I encourage you to read Genesis 15:1-21. It is the story of the Abraham Covenant.
We are going to start our Bible study classes, and our Learning Center classes (fingers crossed!). We will broadcast the lessons so that all of you can participate. Broadcasting the classes enables us to record them so they can be viewed at your convenience. You can still garden and then catch the class after you’re done! Oh ok, maybe you don’t garden but you get the drift. We are limiting each class to 15 people in-person, socially distanced at our tables and with masks on at this point.
Our women’s Bible study will begin on Tuesday, September 7th from 10am to 11am. We will continue our studying of 1 Corinthians.
The men’s study will begin on Wednesday, September 8th from 12pm to 1pm, lunch is provided (please call Rod Glass to let him know you are coming). We will continue our studying and discussion of Luke. Following lunch, the study and discussions generally last about thirty minutes.
Our Learning Center classes were disrupted by COVID-19 last year after our 4th class of “What it Means to be Presbyterian.” We have decided to start the class again on September 16th from 10am to 12 pm and start from the beginning. The classes will run about 10 to 12 weeks. We elected (elected…😊) to do this class as a refresher class for long time members and as a new members class. Please let the church office know if you plan on attending. We will provide an agenda, syllabus, and reading material at the start of the class.
So why did Jesus come? Did you read Genesis 15 yet…if not I’ll wait. You might be asking yourself what in the world does Genesis 15 have anything to do with the question about Jesus coming? Because it is the fulfillment of the that Abraham Covenant. A covenant is different than a contract. A contract is generally between equal parties and there is an escape clause at some point. A covenant is between two parties and God. Yes, just like a wedding but in ancient times it was normally for the land of one party and the water of another. Whomever breaks the covenant must give up their first-born son to be killed. It was called a blood covenant. There was no escape clause because it was signed in blood, like a blood brother oath.
God puts Abraham into a deep sleep and Abraham has a vision of God. God makes this promise this covenant with Abraham. The only issue here is God walked down the aisle that Abraham made by God’s self. So, in essence God made a covenant with God’s self on behalf of Abraham and thereby humanity. So, when humanity broke that covenant, that relationship with God, God had to make good on the agreement. In order for us to be in a new relationship with God and to be made whole or right, God’s first-born son had to die. Jesus was born, he taught, he suffered, and he died so we might be in a renewed relationship with God. He rose from that grave so we might have the promise of eternal life.
Peace, Pastor Ken
I will be lifting some Distinctives, Essential Tenets of faith, and concepts of our tradition. The first one will be on two concepts of Reformed Theology.
Reformed Theology in Two Concepts
Five Solas and TULIP
The Five Solas are:
1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
The Scriptures are our ultimate and trustworthy authority for faith and practice. This doesn’t mean that the Bible is the only place where truth is found, but it does mean that everything else we learn about God and his world, and all other authorities, should be interpreted in light of Scripture. The Bible gives us everything we need for our theology. Every word of the 66 books of the Bible is inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also helps us to understand and obey Scripture.
SOLA FIDE AND SOLA GRATIA
We are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s grace and Christ’s merit alone. We are not saved by our merits or declared righteous by our good works. God grants salvation not because of the good things we do, and despite our sin.
As humans, we inherited (from our ancestor Adam) a nature that is enslaved to sin. Because of our nature, we are naturally enemies of God and lovers of evil. We need to be made alive (regenerated) so that we can even have faith in Christ. God graciously chooses to give us new hearts so that we trust in Christ and are saved through faith alone. God graciously preserves us and keeps us. When we are faithless toward him, he is still faithful.
We can only stand before God by his grace as he mercifully attributes to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ and attributes to him the consequences of our sins. Jesus’ life of perfect righteousness is counted as ours, and our records of sin and failure were counted to Jesus when he died on the cross. Sola fide and sola gratia express the teaching of Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
God has given the ultimate revelation of himself to us by sending Jesus Christ, (Colossians 1:15). Only through God’s gracious self-revelation in Jesus do we come to a saving and transforming knowledge of God (1 Timothy 1:5). Because God is holy and all humans are sinful and sinners, (1 John1:1 Hebrews 7:25 Romans 8:34). Neither religious rituals nor good works mediate between us and God (Acts 4:12) by which a person can be saved other than the name of Jesus (Hebrews 7:23), and his sacrificial death alone can atone for sin.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Glory belongs to God alone. God’s glory is the central motivation for salvation, not improving the lives of people—though that is a wonderful by product. God is not a means to an end—he is the means and the end.
The goal of all of life is to give glory to God alone: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). As The Westminster Catechism says, the chief purpose of human life is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
THE CALVINISTIC "TULIP"
TULIP is the acronym for the basic ideas of classical Calvinism. (The simplistic version)
T -- total depravity. This doesn't mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one's being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.
U -- unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.
L -- limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect.
I -- irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.
P -- perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY OR INABILITY (= "T" of TULIP)
The first point asserts that the entire or TOTAL human being--body and soul, intellect and will, etc.--is fallen and that everyone is born spiritually dead, helpless, and passive; indeed, everyone is worse than volitionally dead or unable to desire spiritual good but is actually enslaved to sin, positively and actively hostile to the things of the Spirit (Calvinists cite, John. 1:13; 8:43, 47; 10:26; 12:37-40; 18:37; Romans. 7:18; 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians. 2:9-14).
UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION (= "U" of TULIP)
The second point inescapably follows from the first: since one is born totally depraved and enslaved to sin, one's ELECTION cannot be dependent or CONTINGENT on any spiritually worthy actions one commits. According to this point, God predestines or chooses to soften the hard, sin-enslaved hearts of certain fallen individuals and liberate them from their death not because of any merit they have but despite their demerits--i.e., He ELECTS to change their hearts (and thereby join them to Christ and His saving work) DESPITE the fact that they hate God and oppose Him and have hard hearts, not soft hearts, and have sin-enslaved wills, not free wills. Thus, believers have no reason to boast about themselves or their own actions: the only thing that differentiates them from Judas, Esau, or others who never respond in faith is that God gave them grace that He withheld from such reprobates (Calvinists cite, e.g., Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Rom. 9:11-18; 1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:8-10; cf. Jn. 1:13; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Phil. 2:13).
LIMITED ATONEMENT or Particular Redemption (= "L" of TULIP)
This point says that while Christ's blood--indeed, His entire life, death, and resurrection-- is infinitely INTENSIVE in saving power and thus unlimited in one sense, it is not infinitely EXTENSIVE and is thus limited, not universal, in the extent of its application; for while everyone CONDITIONALLY or "provisionally" shares in Christ's life, death, and resurrection (thus, if everyone believed, everyone would be joined or married to Christ), only members of Christ's body or bride or flock (ELECT believers) actually share in His blood (Calvinists cite, e.g., Jn. 10:11, 15, 26; 17:9; cf. 6:37, 39; 17:2, 6, 24).
IRRESISTIBLE (SUFFICIENT) GRACE (= "I" of TULIP)
This is virtually a synonym for Luther's slogan "grace alone" (sola gratia) and is logically implied by points "T" and "U" above. It teaches that God's INWARD CALL is perfectly EFFECTUAL or SUFFICIENT--a hard, fleshly, sinful heart need not add anything to God's grace, such as "co-operation," for this special call or grace is invincible, overpowering all hatred and melting all opposition (Calvinists cite, e.g., Jn. 3:6-8). Here Calvinists distinguish God's inward, effectual call--i.e., IRRESISTIBLE GRACE or sufficient, effective grace--from God’s outward call, which is simply God’s commandments written on tablets of stone. The latter is highly resistible, insufficient, and ineffective to give life to a dead soul or liberate a sin-enslaved heart (e.g., Acts 7:51; 13:39; Rom. 8:3).
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS or Eternal Security (= "P" of TULIP)
This is not the idea that no matter what a believer does he or she cannot lose his or her salvation but the idea that " . . . He who began a good work in you will perfect it . . " (Phil. 1:6 [NASB]; cf., e.g., Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:28-29; Rom. 8:31-39)--i.e., the idea that whenever God creates faith in our hearts and thereby joins us to Christ and His saving work, He will sustain that faith, that saving relationship with Christ, causing us, by His grace, to persevere in faith.
An Explanation of the TULIP
The aforementioned "TULIP" was fashioned at the Synod of Dordt (Dordrecht) in the early 1600s only in REACTION to five assertions of the Arminians (the "Remonstrants" or Dutch "semi-Pelagian" protesters). As a result, these five points aren't the clearest, most coherent, or most comprehensive presentation of the Calvinistic doctrine of salvation. By the way, Luther, Cranmer, Zwingli, Bullinger, Bucer, et al., were all strict predestinarians and fully Augustinian in their view of grace, etc., but the AP test seems to associate predestination only with Calvin and Zwingli). Nonetheless, once one understands the essence of the Calvinistic order of salvation (ordo salutis), then TULIP makes sense.
According to both English and American Puritans and Continental Calvinists, SALVATION is conditional, whereas ELECTION is unconditional (U = UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION). This distinction is vital to understanding TULIP: ELECTION is God's eternal decree, outside of time, of who will have faith in Christ and thereby become a member of His body and thus be spotless and righteous and obtain eternal life; in contrast, SALVATION is God's historical outworking of this decree in time.
Thus, according to Calvinism, there is an entire chain of necessary and sufficient CONDITIONS one must meet in order to be "saved" or obtain "SALVATION": if and only if one believes will one be joined to Christ's body and participate in His blood and His fulfillment of the law; if and only if one is thus joined to Christ will one be justified or declared legally righteous; if and only if one is thus justified will one be adopted and volitionally sanctified and persevere in Christ; if and only if one thus perseveres will one be physically glorified and receive a transformed resurrected body and spend eternity with Christ.
HOWEVER, according to Calvin, while one can ask…..
"What must I do to be SAVED" (Acts 16:30), it is nonsense to ask "What must I do to be ELECTED?" Why? “Because a volitional corpse or a spiritually dead person simply cannot read the Word or pray to God in a way that will volitionally resurrect himself (herself) or soften his (her) heart's hostility to God--i.e., in regeneration or in being "born again," one is passive.“ In a word, the unregenerate, fleshly person is TOTALLY UNABLE (= "T" of "TULIP") to do any spiritual good--he or she can't even co-operate or work "synergistically" with the Holy Spirit (hence Calvinism teaches a pure monergism, as did St. Augustine).Thus, if one is born a slave to sin and spiritually dead--is "TOTALLY DEPRAVED or spiritually unable"--then salvation must ULTIMATELY be a free or UNCONDITIONAL gift, in no way finally dependent or contingent on one's actions--back to the "U" or "UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION": God simply reaches down and chooses to breathe life into some spiritual corpses and pass over others.” John Calvin