Monday, September 27, 2021

An Overview of the Book of Daniel

 Daniel's Answer to the King by Briton Rivière (1840–1920)
A few weeks ago, I gave a lesson on the book of Daniel as part of a Bible survey series. You can listen to the lesson on Daniel at this link. (You can also listen to my sermon series on Daniel here.) Here is the handout that I provided along with the lesson. 

Daniel and his three friends were some of the youths “of the royal family and of the nobility” (1:3) taken from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC when Babylon first subdued Jerusalem (cp. 1 Kgs. 24:1). Isaiah had prophesied that this would happen in 2 Kings 20:18. Daniel would rise to prominence as a ruler and counselor in the courts of Babylon and Persia. His career recounted in the book of Daniel spans 69 years. 

The theme of the book of Daniel

God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men. He will deliver and exalt his people and humble proud rulers. He will establish his anointed one and his kingdom, which will fill the earth.


1 - Introduction: Daniel and his friends in Babylon

2-7 - In Aramaic

        2 - The vision of the image and the mountain
                3 - God saves Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace
                        4 - God humbles King Nebuchadnezzar
                        5 - God judges King Belshazzar
                6 - God saves Daniel from the Lion’s Den
        7 - The vision of the four beasts and the son of man

8-11 - In Hebrew

        8 - The vision of the ram, the goat, and the little horn that becomes great
                9 - Daniel’s prayer and the vision of seventy weeks
        10-12 - The vision of the kings of Persia, Greece, the north (Seleucids), the south (Ptolemys).

The Four Kingdoms/Empires (as they are described in the referenced chapters)

Babylon: golden head (2), lion with wings (7)

Medes and Persians: silver chest and arms (2), lop-sided bear with three ribs in its mouth (7), lop-sided ram (8), kings of Persia (11).

Greece: bronze middle and thighs (2), leopard with four wings and four heads (7), the goat with one horn that becomes four (8), Greece’s mighty king, whose kingdom will be divided in four (11)

Rome: legs of iron and feet of iron and clay (2), the fourth beast with ten horns (7).

The Little Horns that Become Great

The third kingdom divides into four after Alexander the Great’s death. From one of them comes a ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, described in chapter 8 and 11-12. He persecutes the saints and profanes the temple.

The fourth kingdom also has a little horn that rises to prominence and persecutes the saints, the Roman emperor, described in chapter 7. Rome also is used to destroy Jerusalem and the temple (9).

The Fifth Kingdom/Empire

The kingdom of God: a rock that becomes a mountain (2), the Son of Man and the saints (7), the anointed one, a prince (9). It arises in the days of the rulers of the fourth kingdom, Rome (2:44, 7:13-14, 18, 22, 27)


605 BC - Daniel taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, about 14 years old (1:1-16). 
605-562 BC - Nebuchadnezzar’s 43-year reign in Babylon.
553-539 BC - Belshazzar reigns as king, though technically a regent under his father Nabonidus.
539 BC - The Medes and Persians conquer Babylon; Daniel is about 80 years old. 
536 BC - The “third year” of Cyrus’ reign in Babylon, when Daniel receives his last recorded vision (10:1). 
336-323 BC - The reign and conquests of Alexander the Great
175-164 BC - The reign of Antiochus Epiphanes 
167-165 BC - The Maccabean revolt
64-63 BC - Rome conquers Jerusalem and finishes conquest of the Seleucid kingdom
49-27 BC - The rise of the Roman Empire under Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus
33 AD - The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ

The Benefits of Union with Christ in This Life

Q. 32: What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
Answer: They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them. (WSC)

This catechism question calls attention to at least two things:

First, all the blessings of salvation necessarily come together, since they all come as a consequence of our union with Christ. All those who are effectually called into union with Christ receive from him all the benefits of his redemptive work. All those who are justified are also being sanctified, since justification and sanctification both come from Christ. Receive Christ by faith, and you receive it all. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption...” (1 Cor. 1:30). “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

Second, the believer receives many important blessings “in this life.” The catechism will describe the benefits believers receive from Christ in this life (Q. 32-36), at death (Q. 37), and at the resurrection (Q. 38). In this life, believers partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and more. While there is more to be received from Christ after death, yet what we receive in this life is already tremendous. And going back to the first point, one of the blessings in this life is a sure hope of the blessings to come, remembering that these blessings come together - if you are justified and being sanctified, then you will also be glorified (Rom. 8:9-30).

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Effectual Call of God

Q. 31: What is effectual calling?
Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. (WSC)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has already stated that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ by working faith in us. It goes on in this question to explain how the Spirit works faith in us in our effectual calling. Effectual calling is distinguished from ineffectual calling. Ineffectual calling is where the free call of the gospel is proclaimed without producing an effect. Effectual calling is the call of God through the gospel which produces a change in the person such that the person chooses to receive what is freely offered. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit which he uses to pierce the soul and heart of man (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12). In effectual calling, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, the imperishable seed by which we are born again (1 Cor. 1:18, Rom. 1:16, 1 Peter 1:23).

In our effectual calling, the Spirit persuades and enables us to embrace Christ. In the end, we choose to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior with a free will and convinced mind. But we do this as a consequence of the Spirit’s work. He works upon our minds and our wills. Both need to be renewed for us to receive Christ.

The Holy Spirit works on our minds by convincing us of the truth about our fallen estate (sin and misery) and enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, thereby persuading us to embrace Christ. He pricks our hearts with a true sense of our sin and misery and builds them up with an understanding of the gospel. Apart from the Spirit, we tend to minimize our fallen condition and trust in false hopes. In our fallen condition we suppress the truth and are spiritually blind to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4, 1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 1:18). But with the Spirit of the Lord, we are freed of this blindness and with an unveiled face behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:14-18). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Holy Spirit works on our wills by renewing them, enabling us to embrace Christ. Apart from the Spirit, our wills are corrupt, in rebellion against God, but this is changed when the Spirit comes to dwell in us (Rom. 8:7-9). The Spirit gives us a new heart and a new spirit, so that we begin to be disposed unto faith and obedience (Ezek. 36:26-27). All those and only those whom God draws in this way will freely come to Christ (John 6:44). Notice that God does not destroy man’s will, but renews it. Having a strong will is bad when it is opposed to God, but not when it is aligned with his will. In his work of redemption, God does not create people with broken wills, grudgingly doing the inevitable, but people who offer themselves to Christ freely, who force their way into the kingdom of God, and who run in the way of his commandments (Luke 16:16, Ps. 110:3, 119:32).

Monday, September 6, 2021

Abortion, Feminism, and the Creation Order

The point of anti-abortion laws is the same as existing laws against murder. The pro-life position argues that abortion is murder, the unjust taking of innocent human life.

This is why many of the objections to anti-abortion laws make no sense to someone who is pro-life. For example, exceptions for rape and incest do not make sense. Rape and incest should be punished, but they do not justify the killing of an innocent party.

This is not a "war against women." The focus of anti-abortion laws and the pro-life position is on the life of the unborn child. Its goal is not to punish or suppress women - in fact, the pro-life movement has resulted in many charitable efforts to help pregnant women and their children in difficult circumstances.

With that said, egalitarian feminism is waging a war, with unborn children as casualties. This is not true of all feminists - some have opposed abortion, pointing to other solutions such as birth control, adoption, and accommodations in the work place. But a certain type of feminism believes that women need access to abortion to eliminate the difference between men and women and preserve individual autonomy. With its individualist and egalitarian principles, it comes into conflict with nature (that is, the way things are designed to work).

In general, we naturally desire sex, which naturally leads to pregnancy, which naturally leads to distinctions between men and women and their abilities. Fathers and mothers have natural obligations to their children, just as those children will have reciprocal obligations to their parents. All this naturally leads to traditional marriage as the best arrangement for these factors, all of this being designed by God, including marriage.

The conservative and biblical approach is to strengthen marriage and the family (Ex. 20:12-14, 1 Cor. 7:2, 1 Tim. 5:4, 8-16). This includes passing laws such as those that limit divorce (Matt. 19:3-9), hold men accountable for premarital sex (Ex. 22:16-17), and punish rapists (Deut. 22:25-27). It also involves extended family and other institutions stepping in when the family breaks down (1 Tim. 5:3-10, Deut. 14:29, Ruth 1-4). Its approach is to exhort people to fulfill their natural obligations through custom, education, and law. But the modern theory that affirms a woman’s right to kill her unborn child for the sake of autonomy and equality ultimately denies that such obligations exist, which is a big problem. Like Cain, they distance themselves from the victim and disown their responsibility. "Am I my child's keeper?" As Carl Trueman puts it,
“Abortion is simply one way in which a fictional notion of what it means to be human is reflected in our culture and enabled by law. In denying the obligation of the mother and father to the child, legal abortion denies not simply the personhood of the child in the womb, but also the humanity of the mother and the father.” 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Union with Christ

Q. 30: How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
Answer: The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. (WSC

As noted in my last post on the catechism, the redemption Christ purchased must be applied to us for us to benefit from it. This application is done by his Holy Spirit. In this question, the point is that he applies this redemption to us by uniting us to Christ. Redemption is not handed over to us apart from Christ, but through union with Christ. We receive life from Christ the way body parts receive life from the head - by being connected to him. The Spirit creates this bond and through this bond conveys what is Christ’s to us. The Bible compares our union with Christ - our being “in” Christ - to the union of body parts to the head, branches to a vine, and a wife to a husband (1 Cor. 6:15-17, 12:12-13, Eph. 5:22-33, John 15:1-11).

This union we have with Christ is legal and living. This union is legal (or forensic) in that he is accounted our representative head, whereby our sin is imputed to him (and thereby atoned for) and his righteousness is imputed to us. This union is also living (or mystical) in that we receive life and holiness from Christ, being renewed by him and conformed to his likeness. An analogy for this twofold union can be found in marriage, which is both a legal and living union. 

As this question points out, the Spirit creates this union by working faith in us. Our union with Christ can be thought of as a double bond of two cords, one from both directions: the Spirit going from Christ to us, and Spirit-produced faith from us to Christ. By faith, we receive Christ and all his benefits. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). The Spirit works this faith in us in our effectual calling, the topic of the next catechism question.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Hupomoné - Steadfastness, Perseverance, Endurance

Recently I searched for "steadfastness" on YouTube, and most of the results were from Muslims and Mormons. The few Christian results were about how God is steadfast. When I searched for "perseverance" on YouTube, the top results were mostly about the NASA rover by that name, but also included a motivational video and two Ted talks. The results were similar for "endurance." On the other hand, when I searched for "peace," about half the top results were from Christian sources.

While this was not a scientific study, it seemed to confirm my impression that modern Christian culture tends to emphasize passive experience more than active exertion. Evangelicals appreciate the comforting words of preservation but can feel uneasy with exhorting words to persevere, perhaps as an overreaction against moralism. 

But the Bible speaks of steadfastness, perseverance, and endurance as virtues which Christians ought to develop and practice. In fact, all three of these words are translations of the same Greek word, hupomoné (ὑπομονή), which refers to “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance” (BDAG). The verb form, ὑπομένω, means “to maintain a belief or course of action in the face of opposition, stand one’s ground, hold out, endure” (BDAG). The noun form occurs 32 times in the New Testament (see here) and the verb form occurs 17 times (see here). In all these occurrences, the word refers to the endurance of believers, except for three occasions where it describes Christ's endurance. Two of these occur in Hebrews 12 where Christ's endurance is presented as an example for us, that we also might "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). 

On the one hand, perseverance is a gift of God given to his elect. All who are chosen by God and who come to true faith in Christ will endure in it to the end by his grace (Col. 1:11, Phil. 1:6, John 6:37-40, John 10:28-29). On the other hand, it is also something which we do, using the means he has given. 

Steadfastness in the faith is required of all believers. Jesus said that "the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22, 24:13). In contrast to those who fall away, are led astray, or deny Christ, those who will be saved will endure to the end. The author of Hebrews exhorted the church, "you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised" (10:36). When Paul described our salvation, he qualified his statement by saying, "if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (1:23). 

Steadfastness is a virtue which all believers should develop. Hupomoné was traditionally discussed in discussions of the virtues in connection with courage and self-control. Aristotle contrasted the man of endurance with the soft man who is easily overcome by pain and difficulty (Ethics, 7.7). James 5:11 points to Job as an example of this virtue: “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job…” Paul told Timothy to pursue hupomoné (1 Tim. 6:11). The Apostle Peter listed hupomoné as a quality believers should adopt and practice. 

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness ... For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ ... if you practice these qualities you will never fall." (2 Peter 1:5–6, 8, 10b).

We develop steadfastness as we practice it in our lives, root ourselves deeply in the word of God (Ps. 1), and make use of the means of grace in the fellowship of the saints (Heb. 10:23-25, Eph. 4:11-16). Without steadfastness, we are unstable. The unstable man will be driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6, Eph. 4:11-16, 2 Peter 3:16). Even when this instability does not lead to eternal judgment, it can cause serious trouble in a believer’s life and witness. 

In Romans 5:3 and James 1:3, hupomoné is described as a quality produced in a person by trials. This is why James can say, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (1:2), not because trials are good or enjoyable, but because "the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (1:3). James' words are not understandable unless one prizes steadfastness. This is why both James and Paul go on to extoll the blessing of steadfastness, how it undergirds the Christian life, making it habitual and lasting. “…endurance produces character…” (Rom. 5:4). “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Redemption Applied

Q. 29: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? 
Answer: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit. (WSC)

In the work of redemption, we move from the election of the Father, to the purchase of redemption by Christ, to the application of redemption by the Spirit. As 1 Peter 1:2 says, we are saved according to the “foreknowledge of the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” The blood of Christ and its benefits are applied to us by the Spirit. 

Of course, each person of the Trinity is involved in each work. Titus 3 mentions all of them when it says that the Father saved us by the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). 

The Spirit brings life from Christ to us, regenerating and renewing us, being as it were a conduit that connects us to Christ and his benefits. Without this union with Christ, all of Christ's work avails us nothing. As John Calvin explains,
“so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings.” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.1)

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Christ's Exaltation and Our Exaltation

Q. 28: Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? 
Answer: Christ's exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day. (WSC)

“Therefore God has highly exalted him…” (Phil. 2:9). While the Son had dwelt from eternity in heavenly glory as God, yet for our sake he humbled himself in his incarnation, mortal life, suffering, and death. In this way he purchased redemption for us. As a result, he was highly exalted by the Father and given all authority in heaven and on earth. He had not lost his divine authority, but he received it in his office as the redeemer. Having overcome sin and death, he rose in power and glory.

Notice a subtle change from the last catechism question to this question, from “Wherein did … consist?” to “Wherein consisteth…?” Christ is currently in his estate of exaltation. The catechism notes four parts to his exaltation: (1) his resurrection from the dead on the third day, (2) his ascension into heaven, (3) his session at the right hand of the Father, and (4) his coming to judge the world at the last day.

Christ’s sitting at his Father’s right hand is referred to as his “session,” since that word refers to a council or ruler sitting to conduct their business, as when we say “the court is in session.” Christ sits, not because he is tired, but because he is enthroned and ruling, having completed the work of purchasing redemption.

Consider how in each of these elements of his exaltation, Jesus does the work as our head for our good. His resurrection was for our justification, quickening in grace, and bodily resurrection (Rom. 4:24-25, Eph. 2:5-6, 1 Cor. 15). Jesus ascended into heaven to receive gifts for us, so as to pour out the Holy Spirit upon us (Acts 2:33, Eph. 4:7-11). He also ascended to raise us up with him to the heavenly places, so that at death our souls ascend there to be with him (Eph. 2:6, Phil. 1:23). Jesus is presently enthroned at the right hand of the Father, and from this position of power he gathers and sanctifies his church, subdues its enemies, and equips his ministers and people with gifts and graces (Ps. 110:1, Eph. 1:20-23, 4:10-16). There he also makes continual intercession for us, securing our access to our Father and his acceptance of our persons and services (Rom. 8:34). Jesus shall come again in judgement for the redemption of our bodies from corruption and for our acquittal and vindication. He will come to give us our inheritance and reward in the new heavens and new earth, making us perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul in union with God to all eternity (Rom. 8:23, 1 Cor. 15:22-23, Matt. 25:31-46). Through faith in Christ, these benefits of his exaltation are ours.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
(Revelation 5:12)

For more on Christ’s estates of humiliation and exaltation, you can read questions 46-56 of the Larger Catechism at this link.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

How Christ Humbled Himself for Us

Q. 27: Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist?
Answer: Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time. (WSC)

The eternal Son of God humbled himself for his people's salvation. As Philippians 2:1-11 says, though he was God, equal with the Father, yet he became a servant, in humility counting others more significant than himself. He looked not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others.

As the catechism has already explained and as Philippians 2 recounts, his estate of humiliation began when he took on human nature, being conceived in Mary’s womb and born of her. And not only did the one by whom all things were created become man, but he was born into a relatively poor family. He had a manger for his cradle. He was an exile in Egypt as an infant. He grew up in an obscure little town as the son of a carpenter (Luke 2, Matt. 2). In addition, he submitted to the regulations of the Mosaic law such as circumcision as one of his people (Gal. 4:4, Luke 2:21-27).

While Jesus never sinned, yet he experienced the misery of our fallen estate. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). He bore our sins and received our punishment, undergoing the wrath of God and the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross (Is. 53). We see his experience of God’s wrath particularly as he approached his death in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44) and on the cross itself (Matt. 27:46). Yet in both places he continued to call on his Father and submit to his will, entrusting his spirit and his vindication to his Father. Then, after Jesus died, his lifeless body was laid in the tomb and he continued in the state of the dead and under the dominion of death for a time (Rom. 6:9, Acts 2:24-27).

It is important to remember that Jesus undertook this work out of love for us and in willingly submission to his Father who sent him in love for us (Eph. 5:2, John 6:38). And while Jesus humbled himself during this time, yet this work was in fact a triumph. The cross - the epitome of shame and defeat - was actually the instrument by which our debt of sin was canceled and by which demonic powers were disarmed and put to shame (Col. 2:14-15). And it was because Jesus humbled himself in this way that he was consequently exalted in supreme glory as Lord and Savior (Phil. 2:9-11).

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Jesus the King

Q. 26: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Answer: Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (WSC)

While Jesus has an eternal dominion over all as God, he also has received a mediatorial dominion over all as our Redeemer, to the end that he might save, lead, and protect God’s elect and thereby restore God’s reign over a fallen world (Matt. 28:18).

By nature, the world is under the kingdom of Satan and the judgment of God. But by grace, people are brought into the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God and of His Christ (Col. 1:13-14). Jesus binds the strong man and plunders his house, drawing people into his kingdom (Matt. 12:25-29).

The kingdom of Israel under King David and his heirs was the manifestation of this kingdom in the Old Testament. God chose this people and provided them with a king to deliver them and give them peace and rest (2 Sam. 7:8-11, Ps. 78:70-72). He promised to raise up David’s offspring to succeed him and to establish his throne forever (2 Sam. 7:12-16, Ps. 72, 89:1-37).

Yet, as David’s descendants acted corruptly, the kingdom fell. The prophets explained to the people that this was temporary. God would remember his covenant with David and raise up his heir and restore his kingdom and make it greater than ever before (Is. 9:6-7, 11:1-10, Ezek. 34:23-24, Micah 5:2-4). The king would return to Israel and shepherd God’s people and extend his reign to the ends of the earth. This would be the Christ, God’s anointed, who would deliver his people and establish heaven’s reign on earth. As the fulfillment of this prophecy, Jesus came as the Son of David, the promised king (Luke 1:31-33).

Psalm 110 serves as a good summary of his kingship. Jesus was enthroned as king when he ascended to his Father’s right hand on the basis of his victorious work of redemption (Ps. 110:1). He now rules in the midst of his enemies, making his enemies his footstool (110:1-2). First, he does this by subduing the hearts of his people in conversion by his word and Spirit, so that they “offer themselves freely on the day of [his] power” (110:3). He rules his people internally by his grace and externally by his word, discipline, and officers. He rewards their obedience, corrects them for their sins, and orders all things for their good. Second, he does this by restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. He “will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses” (110:5-6). As Psalm 2 describes the choice, we must either submit to the king and take refuge in him or suffer his wrath and perish (Ps. 2:12). He wields this power even now as he extends his kingdom. For example, he overthrew Jerusalem for its persistent persecution of him and his disciples. But one day he will return in glory to judge the world, bringing all of this work to perfect completion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Jesus the Priest

Q. 25: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Answer: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us. (WSC)

As the catechism has already said, Jesus became our redeemer to deliver us from our estate of sin and misery. The position of redeemer (the larger catechism uses the term “mediator” to refer to the same position) has three aspects. As our redeemer he executes the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king.

The book of Hebrews explains a great deal about the priesthood of Jesus. It describes how he is a merciful high priest, able to sympathize with our weakness, having been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 2:17, 4:15). It teaches that he is a priest of the order of Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem who received a tithe from Abraham and was a type of Christ (Heb. 7, Ps. 110:4). In contrast to the Levitical priests, who were “many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Heb. 7:23-24). He continues even now to make intercession for those who draw near to God through him (Heb. 7:25). Hebrews also explains how Jesus secured an eternal redemption by his once-for-all offering of himself as a sacrifice without blemish to God (Heb. 9:12, 14). “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

By his death, Jesus satisfied divine justice and reconciled us to God. His sacrifice of himself was a “propitiation” for our sins (Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10), which is to say that it appeased the just wrath of God and incurred God's favor by atoning for our sins. It is the grounds for our forgiveness, the debt of sin having been paid by Christ. It is the basis for Christ's intercession for us before the Father, so that our persons and service is accepted by him. This is not to say that Jesus and the Father were at cross-purposes. The Father had sent the Son because of his love for us for this very purpose, that God and sinners be reconciled. As John Murray has said, “The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this: that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of this wrath.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Jesus the Prophet

Q. 24: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
Answer: Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (WSC)

I think it is safe to say that Moses was the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. The concluding postscript of Deuteronomy says that “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt…” (Deut. 34:10-11). Yet, Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15-16 that the Lord would raise up a prophet like Moses for his people, to mediate between them and the Lord.

When people began to observe Jesus’ teaching and miracles, they realized that he was this great prophet, the Prophet. The Gospel of John makes this clear by noting that John the Baptist denied that he was the Prophet (John 1:21-27), while the people correctly realized that Jesus was the Prophet (John 6:14, 7:40). Peter himself quoted the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18 in Acts 3:22 as referring to Jesus.

Both John and the writer of Hebrews pointed out that Jesus surpassed the other prophets by being God himself, the eternal Word, the only-begotten Son of the Father (John 1:1-3, 14-18, Hebrew 1:1-3, 3:1-6). Jesus makes his Father known perfectly and completely because he is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). And as the Redeemer who accomplished redemption, Jesus proclaimed the final and permanent administration of the covenant of grace. Therefore Jesus is the final word. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2a). This is why Scripture was completed and revelation ceased once his word given through the apostles was written down (Heb. 2:3-4).

Jesus exercised this prophetic ministry during his time on earth as he preached the gospel, taught his disciples, told parables, pronounced blessings and woes, foretold future events, taught through symbolic actions, and did miracles, signs, and wonders. Yet, his earthly ministry was not the only time he executed the office of a prophet. He also revealed God’s will by his Spirit through the prophets and through his apostles whom he commissioned (1 Peter 1:11, John 14:25-26, 15:26-27). The prophets and apostles are the foundation and he is the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). In addition, Jesus continues to exercise this office as he disciples us through Scripture and enlightens our minds by his Spirit to understand it (1 Cor. 2:12-16).

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Prophet, Priest, and King

Q. 23: What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
Answer: Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation. (WSC)

The eternal Son of God became our redeemer to deliver us out of an estate of sin and misery unto an estate of salvation and glory. He became the mediator between God and sinful man. He is not our redeemer and mediator by nature, but by grace. As our redeemer, he fulfills the duties of a prophet, a priest, and a king. In the Old Testament, people were appointed to these offices by anointing (by the Spirit and/or with a ceremony using oil), and so Jesus is called the "Christ," which in Greek means the "anointed one" (as does the Hebrew word "Messiah.") He fulfilled the duties of these offices in his life on earth and he has continued to fulfill them in heaven.

God laid down the pattern for these offices in the work of the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel in the Old Testament. The prophets like Moses, Elisha, and Jeremiah delivered God’s word to his people, often did miracles which demonstrated God’s power and mercy, and interceded for the people. The priests like Aaron, Zadok, and Ezra received God’s word from the prophets and taught it, maintained the worship and holiness of God, offered the various sacrifices of the people to reconcile them to God, and interceded for the people. The kings like David, Asa, and Jehoshaphat received God’s word from the priests and enforced it, guided the people by it, delivered the people from their enemies, gave them peace in the land, and interceded for the people. Sometimes these offices overlapped. Melchizedek was both a priest and king, Ezekiel was both a priest and a prophet, and David was primarily known as a king but was also a prophet (Acts 2:30).

Yet, all these men were themselves in need of salvation and all of them died. Their insufficiency pointed forward to one who would come and fulfill these tasks for God’s people and accomplish an eternal redemption. It was necessary that God himself come to fulfill these tasks. In fact, when Jesus was born, it had been hundreds of years since a prophet had prophesied and even longer since the last Davidic king had reigned. This increased all the more the sense of expectation among the people as they looked forward to the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies. Scripture prophesied that a man would come who would be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-16), a king from the line of David (Is. 9:6-7), and a priest who would make atonement by his own death and who would make intercession for his people (Is. 53).

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Humanity of Christ

Q. 22: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Answer: Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her yet without sin. (WSC

Christ has from eternity been the Son of God, of one substance with the Father. At a particular time, he became man for our salvation. He did this without giving up his divine nature, but united the two natures in one person. This is one of the great wonders of the Christian faith. It is such a wondrous thing that from time to time some people have felt the need to tone it down, to explain that his physical body was an illusion or that he only took on part of man’s nature (e.g. a human body but not a human mind). But our catechism explains what God has revealed in his word concerning Jesus, that because we “share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things” and was made to be “like his brothers in every respect” so that he might be our high priest and die on our behalf (Heb. 2:14-18). As a man, he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Therefore, his body was a true body, subject to the limitations of a human body. He took on a human soul, a “reasonable soul” (that is, a rational soul). He took on a human mind, will, and affections. He fully shared in our human experience, both in the outer life and in the inner life. When he suffered for us, he suffered in both body and soul (Matt. 26:38). He is able to sympathize with our weakness (Heb. 4:15). While he remained without sin, and thus did not experience inner temptation arising from evil desires, yet he did experience things like hunger, thirst, sorrow, and weakness, as well as the temptations of the world and the evil one.

He took on this human nature when he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:35, Matt. 1:18). As regards his divine nature, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, but as regards his manhood, he was begotten of Mary, of her substance. He was the promised offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15), of Israelite and Davidic descent according to the flesh (Rom. 9:3, 5).

“But 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” (Galatians 4:4–5).

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Only Redeemer

Q. 21: Who is the Redeemer of God's elect?
Answer: The only Redeemer of God's elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever. (WSC)

In the covenant of grace, God delivers his elect from their sin and misery by a Redeemer. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Jesus is the eternal Son of God. He did not become the Son of God by being born on earth, for God did not send him to become his Son, but “sent his only-begotten Son” that we might live through him (1 John 4:9, John 3:16). Jesus dwelt in eternal glory and love with the Father and the Spirit (John 17:5, 24). He has always been God. But it was for us, and for our salvation, that he became man around 4 BC. This incarnation was necessary for him to be the mediator between God and man and for him to offer himself as a ransom for sinners (1 Tim. 2:5-6). Having added to himself human nature for this purpose, he will always be both God and man.

It is very important to maintain both the union and the distinction of the two natures of Christ. His two natures are distinct but not separate. One heretical distortion of this doctrine, known as Nestorianism, is to divide Christ into two persons, which gets into biblical and theological problems really fast. Another heretical distortion, known as Eutychianism, is to combine Christ’s two natures into one nature, usually with the result that his humanity is divinized. But the book of Hebrews, especially 2:14-18 and 4:14-16, emphasizes the importance of Christ’s true humanity. The council of Chalcedon in 451 rejected both of these distortions as it articulated the biblical doctrine of Christ’s two natures in one person (you can read their definition here). Incidentally, R.J. Rushdoony named his organization after Chalcedon because of the implications of this doctrine, such as that no man or state can transcend its creatureliness and play God. Our confession of faith affirms the council of Chalcedon’s definition in chapter 8, article 2, “So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Thoughts on Pride Month

“…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)

In his short letter, Jude wrote to warn of those who had crept into the church and were perverting the grace of our God into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4). One of the examples of judgment he gives is that of Sodom and Gomorrah. While Sodom had many sins (Ezek. 16:49-50), Jude identifies its practice of sexual immorality, and of unnatural desires in particular (cp. Romans 1:24-27), as causes for God’s judgment. These cities “serve as an example” that we might turn away from such ways.

The apostle Peter, in a similar passage, adds a positive example, that of “righteous Lot,” whom God rescued. While not everything Lot did was exemplary, he was exemplary in being “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)…” (2 Peter 2:7–8).

As you see sexual sin promoted, this month in particular, it is right and fitting to be distressed by it. It is not self-righteous to be repulsed by the celebration of homosexuality if you are also examining yourself and repenting of you own sins, being moved in both cases by grief and hatred towards sin and a love for God and his holiness.

Near the end of his letter, Jude exhorts his readers to be “building yourselves up in your most holy faith” and to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:20, 22-23). Aversion to sin and detestation of sin is compatible with mercy towards  those who practice it. Scripture exhorts us to both.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Are All Sins Equal?

There is a popular misconception out there that all sins are equal, that no sin is worse than another sin. Many Christians have picked this up from a misunderstanding of James 2:10, which says that "whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it." But this verse does not mean that to break one commandment is to break every commandment. Rather, as the preceding and following verses explain, it means that to break one commandment makes a person a transgressor of the law and liable to judgment (James 2:9, 11). Apart from the mercy offered in Christ, the law demands perfect obedience. 

While all sins are the same in that they all violate God's law, are contrary to his character, and deserve eternal judgment, yet in other respects they are not the same. The Bible regularly speaks of sins that are greater than others (e.g. John 19:11, Ezek. 8:6) and which deserve greater judgment than others (e.g. Matt. 11:22, Luke 12:47-48). The Westminster Larger Catechism summarizes the biblical material on this point in the questions below (you can find them here with abundant, but not comprehensive, biblical citations). 

To believe that no sin is worse than another sin is an unbiblical concept. I believe many people hold to this idea with good intentions, but it often leads to bad consequences in practice and a superficial understanding of sin. A wise person knows how to evaluate sin and does not treat it all the same. In this way, not only is he able to address the sins of others more wisely and justly, but he also gains a better sense of the depravity of his own sins and a better sense of the mercy of God in Christ. 


Question 150: Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?
Answer: All transgressions of the law are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Question 151: What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
Answer: Sins receive their aggravations,
  1. From the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.
  2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.
  3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
  4. From circumstances of time, and place: if on the Lord's day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.
Question 152: What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?
Answer: Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law, deserveth his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

God's Gracious Covenant

Q. 20: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
Answer: God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer. (WSC)

Thanks be to God for his grace and mercy! We were helpless on our own, wallowing in the sin we loved and doomed to unending misery. But he did not leave us to perish in our sin and misery.

“Election” and “predestination” refer to God’s choice of a people to be saved by him and brought to everlasting life and glory. This choice occurred before the creation of the world in eternity (Eph. 1:4, 2 Tim. 1:9). It was not based on God’s foresight of our actions (Rom. 9:11). In fact, any faith or good deeds we do is a result, not a cause, of his decision to save us. We have no grounds of boasting in our salvation - all the praise goes to God’s grace (Eph. 1:5-6). While God is just to leave some in their sins and judge them for their freely chosen rebellion against him, showing his justice, wrath, and power, he also demonstrates his mercy in his election of some to everlasting life, not on the basis of works, but of his grace (Rom. 9:10-24, 11:5-6).

Because God had from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, he entered into a covenant of grace, a second covenant. This one would be a redemptive covenant, bringing his people out of sin and misery into an estate of salvation. It would be a covenant established upon the work of a Redeemer, not our perfect obedience. In it, salvation is freely offered to all those who believe in this Redeemer (John 3:16). Here is how the Larger Catechism explains how the grace of God is manifested in this second covenant:
“The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.” (WLC, Q. 32)
God published this covenant as early as Genesis 3:15 where he gave the promise of the woman’s offspring who would crush the serpent's head. He continued to renew and progressively reveal this covenant with his people throughout the Old Testament - with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the children of Israel at Sinai and on the plain of Moab, under Joshua in the Promised Land (twice), and in King David and his heirs. The revelation of this covenant culminated when the Redeemer himself came to accomplish redemption. Jesus established the final and permanent administration of this covenant, sometimes called the “new covenant.” For more on the doctrine of the covenant, see my video on the topic here or read my blog post summarizing the doctrine here.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Misery of Fallen Man

Q. 19: What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
Answer: All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever. (WSC)

In question 17, the catechism had noted that due to sin, man fell into an estate of sin and misery. Question 18 described the sinfulness and question 19 describes the misery of this fallen condition.

Through sin, all mankind lost communion with God. We were created to live with God, to communicate with him, to receive his favor and blessing, and to give him glory and grateful praise. The covenant of works had bound God and man in a bond of mutual love. But this bond was broken and enmity between God and man was introduced when man broke God’s command and sided with the serpent. Adam and Eve first hid from the presence of the Lord and then were sent out of the Garden, away from the tree of life (Gen. 3). Apart from Christ, mankind has no hope and is without God in the world (Eph. 2:12).

Not only did mankind lose communion with God, the source of every blessing, but it also justly came under his wrath and curse. People are now by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), that is, “people destined for wrath.” Because he is righteous, God's wrath burns against wickedness. “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11). God’s wrath and displeasure is a great misery for fallen man. 

God's curse makes mankind subject to suffering, death, and hell. Even in this life, God begins to punish men for their sins (Lam. 3:39). Physical suffering is combined with inner suffering: the “sense of God's revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation of judgment” which are to the wicked the beginning of their torments (WLC 83). And as God had warned Adam, "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Moreover, the final sentence of the cursed on the day of judgement will be to be sent away from Christ into eternal punishment (Matt. 25:41, 46).

This is the summery of man’s misery, although it is not meant to sufficiently convey the experience of this misery. But this is also the misery from which we are delivered by the grace of God. That will be the topic of the next question. 

The Life of Oliver Woods

I have written in the past concerning the history of Samuel Woods, a captain in the American Revolution, a Presbyterian elder, and one of my wife’s ancestors. I would like to continue down the line and discuss Samuel’s youngest son, Oliver, my wife’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather. 

Oliver Woods was born at Boone’s Station, Kentucky, October 15, 1784, the son of Samuel and Margaret Woods.[1] He was named after an older brother who had been killed by Indians in Kentucky.[2] Later the family moved to south central Tennessee.[3] In 1807, Oliver married Nancy Haynes in what would become Giles County, Tennessee. Nancy had been born in either North Carolina or South Carolina on March 5, 1784.[4] Her father, John Haynes, and his brothers fought in the American Revolution, one of his brothers being killed and another taken prisoner at Cowen’s Ford.[5] Her father volunteered six times to serve in the NC militia during the war, and his service is recorded in his pension application.[6] Following the war, her father moved the family to Tennessee where she met Oliver.

Oliver and Nancy lived in Tennessee for the first thirty or so years of their marriage. Oliver farmed as well as taught school and vocal music, being well educated and a skilled musician.[7] During the War of 1812, he and his brother William enlisted. He served in Col. Hall’s 1st Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers, which was one of the three regiments mustered for Andrew Jackson’s expedition to Natchez (December 1812 to April 1813).[8] It is said that his brother William fought at the Battle of New Orleans.[9]

In the 1830s Oliver moved his family to Benton County, Arkansas and owned 160 acres which is today next to Wal-Mart’s Headquarters in present-day Bentonville (between SE 8th St. and SE J St.).[10] Yet by 1840 he and his wife and two of their children are listed in the census living in Barry County, Missouri. In 1850, Oliver and Nancy are listed in the census as empty nesters, both 67 years old, farming in Lawrence County, Missouri. Nancy died in 1859[11] and Oliver is listed in the 1860 census as 76 years old, living in the household of his son, John B. Woods, also in Lawrence County. It is said that Oliver was “one of the fourteen men who cast their vote for Abraham Lincoln, in 1860, and was compelled to leave the county. He went to Iowa, and died at his daughter’s, Eliza Andrews, home, in 1863.”[12] His gravestone says he died on May 14, 1863, aged 78 years and 7 months. He is buried in New Hope Cemetery, Hiattsville, Appanoose County, Iowa.[13]

Oliver and Nancy had five children still living in 1863.[14] As one reads the history of their children, it is evident that they passed on the faith of their fathers, although they had made the switch to the Cumberland Presbyterian branch of Presbyterianism. 

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church began in 1810 in the wake of the revivals in Kentucky and Tennessee and the consequent shortage of ministers. In contrast to the main body of Presbyterians, it lowered the educational standards for ordination, did not require ministers to subscribe to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, and modified its confession of faith accordingly (available here). I do not agree with their modifications, but at least they were not going as far as others at the same time, like Barton Stone, who left Presbyterianism altogether.

The children of Oliver and Nancy Woods:

- Samuel Newton Woods, b. Nov. 7, 1808, m. Cicily Pace in 1828, d. April 29, 1848, Lawrence County, Missouri.[15] It was said that “religiously he was a Cumberland Presbyterian, politically he was a Benton Democrat.”[16] (This is the son from whom my wife is descended.) 

- John Blackburn Woods, b. Feb. 10, 1811, m. Martha Pace in 1832, d. July 11, 1884. He went on to own 1,700 acres in Lawrence Co., Missouri. He was a Union supporter during the Civil War, a judge, a Republican, and a Cumberland Presbyterian,[17] one of the first elders of the Presbyterian Church at Mt. Vernon, Missouri.[18]

- Nancy L. (Woods) Andrews, b. Oct. 24, 1812? m. Silas Milton Andrews in 1834, d. Aug. 23, 1903. She and her husband were early settlers of Appanoose County, Iowa and she died there at the age of 90. The Andrews were Democrats and Nancy had been a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church since she was 17 years of age.[19]

- Margarette M. (Woods) Pace, b. Feb. 24, 1815, m. Christopher Pace in 1830, d. June 23, 1895 in Bentonville, Arkansas.[20] It was reported in the Bentonville Sun (29 June 1895), that she was “born in Tennessee in 1814 and was united in marriage to C.S. Pace in 1830 and in 1835 removed to Benton county, Arkansas … The deceased united with Cumberland Presbyterian church at the age of fifteen and lived a consistent member to the time of her death ... Five children…mourn the loss of a most devoted mother and the community has lost a noble Christian woman.”[21]

- Elvira (Woods) Erwin, b. 1820, m. Robert Erwin on Dec. 12, 1843, d. Sep. 1885 in Cornersville, TN.[22]

- Andrew Pinkney Woods, b. Jan. 16, 1821, m. Elizabeth Jane McCall, d. Feb. 17, 1887 in Barry County, Missouri.[23]


1. “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa (Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1878), 603. This year and state is confirmed by his listing in the census in 1850 and 1860 (Lawrence County, MO). 
2. LeGrand M. Jones, Family Reminiscences (St. Louis, MO: C.R. Barnes Pub. Co., 1894), 44. His brother’s death is also mentioned in “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, 603.
3. The date is given as Nov. 4, 1807 in “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, 603. The marriage record states that Oliver acquired the marriage license on December 1st, 1807 in Williamson County, TN, part of which later became part of Giles County (Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. Nashville, TN, USA: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Microfilm).
4. This date the NC as the location is found in “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, 603. A SC birthplace is listed in the 1850 census and in the White Journal, John Henning Woods, 1856-1873 (Ms2017-030), page 2. Her father’s pension application says that they lived in NC and moved from there to TN. 
5. “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, 603.
6. Pension application, 13 Apr 1846, for John Haynes' Revolutionary War Service, Widow's pension W27. 
7. “John H. Woods,” The History of Lawrence County, Missouri, (Goodspeed Pub. Co., 1888), 1005-1006. There is record of Oliver owning land in Giles County, TN on Jan. 28, 1817 (Tennessee State Library and Archives; Nashville, Tennessee; Series Number: 02; Series Title: Entries). 
8. He is listed as a private in 1 Reg’t (Hall’s) Tennessee Volunteers (National Archives and Records Administration. Index to the Compiled Military Service Records for the Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War of 1812. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M602, roll 232.) Its regimental history is available here:
9. “John H. Woods,” The History of Lawrence County, Missouri, 1005-1006. “Oliver … and William took active parts in the War of 1812, William especially distinguishing himself at the battle of New Orleans.”
11. “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, 603.
12. “John H. Woods,” The History of Lawrence County, Missouri, 1005-1006.
14. “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, 603.
17. “John H. Woods,” The History of Lawrence County, Missouri, 1005-1006.
18. Lawrence County Missouri History, edited by Jessie C Miller, et al; (Lawrence County Historical Society, 1974), 539-540.
19. “S.M. Andrews,” The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, 603. Biographical and Genealogical History of Appanoose and Monroe Counties, (Iowa, Lewis Pub., 1903), 81. Her gravestone,
22. She is mentioned in the family tree recorded in the White Journal, John Henning Woods, 1856-1873 (Ms2017-030), page 2 (Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.) Other information from census records (1850-1880). 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Sinfulness of Fallen Man

Q. 17: Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A: The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

Q. 18: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A: The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it. (WSC)

As we saw last time, Adam’s sin had consequences for all those whom he represented in the covenant of works. By his sin, mankind fell from its original blessed estate. Now the catechism goes on to explain the estate into which man fell. This second estate is one of sin and misery. “Estate” here refers to man’s state or condition. The condition of fallen man is marked by depravity and its consequences.

Next week we will come to the question regarding the misery of this estate. But first, the catechism describes the sinfulness of this estate. This sinfulness consists of two kinds of sin: original and actual. “Actual” is not contrasted here with “imaginary.” Rather, the distinction is between the corruption of our nature and the activity which proceeds from it, namely, sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. Both original and actual sin are truly and properly sin, being out of accord with God’s law.

Original sin consists of three things. 1. The guilt of Adam’s first sin. This guilt is imputed to mankind, (Rom. 5:12-19), since Adam acted on our behalf as our covenant head. 2. The lack of original righteousness. God had created man not merely neutral, but good (Gen. 1:31), with a knowledge of God and an inclination and ability to serve him. It was natural then for man to love and obey God, but this natural tendency was lost in the fall. 3. The corruption of his whole nature. This is sometimes referred to as total depravity, that is, the idea every faculty of man is morally corrupt. His mind is debased and hostile to God (Rom. 1:28, 8:7), his heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 14:9), and his body is an instrument of sin (Rom. 6:13, 19). Not every sin is equally depraved, and not every man is as bad as he could be (thank God!), yet even when he does things which externally may conform to God’s law, they are defiled by sinful motives (Matt. 6:1-16, Heb. 11:6, Titus 1:15) and therefore cannot please God (Rom. 8:8).

From this sinful nature proceeds all actual transgressions. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). As Jesus said regarding false prophets, “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17).

This was the condition which we all inherited. We were all dead in trespasses and sins, carrying out the sinful desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3). It is only by the grace of God that we are delivered from this bondage to sin (Eph. 2:4-10).

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Fall of Adam and the Fall of Mankind

Q. 16: Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?
Answer: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression. (WSC)

Adam was the head of the human race. God made his covenant with humanity by making his covenant with its head, with Adam (Gen. 2:15-17). It is similar to how a king might make a treaty with another nation by making a treaty with its king. In this case, Adam broke the covenant, aligning with the serpent, plunging the whole human race into a war with God. Because he represented his descendants, they all sinned in him and fell with him. His sinful nature would be conveyed to them by natural generation (Gen. 5:3, Ps. 51:5, John 3:6), and his guilt was imputed to them by virtue of the covenant (Rom. 5:12-21). Therefore all are doomed to die, being subject to the curse of the covenant of works.

This relation between us and Adam is taught in Romans 5. Paul says that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (5:12). He notes that Adam’s transgression was unique, “a type of the one who was to come” (5:14). He sinned as a representative head bringing condemnation and death to all he represented, just as Christ obeyed as a representative head and brought justification and life to all he represented (5:15, 18-19). “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (5:19).

Notice how our catechism carefully describes those whom Adam represented: “...all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation…” What man did not descend from him by ordinary generation? Whom did he not represent? Who did not receive his fallen nature? The one who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary and born of her, yet without sin. Jesus Christ is the head of the new humanity, bringing us out of our fallen estate unto life and glory.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Forbidden Fruit

Q. 15: What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
Answer: The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit. (WSC
God had made our first parents, Adam and Eve, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. He had given them dominion over all the earth and an abundance of plants and trees producing food for them. They could eat of any tree of the garden, except for one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, on pain of death (Gen. 2:16-17). It was to be a symbol of God’s authority, a reminder that everything else was given by his generosity, and a test of man’s loyalty to his Creator.

Yet, despite all these good and generous provisions, our first parents violated God’s law by eating this forbidden fruit. In doing so they rebelled against God, aligned themselves with his enemy (the serpent), and demonstrated ingratitude for God's gifts, unbelief in his word, and the proud desire to be as God. This was the sin that broke the covenant of works and caused their fall from their first estate.

Genesis 3 describes how this sin took place. A serpent came to tempt Eve to sin, a serpent who is identified in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 as the one who is called “the devil” and “Satan.” In John 8:44, Jesus described the devil as “the father of lies” and “a murderer from the beginning.” While he was good when originally created by God, yet this has been his character since he first came on the scene in Genesis 3. The devil was filled with malice as he came as a serpent to destroy mankind. He achieved this destruction by deceiving Eve, persuading her with lies to doubt God’s word and to desire and eat the forbidden fruit. She then gave Adam the fruit and he ate, knowing that it was forbidden. The devil continues to prowl around, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), so be watchful and prayerful that you might not succumb to temptation. And be grateful that this sin was not the end of the story. While it caused immense harm for all mankind, it also set the stage for God’s glorious work of redemption.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Three Church Fathers

Let me briefly introduce you to three important leaders in the early church, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Augustine. All of them encountered opposition and faced either exile or invasion. Yet they held firm to the faith, preaching and teaching it to the end.

Athanasius (c. 296-373), Alexandria, Egypt. He attended the council of Nicaea as a deacon, assisting one of the foremost opponents of Arianism. He then became the bishop of Alexandria for 46 years and defended Nicene orthodoxy. During his time as bishop we was exiled five times for a total of 17 years because he refused to readmit Arius and his followers (the emperors going back and forth between opposing Arianism and seeking to force reconciliation). And so the saying came about, "Athanasius contra mundum": Athanasius against the world. You can read his book, On the Incarnation, online here

John Chrysostom (347-407), Antioch, Syria. "Chrysostom" means “golden-mouth” and was a nickname given him because of his reputation as a preacher. In his preaching he exposited Scripture, verse by verse, with lively and bold application. He was called to serve as the archbishop of Constantinople, where his preaching against the abuse of wealth and power gained him influential enemies. These enemies eventually achieved his banishment. Though he died in exile, his reputation recovered after his death. You can read his sermons on the Gospel of Matthew online here

Augustine (354-430), North Africa. Despite having a Christian mother, he grew up in Carthage as a pagan. His journey to Christianity is recounted in his Confessions. After his conversion in Milan, he became a presbyter in Hippo in North Africa in 391 and bishop in 396. He engaged in a controversy with Pelagius, defending the doctrine of God's grace in salvation. In response to pagan critiques following the sack of Rome in 410, he wrote The City of God, a masterpiece of apologetics, an evaluation of Roman history, and a history of redemption (past and future). He died with his city besieged by the Vandals. You can read his Confessions online here, although other translations are available for purchase. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

What Is Sin?

Q. 14: What is sin?
Answer: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (WSC)
The apostle John gave us a simple definition of sin when he said that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Sin is defined by the law of God. If it is not a violation of God’s law, it is not a sin. But God’s law requires perfect conformity. It is a perfect rule of righteousness, showing us what is right, revealing to us the will of God. As Paul says, the law is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). It is not an arbitrary law, but an expression of God’s holy character and our place in God’s design. Any departure from this law is a departure from righteousness, a deviation from our duty, a rebellion against God, and a basis for judgment.

Our catechism mentions two ways we fall short of God’s law. First, "sin is any want [lack] of conformity unto … the law of God." This lack of conformity is found in our sins of omission, not doing what the law commands. The law calls us to fulfill our duties, and failure to do our duty is sin. This lack of conformity is also found in original sin, our innate hostility against God’s law in our fallen state. It is sinful for our nature to be hostile to God, out of accord with his will. This is described in Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Sin is deeper than our actions. It also refers to our desires, our mindset, our heart. Unlawful desires that spring into our minds are sin. We ought to confess them to God and mortified them, seeking the renewal of our minds and hearts.

Second, sin is also the "transgression of the law of God." This refers to sins of commission, doing that which is forbidden. He has given us a good deal of freedom within his law, as he gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Yet, God has also set boundaries with his law, guardrails to our path. To violate these boundaries is sin and a manifestation of pride and a lack of faith in God. Instead, let us say with Psalm 119:32, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” As God renews our minds and hearts by his grace, we are enabled to not merely stay on the path, but to run eagerly in the good and righteous way of his commandments.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Fall of Our First Parents

Q. 13: Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
Answer: Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God. (WSC)
Our first parents, Adam and Eve, began in a state of innocency and blessing, enjoying communion with God, his favor and gifts, and the promise of eternal life. Yet, this situation would not last.

Our first parents had free will in two respects. First, like us, they were able to make free choices, doing what they wanted. As our confession explains, “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil” (WCF 9.1). Second, God had made them as good people, able to obey God perfectly. Not only were they able to choose what they wanted, but they were able to want what was good. This is a freedom that they lost when they fell from their original estate and were alienated from God.

Our first parents fell from their original estate by sinning against God (Gen. 3). The devil came to Eve as a crafty serpent and tempted her with deceptive words. Eve chose to sin against God, and Adam followed her. In his case, he sinned against knowledge, not being deceived like his wife (1 Tim. 2:14).

Why did good people chose to sin? Why did they rebel against the God who had been so good to them? Yet we are not in a place to feel superior to Adam and Eve. There is some mystery to why they sinned, but at least it is a mystery we can relate to. Why does anyone sin? It doesn’t make sense to sin, whatever the circumstances. As Herman Bavinck wrote,
“Sin started with lying (John 8:44); it is based on illusion, an untrue picture, an imagined good that was not good. In its origin, therefore it was a folly and an absurdity … The impossibility of explaining the origin of sin, therefore, must not be understood as an excuse, a refuge for ignorance. Rather, it should be said openly and clearly: we are here at the boundaries of our knowledge. Sin exists, but it will never be able to justify its existence. It is unlawful and irrational.” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3, p. 70)


Thursday, April 8, 2021

The First Covenant

Q. 12: What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
Answer: When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death. (WSC)
This question explains the first covenant that God made with man. Note several things about this covenant:

1. This covenant was an act of providence rather than creation. Man owed obedience unto God as his Creator, but God did not owe man this covenant relationship. As our confession of faith says, due to the distance between God and his creatures, “they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.” It was of God’s generosity that he placed Adam and Eve in a fruitful garden, gave them fellowship with him, and promised eternal life on condition of the perfect obedience that they already owed to him.

2. While Genesis 2-3 does not explicitly describe this arrangement as a “covenant,” all the elements of a covenant are there: two parties (God and mankind under Adam’s headship), a condition (perfect obedience), a promise of blessing (life in its fullest sense), and the threat of curse (death in its fullest sense). Some have even described the tree of life as the “sacrament” of this covenant of works, a sign and seal of the promise of life. In addition, Hosea 6:7 seems to call this arrangement a covenant, and the parallel between Adam and Christ in Romans 5 also indicates the covenantal nature of this arrangement.

3. While Adam and Eve were covenantally obligated to obey God by keeping the moral law and fulfilling the creation mandate (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15), their loyalty and obedience was particularly tested by the prohibition of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17).

4. While we are no longer able to obtain life by this covenant due to our sin, yet it forms the background of the rest of the Bible. In the end, through Christ and by grace, we end up with what was promised in the covenant of works. Not only does Revelation 21-22 contain many references to Genesis 2, but echoes of Eden are found throughout the Bible. Even outside the Bible, in the hearts of men and women, there is a natural longing for Eden, for a time and place where man dwelt in peace with God, with each other, and with creation. But the way to that condition is now blocked by sin. It would take another special act of providence, and a costly one, to open again the way to paradise.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Providence of God

Q. 11: What are God’s works of providence?
Answer: God's works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions. (WSC)
In his work of creation, God brought everything into being and gave it design and order. He rested from this work on the seventh day. Yet even then he continued the work of preserving and governing it. He “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) and “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). This providence encompasses all things that happen: “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

While the natural order works according to God’s design, it does not work automatically or mechanically. God makes the sun to shine, the rain to fall, and the plants to grow (Matt. 5:45, Ps. 104:14). The food and drink received by all living things is given by God, though he may use many instruments, including people, to do so (Ps. 104:14-15, 145:15-16, Matt. 6:26, Acts 14:17). People and nations are under his providential governance (Dan. 2:21, 4:17), although they are responsible for their actions, which remain voluntary. For example, Babylon (Hab. 1-2) and Assyria (Is. 10:5-19) are both described as instruments of God, being raised up by him for his purposes, yet without their knowledge - they were simply fulfilling their desire in rebellion against God. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, their intention and act was evil, but God’s intention behind the same event was good (Gen. 50:20). God uses true secondary causes in working out his plan.

Therefore: 1. Be sure to have this God on your side. There is no escape from him, as Jonah found out. 2. For those who are God’s children, this doctrine is of great comfort, leading to hopeful prayer, patience, and endurance. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). 3. Give praise to God, from whom all blessings flow (James 1:17). All the good things we enjoy come from his gracious hand, even though we do not deserve them. 4. Meditate upon God and get to know him better through his works of providence. Behold in his providence, his generosity, wisdom, justice, and power.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Creation of Mankind

Q. 10: How did God create man?
Answer: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

The doctrine of man is a major area of conflict in our day. Who are we? Who decides who we are? Should we seek to live up to some universal moral standard, or should each of us create his own? Should we seek to fulfill some God-given purpose, or is each of us left to create one's own purpose for one's existence?

This simple but powerful answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that (1) God created mankind, (2) he made mankind male and female, (3) he made mankind after his own image, (4) this image is expressed in man’s knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion. The first three assertions can be found in Genesis 1:26-28, and the fourth can be found partly in the same passage as well as in two verses which describe the renewal of this image: Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24.

God made us male and female. He formed Adam's body from the dust of the ground and formed Eve's body from his side, and he named them accordingly. There are two sexes, and these identities are given to us, ingrained into our bodies, not left to the choice of individuals. This sexual identity, as man or woman, is a good part of God’s creation and should be affirmed. Sin seeks to blur the distinctions God has appointed, and the more it holds sway, the more it distorts human desires, destroying natural orientations (Rom. 1:26-27) and natural affections (Rom. 1:30-31). In our day, this distortion is not merely something individuals might deal with, but an ideology being promoted in our society. One of the ways to resist this ideology is to affirm our God-given identities and demonstrate the beauty and goodness of his design in our lives as we are renewed by his grace.

God created man, male and female, in his image. We are the image of God. This means two things. First, it means we represent God. To mistreat man is to attack God (Gen. 9:6, Prov. 14:31). Man is God’s representative on earth, his vice-regent. Just as a king might set up statues and flags and images on coins to assert his reign - the violation of which is taken personally - so God has set up man as a symbol of his royal authority on earth. Second, it means we resemble God. This is connected to the first point. We resemble him to display his glory on earth. Particularly, we resemble him in knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion. (There are certainly some differences as well: unlike God, we are physical, visible, and finite; unlike us, God is infinite and eternal in all his attributes.)

Sin distorts the image of God. Humanity still has some dignity as God’s image (and should be respected as such, Gen. 9:6), but man has marred the image and acts contrary to it. He remains a rational, moral, religion, and productive being, but his thinking is blind to God and futile, his righteousness is filthy rags, his religion is idolatrous, and his dominion is ultimately vain and often cruel. But thanks be to God that he sent Jesus Christ to save his people that they might “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10).

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Creation of the Cosmos

Q. 9: What is the work of creation?
Answer: The work of creation is, God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

This is how the Shorter Catechism summarizes the doctrine of creation, a fundamental Christian belief undergirding the worldview and message of the Bible. Not only is it taught in Genesis 1-2, but it is taught throughout the Bible (Ex. 20:11, Ps. 33, 104, John 1:1-4, Acts 17:24-31, Rev. 4:11). The Bible teaches that God alone is eternal and uncreated. It teaches that he created everything else, visible and invisible, merely by speaking them into existence. He went on to divide, unite, shape, and fill what he made, wisely designing each part with purpose as part of a harmonious whole.

The earth is therefore not a product of chance, nor of long ages of struggle and death. Rather, it is the product of a good and wise God. Death and misery were not an original part of this world, but came as a consequence of human rebellion. 

This unique work of creation took up six days. Did he need to take that long? No, he did not. Yet one purpose he had in doing it this way was to set an example for us, to work six days and rest one day (Exod. 20:11). 

This doctrine has many practical consequences. For example, it has implications for gender and social order (see here) and for how we interpret nature as a revelation of God (see here). Here is how Kevin DeYoung has summarized some of its worldview implications:

“The opening chapter of Genesis is a rejection of atheism (because there is a God), a rejection of polytheism (because there is only one God), a rejection of pantheism (because the creation is not God), a rejection of humanism (because man is not God), a rejection of naturalistic evolution (because the world and its creatures come into being by intelligent design), a rejection of materialism (because the physical world is not all that is really there), and a rejection of dualism (because both the spiritual and physical are not opposed).” (source)

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Creation and Providence

Q 8: How doth God execute his decrees?
Answer: God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

In this question the shorter catechism moves from God’s eternal decrees to his work of carrying them out in history. God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). He has a plan from eternity and he also make it happen in time. These works can be divided into two categories: creation and providence.

These two works are distinguished by Genesis 2:1-3. On the seventh day of creation God finished his work of creation and rested. Yet, he continued to work in another way. When Jesus was criticized for doing deeds of mercy on the Sabbath he pointed out that while God rested from his work of creation on the seventh day, yet he continued to work in a different way: “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working’” (John 5:17). God continues to uphold the world he made. Psalms like Psalm 104 and Psalm 136 describe both creation and providence in their praise of God.

Another place we find both of these works mentioned is in Hebrews 1:1-4. And not only does it mention both creation and providence - it says that both of them the Father does through the Son: “through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:2–3). Psalm 104 adds that both are also accomplished by the life-giving Spirit. “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:30). Just as we see the Father, Word, and Spirit in the opening verses of the Bible, so they continue to be active in maintaining the world. And God's triune work will become particularly evident in the special work of providence known as redemption.