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14

Israel did not elect David.  Not even his nearest and dearest wanted David as king.

In 1 Samuel 16 we see the choosing of this king.  Yet it is not man's choice but God's. 

The LORD said... "I have chosen one of [Jesse's] sons to be king..."

Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."...

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, "The LORD has not chosen these."...

Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint [David]; he is the one." So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.

Here is the LORD's election.  Not the firstborn Eliab, whose name (My God is Father) was clearly very well suited to the post of Christ!  The LORD rejects what man chooses.

His choice always confounds human wisdom.  We choose the rich and powerful.  He chooses the lowly and lifts them up.  This is just what we have been taught by Hannah's prayer at the beginning of the book:

e.g. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honour. (1 Sam 2:8)

How does this work out?  Hannah goes on...

"It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His King and exalt the horn of His Anointed." (1 Sam 2:10)

The LORD chooses His Anointed - His Messiah or Christ - and strengthens Him in order to shatter the proud and powerful.  And Chapter 16 has shown us that even this choice has been counter to human intuitions.  The Israelite electorate did not choose David, the greatest Israelite kingmaker, Samuel, did not choose David, his brothers did not choose David.  The LORD chose David.  And He anointed him "in the presence of his brothers."

This is both a judgement and a comfort for David's brothers.  It is a judgement - they are not the chosen ones.  They have been passed over by the LORD. He has searched their hearts and found them wanting.  This must have been a bitter disappointment to them.  But, at the same time, there is great comfort.  Immediately these brothers have been made royalty!  Though in themselves they are not chosen, in their brother they belong to the royal household.  This election has thrust them down and brought them back up.

Now if chapter 16 was the LORD's choice of David, chapter 17 shows David choosing himself for his people.  In chapter 17 David comes to the front lines but already his brothers have forgotten or dismissed his identity.  They were there when he was anointed and they must have known Hannah's song - the anointed one would shatter the enemy (1 Sam 2:10).  But again, David is not man's choice.  He is not even the choice of his own brothers. (1 Sam 17:28)

In the end David takes matters into his own hands.  On the basis of the LORD's election, David basically chooses himself for Israel.  He convinces Saul to let him fight (v33ff) and effectively goes in Saul's place (Saul being the Israelite's giant (1 Sam 9:10) and the natural human choice for Champion).

The chosen king chooses himself to the post of Champion, no thanks to any human support.  He even rejects the armour of Saul and single handedly defeats the enemy.  No Israelite could say on that day 'I knew David could do it!'  Not even his own brothers could say 'I cheered him on.'  His own arm worked salvation for him.  And it was not even for a willing people.  He went into battle for those who had rejected him.

The victors on that day in the valley of Elah were not those who had previously backed the right champion.  They couldn't even claim to have voted for David.  They were simply those who found themselves, contrary to all their previous doubts and denunciations, caught up in the victory of another.  Dismay had turned to praise as they saw the LORD's chosen king who had chosen himself for them.  The stone the builders had rejected had become the capstone and - suddenly, unexpectedly - it was marvellous in their eyes (Ps 118:22).

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Previous posts in this series have looked through the lens of David & Goliath to consider preaching, grace and faith.  In each case we have seen the temptation to approach these subjects without the Anointed King at the centre.  In such a vision, the battle scene simply boils down to an anaemic vision of the sovereignty of God and the eventual victory of His people.  But without an explicit Christ-centred-ness, what are we left with? 

Well, preaching becomes simply the rallying cry to soldier on.  Grace becomes simply God's sovereign empowerment for battle.  Faith becomes our work in trusting this sovereign God against all odds.  But all of this (ironically since this vision usually seeks to be ""God-centred"") focuses on ourselves.  For where do we look in this version of preaching?  To ourselves and our soldiering abilities - Are we faithful to His military briefings?  Where do we look in this version of grace?  To the (sovereignly empowered) works that God has wrought through us.  And so evidences of grace are found where?  In us.  And where do we look in this version of faith?  We test our own believing state, looking for this internal mental act within.   Without Christ-centred-ness at the heart of it, even ""God-centred-ness"" will turn us in on ourselves.

And this is also true in the realm of election.  Just as preaching, grace and faith should be turning us away from ourselves and explicitly to Christ, so election must be focused on Him.  I do not find grace or faith in me - I find it in Christ.  Similarly I do not find election in myself, I find it in Christ.

Election is God's choice of Christ (and His choice to fight for us) in spite of our doubts and denunciations.  Election is the gospel for Christ is the Elect One. 

Election is the Father's choosing of Christ contra to all our rejection of Him (Is 28:16; 42:1; 1 Pet 1:20).  If I ask myself whether I am choice in God's eyes the answer can only be a resounding No.  In myself I am repugnant, reprehensible, reprobate.  But in Christ I share His chosen status - I share His royal name, I share His family relations, I share His victory.  Election focuses us on Christ and only on ourselves when considered in Him.

Election (like grace or faith) becomes a dark truth whenever we turn our eyes to ourselves.  How quickly faith evaporates when we examine it - for faith is essentially looking away to Christ.  Election is the same.  Election is neither hidden in myself, nor is it merely hidden in an inscrutible divine will - election is hidden (and therefore revealed) in Jesus.  Notice that phrase from 1 Samuel 16:13 - 'Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers.' Election does not simply occur in the divine counsels of eternity.  Election is disclosed as it really is in Jesus Christ.  The electing Father declares His eternal choice to all as He points us to the One who tabernacled among us:

"Here is My Servant, Whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations."  (Is 42:1)

Election is laid bare whenever we look to Jesus.  The eternal choice of God is on view in Christ.  To lay hold of this Elect One is to lay hold infallibly and eternally upon the election of God.  It lies outside ourselves, but precisely because of this it lies in the safest place for us. 

So where do we fit in all this?  Well where did we fit in with 'grace' or 'faith'?  Simply put, we found ourselves the happy recipients of them.  We found ourselves rejoicing in the victory of Christ when we saw Him.  It's no different with election.  At one time we doubted and denounced Him, now we trust and exalt Him and find ourselves (like David's brothers) benefiting from His chosen status.  And so all those who look away from self, who look to Jesus and say a belated but grateful 'yes' to God's choice of king, they find themselves participating in the chosenness of their Champion.  Their choice has done nothing.  His choice has done everything.  They do not look to themselves to understand their election since it really doesn't reside there.  It resides in Christ - the Elect One of God.

It's been a lengthy post already but I don't think I can do better than to quote Spurgeon once again.  This is perhaps my favourite quotation on the whole topic:

“Many persons want to know their election before they look to Christ, but they cannot learn it thus, it is only to be discovered by ‘looking unto Jesus.’ If you desire to ascertain your own election; after the following manner shall you assure your heart before God.  Do you feel yourself to be a lost, guilty sinner? Go straightway to the cross of Christ and tell Jesus so, and tell Him that you have read in the Bible, ‘Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.’  Tell Him that He has said, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’  Look to Jesus and believe on Him, and you shall make proof of your election directly, for so surely as thou believest, thou art elect.  If you will give yourself wholly up to Christ and trust Him, then you are one of God’s chosen ones; but if you stop and say, ‘I want to know first whether I am elect’, you ask what you do not know. Go to Jesus, be you never so guilty, just as you are.  Leave all curious inquiry about election alone.  Go straight to Christ and hide in His wounds, and you shall know your election.  The assurance of the Holy Spirit shall be given to you, so that you shall be able to say, ‘I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.’  Christ was at the everlasting council: He can tell you whether you were chosen or not; but you cannot find it out any other way.  Go and put your trust in Him and His answer will be - ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’  There will be no doubt about His having chosen you, when you have chosen Him.”  (‘Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.’ Morning and Evening, July 17.  1 Thess 1:4.)

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8

A while back Matt Jenson wrote a brilliant short essay entitled: Faith is nothing at all.  Do read it if you haven't already, it won't take long.

We must constantly remind ourselves that faith is not a thing.  It is not a possession by which we make claim to salvation.  Faith is the absence of a thing - it is the confession of a complete lack.  To even ask 'Am I having faith?' is already an unbelieving question for faith is looking away to Christ.

If you make faith into a thing you run into problems.  Either you have to make it an imputed substance which God grants arbitrarily (in order to uphold sovereign grace).  Or you make it a legitimate factor contributing to our salvation. Sounds quite like many Calvinist-Arminian debates right? In many (certainly not all, but in many) of these debates you can see both sides making this mistake: they begin by considering faith to be a thing.  And from this premise, one side is in danger of making salvation a matter of divine caprice unrelated to Christ.  The other side begins from the same premise and makes salvation a matter of self-effort (and again Christ's position is diminished).  But both have begun down the wrong track.  They've thought of faith as a thing and then they've got into trouble figuring out how a gracious salvation can be 'by' this thing.  We must remember though: Faith is not a thing.  

Alan Torrance is fond of pointing out that reformers like John Knox spoke very little about 'salvation by faith alone.' Instead he spoke of salvation 'by the blood of Christ alone.'  Why?  Because he didn't want anyone thinking that faith was the 'thing' that saved.  'Faith alone' makes sense only in the context of 'Christ alone.'  'Faith alone' is the subjective correlate of the objective salvation in Christ alone - it cannot be considered apart from it.  To do so is to risk seeing faith as a thing.

Similarly Mike Reeves points out that Martin Luther's favourite phrase for declaring our gracious salvation was not salvation 'by faith alone' but salvation 'by God's Word' alone.  Again, faith is not the 'thing' that saves and 'faith alone' is not possession of the single savingly significant substance.  (I suspect Luther would have trouble saying this phrase - especially after his fifth Wittenberg ale!).

Faith is, in Anders Nygren's memorable phrase, 'being conquered by the gospel.'  Note how passive this image is.  Faith is a description of what has happened to the person who's been overwhelmed by Christ in His word.  It is not a thing.

Anyway, check out Matt Jenson's article.

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2

I've just written an essay on repentance and evangelism.  It was very hurriedly written, but basically my point is: Unbelievers can't repent, believers must - all the time

One of the implications is that evangelism is calling sinners to come to Christ just as they are.  Two men preaching in the 19th century grasped this very well indeed.

Here is Spurgeon calling sinners to repentance:

Do not attempt to touch yourself up and make yourself something other than you really are, but come as you are to Him who justifies the ungodly. ...The Gospel will receive you into its halls if you come as a sinner, not otherwise. Wait not for reformation, but come at once for salvation. God justifieth the ungodly, and that takes you up where you now are; it meets you in your worst estate. Come in your disorder. I mean, come to your heavenly Father in all your sin and sinfulness. Come to Jesus just as you are: filthy, naked, neither fit to live nor fit to die. Come, you that are the very sweepings of creation; come, though you hardly dare to hope for anything but death. Come, though despair is brooding over you, pressing upon your bosom like a horrible nightmare. Come and ask the Lord to justify another ungodly one. (From "Justification of the Ungodly" by C.H. Spurgeon.  A sermon on Romans 4:5)

And this is from a wonderful piece called Evangelical Repentance by John Colquhoun (1748-1827) 

Do you postpone the act of trusting in the Lord Jesus for all His salvation, till you first sit down and mourn awhile for your sins, or till your heart be so humbled that you may be welcome to Him, and so have from your own resources a warrant for trusting in Him? Do you object against coming to Christ because you are not certain that your conviction of sin and your repentance are of the right sort? Do you apply yourself to the exercise of repentance in order to be qualified for believing in Christ, or do you apply your conscience to the commands and curses of the broken law, in order so to repent as to be entitled to trust in Him? Know, I entreat you, that this preposterous and self-righteous course will but sink you the deeper in unbelief, impenitence, and enmity to God the longer you try in this manner to seek for evangelical repentance in your heart or life, the farther you will be from finding it... Do not try to wash yourself clean in order to come to the open fountain of redeeming blood; but come to it as you are, and, by the immediate exercise of direct confidence in the Lord Jesus, wash away all your sins (Ezek 36:25).

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11

I flew a kite here for the notion of confession following our taking of communion.  It wasn't enthusiastically embraced!

I was reminded on Sunday of how brilliant Thomas Cranmer's 'Prayer of humble access' is.  In the Anglican church, this is what we pray before receiving communion.  Isn't it great?

We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Now if the supper was explained to people 'On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread...'.  And people said this prayer, haven't we been sufficiently prepared?  Then, following my appropriation of Christ's grace, then I formally confess my sins - and let's take some time about it, let's mourn our sin and hate it.  But don't we confess best when humbled by grace?

(Even if you object to this, thought I'd share the prayer - good huh?)

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15

How about that for a title?

Just two half-formed thoughts really that flow from recent musings on the trinity...

First, Bobby has some interesting posts here and here that touch on (among other things) Barthian methodology and avoiding universalism.  Now one way of describing universalism is the conflation of church and world - that is church and world become, in the end, identical.  Can trinitarian theology help?

Well Christ is Priest of God.  And we've been seeing that Christ and His Father are one - not identically but with important self-distinctions upheld in their mutual relations.   Christ as Priest has His distinct existence which is neither identical with the Father nor identical with humanity.  He is God for man and Man for God and this mediatorial existence is absolutely essential to His Person.  But in this mediation He does not collapse into either party.  He remains, in eternity, distinct.

Now the church, corporately, is a royal priesthood.  And, again, the absolutely essential nature of the church is mediatorial.  We do not exist for ourselves but find our very being in reaching out into the world.  But, church does not for this reason collapse into world.  Church remains, in eternity, distinct.   

Now it's interesting that Barth's trinity is explictly not 'three divine I's'.  He states emphatically that his trinity is a 'single subject thrice repeated'.  Here (IMHO) there is not adequate room for self-distinction in the Godhead.  I wonder whether the fruit of that, down the line, is inadequate distinctions being drawn between church and world?  Just a thought.

Secondly, more briefly.  If, as I've argued, the equal Persons are differently gifted and perform different roles, doesn't this re-shape what we mean by gender-equality?  Equality, if it's grounded in God's equality, includes and upholds real differences in gifting and function.  I mean let's do the exegetical work on the relevant passages, but beware playing the 'equality' card in a way that would commit you to modalism when speaking of God!

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13

How about that for a title?

Just two half-formed thoughts really that flow from recent musings on the trinity...

First, Bobby has some interesting posts here and here that touch on (among other things) Barthian methodology and avoiding universalism.  Now one way of describing universalism is the conflation of church and world - that is church and world become, in the end, identical.  Can trinitarian theology help?

Well Christ is Priest of God.  And we've been seeing that Christ and His Father are one - not identically but with important self-distinctions upheld in their mutual relations.   Christ as Priest has His distinct existence which is neither identical with the Father nor identical with humanity.  He is God for man and Man for God and this mediatorial existence is absolutely essential to His Person.  But in this mediation He does not collapse into either party.  He remains, in eternity, distinct.

Now the church, corporately, is a royal priesthood.  And, again, the absolutely essential nature of the church is mediatorial.  We do not exist for ourselves but find our very being in reaching out into the world.  But, church does not for this reason collapse into world.  Church remains, in eternity, distinct.   

Now it's interesting that Barth's trinity is explictly not 'three divine I's'.  He states emphatically that his trinity is a 'single subject thrice repeated'.  Here (IMHO) there is not adequate room for self-distinction in the Godhead.  I wonder whether the fruit of that, down the line, is inadequate distinctions being drawn between church and world?  Just a thought.

Secondly, more briefly.  If, as I've argued, the equal Persons are differently gifted and perform different roles, doesn't this re-shape what we mean by gender-equality?  Equality, if it's grounded in God's equality, includes and upholds real differences in gifting and function.  I mean let's do the exegetical work on the relevant passages, but beware playing the 'equality' card in a way that would commit you to modalism when speaking of God!

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Where would you place the 'confession' in a communion service? 

I was speaking about that yesterday with another gospel minister.  I 'flew a kite' for the idea of confessing after receiving the sacrament.  Perhaps, I wondered aloud, we could receive Christ in the bread and wine (of course with reverence recognizing the body of the Lord) and then repent of all our unworthiness.  Perhaps this would better model the fact that our repentance flows from the prior grace showered on us 'when we were still sinners.'  (Rom 5:8)  In our sin we are unable to turn to Christ, yet in His mercy He has turned to us to 'justify the wicked' (Rom 4:5).  And, as recipients of such undeserved mercy, our hearts are then humbled into repentance.  So should we put the confession after communion?

What do you think? 

I've been thinking about this especially because I'm writing a paper on repentance at the moment.  Here is the outline of my proposal. I'd love any thoughts you may have on it...

"I propose to write on the implications for pastoral ministry of our doctrine of repentance. Where should repentance fit into our soteriology and therefore how should we proceed in preaching and teaching, in evangelism, administration of the sacraments, in pastoral care, edification of the flock and in relations with the parish and wider world? In each instance the minister of the Word of grace encounters sin in its various forms. In each instance there is a danger that the covenant love of God will be presented as a conditional contract - a kind of "repent, then believe" ordo salutis. This would be to invert the Gospel in which Christ meets us exactly in our sin and does so unconditionally and with no respect to our capacity for Him or His new life. (Romans 4:5).

On the other hand Christ's salvation is precisely a salvation from sin - a deliverance from the realm of the flesh, the world and the devil. "The wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9). The triune God embraces sinners and in that embrace, changes them (1 Cor 6:11).

How do we as church model this Gospel ordo salutis? How do we preach repentance from our pulpits? At what point do we call the enquiring non-Christian couple to live out a Christian sexual ethic? To whom do we administer the sacraments? (In this question lies, among other things, the balance between communion as a "converting ordinance" and the dangers of "eating and drinking judgement" (1 Cor 11:29)). How do we counsel our people towards repentance? What counts as repentance when various addictions and relational involvements muddy the waters?

I'm sure my research for this will take me in many directions, yet I propose that I begin with the Biblical material, in particular the Old Testament covenants and the NT Pauline corpus. I also hope to investigate the controversies regarding the Western 'ordo salutis' comparing historical positions with each other and the Biblical data. I intend to make use of Calvin's distinction between 'Evangelical and Legal Repentance', especially as it has been developed by JB Torrance. As I begin these lines of enquiry I expect that many others will subsequently open up."

Any help?

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