Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who Love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28, NASB).

What a beautiful passage of scripture, capable of filling our hearts with the greatest of joys, and grant us the hope we need to make it through the day. This fact of scripture is anchored to the very character of God. It shows His sovereignty, Wisdom, and the compassion He has for His elect. It proves that our world is not a giant mess of disconnected coincidence, but everything, literally everything, is directed by the hand of God for the good of his children.

There is no force outside of God that is directing all things, for the verse says, “God causes all things to work”. There is no devil in hell strong enough to direct the forces of the world to an opposite end, or a devil wise enough to trick God into making some sort of mistake. God, who’s work is perfect (Deut. 32:4), is the one directing the events of the universe. It is not fate, it is not luck, it is not some unknown force of unlimited power and without consciousness that directs the path of humanity.  Kings, princess, and demons move things where they wish, but they are pawns in the hand of God who will direct even their schemes to His desired end.

The verse continues adding, “together for good”. God is causing all things to work towards good. This is a big difference between this and the idea that all things are good because God is using them. That is an interpretation of the text must be avoided. God never calls sin good. God always condemns the wicked for their wickedness, and promises to exact justice on all evildoers. God does not leave us room to say the evil and vile acts of this world are something good rather the verse specifies that all things will work together for a certain end, that end being good. It does not make the mistake of the communists and say that the end justifies the means. No, our God is much too pure for something such as that. It was sin that placed our Savior unjustly upon the cross as men murdered Him, but it was God who directs even such an event as that to a desired end. It is not good that Nazi Germany killed six million Jews.  It is not good that governments torture His church. It is not good that Satan steals, kills, and destroys. It is not good that child molesters molest, and it is not good that rapists rape. God is not declared as justifying these activities, it is not said that these things are good because God is going to bring them to a good end, but only that they will work together for good.

Indeed, God will bring all things together for good. He will somehow cause all the evil and all the good things together for His desired end. I am not sure of how such a deed will be done or how a task can be accomplished, but I know that my God can. Many things are absolutely horrible and on their own of no value, and many things that are good have no power to overcome the atrocities of sin. Perhaps if everything was separate strands, disconnected from everything else, maybe they could not be used for any good, but God in his wisdom will tie all these separate strands together to produce good.  

The text says that this good is for the benefit of the Christian. There is no other being in creation that can love God, and be called according to his purposes. Because this good is directed from God towards his bride, it ought to bring us great joy. We learn from it that our current troubles, as troubling as they maybe, have a place in the plan of God for our lives. He will take all of our suffering and all of our accomplishments and use them for our good in the end. He will grab hold of the wars of the past and the future, of the storms twelve hundred miles away and direct them for our benefit.

The promise of this verse has not reached is fulfillment. Indeed, God takes hold of everything in our lives and we see him work a great deal of things out for our benefit at a later date, but nonetheless this work of God is not yet finished. Its object is not only the saints that are present, but those that are past and future. The verse applies to all those who love him and are called according to his purpose. It applies to Abraham, You, and our dear elected brothers who we are still waiting to see become a member of the visible church. As all Christians should know our God is the God of the living, and our brothers who have passed from this world to the next still love our God day and night. All the events that have succeeded them are still being brought into the hand of God and worked into the mosaic of God’s desired end that is for our good.

However, that end has not yet come. There is still all of future history which God will also bring together with everything that has preceded it, even the thousands of pieces of gum that are stuck underneath tables ever year (yes this seems ridiculous, but the text says all, and none of the surrounding text specifies that “all” to a smaller group that that which encompasses everything, so even this is included). But the time will come when all things are completed, the iniquity of the world is complete, all the elect have been called to salvation and the reprobate are shown by the hardness of their heart, then everything will be brought together “for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

So rejoice dear brothers and sisters in Christ! All of our hardship and suffering is not some out of control force working against the church of God that may possibly win out and destroy us! No every enemy of ours, including our own flesh is bound by the will of God to eventually be used for our good. Yes it sucks now, but continue on in the hope of that promise. Our God is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, and so he will come quickly. He will not wait a moment longer, nor move a moment sooner than when everything is fulfilled. And when he does, we shall rejoice in heaven in merriment and love before the throne of the highest King!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Email from a friend

I received an email from a friend of mine, who is a missionary in Africa, today. He shared with me and many others a great need in Urganda. As such I'm posting the E-mail here. if anyone of you can help please do. Take away the money you were going to spend on soda or a candy bar, maybe even that meal at a restaurant and please send it to help someone who needed it more than you.

I wanted to send an update to each of you to let you know how my trip
has been going. You will find specific prayer requests listed
throughout the email.
Thank you for your much needed prayers.
      Before I describe one of the saddest experiences I have ever
had… I want to let you know that the work I have been doing with
African Children’s Mission (ACM) has been going very well. Each week I
spend three days in remote villages teaching theology classes to 49
pastors and church leaders who have never had any training in Biblical
studies. Not only have they not received training in Biblical studies,
but like most Ugandans, many of them never completed high school.
Despite their lower level of education, some of these students have
served in church leadership positions for longer than I have been
alive. I find it remarkable that the students faithfully attend Bible
classes, in spite of the fact that many of them have not been in a
formal classroom setting in years. Their love for God's Word and His
glory supersedes their tribal differences and learning difficulties.

       God has been clearly faithful to the work He started last
summer with the Bible training programs. Though it is hard at times,
there is nothing I would rather be doing than returning to the Bible
training schools to help equip my brothers and sisters with the tools
necessary to exegete Scripture and better serve their church

*Please pray:

- That God will allow the students to truly grasp the information being taught.
- That the Holy Spirit would give the students understanding of the
information, and   help them to properly apply it to their particular
- Praise God that a shipment of reading glasses came in and now all of
the Bible     students can read their Bibles!

The saddest letter I have ever written:
     If you do not know, one of African Children’s Mission’s (ACM’s)
main ministries is a feeding program which operates in the poorest of
schools in one of the poorest districts in Uganda, East Africa. Last
week, I helped compose and deliver a letter from African Children's
Mission to seven schools. Though the letter was addressed to seven
schools, ultimately it affects more than 3,300 students who attend the
schools and their families.

     The purpose of the letter was to notify the schools that because
of the nation’s extreme inflation on food products, ACM would have to
change the feeding program. The product that has affected the most
people in the country is “posho.” Posho is eaten by most Ugandans
everyday; it is the main food that keeps these people alive. In the
last year, the wholesale price of posho has risen by 66%. By God’s
grace, African Children’s Mission has been able to continue feeding
all 3,300 children in spite of the rising economic problem. In order
to sustain the feeding program indefinitely, ACM has had to reduce the
amount of food being served by 50%. Those affected by the change seem
to understand its importance and have said, “A little is better than
nothing. Thank you for what you can give.”

     It is hard to fully describe the positive impact the feeding
program has on the children and their families, but I will try. Many
children attend school simply so they can eat a free meal at lunch.
Studies show that education is a key factor for one to successfully
escape a life of poverty; if a 12 cent meal is an incentive to get one
to attend school, it is a small price to pay. The one meal per day,
provided by ACM, is often the only meal these children have. ACM
teaches a weekly character development class at all seven of the
schools. If the attendance drops, then that means that there are more
kids who will miss the Bible-based character development classes; this
may have the largest impact of all. Even if you have not spent time in
a “fourth world” country, it is not hard to imagine the gravitational
effects associated with cutting one’s daily meal in half.

*Please pray:

- That God will provide for the children through other means until
ACM’s feeding program is running at its normal capacity again.
- That the students will continue to attend school, even though the
food incentive has been reduced.
- That people in Uganda would not think that the God of Christians is
weak because a Christian organization has had to make cutbacks. My
prayer is that during this hardship, the faith of the children and
their parents will be strengthened and that God will be seen as the
God who he truly is: Jehovah Jirah--the God who provides.
- Please pray that the people will find their delight and satisfaction
in the true Bread (John 6:35), more than in the bread that spoils
(John 6:27).

Please be praying for the listed items above. Please also be praising
and thanking God for his goodness, faithfulness, and steadfast love He
continues to show His people.

Please know that the purpose of this email is primarily to update you
on what I am doing and to ask you for your continued prayer support.
However, if you would like to make a tax deductable contribution to
ACM to help with the feeding program, please see the address listed
below. You may also donate online at

Note: At the current cost of food, $30 will pay for 250 meals & $120
will pay for 1,000 meals.

In Christ,

David Semeyn

African Children’s Mission

P.O. Box 26470

Birmingham, AL  35260

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Argument for Paedobaptism

              There are two major views of Baptism held within Christianity. The first view is the Baptistic view or believer’s baptism, which is very common among Protestants, most notably Baptist denominations.  The other is Paedobaptism, also known as infant baptism. There are two interpretations of Paedobaptism. According to Wayne Grudem, these two interpretations are the Roman Catholic view, which holds “that Baptism is necessary for salvation, and that the act of baptism itself causes regeneration,” (971) and the Protestant Paedobaptist view, which argues baptism is the New Testament sign of the Covenant (975). This paper will argue that the Protestant Paedobaptist view of baptism is at the very least a defensible position in the light of scripture.
Further Defining of Views
             From this point on the Protestant belief of Paedobaptism will be referred to as Paedobaptist or Paedobaptism. For the sake of clarity, the Paedobaptist view will be further defined.  Paedobaptists agree with the view that adult converts ought to be baptized. It is presupposed before an adult is baptized that they are regenerated by the workings of the Holy Spirit (Berkhof, 632). Paedobaptists also believe that baptism represents repentance and points to Christ, that it further points towards the remission of sins, but does not produce it; and points towards the transformation of life (Lipsy).
            These are beliefs that those holding the Baptistic view would generally hold as true. However, the difference between Paedobaptists and Baptists arises is in reference to infant baptism. The Baptists argue that infants should not be baptized because they lack the cognitive faculties to believe on Jesus Christ for salvation, and that only those who have believed in Jesus Christ ought to be baptized. They also believe that baptism is, among other things, a sign of membership to the church.
            The Paedobaptists disagree, on account of the covenant relationship between God and his people. They will then claim there is only one covenant by which God relates with his people, and for that reason it would seem to justify that the children of believers would be included in the covenant in the New Testament, just as the children of the Jews were included in the Old Testament covenant, whose sign was circumcision. However, with circumcision abolished, baptism has become the sign of the New Testament. Therefore, the children of believers are to be baptized as belonging to the covenant.
 However, the common trend of dispensationalism within the Baptistic view would counter at this point that there is more than one covenant between God and his people (Berkhof, 632). As such the parallel between circumcision and baptism is null and void. They argue that the circumcision was based on the law, and baptism is based on saving faith (Grudem, 977-78). Therefore, infants and unbelieving children should not be baptized.
Defense of a Single Covenant
In order to counter this objection, and explain the biblical grounds of Paedobaptism, the topic shifts to the defense of a single covenant between God and his people.  To begin, one must look to the original establishment of the covenant; covenant meaning a promise (Lipsy), in Genesis 12-18 where one sees God unfolding his covenant with Abraham. In Gen 12:3 God says, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (NASB). God also promises Abraham, land and descendants that outnumber the stars (Gen 15:18, Gen 15: 4-6). This much is in reference to the national identity of Israel, but it goes beyond that.
The covenant, though physical, transcends nationality because it is applied to all who would enter the covenant (Gen 34:22). When a foreigner would wish to become Jewish he would take the sign of the covenant upon his body. Through taking on the sign of the covenant, a foreigner and his family would then be considered physically Jewish (Witsus, 423).
The Covenant between Abraham and God was not only a physical one, but also a spiritual one, and according to Berkhof, “…and of this spiritual covenant circumcision was a sign and seal” (632). This is proven by the way the New Testament interprets the covenant. In Romans 4 Paul treats the covenant as one pertaining to the spiritual, by saying the covenant is by faith. In Galatians 3, Paul treats the covenant of Abraham the same way. It applies to the gentile believers in addition to Jewish believers, and is once again treated as spiritual; this is the trend of the New Testament in reference to the Covenant.
Beyond this, the New Testament always treats the New Covenant as applied to those who are the people of God (Berkhof, 633). In Galatians 3:7 Paul says, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” In verse fourteen, the blessings of Abraham are applied to the Gentiles through the work of Jesus Christ. As shown earlier, the blessings of Abraham applied to his children, and one of the main blessings to Abraham was that he would have many descendants. Through the means of a spiritual action of God believers who are treated as the descendants of Abraham become so both physically and spiritually. Therefore, the New Testament believers, the children of promise, the elect of God are the descendants of Abraham, and are under the Abrahamic covenant (Gal 3:29).

The Sign(s) of the Covenant
In the Old Testament, the covenant between God and Abraham had a sign. The sign of the covenant, according to Gen 17:11, was circumcision. This was a sign that was to be in the flesh of every male in the household of Abraham. It did not matter if the person believed, or had the ability to believe in God (Gen 17:12), for circumcision, being physical, was a reminder or a sign of the spiritual work of God. What was important was not the condition of the person who received the sign, but that Abraham obeyed God.
However, with the change from the Old Testament to the new, circumcision is no longer the sign of the covenant (Berkhof, 634). Paul’s teaching is consistent with this idea, because in Acts 15:1-2, and in the book of Galatians (Gal 2:3-5, Gal 5:2-6, Gal 6:12-13, 15), Paul stands against circumcision as a means of salvation before the Jews and the Gentiles. This leaves two possible options regarding the sign of the covenant, either there is no sign of the covenant in the New Testament, or a new sign was implemented (Berkhof, 634).
However, Christ implemented baptism as the sign of the covenant before his accession in Matt 28:19 (Berkhof, 634), and baptism very closely resembles the spiritual meaning behind circumcision.  Circumcision refers to the cutting away of sin and to a change of heart (Deut. 10:16, 30:6, Jer. 4:4, 9:25-26 Ezek. 44:7, 9) (Berkhof, 634), and Berkhof says “…baptism refers to the washing away of sin, Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21; Tit. 3:5, and to spiritual renewal, Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:11,12. The last passage clearly links circumcision with baptism, and teaches that the Christ-circumcision, that is, circumcision of the heart, signified by circumcision in the flesh, was accomplished by baptism, that is, by that which baptism signifies”(Berkhof, 634).  This is to say that baptism is a physical sign pointing towards the spiritual work of Christ. Baptism is not dependent on the merit or the ability of the one receiving the sign, but on the work that Christ brings about, which parallels the way circumcision is treated in the Old Testament (Deut. 30:6).       
Circumcision and baptism are similar in that they both point to the saving work of Jesus Christ. Circumcision pointed forward to the work that Christ would accomplish, while baptism points back to the work that Christ has accomplished. The subject of both rites are not the one receiving the sign or their spiritual condition, instead, they bear witness to Christ (Wilson, 49). Therefore, because baptism is so closely linked with circumcision it is justifiable to believe that baptism is the sign of the New Covenant.
Children in the Covenant
Simply showing that baptism is the sign of the covenant in the New Testament does not alone prove infant baptism. It still requires the Paedobaptist to show that the covenant applies to the children of believers. This is one of the main contentions between Paedobaptists and Baptists. For the Baptist believes that only those who display genuine saving faith are to be baptized and recognized as members of the church (Grudem, 978). In order to counter this, it will be shown that children are included in the covenant.
During the establishment of the covenant, God makes it clear that the covenant is not only onto Abraham but also onto his children. It is applied to Abraham and his descendants based upon the work of God, and in obedience Abraham placed the sign of the covenant upon his children, and all those in his household. This theme of God placing the covenant upon those able to follow him and everyone else in the household continues throughout the Old Testament. In Deut. 29:10-13 when God renews His covenant with Israel, the covenant is placed upon everyone present (Berkhof, 633). The children and the foreigners are all covered by the covenant whether they believe in God or not. In Joshua 8:35, the passage once again makes a reference to everyone in the nation of Israel being present for the reading of the covenant. The fact that such emphasis is placed on children in these locations shows the significance of children in the Old Testament under the covenant.
Not only are the children present for the reading and renewing of the covenant, but they are included in the promises of the covenant. The prophet Jeremiah says “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it: and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (emphasis added, Jer 31:33 NASB).”  God refers specifically to a people, and when compared with how God refers to a people in Deut. 29:10-13 it follows that when God says a people he is referencing their children as well, not just those who believe in him. The same prophet also says in chapter 33:38-41 that God will work within His people and says this is for their and their children’s own good to show that they are included in His covenant. This means that children were included in the covenant in the Old Testament.
During the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament the same promises of the covenant upon the believer and their children are carried over from the Old Testament. In Acts 2:39 Peter says “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  Peter was referring first to the Jews, and then to their children, and finally to the Gentiles (Calvin, Commentary on Acts Volume 1). The promises of God were upon all these people. The promise refers back to the covenant God made with Abraham (Rom. 4:16), and because it refers back to that covenant, and it is placed both upon the Jew and their children, and then upon the Gentile there is reason to believe that the covenant also falls upon the children of the Gentiles, for their believing parents have physically and spiritually become the descendents of Abraham.
More direct than the last reference is Paul’s discussion of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:14, where he says that the children of a believer, even if he or she is married to an unbeliever are sanctified. This does not mean that the children are saved because of the belief of their parent, but that the children are considered holy before God (Sartelle, 18).  The children are brought under the promises and the protection of God, by the faith of their parent(s), just like the children of Abraham were brought into the covenant by Abraham’s faith. Therefore, it appears that the children of believers would be included in the covenant in the New Testament.
It should be noted that even if a child is included in the covenant, this is not a guarantee that the child will be saved from the wrath to come, for it says in Romans 9:6-7 “But it is not at though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” This means that an individual can be a partaker of the covenant physically, but in the end not be one spiritually.

It has already been shown that the New and Old Testament followers of God are under the same Abrahamic Covenant, and that each of these Testaments has its own sign from God. In the case of the Old the sign is circumcision, which has been abolished, and in the case of the New the sign is baptism. It has also been shown that the promises of the covenant applied to believer’s children in both the Old and New Testaments. If all of this is true then it follows that the children of believers ought to receive the sign or seal of the covenant based upon the faith the parents have through the work of God, thus the Paedobaptist view is at least a defensible position from scripture. 

Berkhof, Louis. "Christian Baptism." Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996. 632-35. Print.
"Commentary on Acts - Volume 1 | Christian Classics Ethereal Library." Welcome to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library! | Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.
Grudem, Wayne A. "Chapter 49 Baptism." Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. 975-81. Print.
Lipsy, David. "The Sacrament of Baptism." Sunday Evening Service. Grace Reformed Christian Church, Harrison, Arkansas. Feb. 2011. Speech. This was actually a sermon, and I'm not sure how to site it properly. I also lack the actual title and date.
Nasb Thinline Bible: New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002. Print.
Sartelle, John P. Infant Baptism: What Christian Parents Should Know. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., 1985. Print.
Wilson, Douglas. "Chapters' 1,4,5,6." To a Thousand Generations: Infant Baptism : Covenant Mercy for the People of God. Moscow, Id.: Canon, 1996. Print.
Witsius, Herman, and J. I. Packer. "Of Baptism." The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity. Escondido, CA: Den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1990. 423. Print.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Free Will

Calvinists are often accused of denying human free will, because of their belief in unmerited election and irresistible grace. Along with this, it is claimed that such doctrines make man a puppet who can do nothing but what is specifiably determined by God, and if that is true then God unjustly condemns men to Hell. Here is where a Calvinist will usually reply that men do have free will. The problem is that man is so corrupted that he will never exercise his will in such a way that will bring him to God apart from God's grace. Then from here we have a long debate going in circles between the Calvinist and the Arminian. This occurs because there is a problem that the Arminian is not addressing and in here lies the problem, and why Calvinists don't even have to waste their breath in debate with an Arminian until this problem is answered. In order for an Arminian to claim that free will is not possible within Calvinism they must first define what Free will is.

Without the defining of that term the entire debate is pointless, because no matter what the Calvinist says the Arminian can reply that is not true free will. However, that is not fair to the argument because they are not presenting an actual alternative to the Calvinists understanding of free will. Its more of a rebuttal than a refutation. Its like a child that stands up and says, "I don't like it." Then the child sits down and expects to get his way, but how unwise that is. For one it doesn't change anything and two it doesn't present and alternative to the matter at hand. If the Arminian wishes to argue that Calvinism denies free will then he needs to have a means by which he can refute the Calvinist's claim that he doesn't, and that is not possible without understanding the foundation of the argument. So here is what an Arminian must do if he wants to hold that Calvinism does not allow for free will: define free will. Not only define it, but define it in such a way that does not in any shape or form fit under Compatibilism.

However, the Armenian has another problem that arises after that. If they can somehow think of a definition of free will that doesn't fit with Compatibilism, some have, then they must show that is a working definition of free will that is to say it is true to the human experience. And even more importantly than that the Armenian has to show that that definition is held up by the foundation of scripture, otherwise it is entirely irrelevant.

This might be argued against, but the conclusion that the Arminian draws is not one that is born out of scripture. They might believe it to be so, but what is really being spoken of his from the hand maid of theology, philosophy. Man's understanding of Philosophy does not dictate what the scriptures actually teach. The problems that it might create, are irrelevant if they are contrary to what scripture teaches, because the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. Not only this, but because the Arminian is drawing his problem from philosophy, whether he realizes it or not, he must live by the rules of philosophy, and one of the key parts of an argument is the defining of terms. Other wise you end up in a never ending battle of semantics, that is anything but beneficial. Until this is done a Calvinist has no reason to argue with an Arminian using this argument.

  • if an Arminian claims that the Calvinist denies free will then the Arminian must have a definition of free will that does not fit within Compatibilism.
  • the Arminian does not give a definition of free will that does not fit within Compatibilism
  • Therefore the Arminian cannot claim that the Calvinist denies free will.