Omniscience, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes

Omniscience, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes by Jack Kettler

The incommunicable attributes of God are those that belong to God alone. For example, such attributes as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence are incommunicable. These attributes are distinct from God’s communicable attributes such as knowledge, creativity, love and forgiveness. Man can share in the communicable attributes whereas the incommunicable attributes, he cannot.

In this study we will focus on God’s Omniscience. How can omniscience be defined?

God’s perfection “whereby He….knows himself and all things possible and actual in one eternal and most simple act.”*

An attribute of God alone. It is the quality of having all knowledge (Isaiah 40:14). Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience represent the nature of God concerning His relation to the creation. **

Omniscience is having total knowledge. The Creator’s unique distinction of knowing everything exhaustively. In contrast, the creature, man’s knowledge is finite and dependent upon the Creator’s revelation to man

From Scripture, God’s Omniscience is seen in the following verses:

“Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalms 147:5)

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)

“Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together. Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.” (Isaiah 41:21-24)

“With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:14)

“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)

Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:18)

“… And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17)

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10)

“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knowest all things.” (1 John 3:20)

The Triune God and Omniscience:

All three have the attribute of omniscience. The Father in Romans 11:33, the Son in Matthew 9:4, and the Holy Spirit we see in 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Commentary Evidence from the Old Testament passage of Psalms 147:5:

Psalms 147:5; from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

Great is our Lord, and of great power, “Our Lord” is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of the whole earth; the Lord of his own people by creation, by redemption, by marriage, and by the conquest of his grace, and their voluntary submission to him; he is “great” in his person, offices, and grace, and therefore greatly to be praised; see Psalm 145:3; and particularly his “power” is very “great”, as appears in the creation of all things out of nothing by him; in the sustaining and support of the world and all things in it: in the redemption of his people from the hand of their powerful enemies; in beginning, carrying on, and perfecting a work of grace on their hearts by his Spirit and power; and in the preservation of them unto eternal life, through a thousand dangers and difficulties: at his resurrection all power in heaven and earth were given him as Mediator; and in the latter day he will take to himself his great power and reign; and in the last day will raise the dead out of their graves;

his understanding is infinite; it reaches to all things, not to the stars of heaven only, as in Psalm 147:4, but to the fowls of the air, to the beasts of the field, and cattle upon a thousand hills; to all on the surface of the earth, or in the bowels of it; and to the fishes of the sea: it reaches to all men, and to all the thoughts of their hearts, the words of their mouths, and the actions of their lives; it reaches to all things past, that have been, to everything present, and to whatsoever is to come; it includes not only the knowledge of all things that are, or certainly will be, but of all things possible, or which he could bring into being if he would; it is concerned not only with the quality and nature of things it perfectly understands, but with the quantity of them; even all things in creation and providence, which are without number and past finding out by men; and so his understanding is without number, and cannot be declared, as the word signifies. (1)

Commentary Evidence from the New Testament passage of Romans 11:33:

Romans 11:33; from Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

In this and the following verses is the conclusion of all that he had delivered, especially in this and the two preceding chapters. He had spoken of many profound mysteries, and answered many critical questions; and here he makes a pause, and falls into an admiration of God, his abundant wisdom and knowledge. He seems here to be like a man that wades into the waters, till he begins to feel no bottom, and then he cries out:

Oh the depth! and goes no farther.

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! i.e. the unmeasurable, inconceivable abundance of his wisdom and knowledge. Some distinguish these two; others take them for the same: see Colossians 2:3.

How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Some distinguish betwixt the judgments and ways of God; by the former, understanding his decrees and purposes concerning nations or persons; by the latter, the methods of his providence in his dealings with them: others think the same thing is meant, by an ingemination, which is familiar amongst the Hebrews. He says of God’s judgments, that they are unsearchable; therefore not to be complained of, censured, or to be narrowly pried into; and of his ways, that they are past finding out; the same in sense with unsearchable: it is a metaphor from hounds, that have no footstep or scent of the game which they pursue: nor can men trace the Lord, or find out the reason of his doings; as none can line out the way of a ship in the sea, or an eagle in the air, &c. Some restrain the sense to the ways of God in disposing and ordering the election and rejection of men. (2)

Omniscience from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

OMNISCIENCE

om-nish’-ens:

The term does not occur in Scripture, either in its nominal or in its adjectival form.

1. Words and Usage:

In the Old Testament it is expressed in connection with such words as da’ath, binah, tebhunah, chokhmah; also “seeing” and “hearing,” “the eye” and “the ear” occur as figures for the knowledge of God, as “arm,” “hand,” “finger” serve to express His power. In the New Testament are found ginoskein, gnosis, eidenai, sophia, in the same connections.

2. Tacit Assumption and Explicit Affirmation:

Scripture everywhere teaches the absolute universality of the divine knowledge. In the historical books, although there is no abstract formula, and occasional anthropomorphic references to God’ staking knowledge of things occur (Genesis 11:5; 18:21; Deuteronomy 8:3), none the less the principle is everywhere presupposed in what is related about God’s cognizance of the doings of man, about the hearing of prayer, the disclosing of the future (1 Samuel 16:7; 23:9-12; 1 Kings 8:39; 2 Chronicles 16:9). Explicit affirmation of the principle is made in the Psalter, the Prophets, and the chokhmah literature and in the New Testament. This is due to the increased internalizing of religion, by which its hidden side, to which the divine omniscience corresponds, receives greater emphasis (Job 26:6; 28:24; 34:22; Psalms 139:12; 147:4; Proverbs 15:3,11; Isaiah 40:26; Acts 1:24; Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 2:23).

3. Extends to All Spheres:

This absolute universality is affirmed with reference to the various categories that comprise within themselves all that is possible or actual. It extends to God’s own being, as well as to what exists outside of Him in the created world. God has perfect possession in consciousness of His own being. The unconscious finds no place in Him (Acts 15:18; 1 John 1:5). Next to Himself God knows the world in its totality. This knowledge extends to small as well as to great affairs (Matthew 6:8,32; 10:30); to the hidden heart and mind of man as well as to that which is open and manifest (Job 11:11; 34:21,23; Psalms 14:2; 17:2; 33:13-18; 102:19; 139:1-4; Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; Isaiah 29:15; Jeremiah 17:10; Amos 4:13; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 2:23). It extends to all the divisions of time, the past, present and future alike (Job 14:17; Psalms 56:8; Isaiah 41:22-24; 44:6-8; Jeremiah 1:5; Hosea 13:12; Malachi 3:16). It embraces that which is contingent from the human viewpoint as well as that which is certain (1 Samuel 23:9-12; Matthew 11:22, 23).

4. Mode of the Divine Knowledge:

Scripture brings God’s knowledge into connection with His omnipresence. Psalms 139 is the clearest expression of this. Omniscience is the omnipresence of cognition (Jeremiah 23:23). It is also closely related to God’s eternity, for the latter makes Him in His knowledge independent of the limitations of time (Isaiah 43:8-12). God’s creative relation to all that exists is represented as underlying His omniscience (Psalms 33:15; 97:9; 139:13; Isaiah 29:15). His all-comprehensive purpose forms the basis of His knowledge of all events and developments (Isaiah 41:22-27; Amos 3:7).

This, however, does not mean that God’s knowledge of things is identical with His creation of them, as has been suggested by Augustine and others. The act of creation, while necessarily connected with the knowledge of that which is to be actual, is not identical with such knowledge or with the purpose on which such knowledge rests, for in God, as well as in man, the intellect and the will are distinct faculties. In the last analysis, God’s knowledge of the world has its source in His self-knowledge. The world is a revelation of God. All that is actual or possible in it therefore is a reflection in created form of what exists uncreated in God, and thus the knowledge of the one becomes a reproduction of the knowledge of the other (Acts 17:27; Romans 1:20). The divine knowledge of the world also partakes of the quality of the divine self-knowledge in this respect, that it is never dormant. God does not depend for embracing the multitude and complexity of the existing world on such mental processes as abstraction and generalization.

The Bible nowhere represents Him as attaining to knowledge by reasoning, but everywhere as simply knowing. From what has been said about the immanent sources of the divine knowledge, it follows that the latter is not a posteriori derived from its objects, as all human knowledge based on experience is, but is exercised without receptivity or dependence. In knowing, as well as in all other activities of His nature, God is sovereign and self-sufficient. In cognizing the reality of all things He needs not wait upon the things, but draws His knowledge directly from the basis of reality as it lies in Himself. While the two are thus closely connected it is nevertheless of importance to distinguish between God’s knowledge of Himself and God’s knowledge of the world, and also between His knowledge of the actual and His knowledge of the possible. These distinctions mark off theistic conception of omniscience from the pantheistic idea regarding it. God is not bound up in His life with the world in such a sense as to have no scope of activity beyond it.

5. God’s Omniscience and Human Freewill:

Since Scripture includes in the objects of the divine knowledge also the issue of the exercise of freewill on the part of man, the problem arises, how the contingent character of such decisions and the certainty of the divine knowledge can coexist. It is true that the knowledge of God and the purposing will of God are distinct, and that not the former but the latter determines the certainty of the outcome. Consequently the divine omniscience in such cases adds or detracts nothing in regard to the certainty of the event. God’s omniscience does not produce but presupposes the certainty by which the problem is raised. At the same time, precisely because omniscience presupposes certainty, it appears to exclude every conception of contingency in the free acts of man, such as would render the latter in their very essence undetermined. The knowledge of the issue must have a fixed point of certainty to terminate upon, if it is to be knowledge at all. Those who make the essence of freedom absolute indeterminateness must, therefore, exempt this class of events from the scope of the divine omniscience. But this is contrary to all the testimony of Scripture, which distinctly makes God’s absolute knowledge extend to such acts (Acts 2:23). It has been attempted to construe a peculiar form of the divine knowledge, which would relate to this class of acts specifically, the so-called scientia media, to be distinguished from the scientia necessaria, which has for its object God Himself, and the scientia libera which terminates upon the certainties of the world outside of God, as determined by His freewill. This scientia media would then be based on God’s foresight of the outcome of the free choice of man. It would involve a knowledge of receptivity, a contribution to the sum total of what God knows derived from observation on His part of the world-process. That is to say, it would be knowledge a posteriori in essence, although not in point of time. It is, however, difficult to see how such a knowledge can be possible in God, when the outcome is psychologically undetermined and undeterminable. The knowledge could originate no sooner than the determination originates through the free decision of man. It would, therefore, necessarily become an a posteriori knowledge in time as well as in essence. The appeal to God’s eternity as bringing Him equally near to the future as to the present and enabling Him to see the future decisions of man’s free will as though they were present cannot remove this difficulty, for when once the observation and knowledge of God are made dependent on any temporal issue, the divine eternity itself is thereby virtually denied. Nothing remains but to recognize that God’s eternal knowledge of the outcome of the freewill choices of man implies that there enters into these choices, notwithstanding their free character, an element of predetermination, to which the knowledge of God can attach itself.

6. Religious Importance:

The divine omniscience is most important for the religious life. The very essence of religion as communion with God depends on His all-comprehensive cognizance of the life of man at every moment. Hence, it is characteristic of the irreligious to deny the omniscience of God (Psalms 10:11, 12; 94:7-9; Isaiah 29:15; Jeremiah 23:23; Ezekiel 8:12; 9:9). Especially along three lines this fundamental religious importance reveals itself:

(a) it lends support and comfort when the pious suffer from the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of men;

(b) it acts as a deterrent to those tempted by sin, especially secret sin, and becomes a judging principle to all hypocrisy and false security;

(c) it furnishes the source from which man’s desire for self-knowledge can obtain satisfaction (Psalms 19:12; 51:6; 139:23,24).

LITERATURE.

Oehler, Theologie des A T (3), 876; Riehm, Alttestamentliche Theologie, 263; Dillmann, Handbuch der alttestamentlichen Theologie, 249; Davidson, Old Testament Theology, 180 if.

Geerhardus Vos (3)

In closing; we will look at selections from the brilliant exposition on Omniscience by Gordon H. Clark:

Omniscience by Gordon H. Clark

…In the previous chapter, where the aim was to show that God created all things, the first step was to indicate that God had created this, and next that, and so on until we exhausted the list and could conclude that God created all things. Here too one could list the items that the Bible says God knows, and finally conclude that he knows all things. This procedure has some advantages. I had a devout and humble aunt, who when a girl had served a term as a missionary to the Mormons. Years later she advanced some theological opinions to her young nephew. God, she said, took care of the important things in the world, and even was attentive to the work of a young missionary; but God does not know what I am doing in my kitchen, she said, for this is too insignificant for him to notice. Undoubtedly this was humility; she did not think of herself more highly than she should. But her Arminian concept of God was far from what the Bible teaches. Humble she was; but she was humiliating God by supposing that he was so limited in his span of attention that he could not attend both to the important things and to the unimportant things as well. If, now, we should list the things the Bible says God knows, we could find out whether he knows what women do when they are in their kitchens.

But there is a better way to proceed, and the details will fall into place just the same. The procedure will be to show how the doctrine of creation relates to God’s knowledge, and how omnipresence and providence relate. With this information the nature of God’s knowledge can then be discussed.

1. CREATION, OMNIPRESENCE, AND PROVIDENCE

There is a story about a visitor to Henry Ford’s auto plant in the early days. Mr. Ford himself escorted the visitor around. They stopped a moment to watch a foreman work on some interesting procedure. The visitor with Mr. Ford’s obvious approval asked the foreman some questions, which he answered satisfactorily. Then the visitor asked, how many separate parts are needed to complete a car? The foreman with slight disgust replied that he could think of no piece of information more useless. Mr. Ford moved on and quietly said, There are 927 (or whatever the number was) pieces.

If now a human inventor and manufacturer has an accurate knowledge of his product, is it surprising that the divine artificer should have an even more accurate knowledge of what he has made? Since God has created all things, we infer that God has a perfect knowledge of all his creation.

Though this is so plausible in itself, we need not rely on Mr. Ford for our theology. Analogies are sometimes deceptive, and we always need Scripture. There is Scripture to cover this point. In Psalm 139:2, 15, 16 David acknowledges that God knows him because God made him. The verses have other implications too, but here attention is directed to the idea that David was made, fashioned, curiously wrought, and all his members were catalogued. The verses are: “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest me though afar off. . . . My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. . . Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

Take another verse. Psalm 104:24 says, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all?” The construction of the parts of the universe is incredibly intricate, far more so than a Model T Ford. The wisdom and knowledge exhibited in these manifold works are beyond our imagination. Creation is then evidence of God’s omniscience. The same idea is found in many other verses. For example, Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up.” Again, Jeremiah 10:12 reads, “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” No doubt there are dozens of such verses. These should be enough to show that the doctrine of creation presupposes the doctrine of divine omniscience. If some humble missionary aunt denies the latter, she must in consistency deny the former.

Next comes the idea of omnipresence. There may be some verse in the Bible that speaks only of God’s omnipresence; but all the others combine it with some other doctrine. Therefore, instead of giving a separate proof of the former, we shall combine omnipresence and omniscience in one set of references. The two omni’s go together.

The prophet Jeremiah says, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (23:24). The reason that no one can escape the attention of God is that God is everywhere. He fills heaven and earth. What is present to him, he knows. And while the verse mentions only human beings who might wish to hide from him, the implication is that God knows everything because he is everywhere.

Although we often say that God is everywhere in the world, it might better be said that the world everywhere is in God. Acts 17:24-28 refers to creation, omnipresence, and by implication knowledge when it says, “God that made the world and all things therein . . . dwelleth not in temples made with hands”; and then when it adds that “in him we live and move and have our being,” we can infer that the “all things” of the earlier verse also have their being in God. Obviously God must know whatever is thus present to him or thus in his mind.

The well-known verses of Psalm 139 use the idea of omnipresence to enforce a lesson concerning God’s knowledge. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit . . . if I make my bed in hell, thou art there.” Not only in hell, but if I fry bacon and eggs in the kitchen, “even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

The same combination of ideas is found also in Hebrews 4:13, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

As omnipresence and creation support omniscience, so also does providence. Creation and providence are combined in Nehemiah 9:6, where the next to the last phrase is, “Thou preservest them all.” Psalm 36:6 reads, “O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.” Speaking particularly about creeping things and beasts both small and great, Psalm 104:27 continues, “These wait all upon thee, that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.” Other verses on providence will later be used more closely in conjunction with predestination; but here only one will now be added. In Matthew 6:32 Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”

This last verse which ties providence to knowledge is most appropriate. How could God exercise providence over all his creation unless he knew it all? Since the providence of God concerns the particulars of life, God must know these particulars. The word providence refers to God’s governance and control of the conditions under which man and beast and creeping things live; but etymologically providence is a matter of seeing or knowing.

If God’s governance of the world covers the distribution of eternal rewards and eternal punishment, though no verses will be quoted on this right here, and if merit and sin depend in part on the thoughts and intentions of the heart, that is, on men’s secret motivations, then this governance depends on God’s knowledge of men’s inmost thoughts. The Apostle tells us that “the Lord . . . will bring light to the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts” (I Cor. 4:5). All such considerations enforce the doctrine of omniscience.

An example of this is Peter’s confession, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:17). This verse is particularly to the point. Christ knows Peter’s heart because he knows all things. The condition of Peter’s love was not just some accidental bit of information that Jesus happened to have. Jesus was Lord, Jehovah, God, and he knew Peter’s love because he was omniscient. With this one may compare John 2:24-25, “He knew all men, and needed not that anyone should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.” These last two quotations are often used to prove the deity of Christ; but note that they do so on the basis that God is omniscient.

2. SHORT SUMMARY

The various considerations now set forth can be summarized and enforced by other verses of general application. The Scriptures teach that God is a God of knowledge. The words of I Samuel 2:3 are, “The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is the Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.”

In case a reader thinks that all this belabors the obvious, it is to be noted that some ministers and theologians have become so confused about predestination that they have denied omniscience. It may be that later on this reader will be tempted to suppose that there are some things God does not and cannot know. Attributing ignorance to God enables us to escape some objections to predestination; but this escape costs the sovereignty, the omniscience, the wisdom, even the deity of God. Therefore the purpose of “belaboring the obvious,” of heaping up the scriptural material on God’s knowledge, is to prevent any such disastrous misunderstanding of predestination. The reader should ask himself, Does not the preceding material, plus the details about to follow, show fully and completely that God knows everything?

It is hard to say whether people who have difficulty with predestination are more troubled with God’s foreknowledge of the thoughts and intents of man’s heart or with his knowledge of non-human details. The latter are not so important to us as the former, but nevertheless one paragraph at least should be inserted somewhere to show God’s knowledge of inanimate particulars. One such item is God’s knowledge of the starry host of heaven. This knowledge is mentioned several times in the Bible. For example, God brought Abraham into the open and said, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them” (Gen. 15:5). What Abraham could not do (for Jeremiah 33:22 says, “The host of heaven cannot be numbered” by man at any rate) God can do, for “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names” (Psalm 147:4). To this verse, add “He calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power” (Isaiah 40:26).

It is interesting to note in this last phrase that God’s knowledge seems dependent on his power. In the next sub-section on the nature of God’s knowledge, this will be discussed. At the moment it is sufficient to end this short summary by concluding that the Bible most clearly teaches that God knows all things.

3. THE NATURE OF GOD’S KNOWLEDGE

In the discussion on providence, just above, it was said that the word etymologically refers to seeing things, and more definitely refers to seeing things ahead of time. John 6:64 says, “But there are some of you that believe not; for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” The phrase “from the beginning” might mean only from the time these people began to follow him. Or, it might mean from the beginning of man’s history. Or it might mean from eternity, in the same sense in which the Apostle says, “In the beginning was the Word.” Since the Old Testament prophesies that Christ should be betrayed, it would seem that this knowledge antedated Judas’ birth. When compared with other verses, this one most probably means that Jesus knew from all eternity. God’s knowledge is eternal.

If God’s knowledge were not eternal, then he must have learned something at some time. And if he learned it, he must have previously been ignorant of it. And if he had been ignorant and learned something, why could he not forget some things after a while?

However, God neither learns nor forgets. “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). I Corinthians 2:11 says, “What man knows the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” This verse indicates, what is otherwise not surprising, that God knows himself; and if God is eternal and uncreated, the original Self Existent, then his knowledge of himself must be eternal.

The phrase that refers to God as “declaring the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10), and the verse “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18) indicate the eternity of divine knowledge. If anyone should insist that the words “from the beginning of the world” push back God’s knowledge only to the date of creation, a reply has already been noted in God’s knowledge of himself and in his eternal freedom from ignorance. Another reply will be given at the beginning of the next chapter.

Perhaps a verse should be included to show that God is eternal. If he were not eternal, then of course his knowledge would not be eternal. Now, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo presupposes the eternity of God, but a particular verse is “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” (Isa. 57:15); as also Genesis 21:33, “the everlasting God”; Psalm 90:2, “even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God”; Psalm 102:26-27, “They shall perish . . . but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end”; and I Timothy 1:17, “the King eternal.”

At the end of the last sub-section there was a verse connecting God’s knowledge with his power. He knows because he is omnipotent. In fact, there are several verses that connect God’s knowledge and his power. This is to be expected if we keep in mind that God and his power are eternal. When as yet there was nothing, and only God existed, God knew all things. Obviously this knowledge came out of or resided in himself. He could not have derived it from anything else, for there was nothing else. It was really self-knowledge, for his knowledge of the universe was his knowledge of his own intentions, his own mind, his own purposes and decisions.

In philosophical language this means that God’s knowledge is not empirical. He does not discover the truth. He always has the truth. The point is rather important, and it has important bearings on predestination. Let us say it over again for one more paragraph.

If God is indeed as the Bible describes him, with eternal self-knowledge, by which he creates and controls every particular in the world, obviously God’s knowledge depends on himself and not on created things. God’s knowledge is self-originated; he does not learn from any outside source. Note that Proverbs 8:22 says, “The Lord possessed me from the beginning of his way.” And the idea is repeated and reinforced in the immediately following verses. This shows that God did not learn about me from observing me. It does not say that God knows me from the beginning of my way, but from the beginning of his way. So too Isaiah 40:13 says, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel and who instructed him . . . and taught him knowledge.” Therefore God is the source of his omniscience. He does not learn from things: his knowledge depends on himself alone and is as eternal as he is.…

This simple escape is simply an escape from God and the Bible. The verses selected for this chapter are only a few that could have been used to show that God knows everything; but they are more than enough to make the point. No one can now deny that the Bible teaches God’s omniscience. But as has just slightly been seen in the last paragraph, these verses yield further implications, which with the help of additional passages will take us the next step on our way. It has to do with God’s eternal decree. (4)

Gordon H. Clark, at the time he wrote this article, was professor philosophy at Butler University, and since 1945, head of that department. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and earned his Ph.D. at that institution, continuing his graduate studies in the Sorbonne, Paris. Prior to his appointment at Butler University, Dr. Clark taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Wheaton College.

Dr. Clark’s major publications include: A Christian Philosophy of Education, A Christian View of Men and Things, What Presbyterians Believe, Thales to Dewey, James and Dewey (Modern Thinkers Series), The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, Peter Speaks Today, Karl Barth’s Theological Method, and Religion, Reason and Revelation. In 1968, Ronald H. Nash edited The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, a Festschrift in his honor. Dr. Clark is the editor of the University Series (Philosophical Studies) of the Craig Press.

A web site dedicated to Gordon H. Clark is listed below and well as the Trinity Foundation that published many books by Gordon H. Clark.

Surely, man cannot claim to share this attribute!

“Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalms 147:5)

The goal of this study is to help us magnify the Lord God for his marvelous grace that made us children of God through no merit of our own. It is my prayer that this goal has been attained.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Nothing in us caused or merited this supreme act of love on God’s part!

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 1650-1651.

2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 520.

3. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘OMNISCIENCE,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2191-2192.

4. Gordon H. Clark, Predestination chapter on Omniscience, (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1969), p. 31-46.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM Theological Dictionary: https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

Omniscience by C. H. Spurgeon: http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/sermons/0085.htm

The Omniscience of God by John Gill: https://www.monergism.com/omniscience-god-1

The Gordon H. Clark Foundation http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/

The Trinity Foundation http://www.trinityfoundation.org/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Omnipotence, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes

Omnipotence, a study in God’s Incommunicable Attributes by Jack Kettler

The incommunicable attributes of God are those that belong to God alone. For example, such attributes as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence are incommunicable. These attributes are distinct from God’s communicable attributes such as knowledge, creativity, love, forgiveness. Man can share in the communicable attributes whereas the incommunicable attributes, he cannot.

In this study we will focus on God’s Omnipotence. How can omnipotence be defined?

That perfection of God whereby he has the power to execute his will; his infinite power by which he has the ability to do everything that is possible except for those acts that are contrary to his nature.*

An attribute of God alone. It is the quality of having all power (Psalms 115:3). He can do all things that do not conflict with His holy nature. God has the power to do anything He wants to. **

From Scripture, God’s Omnipotence is seen in the following verses:

“I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.” (Job 42:2)

“These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” (Psalms 50:21)

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” (Psalms 90:2)

“For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalms 96:5)

“They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” (Psalms 102:26-27)

“Ah Lord God! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. (Jeremiah 32:17)

“I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter the city.” (Hosea 11:9)

“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3)

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

The Triune God and Omnipotence:

All three members of the triune God have the attribute of omnipotence. For example, all three are all powerful: the Father in Jeremiah 32:27. The Son in Matthew 28:18 and the Holy Spirit in Romans 15:19.

Digging deeper from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

Omnipotent * For OMNIPOTENT (Revelation 19:6) See Almighty

[1, G3841, pantokrator] almighty, or ruler of all” (pas, “all,” krateo, “to hold, or to have strength”), is used of God only, and is found, in the Epistles, only in 2 Corinthians 6:18, where the title is suggestive in connection with the context; elsewhere only in the Apocalypse, nine times. In one place, Revelation 19:6, the AV has “omnipotent;” RV, “(the Lord our God,) the Almighty.” The word is introduced in the Sept. as a translation of “Lord (or God) of hosts,” e.g., Jeremiah 5:14; Amos 4:13. (1)

Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 4 focuses on God’s power or Omnipotence:

Q: What is God?

A: God is a Spirit, 1 infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, 2 wisdom, 3 power, 4 holiness, 5 justice, 6 goodness, 7 and truth.8

1. John 4:24. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

2. Psalm 90:2. From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God; Malachi 3:6. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore are ye sons of Jacob not consumed; James 1:17. The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. ; 1 Kings 8:27. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? ; Jeremiah 23:24. Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? Saith the Lord. ; Isaiah 40:22. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.

3. Psalm 147:5. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. ; Romans 16:27. To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

4. Genesis 17:1. And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. ; Revelation 19:6. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

5. Isaiah 57:15. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. ; John 17:11. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me that they may be one, as we are. ; Revelation 4:8. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they werefull of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

6. Deuteronomy 32:4. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

7. Psalm 100:5. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. ; Romans 2:4. Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

8. Exodus 34:6. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. ; Psalm 117:2. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord.

Point number four is highlighted because it lists the scriptural proof texts for God’s Omnipotence.

Commentary Evidence from an Old Testament passage:

Jeremiah 32:17; from John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

Ah Lord God! Which the Vulgate Latin version repeats three times, “Ah, ah, ah”, as being greatly distressed with the trouble that was coming upon his people; and, it may be, not without some doubts and temptations about their deliverance; or, at least, was pressed in his mind with the difficulties and objections started by the Jews that were with him in the court:

behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm; with great propriety is the making of the heaven and the earth ascribed to the mighty power of God; for nothing short of almighty power could have produced such a stupendous work as the heavens, with all the host of them, sun, moon, and stars, the terraqueous globe, the earth and sea, with all that in them are; and all this produced out of nothing, by the sole command and word of God: and with great pertinency does the prophet begin his prayer with such a description of God; both to encourage and strengthen his faith in him touching the fulfilment of the above prophecy, and to stop the mouths of the Jews, who objected the impossibility of it: wherefore it follows,

and there is nothing too hard for thee; or “hidden from thee” (z); so the Targum; which his wisdom and knowledge did not reach, or his power could not effect: or which is “too wonderful for thee” (a); there is nothing that has so much of the wonderful in it, as to be above the compass of his understanding, and out of the reach of his power, as such things be, which are beyond the power and skill of men; but there is no such thing with God, whose understanding is unsearchable, and his power irresistible; with him nothing is impossible; and who can think there is that observes that the heaven and earth are made by him?

(z) “non est absconditum a te quicquam”, Pagninus; “non potest occultari tibi ulla res”, Junius & Tremellius. (a) “Non mirabile est prae te ullun verbum”, Schmidt; “non est ulla res abscondita a te, sive mirabile”, Calvin; “non mirificabitur a te ullum verbum”, Montanus. (2)

Commentary Evidence from a New Testament passage:

Revelation 1:8; from Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

I am Alpha and Omega – These are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, and denote properly the first and the last. So in Revelation 22:13, where the two expressions are united, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” So in Revelation 1:17, the speaker says of himself, “I am the first and the last.” Among the Jewish rabbis it was common to use the first and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to denote the whole of anything, from beginning to end. Thus, it is said, “Adam transgressed the whole law, from ‘Aleph (א) to Taw (תּ).” “Abraham kept the whole law, from ‘Aleph (א) to Taw (תּ).” The language here is what would properly denote “eternity” in the being to whom it is applied, and could be used in reference to no one but the true God. It means that he is the beginning and the end of all things; that he was at the commencement, and will be at the close; and it is thus equivalent to saying that he has always existed, and that he will always exist. Compare Isaiah 41:4, “I the Lord, the first, and with the last”; Isaiah 44:6, “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God”; Isaiah 48:12, “I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.” There can be no doubt that the language here would be naturally understood as implying divinity, and it could be properly applied to no one but the true God. The obvious interpretation here would be to apply this to the Lord Jesus; for:

(a) it is he who is spoken of in the verses preceding, and

(b) there can be no doubt that the same language is applied to him in Revelation 1:11.

As there is, however, a difference of reading in this place in the Greek text, and as it can. not be absolutely certain that the writer meant to refer to the Lord Jesus specifically here, this cannot be adduced with propriety as a proof-text to demonstrate his divinity. Many mss., instead of “Lord,” κυρίος kurios, read “God,” Θεὸς Theos and this reading is adopted by Griesbach, Tittman, and Hahn, and is now regarded as the correct reading. There is no real incongruity in supposing, also, that the writer here meant to refer to God as such, since the introduction of a reference to him would not be inappropriate to his manifest design. Besides, a portion of the language used here, “which is, and was, and is to come,” is what would more naturally suggest a reference to God as such, than to the Lord Jesus Christ. See Revelation 1:4. The object for which this passage referring to the “first and the last – to him who was, and is, and is to come,” is introduced here evidently is, to show that as he was clothed with omnipotence, and would continue to exist through all ages to come as he had existed in all ages past, there could be no doubt about his ability to execute all which it is said he would execute.

Saith the Lord – Or, saith God, according to what is now regarded as the correct reading.

Which is, and which was, – See the notes on Revelation 1:4.

The Almighty – An appellation often applied to God, meaning that he has all power, and used here to denote that he is able to accomplish what is disclosed in this book. (3)

The Best Gem for last:

OMNIPOTENCE from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

om-nip’-o-tens:

1. Terms and Usage:

The noun “omnipotence” is not found in the English Bible, nor any noun exactly corresponding to it in the original Hebrew or Greek

The adjective “omnipotent” occurs in Revelation 19:6 the King James Version; the Greek for this, pantokrator, occurs also in 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7,14; 19:15; 21:22 (in all of which the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) render “almighty”). It is also found frequently in the Septuagint, especially in the rendering of the divine names Yahweh tsebha’oth and ‘El Shadday. In pantokrator, the element of “authority,” “sovereignty,” side by side with that of “power,” makes itself more distinctly felt than it does to the modern ear in “omnipotent,” although it is meant to be included in the latter also. Compare further ho dunatos, in Luke 1:49.

2. Inherent in Old Testament Names of God:

The formal conception of omnipotence as worked out in theology does not occur in the Old Testament. The substance of the idea is conveyed in various indirect ways. The notion of “strength” is inherent in the Old Testament conception of God from the beginning, being already represented in one of the two divine names inherited by Israel from ancient Semitic religion, the name ‘El. According to one etymology it is also inherent in the other, the name ‘Elohim, and in this case the plural form, by bringing out the fullness of power in God, would mark an approach to the idea of omnipotence.

See GOD, NAMES OF.

In the patriarchal religion the conception of “might” occupies a prominent place, as is indicated by the name characteristic of this period, ‘El Shadday; compare Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:24,25; Exodus 6:3. This name, however, designates the divine power as standing in the service of His covenant-relation to the patriarchs, as transcending Nature and overpowering it in the interests of redemption.

Another divine name which signalizes this attribute is Yahweh tsebha’oth, Yahweh of Hosts. This name, characteristic of the prophetic period, describes God as the King surrounded and followed by the angelic hosts, and since the might of an oriental king is measured by the splendor of his retinue, as of great, incomparable power, the King Omnipotent (Psalms 24:10; Isaiah 2:12; 6:3,5; 8:13; Jeremiah 46:18; Malachi 1:14).

Still another name expressive of the same idea is ‘Abhir, “Strong One,” compounded with Jacob or Israel (Genesis 49:24; Psalms 132:2, 5; Isaiah 1:24; 49:26; 60:16). Further, ‘El Gibbor, “God-Hero” (Isaiah 9:6 (of the Messiah); compare for the adjective gibbor, Jeremiah 20:11); and the figurative designation of God as Tsur, “Rock,” occurring especially in the address to God in the Psalter (Isaiah 30:29, the King James Version “Mighty One”). The specific energy with which the divine nature operates finds expression also in the name ‘El Chay, “Living God,” which God bears over against the impotent idols (1 Samuel 17:26, 36; 2 Kings 19:4, 16; Psalms 18:46; Jeremiah 23:36; Daniel 6:20, 26). An anthropomorphic description of the power of God is in the figures of “hand,” His “arm,” His “finger.”

See GOD.

3. Other Modes of Expression:

Some of the attributes of Yahweh have an intimate connection with His omnipotence. Under this head especially God’s nature as Spirit and His holiness come under consideration. The representation of God as Spirit in the Old Testament does not primarily refer to the incorporealness of the divine nature, but to its inherent energy. The physical element underlying the conception of Spirit is that of air in motion, and in this at first not the invisibility but the force forms the point of comparison. The opposite of “Spirit” in this sense is “flesh,” which expresses the weakness and impotence of the creature over against God (Isaiah 2:22; 31:3).

The holiness of God in its earliest and widest sense (not restricted to the ethical sphere) describes the majestic, specifically divine character of His being that which evokes in man religious awe. It is not a single attribute coordinated with others, but a peculiar aspect under which all the attributes can be viewed, that which renders them distinct from anything analogous in the creature (1 Samuel 2:2; Hosea 11:9). In this way holiness becomes closely associated with the power of God, indeed sometimes becomes synonymous with divine power equals omnipotence (Exodus 15:11; Numbers 20:12), and especially in Ezk, where God’s “holy name” is often equivalent to His renown for power, hence, interchangeable with His “great name” (Ezekiel 36:20-24). The objective Spirit as a distinct hypostasis and the executive of the Godhead on its one side also represents the divine power (Isaiah 32:15; Matthew 12:28; Luke 1:35; 4:14; Acts 10:38; Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 2:4).

4. Unlimited Extent of the Divine Power:

In all these forms of expression a great and specifically divine power is predicated of God. Statements in which the absolutely unlimited extent of this power is explicitly affirmed are rare. The reason, however, lies not in any actual restriction placed on this power, but in the concrete practical form of religious thinking which prevents abstract formulation of the principle. The point to be noticed is that no statement is anywhere made exempting aught from the reach of divine power. Nearest to a general formula come such statements as nothing is “too hard for Yahweh” (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17); or “I know that thou canst do everything?” or “God …. hath done whatever he pleased” (Psalms 115:3; 135:6), or, negatively, no one “can hinder” God, in carrying out His purpose (Isaiah 43:13), or God’s hand is not “waxed short” (Numbers 11:23); in the New Testament:

“With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27); “Nothing is impossible with God” (the Revised Version (British and American) “No word from God shall be void of power,” Luke 1:37). Indirectly the omnipotence of God is implied in the effect ascribed to faith (Matthew 17:20 “Nothing shall be impossible unto you”; Mark 9:23 “All things are possible to him that believeth”), because faith puts the divine power at the disposal of the believer. On its subjective side the principle of inexhaustible power finds expression in Isaiah 40:28: God is not subject to weariness. Because God is conscious of the unlimited extent of His resources nothing is marvelous in His eyes (Zechariah 8:6).

5. Forms of Manifestation:

It is chiefly through its forms of manifestation that the distinctive quality of the divine power which renders it omnipotent becomes apparent. The divine power operates not merely in single concrete acts, but is comprehensively related to the world as such. Both in Nature and history, in creation and in redemption, it produces and controls and directs everything that comes to pass. Nothing in the realm of actual or conceivable things is withdrawn from it (Amos 9:2, 3; Daniel 4:35); even to the minutest and most recondite sequences of cause and effect it extends and masters all details of reality (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7). There is no accident (1 Samuel 6:9; compare with \1Sa 6:12; Pr 16:33\). It need not operate through second causes; it itself underlies all second causes and makes them what they are.

It is creative power producing its effect through a mere word (Genesis 1:3; Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalms 33:9; Romans 4:17; Hebrews 1:3; 11:30). Among the prophets, especially Isaiah emphasizes this manner of the working of the divine power in its immediateness and suddenness (Isaiah 9:8; 17:13; 18:4-6; 29:5). All the processes of nature are ascribed to the causation of Yahweh (Job 5:9; 9:5; 3948/A>; Isaiah 40:12; Amos 4:13; 5:8, 9; 9:5, 6); especially God’s control of the sea is named as illustrative of this (Psalms 65:7; 104:9; Isaiah 50:2; Jeremiah 5:22; 31:35). The Old Testament seldom says “it rains” (Amos 4:7), but usually God causes it to rain (Leviticus 26:4; Deuteronomy 11:17; 1 Samuel 12:17; Job 36:27; 6548/A>; Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17).

The same is true of the processes of history. God sovereignly disposes, not merely of Israel, but of all other nations, even of the most powerful, e.g. the Assyrians, as His instruments for the accomplishment of His purpose (Amos 1:1-2:3; 9:7; Isaiah 10:5,15; 28:2; 45:1; Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). The prophets ascribe to Yahweh not merely relatively greater power than to the gods of the nations, but His power extends into the sphere of the nations, and the heathen gods are ignored in the estimate put upon His might (Isaiah 31:3).

Even more than the sphere of Nature and history, that of redemption reveals the divine omnipotence, from the point of view of the supernatural and miraculous. Thus Exodus 15 celebrates the power of Yahweh in the wonders of the exodus. It is God’s exclusive prerogative to do wonders (Job 5:9; 9:10; Psalms 72:18); He alone can make “a new thing” (Numbers 16:30; Isaiah 43:19; Jeremiah 31:22). In the New Testament the great embodiment of this redemptive omnipotence is the resurrection of believers (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24) and specifically the resurrection of Christ (Romans 4:17, 21, 24; Ephesians 1:19); but it is evidenced in the whole process of redemption (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Romans 8:31; Ephesians 3:7, 20; 1 Peter 1:5; Revelation 11:17).

6. Significance for Biblical Religion:

The significance of the idea may be traced along two distinct lines. On the one hand the divine omnipotence appears as a support of faith. On the other hand it is productive of that specifically religious state of consciousness which Scripture calls “the fear of Yahweh.” Omnipotence in God is that to which human faith addresses itself. In it lies the ground for assurance that He is able to save, as in His love that He is willing to save (Psalms 65:5, 6; 72:18; 118:14-16; Ephesians 3:20).

As to the other aspect of its significance, the divine omnipotence in itself, and not merely for soteriological reasons, evokes a specific religious response. This is true, not only of the Old Testament, where the element of the fear of God stands comparatively in the foreground, but remains true also of the New Testament. Even in our Lord’s teaching the prominence given to the fatherhood and love of God does not preclude that the transcendent majesty of the divine nature, including omnipotence, is kept in full view and made a potent factor in the cultivation of the religious mind (Matthew 6:9). The beauty of Jesus’ teaching on the nature of God consists in this, that He keeps the exaltation of God above every creature and His loving condescension toward the creature in perfect equilibrium and makes them mutually fructified by each other. Religion is more than the inclusion of God in the general altruistic movement of the human mind; it is a devotion at every point colored by the consciousness of that divine uniqueness in which God’s omnipotence occupies a foremost place.

LITERATURE.

Oehler, Theologie des A T (3), 131, 139; Riehm, Alttestamentliche Theologie, 250; Dillmann, Handbuch der alttestamentlichen Theologie, 244; Davidson, Old Testament Theology, 163; Konig, Geschichte der alttestamentlichen Religion, 127, 135, 391, 475.

Geerhardus Vos (4)

In closing:

Surely, man cannot claim to share this attribute:

“They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” (Psalms 102:26-27)

The goal of this study is to help us magnify the Lord God for his marvelous grace that made us children of God through no merit of our own. It is my prayer that this goal has been attained.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Nothing in us caused or merited this supreme act of love on God’s part!

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 40.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Jeremiah, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 520.

3. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Revelation, p. 4980-4981.

4. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘OMNIPOTENCE,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2188-2190.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM Theological Dictionary: https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

Omnipotence by Herman Bavinck https://www.monergism.com/omnipotence

The Omnipotence of God by John Gill https://www.monergism.com/omnipotence-god-1

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Glorification, a Study in God’s Grace

Glorification, a Study in God’s Grace by Jack Kettler

In this study we will look at the doctrine of the glorification of the believer. The doctrine of glorification and the resurrection are closely related. Everyone at the last day will be resurrected. Not everyone will be glorified.

Glorification:

The final step in the experience of the salvation process and in the application of redemption to believers, in which, at the return of Christ, the bodies of those believers who have died will be raised and reunited with their souls, and the bodies of all those believers still living will be transformed into resurrection bodies like the resurrection body of Christ, so that all believers will be perfectly conformed to the image of the risen and glorified Christ.*

Scriptural Hope:

“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

There are three things to note about Romans 8:30. First, the believer is “called” (through the preaching of the gospel). Second, the believer is “justified” (or declared righteous in Christ). Third, the believer is “glorified” (or transformed). Glorification is still in the future. Like, calling and justification, glorification is an act of God’s grace, meaning unmerited.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible is also helpful on this text:

“Moreover … – In this verse, in order to show to Christians the true consolation to be derived from the fact that they are predestinated, the apostle states the connection between that predestination and their certain salvation. The one implied the other.

Whom he did predestinate – All whom he did predestinate.

Them he also called – Called by his Spirit to become Christians. He called, not merely by an external invitation, but in such a way as that they in fact were justified. This cannot refer simply to an external call of the gospel, since those who are here said to be called are said also to be justified and glorified. The meaning is, that there is a certain connection between the predestination and the call, which will be manifested in due time. The connection is so certain that the one infallibly secures the other.

He justified – See the note at Romans 3:24. Not that he justified them from eternity, for this was not true; and if it were, it would also follow that he glorified them from eternity, which would be an absurdity. It means that there is a regular sequence of events – the predestination precedes and secures the calling; and the calling precedes and secures the justification. The one is connected in the purpose of God with the other; and the one, in fact, does not take place without the other. The purpose was in eternity. The calling and justifying in time.

Them he also glorified – This refers probably to heaven. It means that there is a connection between justification and glory. The one does not exist without the other in its own proper time; as the calling does not subsist without the act of justification. This proves, therefore, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. There is a connection infallible and ever existing between the predestination and the final salvation. They who are subjects of the one are partakers of the other. That this is the sense is clear,

(1) Because it is the natural and obvious meaning of the passage.

(2) Because this only would meet the design of the argument of the apostle. For how would it be a source of consolation to say to them that whom God foreknew he predestinated, and whom he predestinated he called, and whom he called he justified, and whom he justified “might fall away and be lost forever?” (1)

In the next text from Corinthians, the Apostle Paul informs us of the nature of the resurrection. This instruction from Paul is regarding believers:

“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

The writer of Hebrews give assurance that all of the godly will be resurrected into glory:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Job confesses his faith in the resurrection and meeting the redeemer:

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)

The Apostle Paul says this:

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary is edifying on this passage:

This change will be on the sudden, in a moment; either upon the will and command of Christ, which shall be as effectual to call persons out of their graves, as a trumpet is to call persons together; or rather, upon a sound made like to the sound of a trumpet, as it was at the giving of the law upon Sinai, Exodus 19:16. We read of this last trump, Matthew 24:31 1 Thessalonians 4:16. There shall (saith the apostle) be such a sound made; and upon the making of it, the saints, that are dead, shall be raised out of their graves; not with such bodies as they carried thither, (which were corruptible), but with such bodies as shall be no more subject to corruption; and those who at that time shall be alive, shall one way or another be changed, and be also put into an incorruptible state. (2)

As said at the beginning, not everyone that is resurrected will be unto glory:

“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2

Confessional agreement:

From The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 57:

Question 57. What comfort does the “resurrection of the body” afford thee?

Answer: That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head;1 but also, that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.2

(1) Luke 23:43. Phil 1:21-23. (2) 1 Cor. 15:53, 54. Job 19:25-27. I John 3:2.

From The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 58:

Question 58. What comfort do we have from the article of “life everlasting”?

Answer: That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy,1 I shall after this life possess complete bliss, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man,2 therein to praise God forever.3

(1) 2 Cor. 5:2, 3. (2) 1 Cor. 2:9. (3) John 17:3. * Rom 8:23. * 1 Pet 1:8.

The reader is encouraged to look up and read the scriptural proof texts for the answers of questions 57 and 58.

From The Apostle’s Creed:

“I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Note: the creed is called the Apostle’s ‘creed not because the apostles wrote it, but because it summarized the apostles teaching. At the end of the Apostles Creed it is proclaimed “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” This formulation contains in short the essential component of the Christian’s confidence about the resurrection of the body.

In closing:

How can the teaching of glorification and the resurrection be explicated and summarized? The Scottish theologian John Murray will help.

From Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray:

1. Glorification is associated and bound up with the coming of Christ in glory. The advent of Christ visibly, publicly, and gloriously does not appeal to a great many people who profess the name of Christ. It appears to them to be too naive for the more advanced and mature perspective of present-day Christians. This attitude is quite akin to that of which Peter warned his readers: “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the Fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3, 4). It is the same kind of unbelief which entertains doubt respecting the virgin birth of our Lord or denies the substitutionary atonement or spurns the thought of our Lord’s bodily and physical resurrection which can be indifferent to the glorious advent of our Lord on the clouds of heaven. And this unbelief becomes peculiarly aggravated when it scorns the very idea of a return of the Lord bodily, visibly, publicly. If that conviction and hope do not stand at the centre of our perspective for the future, it is because the barest outlines of our frame of thought are destitute of Christian character. The hope of the believer is centred in the coming of the Saviour again the second time without sin unto salvation. Paul calls this “the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). The believer who knows him whom he has believed and loves him whom he has not seen says, “Amen, come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). 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 with 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. “But rejoice,” Peter wrote, “inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:13).

2. 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. “The creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). But “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). And when will this glory of creation be accomplished? Paul leaves us in no doubt. He tells us expressly that the terminus of the groaning and travailing of creation, groaning and travailing because of the bondage of corruption, is nothing other than “the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). This is just saying that not only do believers wait for the resurrection as that which will bring the liberty of their glory but the creation itself is also waiting for this same event. And that for which it is waiting is that in which it will share, namely, “the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” This is Paul’s way of expressing the same truth which is elsewhere described as the new heavens and the new earth. In Peter’s words, “We according to his promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). And Peter associates that cosmic regeneration with that which believers look for and hasten, “the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements being burned up shall melt” (2 Pet. 3:12) (3)

From the (old) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE):

GLORIFY

glo’-ri-fi: The English word is the equivalent of a number of Hebrew and Greek words whose essential significance is discussed more fully under the word GLORY (which see). The word “glorious” in the phrases “make or render glorious” is used most frequently as a translation of verbs in the original, rather than of genuine adjectives In dealing with the verb it will be sufficient to indicate the following most important uses.

(1) Men may glorify God, that is, give to Him the worship and reverence which are His due (Isa 24:15; 25:3; Ps 22:23; Dan 5:23; Sirach 43:30; Mt 5:16, and generally in the Synoptic Gospels and in some other passages of the New Testament).

(2) God, Yahweh (Yahweh), glorifies His people, His house, and in the New Testament, His Son, manifesting His approval of them and His interest in them, by His interposition on their behalf (Isa 55:5; Jer 30:19; The Wisdom of Solomon 18:8; Sirach 45:3; Jn 7:39, and often in the Fourth Gospel).

(3) By a usage which is practically confined to the Old Testament, Yahweh glorifies Himself, that is, secures the recognition of His honor and majesty, by His direction of the course of history, or by His interposition in history, either the history of His own people or of the world at large (Lev 10:3; Isa 26:15; Ezek 28:22; Hag 1:8). (4)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Romans, p. 2205.

2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 598.

3. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans. 1955), pp. 177-178.

4. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Definition for ‘GLORIFY,’” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (ISBE), (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1915), p. 1235.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at:

Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

Those Whom He Justified He Also Glorified by John Piper https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/those-whom-he-justified-he-also-glorified

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith

IVP Academic 2012

By Michael Reeves

Reviewed by Jack Kettler

Bio:

Michael Reeves, (PhD, King’s College) is an author, theologian, historian and professor who teaches at Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) and is the director of Union, a WEST initiative that puts the theological academy back in the local church context. He previously served as theological adviser for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in the United Kingdom where he oversaw the Theology Network, a theological resources website. He was also associate minister at All Souls Church, Langham Place. Reeves is the author of books such as Delighting in the Trinity, The Unquenchable Flame, Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, The Breeze of the Centuries, On Giants Shoulders and The Good God.

What others are saying:

“Even many Christians find the Trinity confusing, but Delighting in the Trinity is the clearest and best written explanation I’ve ever read.” (Marvin Olasky, World Magazine, June 29, 2013)

“Michael Reeves’s Delighting in the Trinity is an enjoyable introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity. . . . [It’s] a great read. . . . This book would be useful for working with non-Christians seeking to understand Christianity. It would also serve the Christian who wants a better understanding of why the Trinity was not the invention of ‘bored monks on rainy afternoons.’” (New Horizons, April 2013)

“Michael Reeves . . . has produced a powerful and concise treatment of the trinity in Delighting in the Trinity. One of the strengths of this volume is its practicality and accessiblity. One of the most exciting aspects of this book is Reeves’ skill in helping readers understand what it means to enjoy God and understand the doctrine of the trinity to be a demonstration of ‘the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God.'” (R. Albert Mohler Jr., Preaching, March/April 2013)

“It’s not often one reads a book on trinitarian theology that is deeply insightful and wonderfully witty at the same time, but this is such a volume. Filled with careful thought and wise application, Reeves provides a most accessible book for those who are trying to understand what difference it makes that we are trinitarian.” (Kelly M. Kapic, Covenant College)

“The Trinity is often regarded as an esoteric and intimidating doctrine, over the heads of rank-and-file Christians. What are laypeople and students to make of the theologians’ unfathomable utterances about how the Father, Son and Spirit constitute one God? The answer: Start by reading this book. Michael Reeves unpacks the significance of the Trinity for Christian life with a straight-shooting, conversational style honed by years of student ministry. But don’t let the panache fool you. There is substance here that outweighs that of books much harder to understand. Read this book. Look up all the Bible passages it quotes. Let the Spirit use it to help you to see the Scriptures―and most of all, to see God the Trinity―in a new way. I cannot recommend it highly enough.” (Donald Fairbairn, Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and author of Life in the Trinity)

My Thoughts:

First off, this is how the introduction and chapter layout look:

Chapter layout

Introduction: Here Be Dragons?

1. What Was God Doing Before Creation?

2. Creation: The Father’s Love Overflows

3. Salvation: The Son Shares What Is His

4. The Christian Life: The Spirit Beautifies

5. “Who Among the Gods Is Like You, O Lord?

Conclusion: No Other Choice

To start, this work is nothing short of extraordinary! It is has both a devotional aspect and powerful apologetic combined! The apologetic value of the book for Muslims and Arians is enormous.

From the Introduction we read:

“You see it in the Bible, where the Lord God of Israel, Baal, Dagon, Molech and Artemis are completely different. Or take, for example, how the Qur’an explicitly and sharply distinguishes Allah from the God described by Jesus:

“Say not ‘Trinity.’ Desist; it will be better for you: for God is one God. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son.” (Surah 4.1710).

“Say: ‘He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.’” (Surah 112).

“In other words, Allah is a single-person God. In no sense is he a Father (“he begets not”), and in no sense does he have a Son (“nor is he begotten”). He is one person, and not three. Allah, then, is an utterly different sort of being to the God who is Father, Son and Spirit. And it is not just incompatibly different numbers we are dealing with here: that difference, as we will see, is going to mean that Allah exists and functions in a completely different way from the Father, Son and Spirit. All that being the case, it would be madness to settle for any presupposed idea of God. Without being specific about which God is God, which God will we worship? Which God will we ever call others to worship? Given all the different preconceptions people have about “God,” it simply will not do for us to speak abstractly about some general “God.” And where would doing so leave us? If we content ourselves with being mere monotheists, and speak of God only in terms so vague they could apply to Allah as much as the Trinity, then we will never enjoy or share what is so fundamentally and delightfully different about Christianity.” (pp. 17, 18 introduction)

This short selection from the introduction is amplified and the implications developed and expanded many times over throughout the book.

For example, consider some more gems from this book in the next three quotes:

“Just so, the Father would not be the Father without his Son (whom he loves through the Spirit). And the Son would not be the Son without his Father. He has his very being from the Father. And so we see that the Father, Son and Spirit, while distinct persons, are absolutely inseparable from each other. Not confused, but undividable. They are who they are together. They always are together, and thus they always work together. That means that the Father is not “more” God than the Son or the Spirit, as if he had once existed or could exist without them. His very identity and being is about giving out his own fullness to the Son. He is inseparable from him. It also means there is no “God” behind and before Father, Son and Spirit.” (34)

“Therein lies the problem: how can a solitary God be eternally and essentially loving when love involves loving another? In the fourth century B.C., the Athenian philosopher Aristotle wrestled with a very similar question: how can God be eternally and essentially good when goodness involves being good to another? His answer was that God is, eternally, the uncaused cause. That is who God is. Therefore he must eternally cause the creation to exist, meaning that the universe is eternal. This way God can be truly and eternally good, for the universe eternally exists alongside him and eternally he gives his goodness to it. In other words, God is eternally self-giving and good because he is eternally self-giving and good to the universe. It was, as always with Aristotle, ingenious. However, once again it means that for God to be himself, he needs the world. He is, essentially, dependent on it to be who he is. And, even though technically “good,” Aristotle’s god is hardly kind or loving. He does not freely choose to create a world that he might bless; it is more that the universe just oozes out of hi.” (40-41)

“The seventeenth-century Puritan theologian John Owen wrote that the Father’s love for the Son is “the fountain and prototype of all love. . . . And all love in the creation was introduced from this fountain, to give a shadow and resemblance of it.”

Indeed, in the triune God is the love behind all love, the life behind all life, the music behind all music, the beauty behind all beauty and the joy behind all joy. In other words, in the triune God is a God we can heartily enjoy—and enjoy in and through his creation.” (62)

In closing:

From the final chapter:

“Who Among the Gods Is Like You, O Lord?”

“For the last two hundred years or so, atheism in the West has been marching forward with ever more confidence and power. Its cries have not only heartened the person on the street who would simply rather do without God and religion; they have also inspired a new, ultra-aggressive squad of “antitheists.” (109)

This final chapter along with Reeves’ closing comments are extremely valuable in dealing with atheistic mistaken beliefs about the triune God. Bibliophiles, this book is for you.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Nothing in us caused or merited this supreme act of love on God’s part!

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith can be ordered by clicking on the book title hyper link.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sanctification a Study in God’s Grace

Sanctification a Study in God’s Grace by Jack Kettler

In this study we will look at a biblical definition of sanctification, God’s part in it, and man’s responsibility. Various texts of Scripture will be considered. In addition to man, families, nations, places and objects can be sanctified.

We have looked previously at God’s justification of the believer. By way of introduction, we can say that sanctification begins with justification. And, while justification is a one-time act of God, sanctification is an ongoing process throughout the Christian’s life. As the Bereans of old in Acts 17:11, open up the Scriptures and see if these things are so.

What is the meaning of the word sanctification?

A modern dictionary definition of sanctify is: sanctified; sanctifying, transitive verb. 1: to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use: consecrate. 2: to free from sin: purify.

When looking at man and God’s gracious working it can be said:

Sanctification is: an ongoing inner transformation in which the Holy Spirit works to make the believer more and more like Christ in every way, including desires, thoughts and actions. To sanctify means to be set apart or consecrate for a holy use.

God has called believers to sanctification:

“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Believers are to sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Families are to be sanctified:

“So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments.” (Genesis 35:2)

God sanctified the nation of Israel:

“And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” (Ezekiel 37:28)

God sanctifies a Mountain:

“You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 19:12)

The Sabbath Day is sanctified:

“The seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” (Genesis 2:2)

The Tabernacle and its Utensils are sanctified:

“The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty everywhere, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass. All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass. And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.” (Exodus 27:18-20)

Every created thing is sanctified through the Word of God and prayer:

“The voice spoke to him a second time: ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’” (Acts 10:15)

Man’s responsibility in sanctification:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (XVI.2, 3) press the believer to remember that we need the empowering work of the Holy Spirit to succeed in our responsibility:

II. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

Now for a detailed word analysis of sanctification:

From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

SANCTIFICATION, SANCTIFY

A. Noun.

HAGIASMOS, “sanctification,” is used of (a) separation to God, 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; (b) the course of life befitting those so separated, 1 Thess. 4:3, 4, 7; Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 12:14.

“Sanctification is that relationship with God into which men enter by faith in Christ, Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 6:11, and to which their sole title is the death of Christ, Eph. 5:25, 26; Col. 1:22; Heb. 10:10, 29; 13:12. “Sanctification is also used in NT of the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. This sanctification is God’s will for the believer, 1 Thess. 4:3, and His purpose in calling him by the gospel, v. 7; it must be learned from God, v. 4, as He teaches it by His Word, John 17:17, 19, cf. Ps. 17:4; 119:9, and it must be pursued by the believer, earnestly and undeviatingly, 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 12:14. For the holy character, hagiosune, 1 Thess. 3:13, is not vicarious, i.e., it cannot be transferred or imputed, it is an individual possession, built up, little by little, as the result of obedience to the Word of God, and of following the example of Christ, Matt. 11:29; John 13:15; Eph. 4:20; Phil. 2:5, in the power of the Holy Spirit, Rom. 8:13; Eph. 3:16. “The Holy Spirit is the Agent in sanctification, Rom. 15:16; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; cf. 1 Cor. 6:11. The sanctification of the Spirit is associated with the choice, or election, of God; it is a Divine act preceding the acceptance of the Gospel by the individual.”*

For synonymous words see HOLINESS.

B. Verb.

HAGION, “to sanctify,” “is used of (a) the gold adorning the Temple and of the gift laid on the altar, Matt. 23:17, 19; (b) food, 1 Tim. 4:5; (c) the unbelieving spouse of a believer, 1 Cor. 7:14; (d) the ceremonial cleansing of the Israelites, Heb. 9:13; (e) the Father’s Name, Luke 11:2; (f) the consecration of the Son by the Father, John 10:36; (g) the Lord Jesus devoting Himself to the redemption of His people, John 17:19; (h) the setting apart of the believer for God, Acts 20:32; cf. Rom. 15:16; (i) the effect on the believer of the Death of Christ, Heb. 10:10, said of God, and 2:11; 13:12, said of the Lord Jesus; (j) the separation of the believer from the world in his behavior—by the Father through the Word, John 17:17, 19; (k) the believer who turns away from such things as dishonor God and His gospel, 2 Tim. 2:21; (l) the acknowledgment of the Lordship of Christ, 1 Pet. 3:15. “Since every believer is sanctified in Christ Jesus, 1 Cor. 1:2, cf. Heb. 10:10, a common NT designation of all believers is ‘saints,’ hagioi, i.e., ‘sanctified’ or ‘holy ones.’ Thus sainthood, or sanctification, is not an attainment, it is the state into which God, in grace, calls sinful men, and in which they begin their course as Christians, Col. 3:12; Heb. 3:1.”† (1)

The next verse encapsulates the idea of ongoing or progressive sanctification culminating in glorification in heaven:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers displays an edifying elucidation of this passage:

(18) But we all, with open face.—Better, And we all, with unveiled face.—The relation of this sentence to the foregoing is one of sequence and not of contrast, and it is obviously important to maintain in the English, as in the Greek, the continuity of allusive thought involved in the use of the same words as in 2Corinthians 3:14. “We,” says the Apostle, after the parenthesis of 2Corinthians 3:17, “are free, and therefore we have no need to cover our faces, as slaves do before the presence of a great king. There is no veil over our hearts, and therefore none over the eyes with which we exercise our faculty of spiritual vision. We are as Moses was when he stood before the Lord with the veil withdrawn.” If the Tallith were in use at this time in the synagogues of the Jews, there might also be a reference to the contrast between that ceremonial usage and the practice of Christian assemblies. (Comp. 1Corinthians 11:7; but see Note on 2Corinthians 3:15.)

Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord.—The Greek participle which answers to the first five words belongs to a verb derived from the Greek for “mirror” (identical in meaning, though not in form, with that of 1Corinthians 13:12). The word is not a common word, and St. Paul obviously had some special reason for choosing it, instead of the more familiar words, “seeing,” “beholding,” “gazing stedfastly;” and it is accordingly important to ascertain its meaning. There is no doubt that the active voice signifies to “make a reflection in a mirror.” There is as little doubt that the middle voice signifies to look at one’s self in a mirror. Thus Socrates advised drunkards and the young to “look at themselves in a mirror,” that they might learn the disturbing effects of passion (Diog. Laert. ii. 33; iii. 39). This meaning, however, is inapplicable here; and the writings of Philo, who in one passage (de Migr. Abrah. p. 403) uses it in this sense of the priests who saw their faces in the polished brass of the lavers of purification, supply an instance of its use with a more appropriate meaning. Paraphrasing the prayer of Moses in Exodus 33:18, he makes him say: “Let me not behold Thy form (idea) mirrored (using the very word which we find here) in any created thing, but in Thee, the very God” (2 Allegor. p. 79). And this is obviously the force of the word here. The sequence of thought is, it is believed, this:—St. Paul was about to contrast the veiled vision of Israel with the unveiled gaze of the disciples of Christ; but he remembers what he had said in 1Corinthians 13:12 as to the limitation of our present knowledge, and therefore, instead of using the more common word, which would convey the thought of a fuller knowledge, falls back upon the unusual word, which exactly expresses the same thought as that passage had expressed. “We behold the glory of the Lord, of the Jehovah of the Old Testament, but it is not, as yet, face to face, but as mirrored in the person of Christ.” The following words, however, show that the word suggested yet another thought to him. When we see the sun as reflected in a polished mirror of brass or silver, the light illumines us: we are, as it were, transfigured by it and reflect its brightness. That this meaning lies in the word itself cannot, it is true, be proved, and it is, perhaps, hardly compatible with the other meaning which we have assigned to it; but it is perfectly conceivable that the word should suggest the fact, and the fact be looked on as a parable.

Are changed into the same image.—Literally, are being transfigured into the same image. The verb is the same (metemorphôthè) as that used in the account of our Lord’s transfiguration in Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2; and it may be noted that it is used of the transformation (a metamorphosis more wondrous than any poet had dreamt of) of the Christian into the likeness of Christ in the nearly contemporary passage (Romans 12:2). The thought is identical with that of Romans 8:29: “Conformed to the likeness” (or image) “of His Son.” We see God mirrored in Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and as we gaze, with our face unveiled, on that mirror, a change comes over us. The image of the old evil Adam-nature (1Corinthians 15:49) becomes less distinct, and the image of the new man, after the likeness of Christ, takes its place. We “faintly give back what we adore,” and man, in his measure and degree, becomes, as he was meant to be at his creation, like Christ, “the image of the invisible God.” Human thought has, we may well believe, never pictured what in simple phrase we describe as growth in grace, the stages of progressive sanctification, in the language of a nobler poetry.

From glory to glory.—This mode of expressing completeness is characteristic of St. Paul, as in Romans 1:17, “from faith to faith “; 2Corinthians 2:16, “of death to death.” The thought conveyed is less that of passing from one stage of glory to another than the idea that this transfiguring process, which begins with glory, will find its consummation also in glory. The glory hereafter will be the crown of the glory here. The beatific vision will be possible only for those who have been thus transfigured. “We know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1John 3:2).

Even as by the Spirit of the Lord.—The Greek presents the words in a form which admits of three possible renderings. (1) That of the English version; (2) that in the margin, “as of the Lord the Spirit”; (3) as of the Lord of the Spirit. The exceptional order in which the two words stand, which must be thought as adopted with a purpose, is in favour of (2) and (3) rather than of (1), and the fact that the writer had just dictated the words “the Lord is the Spirit” in favour of (2) rather than (3). The form of speech is encompassed with the same difficulties as before, but the leading thought is clear: “The process of transformation originates with the Lord (i.e., with Christ), but it is with Him, not ‘after the flesh’ as a mere teacher and prophet (2Corinthians 5:16), not as the mere giver of another code of ethics, another ‘letter’ or writing, but as a spiritual power and presence, working upon our spirits. In the more technical language of developed theology, it is through the Holy Spirit that the Lord, the Christ, makes His presence manifest to our human spirit.” (Comp. Notes on John 14:22-26.) (2)

The doctrine of sanctification from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Note: The 1643-1648 Westminster Assembly was called by the Puritan Parliament in England. It was to lay the doctrinal foundation for the Church of England. The Confession and Catechisms became the subordinate standards of the Church of Scotland. The Westminster Confession of Faith was modified and embraced by Congregationalists in England, in their Savoy Declaration (1658).

Similarly, the Baptists of England, produced the London Baptist Confession (1689). The Westminster Confession of Faith and derived confessions remain principal secondary doctrinal standards for Protestants and Evangelicals everywhere to this day. I like good Bible teachers. The theologians of the Westminster Assembly were the best Bible teachers of their day and any day for that matter. To appreciate the points of the confession on sanctification, you need to work through the Scriptural proofs to see if these things are so.

Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XIII

Of Sanctification:

I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection,[1] by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them:[2] the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,[3] and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified;[4] and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,[5] to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.[6]

II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; [7] yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; [8] whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. [9]

III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail;[10] yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome;[11] and so, the saints grow in grace,[12] perfecting holiness in the fear of God.[13]

Scriptural proofs:

[1] 1CO 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. ACT 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. PHI 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; ROM 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

[2] JOH 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. EPH 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. 2TH 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

[3] ROM 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

[4] GAL 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. ROM 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

[5] COL 1:11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. EPH 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

[6] 2CO 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. HEB 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

[7] 1TH 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[8] 1JO 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ROM 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. PHI 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

[9] GAL 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 1PE 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.

[10] ROM 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

[11] ROM 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 1JO 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. EPH 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

[12] 2PE 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2CO 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

[13] 2CO 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

In closing:

Sanctification follows justification and likewise, is a gracious gift of God. In justification our sins are declared completely forgiven in Christ based upon His Work! Justification is a declared gracious one time act. In distinction, sanctification is a process by which the Holy Spirit changes us to be more like Christ. True sanctification is impossible apart from the atoning work of Christ on the cross because only after our sins are forgiven and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit can we begin to lead a holy life.

“And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 989-990.

2. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 2 Corinthians, Vol.2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 374.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

J. C. Ryle: Justification and Sanctification: How Do They Differ?

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sanct_just_ryle.html

Sanctification by Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)

http://web.archive.org/web/20031003205743/http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/aksanctif.htm

Sanctification by John Bunyan

http://thirdmill.org/newfiles/joh_bunyan/joh_bunyan.Sanctification.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Video for The Religion that started in a Hat

http://wp2.hillcrestmedia.com/jack-kettler/pdf/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Adoption, a study in God’s Grace

Adoption, a study in God’s Grace by Jack Kettler

In this study on adoption, we will look at the Scriptures, commentary, expository and confessional sources to gain an understanding of adoption and its related concepts. There are important theological ideas that flow from our gracious adoption by God.

To begin with, because of our adoption we are sons and daughters or children of God, and joint heirs with Christ. The goal of this study, is as always, to increase our praise and magnification of God’s glory!

Introductory definition of Adoption:

An act of God whereby he makes believers members of his family and gives them all the privileges of children of God.*

From Scripture:

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5-6)

This passage from Ephesians sets the stage for our understanding of adoption and its related teachings about sonship with Christ, being joint heirs and children of the living God.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary introduces us to the foundation or cause of the believer’s adoption:

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children; having appointed us unto a state of sonship and right to glory. This seems to be more than the former, a greater thing to be the sons of God, and heirs of heaven, than to be holy.

By Jesus Christ; as Mediator, and Head of the elect, and the foundation of all spiritual blessings vouchsafed them, and so of this relation into which they are brought, by being united to him. The adopted children come into that state by the intervention of the natural Son.

To himself; either:

1. In himself, i.e. looking no farther than to himself for the cause of and motive to his adopting them. Or:

2. To himself, (according to our translation), i.e. to God. Or, rather:

3. For himself (as the Syriac renders it); God would have the honour of having many adopted children that shall all call him Father.

According to the good pleasure of his will; his sovereign grace and good will, as the only spring from which predestination issued, God being moved to it by nothing out [side] of himself.” (1)

As Pool notes, this first passage from Ephesians that we are looking at, deals with the cause of adoption. The cause is not within ourselves. We are adopted as heirs by grace. If the cause is in us in any way, then there is ground for false boasting. (See Romans 3:27-28) Boasting is excluded by the law of faith. And faith is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8.

Additional Scriptures:

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:14-17)

“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

“And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (Romans 9:26)

These passages from Romans speak of believers being sons of God, our adoption as children of God and joint heirs with Christ.

“Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:7)

The expression “heir of God” underscores our relationship to God the Father, being His children

MacLaren’s Expositions from Romans illuminates our understanding of important terminology that we see in Scripture:

SONS AND HEIRS

Romans 8:17.

“God Himself is His greatest gift. The loftiest blessing which we can receive is that we should be heirs, possessors of God. There is a sublime and wonderful mutual possession of which Scripture speaks much wherein the Lord is the inheritance of Israel, and Israel is the inheritance of the Lord. ‘The Lord hath taken you to be to Him a people of inheritance,’ says Moses; ‘Ye are a people for a possession,’ says Peter. And, on the other hand, ‘The Lord is the portion of my inheritance,’ says David; ‘Ye are heirs of God,’ echoes Paul. On earth and in heaven the heritage of the children of the Lord is God Himself, inasmuch as He is with them for their delight, in them to make them ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ and for them in all His attributes and actions.

This being clearly understood at the outset, we shall be prepared to follow the Apostle’s course of thought while he points out the conditions upon which the possession of that inheritance depends. It is children of God who are heirs of God. It is by union with Christ Jesus, the Son, to whom the inheritance belongs, that they who believe on His name receive power to become the sons of God, and with that power the possession of the inheritance. Thus, then, in this condensed utterance of the text there appear a series of thoughts which may perhaps be more fully unfolded in some such manner as the following, that there is no inheritance without sonship, that there is no sonship without a spiritual birth, that there is no spiritual birth without Christ, and that there is no Christ for us without faith.” (2)

In Galatians, the apostle re-emphasizes:

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

In the Psalms we see another aspect of the Father’s graciousness:

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.” (Psalms 103:13)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains more about the Father and His compassion for them that fear Him:

“Like as a father pitieth his children – Hebrew, “Like the compassion of a father for his children.” See the notes at Matthew 7:7-11. God often compares himself with a father, and it is by carrying out our ideas of what enters into the parental character that we get our best conceptions of the character of God. See the notes at Matthew 6:9. That which is referred to here, is the natural affection of the parent for the child; the tender love which is borne by the parent for his offspring; the disposition to care for its needs; the readiness to forgive when an offence has been committed. Compare Luke 15:22-24. Such, in an infinitely higher degree, is the compassion – the kindness – which God has for those that love him.

So the Lord pitieth them that fear him – He has compassion on them. He exercises toward them the paternal feeling.” (3)

Accompanying Scriptures:

“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)

Paul in Philippians, speaks of our calling as sons of God to be witnesses of His grace by being “lights in the world.”

“That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7)

This next passage from 1st John certainly encapsulates or summarizes the previous passages of Scripture we have consulted so far as a summary:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)

Digging Deeper into the Greek:

Adoption from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

HUIOTHESI, huiothesia from huios, a son,” and thesis, “a placing,” akin to tithemi, “to place,” signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong. The word is used by the Apostle Paul only.

In Romans 8:15, believers are said to have received “the Spirit of adoption,” that is, the Holy Spirit who, given as the Firstfruits of all that is to be theirs, produces in them the realization of sonship and the attitude belonging to sons. In Galatians 4:5 they are said to receive “the adoption of sons,” i.e., sonship bestowed in distinction from a relationship consequent merely upon birth; here two contrasts are presented,

(1) between the sonship of the believer and the unoriginated sonship of Christ,

(2) between the freedom enjoyed by the believer and bondage, whether of Gentile natural condition, or of Israel under the Law. In Ephesians 1:5 they are said to have been foreordained unto “adoption as sons” through Jesus Christ, RV; the AV, “adoption of children” is a mistranslation and misleading. God does not “adopt” believers as children; they are begotten as such by His Holy Spirit through faith. “Adoption” is a term involving the dignity of the relationship of believers as sons; it is not a putting into the family by spiritual birth, but a putting into the position of sons. In Romans 8:23 the “adoption” of the believer is set forth as still future, as it there includes the redemption of the body, when the living will be changed and those who have fallen asleep will be raised. In Romans 9:4 “adoption” is spoken of as belonging to Israel, in accordance with the statement in Exodus 4:12, “Israel is My Son.” Cp. Hosea 11:1. Israel was brought into a special relation with God, a collective relationship, not enjoyed by other nations, Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 31:9, etc. (4)

An exquisite commentary on Adoption from Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray:

“Adoption is an act of God’s grace distinct from and additional to the other acts of grace involved in the application of redemption. It might seem quite unnecessary to say this. Does not the term itself and the specific meaning which attaches to it clearly imply its distinctiveness? Yet it is not superfluous to emphasize the fact that it is a distinct act carrying with it its own peculiar privileges. It is particularly important to remember that it is not the same as justification or regeneration. Too frequently it has been regarded as simply an aspect of justification or as another way of stating the privilege conferred by regeneration. It is much more than either or both of these acts of grace….

Adoption, as the term clearly implies, is an act of transfer from an alien family into the family of God himself. This is surely the apex of grace and privilege. We would not dare to conceive of such grace far less to claim it apart from God’s own revelation and assurance. It staggers imagination because of its amazing condescension and love. The Spirit alone could be the seal of it in our hearts. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9, 10). It is only as there is the conjunction of the witness of revelation and the inward witness of the Spirit in our hearts that we are able to scale this pinnacle of faith and say with filial confidence and love, Abba Father.

Adoption is concerned with the fatherhood of God in relation to men. When we think of God’s fatherhood it is necessary to make certain distinctions. There is, first of all, God’s fatherhood which is exclusively trinitarian, the fatherhood of the Father, the first person of the trinity, in relation to the Son, the second person. This applies only to God the Father in his eternal and necessary relation to the Son and to the Son alone. It is unique and exclusive. No one else, not even the Holy Spirit, is the Son in this sense. It does not apply to angels or men. In modern theology it is sometimes said that men by adoption come to share in Christ’s Sonship and thus enter into the divine life of the trinity. This is grave confusion and error. The eternal Son of God is the only-begotten and no one shares in his Sonship, just as God the Father is not the Father of any other in the sense in which he is the Father of the only-begotten and eternal Son.” (5)

Note: John Murray was a founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, where he taught for many years. His books include, the four-volume Collected Writings, a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Principles of Conduct, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, Baptism, and Divorce.

Now for a final summary on adoption from the Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter Catechism.

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XII. Of Adoption

Section 1.) All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption:(1) by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God;(2) have His name put upon them,(3) receive the Spirit of adoption;(4) have access to the throne of grace with boldness;(5) are enabled to cry, Abba, Father;(6) are pitied,(7) protected,(8) provided for,(9) and chastened by Him as by a Father;(10) yet never cast off,(11) but sealed to the day of redemption,(12) and inherit the promises,(13) as heirs of everlasting salvation.(14)

(1) Eph 1:5; Gal 4:4, 5. (2) Ro 8:17; Jn 1:12. (3) Jer 14:9; 2Co 6:18; Rev 3:12. (4) Ro 8:15. (5) Eph 3:12; Ro 5:2. (6) Gal 4:6. (7) Ps 103:13. (8) Pr 14:26. (9) Mt 6:30, 32; 1Pe 5:7. (10) Heb 12:6. (11) La 3:31. (12) Eph 4:30. (13) Heb 6:12. (14) 1Pe 1:3, 4; Heb 1:14.

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 34

Q: What is adoption?

A: Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, (1) whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God. (2)

(1) 1 John 3:1. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

(2) John 1:12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Romans 8:17. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Closing comments:

The goal of this study is to help us magnify the Lord God for his marvelous grace that made us children of God through no merit of our own. It is my prayer that this goal has been attained.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, reprinted, 1985) p. 663.

2. Alexander MacLaren, MacLaren’s Expositions of the Holy Scriptures, Romans, Vol. 13, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Publishing, reprinted 1988), p. 133.

3. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Psalms, p. 1614.

4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 23-24.

5. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans. 1955), pp. 132, 134.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at: Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

Adoption by Robery Murray M’Cheyne https://www.monergism.com/adoption

The Work of the Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption by James Buchanan https://www.monergism.com/work-spirit-spirit-adoption

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized