Reforming with Ryle

rsz_jc_ryle_2By Evan Knies

John Charles Ryle was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire (1816) and educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He entered ministry around the year 1841, and served many churches up until his retirement in 1900, when he was aged 83. He died later that year.

Ryle was a minister that wrote many popular gospel tracts in his day, but he is known for his books. His Expository Thoughts on the Gospels are very helpful for young and old ministers alike. He has also written books such as Holiness, Practical Religion, and Light from Old Times. 

Reading Ryle, I have learned two primary things this summer that I’d like to share with you:

1. Ryle pushes you to the text and draws theology from it. 

Ryle writes in a way so that the Christian reader must rest in the Scripture. His examples in Holiness are straight from biblical examples (i.e. Lots wife). Ryle was a minister who rested in the sufficiency of Scripture because he rested in a sufficient God.

2. Ryle points to the martyrs as an example for the Christian life. 

In Light from Old Times, Ryle allows the martyrs to speak for themselves. They suffered and died because of what they believed. Ryle has written this work to encourage the church on its mission in declaring the truths of the gospel of grace. Ryle has a chapter on “Why the Reformers were Burned,” the conclusion is that they were burned because of their view of the Lord’s Supper:

“The end of Rowland Taylor’s weary imprisonment came at last. On the 22nd of January 1555, he was brought before the Lord Chancellor, Bishop Gardiner, and other Commissioners, and subjected to a lengthy examination. To go into the details of all that was said on this occasion would be wearisome and unprofitable. The whole affair was conducted with the same gross unfairness and partiality which characterized all the proceedings against the English Reformers, and the result, as a matter of course, was the good man’s condemnation. To use his own words, in a letter to a friend, he was pronounced a heretic because he defended the marriage of priests, and denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. Never let it be forgotten in these days, that the denial of any corporal presence of Christ’s body and blood in the elements of the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper, was the turning point which decided the fate of our martyred Reformers. If they gave way on that point they might have lived. Because they would not admit any corporal presence they died. These things are recorded for our learning.” – pg. 109-110 (Light From Old Times) 

May we learn from these martyrs the importance of doctrine, and also the sanctity of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Doctrine matters. In a day where doctrine seems to go by the wayside, we can read first and foremost our Bibles and see that martyrs died because of what they believe about Jesus (Acts 7, Hebrews 11). We also learn from Ryle that men before us, many reformers especially, died because of important doctrinal issues. This should cause us to think more deeply about what songs we sing on Sundays, what books we hand out, etc. Doctrine is not dead. Orthodoxy did not die at the cross. But the cross influences orthodoxy. Sound doctrine is tied up in Paul’s Statement, “I wish to know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)”. To say you don’t desire sound doctrine, you don’t desire Christ. What you believe matters.

From the works of Ryle, we are able to see the importance of preaching, ordinances of the local church, deaths of martyrs and a clear gospel. I am thankful to God for men like Ryle who have helped the church long past their life here on earth.

Friends, you only get one life and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last!


Evan Knies (B.A., Boyce College) and his wife Lauren are originally from Louisiana. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is serving as as student pastor at Bullitt Lick Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Knies.

 

J.I. Packer on the Bible vs. Tradition

18828By Obbie Todd

Being tortured in Hades and facing the impossibility of relief, a rich man shouts across the “great chasm” and begs Abraham to send a servant named Lazarus to warn his five brothers on earth about the horrific destruction they would face at the end of an unrepentant life. In a stirring reply, Abraham’s response says just as much about Holy Scripture as it does of the human heart: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31) There is perhaps no verse in the Bible that speaks more profoundly to the power of God’s Word to change hearts than the one proclaimed to a man burning in Hell. The Spirit that raised a dead man from the grave is the same Spirit that inspired the Holy Scriptures – the power of God unto salvation. (Rom. 8:11, 2 Tim. 3:16, Rom. 1:16) And that’s precisely what it takes to raise dead sinners in faith. (Eph. 2:1) Spirit and truth. (John 4:24)

The primacy of God’s Word is something that evangelicals have consistently touted. For instance, David Bebbington has famously offered his so-called “Bebbington Quadrilateral” – the four chief characteristics of an evangelical. Not surprisingly, Biblicism is the number one distinguishing trait. (followed by crucicentrism, activism, and conversionism) However, this proper emphasis upon Holy Scripture (sola Scriptura) can often times morph into a kind of “Bible-onlyism” that eschews church history and Christian tradition as recorded in the church councils. Many Christians today read words like “creed” or “confession” with a modern suspicion. In many ways, the transition that took place during the Great Awakening from puritanism to revivalism branded confessional Christianity as “popish” and/or “intellectual.” As a result, many churches treat church history and even statements of faith as disciplines exclusively relegated to the seminary.

However, as Timothy George has suggested, there’s a large difference between confessionalism and “creedalism,” something that most evangelicals have never advocated. (“The Priesthood of All Believers,” eds. Basden, Dockery) Contrary to the individualistic American spirit that flows through modern Christianity, hearty confessionalism should be revived in order to unite churches in bonds of belief under a continuous faith once delivered to the saints. In this time of “Restoration” movements and “post-Protestant” theology, it’s important to look to some of the older scholars of our age who can lend perspective to the ethos of our time. Better than any theologian alive, J.I. Packer has articulated the dangers of “Bible-onlyism” in a vivid way that offers us insights into the balance of Scripture and church tradition:

“The evangelical emphasis on the uniqueness of Holy Scripture as the verbalized revelation of God and on its supreme authority over God’s people is sometimes misunderstood as a commitment to the so-called restorationist method in theology. This method sets tradition in antithesis to Scripture, and places the church’s heritage of thought and devotion under a blanket of permanent suspicion, thus reducing its significance to zero…But the authentic evangelical way has always been to see tradition as the precipitate of the church’s living with the Bible and being taught by the Holy Spirit through the Bible – the fruit, that is, of the ministry that the Holy Spirit has been fulfilling in the church since Pentecost, according to Jesus’ own promise.” (“A Stunted Ecclesiology?”)

When we distance ourselves from the major confessions of the Christian past, we’re not only implicitly declaring our own unchecked hermeneutical superiority in reading the same Bible, we’re creating a false dichotomy between the faith of the saints and our own. Those denominations who hold to historical creeds are not supplanting the authority of Scripture for man-made documents. In fact, these are the churches who uphold the supremacy of Scripture the most! They’re simply attempting to do two things: (1) create a guiding framework in order to maintain the orthodox belief of the church against ad hoc “whatever strikes me” reading of the Bible, (2) and hold their people accountable for confessing that belief. Confessions aren’t simply ecclesiological. They’re soteriological.

If Scripture matters, the truth of Scripture matters. And if Scriptural truth matters, Scriptural interpretation must matter. When a church pits church tradition and Bible against one another, it quietly rests upon a postmodern cornerstone that says “in with the new and out with the old.” But in a religion that finds its cornerstone in a 2000-year-old Nazarene and its foundation in apostles and prophets, completely novel ideas about the meaning of Scripture should be held in check and tempered against the backdrop of an historical faith. (Eph. 2:20) A truly personal relationship with Christ should never become license for a completely private interpretation of His Scripture. The God who saves is the same God who gave us history as an impetus for seeking Him and as a guide for learning. (e.g., Deut. 1-3) In turn, we should take heart in the “great cloud of witnesses” who attest to the precious truths of Scripture defended for the name of Christ and on our behalf. (Heb. 12:1)

RESOURCES:

Baptist Confessions of Faith by William Lumpkin

The Battle for the Bible by Harold Lindsell

Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

Baptists and the Bible by Bush & Nettles

Glorious Spirit (Part Three)

By Andy Reeves

Romans 8:14-17

This passage establishes another pillar supporting the Father’s glorification of the Holy Spirit. In this passage, there is an important chain of events that points to the Father glorifying the Holy Spirit. In this passage we see one of the most important works of the Spirit; adoption as God’s children. First, the passage tells us that those “who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”[1] The Spirit leads people to trust in Christ, thereby making them sons of God. Second, “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”[2] Not only does the Spirit lead people, he also assures them of their faith in Christ and their status as God’s children. Third, the passage tells us that those who are children of God are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”[3] The final step in the process is that the Spirit’s presence in our lives, coupled with suffering for Christ, results in believers being “glorified with him.”[4]

The Spirit enters the lives of people, convicts them of sin, and causes them to believe in Christ. In this act of regeneration and belief, the Spirit applies the work of Christ to believers, and the work of Christ removes the hostility between God and man. The Spirit now indwells believers leading them and assuring them that they are God’s children. Because they are God’s children they are heirs with Christ and will inherit all the riches of God’s love. Finally, since they are also heirs with Christ they will be glorified with Him.[5]

This process is known as adoption. Galatians tells us that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[6] The process of adoption involves both Christ and the Holy Spirit. In this passage in Galatians, we see the work of Christ. God sent Christ to live under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that believers may be adopted into God’s family. The passage in Romans 8:14-17 shows the Holy Spirit’s work in this regard. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ, by leading us to trust in Christ, and by assuring us that we are God’s children. “Such adoption was secured for us by Christ, as Galatians makes clear; here it has been made effective in the life of the believer through the work of the Spirit.”[7] Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance.[8] This joint work of adoption will result in believer’s being glorified with Christ.

Now, on the basis of the previous verses, we see that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit play a significant role in our adoption as God’s children. Scripture is explicit that the Father glorified Jesus because of his work on the cross. Hebrews 1:9 tells us that “we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.”[9] The Father exalted and glorified Jesus Christ because of his work on the cross and obedience to the Father’s will. “The Father rewarded him with rule over all because he was the obedient Son, because he never strayed from doing God’s will.”[10] The Father also glorifies Jesus by glorifying those for whom Christ died. If the Father glorifies the Son in his work of making adoption possible, and glorifies the adoptees who are recipients of the work of the Son, then it must be concluded that the Father also glorifies the Holy Spirit in applying the work of Christ. The application of the work of Christ causes adoption to take place and is the down payment of full inheritance with the Son.

Romans 8:14-17 shows us the work of the Spirit. If we are led by the Spirit, we are children of God. As children of God, we are heirs with Christ. Since we are heirs with Christ, we will be glorified with Him. If the work of the Son in causing us to be adopted is glorified, then we must conclude that the work of the Holy Spirit in applying the work of Christ is glorified as well. Ephesians 1 comes the closest in making this conclusion explicit, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”[11] In this passage, we see that those who hope in Christ are to the praise of his glory. “The recipients of these wide-ranging blessings of salvation, along with Paul, have been stimulated by this recital of God’s mighty acts in his Son to express their gratitude and praise.”[12] And those who are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the coming inheritance are to the praise of his glory. All glory goes to God, and we see that the Son and Holy Spirit are included in this glory because they carry out the work of redemption in believer’s lives. Therefore, we can conclude that the Father glorifies the Holy Spirit for His work in applying the work of Christ causing adoption to take place.

[1] Romans 8:14.

[2] Romans 8:16.

[3] Romans 8:17.

[4] Romans 8:17.

[5] John 16:8-11; Colossians 2:8-15; 2 Timothy 1:14; Romans 8:14-17; Ephesians 1:11 Romans 8:17.

[6] Galatians 4:4-5.

[7] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, Reprint edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 566.

[8] 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:14.

[9] Hebrews 1:9.

[10] Thomas R. Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 73.

[11] Ephesians 1:11-14.

[12] Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 123.


Andrew Reeves is married to Hannah, an Arkansas native, and a student at SBTS.

Glorious Spirit (Part Two)

By Andy Reeves

John 16:13-15
The father glorifies the spirit

In John 16:13-15, Jesus makes several important statements about the Holy Spirit. These statements point to God the Father glorifying the Holy Spirit in the same way He glorifies God the Son. There are three lines of evidence in this passage that point to the Spirit’s glorification. But, before looking at this passage in depth, it is necessary to look at earlier Scriptures in John that build a foundation for the proper interpretation of John 16:13-15. What Jesus says in John 16:13-15 about the Holy Spirit builds upon the same foundation that points to the Father glorifying the Son.

These texts show that the Father glorifies Jesus, because, he does not speak on His own authority, but upon the Father’s authority. Jesus states in John 5:19 that, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”[1] Jesus does not do anything that the Father would not do. He does only what He sees His Father doing. In John 5:30 Jesus says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”[2] Again, Jesus does not act on His own but acts in complete agreement with what the Father wills.

In John 7:16, Jesus states, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me…The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”[3] In this passage, Jesus makes an interesting addition to the formula seen so far. Jesus speaks only upon the authority of the Father, and in doing this He seeks the glory of the Father. By not speaking on His own authority but in accordance with the Father’s authority he brings glory to the Father through his obedience. In the next passage, it is again seen that Jesus does not act upon his own authority, but he adds another important piece of information.  “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”[4] In this passage, not only is the Father glorified when Jesus does not act upon his own authority but it also pleases the Father that He does this.

In one of the most foundational passages to Jesus’ deity, Jesus makes one final addition to what He has said so far. Jesus said multiple times that he does not act upon His own authority, and that in doing so, this glorifies and pleases the Father. But what does the Father do in reaction to Jesus operating solely upon the Father’s authority? “I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge” and a little later Jesus says, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me.”[5] In reaction to Jesus doing exactly what the Father said, and not acting upon His own authority, God the Father glorifies Jesus. The next passage to look at before the upper room discourse adds another detail. Jesus says, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment-what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”[6] In this passage, Jesus makes clear that He speaks the exact words that the Father gave Him. He proclaims exactly as He has heard from the Father.  One final passage points to the Father’s glorification of Jesus because of His obedience. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you… I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed”[7] In this part of the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus shows that the Father glorifies Him, because Jesus did what the Father gave Him to do while on earth. He did nothing of His own authority but sought the Father’s glory. The Father, in turn, glorifies the Son for his obedience and accomplishing this work of proclamation.

These passages point to several important truths. First, Jesus did not speak on his own authority, but only spoke what He heard from the Father. Second, Jesus only did what the Father told him to do. Third, in speaking and doing what the Father commanded, Jesus sought the glory of the Father. Fourth, because Jesus seeks the Father’s glory, the Father is with Jesus and is pleased by Him. Lastly, Jesus does not glorify himself, the Father glorifies the Son because the Son does what the Father told him and accomplished what the Father gave Him to do.

Now, how do these passages throughout John relate to John 16:13-15 and the glorification of the Holy Spirit? First, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit that, “he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”[8] In this statement, a clear parallel can be seen between Jesus speaking only what He heard from the Father and the Spirit speaking only what He hears from the Son. As Jesus only spoke what He heard, in the same way, the Holy Spirit will speak to the disciples only what He hears from Jesus. However, what Jesus tells the Holy Spirit to say will be the exact same thing that the Father told Jesus to say, for the Son does not speak on His own authority. Therefore, we can conclude that the Holy Spirit speaks as He is told from the Father and the Son.

Second, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”[9] Again, a parallel is seen between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus took what the Father told Him and spoke it to His disciples. The Holy Spirit takes what Jesus tells Him and declares it to the disciples. When Jesus declared what the Father told Him, He glorified the Father. Since the Holy Spirit takes what is Jesus’ word and declares it, He glorifies the Son. And in glorifying the Son he does not glorify Himself, implying that the Son seeks the glory of the Holy Spirit. But again the Son does not act upon His own authority but only upon the authority of the Father. Therefore, the Son glorifies the Holy Spirit prompted by God the Father. Jesus states in John 17 that, because He accomplished what the Father gave him to do the Father would glorify Him. Therefore, we can conclude that the Spirit is glorified by the Father and the Son, because He only declares what He hears from the Father through the Son, and is accomplishing the work that was given Him by the Father and the Son.

The final piece of evidence that the Holy Spirit is glorified in the same way as the Son is that Jesus says “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”[10] Now, the process comes full circle and Jesus confirms the allusions made in the previous statements. Here it is seen that everything the Father has is the Son’s and everything the Son has is the Spirit’s. Therefore, what the Father has, the Spirit has. This seems to be the conclusion of what Jesus said. Therefore, as the Father has life in Himself, so too the Son and the Spirit. As the Father has authority in Himself, so too the Son and Spirit. As the Father has deity in Himself, so too the Son and the Spirit. “In John 16:14-15, the Father is identified as the ultimate source of both the Son’s and the Spirit’s revelatory ministry to believers. There is continuity between the Son and the Spirit: just as the Son brought glory to the Father, so the Spirit will bring glory to Jesus. There is also continuity between the Father and the Son and hence between Father/Spirit and Son/Spirit, with the persons of the Godhead collaborating in the task of self-disclosure.”[11] As the Father has glory in Himself, so do the Son and the Spirit. For all three possess each other, what they have is each other’s, and they share fully in one another’s work and glory. “We now ought to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son that which belongs to his own nature. This does not signify that there is a giver and a receiver, but one substance, since the Son is said to receive the same things from the Father which belong to his very being. For the Son is nothing other than that which is given to him by the Son. These statements are made for this reason: so that we may believe that in the Trinity the nature of the Holy Spirit is the same as that of the Father and the Son.”[12] In the final analysis, it must be concluded that God the Father glorifies God the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is God along with the Father and the Son.


 

[1] John 5:19.

[2] John 5:30.

[3] John 7:16,18.

[4] John 8:28-29.

[5] John 8:50,54.

[6] John 12:49-50.

[7] John 17:1b, 4-5.

[8] John 16:13.

[9] John 16:14.

[10] John 16:15.

[11] Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 474.

[12] St Athanasius the Great and Didymus the Blind, Works on the Spirit PPS43, ed. John Behr, trans. Mark DelCogliano, Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, and Lewis Ayres (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2011), 194.


Andrew Reeves is married to Hannah, an Arkansas native, and a student at SBTS.

Glorious Spirit (Part One)

By Andrew Reeves

Introduction

Who is the Holy Spirit? We know from scripture that He gives birth to Spiritual people as He wills. We know that He is another Helper like Jesus and will be with us forever. We know that He is the Spirit of truth. He convicts the world because of sin. He glorifies Jesus and the Father by taking what is theirs and declaring it to us. He empowers believers for ministry. The Holy Spirit leads us in our spiritual walk and aids us in killing sin. Those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God, and if sons, then heirs with Christ who will share in his glory. His presence in our lives results in fruitful living. Lastly, we know that the Word of God was written by men carried along by the Holy Spirit.[1]

These many attributes and works point to the greatness of the Holy Spirit. But there is one issue that Scripture does not speak to. Scripture never speaks of God the Father glorifying the Holy Spirit. “To my knowledge, no text says precisely that the Father or Son glorifies the Spirit.”[2] How could this be? We know that the Father glorifies the Son, the Son glorifies the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son.[3] But again there is no text that says the Father glorifies the Spirit. Does this mean that there exists a broken link in the Trinity? Is the Holy Spirit deficient in some way in His glory that the Father does not glorify Him? Does God the Father glorify the Holy Spirit? This is the question the Glorious Spirit blog posts will seek to answer.

Issue

We know from John’s gospel that the Father glorifies the Son. We also know that the Son glorifies the Father. We know that the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son and the Father. The Son glorifies the Spirit, because He speaks of the Spirit’s coming as advantageous for the disciples for the Spirit of Truth will indwell them. And He glorifies the Father through the Son because He glorifies the Son.[4] While we may logically conclude that the Father glorifies the Holy Spirit we still don’t have a verse of scripture that states it. If the Spirit is not glorified by the Father, does this indicate he has deficient glory? Does it indicate he has deficient deity? If the Holy Spirit is not glorified, what hope do we have of being glorified, since the Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance?

The blog posts on the Glorious Spirit will argue that, while there is no explicit scripture that says the Father glorifies the Holy Spirit, there are strong indications in Scripture that leave no doubt that the Holy Spirit is glorified by the Father. The blog posts on the Glorious Spirit will show that the Father glorifies the Holy Spirit by first looking at a number of biblical texts, draw theological conclusions, and then draw out some implications. The blogs on the Glorious Spirit will build its argument upon John 16:13-15 and Romans 8:14-17.


 

[1] John 3:8; 14:16-17; 16:8-15; Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Romans 8:1-17; Galatians 5:22-23 and 2 Peter 1:21.

[2] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2013), 480.

[3] John 17 and John 16:14-15.

[4] John 8:50, 54; 12:23; 16:5-17; 17:1, 4, 18.


Andrew Reeves is married to Hannah, an Arkansas native, and a student at SBTS.