The Biblical Doctrine of Reprobation

Written by Timothy A. Williams
From The Protestant Pulpit

imagesOne of the darkest doctrines of Scripture is the doctrine of reprobation.

Calvin includes it under Predestination, which is an act of God “by which  God adopts some to the hope of life and adjudges other to eternal death, no one desirous of credit of piety, dares absolutely to deny” (Institutes III.xxi.5).  We may define the doctrine in the following way: reprobation is God’s eternal purpose, in which He passes some people by with the operations of His special grace and punishes them for their sins to the manifestation of His justice (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 116).

Therefore, we may say that reprobation, like election, is included within God’s eternal decree and is summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 3:3, which states that, ‘By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.’

Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) and his followers rejected this idea of both election and reprobation. They asserted that men are elected to salvation or reprobated to perdition on the basis of their believing or unbelieving.  In Article 1 of the five articles (1610 prepared, these Dutch advocates of universal asserted,

God by an immutable decree, before he laid the foundations of the world, ordained in Jesus Christ his Son, to save out of the fallen human race, exposed to punishment on account of sin, those in Christ, on account of Christ, and through Christ, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit believe his Son, and who through the same grace persevere in the obedience of faith to the end. And on the other hand (he decreed) to leave in sin and exposed to wrath those who are not converted, and are unbelieving, and to condemn them as aliens from Christ, according to John 3:36.” (Quoted in Wm. Cunningham, “Hist. Theo.,” Vol. 2., p. 463.

Upholding the teachings of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism and rejecting the Remonstrance put forward by the disciples of Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), the Synod of Dort maintained the doctrine of election and reprobation, affirming that God in His eternal decree softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy:

§ 7: “But election is the immutable purpose of God, by which, before the foundations of the world were laid, he chose, out of the whole human race, fallen by their own fault from their primeval integrity into sin and destruction, according to the most free good pleasure of his own will, and of mere grace, a certain number of men, neither better nor worthier than others, but lying in the same misery with the rest, to salvation in Christ, whom he had ever from eternity constituted Mediator and Head of all the elect, and the foundation of salvation.

§ 9. This same election is not made from any foreseen faith, obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition, as a prerequisite cause or condition in the man who should be elected, but unto faith, and unto obedience of faith, and holiness. And truly election is the fountain of every saving benefit; whence faith, holiness, and other salutary gifts, and, finally, eternal life itself flow as its fruit and effect.

§ 15. Moreover, holy Scripture doth illustrate and commend to us this eternal and free grace of our election, in this more especially, that it doth also testify all men not to be elected, but that some are non–elect, or passed by in the eternal election of God, whom truly God, from most free, just, irreprehensible and immutable good pleasure, decreed to live in the common misery, into which they had, by their own fault, cast themselves, and not to bestow upon them living faith and the grace of conversion.”

Those who are passed over are those who God has not chosen to soften so that they can be inclined to believe the free offer of the Gospel. This group is instead ordained to dishonor and wrath for their sin, for the praise of the glorious justice of God. Repeatedly, we are told that this was is based upon justice.  Sin is the reason why some are judicially punished by God. The non–elect are “ordained to dishonor and wrath for their sins, to the praise of his glorious justice.” (Westminster Confession Faith,” Ch. 3, sec. 3–7; cf.  Larger Catechism, Question 13;Shorter Catechism, Question 20.

Calvin himself makes this same assertion. For example, in his comments on Isaiah 6:2, he states, “Such blinding and hardening influence does not arise out of the nature of the word, but is accidental, and must be ascribed exclusively to the depravity of man.”  Again, in his comments on Genesis 50:20, he makes the following point:

This truly must be generally agreed, that nothing is done without [God’s sovereign] will; because he both governs the counsels of men, and sways their wills and turns their efforts at his pleasure, and regulates all events: but if men undertake anything right and just, he so actuates and moves them inwardly by his Spirit, that whatever is good in them, may justly be said to be received from him: but if Satan and ungodly men rage, he acts by their hands in such an inexpressible manner, that the wickedness of the deed belongs to them, and the blame of it is imputed to them. For they are not induced to sin, as the faithful are to act aright, by the impulse of the Spirit, but they are the authors of their own evil, and follow Satan as their leader. Thus we see that the justice of God shines brightly in the midst of the darkness of our iniquity. For as God is never without a just cause for his actions, so men are held in the chains of guilt by their own perverse will.

Sin, however, is not the reason why God has not chosen them to receive the grace of regeneration. God’s will was not to show them mercy, and He did this by withholding from them saving faith and the grace of conversion. “God elects as sons those whom he pleases, according to the good pleasure of his will, without any regard to merit, while rejecting and reprobating others” (Calvin, Institutes. III.xxiii.10; cf. III.xxii.11; III.23.1).  When we look to the salvation of men, it is must attributed to God alone, but if we are to see the cause of their damnation, it must rest upon their own sin. William Perkins said that it is God’s will “to permit someone to fall into sin, and to afflict the punishment of damnation for sin” (De Praedestinationis Modo et Ordine. Cambridge 1598, p. 22).   In reprobration, there is a negative act in passing over and leaving one in sin, and a positive act of judging the person for their sin. Reprobation comprises preterition and condemnation or damnation. W. T. G. Shedd comments on the importance of this:

Much of the attack upon the general tenet of reprobation arises from overlooking this distinction. The following characteristics mark the difference between the two. (a) Preterition is a sovereign act; condemnation is a judicial act. God passes by or omits an individual in the bestowment of regenerating grace because of his sovereign good pleasure (eudokia).   But he condemns this individual to punishment, not because of his sovereign good pleasure, but because this individual is a sinner. To say that God condemns a man to punishment because he pleases is erroneous; but to say that God omits to regenerate a man because he pleases is true. (b) The reason of condemnation is known; sin is the reason. The reason of preterition is unknown. It is not sin, because the elect are as sinful as the nonelect. (c) In preterition, God’s action is permissive, inaction rather than action. In condemnation, God’s action is efficient and positive.

The notion that God shows mercy to some people and not to others can be seen in Romans 9:13.  Here Paul notes that it was God’s will and purpose to show mercy to Jacob, but that it was not His will and purpose to show mercy to Esau. Paul does not see God as being unjust by loving Jacob and hating Esau, who are the representatives of Israel and Edom respectively (9:13). Instead, he sees it as the sovereign choice and good pleasure of God to love Jacob and hate Esau.

There are some scholars, while seeking to avoid the obvious force of this passage, seek to interpret it as a reference to the fate of nations, rather than the predestination and reprobation of individuals. However, such efforts have not yet fully successfully explained how the corporate election of two peoples, Israel and Edom in Romans 9:12, 13, fits together in Paul’s argument with the statement that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (9:6b).

Douglas Moo gives expands on this reason to interpret Paul as referring to Jacob and Esau as individuals. First, Paul mentions their conception, birth and works (Rom. 9:10b-11a). This language, he argues, is not easily applied to nations. Second, several of the key words and phrases that Paul uses in this passage are words he generally uses elsewhere with reference to the attaining of salvation; and significantly, they occur with this sense in texts closely related to this one: “election” (Rom. 11:5, 7); “call” (Rom. 8:28), and “[not] of works” (Rom. 4:2-8, 11:6). Similarly, these words are difficult to apply to nations, or peoples, because Paul did not believe that people or nations – not even Israel – are chosen and called by God for salvation apart from their works (Moo, Romans, 585).

What is vitally important here is that Paul does not regard God as being unjust in choosing one above the other (Rom. 9:14).  This is because none deserves his mercy, for all are sinful. So when God decides to bestow mercy and compassion on some and not on others, it is His sovereign prerogative to do so. This same Godly prerogative also applies if He chooses to harden some sinners (Rom. 9:18). God reserves absolute liberty in the exercise of His mercy and compassion, yet this should not imply that God has an arbitrary and capricious attitude to humanity, because Romans 9:15 shows us that God delights to show mercy.  This is the very point that divines at the Synod of Dort make in their opening remarks on election and reprobation:

Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire ­human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: “The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God” (Rom. 3:19), “All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Canons of Dort, I/II.1

It also shows that judgment is His strange work (Isa. 28:21). If not all are chosen to become the elect people of God, then this means that those whom God has passed over are those whom He has rejected. Both election and reprobation stand and fall together – one cannot exist without the other (cf. Rom 9:13). Calvin made this point in the Institutes: Many . . . as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that anyone is reprobated. But this puerile and absurd, because election itself could not exist without being opposed to reprobation (Institutes, III.xxiii.1).

Paul does not see as problematic the fact that God chooses to show His wrath and make His power known by bearing with great patience the objects of his wrath prepared for destruction (9:22). Paul seems to be saying in Romans 9:22-24 that God ordains both the objects of mercy and the objects of wrath. This double emphasis on predestination, however, is not one of equal ultimacy, because God chooses the eternal destiny of men from those who are already fallen. God as the Potter has the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use (Rom. 9:21).

Because God is sovereign, He can pass over some and leave them in their sin, or He can choose to save some from their sin and make them His beloved people. God’s saving intentions can thus be restricted to a proportion of humanity, because if He had loved the non-elect in the same manner as the elect He would have made them the recipients of His regenerating grace, thus enabling them to repent (Acts 11:18) and have faith in Christ (2 Pet. 1:1). Because He did not, they remain in their current state as objects of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and so continue to be dead in their transgressions and sins (2:1).

It is often wrongly concluded from the fact that God reprobates some that He has no common grace or general love for mankind. John Davenant, one of the leading British delegates to the Synod of Dort stated, “Reprobation is not a denial of sufficient grace, but a denial of such special grace, as God knoweth would infallibly bring them to glory.” Shedd likewise notes,

The reprobate resist and nullify common grace; and so do the elect. The obstinate selfishness and enmity of the human heart defeats divine mercy as shown in the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit, in both the elect and nonelect: “You stiff-necked, you do always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51). The difference between the two cases is that in the instance of the elect God follows up the common grace which has been resisted with the regenerating grace which overcomes the resistance, while in the instance of the reprobate he does not. It is in respect to the bestowment of this higher degree of grace that St. Paul affirms that God “has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens [i.e., does not soften].”

Sadly, while the reprobate is the recipient of common grace, this common grace only augments his damnation. From the Word of God, the reprobate are “accustomed to form stones to dash themselves upon” (Calvin, Comment on John 6:60). They “suck venom from the most wholesome food, and gall from honey” (Ibid., Comment on John 6:66).  “God offers his word indiscriminately to the good and bad, but it works by his Spirit in the elect, as I have already said; and as to the reprobate, the doctrine is useful, as it renders them without excuse” (Ibid., Comment on Ezekiel 2:3).

Seeing that we do not know who the elect and the reprobate are, we are to give the gospel to all. “And as we cannot distinguish between the elect and the reprobate, it is our duty to pray for all who trouble us; to desire the salvation of all men; and even to be careful for the welfare of every individual” (Calvin, Comment on Psalm 109:16).  And no man should rashly conclude that he been reprobated by God, and we should not conclude them to be (See Calvin’s Comment on 1 John 5:16). Each person should take the offer of the Gospel immediately and without delay.

Now, then, the blame lies solely with ourselves, if we do not become partakers of this salvation; for he calls all men to himself, without a single exception, and gives Christ to all, that we may be illuminated by him. Let us only open our eyes, he alone will dispel  the darkness, and illuminate our minds by the “light” of truth (Calvin, Comment on Isaiah 42:6).

What Christ did for us by His active obedience to God’s law.

Written by, J. Gresham Machen.
Taken from, The Active Obedience of Christ.
Adapted from, The Protestant Pulpit.
Published by, Timothy A. Williams.

law4[The discussion boards I have seen lately have been filled with numerous thoughts on the Law, New Covenants, Old Covenants, the “New Law,” the “Old Law,” Ceremonial Law, etc. And with these discussions comes much commentary on how Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, that is, our not keeping the law, as well it should.

But what has received a lot less attention I have noticed, are the discussions of what Jesus’ keeping of the law means to us as Christians, especially as pertaining to the fulfillment of the Law, and as pertaining to our relationship with God. As a result of this lack of emphasis, or perhaps truly, a lack of information, discussions generally tend to some sort of murky bottom, with all parties shouting rather inconclusively particular view points until the cows, literally, come home. In this post, we begin to conclusively see a very important aspect of the work of Christ made manifest through his sinless life, and ratified through his death and Resurrection. It is an aspect of the Atonement that deserves far more attention in Christian thought and writing. My prayer is that the thoughts expressed herein may enrich your walk with the Lord. –MWP]

Christ by His death in our stead on the cross paid the just penalty of our sin, but what about what Christ did for us by His active obedience to God’s law?.

Suppose Christ had merely paid the just penalty of the law that was resting upon us for our sin, and had done nothing more than that; where would we then be? Well, I think we can say — if indeed it is legitimate to separate one part of the work of Christ even in thought from the rest — that if Christ had merely paid the penalty of sin for us and had done nothing more we should be at best back in the situation in which Adam found himself when God placed him under the covenant of works.

That covenant of works was a probation.

If Adam kept the law of God for a certain period, he was to have eternal life. If he disobeyed he was to have death. Well, he disobeyed, and the penalty of death was inflicted upon him and his posterity. Then Christ by His death on the cross paid that penalty for those whom God had chosen.

But if that were all that Christ did for us, do you not see that we should be back in just the situation in which Adam was before he sinned? The penalty of his sinning would have been removed from us because it had all been paid by Christ. But for the future the attainment of eternal life would have been dependent upon our perfect obedience to the law of God. We should simply have been back in the probation again.

Moreover, we should have been back in that probation in a very much less hopeful way than that in which Adam was originally placed in it. Everything was in Adam’s favour when he was placed in the probation. He had been created in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. He had been created positively good. Yet despite all that, he fell. How much more likely would we be to fall — nay, how certain to fall — if all that Christ had done for us were merely to remove from us the guilt of past sin, leaving it then to our own efforts to win the reward which God has pronounced upon perfect obedience!

As a matter of fact, He has not merely paid the penalty of Adam’s first sin, and the penalty of the sins which we individually have committed, but also He has positively merited for us eternal life. He was, in other words, our representative both in penalty paying and in probation keeping. He paid the penalty of sin for us, and He stood the probation for us.

That is the reason why those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ are in a far more blessed condition than was Adam before he fell.

Adam before he fell was righteous in the sight of God, but he was still under the possibility of becoming unrighteous. Those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ not only are righteous in the sight of God but they are beyond the possibility of becoming unrighteous. In their case, the probation is over. It is not over because they have stood it successfully. It is not over because they have themselves earned the reward of assured blessedness which God promised on condition of perfect obedience. But it is over because Christ has stood it for them; it is over because Christ has merited for them the reward by His perfect obedience to God’s law.

I think I can make the matter plain if I imagine a dialogue between the law of God and a sinful man saved by grace.

‘Man,’ says the law of God, ‘have you obeyed my commands?’

‘No,’ says the sinner saved by grace. ‘I have disobeyed them, not only in the person of my representative Adam in his first sin, but also in that I myself have sinned in thought, word and deed.’

‘Well, then, sinner,’ says the law of God, ‘have you paid the penalty which I pronounced upon disobedience?’

‘No,’ says the sinner, ‘I have not paid the penalty myself; but Christ has paid it for me. He was my representative when He died there on the cross. Hence, so far as the penalty is concerned, I am clear.’

‘Well, then, sinner,’ says the law of God, ‘how about the conditions which God has pronounced for the attainment of assured blessedness? Have you stood the test? Have you merited eternal life by perfect obedience during the period of probation?’

‘No,’ says the sinner, ‘I have not merited eternal life by my own perfect obedience. God knows and my own conscience knows that even after I became a Christian I have sinned in thought, word and deed. But although I have not merited eternal life by any obedience of my own, Christ has merited it for me by His perfect obedience. He was not for Himself subject to the law. No obedience was required of Him for Himself, since He was Lord of all. That obedience, then, which He rendered to the law when He was on earth was rendered by Him as my representative. I have no righteousness of my own, but clad in Christ’s perfect righteousness, imputed to me and received by faith alone, I can glory in the fact that so far as I am concerned the probation has been kept and as God is true there awaits me the glorious reward which Christ thus earned for me.’

Such, put in bald, simple form, is the dialogue between every Christian and the law of God. How gloriously complete is the salvation wrought for us by Christ! Christ paid the penalty, and He merited the reward. Those are the two great things that He has done for us.

Head-Covering: Is It Still Relevant?


Beautiful____[ It is always interesting to me when culture and theology meet… er, maybe I should say clash. Ever since the fall of Adam, the size, shape and texture of the proverbial “fig leaf” has been important, debated and watched. In this case, a nascent women’s liberation movement, in an ancient, educated, and cosmopolitan setting occurs; and of all things, it involves clothing at church. It also involves gender roles, how we see ourselves, “sexism”, culture, “progressive thinking”, submission, the will of God, and various other aspects of theology including, but not limited to, contextualization, modernism, values, seeker-friendliness,   etc.

The question is not how you may “feel about it”. Rather, the question is, How will you deal with the subject and also scripture? Will you dismiss the subject entirely? Maybe, even suggest that the “men” who push these thoughts are Sexists. Step back and say, “I really don’t want to get involved.” Or, “Another time… when it is more convenient.” “I’ll think about it?”  Or maybe even take a more “progressive,” “relevant,” and existential view of scripture?

Below, Dr. Timothy Williams makes an excellent, exegetically Biblical, theological and historical presentation on this subject. What are your thoughts? –MWP ]

What were the arguments that Paul brought forward to insist that in Corinth women should be veiled in public worship?  What may she do if properly veiled?  How far are these arguments of permanent validity? Are they culturally based or eternally based?

A note about the context would seem to be helpful here. Lenski  is right when he states that in reference to the head-covering the Corinthians were in perfect agreement with Paul.  This was one “tradition” they were keeping.  And that Paul in verses 3-16, simply states the reasons why they should continue in the practice.  He believes that the “contentious” ones referred to in 11:16..’is the thought that a few contentious voices had been raised in Corinth which either merely questioned the necessity of the women covering their heads or advocated that they leave them uncovered.  The congregation and the body of the women in it were not yet disturbed.’  In fact, it can be suggested that some among the women in Corinthians church had decided that they could cast aside all symbols of subjection to men since ‘there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ.” (Gal. 3:28). This is the position of scholars such as De Wette: ‘It appears that the Christian women at Corinth claimed for themselves equality with the male sex, to which the doctrine of Christian freedom and the removal of the distinction of sex in Christ (Gal. 3:28) gave occasion. Christianity had indisputably done much for the emancipation of women, who in the East and among the Ionic Greeks (it was otherwise among the Dorians and the Romans) were in a position of unworthy dependence. But this was done in a quiet, not an over-hasty manner. In Corinth, on the contrary, they had apparently taken up the matter in a fashion somewhat too animated. The women overstepped due bounds by coming forward to pray and prophesy in the assemblies with uncovered head.’

It can be easily postulated there was a certain in the midst of Corinth there was a small women’s liberation movement .Thus, the primary thrust of this passage pertains to subjection.  To persuade the women not to cast aside their symbol of subjection, Paul made six arguments.

1.) The headship of the man.  His first argument is that to appear uncovered in the congregation denotes the having no visible superior there. But woman has a visible superior, namely, man. To this fact, when she appears in public, her very dress should testify.

2.) While the man directly reflect God’s glory by not having any earthly being over him, the woman must show that he does not directly reflect God’s glory in this way. Woman is not the manifestation or representation of the glory of God on earth, inasmuch as she is subject to man, and therefore cannot properly represent Him Who has no superior. Man is God’s glory on earth: woman is man’s glory. Grotius uses the similitude of the sun and moon. Lias states, ‘But to all inferior beings she represents and is scarcely distinguishable from man, and therefore manifests and shares his superiority; reflects it, as the moon does the light of the sun, to use (and it may be said, to complete) the simile of Grotius here.’  Alford warns, ‘This of course is true only as regards her place in creation, and her providential subordination, not in respect of the dependence of every woman’s individual soul directly on God, not on man, for supplies of grace and preparations for glory.’

3.) Naturally moving from the above argument, we find that Paul now argues from the creation of mankind. ‘The narrative in the book of Genesis establishes two facts, (1) that woman had her being originally through man, and not, as man, directly from God; and (2) that she was created for man’s advantage, and not man for hers. Not that we are to suppose, with some, that woman is in no sense to be regarded as the image and glory of God, but that man is so immediately, she mediately, through man.’ It is important to underscore here the fact that man glorifies God, when man serves God in his recognized role (man, not God).  Woman brings glory to man (esp. her husband) when she serves in her recognized role.  Therefore, in pursuing the point at hand, to cast off the veil, a recognized symbol of femininity and subjection, was a sign of disrespect to the order established at creation, and esp. to one’s husband.  ‘In so doing she brings shame on him by trying to dissolve the rightful male/female relationship.’ (Fee p. 518) Now, we must not miss the point that the facts of creation and its implications abide forever.  Thousands of years after Gen. 2:1-25, God still felt that the text was relevant to first century Christians.

4.) There is an argument drawn from the presence of the angels at Christian worship. The passage has sorely perplexed the commentators. The various explanations of it may be summarized in the following way: a.) guardian angels who watch over the heirs of salvation (Jerome, et al); b.) bad angels whose lust might be aroused (Tertullian); c.) human angels of the assemblies –the prophets (Beza); d.) the presidents of the assembly (Ambrose); e.) people assigned to give away the betrothed (Lightfoot); f.) spectators within their assemblies; and g.) angels within the assemblies “because in the Christian assemblies the holy angels of God are present, and delighting in the due order and subordination of the ranks of God’s servants,—and by a violation of that order we should be giving offence to them” (Alford; cites Chrysostom). Lias agrees, ‘It is best on the whole to regard it as an intimation that the angels, though invisible, were fellow-worshippers with men in the Christian assemblies, and were therefore “spectators of the indecency,” and liable to be offended thereat. “When therefore the women usurp the symbol of dominion, against what is right and lawful, they make their shameful conduct conspicuous” in the eyes of the messengers of God. Thus Calvin. Erasmus paraphrases it well: “If a woman has arrived at that pitch of shamelessness that she does not fear the eyes of men, let her at least cover her head on account of the angels, who are present at your assemblies”.’

5.) Paul also argues from nature. What this actually means is debated. In its core, it means ‘The recognized constitution of things.’ (Vincent p. 248)  Fee is probably right when he states that this refers ‘to the “natural feeling” that they shared together as part of their contemporary culture.’ (Fee p. 527). Obviously, we cannot argue against long-hair, seeing that Nazarenes were forbidden by God to cut their hair (Num. 6:1-5).  In a real and distinct way, this argument is based upon the accepted ideas of propriety. In most societies, short-hair was the “norm” for men and long-hair for women. ‘The Athenian youth cropped his head at 18, and it was a mark of foppery or effeminacy to let the hair afterwards grow long.  This feeling prevailed in ancient as it does in modern manners.’ (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 875).

Notwithstanding this, the use of the cultural situation was only to bolster his overall charge. In reality, Paul’s main concern was not length per se, but he was speaking of being revealing one’s womanly portrayal. Paul seems to be arguing along these lines: a.) The Christians could easily observe that society frowned upon long-haired males. This is ‘evidenced by thousands of contemporary paintings, reliefs, and pieces of sculpture’ (Fee, p. 527). Society viewed such as ‘effeminate.’   (b)  Women, even the Corinthian women arguing for the removal of the veil, took pride in their natural covering, i.e. their long hair.  (c)  So everyone could see that there existed things that were viewed as distinctly “feminine (under normal circumstances), i.e. belonging to women.’  (d)  If they could see this in reference to a ‘natural covering,’ then is not unreasonable that the same type of meaning can be placed on a physical covering.  (e)  Respecting the use of the veil, was just like respecting the fact that certain hairstyles belonged to women and others to men.

6.) Paul’s last argument concerns the universal practice of the church. There were those who were still trying to protest against Paul’s teaching. Therefore, Paul highlights the fact that is done is all apostolic churches. As Fee reminds us, ‘This is now the third time that Paul had tried to correct the Corinthian behavior by appealing to what is taught or practiced in the other churches’ (Fee p. 530; cf. 4:17; 7:17). And why this argument? Hodge captures well the reason: “With such persons all argument is useless. Authority is the only end of controversy with such disturbers of the peace. The authority here adduced is that of the apostles and of the churches. The former was decisive, because the apostles were invested with authority not only to teach the gospel, but also to organize the church, and to decide every thing relating to Christian ordinances and worship. The authority of the churches, although not coercive, was yet great. No man is justified, except on clearly scriptural grounds, and from the necessity of obeying God rather than man, to depart from the established usages of the church in matters of public concern.”

From Paul’s standpoint, only when a woman is properly veiled does she have the right to pray and prophecy.  It is not the proper place to explain the meaning of prophecy here, nor is it the place to harmony this statement about prayer with others passages wherein women are to be silent. It is, however, the overall thrust of the passage to underscore the only biblical ground for her to do these; she is be veiled. Lias is right when he qualifies this by saying, ‘This refers, of course, to the public assemblies of the Church, where the woman appears, not in her individual character, but as the member of a community. She must therefore perform her devotions in this latter character, and her attire must bear witness to the fact that she is subordinate to those of the other sex in whose presence she worships. Alone, of course, or in the presence of her own sex only, she has the same privilege of approaching God unveiled, that man has.’

It must be observed that these apostolic churches were in various cultural contexts.  Yet, he could appeal to the fact that all the churches in all these various cultural contexts followed this pattern in public worship.

 Now, the question over permanence of this must be addressed. It would seem that the principles of Paul’s arguments, with the possible exception of that based upon the nature of things, move us in the direction of saying that a physical sign of subordination is required. While the sign upon her head, and it must always be that upon the head if any, may change according to the day, the necessity of it remains. The church has held to this position for nearly two millennia until the sexual revolution and women’s liberation movement; this is an historical fact that cannot be easily dismissed by revisionism. Even Wikipedia notes this, saying, “Veiling, covering the hair rather than the face, was a common practice with church-going women until the 1960s.”

 Moreover, the very forms of the head-covering of the ancient church varied. The article in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities speaks of the fact that some used a pellum or shawl, which was ordinarily used as a covering for the body, but on public occasions thrown over the head in worship. In Oriental countries, however, the women wore, and still wear, a veil. Thus, while times may change the way in which women might cover their heads in worship, according to the customs and fashions of the day, the requirement of a public and physical sign of subordination remains in force.

Part 3, Final. The Virgin Birth of Christ: The Dependent Theology

by Timothy A. Williams

The Virgin Birth and the Sinlessness of Christ

87600267-300x195One of the most complex issues in theology is the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. All Bible-believing Christians hold that Christ was sinlessness. At this point, we are not addressing the impeccability of Christ. That is a different issue, and it is fundamentally solved by the fact that Jesus’ human nature, even as His divine nature, was controlled by the 2nd Person of the Trinity, making it impossible for to have sinned. Shedd (Dogmatic Theology, II, p. 269-270) states:

The eternal Son, or the Word, is personal per se. He is from everlasting to everlasting conscious of himself as distinct from the Father, and from the Holy Spirit. He did not acquire personality by union with a human nature … On the contrary, the human nature which he assumed to himself acquired personality by its union with him … That the personality of the Godman depends primarily upon the divine nature, and not upon the human, is also evinced by the fact that this complex theanthropic (i.e., God-man) personality was not destroyed by the death of Christ” (see John 1:1, 14).

But the issue of the sinlessness of Christ involves the transmission of Adam’s sin to Him as a child of Mary. 

When considered in its full gamut, it must take into account one’s view of the transmission of sin (mediate, immediate, seminal) and the origin of the soul (traducianism and creationism).  But here, I only want to address one question. What is the relationship of the virgin birth to Christ’s sinlessness?

921016602Nonetheless, if we are to understand the sinless of Christ, then we must also understand how sin has been transmitted. What is the biblical view of original sin?  At the Marburg Colloquy, (1529), after being carefully drawn up by the conjoint labors of Luther, Melancthon, Jonas, Zwingle, OEcolampadius, Bucer and others, was subscribed by each. Its fourth article reads as follows: “We believe that original sin descends to us by birth and inheritance from Adam, and that it is a sin which condemns all men, and that if Christ had not by His death and life delivered us, all would have eternally perished on account of it, nor ever have obtained the kingdom of God and eternal salvation.” Hence, it involves guilt and corruption from Adam. In other words, it is by imputation as well as by natural generation. Calvin says, “We are not condemned by imputation. alone, as though the punishment of another’s tin were exacted of us; but we therefore endure its punishment because we also are guilty of the offence so far as this, that our nature, vitiated in him, is regarded as guilty of iniquity before God” (Commentary on Rom. 5:17).  The noted English divine William Whitaker wrote,

Original sin is inherent and native depravity, but the actual free transgression of Adam is imputed to us. For we should neither be held under the guilt or depravity thence contracted, unless that act by which Adam violated the divine precept was ascribed to us by imputation. But in regard to that, some scholastic theologians place original sin in imputation alone; In This They Basely And Nefariously Err.

The Virgin Birth As Spirit’s Work

000First, let us say that the Spirit’s work within the Virgin Birth kept Christ from the stain of sin that by natural generation flows to all mankind. Having been born of the virgin Mary, Jesus was human Offspring. Having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and overshadowed by the power of the Most High, Jesus was holy Offspring—the sinless Son of God. Therefore, the doctrine of the virgin birth impacts one’s view of the sinlessness of Christ.

But how does it impact it? When Mary “conceived, she passed on her human nature to the theanthropic person, but she was prevented by the Holy Spirit from transmitting a sin nature” (Gromacki, 125). In his Institutes, Calvin notes, “We do not represent Christ as perfectly immaculate, merely because He was born of the seed of the woman unconnected with any man, but because he was sanctified by the Spirit, so that his generation was pure and holy, such as it would have been before the fall.”   John Gill wrote:

This conception was through the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, overshadowing the virgin. His operations in this affair may be considered in this manner, and after this order; He first took a part and portion of the virgin, of her semen, or blood, and conveyed it to a proper place; and purified and sanctified it, or separated it, not from any moral impurity, which it was not capable of, being an unformed mass; but from a natural indisposition in it, which, had it not been removed, might hereafter have occasioned sin; to prevent which this was done; and then he impregnated it with a fructifying virtue,

The Virgin Birth as Spirit’s Sign

Second, let us also say that the Spirit’s work within the Virgin Birth reveals that the Second Adam, the promised seed, was now here to save His people from their sins. Christ was not born by natural generation, but by a unique way in the Virgin Birth. By God’s decree, Christ was never under Adam’s covenant headship. Rather, He was the Last Adam, another covenant head. Wherein all in Adam die, all in Christ shall be made alive. By the disobedience of one, many were made sinners, but the obedience of this one, many were made righteous. And this one is none other than the seed of the Woman. He is Emmanuel, being demonstrated as the Divine Deliverer by the means of the Virgin Birth. Speaking of this, John Gill wrote:

imagesAnd besides that, Christ not descending from Adam by ordinary generation, could not be a federal head to him on that account; so neither because of the dignity of his person; the human nature being personally united to the Son of God, could never be under a creature as its federal head, or be represented by one. Moreover, Christ was the head of another and better covenant than Adam’s, and was previous to it, even before Adam and his covenant were in being. Christ was an head to Adam, as he was chosen in him, given to him in covenant to be redeemed and saved by him; but Adam was no head to him; “The Head of Christ is God”, and he only (1 Cor. 11:3).


In summary, sin is transmitted by imputation as well as natural generation. In the Virgin Birth, we see God keeping Christ from the stain of original sin as well as a sign that the guilt has not been imputed to Him.  Through the Spirit’s work, Christ does not inherit the corrupt nature of Adam’s posterity, and by the miraculous act, we see that He is the Last Adam, not involved in the guilt of the original sin of Adam. On two accounts, we have a sinless Savior who come to become sin for us, though He knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.  As Thomas Hewitt once said, “The incarnation was a necessary means to an end, and the end was the putting away of the sin of the world by offering of body of Christ,”


by Timothy A. Williams.


“Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.” 1 Kings 10:7


Last night in family devotions with my wife, I was struck with this verse. It is not an unfamiliar passage of Scripture, but it is one that arrested my attention.  As I have meditated upon it since, I have thought a two central lessons that seem very important to me. The first concerns the importance of pursuing the truth about Christ, and the second truth relates to the discovery of that truth about Christ. The more I thought upon these two points, the more I realized that they were searching truths.


As I consider the idea of pursuing the truth about Christ, I took heed because of the words of our Lord:  “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31).  These thoughts make me tremble for others as well as myself.

Do these words not suggest the importance of pursuing Christ? When we are told that the queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment against certain men and women, we cannot help to feel that there is here a weight to our duty of pursuing Christ. Now, this is the very thing that Christ claims. He is the answer to man’s real problem.. It was not mere curiosity which brought this Queen of the South to see Solomon. A question was raised; it could be settled by nothing except rigid experiment. Men are looking for something, and it cannot be found except in Christ Jesus.  I am reminded of what Cynddylon Jones, a Welsh preacher and theologian of the late 19th century, said:

imagesCAFF6R67The greatness of the ancient world culminated in Socrates and Plato, and the greatness of Socrates and Plato culminated in their power to ask questions, and not in their power to answer them. The ancient world started problems; it remained for the new world to solve them. Herein lies one of the vital differences between the wise men of the East, and the West and the founder of Christianity; they wore mere seekers after truth–He was its revealer.

It is at this point that Christ challenges the greatest of the world to investigate his bold claims for supremacy as the one way unto God and Savior for the human soul. 

Christ has represented Himself to mankind. While they should be believe on Him for His very works sake, He has also given the sign of Jonas, His own resurrection, to silence all doubt about who He is. ;And His proclamation about the queen of the south tells that we all are bound to seek, search, sift, and examine what this Son of God, who was the Son of Man, has to say. This revelation from heaven for men’s salvation is either everything or nothing to each immortal being going to God’s judgment. For it claims to be all that any one needs for the final redemption of his soul.

Do these words not also underscore the manner of pursuing Christ?

imagesCAD0VZNFThose who came to see Jesus were often guilty of seeking him with ulterior motives.  They wanted their bellies full, while their souls starved; they wanted to be entertained by a miracle-worker, while they were in the great need of the great miracle of the new birth; they came to hear a witty teacher, a scolding prophet, or fine story-teller; or some even came to criticize Him in their pride.  Are not their children alive today?

In contrast, when the Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem she did not come to be entertained, to gain materially, or to find fault! Rather, empty of an unbelieving, questioning disposition, she came to find truth. This was no passing feeling of the moment that comes like a gust of wind upon the sea, stirring up the waves of emotion for a moment and returning to a placid state. No, there was great effort on her part.  She traveled far to find the truth, and she evidently made preparation, revealing her earnestness. She came humbly, seeking something that was rumored to be worth having for every human.

Now, is there no lesson for you, my soul?  Are you as eager for the truth? Are you willing to go to lengths to secure the knowledge of Christ?  Has familiarity bred contempt?  is He too common now for you?  And when you do come, do you come dull, come with the blinds pulled down and the shutters up? Should you not then expect to go away dull, blind, and hardened. In fact, will you not have to given an account for this on the judgment day?

But let me not drive you with the whip of a threat, but let me entice you with the promise. If a greater than Solomon is here, then should I not seek Him?  And is there not an implicit promise that He will reward those who diligently seek after Him?  Therefore, when you come into His house to seek Him, you may expect to find Him! Then come expecting! Although the preacher may be very dull and very flat, the Lord will remember you, and the Lord will remember Himself,  Yes, come prepared, but also come in faith!


When the queen of the south saw for herself, he said, “The half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.” Do not these words resonate within your own soul,as they relate to our Lord Jesus Christ? In part this is due to experience itself.   The possession of Christ is exponentially superior to the proclamation about Christ. A known and felt Christ is infinitely richer than telling about Him can indicate.

imagesCA3U7JF6And this experience of Him only grows. When you first came to the Lord, my soul, did you not see a certain beauty in Him? Has that not grown more and more so?  And how so? Has He grown lesser in your eyes upon better acquaintance or even more beautiful? His greatness and His beauty are appreciated more because they are understood more. As you have come to know more about your disease of sin, He has become more lovely and precious, has He not?  Nothing that can be written about Him ever seems to equal what you have experienced of His love, His tenderness, and His patience, Nothing suggested about Him scarcely suggests the wonderful treasures of holiness and power found in Him.


There is no spot in Him; there is no defect or blemish in His person or work.  He is all together lovely! Must you not confess this about Him? “The half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.” Yes, I do, and I gladly do so! May He receive my praise, my service, and my entire being! He alone is worthy!

A Brilliant and Concise Exposition of the Defense and Condemnation Homosexuality from the Biblical Perspective

marriage1by Timothy A Williams

As orthodox, Bible-believing Christians, we freely admit that we come to the Bible with certain assumptions. Therefore, it is important that we set forth the assumptions. We believe that the entire Bible is inspired, which is to say that the Bible is the work of God wherein He communicated His word to writers of the Bible and enabled them to write that word without error, addition, or deletion. In the strictest sense, the Bible is the word of God and, therefore, authoritative for faith and practice.

As Christians we appeal to the authority of the Scriptures in the belief that therein are found universally binding absolutes. In addition, when we read the Bible, we interpret it literally, or according to its clearly intended meaning. This is the only legitimate interpretation of Scripture. This means that we depend heavily upon the grammar, context, and historical situation of the text. We also believe that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. As such, we reject the modern attempts to revise its teachings and subjugate it to the wisdom of men and the culture of the day.

Moreover, we read the Bible with the intention of giving heed to its teaching, seeing that it is divinely authoritative. Since, this authority is absolute and universal, we believe that every man and woman is obligated to obey its precepts, even if he or she does not accept its divine origin and thus authority.

When we read this inspired word of God according to these principles of interpretation, we see that there is a consistent condemnation of homosexuality —both in its practice and its desires. The rest of this pamphlet will outline this condemnation of homosexuality, answer some of the objections to this condemnation, and then provide a remedy for escaping this condemnation. It is our sincere desire to reach those who are homosexuals with the saving gospel of Christ. In order to do this, we must show them that their actions are under the curse of God’s wrath so that they might take refuge in Christ. It is also our desire to communicate the clear teaching of the Bible so that many in our community will not be hoodwinked by false teachers, who say that God condones homosexuality. May the Lord bless this pamphlet to these two ends.

Old Testament

When we turn to the Bible, we find a consistent, unified condemnation of homosexuality. To begin with, we find God’s fierce anger over the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying the city. The carnal sin that is underscored is their desire to “know” the strangers that Lot had brought into his house (Gen. 19:5).

Some liberal theologians have argued that Sodom’s sin was not homosexuality, but it was inhospitality. However, there are some serious issues with this revisionist view. First, the word “know” has a sexual connotation. How could they be condemned if they merely wanted to ‘know’ the visitors in a nonsexual way? One should note the similar language in Judges 19:22. Secondly, the inspired New Testament writer Jude speaks of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as “giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh.” For this reason, they “are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

In addition to Genesis 19, in the section of the Mosaic Law called the Holiness Code, the Lord gives the following prohibitions against homosexuality: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). Again, it states, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13). The clear teaching of these passages of the Mosaic Law has also been disputed by unbelieving theologians. They argue that the Holiness Code (Leviticus 18-20), along with the entire Mosaic Law, has been abrogated. In other words, Christians are no longer under the law, but they are under grace (Romans 6:15). There are many problems with this line of thinking; however, one startling fact that should silence this type of thinking is that the Lord Jesus Christ himself appeals to the contents of the Holiness Code as applicable and enjoins obedience to it (Lev. 19:18; cf. Matthew 22:39, 40). The Old Testament teaching is very explicit in its condemnation of homosexuality. The defenders of homosexuality cannot viably offer any reason why these are no longer valid expressions of God’s displeasure toward this sin. Surely the law expresses the nature of God, who is unchanging.

New Testament

Then, as we turn to the New Testament, we find the same condemnation of homosexuality. In fact, homosexuality, whether between men or women, is a sign of God’s judicial act whereby He withdraws His restraining, common grace from men and permits them to degenerate into homosexuality (Romans 1:26-28). Moreover, this passage condemns both the desire (“vile affections,” v. 26) and the act (“working that which is unseemly.” v. 27).

Defenders of homosexuality have tried to dismiss this passage as only teaching that homosexuality in pagan religious ceremonies is being condemned. This is blatantly twisting Paul’s intent. There is no warrant for accepting this view. Paul also speaks of this sin in his First Letter to the Corinthians, wherein he states that the passive partner in the homosexual relationship (translated as “effeminate” in the King James Version) as well as the active partner in the homosexual relationship (translated as “abusers of themselves with mankind” in the King James Version) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).

Again, the liberal scholars who defend homosexuality say that the terms used by Paul only refer to male prostitutes of pagan temples. This ignores the clear lexical evidence that shows that these words speak of the passive and active partners in the homosexual relationship in a very general way. It also ignores the way in which the early church, who lived in the same culture, treated these texts as condemning homosexuality universally.

Next, in 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul says that the Law was given to condemn homosexuality (“them that defile themselves with mankind,” in King James Version), as well as other acts of lawlessness and disobedience. For many reasons, this is a very significant passage for our discussion. In this passage, the New Testament is stressing that homosexuality is contrary to God’s law, which is the Old Testament Law of God. Thus, in the view of Paul, the Old Testament’s condemnation of homosexuality is still in full force. There are some who say that this refers only to sex with a child. However, there is neither lexical nor historical support for such a novel and revisionist view.

Finally, the passage in Jude 7 tells us two significant facts. First, the sin of Sodom was going after “strange flesh,” meaning that they sought conjugal relations contrary to God’s natural course. Second, Sodom’s demise is an example to all who live this way, as well as any disobedient way. All who live ungodly will receive a just, certain, and eternal punishment from God.


There are other objections that defenders of homosexuality have offered against this historical interpretation of the biblical data. While we cannot answer  all of the objections in this small pamphlet, we will seek to answer some of the more significant ones. One of the most weighty objections against the historical view is that we select passages and ignore others. For example, we do not stone adulterers (Deuteronomy 22:22), nor do we execute a married couple who have conjugal relations when the woman has her period (Lev. 18:19). From this, defenders of homosexuality argue that some verses are specific to culture and the time in which they were written. The condemnation of homosexuality is one of these, and it is therefore inappropriate, unwise, and unjust to condemn it.

This objection fails to understand the nature of progressive revelation in the Scriptures. With the culmination of the divine revelation in our Lord Jesus Christ, certain aspects of the Old Testament became redundant. For instance, Israel’s civil and ceremonial codes were not, in all their details—including the stoning of blasphemers and adulterers— to be carried out in the New Testament era. However, the principles of the moral law—the Ten Commandments—were not abrogated. In the realm of sexual ethics, homosexuality continues to be as sinful and unacceptable, even as adultery and fornication is. Rather, the Scriptures never alter God’s revealed law regarding homosexuality, but leaves us under its full requirement, as we have seen in the New Testament teaching. Therefore, the prohibition against homosexuality cannot be viewed as part of the ceremonial system prefiguring Christ or as temporary in its obligation.

 Another objection is that if Christians fail to uphold the biblical standards on divorce, then they cannot condemn homosexuals and, thus, should include them in the church, as they do illegitimately divorced people.This argument is fallacious for two reasons. First, what is and what should be are often sadly two different things. Christians should not divorce for unbiblical grounds, but they do. Second, illegitimately divorced people should not be included into the church, except on the grounds that they repent of their sin and live differently. On this, the church must act consistently. The same standards must, then, be applied to the homosexual. The church will not recognize him or her as a Christian until true repentance exists.

Another argument put forth by many defenders of homosexuality is that homosexuals are born this way; therefore, if they are made this way, God cannot condemn them for being homosexual. There are four responses that must be set forth. First, there is simply no proof that homosexual orientation is determined at birth. No genetic or other physiological explanation is forthcoming in this respect. However, there is much evidence that luxurious social environment promotes homosexual tendencies. Second, not all homosexuals agree with this argument, seeing that it could and has lead some to the belief that their homosexuality is a mutation, against which they strongly militate. Third, even if a “gay gene” could be found, it still does not mean that one should not repent. What exists does not excuse us from what we ought to do. Original sin could have affected one’s propensity toward one sin. Yet, God demands and grants repentance from this and all other sins that flow forth from original sin. Fourth, if a “gay gene” can be discovered, the same might be true for adultery, murder, stealing, etc. Such activities might be conceivably decriminalized on such grounds, seeing that one cannot be held responsible for their “nature.” In the end, our civilized society, as we know it, would be utterly ruined.

One of the most frequently used arguments against the Bible-believer, who stands against homosexuality, is that he must not judge others, as Jesus said in Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” It is true that we must not condemn people hastily. Yet, this passage is often wrested from it context, as if it were a club to beat the Christian back into silence.

However, Christ does not condemn our forming an opinion of the conduct of others, for it is impossible not to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every palliating circumstance, and a habit of “expressing” such an opinion harshly and unnecessarily when formed. It rather refers to private judgment than “judicial,” and perhaps primarily to the customs of the scribes and Pharisees. This is certain; for in the next few verses, he commands that we do not cast our pearls before swine, etc. This means that we have to judge who a swine is!


Having argued strenuously against homosexuality, it must be stated in the most emphatic way that homosexuals can be saved and enjoy the love of God in Christ. Paul speaks of homosexuals not entering the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Yet, in that very passage, he says this about the Corinthians: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Therefore, there is no limit to the transforming power of God’s grace so that those with homosexual tendencies may be delivered from the bondage of these vile affections and be pardoned of its guilt. Yet, in order to share in this grace and enter into the kingdom of God, one must be born again, receiving a new heart with new desires (John 3:3-5). And when one is truly born-again, he or she will repent of his or her sins and trust alone in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Thus, like adulterers, murderers, and sinners of every sort, homosexuals must repent and believe the gospel if they wish to be saved and be part of Christ’s church.

 Notwithstanding this obligation to repent and believe, we are unable to repent and believe on our own. But the grace of God in Christ includes the power to repent and believe. Thus, one is wholly dependent upon God’s grace. When this takes place, a new life of obedience begins. Paul says to those who were once slaves to sin, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17, 18). The Son of God can make a person who is a slave to sin free from that terrible bondage. One must go to Him and ask Him to be merciful to him or her, granting a new heart, faith and repentance. And when He does grant this grace, one will hear the words that Christ said to the woman caught in adultery:

“And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” ( John 8:11 )