“Christ is above all a head to His church” by Thomas Goodwin

“Oh, my brethren, when you are in heaven and when sin shall be forgotten,—you love Christ now because He saveth you, justifieth you, and cleanseth you, and you will love Him at the latter day because He pronounceth you blessed, forgiveth you all sins, and suffereth you not to enter into condemnation.

But when all these shall be over, what will be the sweetness forever? That He is your head. ‘Above all He gave Him to be a head to His church.’ (Eph. 1:22-23)

And do you but consider what a head you have? There is I know not how many alls in Him.

In His person there dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 2:9)

In His relation to you He is all, and He is in all. (Col. 3:11)

In His power for you He is above all; so saith the text. (Eph. 1:21)

In His communicating His goodness, ‘He filleth all in all;’ so saith the text too. (Eph. 1:23)

He is one that hath all the Godhead; that is all in all, that is above all, that filleth all in all.

What would you have more? Here are alls enough for you. Value this gift: that Jesus Christ is your head.

Last of all; take that other sense, that of all relations else He is above all a head, performeth that part the best, and nothing is more comfortable to His church.

He is not only above all other heads, above husband, above the natural head of the body, puts them all down, they are but shadows to Him; but above all offices belonging to Himself He is above all a head to His church.

It is as if a wife should say of her husband, ‘He is the best warrior in the world, he is a king, he hath the power and command of all the world, he is wise, he is rich, he is above all in everything, and he hath all sorts of excellencies in him. But above all he is the best husband in the world. He acts that part the best.’

So it is with Jesus Christ. He is the king of all the world, He is wise, He is rich, He is above all in everything, and He hath all sorts of excellencies in Him.

But above all He is a head, He excelleth in that above all things else.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “Sermon 36: Ephesians 1:22-23,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2006), 1: 554-555.

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“Faith looks to Jesus” by Hugh Martin

“Now this is the very essence of the contest between faith and unbelief. Unbelief shrinks from being contented with having my eternal salvation entirely in the hands of another.

Unbelief searches diligently for something to trust to in myself, and would look upon it with complacency, and rest upon it with peace and delight, could it but succeed in the search.

The search is vain. In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. (Rom. 7:18)

But faith looks out. Faith looks to Jesus. Faith says, ‘Jesus is sufficient; Jesus is infallible. Jesus is true.’

Faith sees salvation safe in His hand and says, ‘My Lord and my God,’ (John 20:28) I am thine: and we so are one, that Thy will to save me is as good to me as my own willingness to be saved; yea, better, brighter, steadier, unslumbering, unflagging, changeless.’

And then: ‘Thy power is all-sufficient. Thou art all my salvation. Thou art all my desire.’

None but Christ: none but Christ.”

–Hugh Martin, The Shadow of Calvary (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1875/2016), 132.

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“A most weighty argument” by John Flavel

He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?’ (Romans 8:32)

“This Scripture contains a most weighty argument to encourage and confirm the faith of Christians in the expectation of all spiritual and temporal mercies.

It proceeds from the greater to the less affirmatively: He that delivered His Son for us, what can He deny us after such a gift? Every word hath its weight.

God delivered up His Son, His own Son, how dear whatsoever He was unto Him, to humiliation, contradiction of sinners, to all sorrows and temptations, yea, to death, and that of the cross, and all this for us, for us sinners, for us enemies to God, for us unlovely wretches.

“How shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”

How is it imaginable that God should withhold, after this, spirituals or temporals, from His people?

How shall He not call them effectually, justify them freely, sanctify them thoroughly, and glorify them eternally?

How shall He not clothe them, feed them, protect and deliver them?

Surely if He would not spare to His own Son one stroke, one tear, one groan, one sigh, one circumstance of misery, it can never be imagined that ever He should, after this, deny or withhold from His people, for whose sakes all this was suffered, any mercies, any comforts, any privilege, spiritual or temporal, which is good for them, and needful to them.”

–John Flavel, “The Sixth Meditation on Romans 8:32,” The Works of the John Flavel, Volume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1820/1997), 6: 417-418.

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“An endless well” by L. Michael Morales

“Every biblical theology is incomplete, a drawn-up bucket out of an endless well.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), xii.

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“A sign and a token of His vast grace and goodness” by John Calvin

“‘And He stretched forth His hand, and touched him.’ (Matt. 8:3)

In the Law, the touch of the leper was contagious, but as there is such purity in Christ He absorbs all uncleanness and pollution, He does not contaminate Himself by touching the leper, nor does He transgress the Law.

For in assuming our flesh, He has granted us more than the touch of His hand. He has brought Himself into one and the same body with us in order that we should be the flesh of His flesh.

He does not only stretch out His arm to us, but He comes down from heaven, even to the very depths. Yet He catches no stain thereby, but stays whole, clears all our dirt away, and pours upon us His own holiness.

Now, while He could heal the leper by His word alone, He adds the contact of His hand to show His feeling of compassion: no wonder, since He willed to put on our flesh in order that He might cleanse us from all our sins.

So the reaching out of His hand was a sign and a token of His vast grace and goodness.

Here is a thing which we pass over without much impression at an idle reading, but must certainly ponder, with much awe, when we take it properly—that the Son of God, so far from abhorring contact with the leper, actually stretched out His hand to touch his uncleanness.”

–John Calvin, A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. 1; trans. A.W. Morrison, Ed. David Torrance and Thomas Torrance (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972/1994), 1: 244. Calvin is commenting on Matt. 8:3; Mark 1:41; and Luke 5:13.

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“Our boredom is simple blindness” by Michael Reeves

“Even for Christians, overlooking Jesus is easier than falling off a log, it seems. We instinctively think of God, life, grace, reality with rarely a pause to have Jesus shape what we mean by those things.

We can even have a “Christian worldview” and find Jesus is but an interesting feature in its landscape.

We can even have a “gospel” and find Jesus is just the delivery boy who brings home the real goods, whether that be salvation, heaven or whatever.

But that must change if we are to take seriously the fact that He is the beloved Son.

First, if there is nothing more precious to the Father than Him, there cannot be any blessing higher than Him or anything better than Him. In every way, He Himself must be the “very great reward” of the gospel (Gen. 15:1).

He is the treasure of the Father, shared with us. Sometimes we find ourselves tiring of Jesus, stupidly imagining that we have seen all there is to see and used up all the pleasure there is to be had in Him.

We get spiritually bored. But Jesus has satisfied the mind and heart of the infinite God for eternity. Our boredom is simple blindness.

If the Father can be infinitely and eternally satisfied in Him, then he must be overwhelmingly all-sufficient for us. In every situation, for eternity.

Second, His sonship—His relationship with His Father—is the gospel and salvation He has to share with us. That is His joy. As the Father shares His Son with us, so the Son shares His relationship with the Father.

That is why in Matthew 11:27-30 Jesus first says, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).

And then says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).”

–Michael Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 21.

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“What is a godly pastor, after all, but one who is like God, with a heart of grace?” by Sinclair Ferguson

“A misshapen understanding of the gospel impacts the spirit of a minister and affects the style and atmosphere of his preaching and of all his pastoral ministry. What the Marrow Controversy actually unveiled was the possibility of acknowledging the truth of each discrete chapter of the Confession of Faith without those truths being animated by a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel.

The metallic spirit this inevitably produced would then in turn run through one’s preaching and pastoral ministry. There is a kind of orthodoxy in which the several loci of systematic theology, or stages of redemptive history, are all in place, but that lacks the life of the whole, just as arms, legs, torso, head, feet, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth may all be present—while the body as a whole lacks energy and perhaps life itself. The form of godliness is not the same as its power.

Confessional orthodoxy coupled with a view of a heavenly Father whose love is conditioned on his Son’s suffering, and further conditioned by our repentance, leads inevitably to a restriction in the preaching of the gospel.

Why? Because it leads to a restriction in the heart of the preacher that matches the restriction he sees in the heart of God! Such a heart may have undergone the process that Alexander Whyte described as “sanctification by vinegar.” If so, it tends to be unyielding and sharp edged. A ministry rooted in conditional grace has that effect; it produces orthodoxy without love for sinners and a conditional and conditioned love for the righteous.

In the nature of the case there is a kind of psychological tendency for Christians to associate the character of God with the character of the preaching they hear—not only the substance and content of it but the spirit and atmosphere it conveys. After all, preaching is the way in which they publicly and frequently “hear the Word of God.”

But what if there is a distortion in the understanding and heart of the preacher that subtly distorts his exposition of God’s character? What if his narrow heart pollutes the atmosphere in which he explains the heart of the Father?

When people are broken by sin, full of shame, feeling weak, conscious of failure, ashamed of themselves, and in need of counsel, they do not want to listen to preaching that expounds the truth of the discrete doctrines of their church’s confession of faith but fails to connect them with the marrow of gospel grace and the Father of infinite love for sinners. It is a gracious and loving Father they need to know.

Such, alas, were precisely the kind of pastors who gathered round poor Job and assaulted him with their doctrine that God was against him. From their mouths issue some of the most sublime discrete theological statements anywhere to be found in the pages of the Bible.

But they had disconnected them from the life-giving love of God for his needy and broken child Job. And so they too “exchanged the truth about God for the lie.” (Romans 1:25)

This will not do in gospel ministry. Rather, pastors need themselves to have been mastered by the unconditional grace of God. From them the vestiges of a self-defensive pharisaism and conditionalism need to be torn. Like the Savior they need to handle bruised reeds without breaking them and dimly burning wicks without quenching them.

What is a godly pastor, after all, but one who is like God, with a heart of grace; someone who sees God bringing prodigals home and runs to embrace them, weeps for joy that they have been brought home, and kisses them—asking no questions—no qualifications or conditions required?

In these respects the Marrow Controversy has a perennial relevance to all Christians. But it has a special relevance to gospel preachers and pastors.

It raises the question: What kind of pastor am I to my people? Am I like the father?

Or am I, perhaps, like the elder brother who would not, does not, will not, and ultimately cannot join the party?

After all, how can an elder brother be comfortable at a party when he still wonders if his once-prodigal brother has been sorry enough for his sin and sufficiently ashamed of his faults?”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 71-73.

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