WISDOM: GOD’S TWOFOLD WILL IS ONE

Hey everyone! How are you? I hope all is well!

Here we are continuing our discussion on J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology.

Understanding basic theological truths is important in the life of the believer. Again I reiterate what J.I Packer says,

theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. “

WISDOM

GOD’S TWOFOLD WILL IS ONE

. . . Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.

DANIEL 2:20

Wisdom in Scripture means choosing the best and noblest end at which to aim, along with the most appropriate and effective means to it. Human wisdom is displayed in the Old Testament Wisdom books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, showing how to suffer, pray, live, enjoy, and love, respectively) and in James’s letter (enforcing consistent Christian behavior): it means making the “fear” of God—that is, reverent worship and service of him—one’s goal (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Eccles. 12:13) and cultivating prudence, fortitude, forbearance, and zeal as means to it.

God’s wisdom is seen in his works of creation, preservation, and redemption: it is his choice of his own glory as his goal (Ps. 46:10; Isa. 42:8; 48:11), and his decision to achieve it first by creating a marvelous variety of things and people (Ps. 104:24; Prov. 3:19-20), second by kindly providences of all sorts (Ps. 145:13-16; Acts 14:17), and third by the redemptive “wisdom” of “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:18–2:16) and the resultant world church (Eph. 3:10).

The outworking of God’s wisdom involves the expression of his will in both senses that that phrase bears. In the first and fundamental sense, God’s will is his decision, or decree, about what shall happen—“his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.7). This is God’s will of events, referred to in Ephesians 1:11. In the second and secondary sense, the will of God is his command, that is, his instruction, given in Scripture, as to how people should and should not behave: it is sometimes called his will of precept (see Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:17; Col. 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:3-6). Some of its requirements are rooted in his holy character, which we are to imitate: such are the principles of the Decalogue and the two great commandments (Exod. 20:1-17; Matt. 22:37-40; cf. Eph. 4:32–5:2). Some of its requirements spring simply from the divine institution: such were circumcision and the Old Testament sacrificial and purity laws, and such are baptism and the Lord’s Supper today. But all bind the conscience alike, and God’s plan of events already includes the “good works” of obedience that those who believe will perform (Eph. 2:10).

It is sometimes hard to believe that costly obedience, putting us at a disadvantage in the world (as loyal obedience to God often does), is part of a predestined plan for furthering both God’s glory and our own good (Rom. 8:28). But we are to glorify God by believing that it is so, and that one day we shall see it to be so; for his wisdom is supreme and never fails. Making known his will of precept, and governing the responses of human free agency to it, is one means whereby God accomplishes his will of events, even when the response is one of unbelief and disobedience. Paul illustrates this when he tells the Romans that Israel’s unbelief has its place in God’s plan for advancing the gospel (Rom. 11:11-15, 25-32): a realization that prompts the cry: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom … of God!… To him be the glory for ever! Amen” (vv. 33, 36). Let that be our cry too.

Source: Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

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Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!

Kevin Nunez

GOODNESS: GOD IS LOVE

Hey everyone! How are you? I hope all is well!

Here we are continuing our discussion on J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology.

Understanding basic theological truths is important in the life of the believer. Again I reiterate what J.I Packer says,

theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. “

GOODNESS

GOD IS LOVE

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

PSALM 136:1

The statement “God is love” is often explained in terms of (a) the revelation, given through the life and teaching of Christ, of the endless life of the triune God as one of mutual affection and honor (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 3:35; 14:31; 16:13-14; 17:1-5, 22-26), linked with (b) the recognition that God made angels and humans to glorify their Maker in sharing the joyful give-and-take of this divine life according to their own creaturely mode. But, true as this seems to be, when John says “God is love” (1 John 4:8), what he means (as he goes on to explain) is that the Father through Christ has actually saved us formerly lost sinners who now believe.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God”—we didn’t—“but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”

1 John 4:9-10

As always in the New Testament, “us” as the objects and beneficiaries of redeeming love means “us who believe.” Neither here nor elsewhere does “we” or “us” refer to every individual belonging to the human race. New Testament teaching on redemption is particularistic throughout, and when “the world” is said to be loved and redeemed (John 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 John 2:2), the reference is to the great number of God’s elect scattered worldwide throughout the ungodly human community (cf. John 10:16; 11:52-53), not to each and every person who did, does, or shall exist. If this were not so, John and Paul would be contradicting things that they say elsewhere.

This sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness (Ps. 100:5; Mark 10:18), that is, the glorious kindness and generosity that touches all his creatures (Ps. 145:9, 15-16) and that ought to lead all sinners to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Other aspects of this goodness are the mercy or compassion or pity that shows kindness to persons in distress by rescuing them out of trouble (Pss. 107, 136) and the long-suffering, forbearance, and slowness to anger that continues to show kindness toward persons who have persisted in sinning (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 78:38; John 3:10–4:11; Rom. 9:22; 2 Pet. 3:9). The supreme expression of God’s goodness is still, however, the amazing grace and inexpressible love that shows kindness by saving sinners who deserve only condemnation: saving them, moreover, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary (Rom. 3:22-24; 5:5-8; 8:32-39; Eph. 2:1-10; 3:14-18; 5:25-27).

God’s faithfulness to his purposes, promises, and people is a further aspect of his goodness and praiseworthiness. Humans lie and break their word; God does neither.

In the worst of times it can still be said: “His compassions never fail.… Great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23; Ps. 36:5; cf. Ps. 89, especially vv. 1-2, 14, 24, 33, 37, 49).

Though God’s ways of expressing his faithfulness are sometimes unexpected and bewildering, looking indeed to the casual observer and in the short term more like unfaithfulness, the final testimony of those who walk with God through life’s ups and downs is that “every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Josh. 23:14-15).

God’s fidelity, along with the other aspects of his gracious goodness as set forth in his Word, is always solid ground on which to rest our faith and hope.

Source: Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

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Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!

Kevin Nunez

HOLINESS: GOD IS LIGHT

Hey everyone! How are you? I hope all is well!

Here we are continuing our discussion on J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology.

Understanding basic theological truths is important in the life of the believer. Again I reiterate what J.I Packer says,

theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. “

HOLINESS

GOD IS LIGHT

I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.…

LEVITICUS 11:44

When Scripture calls God, or individual persons of the Godhead, “holy” (as it often does: Lev. 11:44-45; Josh. 24:19; Isa. 2:2; Ps. 99:9; Isa. 1:4; 6:3; 41:14, 16, 20; 57:15; Ezek. 39:7; Amos 4:2; John 17:11; Acts 5:3-4, 32; Rev. 15:4), the word signifies everything about God that sets him apart from us and makes him an object of awe, adoration, and dread to us. It covers all aspects of his transcendent greatness and moral perfection and thus is an attribute of all his attributes, pointing to the “Godness” of God at every point. Every facet of God’s nature and every aspect of his character may properly be spoken of as holy, just because it is his. The core of the concept, however, is God’s purity, which cannot tolerate any form of sin (Hab. 1:13) and thus calls sinners to constant self-abasement in his presence (Isa. 6:5).

Justice, which means doing in all circumstances things that are right, is one expression of God’s holiness. God displays his justice as legislator and judge, and also as promise-keeper and pardoner of sin. His moral law, requiring behavior that matches his own, is “holy, righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). He judges justly, according to actual desert (Gen. 18:25; Pss. 7:11; 96:13; Acts 17:31). His “wrath,” that is, his active judicial hostility to sin, is wholly just in its manifestations (Rom. 2:5-16), and his particular “judgments” (retributive punishments) are glorious and praiseworthy (Rev. 16:5, 7; 19:1-4). Whenever God fulfills his covenant commitment by acting to save his people, it is a gesture of “righteousness,” that is, justice (Isa. 51:5-6; 56:1; 63:1; 1 John 1:9). When God justifies sinners through faith in Christ, he does so on the basis of justice done, that is, the punishment of our sins in the person of Christ our substitute; thus the form taken by his justifying mercy shows him to be utterly and totally just (Rom. 3:25-26), and our justification itself is shown to be judicially justified.

When John says that God is “light,” with no darkness in him at all, the image is affirming God’s holy purity, which makes fellowship between him and the willfully unholy impossible and requires the pursuit of holiness and righteousness of life to be a central concern for Christian people (1 John 1:5–2:1; 2 Cor. 6:14–7:1; Heb. 12:10-17). The summons to believers, regenerate and forgiven as they are, to practice a holiness that will match God’s own, and so please him, is constant in the New Testament, as indeed it was in the Old Testament (Deut. 30:1-10; Eph. 4:17–5:14; 1 Pet. 1:13-22). Because God is holy, God’s people must be holy too.

Source: Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

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Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!

Kevin Nunez

TRINITY: GOD IS ONE AND THREE

Hey everyone! How are you? I hope all is well!

We are continuing our discussion on J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology.

Understanding basic theological truths is important in the life of the believer. Again I reiterate what J.I Packer says,

theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. “

TRINITY

GOD IS ONE AND THREE

“This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”

ISAIAH 44:6

The Old Testament constantly insists that there is only one God, the self-revealed Creator, who must be worshiped and loved exclusively (Deut. 6:4-5; Isa. 44:6– 45:25). The New Testament agrees (Mark 12:29-30; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5) but speaks of three personal agents, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, working together in the manner of a team to bring about salvation (Rom. 8; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2). The historic formulation of the Trinity (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.

The doctrine springs from the facts that the New Testament historians report, and from the revelatory teaching that, humanly speaking, grew out of these facts. Jesus, who prayed to his Father and taught his disciples to do the same, convinced them that he was personally divine, and belief in his divinity and in the rightness of offering him worship and prayer is basic to New Testament faith (John 20:28-31; cf. 1:18; Acts 7:59; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; Phil. 2:5-6; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 3:15). Jesus promised to send another Paraclete (he himself having been the first one), and Paraclete signifies a many-sided personal ministry as counselor, advocate, helper, comforter, ally, supporter (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). This other Paraclete, who came at Pentecost to fulfill this promised ministry, was the Holy Spirit, recognized from the start as a third divine person: to lie to him, said Peter not long after Pentecost, is to lie to God (Acts 5:3-4).

So Christ prescribed baptism “in the name (singular: one God, one name) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”—the three persons who are the one God to whom Christians commit themselves (Matt. 28:19). So we meet the three persons in the account of Jesus’ own baptism: the Father acknowledged the Son, and the Spirit showed his presence in the Son’s life and ministry (Mark 1:9-11). So we read the trinitarian blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:14, and the prayer for grace and peace from the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:4-5 (would John have put the Spirit between the Father and the Son if he had not regarded the Spirit as divine in the same sense as they are?). These are some of the more striking examples of the trinitarian outlook and emphasis of the New Testament. Though the technical language of historic trinitarianism is not found there, trinitarian faith and thinking are present throughout its pages, and in that sense the Trinity must be acknowledged as a biblical doctrine: an eternal truth about God which, though never explicit in the Old Testament, is plain and clear in the New.

The basic assertion of this doctrine is that the unity of the one God is complex. The three personal “subsistences” (as they are called) are coequal and coeternal centers of self-awareness, each being “I” in relation to two who are “you” and each partaking of the full divine essence (the “stuff” of deity, if we may dare to call it that) along with the other two. They are not three roles played by one person (that is modalism), nor are they three gods in a cluster (that is tritheism); the one God (“he”) is also, and equally, “they,” and “they” are always together and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying, and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also. This is the truth about God that was revealed through the words and works of Jesus, and that undergirds the reality of salvation as the New Testament sets it forth.

The practical importance of the doctrine of the Trinity is that it requires us to pay equal attention, and give equal honor, to all three persons in the unity of their gracious ministry to us. That ministry is the subject matter of the gospel, which, as Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus shows, cannot be stated without bringing in their distinct roles in God’s plan of grace (John 3:1-15; note especially vv. 3, 5-8, 13-15, and John’s expository comments, which NIV renders as part of the conversation itself, vv. 16-21).

*All non-Trinitarian formulations of the Christian message are by biblical standards inadequate and indeed fundamentally false, and will naturally tend to pull Christian lives out of shape.

Source: Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

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Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!

Kevin Nunez

PREDESTINATION: GOD HAS A PURPOSE

Hey everyone! How are you? I hope all is well!

We are continuing our discussion on J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology.

Understanding basic theological truths is important in the life of the believer. Again I reiterate what J.I Packer says,

theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. “

PREDESTINATION

GOD HAS A PURPOSE

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“But you ask, `How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the Lord says. “Yet I have loved Jacob,
but Esau I have hated.…”

MALACHI 1:2-3

The forty and more writers who produced the sixty-six books of Scripture over something like fifteen hundred years saw themselves and their readers as caught up in the outworking of God’s sovereign purpose for his world, the purpose that led him to create, that sin then disrupted, and that his work of redemption is currently restoring.

That purpose in essence was, and is, the endless expression and enjoyment of love between God and his rational creatures—love shown in their worship, praise, thanks, honor, glory, and service given to him, and in the fellowship, privileges, joys, and gifts that he gives to them.

The writers look back at what has already been done to advance God’s redemptive plan for sin-damaged planet earth, and they look ahead to the day of its completion, when planet earth will be re-created in unimaginable glory (Isa. 65:17-25; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1–22:5). They proclaim God as the almighty Creator-Redeemer and dwell constantly on the multifaceted works of grace that God performs in history to secure for himself a people, a great company of individuals together, with whom his original purpose of giving and receiving love can be fulfilled. And the writers insist that as God has shown himself absolutely in control in bringing his plan to the point it has reached as they write, so he will continue in total control, working out everything according to his own will and so completing his redemptive project. It is within this frame of reference (Eph. 1:9-14; 2:4-10; 3:8-11; 4:11-16) that questions about predestination belong.

Predestination is a word often used to signify God’s foreordaining of all the events of world history, past, present, and future, and this usage is quite appropriate. In Scripture and mainstream theology, however, predestination means specifically God’s decision, made in eternity before the world and its inhabitants existed, regarding the final destiny of individual sinners.

In fact, the New Testament uses the words predestination and election (the two are one), only of God’s choice of particular sinners for salvation and eternal life (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5, 11). Many have pointed out, however, that Scripture also ascribes to God an advance decision about those who finally are not saved (Rom. 9:6-29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4), and so it has become usual in Protestant theology to define God’s predestination as including both his decision to save some from sin (election) and his decision to condemn the rest for their sin (reprobation), side by side.

To the question, “On what basis did God choose individuals for salvation?” it is sometimes replied: on the basis of his foreknowledge that when faced with the gospel they would choose Christ as their Savior. In that reply, foreknowledge means passive foresight on God’s part of what individuals are going to do, without his predetermining their action. But

(a) Foreknow in Romans 8:29; 11:2 (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2 and 1:20, where the NIV renders the Greek foreknown as “chosen” ) means “fore-love” and “fore-appoint”: it does not express the idea of a spectator’s anticipation of what will spontaneously happen.

(b) Since all are naturally dead in sin (i.e., cut off from the life of God and unresponsive to him), no one who hears the gospel will ever come to repentance and faith without an inner quickening that only God can impart (Eph. 2:4-10). Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65, cf. 44; 10:25-28). Sinners choose Christ only because God chose them for this choice and moved them to it by renewing their hearts.

Though all human acts are free in the sense of being self-determined, none are free from God’s control according to his eternal purpose and foreordination.

Christians should therefore thank God for their conversion, look to him to keep them in the grace into which he has brought them, and confidently await his final triumph, according to his plan.

Source: Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

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Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!

Kevin Nunez