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Adapted from


Chapter Two

  Tender Times for Timely Truth



See also What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 1 for some detailed work in this area











  This is a detailed look at unity and  assiduity, care and fidelity.

In the area of missing the Messiah, we evoke the image of Alexander the Great, in effect, and his causeway which went from the mainland to the island of retreat, to which the citizens of Tyre departed in order to preserve their lives from mainland power. The ingenious Alexander, one of whose specialties was overcoming challenges, aroused, brought the timber and stones of the city to make a causeway which would allow the entry to the island of retreat and its capture. He desired to cover the coast and to allow no nautical opposition; Tyre was on the way and had to be subdued.

Though he did not know it, Alexander also was on the way; and in his early thirties, following some wastage from wounds, met his own death, and was subdued by this, after NOT stopping when Darius of Persia sued for peace, with great offers of lands and marriage to his daughter, or at any other time, not even at the breach into India. He did not stop until his 'mission' of world power seemed sated, only to be lost when won, by death.

Our Lord - covering those of us who are His - did the opposite. In His own destruction (of the body), He presented the way home from the islands of philosophy and religiously tinged politics, from psychological retreat marches and emotional oblivions, to the truth. He did not destroy the city of life, but offered it pardon and presence on the mainland of His peace. The stones of the causeway are His life, for there is no other foundation and no other Rock as the Bible repeatedly insists (Psalm 62, Deuteronomy 32:4, 18,30-31, II Samuel 22:2,32,47, Isaiah 44:8, Psalm 91:2, 18:31, 44:8, 26:1ff.). Those who come are His; those who are His, they come. ALL are as sincerely invited to life, as were those on the island faced with the danger of death.

Let us change the image. In Exodus 33:20-23, we see the Lord asked by Moses, to show him His glory. None shall see it, was the reply, and live; but stand on this rock, and "I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by." This approach to the Lord was made by STANDING ON (having one's foundation in - I Cor. 3:10-11) the Rock (symbol of the Lord Himself), and having a place within the rock where one could be LODGED individually. That cleft is Christ. As I Cor. 10 tells us, in speaking of the Exodus era: "that rock was Christ". Hidden in Him (Psalm 91), one is safe. "He who abides in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty".

The covering is His pardon from sin by the rupture of the rock, in Calvary. There the body given to Him, was ruined. There a place was found by ruin transfer;

bullet for the obvious physical ruin
bullet (but the spirit was unmarred, merely tortured)
bullet was the expression, along with the agony of soul
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!"
as predicted from Psalm 22:1, the crucifixion psalm),
bullet of payment.

Justice was met heartily. Its demands were covered graciously. This paid, the love of God, clad with mercy, rushed out, as it were, to meet the returning aliens. Resurrected, He has purchased the place of safety, in Himself, with all justice for all who come in faith, to receive Him as He is.

Now we may return to the Rock as applied in our causeway imagery..

With this topic one have dealt in an Easter Message. This now is its extension to the area of the professing Christians, those who believe they have already come to Him.

Now that the mainline denominations have so grossly moved from the word of God, in very many cases, and to the extent that the weight is no longer on the main bodies of testimony on the one hand, and the heresies on the other: but on the main religious bodies themselves (now often themselves, laden with heresies) from which accordingly, many have had to withdraw: it becomes necessary to look at our other islands, those that might appear to be in a mini-archipelago near to the land.

The time has come for those positioned, relative to the Bible, but moved into fractious extremes, to consider their position, and for Biblical truth to overcome the whole thrust of fighting cock corners (deliberately to mix cock fighting and boxing, to express the mêlée). It is time for the many who seek unity in Christ, according to His word, the Bible, to consider the words of God in Zephaniah, which were touched in Acme, Alpha and Omega - Jesus Christ Ch.6, where some of the minor prophets were studied. What there do we read from Ch.3:11-12:

"For then I will take away from your midst
Those who rejoice in your pride,
And you shall no longer be haughty
In My holy mountain.
I will leave in your midst
A meek and humble people
And they shall trust in the name of the LORD."

Again from vv. 17-19:

"The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save:
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing...
I will save the lame,
And gather those who were driven out..."

These delicious words as shown in context in our reference, relate primarily to the Jewish people; but they are not some OTHER church, but a separated people, separated now also as a political body, from the Lord; and when these come, in spirit and in gospel and in the intimacy of the Lord's dealings, they do not differ from any others (see Barbs, Arrows and Balms13, 17, 20 and The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 2). Now it is true there appears a millenial thrust in this Zephaniah passage, but not necessarily. In essence, it refers to the beautiful love and peace before the Lord of a humbled people, who love Him and earnestly seek to follow Him; and are not in the position of pugilists of passion to fashion their fame.

1) This spirit of humility, consideration without any loss of purity, this willingness to review traditions which in various places and at various times have set like concrete, until in some cases (as in the misuse of the Westminster Confession as a shibboleth instead of as a help, as its words indicate is fitting - Ch. XXX, 4), the very intention is lost in the glorying in secondary things.

Now to take the Confession, it is an outstanding confession and its system of doctrine is sound, and indeed its expression is piquant without bluster. However, before long, what is CALLED subordinate can become inordinate, a source of division on small things, such as the Australian Presbyterian Church in its Basis of Union of 1901 expressly sought to avoid. We shall not specialise in this however, lest we should lose our conspectus of many things, but make the references for detail available here. (See The Biblical Workman Ch.8, Questions and Answers Ch. 7, End-note 1.)

This is a matter of tradition versus truth, even EXCELLENT tradition, allowed in PRACTICE to compete rather than complete the understanding of the word of God; and if it applies to one, it applies to many. If it applies to one confession which is exalted contrary to constitutional reality, though it should gain no such practical place, how much more does it apply where according to constitution, other bodies erect their traditional, confessional fortresses, often good, always wrong when made primary in PRACTICE.

2) Similarly, the Wesleyan (just) emphasis on the love of God as so often shown in this site, ought not to be forgotten in the interests of the (just) emphasis on the sovereignty of God, in the 5 points of Calvin; or vice versa. Moderation is needed in this sense, that philosophic extrusions and expansions, based on presuppositions of frail kind, should be snouted; and the word of God should not be flouted, but both matters should be emphasised as is done in the word of God. It is true that in my Predestination and Freewill, pains were taken to SHOW that the things in the Bible on these two issues, and relating (justly) to human responsibility are not only reconcilable, but provide the ONLY reconciliation in principle, which is available in this realm altogether, and thus the matter provides an intense contribution to Christian Apologetics! However this is incidental in our present point.

There must be that combination of extreme purity and fidelity to the Bible which allows no attenuation of ANYTHING which it says for ANY purpose, zeal and zest, on the one hand, and that (just) and gracious care and moderation in all other matters touching these points, lest the extraneous, hardening through pride or tradition, forms or even forces a schism in the body. (For detail: see Repent or Perish Ch. 1, End-Note 1, Questions and Answers 7, End-notes 1 and 2 Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ, Ch.10. pp. 143ff., SMR Appendix B, The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, esp. pp. 49ff. and Predestination and Freewill Preface and throughout.)

Nor is this just a matter of Calvin's system and Wesley's perception, these two being famed for their respective emphases, though of course neither invented the good thrust that each has, in its place. It is the same in many matters in number of churches which, apparently afraid of this or that philosophical pressure, or troubled by it, yield to something extreme and immoderate. Where fuss and schism is driven, the body is riven by what is extraneous.

3) In the matter of the ritual or rite of baptism, similarly, there is room for thought. Some teach believer's baptism as if this were a sacred salvation-conferring rite, and others infant baptism in very much the same manner. These extremes owe nothing to the Bible (cf. Questions and Answers Chs 9 and esp. 11, The Kingdom of Heaven Appendix). The FECA in Australia is to be congratulated on its excellent perception regarding these extremes in its doctrinal statement.

It is offensive to many to see these sacramentalist excursions, since the baptism that counts is the one which involves the witness of a clear conscience to God by the resurrection of Christ (I Peter 3:21) and not the washing of dirt from the body, according to Peter, who also wrote scripture!

When this offence is removed, then the hope of understanding vastly improves. As shown in Questions and Answers 11, infant baptism is based on scriptural credentials, and is not a source of assurance of salvation. Some want baptism to be a hold-all for all baptised infants early dying, but as pointed out in the reference given, this may indeed be available to faith, but it is not a generic to cover all; the Westminster Confession in this justly observing that the Lord takes those who are His. It is NOT that one may not believe in the goodness of the Lord, according to faith, that HE will do this or that. It IS that one is not warranted by the Bible in ASSUMING any baptismal certificate holds up in heaven, as an entry form. IF the parents took the child as His in faith, then the faith is given. There are deep issues here, and the point is NOT that all see all at once; but that the ORGANISATIONAL REQUIREMENTS AND STIPULATIONS DO NOT PASS BEYOND THE BIBLICAL TEACHING.

Thus when David says that the (deceased) child would not come to him, but he would go to it, does this mean that for all cases of baptism the same would apply, even for all Christian parents ? It does NOT mean that it COULD not apply. It does NOT warrant that it must. Did David MEAN that the child was certainly the Lord's and that he would go to enjoy fellowship with it at his death ? Very possibly, and indeed probably. One would however not dare to teach that it was unquestionably the case. It conceivably could have meant that he would go from this land of life to the place where the Lord directs spirits as is His due. Personally, this seems less likely; but when it comes to teach, likelihood is no basis for faith.

The point here, then, is not that we all see this or that when the evidence is slim; but that we do NOT require of one another what is so based. There should be liberty where the word of God has not UNQUESTIONABLY spoken, and no sententiousness, one way or the other, in the form of AUTHORITATIVE TEACHING, in order to avoid NEEDLESS SCHISM! - as also presumptuous.

In this connection, it seems at least unfortunate that the Free Presbyterian body in Australia has, or at least had, a doctrinal statement to the effect that the contests on the infant or non-infant aspects of baptism were divisive and unnecessary, or some such formulation, so that one could do it either way. There is some merit in this, if it means liberty for parents to have or leave the baptism of the child,  according to their faith; and that is standard in much Presbyterian practice.

If however it means that the matter is void of truth in the question of infant baptism or not, only believer's baptism or not, then the compromise is gained at peremptory sacrifice; for it presumes to allocate doctrinal uncertainty in this matter, without proof!

It excludes, for example,  those who believe that infant baptism, without the sacramentalist additive, is indeed and beyond any dubiety of debate, Biblically sound and warranted; that its formulation into sacramentalilsm is indeed offensive, and that a corrective (such as believers’ baptism only)  was sure to come. In one church where the author was pastor, there was LIBERTY concerning the rite for members, but NO requirement that the pastor teach this or that. Nor was there any formulation, as if to make specific and diverse approaches, as such, all to be wrong, because not given! mere matters of error on either or both parts. Trading in truth for an administrative option is always unwise; for truth stands by itself, and may be shown where given.

As presented in the reference given, there IS (sacramentalist) error FREQUENTLY found on both sides, which is enough to make understandable a rush to remove oneself from such extremes (or enormities as some might say of this or that, and not always without Biblical ground or reason). This in itself, however,  does not mean that ALL positions in the field are unbiblical, or unwarranted by the Bible, just so long as they ARE positions. It is NEVER proper to abandon in the interests of peace, any particle of the Bible.

4) In the matter of psalm singing ONLY, and NO instruments and the like, again it is understandable, but not acceptable as REQUIREMENT. If someone wants to sing only psalms, there is liberty. If someone wants to ensure that NO ONE else shall sing ANYTHING else, there is no liberty. It is excluded. See Questions and Answers 13 on this point.

That much modern hymn construction (and not modern only) is awash with unbiblical sentiment is obvious; but not all. That false doctrines are often taught (and not always strenuously, so that they may seep in insidiously) in hymns, is true. That there is room for exceeding care in preventing such songs being part of the formal repertoire of the church is sound. Moderation, gentleness in this as in all the aspects where there is sensitive concern over areas of liberty, is in view. It is only when clear rebellion against the teaching of the Bible is in view, that the case requires what Paul's letter to Titus enjoins! both in Ch.1 and in 3. However in following the liberties of the temple and of the psalms as in 147ff., we are not encouraged to limit the Lord in this or in any other matter. Only what is impenetrably demonstrable is warranted as a DOCTRINAL restriction. The church is for truth, not sententiousness.

That having been said, we should acknowledge that if a congregation wants to make sure of certain things by certain limitations, that is one thing; but if it TEACHES that they SHOULD not be allowed to others, and makes a doctrine of it in manifest departure from what may be proved from the Bible, this is another. There are islands of separation which should really be left behind.

5) In the matter of bishops and presbyteries, and independence, we have another illustration of what is needed in gentleness and moderation, in unity and careful inter-church relationships, which should grow and prosper in this mainline default situation of today.

The word for bishop in Timothy is merely supervisor, and the elders in Acts 20:28 are only supervisors. That is the term. True, they have authority in order to superintend, but there is no singling out. The apostolic delegate Titus as sent from Paul, is no norm for the formulation of doctrine, without Paul. Nothing can be proved from that. On the other hand, it is incontestable that the CHURCH AT JERUSALEM is the ecclesiastical resource used in a vast dogmatic dispute as shown in Acts 15. It is true that it was a case where the "apostles and elders" were present (Acts 15:2), but it is notable that it is not only to the apostles, but also to the elders. Indeed "the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter" . Thus it is not a mere matter of authority (as it could have been), but of consultation among elders and apostles without any expressed differentiation. Generically it is true that the wisdom of Proverbs tells us likewise, that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

Hence we can see that the proclivity for consultation is there; and that binding a thing is possible. Yet see how carefully they did it (Acts 15:22ff.)!

The Presbyterian concept of an aggregation of representatives from regional churches is thus not unbased by any means. Where there is example, a measure of liberty is present; where there is rule, there is not. Here it is the former. Without entering into further detail in such a setting as this, we can at once begin to formulate the concept that churches (as in Titus 1, where there are at least two elders) have indeed a measure of independence; but that when issues of weight and division especially arise, opportunity for consultation should exist, and if necessary a binding.

Here is again the situation of extremes. If you put the authority into extremes, and use, for example I Tim. 5:17 where the elders especially gifted in teaching the word are given 'double honour', to mean authority for some Ministers of the word over others; and not for special respect to be given to all pastors, since they are (by Pauline definition) ALL expert in the word (relatively speaking): and so invent bishops, then one thing is sure. The inference is inexact. There is no unambiguous suggestion of any such kind.

Of elders and their authority, there IS unambiguous attestation. (See A Question of Gifts, Appendix II, as also in the area of Pentecostalism, No. 6 below.)

Again, if the association of representatives, where the safety is found, becomes top-heavy and starts acting as if it were some arch-bishop, and NOT a useful consultative body, equipped with humility, grace and moderation, but it becomes one of aweful majesty and so on, then you have again the movement to the idolatrous. If Presbyterian courts act in this way, the offence it may cause is most understandable, the manner being wrong. If they then start going liberal and radical as has been common in this century, and start stripping churches from local congregations which will not leave the Bible (as happens sometimes also), then the offence of the Presbytery or Assembly is immense. It shows the way the authority which is of a gracious and humble kind, may become grotesque and self-willed, so that what was intended for amendment becomes a contempt of the Lordship of Christ, an arrogation of it.

Thus there is a thorough comprehensibility about the desire of many for independence at the local level; but it is too extreme. There is similar reason in the desire for some body of review of certain sensitive matters; but it too readily becomes too extreme. There is understanding in the seeking for someone with authority, but he is to be a teaching elder in the midst of other elders, and not some super-elder, which office is not demonstrated. What is needed is a realisation of all these things, and a readiness for moderation in the islands of division, and indeed learning from various elements of some, when they cease to be demanding, and become rather interesting illustrations of Biblical principles.

One thing most excellent in this regard, was found in the now swallowed up Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, a body which had great promise before it yielded to being eaten up into a denomination which increasing appears to be lax on separation, and with this, on increasing other matters, such as creation.

In this once pleasant little body, of just some ten thousands of people, there was the provision that the BOND to higher courts of the church, on the part of any local congregation was one of charity, of love, and that the local congregation of course had the power to separate with its property if it so desired. THAT was getting into the field of moderation.

Now in all these things, the 5 readily perceptible cases for illustration - and it is no more - selected above, there are two things to differentiate.

First, there is the desirability of forsaking needlessly harsh positions which go so far beyond the Bible, a little, a lot; and without abandoning the sensitivity to excess which may have led to the position, of ensuring there is no element of reaction. On the other side, those who may have contributed to the reaction, need to moderate their own positions till they incorporate nothing that cannot be proved beyond question, from the Bible. This is a rapprochement.

The second thing is this. ALL churches do not HAVE to be in the same setting. Thus when such spiritual steps as the above are taken, then organisational ones do not need necessarily to follow. The bonds of spiritual respect and fellowship are good; organisational union may be good. The former is vastly more important than the latter. The acting together on matters of joint concern ought then not to be inhibited by needless schism, and variation would not then need to be equated with division.

This is the BIBLICAL UNITY which is needed, and should be sought, and is often found among many.

6) Finally, there is a 6th area: that of the charismatics. In A Question of Gifts, it is pointed out with Biblical reason, that the used of the term 'pentecostal' for certain emphases on the charismatic gifts, when these include the phenomenon of glossolalia, or tongues in the Corinthians sense, is a misnomer. This is simply a fact. At Pentecost, as there shown, it was a question of INCREASED understanding linguistically, in order to facilitate the preaching of the word by the apostles to a group of people whose native languages were very different. It was a miraculous intervention for the sake of better understanding. In the Corinthian case (chs.12-14), it is the precise opposite. Its reason is given by Paul, and he quotes from Isaiah, all this being given in A Question of Gifts, in some detail. The two reasons are WHOLLY different, just as the two phenomena are PRECISELY OPPOSITE.

This is one ground of trouble. We cannot be buying into an involvement, where the very terminology is misleading at worst, confusing at best. When this becomes an emphasis on POWER available, of which Pentecost might be assumed an illustration, we come to a halt. This is far more than mere nomenclature, but is rather moving towards using a mistaken nomenclature for a further dogmatic error in doctrine! Here we see the limits to which rapprochement may go. It may not go where there is any compromise with the truth of the Bible, either to add or to subtract.

IF ONLY THIS WERE KEPT TO ON ALL SIDES, then the UNITY would be delightful. It is the squandering of the Biblical purity with philosophical or psychological or cultural addenda which creates all the divisions which impurity would imply. It is like manufacturing parts: put them together with ease when they follow specifications. But depart from these, and the joining together could become a virtual nightmare, made worse by the knowledge of the lack of due care, Biblically required care, in making or fashioning the components!

Again, there is a reaction to a reaction. It would seem that some of the force of Pentecostalism, statistically, came from people weary of dilettante mainline denominations, playing the fool on the Bible (see cases from the author's own experience in Biblical Blessings  Ch. 11). They would NOT (rightly) abide where such things occurred. Some of us had to fight diligently for the faith, to prove all things and seek to awaken our denominations, as occurred repeatedly to the author in several nations. In the end, however, there can be no truck with unbiblical doctrine. Hence many wanted something more lively like the Bible, and to many, Pentecostalism has seemed an answer.

As so often, however, the reaction against the Bible became in many, a reaction that itself moved from it, moderation was lost, gentleness and care within the faith moved askew, and before long a whole new list of things arose from the ground. It was assuredly not from the Bible that multiple tongue speaking, simultaneously, arose, or irreverence in church meetings, not displaying the fear of the Lord, or uninterpreted utterances of some (physical) gabble, or statements that if you were not healed it was your own lack of faith, or people speaking in the name of the Lord, as if they were modern day prophets on the Old Testament model, adding to the doctrine, contradicting the doctrine, making experience king and in effect manufacturing a new covenant in their own experience, which was not limited to the same Gospel which Paul had already preached in Galatians 1.(Cf. Ch.9, Epilogue, pp. 133ff., below.)

Hence a new heresy arose. Not all charismatic expression of course is of this type. It is as impossible to exclude it by Biblical proof, as it is to extend it. It remains true that 5 words with the mind, in church, are worth 10,000 without it, and all should reflect this.

However such is the extreme of departure from the Bible in all this, that many even join with Romanism in practice, in meetings, because they also may use such extremes of mode and unbiblical provisions, the methods becoming the basis of unity instead of the teaching; while the methods are themselves in much contrary to the teaching. Thus the methods should at all times be subject to the teaching of the word as Paul shows in I Cor. 12-14; but here the reverse takes precedence. False procedures being exalted, allow for false unity.

This is an interesting case, for it shows that one error (in mainline denominations, very often) can lead to a just departure and an unjust exaggeration, then to an unjust combination in an illusory and at times reactionary unity, which is merely an apostasy confirmed, one branch reinforcing another.

What moderation can there be in these things ? There can as in all the other cases, be a return to what can be proved by the Bible (as that Paul in I Cor. 1 was statedly speaking to all the churches - 1:2, and that he was a master builder - I Cor. 3). At once all the above extremes would vanish. Then some who were (justly) appalled by these extremes could consider more carefully what biblically is permissible, and while allowing their own emphasis and due care, allow for fellowship where all the biblical doctrine and criteria were kept. Once again, fellowship is not the same as organisational unity. Sometimes indeed, some variation is stimulating, so long as it does not TEACH what the Bible does not, or EXCLUDE by teaching, what the Bible does not.

There is room, then for a return from many islands in the Great Lakes on the mainland! Just as there needs to be a return TO the mainland of Biblical truth, in departing from radicalisms, so there needs to be a return from islands in the mainland, to the fellowship that is chaste. There must be no aqueous expeditions to pseudo-homelands, most praiseworthy in the eyes of traditionalists, old and new, sponsored by philosophy and loved by the world, often with Pharisaical splendour of self-congratulation on being so VERY religious.

We need nothing that is  factional, fractionalising, flimsy, unsubstantial, unscriptural, gnostic at times, self-confident and unfaithful. We are forbidden the Calvinism of orthodoxy*1 (just as it also omits the 'love of God' as expounded in Predestination and Freewill pp.76ff. and The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, SMR Appendix B, Repent or Perish 1, pp. 17ff., End-note *1, Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium 9, Acme, Alpha and Omega - Jesus Christ Ch.10) in its broadest and Biblical implications), as well as the Barthianism of nebulous self-contradictory folly.

WHAT IS RIGHT may indeed be formulated in man's words as a test  or help; but it is the BIBLE ALONE that rules, not the rules about the way it rules. Pharisaism can be every bit as divisive as Sadducaism, contradiction that is acknowledged as that which is not!

It is enough that those leaving leave, those insular away from the word, go to their islands. They should return, and be encouraged where opportunity exists, to do so, with exhortation, Biblical apologetics, prayer.

For a further such moderation within the majesty of the word of God: see News, Facts and Forecasts Ch. 16. This will be treated in Ch. 18 below.  

When it IS however, the mainland, where there is no intention to contradict the word of God, and indeed the devil loves to pretend even he does not - then there is the grace of proper unity with due respect to the source of it, and His desire for it, for THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED HIS WORDS (John 17:8). This must be sought as love for the Lord whose word commands it WITHIN HIS WORD, entreats us!

It is enough that those leaving leave, those who will to be insular away from the word, go to their islands.

They should return, and be encouraged where opportunity exists, to do so, with exhortation, Biblical apologetics, prayer. For another such moderation within the majesty of the word of God, for those who do not lack zeal: see News 124
,  Part II.  The title of that volume may suggest to the apt, what that is. A visit will confirm! The topic in part is covered in Ch. 2 below, in part in Ch. 18.


Another is to be found, in Licence for Liberty, Ch. 7. This is revealed especially at the end of the chapter: godly guidance. It appear s below in Ch. 7 of this volume.

For yet another island, see Member Notes, 22-23, where linked: that is, at Endnote 1, to 23).  We consider The Day of Rest. This is covered in Ch. 16 below. A further island is exhibited in Member Notes   27, as here linked, and its territory is that of the status of Corinthian-style 'prophesyings'. The word of God is far above these, but they are not excluded; what is excruciating is their charade. Since this proceeds beyond tongues to truth, beyond extravaganzas to extra-curricular dogmas or declarations, and thus moves into a phase of false prophecy and a mode of enticement to heterodoxy, psychic research and mode above matter, it is given an island category of its own. It is found in Ch. 15 below.






 BEWARE OF THE -ISM, and the inflammation called ism-itis;

In fact, the Calvinism,  Me-ism and You-ism and thisChurch-ism and thatname-ism are all forbidden, where some man's name, not Christ is concerned as you see clearly in I Corinthians 3. It is useless to plead convenience when you wish to break a commandment (cf. I Corinthians 14:37). It is better to obey. Then the errors which seem to creep into most theological works, despite some which are extraordinarily brilliant, and animated by much grace, these do not become a charge on service, by having thronging theologues (why not ? parallel to pedagogues) take the meat and the gristle in one mouth.

In the case of Calvinism, the omission is very clear, very stark, and a testimony that makes one tremble at the thought of coining systems and making rules. For all that, there is need to be watchful and to present the text with all fidelity, being wary of philosophic penchants and academic chatter, which loves to act as static. Answers still need to be given to those who seek a reason, and by the grace of the Lord, there is always power sufficient. Keeping the RULES meanwhile, as above noted in Corinthians, is a stark necessity. The admiration of man is one thing; but when it becomes a virtual cult, and competitive with minds open like flowers to the sun of scripture, it is using a good thing for an evil result. How the church has been riven by such failure to be conservative in keeping commands, and liberal in seeking understanding!


A Detailed Note in the Field of Fidelity

For the actual statements of Calvin, clearly showing his error in this regard, see Predestination and Freewill pp.76ff. He 'admits' Christ's call as a hen to her chicks, which includes this, HOW OFTEN WOULD I have gathered you under My wings, but equivocates with the irrelevant, as if an expression of the divine desire in Christ is in some way to become enmeshed in metaphors, rather than being taken to mean what it precisely states, an index to Calvin's confusion at this point. "We must not define the will of God," he declares immediately after this 'admission' concerning Christ.

No, we assuredly must not, except from His word, and above all from His Son, the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus in whom dwells the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form, so that "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." There is nothing of the merely metaphorical about this statement of what Christ so often would have done, or the contrast between this willingness and their eventual desolation through rejection. Whether you use hands or wings or words, it is one: you show what you would have liked to do.

We MUST define the will of God from His word and His Son for HE has already done so and He is the EXACT EXPRESSION of His Person (Hebrews 1), so that the one seeing Him, has already seen the Father (cf. John 6:40, 14:9)! ANY DIVORCE IS IN THE MIND OF MAN, NOT OF GOD... 'Accommodation' is incommodious when it rips the reality from the representation coming from the very WORD of God, whose word is truth,  who IS the truth, whose words are as commanded. If God declares exact representation, then we must follow, for the jousting with false jubilation must cease.

As Christ is, so it is. He is not in the form of a man and of a servant (yet without sin), that becoming flesh He should cease to BE the ONE who was in the form of God. Informed with light, He sheds no darkness; and the light of the world is in nothing at fault; nor is God without means of expression, nor is His Word without ample capacity to express.

This then is perhaps the worst lapse of Calvin, and while he sought to avoid confusion, in this liberty and indeed laxity, he merely created more by presumption against the very words of Christ, and his own words ignoring the actual issue with irrelevancies that neither touch the issue, nor even contact it. The metaphorical forms of speech do not mangle the fact but illustrate it; and the will which these signify is not dulled but made simply clear and clearly simple in the process: not simplistic, but clear like light, in which is NO darkness at all.

It is time for more unity in this enthralling and delightful beauty spot, the love of God, His loving sovereignty and His sovereign love.

The opposite extreme is most common also. See Section 2, op. cit. for further development of this matter.

It needs attention in the love of Christ, according to His word, most clear and most perfect in this as in all its divulgements.


For convenience an excerpt from the above cited work is here given:

"Cf. Calvin's Institutes, Book 3, Ch. 24, Section 17. As for Christ's lament and statement of gathering in Matthew 23:37: Calvin's disregard here of the clear exposure of the heart of the incarnate God is a hiatus in the life of the divine picture, for which scripture gives no ground. If the "form" of God is not on earth as it is heaven, yet when we come to Christ's word: "He who has seen Me, has seen the Father", this is known,  because He expressly changed His form (John 1, Philippians 2), but not His reality (Heb. 1:3, Mal.3:6, John 8:58). Accordingly, rejection of a divine statement of heart and principle, for one at variance from it, is no interpretation! Concerning Matthew 23:37, see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Appendix B as also Ch.8, pp. 636-643."

Calvin's equivocation here is astounding. He speaks as if the fact that in Christ God appeared as man had a strange consequence. It is as if His being made man,  made truth not the criterion of His utterance, precise, profound. From Calvin at this place, it is as if Christ's coming precluded this, which nevertheless He said and TRULY: that "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" , as in John 14, and that "I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak... Therefore whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."

What results from this then ?

You have only one choice. Irrationally to reject Christ, or to accept His words. If His words be true, Calvin here is not; if Calvin were true here, Christ's words would be contravened. This is no sacred mystery, but an evil aspersion on Christ's words, though doubtless such was never Calvin's intention. The fact however remains, that he has cardinally erred here. Christ declared two things clearly concerning His doctrine, which may be selected to this point. First, if any man wills to do the will of God, he will now the doctrine whether it is of God or whether Christ speaks on His own (John 7:17). Secondly, the Father has given a commandment what He should speak (John 12:48).

It is therefore not truth as per some accommodation to pressing realities (what are these, beyond God!), or limitations (who limits God who does the commanding, of whom Christ declared, He who has seen Me has seen the Father - John 14), it is not this that Christ speaks. It is the TRUTH, and for that matter, in Himself HE IS the TRUTH and He is a man who has TOLD YOU THE TRUTH (John 8:40), and as the Father has taught Him, so He speaks these things (John 8:28). In principal, in essence, in command, in commission, in presenting eternal life, in being the exact image of His Father, in authority, in relay, constitutively, expressly, Christ is and speaks the truth.

He indited it and is to be indicted by no man: His words stand, and describe even in advance, what falls. He sets the standard for what stands, and stand it does, to the last jot (Matthew 24:35), even if the stage called the universe depart (as it will). In logic, in life, in faith, it is one (cf. SMR Ch.1, Appendices   C, and   D).


       Hence so far from speaking in some way which wavers from the utter, complete and holy truth


(you do not need to know everything in order to know correctly
when it is GOD who utters and pronounces His words – Matthew 4:4, 5:17ff.,
far less is there any disjunction, as with Christ Himself,
who IS the living and eternal word of God incarnate!),


Christ spoke truth, and His teachings were and are  as true as God is.

Calvin therefore in this is judged by Christ, and he is wrong, daring to insinuate a suggestion of some diversity, some moving this way in the Son and that way in the Father, in some complexity of duality, which is the contrary of unity.  Such is the price for his error. His walking in a dark room in this matter is self-induced, by shutting the door into which the light comes from the word of God, express, multiple and categorical (cf. SMR Appendix B, Great Execrations Chs.   7 and   9). The result at this point ? darkness, confirming the error of the omission and contrariness of the entry of Calvin's own philosophy.

Philosophy however has nothing to offer here, but the word of God shining, whether or not as here it is contravened, must be followed. While its light cannot be blighted, it must be sighted. It is there to be seen! When it is followed, then it embraces reality with the mastery which its Author commands.

Never move from Christ as THE TRUTH, speaking as DIRECTLY COMMANDED by His eternal Father, and you will never move from the incarnation as BEING THE EXACT IMAGE OF GOD in its outcome (Hebrews 1:3), or again be in the shelters of philosophy, cowering as before enemy aircraft, afraid of what is not known. KNOWLEDGE has come.

We do not know the FORM of God (I Timothy 6:16), but  we DO know Him to be holy, and wholly reliable; we DO know His character, His commands and His truth. Having seen Christ, we do indeed see the Father; and having known Christ, we do indeed KNOW THE FATHER (John 8:26,31,32,42,47,55; 14:7-11). His humanity is not a road block, but specifically the contrary: the AVENUE OF MANIFESTATION not of thought and hope, but of GOD! It may be veiled in flesh, but the veil exhibits what is below the veil: indeed this IS eternal life, that you should KNOW God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3).

Now of course Calvin brings up things like metaphors, including this:

"He says that he has stretched out his arms ... to call a rebellious people (Isa. 65:2); early and late he has taken care to lead them back to him. If they want to apply all this to God, disregarding the figure of speech, many superfluous contentions will arise."


This however simply is irrelevant to the point at issue and is a good illustration of the fact that NO MAN is to be followed, but the word of God only: though some man's words be found ever so helpful. The greatest can fall. NOT of Calvin, or of Wesley! THAT is the consideration that is CLEARLY written with not a metaphor in sight! (I Cor. 3).

Let us now be practical. It will not hurt. Is there any question of what God is saying in the cited passage in Isaiah? Of course not. There is no issue about whether He is earnest, diligent, whether He SENDS His messages through His messengers, seen presumably as engaging Him in their own activities ("in all their afflictions, He was afflicted" - Isaiah 63:9). The matter is INCAPABLE of misinterpretation. The metaphors enliven it, make it clear in human terms; they do not seduce, speaking in one set of imagery which obscures, renders ambiguous, far less denies what is the point of the metaphoric mini-parable, if you like. You see the Lord in this figure of Isaiah's, in His earnest, dawn breaking zeal. Very well, that is known. Since Christ Himself in fact DID just that, arising a great while before the break of day, it is even less of any tendentious character. AS MAN, GOD DID JUST THAT! (Mark 1:35).

Now how does this evacuate the MESSAGE which the FIGURE of hens and chickens provides in exact parallel to that of the zeal of the Lord, in the other ? The figure is about hens and chickens, in this, that LIKE that, He has acted. But the simile is simply passing. It proceeds:



THIS is the DIRECT statement. One, called Christ, had a strong, deep and direct desire which is evocatively likened to that of a hen for her chickens. It is intense, immense, earnest and warm. This is the thrust. He is not BECOMING a hen in this picture. He is likening what HE FEELS and WOULD HAVE, to the way a hen appears to act. In the FACE of this (as in 'stretched out', the imagery cited from Isaiah by Calvin himself), this earnest zeal, this unequivocal desire (not a decision to force, but a decision to seek with ardour), CHRIST STATES WHAT HE FINDS. He has this zeal and this desire, and its character is compared to the hen's thirst and desire for chicks, to protect them.

Thus even the case cited by Calvin merely confirms the point. The imagery is evocative, and declarative of content, as is normal in imagery. It is clear, as is normal in good imagery. It means that the Lord NOT ONLY desired to find the lost, but that His desire was cardinal, direct, assured and indisputable. It is :

Now we come to the next error of Calvin, who sidestepped this issue with a mere flurry of words, in gross distortion of the simplicity of the positive-negative propositions of Christ: I WOULD... YOU WOULD NOT. And this which must be added : IT HAPPENED LIKE THAT .... OFTEN!! (HOW OFTEN WOULD I ...!).

Calvin states in his peculiar fashion in this context, that "although to our perception God's will is manifold, he does not will this and that in himself, but according to his diversely manifold wisdom, as Paul calls it (Eph.3:10), he strikes dumb our sense until it is given to us to recognize how wonderfully he wills what at the moment seems to be against his will."

So He is WILLING what in CHRIST'S OWN WORDS is ONE THING. The will celestially however is quite another. The Father, we evidently are to learn from Calvin at this point,  is NOT doing this. As to this, the Lord's own statement of simplicity and clarity, the theory is:

it merely distorts the complex situation which in essence is OTHER and DIVERSE, indeed DIVERGENT. In appearance ? If only in appearance, well: then in reality He is willing just as His son, speaking as commanded BY HIM, is speaking. That is the function of word when it is TRUTH. But if in reality, then the word of the Saviour is countermanded in heaven, and He who is to show God shows what is not TRUE. The ludicrous nature of truth being untrue, we shall leave for the scholars. The fidelity and precision of God is witnessed throughout all scripture, to the contrary, and He stakes His NAME on it! We for our part, in interpreting what He says, will stick FIRST to WHAT He says, both in Christ and elsewhere, and not make yes mean no, and assuredly mean not really!


First, however, let us consider Calvin's  quotation from Ephesians 3:10. There the context is this: formerly there was no such clear and manifest notion of Jew-Gentile fellowship in the Gospel as is now revealed. Unsearchable are the riches of Christ, and within them, wide is this amplitude of logical simplicity: the historical fact that first the Jew-Gentile mix was not at all close in the matter of relationship to God - indeed what they were was apart, but now the Jew and the Gentile are in this able to be together. While this is so, it is ONLY so in and because of Christ: the one - the Jewish nation,  having first rejected him, and the other, the Gentiles nations,  at first not knowing of him. They were differently OUT; they are similarly now IN. This WISDOM is indeed manifold, as the apostle states: but it is not in the least obscure!

There is not the slightest issue of DIFFICULTY:  merely it is one of strategic beauty, and glorious composition. It is not in the least a question of what is a flat contradiction becoming uncontradictory, what is a denial becoming an affirmation. It is that what was FOR AN ABSENT REASON, not present, now by the PRESENCE OF THAT REASON, has become operative. Without Christ, they were separate and severed in relationship to God, nation to nations. Now they are not so divided. Why ? It is because they have Christ, the great basis of unity in God, from God, for God.

What then ? Without a cheque book, you COULD not abide the high prices. NOW that you have a well-padded one, you find no problem at all. There is in NEITHER case, the slightest question about clarity or confusion. No means ? then no result: that is all.

The MANIFOLD WISDOM of God, then, is as is stated in Proverbs 8:8: in His words there is NOTHING "wreathed". It is ALL CLEAR to him who understands, we are told. That is what is written. There is the OPPOSITE of clever semantic play; and there the precise contrary of allowing misconception and misconstruction. The words of God are clear to the one who understands them, seeking as silver as in Psalm 119, and what is less clear, as on a fine day looming from the mist, becomes more so.

What is present is the simple need to read what is written, from God, in whom is no iniquity, to examine what it is saying as the speaker gives it out in His chosen place, and to examine all else like it that He has stated. If it is difficult, well. That is quite different from twisted, distorted, the very things that Proverbs EXPLICITLY DENIES to the word of God. It may be hard; it is never wrong. It may challenge ingenuity; it never threatens truth. ONLY by insertion or desertion can that happen! That is the challenge given, and this is the experience found. They are as one.

The ABUSE of this MANIFOLD CONCEPT, by Calvin,  to achieve what the apostle Paul is NOT saying, is if not contemptible, at least confused. People might at times have THOUGHT God would not favour the Gentiles (but He states the opposite often enough in Deuteronomy 32, Psalm 67ff., Isaiah 49 and so on, and relates it in Jonah with the utmost eloquence). People might not have realised that in Christ the result of togetherness would come (but God STATES that Israel is to have a new name, acknowledges they will reject their own Messiah - Isaiah 49:7, resoundingly states that HIS servants will be called by another name while Israel's servants will hunger and thirst, Isaiah 65:13-15, and makes it clear that in Christ will all the justified be covered, whoever and of whatever race they may be - Isaiah 53:6,10-11, 44:5, 45:22-25).

Thus we are not finding a conundrum solved, but a feature focussed, a commencement consummated, so that what He had begun to exhibit, He now exhibits in the utmost detail.

Hence any use of this passage in Ephesians 3:10, which deals centrally with the consummation of the preliminary attestation to the Jew in the Gospel even to the Gentile, to make it appear that God is an author of self-contradiction, or even One who makes statements of a devious, unclear or misleading character, is ludicrous. It is CONSUMMATION that is expressed here, of wisdom already shown, not NEGATION of oddities which were contrary. There is NEVER any question that God's words are not CLEAR to the understanding reader. He may be baulked by his own ineptitude, but not by divine deficiency in that beautiful art of coherent and logical speech.

Further, this appeal is merely trivial. To suggest that because God in fact can engage in progressive revelation, that therefore He can contradict in the most emphatic and direct sense what He is evocatively and potently declaring, is a case of making another sort of speech for the Lord, than that which He claims for Himself, and commends (Isaiah 41,43,44,45,48 are eloquent on His TESTABILITY in DETAIL and NEVER being unclear - so as to be untestable for comparison purposes - or misleading, inaccurate or wrong).

CHRIST as MAN speaking to MEN by DIRECT COMMAND of His eternal Father, as His eternal word, stated His feelings, His wishes and the results. There is no room for talking of a double will, or a confused will, or a forked will. CHRIST SAYS IT IS ONE THING, and CALVIN SAYS IT IS ANOTHER, the direct opposite. It is a choice in this case between Christ and Calvin. Do not even children do this, saying that mummy or daddy REALLY meant that they SHOULD go out when they said they SHOULD NOT, because how manifold (tricky ?) is the will of parents, and how often they ask one to show courage, so yes, one should GO out when told NOT to. This is fiddling and pettifoggery.

When "what is human is transferred to God" says Calvin on Matthew 23:37, as if this "explains" his flat contradiction of the words of the Saviour, that covers it. That is all it is, so we can now know that the thing stated by THE LORD is not final, is not indeed, true. It is suggestive of something; it is not expressive of what it says. What it says, this is intensely asserted as the case, and the One who does it, is the Maker of the case, for one, for all!

Does however this, Christ's being human, then explain it ? that what He says is not the case ? If that were so, then what is God when transferred to man, this too will not ACTUALLY  expose the reality of His character, expression, desire (for that is MOST EMPHATIC HERE) and so on. This represents is a denial of the incarnation, even of its relevance to TRUTH; yet Christ said He was the TRUTH. Now Calvin, carried away in a good cause (to prevent misconception of the power of man), has simply gone too far. Man DOES lack power relative to God, but GOD DOES NOT LACK POWER RELATIVE TO MAN, and in particular, His power of speech is consummate, precise, the subject of challenge in comparison with all other speech for the CLEAR and TESTABLE performance of what it claims.

Calvin does not mean so to deny, and if he did, then all his theology, like Barth's, would become illicit, vain, a contradiction of what he affirms. How can God make anything clear if this will, emotion and desire cannot be made clear because as a PERSON SENT FROM HEAVEN AND INCARNATED ON EARTH AS A MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE, He cannot convey the actualities of the situation! The race having been manufactured thus, in this format, He cannot speak His
mind ?  How much LESS could He have done so, if this were so, through the prophets, for this so obscure 'reason', then! Since the prophets  were mere men, sinners to boot, how much LESS could they convey reality, truth, of God Himself AS MAN, in the image created for just such a thing (Isaiah 51:6) is reputed here to be UNABLE to communicate better than the opposite of what He means!

Calvin did not mean it (the implications, we assume, based on his other utterances); but he said it. Be warned you people -ism followers, you devotees of this or that, just because many Christians are indubitably excellent in much. Look to the head, not the shoulders! (cf. Hebrews 12:1). Calvin erred in this point, and one simply shows its enormity, not to make him appear heretical, but to show the grandeur of the error, contrary to his normal thought, into which he falls in his endeavours, misguided and misled, to avoid the teaching of the Saviour (not again, that he intended this, but he accomplished it!).  If Calvin could so err, let us all be careful, NOT to 'make' God mean what He either does not say, or the opposite of what He does! Let us read what is written, and find what is stated, and follow it, not some alternative, philosophically induced, in plain contrast to both the text and the terms it employs, such as  affirmation and negation!

Further, who is Calvin and who is any, to make it appear that when the Saviour is doing one thing, God in some OTHER way is so MANIFOLD in 'wisdom' that to HIS OWN WORD in the flesh, He is opposing a flat contradiction! Is God not then God ? But CHRIST IS in His own Person God ? Will God have a double mouth ? Will He so invest and invent a situation (incarnation) that His truth is lost and His mouth is not! This is for God to DENY HIMSELF, statedly and logically impossible! (cf. II Timothy 2:13; see SMR pp. 25ff., 581ff., Barbs, Arrows and Balms  6).

Indeed, says Calvin, God does not will this and that in Himself! This is news! His will is so manifold that it is excluded from being this or that: Read Isaiah 30:8ff., and see. The very vocalisation of the word of God and His infinite backing to its jots and tittles (Matthew 5:17ff., Isaiah 34:16, 59:21 etc. and see SMR Appendix D) means the precise opposite. What He knows is operative as He speaks, and He speaks what is true where truth is relevant, and He upbraids (John 8;40,44,46!) those who do not LISTEN to HIM a man who told them the truth! Yet how could He do so, if He was so inferior a representative of the divine word that the actuality of the thought of God was too manifest, manifold, to be reduced to mere speech! HOW HAVE a word if this were so, or incarnate it if jumbled semantics were the consequence, and clear unequivocal, even emphatic utterance of plainest kind were unreliable as to one little thing: that it accorded with FACT!

Mr Calvin, unfortunately though you have an objective, here, of some concern,  the price is too high, and the means are not right.

Now let us consider the reality of the word of God: GOD is indeed deep and masterful and marvellous, but PART of that WONDER is this, that He can SAY what He means and DO (accordingly) what HE SAYS, so that it OCCURS, the laboratory, the acid test (Isaiah 41,48)!

All this precludes any such nonsense as in this case, Calvin here falls into. Even the righteous man can fall seven times! Why worship man! Let us instead turn to the word of God, return to it and keep turning to it, for it is the TRUTH.

Calvin is of course utterly correct in rebuking those who want to make it appear GOD HAS TO ACT in this or that way towards all. However this is not that: GOD WANTS to act in this way towards all, and says so. HOW He works that out in history is His affair, and my Predestination and Freewill shows how it COULD happen, simply to remove any question of logical congestion. But that He knows how to be chaste and desirous would not appear too remarkable. All human love is informed with the same thing. However His sovereign majesty and double predestination of all needs no such help as this! (cf. I Peter 2:7-8, Romans 9:15-16 with 9:12!).

Let us not then throw away the power of Christ to SPEAK what His Father commanded, and BE the truth, and SPEAK the truth, in order to depart with some show of reverence from what that truth, in this matter, actually IS! It is all gloriously consistent, utterly delightful and by ANY alteration for ANY reason, it is like a beautiful design, spoiled. See on this also Predestination and Freewill. The word of God is indeed VERY PURE, refined seven times.

It is indeed regrettable that a man of the stature of Calvin should have made such mistakes, but it is a lesson, never to be so concerned for the appearance of difficulty (felt for some reason or other) as to actually CONTRADICT the word of God! He has His OWN answers; OUR part is to take it as it comes, not give such accolades that the meaning is reversed through sheer supremacy! as if speech were an art form divorced from deity when attempted to man, even by Himself as one of them: by incompetence of purpose, plan or equipment!



However in Calvin's Commentary on Romans, we have an allied error. It all seems to stem from the same misplaced fear, but the coherence of the parallel errors in this case is not admirable. Here, in commenting on Romans 1:17, Calvin advises us as follows: "In order that we may be loved by God we must first be righteous, for He hates unrighteousness. The meaning is, therefore, that we can obtain salvation from no other source than the Gospel..." This is in flamboyant contrast with Romans 5:8, the whole thrust of which is this: that amazing as it may seem, and beyond the highest human love expressed in sacrifice for what seems noble, God's love comes for what is INTRINSICALLY BAD! He loves the BAD in order to make it good, because it is His, and He made it and this is the nature of His heart's yearning (as in Lamentations 3:33, Ezekiel 33:11, I Timothy 2:1-6, Matthew 23:37 concerning which also, see SMR Appendix B for a fuller exposition).

It is NOT being said IN THE BIBLE, that God does not love until righteousness appears in the sinner; but the exact opposite. His love appears DESPITE THE ABSENCE of goodness in the object, indeed despiteits PROFOUND absence; and  He commends His love to us in this, that He died for us EVEN in such a deplorable condition as that in which we were. NOTHING commended us. His LOVE commends itself in this, that when that was OUR position, THIS was HIS! In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Calvin does seem to have real trouble with the love of God! His exposition in this case of Romans 1:17 is precisely opposite to the divine affirmation, relative to what GOD is willing to love! Now it is TRUE that He loves righteousness, and it is also true that He MAKES the convert righteous by imputation, and makes FOR righteousness by planting with His own hands, and giving a right seed (I John 3:9), so that the sinner is both pardoned judicially and enabled dynamically, albeit in the latter regard, only imperfectly, yet with scope for growth and for maturity and for depth!

Romans 1:17 is actually NOT saying this about the love of God, not even mentioning it. In the preceding verse 16, the word of God is telling us things about the Gospel, including this, that it brings into force and focus a power with a special purpose, salvation. Here in v. 17, it is explaining things, starting with -  'for'.

We learn therefore in verse 17 of Romans 1, that the Gospel's being the power of God with the payload of salvation, relates to its revealing righteousness, "from faith to faith", so that "the just shall live by faith". This is explained further in Romans 3:23ff.. Meanwhile what is "from faith to faith" ? From the faith of prophet to the faith of the reader, comes the faith in the Lord to salvation, according as a man is called: this is one rendering. Again, it can mean that faith reads of this wonder and this opening its eyes further, reads yet more, going from strength to strength. It may mean both. Faith is used to evoke faith, the work of faith in the word being the way of faith to the reader.

This is the apparent thrust. When no limit appears, no ground except utter constraint can exclude different vistas of meaning. Whichever emphasis however one takes, and the stresses cohere, and this by no means is to be assumed to exhaust the COMPLEMENTARY beauties of this verse, the word of God  is not here saying or even implying that God loves only what is righteous!

His love does not DALLY, it is true, for ever with wickedness or the flesh would fail before Him (Genesis 6); and the conscience may be seared as with a hot iron, in those who reject the love of the truth (II Thessalonians 2, I Timothy 4:2, II Timothy 4:3). Yes, but this is not the teaching Calvin raises here, in his unheroic treatment of this text.

These two parallel importations into the Bible, one by force of contradiction and one by force of addition, do nothing to adorn the name of the scholar; but they do show, in view of his prodigious brilliance and helpfulness in so many fields, the need to go slow on 'ISMS'! Calvinism and the rest are, we remind ourselves (as in Repent or Perish 1), simply forbidden (I Cor. 3).

Finally, even if it seem repetitive after Predestination and Freewill and The Kingdom of Heaven 4, let us realise that the SYSTEM of the 5 points of Calvin is NOT involved in this error, improper or lax means of preserving it never having been required (as shown in the above references, together with SMR Appendix B). They, for their part,  are a splendid array, seen in the light of the Bible as diversely shown throughout this site.

How pure is the word of God (Psalm 12, 111, 119), which for its part, NEVER ERRS, and how marvellous is the Lord who NEVER FAILS, and whose word is NOT WREATHED, contrived or imprecise, but rather soars like a space craft, perfect in comprehension, diligent in disposition, incorruptible in content.

Alas! it is man not God who can be 'manifold' in this sense, of being inconsistent! The word of God, for His part, is pure, seven times refined, not prolix. That is what it says, and what one finds. It is perfect in grace and nobility, in consistency and in depth; it challenges, but not by obscurity; it hammers, but not with dull noise. It is a precise instrument, and it reveals a love of righteousness and of the unrighteous, each in his or her place, so that the end result gains what is to be gained, but the initial outlay is something very different, enormously expensive, wholly sacred, and foreknown in the wisdom of God, in all its outcomes.

Indeed, WHOM He foreknew, not in works but in reality (Romans 8:28ff., 9:11), He set about predestining! This is the logical sequence. THAT is the order which it says. Who is He ? He tells us that He is love (I John 4:7ff.), In Colossians 1:19ff., He shows it in that vast all universe expedition in the cross, sole competence for any sinner. What then ? It is NOT to be sure, that love is He; but that HE is love: for it is HE who gives to love its very definition, as to faithfulness, for in each there is no alloy (James 1:17, Deuteronomy 32:4).

"For it pleased that Father than in Him {Christ} all the fulness should dwell,
and by Him, to reconcile all things to Himself,
by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven,
having made peace through he blood of His cross..."

Yet it is HE who knows: "YOU have not chosen ME, but I have chosen you!" (John 15).

For the harmony and significance of these things in the beauty of the Lord's unique holiness, see The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4, SMR Appendix B and SMR Ch.8, initial pages, and The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, End-note 2, Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1, together with Predestination and Freewill. In the end, we are all relevant to God (He does not know nothings!), but our  'virtues' do not in this domain of salvation, register; and His will is the determinant, not forcing man by violence, nor yet indulging man as if his were autonomy. In the end, He is the sovereign and it is His will which is done; it is His will that those saved are thus saved, that He and He alone justifies by grace, through faith, on the basis of His redemption as sacrifice and His resurrection as authentic; but He is the loving sovereign whose will is that man, not some enticed substitute, might be saved.



The case in actual historical fact was Westminster Theological Seminary. The scope of the love of God towards mankind, as expressed in the first chapters of John's gospel (in fact, paralleled in I Tim. 2, Titus 2-3, Col.1 et al.)  remains as it will remain: unharmed, unharassed and uncompressed by such light and ultimately irrelevant and indeed biblically inappropriate verbal play (II Timothy 2:14, Proverbs 8:8-9), based on arbitrary assumptions  as occurred in response to my examinable and assessed sermon presentation, in the Westminster case noted. It is the word of God which binds; and its splendour must be received with simplicity, its authenticity without strivings. (See references in next paras.)

As noted in Biblical Blessings, pp.  111ff., Westminster can be of much assistance where the oppressive foretastes of antichrist are aroused as they were in my early ministerial career in Australia. However, as Tennyson put, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world ... Even Westminster is not at all perfection…

To confess this tendency, for misplaced zeal for an -ism, rather than fruitful zest for what, in EACH context of the word of God, is actually written, is to note something which, though understandable, does not increase understanding; though forgivable, is not profitable. It does nothing to reduce Westminster's valuable contribution on most fronts; but it does assist realism.

Its strong Calvinism is not objectionable in much, the famous five points of the same theologian, in their Biblical setting, being of great value. Unfortunately, he like so many others gifted, having added to the arsenal of the church in his systematics, failed to give adequate stress to another aspect: in this case, to the love of God. Indeed, the vast conflict in discussion between Wesley and Whitefield is eloquent testimony to the dangers of specialising on some scriptures, without real value being given to others. ALL scripture must be clearly regarded (II Tim 3:16, cf. I Tim. 6:4).  Re this & Biblical fidelity: see Predestination and Freewill (P&F), pp.100ff., 114-189, 190-191, SMR, Appendix B , Appendix D; The Biblical Workman 8,  End-note 2; and *2 . Without this special care, and indeed consistent regard to all that the word of God declares, a philosophic approach becomes all too possible; and this failure occurred at times at Westminster, perhaps being the reason for two events.

One is that given above; and the other came when systematics scholar, John Murray, a delightful man of great analytical ability, challenged me in class to give account of what was troubling me in his presentation, according 5 minutes for the task. Using Colossians 1:19-23, I showed the gap in the systematics, and the great danger it ran of not only aborting an aspect of the Bible, but of inadvertently becoming guilty of MERIT in salvation. Of course, this was not the aim of the system in view, but a real liability ( pp.1130ff. and P&F).  No answer was forthcoming from John Murray, and this was just; for what God affirms in His word,  is not severable by human assertion. You have to adopt the statements and find the correlative ones, seeing all as one non-contradictable whole. It is then that wisdom operates.

These things should be handled, as the Westminster Confession so justly says, with care and discretion. John Murray, then,  did not answer this direct affirmation of the generic character of the love of God shown in Colossians 1; and never in any place have I seen an answer, for an answer to the basic challenge on the need to give the Biblical place to the love of God, in terms of the extent of His embracive attitude as love ab initio, could only be in contradicting the Bible. Sovereignty suffers not at all (P&F pp. 121ff.).

The answer to biblical interpretation is never to contradict what is written, with whatever 'good' intentions; any more than contradict laboratory results in science: you proceed FROM what is written, with all else, to seek understanding. This is the biblical way, and this alone of all, it works! Its results, when faithfully applied, are inimitable. You get what is given and its coherence is glorious, uniquely so, extravagantly delightful.

Accordingly, it is with sorrow that I have had to acknowledge that excellent as Westminster has been in many ways, yet in this area of being sensitive to research and emphasis in a phase of theology not à la mode for its preferred stance and posture in terms of "Calvinism", it fell down.

Often this is seen in life: someone or some body equipped and excellent in some way, becomes too hardened to OTHER aspects not in view. The most excellent way is to be adaptive to WHATEVER comes from WHEREVER, so long as the Bible warrants it. Let the chips fall where they may! To take the first occasion, mentioned in para 1 above: To let a student be formally muzzled in Class, in such a case was of course a gross misuse of authority, an invasion of scriptural systematics and a distasteful exhibition of intolerance, when it was followed by such erratic and shallow lampooning as occurred (in fact, II Timothy 2:14 - striving about words to no profit is forbidden), justly calling up the rebuke of the senior student concerned, who exposed it with  some vim. For that, one glorifies God.

That the time of the occurrence was an examination on which the Degree depended, that the 'critique' of the instructor bypassed the actual systematics concerned, the directly scriptural presentation on the love of God, with philosophic imaginings about words, did not warrant confidence. There is a place for pearls, and confidence in a non-debate situation, where rights of reply and due continuity of discussion were arbitrarily severable,  with such occurrences as this, could only be withheld.

Moreover, Calvinism, or any other -ism founded on man is signally rejected by the Bible in I Cor. 3:4-9.22, where even "of Paul" is refused (and how much more, it follows, 'of Calvin'), though of course this is not applicable to the SCRIPTURES he wrote, these being immediately inspired in a plenary way, by God (I Cor. 2:9-13 and see SMR Appendix D). You simply CANNOT give honour to one another in such a manner, and yet give the due honour to the ONE whose speech is infinitely superior to all other (John 4:40-47). It is time this was learnt, obeyed and done.

The Westminster Confession's system of doctrine is indeed Biblical; but for fidelity, the extra emphasis on the love of God is needed, as in the Basis of Union of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, which unfortunately has changed some of its approach. That aspect is, if you like, pre-systematic; yet none the less intensely vital for that!

The Biblical love of God does not alter the SYSTEM, which works in its own way: rather it alters the testimony to the One whose it is - of whom it is written "God is love" (I John 4:7-8). And as to that - inclusion of this as of all Biblical components - it is vital to precision (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, pp. 45ff., Predestination and Freewill, pp. 114ff.) and justice in covering - and attesting - the uniquely harmonious Biblical revelation from God Almighty in this sphere.

Indeed, here as elsewhere, this and any other obedience to the word of God is wisdom itself! A good understanding, says the word of God, have they who do His commandments. Some things may seem "small", but ...how do "little things" mask great ones!

To be flexible with the Bible is abhorrent, the ultimate intrusion and plagiarism, next beneath the crucifixion of Christ, the eternal, living word of God made flesh. It does not preserve the beautiful precision and utter wonder of the word of God: unique, incomparable and illuminating. To be flexible to it, however, is entirely different. It is not that emphasis on the sound teaching of the Bible needs to be aborted at all (heaven forbid) but to be inclusive of all it says, while yet exclusive of what it does not say. Biblical systematics on sovereignty and grace are not lost through the whole counsel of God, but put in place so that, like a completed jigsaw puzzle, the result is suddenly able to show and depict the vital vision that flows like water, pure by His word from the eternal magnificences and illimitable magnitudes of His heart (Ephesians 1:17-18, Matthew 5:17-19, II Timothy 3:16).