, it would go against what Paul is plainly teaching in these verses.

Next he moves to the teachings of Jesus in John 6 and 10. Jesus says that those given to him by the Father—who are also those who believe, who are also those who come to him, who are also those who are drawn by the Father—will be raised on the last day. And no one who is given to Jesus by the Father can be snatched away. In fact, believers have a kind of double security because they are held in the hand of Christ and the hand of the Father. Two powerful hands are grasping us tightly until the end.

Have we not in this truth new reason to marvel at the grace of God and the immutability of his love?

When my kids were younger, they’d enthusiastically affirm something by saying, “Yes! Yes! Double yes!” Doubly held so that we can never perish gets a double yes from me.

*****

For next week, please read chapter 9, Union with Christ.

January 21, 2010

Today we continue in our readings in John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied. We are now eleven readings in with only three to go. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but this has without a doubt been one of my favorite classics to read together. I have learned a lot from it and have highlighted a huge percentage of the words. I know it’s a book I will return to often.

Summary
This week’s chapter deals with sanctification. Murray begins with a couple of presuppositions. Primarily, he wants to show the close relationship between sanctification and both calling and regeneration (both of which we’ve already discussed). “Sanctification,” he says, “is a work of God in us, and calling and regeneration are acts of God which have their immediate effects in us.” So these three are bound together in the fact that each of them is an inward act of change unlike, for example, justification or adoption which are instead changes of status about and outside of us. He would also have us know that sanctification particularly concerns the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer and who directs this work. And finally, he wants the reader to know that sanctification is a necessary work that will be present in the life of every believer. “Sin is dethroned in every person who is effectually called and regenerated. … The Holy Spirit is the controlling and directing agent in every regenerate person. Hence the fundamental principle, the governing disposition, the prevailing character of every regenerate person is holiness—he is ‘Spiritual’ and he delights in the law of the Lord after the inward man.” He says also, “He who died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion.”

Murray turns next to the concern of sanctification, showing what it is that the Holy Spirit actually does in this ongoing act. “This deliverance from the power of sin secured by union with Christ and from the defilement of sin secured by regeneration does not eliminate all sin from the heart and life of the believer. … Sanctification is concerned precisely with this fact and it has as its aim the elimination of all sin and complete conformation to the image of God’s own son, to be holy as the Lord is holy.” He offers several considerations:

First, all sin in the believer is the contradiction of God’s holiness. It is “the contradiction of all [the believer is] as a regenerate person and son of God. It is the contradiction of God himself, after whose image he has been recreated.”

Second, the presence of sin in the believer involves conflict in his heart and life. “The more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin which remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it.”

Third, there must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains it does not have the mastery. “There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin. It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capital; it is another for his defeated hosts to harass the garrisons of the kingdom.” He says also, “It is the concern of sanctification that sin be more and more mortified and holiness ingenerated and cultivated.”

Next, Murray discusses the agent of sanctification, showing that ultimately it is God who sanctifies and, specifically, the Holy Spirit. He shows that we must “realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We must not forget, of course, that our activity is enlisted to the fullest extent in the process of our sanctification. But we must not rely upon our own strength of resolution or purpose.” Though we are active in sanctification, we are active only through the power of the Spirit.

Further, “it is as the Spirit of Christ and as the Spirit of him who raised up Christ from the dead that the Holy Spirit sanctifies.” We must not think of the Spirit’s work of sanctification apart from Christ’s work on the cross.

Finally, Murray looks to the means of sanctification, saying, “We must also take account of the fact that sanctification is a process that draws within its scope the conscious life of the believer. The sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. … God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required results.” Rather, “the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing.”

This is a lifelong struggle and one that involves the whole being. “The exhortations to action with which the Scripture is pervaded are all to the effect of reminding us that our whole being is intensely active in that process which has as its goal the predestinating purpose of God that we should be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Next Week
For next Thursday please read the next chapter—“Perseverance.”

Your Turn
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

January 07, 2010

Once again we come to a Thursday and with it another edition of Reading Classics Together. This week we come to one of the best chapters of all in John Murray’s great work Redemption Accomplished and Applied.

Summary
This week’s chapter deals with the amazing doctrine of justification. And here you can’t help but sense that Murray could write book after book on the topic. Trying to distill the beauty of justification into a short chapter must have been quite a challenge to him. Yet he did an amazing job of it.

He begins by writing about the question that plagues human beings: how can man be right with God? “It is not simply, how can man be just with God, but how can sinful man be just with God? In the last analysis sin is always against God, and the essence of sin is to be against God. The person who is against God cannot be right with God. For if we are against God then God is against us. It could not be otherwise. God cannot be indifferent to or complacent towards that which is the contradiction of himself. His very perfection requires the recoil of righteous indignation. And that is God’s wrath.” This is a serious problem, of course, but one that troubles very few people for few stop to consider the gravity of their offense against God. “This is the reason why the grand article of justification does not ring the bells in the innermost depths of our spirit.” This is why, when you share the gospel, so often you see no heartfelt response to it. Until a person understand his offense against God, he cannot understand his need for a Savior.

If we are to appreciate what Christ has done, “our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation. … The question is really not so much: how can man be just with God; but how can sinful man become just with God? The question in this form points us to the necessity of a complete reversal in our relation to God. Justification is the answer and justification is the act of God’s free grace.”

Looking at justification in common usage (outside the Bible) Murray says it is “a declaration of pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge, is required to administer.” Justification, then, is forensic. “It has to do with a judgment given, declared, pronounced; it is judicial or juridical or forensic.” He looks quickly to regeneration again, saying “Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does—he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.” Murray says that “the purity of the gospel is bound up with the recognition of this distinction.” This means that justification is and remains the article of the standing or falling Church.

The question now arises, how can God declare a person to be righteous when that is so evidently not the case? How can a sinful, defiled man who is at enmity with God be declared righteous by God? “The peculiarity of God’s action consists in this: that he causes to be the righteous state or relation which is declared to be.” So God not only declares righteous but he first makes righteous. “What God does in this case is that he constitutes the new and righteous judicial relation as well as declares the new relation to be. He constitutes the ungodly righteous, and consequently can declare them to be righteous.” He says further, “Justification is therefore a constitutive act whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account and we are accordingly accepted as righteous in God’s sight.” And he offers these beautiful, soul-stirring words: “God cannot but accept into his favour those who are invested with the righteousness of his own Son.” First God makes a man righteous through the work of Christ and then he declares what is now the reality—that this man is, indeed, righteous.

Murray wants to ensure that the reader understands the role of faith in all of this. He says that the Bible “speaks always of our being justified by faith, or through faith, or upon faith, but never speaks of our being justified on account of faith or because of faith.” In other words, faith itself is not the righteousness that God accepts. “If we are to find the righteousness which supplies the basis of the full and perfect justification which God bestows upon the ungodly we cannot find it in anything that resides in us, nor in anything which God does in us, nor in anything we do. We must look away from ourselves to something which is of an entirely different sort in an entirely different direction.” And, of course, we must then look to Christ. We find that the righteousness is his and that faith is a free gift of God, given so we can and must believe in him.

Let me close with just a couple of other great quotes. “That we are justified by faith is what engenders hope in a convicted sinner’s heart. He knows he has nothing to offer. And this truth assures him that he needs nothing to offer, yea, it assures that it is an abomination to God to presume to offer.” And finally, “No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin.” As goes the guilt, so goes the power. Praise God!

What a great chapter this was. There is no doctrine more precious to me than the doctrine of justification and this chapter stirred my heart as it told of the great love and mercy of God in justifying even a sinner like me.

Next Week
For next Thursday please read the next chapter—“Adoption.”

Your Turn
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

December 05, 2009

I am running late with this week’s entry in Reading Classics Together. I blame the Leadership series I was writing as I did not want to disrupt it by posting off-topic. I’ve asked Rebecca Stark who blogs at Rebecca Writes (her blog was one of the first I ever started reading on a regular basis) if she would provide this week’s summary. Polite Canadian that she is, she kindly agreed. So this week’s summary comes via Rebecca.

Summary
This chapter is a discussion of the extent of the atonement and makes the case for limited atonement (also called particular redemption or definite atonement). Murray starts out by noting and giving examples to prove that the use of universal terms (like all, world, etc.) in relation to the atonement doesn’t settle the question because those terms are frequently used in scripture to mean something less than every person who has ever lived.

Then he goes on to frame the question that is considered in this chapter, first laying out what it is not:

The question is not whether many benefits short of justification and salvation accrue to men from the death of Christ.

The death of Christ is designed, says Murray, to bring to all people certain benefits in this life. He doesn’t list these specifically, but I understand them to be all the things that come from common grace: God’s life-sustaining provisions and the indiscriminate proclamation of the gospel, for instance.

Rather, the question under discussion is this:

On whose behalf did [Christ] propitiate the wrath of God? Whom did he reconcile in the body of his flesh through death? …In whose stead and on whose behalf was he obedient unto death, even the death of the cross?

The saving efficacy of the atonement, Murray argues, applies to Christ’s own people. Christ did not come to merely make people redeemable, but to actually redeem. You’ll recognise this, of course, as the doctrine of limited atonement.

Once common objection to limited atonement is that it undercuts the offer of the gospel. Murray argues that this is not true; but rather, it is this efficacy of Christ’s atonement that gives the gospel its force.

It is because Christ procured and secured redemption that he is an all-sufficient and suitable Saviour. It is as such he is offered, and the faith that this offer demands is the faith of self-commitment to him as the one who is the eternal embodiment of the efficacy accruing from obedience completed and from redemption secured.

In the second section of this chapter, Murray looks at two scriptural arguments for limited atonement. First, there is Romans 8:31-39, where Paul connects the giving of Christ to the giving of all the gifts that come from saving grace, including justification, Christ’s intercession, and security in the love of Christ. Since these things are not given universally, Christ’s atonement cannot be universal.

And second, there are all the places in Paul’s writings where Christ’s death for believers is connected with their death with him and then with their being raised with him.

We have, therefore, the following sequence of propositions, established by the specific utterances of the apostle. All for whom Christ died also died in Christ. All who died in Christ rose again with Christ. This rising again in Christ is a rising to newness of life after the likeness of of Christ’s resurrection. To die with Christ is, therefore, to die to sin and to rise with him to the life of new obedience, to live not to ourselves but to him who died for us and rose again. The inference is inevitable that those for whom Christ died are those and those only who died to sin and live to righteousness.

I remember reading this chapter many years ago and finding these two scriptural arguments for limited atonement to be very strong ones. I still do.

And then, to end the chapter, Murray considers two texts used to argue against limited atonement. One is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, which says that Christ died for all. But this is one of the passages  like those mentioned directly above where Paul connects Christ’s death to dying with him and rising with him, so rather than arguing against limited atonement, it actually argues for it.

There’s also 1 John 2:2, which is one of the most commonly used texts in support of unlimited atonement. Murray gives several reasons why “for the whole world” in this verse should not be taken universally.

To sum up and end the chapter:

[W]hen we examine the Scripture we find that the glory of the cross of Christ is bound up with the effectiveness of its accomplishment. Christ redeemed us to God by his blood, he gave himself a ransom that he might deliver us from all iniquity. The atonement is efficacious substitution.


Next Week
For next Thursday please read the next chapter. This moves us into the heart of the book—a look at the application of the atonement.

Your Turn
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below.

November 05, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I announced that the next book we would read together as part of the Reading Classics Together program would be Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray. We will begin reading that book on November 12, exactly one week from today. Actually, we will begin discussing the book on that date, so it would be best to start reading it before then. This is a final invitation to participate in the program and, for those who have already indicated interest, a final reminder that you’ll want to finish reading the first chapter in the next week.

This Reading Classics Together program exists to give us all a good excuse to read some of the classics of the faith. And this new book is, indeed, a classic, In Redemption Accomplished and Applied Murray explores the biblical passages dealing with the necessity, nature, perfection, and extent of the atonement, and goes on to identify the distinct steps in the Bible’s presentation of how the redemption accomplished by Christ is applied progressively to the life of the redeemed. It is, then, an overview of the biblical account of salvation as understood by Reformed Christians. Monergism Books says it is “One of the best, most concise, theologically sound and helpful expositions of the atonement ever produced. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied should be required reading for every Christian. At just under 200 pages, Murray offers page after page of devotional and scholarly study that is nearly unparalleled in its clarity, usefulness and theological depth. Read this book, re-read this book and keep it close at hand.”

There is still time for you to order a copy of the book and read the first chapter before next Thursday.

If you are interested, you can purchase the book at:

Amazon | Westminster Books | Monergism Books

Check in one week from today and we will begin to discuss it together. I can’t wait!

October 22, 2009

It has been a few weeks now since we finished reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, the most recent entry in Reading Classics Together.

The impetus for this project was the simple realization that, though many Christians want to read through the classics of the faith, few of us have the motivation to actually make it happen. This program allows us to read them together, providing both a level of accountability and the added of interest of comparing notes. Those who have participated in each of the programs will now have read Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross by A.W. Pink, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Real Christianity by William Wilberforce and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. That is quite a solid collection of classics! I have benefited immensely from reading these books and know that others have, too. The format is simple: every week we read a chapter or a section of a classic of the Christian faith and then on Thursday we check in at my blog to discuss it. It’s that easy: one chapter per week.

I’d love to have you participate in this next effort. Keep reading to find out how you can do that…

The next classic we will read together is Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray. In this book Murray explores the biblical passages dealing with the necessity, nature, perfection, and extent of the atonement, and goes on to identify the distinct steps in the Bible’s presentation of how the redemption accomplished by Christ is applied progressively to the life of the redeemed. It is, then, an overview of the biblical account of salvation as understood by Reformed Christians. Monergism Books says it is “One of the best, most concise, theologically sound and helpful expositions of the atonement ever produced. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied should be required reading for every Christian. At just under 200 pages, Murray offers page after page of devotional and scholarly study that is nearly unparalleled in its clarity, usefulness and theological depth. Read this book, re-read this book and keep it close at hand.”

At a time when so many people are discovering or re-discovering Reformed theology, this book offers us an opportunity to turn to Scripture to see if all that we are being taught, all that we believe, truly accords with Scripture. And even if you have no love for this New Calvinism, you may like to read along to at least ensure that you have a correct understanding of its theology.

We will begin reading the book on November 12. So if you would like to read along, read chapter 1 by November 12 and then check in here on that day.

You can purchase the book at:

Amazon | Westminster Books | Monergism Books

It is not unusual for the “next classic” to sell out really quickly at the various stores, so if you’d like to read along, go ahead and order it ASAP.

Do let me know if you are planning on participating. Obviously I will not hold you to anything; it is just nice to get a sense of how many people will be joining in the fun.

September 17, 2009

We made it! And honestly, it was barely even a challenge. There have been some classics that I’ve had to struggle to finish. Sometimes, by the end, it is hard work just to turn the next page. But that was not that case, at least for me, with The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I found it a joy to read from beginning to end and it is one I know I will return to in the future (though I may need a copy that is no quite so thoroughly highlighted). Today I am simply going to provide a very brief overview of the chapter and then offer a few of my favorite quotes.

In this final chapter, Burroughs concludes his thoughts on how to attain contentment. Here are the twelve directions he gives:

1. All the rules and helps in the world will do us little good unless we get a good temper within our hearts.

2. If you would get a contented life, do not grasp too much of the world, do not take in more of the business of the world than God calls you to.

3. Be sure of your call to every business you go about.

4. I must walk by rule in the work that I am called to.

5. Exercise much faith.

6. Labor to be spiritually minded.

7. Do not promise yourselves too much beforehand; do not reckon on too great things.

8. Labor to get your hearts mortified to the world, dead to the world.

9. Let not men and women pore too much upon their afflictions: that is, busy their thoughts too much to look down into their afflictions.

10. Make a good interpretation of God’s ways towards you.

11. Do not so much regard the fancies of other men, as what indeed you feel yourselves.

12. Be not inordinately taken up with the comforts of this world when you have them. When you have them, do not take too much satisfaction in them.

Let me share just a few favorite quotes that I had to highlight on my way through:

“You can never make a ship go steady, by propping it outside; you know there must be ballast within the ship, to make it go steady. And so, there is nothing outside us that can keep our hearts in a steady, constant way, but what is within us: grace is within the soul, and it will do this.”

“Nothing in the world will quiet the heart so much as this: when I meet with any cross, I know I am where God would have me, in my place and calling; I am about the work that God has set me.”

“Exercise faith, not only in the promise that all shall work together for good to them that fear God, but likewise exercise faith in God himself; as well as in his Word, in the attributes of God.”

“Let afflictions and troubles find you with a mortified heart to the world, and they will not break your bones; those whose bones are broken by crosses and afflictions are those who are alive to the world, but are not dead to the world. But no afflictions or troubles will break the bones of one who has a mortified heart and is dead to the world; that is, they will not be very grievous or painful to such a one as is mortified to the world.”

“You find many people, all of whose thoughts are taken up about what their crosses and afflictions are, they are altogether thinking and speaking of them. It is just with them as with a child who has a sore: his finger is always on the sore; so men’s and women’s thoughts are always on their afflictions.”

The Next Classic

Stay tuned and in a couple of weeks I’ll announce the next classic we’ll be reading together. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments here.

But for now, I’d love to hear your concluding thoughts on The Rare Jewel

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