Ox was a realist. He knew that family is hard. Life, love, expectations, dreams, family relationships—these are hard things in our fallen world. The challenges of life and the fall too often create conflict, division, hurt, and sadness.
But family should be where peace begins. Husband, wife, and children remain the bedrock of culture and civilization. As families go, so goes culture. Yet ever since Cain and Abel, peace in the family has been a challenge.
Praise God, though, that the Lord of heaven and earth loves to work His will through sinful people and broken families.
Consider the families of Isaac and Jacob—there’s some family dysfunction lacking peace. The sibling rivalry, jealousy, and bad blood between Isaac and Ishmael (the fathers of modern-day Jews and Arabs) still affect our world today. The conflict that began then continues millennia later in our day. Later, more conflict between the sons of Jacob resulted in Joseph’s long years of slavery, imprisonment, and destitution, but that same conflict also eventually led to redemptive peace. God was pleased to weave His providential hand through all the mess of these family struggles to accomplish His redemptive plans for the world through these broken souls. And so it can be with you and your family.
So for peace in the family, first remember Paul’s command: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). Note that there is no guarantee of peace. But as far as it depends on each one of us, we must strive for peace.
In a family, this begins with the father and mother. If they are at peace with one another, more than likely children will follow their example. My wife, Mary, and I learned that we needed to demonstrate before our children the love and peace we have for each other. Years ago, when I arrived home after a long day of work at Ligonier Ministries, every one of my (then only) four children (eventually we’d have seven!) wanted some of Poppa as soon as I crossed the threshold. But I would ask them to wait while I gave Momma a hug; then we two would sit together and talk about our day. Only after we had “mom and dad time” did the children get my attention. This told them that my relationships with them were a fruit of my peaceful relationship with her.
You Might also like
By David Schrock — 1 year ago
The extent of the atonement should be determined by faithful readings of the Bible—thick readings, if you will, as opposed to thin readings of Scripture. Murray does that well, and all those who take up this doctrinal debate should read him and follow his exegetical method.
For whom did Christ die? For all nations without distinction? For all persons without exception? For everyone? Or only for the elect?
In any doctrinal exposition of the cross of Christ, the question of the atonement’s extent (or intent) is necessary. And throughout church history, especially since the Protestant Reformation, a great debate has arisen in response to the question. That dispute has divided Calvinist from Arminian, Reformed from Wesleyan, and Particular Baptist from General Baptist—to name only a few. Thus, it is not possible in one blog—let alone in one book—to resolve all the difficulties, but it is possible to lay out some of the issues and a few of the exegetical debates.
To that end, I offer ten points from John Murray. His little book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, provides a concise argument for the extent of the atonement that comes from a Reformed position. If I were writing a chapter on the extent atonement, I would do it differently, but I appreciate Murray’s commitment to biblical exegesis in his chapter. Even though he leaves many proof texts unchecked, what he does say sets his readers in the right direction. And for that reason I offer the following points from his chapter as a superb model for entering this debate.
Ten Arguments for Definite Atonement
1. Proof texts are not sufficient to prove the extent of the extent of the atonement.
John Murray begins his chapter highlighting a few verses which appear to support a universal atonement (i.e., that Christ died for all persons without exception). But quickly, he calls us to consider if isolated proof texts can adequately support the doctrine. He writes,
We are not to think, however, that the quotation of a few texts like these [Isa. 53:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2] and several others that might be quoted determines the question. From beginning to end the Bible uses expressions that are universal in form but cannot be interpreted as meaning all men distributively and inclusively. Such words as “world” and “all” and such expressions as “every one” and “all men” do not always in Scripture mean every member of the human race. For example, when Paul says with reference to the unbelief of Israel, “For if their trespass is the riches of the world . . . how much more their fulness” (Rom. 11:12), are we to suppose that he meant that the trespass of Israel brought the riches of which he is speaking to every person who had been, is now, and ever will be in the world? Such an interpretation would make nonsense. The word “world” would then have to include Israel which is here contrasted with the world. And it is not true that every member of the human race was enriched by the fall of Israel. (59)
2. Universal language does not mean a universal atonement.
Closely connected to the point that we must read texts in context, Murray goes on to say that universal language does not automatically produce a doctrine of definite atonement.
So it will not do to quote a few texts from the Bible in which such words as “world” and “all” occur in connection with the death of Christ and forthwith conclude that the question is settled in favor of universal atonement. (61)
Proving his point, he appeals to Hebrews 2:9 (“so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”) and its following context.
We can readily show the fallacy of this procedure in connection with a text like Hebrews 2:9. What provides the denotation of the “every one” in the clause in question? Undoubtedly the context. Of whom is the writer speaking in the context? He is speaking of the many sons to be brought to glory (ver. 10), of the sanctified who with the sanctifier are all of one (ver. 11), of those who are called the brethren of Christ (ver. 12), and of the children which God had given to him (ver. 13). It is this that supplies us with the scope and reference of the “every one” for whom Christ tasted death. Christ did taste death for every son to be brought to glory and for all the children whom God had given to him. But there is not the slightest warrant in this text to extend the reference of the vicarious death of Christ beyond those who are most expressly referred to in the context. This texts shows how plausible off-hand quotation may be and yet how baseless is such an appeal in support of a doctrine of universal atonement. (61)
The point Murray makes in this passage can be made throughout the New Testament, which means that universal language does not automatically result in a doctrine of universal atonement. More on this below.
3. Extent is the wrong question, intent is the right one.
Moving from the language of Scripture to the language of doctrine, he asks if the extent of the atonement is even the right question.
The question is not the relation of the death of Christ to the numerous blessings which those who finally perish may partake of in this life, however important this question is in itself and in its proper place.
The question is precisely the reference of the death of Christ when this death is viewed as vicarious death, that is to say, as vicarious obedience, as substitutionary sacrifice, and expiation, as effective propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. In a word, it is the strict and proper connotation of the expression “died for” that must be kept in mind.
When Paul says that Christ “died for us” (1 Thess. 5:10) or that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3), he does not have in mind some blessing that may accrue from the death of Christ but of which we may be deprived in due time and which may thus be forfeited. He is thinking of the stupendous truth that Christ loved him and gave himself up for him (Gal. 2:20), that Christ died in his room and stead, and that therefore we have redemption through the blood of Christ. (62, emphasis mine)
4. Definite atonement does not deny universal, non-saving benefits.
Once we ask the right question, and ascertain the proper relationship between priest and new covenant people (my emphasis, not his), we can begin to see how the cross relates to the whole world, even to those who reject it or never hear about it.
The unbelieving and reprobate in this world enjoy numerous benefits that flow from the fact that Christ died and rose again. The mediatorial dominion of Christ is universal. Christ is head over all things and is given all authority in heaven and in earth. It is within this mediatorial dominion that all the blessings which men enjoy are dispensed. But this dominion Christ exercises on the basis and as the reward of his finished work of redemption. “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:8-9).
Consequently, since all benefits and blessings are within the realm of Christ’s dominion and since this dominion rests upon his finished work of atonement, the benefits innumerable which are enjoyed by all men indiscriminately are related to the death of Christ and may be said to accrue from it in one way or another. If they thus flow from the death of Christ they were intended thus to flow. It is proper, therefore, to say that the enjoyment of certain benefits, even by the non-elect and reprobate, falls within the design of the death of Christ. The denial of universal atonement does not carry with it the denial of any such relation that the benefits enjoyed by all men may sustain to Christ’s death and finished work. (61)
To those well-versed in argument for universal atonement, they will not readily accept this universal, non-saving benefit as logically consistent. But it is important to see that those who hold definite atonement do not deny a universal effects of the cross (see Colossians 1:20 and my theological exposition of that passage). What those like Murray deny is a universal procurement of salvation that does not actually save.
5. Christ’s redemption is effective. Glory! Hallelujah!
While advocates of universal atonement stress the greatness of the cross in terms of size and scope, advocates of definite atonement argue for its greatness in terms efficacy and design. All that God intended, he accomplished on the cross. To this point Murray asks the question, “What does redemption mean?” He answers,
By George Sayour — 7 months ago
BCO 16-4 as amended would read: “ Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. While office bearers will see spiritual perfection only in glory, they will continue in this life to confess and to mortify remaining sins in light of God’s work of progressive sanctification. Therefore, to be qualified for office, they must affirm the sinfulness of fallen desires, the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, and be committed to the pursuit of Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.”
This year’s General Assembly was held in Birmingham, AL, the birthplace of the PCA. The number of voting Commissioners, TEs & REs (often referred to as Pastors and Elders), was around 2300 and was a record. The Assembly was a blessed time of co-laboring for the Kingdom with many like-minded brothers, for the Glory of God, the Good of Christ’s Church, and the Spread of the Gospel.
Here JUST A FEW highlights from the Assembly.
Pastor George’s 2022 PCA GA Update & Commentary VIDEOS:
1) Approved Petitioning the U.S. Government to End Abortion
Therefore Be it Resolved, That the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, on behalf of the Presbyterian Church in America, be directed to communicate to the President of the United States, the leaders of Congress, and the Governors and leaders of the State Legislatures of the 50 States, the following statement:
“God declares in Sacred Scripture that civil government, no less than the Church, is a divine institution and owes its authority to God. The Bible is the supreme revelation of God’s will and teaches that the unborn child is a human person deserving the full protection of the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder”.
We who love our nation, in the name of God who alone is sovereign, call upon you to renounce the sin of abortion, to repent of the complicity in the mass slaughter of innocent unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God, and to reverse the ruinous direction of both law and practice in this area. The obedience to God which places us in subjection to your rightful authority, requires of us to proclaim the counsel of God as it bears upon the same God-given authority.”
2) Taking Abuse Seriously
The PCA Study Report on Abuse was Presented.
Overture 2021-40 To Allow Victim Protection Provisions– This amends BCO 35:1-5. The gist of this is that victims of abuse don’t have to testify in church courts in the presence of their alleged abuser. This is common sense, but there was previously no provision in our BCO for this. This will have to pass 2/3 of the presbyteries.
3) Voted (1030-699) to Leave the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals)
4) Clarifying HOW the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) will Take Original Jurisdiction of a Case
This is good, since some Presbyteries don’t do discipline on ministers who create public scandal and the SJC couldn’t previously assume original jurisdiction if Presbyteries conducted an investigation. In the low point of the Assembly, there was a Minority Report on this Overture which was ruled Intemperate for Impugning the motives of those who wanted the Overture. It implied there was an issue with their honesty in a number of places and fear-mongered unnecessarily. Thankfully, the Minority Report failed and the Overture passed. This will have to pass 2/3 of Presbyteries.
Floor Speech by TE Fred Greco in Favor of this Change. TE Greco Chairs the SJC, and is in the best position to know the affects of this Overture and he is for it.
Overture 8 – (Key Lines)
BCO 34-1 as amended would read
34-1. Process against a minister shall be entered before the Presbytery of which he is a member. However, if the Presbytery does not indict in either doctrinal cases or instances of public scandal and at least ten percent (10%) of Presbyteries request the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction for a case of process, the General Assembly shall do so. The General Assembly may assess the costs thereof equitably among the parties, including the petitioning Presbyteries and the Presbytery of the minister.
BCO 33-1 would be amended similarly for Presbyteries to take Original Jurisdiction over Church cases.
5) Officer & Ordination Standards (These will have to pass 2/3 of Presbyteries)
These are the Overtures meant to replace last year’s Overtures regarding forbidding the Ordination of Gay Pastors. The point in these is not to disqualify a man from holding office for simply having Same-Sex Attraction(s) but it is how he views those attractions as they relate to his identity, being, sanctification, and repentance.
Overture 15 (Passed 55% – 45%)
BCO 7-4 as amended would read:
Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.
Floor Speech by O. Palmer Robertson in Favor of Overture 15
Overture 29 (Passed by 90 % )
Pastor Greg Johnson of Memorial Presbyterian Church was the only floor speech against this Overture. He said he can affirm everything in it, but doesn’t want it in the Book of Church Order because enough harm has been done to the gay community. It should be noted, this does not make mention of any particular sin. This overture passed overwhelmingly (1922-200). Here is what it says:
BCO 16-4 as amended would read:
Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. While office bearers will see spiritual perfection only in glory, they will continue in this life to confess and to mortify remaining sins in light of God’s work of progressive sanctification. Therefore, to be qualified for office, they must affirm the sinfulness of fallen desires, the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, and be committed to the pursuit of Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.
Overture 31 (Passed Unanimously)
BCO 21-4.e as amended would read: Ordination Requirements and Procedures
In the examination of the candidate’s personal character, the presbytery shall give specific attention to potential notorious concerns. Careful attention must be given to his practical struggle against sinful actions, as well as to persistent sinful desires. The candidate must give clear testimony of reliance upon his union with Christ and the benefits thereof by the Holy Spirit, depending on this work of grace to make progress over sin (Psalm 103:2-5, 15 Romans 8:29) and to bear fruit (Psalm 1:3, Gal. 5:22-23). While imperfection will remain, when confessing sins and sinful temptations publicly, the candidate must exercise great care not to diminish the seriousness of those sins in the eyes of the congregation, as though they were matters of little consequence, but rather should testify to the work of the Holy Spirit in his progress in holiness (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
BCO 24-1 would be amended similarly for Ruling Elders and Deacons.
6) Miscellaneous Items.
Overtures Condemning CRT, Secret Orgs in the PCA, & Political Violence ALL FAILED.
Reduced Fee for Ruling Elders to $300. Teaching Elders increased to $500 (or $550?) This is good as REs have to take vacation and often pay out of pocket. Hopefully this will encourage more REs to attend.
Nominating Committee Nominees for Permanent Committees, Agencies, Boards, Standing Judicial Commission were mostly Conservative Confessional Men. This will have a long-term impact.
A lot of Overtures passed around our BCO Processes for how we do things within churches, presbyteries, and church discipline.
Last year’s Overtures that passed the Presbyteries were all approved.
50thAnniversary Plans underway for Next Year’s Assembly in Memphis.
George Sayour is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Meadowview PCA in Lexington, NC. This article is used with permission.
By Tyler Greene — 1 year ago
Yes, our God and Father has destined us for sonship and nothing can change that. It was done “in love,” which means, though we’ve sinned in more ways than we can count, He won’t banish us to eke out the Christian life in the servant’s quarters until we can get our act together. No, we always have a place at the family dinner table. Ours is the seat in between our doting Father (Ps. 18:19) and Jesus our loving elder Brother (Heb. 2:11-12). God’s predestining love has guaranteed that seat for us now and forever.
In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:4-5)
The Not-So-Whole Story
We’re all familiar with the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). It’s the one Jesus told about the fellow who couldn’t wait to get out on his own. So he decides to ask his father for an advance on his inheritance, which is basically another way of saying, “Listen, Dad, I can’t sit around forever and wait for you to die so I can get what’s coming to me. I want it now.” Despite the unthinkably dishonoring nature of this request, the father grants it. And the son takes off, putting as much distance between himself and his father as he possibly can.
With moneybags in tow, the son wanders to a faraway city to live out his own version of the good life. He arrives ready to spend his inheritance on any and every decadent activity he can think of. But the thing is, such a lifestyle can only last for so long. Eventually, the money runs out.
With nothing in the bank and nowhere left to turn, the son gets the only job he can find: taking care of pigs. In the minds of the first-century Jewish audience to which this story was being told, the very idea of a Hebrew taking care of pigs would have been offensive. After all, swine were unclean according to the law (Lev. 11:7). But remember, the offensiveness of this detail had a very specific purpose. Jesus was wanting to convey just how far this son had fallen. In fact, He includes one more detail to make matters even worse: the son is so poor and so hungry that he seriously begins to consider eating pig slop. Pig slop! This would have been more than enough to get any self-respecting Israelite thinking, “Okay, now this guy is officially scum.”
But here’s where the parable takes a turn. As the son entertains the thought of taking a bite of the slop, a lightbulb suddenly comes on. He gets to thinking, “Hey, I’ll go back home and see if Dad will hire me. I mean, his servants eat pretty well and have a decent place to live. Surely, he won’t want me for his son anymore, but maybe he’ll give me a job.”