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In fact, the waters of baptism have an even richer symbolism than simply the symbolism of the grave. The waters also remind us of the waters of God’s judgment that came upon unbelievers at the time of the flood (Gen. 7:6–24), or the drowning of the Egyptians in the Exodus (Ex. 14:26–29). Similarly, when Jonah was thrown into the deep (Jonah 1:7–16), he was thrown down to the place of death because of God’s judgment on his disobedience—even though he was miraculously rescued and thus became a sign of the resurrection. Therefore those who go down into the waters of baptism really are going down into the waters of judgment and death, death that they deserve from God for their sins. When they come back up out of the waters of baptism it shows that they have come safely through God’s judgment only because of the merits of Jesus Christ, with whom they are united in his death and resurrection. This is why Peter can say in 1 Peter 3:21 that baptism “corresponds to” the saving of Noah and his family from the waters of judgment in the flood.
Paul identifies the waters of baptism with the burial of Christ. The burial of Christ showed that his body was truly dead, so also, us being identified with the burial of Christ shows that our old self is truly dead and thus we should live free from the dominion of sin (Rom. 6:6, etc). But our going under the waters of baptism and of God's judgment is not in order that we may die and be condemned. Rather, the reason, as the Apostle gives it, is that we may come out of the water in newness of life, just like the Lord Christ did. The Lord Christ did not die and was buried to remain dead and buried, but that He may obtain eternal redemption for His people by His death and resurrection and enter into His rest. So, in like manner, the believer goes into the water-grave but comes out of the waters of baptism in newness of life. His old self remains in the waters of God's judgment, and a new person emerges. The going into the waters of baptism identifies us with Christ's death. As John Gill observed on Romans 6:4, “for believers, whilst under water, are as persons buried, and so dead; which signifies not only their being dead with Christ, and their communion with him in his death, but also their being dead to sin by the grace of Christ, and therefore ought not to live in it: for the apostle is still pursuing his argument, and is showing, from the nature, use, and end of baptism, that believers are dead to sin, and therefore cannot, and ought not, to live in it; as more fully appears from the end of baptism next mentioned;...
The passage describes regenerate believers who have fallen away:
- Adam Clarke
- James Burton Coffman
- Charles John Ellicott (Not very explicit)
- John Trapp (Not very explicit)
- Thomas Coke
- Daniel Whedon
- David Guzik
- Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary (Too technical)
I have collected some commentaries, articles and sermons on this passage in a document which you can download (it does not include all the commentaries listed above).
I believe that the passage speaks of false believers and warns about those who have sat under the preaching of the Word of God, the manifestation of the Spirit’s work and who themselves have professed to belong to Christ, that they will perish eternally without no possibility of true repentance. That the description is not definitive proof that those spoken of are true believers, yet the analogy in vv. 7-8 moves us to say that those spoken of were unbelievers from the start.
I don’t claim that by me consulting articles and commentaries on this passage that I will have an answer to every question on this passage, but what I do want to claim is that there are interpretations which are credible and do not force us to deny other biblical doctrines (i.e., the Perseverance of the Saints).
I do want to stress the context of Hebrews that it is an epistle written to Hebrew Christians steeped into the Old Testament and Israel’s history, therefore I will try to interpret it with this in mind and not try to make a modern application every time.
Who are the ones being described in this passage? Is the audience the ones being described in vv. 4-6? No, they are not. Rather, they are a different group spoken of in the third person (“those” v. 4, “them…they…their own” v. 6). The Author is not describing his present audience, in fact he explicitly says that in v. 9. Previous to this passage the author spoke of the plural &l......
When He became man, He did not lay aside His divine properties, rather He added and united the divine nature to His (new) human nature. He did not mingle the two natures and thereby was not truly God and neither truly man, but a mixture of the two. No. He took human nature and added it to His Person (which was eternally divine). The Lord Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, has two natures, the divine and the human in His singular Person. This is not an easy subject and therefore, obviously, there have been wrong teachings on it. Therefore, I would like, with the help of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (pp. 554-556), to take a look at three wrong ways to understand the humanity and divinity of our Lord.
First up is Apollinarianism, which teaches that the Lord Jesus had a human body, but a divine mind and spirit. Therefore, He is not truly man and truly God. He is a mixture. But the Scriptures teaches that He was human in every way except sin (Heb. 2:14, 17; 4:15). If in every way, therefore He had a human mind and spirit. The second is Nestorianism. Nestorianism teaches that Jesus has two persons in one body. A divine person and a human person, not merely two natures, but two persons in a single body. But the Bible always speaks of Christ as one person and not two persons in one body. The third is Monophysitism or Eutychianism. Monophysitism means "one nature.” Jesus had a mixture of a divine and human nature. Jesus' nature was neither fully divine nor fully human, but rather a third kind of nature – a mixture of elements from the divine and human nature.
Now that we have looked at some wrong ways to understand the Lord Christ's person, that can help us to understand what it is not. Since there are no divine-human persons walking around with us, the Lord Jesus is the only God-Man, therefore in many ways, we must talk in the negative. See how the creed and the Confession speak of what the nature of Christ is not. Both say what it is not, the 1689 says that it is not a “conversion, composition, or confusion” of the divine and human nature. Contrary to the Apollinarian error, the creed teaches that Christ did indeed have a rational soul and body, that is a human soul and body. He was consubstantial with us, that is He shared in our nature. He had the same nature as ours, yet spotless and free from sin. Therefore, He was truly human. Contrary to the Nestorian error, the creed teaches that the human and divine nature were united in one Person. Both the divine and human nature with their distinctions and properties concur with the one Person of the Lord Christ. Contrary to the Monophysite error, the creed teaches that Christ has to be acknowledged in two natures. Each nature retains its properties and there is not a mix of both natures in the person of Christ.
The person of Christ is both divine and human at the same time. That was not always the case, but that began to be so when He became man 2000 years ago and the Lord Jesus will remain the God-Man throughout eternity. Grudem also notes that when we agree that the Lord Jesus was truly man and truly God, then we can speak about the “communication” of attributes. By this, he means that some qualities or abilities that were given (“communicated”) from one nature to the other. It is a sin to worship any creature, we must worship God (Matt. 4:10). Yet when people saw the incarnate Christ, it was not sin for them to worship Him (Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17),...
Since it is writings that are said to be “breathed out,” this breathing must be understood as a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. This verse thus states in brief form what was evident in many passages in the Old Testament: the Old Testament writings are regarded as God’s Word in written form. For every word of the Old Testament, God is the one who spoke (and still speaks) it, although God used human agents to write these words down.
John Calvin, commenting on this passage, states:
This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all, lay down this as a settled point, that the Law and the Prophets are not a doctrine delivered according to the will and pleasure of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit.
Even when we use the word that the Bible is the “inspired” Word of God, we must not be understood as saying that there is something extra special done in the inspiration, rather, as Alan Stibbs explains:
The word “inspired,” however, is not to be understood as indicating something “extra” superimposed on the writer or writing, to make the writing different from what it would otherwise be. It indicates rather how the writing came into being. It asserts that the writing is a product of the creative activity of the divine breath. The word thus goes right back to the beginning or first cause of the emergence of Scripture and indicates that Scripture has in its origin this distinctive hallmark, that it owes its very existence to the direct, creative activity of God himself. Although it is men who wrote it, it is God who brought it into being. Its content and character have all been decisively determined by the originating and controlling activity of the creative Spirit.
Inspiration is about the origin of the Scripture, not how the words become Scripture.
There is here nothing said about the human authors of Scripture. We do not deny that the Bible is a book written by men, but what we deny is the assertion that is it only a book written by men. Rather, the words which these men penned were breathed out by God, so that they wrote the very words of God and which He wanted to have written. I do not comprehend the process how God can accomplish this, but I believe that it is so. This breathing out of God and the inspiration of Scripture is not by dictation. Meaning, God did not speak in the hearing of the prophet all the words and then the prophet merely penned them down. To be sure, there is dictation in the Bible. The clearest examples are Revelation 2-3 and a lot of the “Thus says the LORD”, “Declares the LORD” declarations in the Old Test...
We must not forget that the holiness of a person or a thing is dependent upon its relationship with God. Berkhof writes that "The idea of holiness is never that of moral goodness considered in itself, but always that of ethical goodness seen in relation to God." God declares Himself to be the standard of holiness when He says that since He is holy, we also should be holy (1Pet. 1:15-16; Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 20:7).
What is sanctification then? Wayne Grudem defines sanctification in this way:
Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.
In sanctification, God works in us to make us more Christ-like. It is a process throughout our whole Christian life on earth where God works to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Throughout our Christian life, we will, by the grace and work of the Holy Spirit, learn to hate and forsake our sins and follow Christ more faithfully. Louis Berkhof defines it this:
Sanctification may be defined as that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which He delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works.
Notice that Grudem speaks of "a progressive work of God" and Berkhof of a "continuous operation" which implies that this is not a one-time event like justification.
This work of sanctification is specifically attributed to the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says that both justification and sanctification come by the agency of "the Spirit of our God." Calvin comments on this passage, saying that "Christ, then, is the source of all blessings to us from him we obtain all things; but Christ himself, with all his blessings, is communicated to us by the Spirit. For it is by faith that we receive Christ, and have his graces applied to us. The Author of faith is the Spirit." 1 Peter 1:2 says that our election was "in the sanctification of the Spirit". This means that "The election that was purposed by the Father was carried into effect by the agency of the Spirit in making them holy." Joseph Benson explains the work of the Spirit in the life of the Christian from this passage:
Through sanctification of the Spirit — Through the renewing and purifying influences of the Spirit on their souls; for sanctification implies an internal change wrought in the heart, the first part of which is termed regeneration, Joh 1:13, or a new creation, 2Co 5:17; Tit 3:5; producing, 1st, Power over sin, 1Pe 4:1-2; Romans 6.; over the world, 1Jn 5:4; and the flesh, Rom 8:2. 2d, Devotedness to God and his service in heart and life. 3d, A continually increasing conformity to the divine image.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, we are said to be chosen "to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." A similar idea is given in this passage as in 1 Peter 1:2. It means that believers are "made holy by the Divine Spirit." This work is "wrought by the Spirit who sanctifies all the elect people of God, first by eternally consecrating them to perfect holiness in Christ, once for all, next by progressively imparting it." We may lastly add 2 Corinthians 3:18 to the list:
2Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degr...
It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. His greatness (Ps. 145:3), his understanding (Ps. 147:5), his knowledge (Ps. 139:6), his riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33) are all beyond our ability to understand fully.
Yet obviously, even though we cannot fully understand anything about God, yet we understand several things which God has revealed to us in general and special revelation about Himself. But all the things which we know are the “outskirts of his ways” and a small “whisper do we hear of him” (Job 26:14).
The Immutability of God
Although this heading properly belongs to the Infinity of God, yet since I want to give a longer treatment of this subject, I chose to include it under a separate heading. The immutability of God is the doctrine that God never changes His mind. The word immutable means “not capable or susceptible of change; unchangeable; unalterable.” This doctrine is closely connected with the absolute sovereignty of God and His perfect knowledge of all things. Since God is perfect and infinite in all His attributes, including His knowledge, therefore, He cannot change His mind. Contrary to some Open Theist claims, this is not a limitation or a weakness in God, but a perfection. To say that God truly and literally changes His mind/plan is to say that God became better and wiser. Arthur Pink said that immutability
is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all His creatures. God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations. Therefore God is compared to a rock (Deu 32:4) which remains immovable, when the entire ocean surrounding it is continually in a fluctuating state. Even so, though all creatures are subject to change, God is immutable. Because God has no beginning and no ending, He can know no change. He is everlastingly "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning" (Jas 1:17).
A.H. Strong gives the following definition to the immutability of God, saying:
By this we mean that the nature, attributes, and will of God are exempt from all change. Reason teaches us that no change is possible in God, whether of increase or decrease, progress or deterioration, contraction or development. All change must be to better or to worse. But God is absolute perfection, and no change to better is possible. Change to worse would be equally inconsistent with perfection. No cause for such change exists, either outside of God or in God himself.
The Knowledge of God
Several times the immutability of God is plainly taught in Scripture. But let us take a quick look at what the Scriptures say about God’s Omniscience (all-knowing) fir...
Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith
What is faith? Is it simply believing something without any and contrary to evidence? Is it wishful thinking? Dr. Wayne Grudem defines faith as:
Trust or dependence on God based on the fact that we take him at his word and believe what he has said.
The Confession, in chapter 11 paragraph 2, defines faith as:
Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification...
In this chapter, we will look at different aspects and things related to faith, such as: What is faith? What kinds of faith are there? Can our faith be strengthened? Is our faith a gift of grace? What is included in the nature of faith? What are the object, effects, ground, elements of faith? We will mind ourselves with such questions.
The formulations of the Confession in this chapter are not exactly ordered in the way that systematic theologies talk about faith. Although I would like to deal with many aspects of faith and not merely the ones directly mentioned. So, there will be quite some sending forth and back between the paragraphs and different chapters in the Confession where different things are dealt with. I pray that this may be a blessing to the church of Christ and for the strengthening of our personal faith.
§1 The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit
- The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; 1 by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened. 2
- John 6:37, 44; Acts 11:21, 24; 13:48; 14:27; 15:9; 2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2
- Rom 4:11; 10:14, 17; Luke 17:5; Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 2:2
Faith is a grace that's why the Confession specifically speaks about the grace of faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Our faith is a gift from God (chapter 11:1). This faith is said to be that whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls—it is the sole instrument of justification (chapter 11:2). Furthermore, this grace of faith...is the work of the Spirit of Christ (John 6:63; Ezek. 36:25-27). Faith is our response to the call of God, but it does not originate with us. It is granted to us by God and it is worked in us by the Holy Spirit through regeneration and the creation of the new man in Christ. It is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word (2 Thess. 2:13; 1Pet. 1:23), i.e., by the preaching of the Gospel coupled with the work of the Spirit of Christ. This faith is further strengthened by the means of grace. These are the Gospel ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But also prayer, Bible reading and study, the communion of the saints and other things prescribed and commended in the Word of truth. By these means, faith is not created, but it is increased and strengthened.
We will start our study of faith by first noting which words are used in the New Testament especially to denote faith and belief. The word faith or belief in our daily lives may be used in a lot of senses. We may say that we believe that someone is speaking the truth and mean that we have confidence. We may say, "I believe that I've read that book" when we actually mean that ...
Reprobation is the sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them, and to punish them for their sins, and thereby to manifest his justice.
John Calvin said:
By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends. We say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.
Many would and do take offense at this statement by Calvin, which they assume teaches Equal Ultimacy. But upon closer examination of what the Bible teaches about reprobation, which is the flipside of election, one certainly can affirm with Calvin that God has preordained and predestined the reprobate to damnation. The question is not, “has God predestined?”, but rather “how has He predestined?” The Scriptures are clear on man’s inability and depravity to come to God (John 6:44; Rom. 8:7-8; 3:9-12). They’re clear on the universality of sin in all people (Rom. 3:23) and also upon the price for sin (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8). Thus all who are born, are born sinful (Ps. 51:5) and thus are worthy of death (Rom. 6:23). The fact that they die proves that death indeed is the wages of sin (Gen. 2:17).
What About God Hardening Hearts?
Then the question is asked if God has to do nothing for men to receive their due punishment, what point does hardening have? Hardening is a further punishment for man’s continual and present sin. Hardening is not an active work of God where He creates evil where there was no evil, but it’s the passive work of God by which He takes away His restraining grace and leaves man to his sin (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). Many people talk much of free will, but if God gave us absolute freedom in our sin, civilization would not be possible and there will be more manifestation of evil in the world, than today (yes, even more than ISIS). From time to time, we see wicked people rise to power, we see Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Saddam, Pharaoh of Egypt and those God sets on power (Rom. 13:1) and gives them more freedom in their sin than usual for His purposes. In our day, we see the wicked Islamic State (ISIS). That God restrains evil is seen from Genesis 20:6:
Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.
God has kept him from sinning against God and He surely keeps us from sinning against Him now. I am very thankful to God that He daily restrains me from sin and from what I could do if H...