William Guthrie: What does “faith in Christ” mean?

19 12 2011

William Guthrie was a minister of Fenwick, Ayrshire, from 1650-1664. Guthrie was unfortunately forced from his church due to the Act of Uniformity (when the CofE lost 2000 of its best and brightest ministers). In his time he was considered one of the greatest practical preachers in Scotland. All of Guthrie’s teaching and pastoral experience was poured into one book, “The Christian’s Great Interest” (read it online here, or buy it here). Having just finished it I thought I would share with you a few of the more profound things that Guthrie had to say on “faith in Christ,” which for us has become an all together too familiar notion. All quotations are taken from the Puritan Paperbacks edt 2002 courtesy of the Banner of Truth Trust.

“Whosoever receive Christ are justly reputed the children of God- ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God’ (John 1.12); but I have received Christ in all the ways which the word there can import: for I am pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, I agree to the terms, I welcome offer of Christ in all of his offices, as a King to rule over me, a Pries to offer sacrifice and intercede for me, a Prophet to teach me; I lay out my heart for Him and towards Him, resting on Him as I am able. What else can be meant by the word RECEIVING? Therefore may I say, and conclude plainly and warrantably, I am justly to reckon myself God’s child, according to the aforesaid scripture, which cannot fail.” pg 25

“For the better understanding of this, consider that justifying faith is not to believe that I am elected, or to believe that God loveth me, or that Christ died for me, or the like: these things are indeed very difficult, and almost impossible to be attained at the first by those who are very serious; whilst natural atheists and deluded hypocrites find no difficulty in asserting all those things: I say, true justifying faith is not any of the aforesaid things; neither is it simply believing of any sentence is written, or that can be thought about upon. I grant, he that believeth on Christ Jesus believeth what God hath said concerning man’s sinful, miserable condition by nature; and he believeth that to be true, that ‘there is life in the Son, who was slain , and is risen again from the dead,’ etc: but none of these, nor the believing of many such truths, evinces justifying faith, or that believing on the Son of God spoken of in Scripture; for then it were simply an act of the understanding; but true justifying faith, which we now seek after, as a good mark of an interest in Christ, is chiefly and principally an act or work of the heart and will; having presupposed sundry things about truth in understanding- ‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.’ (Rom 10.10). And although it seem (verse 9), that a man is saved upon condition that he believes this truth, namely, that ‘God raised Christ from the dead,’ yet we must understand another thing there, and verse 10, than the believing the truth of that proposition; for besides that all devils have that faith, whereby they believe that God raised Christ from the dead; so the Scripture hath clearly resolved justifying faith into the receiving of Christ: ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.’ (John 1.12). The receiving of Christ is there explained to be the believing on His name. It is also called a staying on the Lord (Isa 26.3) a trusting in God, often mentioned in the Psalms, and the word is a leaning on Him. It is a believing on Christ: ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him who He hath sent (John 6.29). pg 62

“There is a communion between husband and wife, whereby they have a special interest in each other’s persons, goods, concerns: so it is here. There is such a communion with God; He is our God, and all things are ours, because He is ours. This communion with God all true believers have at all times, as we shall show afterwards. I grant there is an actual improvement of that communion, whereby men do boldly approach unto God and converse with Him as their God with holy familiarity; especially in worship, when the soul doth converse with a living God, partaking of the divine nature, growing like unto Him, and sweetly traveling through His attributes, and, with some confidence of interest, viewing these things as the man’s own goods and property: this we call communion of God” pg 99

‘No man can come to Me, except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him’ (John 6.44); yet the Lord hath left it as a duty upon people who hear this gospel, to close with His offer of salvation through Christ Jesus, as if it were in their power to do it; and the Lord, through these commands and exhortations, wherein He obliged men to the thing, doth convey life and strength to the elect, and doth therein convey the new heart unto them, which pointeth kindly towards this new device of saving sinners, and towards Christ in His covenant relations; for it is the Lord’s mind, in these commands and invitations, to put people on some duty, with which He useth to concur for accomplishing that business between Him and them: so then, it is a coming on our part, and yet a drawing on his part; ‘No man can come to Me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.’ (John 6.44). It is a drawing on His part, and a running on our part- ‘Draw me, we will run after Thee.’ (Cant 1.4). It is an approaching on our part, and yet a ‘choosing and causing ot aproach’ on His part (Ps 65.4). It is a believing or receiving on our part- ‘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’; and yet it is given to us to believe’ (John 1.12; Phil 1.29).” pg 121

Spurgeon Part I: How to use the promises of God

19 12 2011

Perhaps one day I will get tired of bragging on the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. But for now I’m content to get you reading him! Perhaps some of you know I make it a discipline of mine to read one Spurgeon sermon a week. I found this most recent sermon “Songs in the Night” to be tremendously helpful. Simply posting an excerpt like I usually do will not be enough. Rather, I will post excerpts in three parts and offer my spin and why I personally found them helpful. I hope you enjoy!

The first part of this three part series I would like to focus on an excerpt from Spurgeon’s sermons that illustrates two important points.

  1. You must know scripture well enough to know the promises of God in the Old and New Testaments
  2. You must know the promises well enough that you can apply them to your life in times of need

Here is the excerpt from Spurgeon:

It is marvelous, brethren, how one sweet word of God will make whole songs for Christians. One word of God is like a piece of gold, and the Christian is the gold-beater, and he can hammer that promise out for whole weeks. I can say myself, I have lived on one promise for weeks, and want no other. I want just simply to hammer that promise out into gold-leaf, and plate my whole existence with joy from it.

The topic of Spurgeon’s sermon was the “night of the soul”.  The night of the soul is essentially times of depression, pain, illness, grief etc.  Spurgeon’s sermon seeks to give believers comfort in these difficult times.  So what is his advice?  Read the word!  Know the promises!  Apply them to your life!  The promises he says, are “like a piece of Gold.”  And of course anyone who knows the promises found in the Gospel cherishes them as gold.  Let me list a few wonderful promises found in the New Testament:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5.4)

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45)

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become  in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4.13-14)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in yourheart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10.9)

To these promises you can add literally hundreds more, but for time’s sake let’s just try and apply Spureon’s advice to one of these verses.  Spurgeon says that they are like gold, but it is not enough simply to know them.  Spurgeon advises that we must “hammer them out” like a “gold beater” in order to “plate our whole existence with joy from it.”  So how does this work?  Let’s take the promise from Matt 5.4:  ”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Now Spurgeon rightly says that we could hammer out this promise for weeks and that is absolutely true.  That are many ways this scripture from Matthew could be applied to our life.  But let’s just have a very quick and simple application.

  1. To whom is this promise addressed?  To those who mourn.
  2. To be in mourning is not an enviable position, nevertheless the Lord calls those who mourn blessed. Therefore, when you and I are in mourning we do not look at our grief the way the world looks at grief.  Rather, by faith we look at our grief with hope for the Lord has called us blessed.
  3. Why are they blessed?  Because they shall be comforted.  In this life many unfortunate things will happen to us, and most of the time thankfully we can recover from these things.  However on occasion certain things will happen which we will have a difficult time ever recovering from.  As a pastor, I have sat with families in the midst of their grief and they were inconsolable.  However the promise is that they will be consoled, and at that by the Lord.
  4. Note that this is not a present, nor a timely solution to grief.  Rather, it is the promise of a future comfort.  So how do we “hammer out” this gold?  We allow the hope and joy of future comfort to sustain us in our current grief.

I cannot emphasize the sheer importance for your joy and faith that you read scripture regularly and know it deeply.  If you do not know scripture then you will not know the promises in scripture.  If you do not know the promises you will not be able to apply them to your life.  If you cannot apply them to your life you will have no lasting comfort in sin, sorrow, pain, or despair.  So you see my chief concern here is not one of legalism, but rather for you own good and joy you should spend time in God’s word “hammering out” his promises to your benefit.

Calvin: On the distinction between faith and repentance

19 12 2011

We must first note the distinction of faith and repentance, which some do falsely and unskillfully confound, saying, that repentance is a part of faith. I grant, indeed, that they cannot be separate; because God doth illuminate no man with the Spirit of faith whom he doth not also regenerate unto newness of life. Yet they must needs be distinguished, as Paul doth in this place. For repentance is a turning unto God, when we frame ourselves and all our life to obey him; but faith is a receiving of the grace offered us in Christ. For all religion tendeth to this end, that, embracing holiness and righteousness, we serve the Lord purely, also that we seek no part of our salvation anywhere else save only at his hands, and that we seek salvation in Christ alone. Therefore, the doctrine of repentance containeth a rule of good life; it requireth the denial of ourselves, the mortifying of our flesh, and meditating upon the heavenly life. But because we be all naturally corrupt, strangers from righteousness, and turned away from God himself. Again, because we fly from God, because we know that he is displeased with us, the means, as well to obtain free reconciliation as newness of life, must be set before us.

Therefore, unless faith be added, it is in vain to speak of repentance; yea, those teachers of repentance who, neglecting faith, stand only upon the framing of life, and precepts of good works, differ nothing, or very little from profane philosophers. They teach how men must live; but, forasmuch as they leave men in their nature, there can no bettering be hoped for thence, until they invite those who are lost unto hope of salvation; until they quicken the dead, promising forgiveness of sins; until they show that God doth, by his free adoption, take those for his children who were before bond-slaves of Satan; until they teach that the Spirit of regeneration must be begged at the hands of the heavenly Father, that we must draw godliness, righteousness, and goodness, from him who is the fountain of all good things. And hereupon followeth calling upon God, which is the chiefest thing in the worship of God.

We see now how that repentance and faith are so linked together that they cannot be separate. For it is faith which reconcileth God to us, not only that he may be favorable unto us, by acquitting us of the guiltiness of death, by not imputing to us our sins, but also that by purging the filthiness of our flesh by his Spirit, he may fashion us again after his own image. He doth not, therefore, name repentance in the former place, as if it did wholly go before faith, forasmuch as a part thereof proceedeth from faith, and is an effect thereof; but because the beginning of repentance is a preparation unto faith. I call the displeasing of ourselves the beginning, which doth enforce us, after we be thoroughly touched with the fear of the wrath of God, to seek some remedy.

Faith toward Christ. It is not without cause that the Scripture doth everywhere make Christ the mark whereat our faith must aim, and as they say commonly, set him before us as the object. For the majesty of God is of itself higher than that men can climb thereunto. Therefore, unless Christ come between, all our senses do vanish away in seeking God. Again, inasmuch as he is the Judge of the world, it must needs be that the beholding of him without Christ shall make us afraid. But God doth not only represent himself unto us in Christ’s image, but also refresh us with his Fatherly favor, and by all means restore us to life. For there is no part of our salvation which may not be found in Christ. By the sacrifice of his death he hath purged our sins; he hath suffered the punishment that he might acquit us; he hath made us clean by his blood; by his obedience he hath appeased his Father’s wrath; by his resurrection he hath purchased righteousness for us. No marvel, therefore, if we said, that faith must be fixed in the beholding of Christ.

Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. XIX, pg 246-247

Saved by Faith…or Saved by Christ?

19 12 2011

“Faith is not our physician; it only brings us to the Physician. It is not even our medicine; it only administers the medicine, divinely prepared by Him who “healeth all our diseases.” In all our believing, let us remember God’s word to Israel: “I am Jehovah, that healeth thee” (Exod. 14:26). Our faith is but our touching Jesus; and what is even this, in reality, but His touching us?

Faith is not our saviour. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Saviour is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God. “

– Not Faith but Christ, Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

read it all:  http://www.the-highway.com/Faith_Bonar.html