For the Faculty: James T. Dennison, Jr. (Editor), Scott F. Sanborn, J. Peter Vosteen
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J. Peter Vosteen
Charles G. Dennison
William D. Dennison
Peter Martyr Vermigli
Steven Wright
James T. Dennison, Jr.

KERUX is a publication of Northwest Theological Seminary and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 17711 Spruce Way, Lynnwood, WA 98037-7431. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $20.00 (U.S. and Canada); $25.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in New Testament Abstracts, Cambridge, MA, Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in ATLA Religion Database, Chicago, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.

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ISSN 0888-8513
Vol. 21, No. 2
September 2006

[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 3-10]

Sharing Christ

Philippians 3:1-11

J. Peter Vosteen1

If there is one thing that is central to the teaching of Paul and to the Scriptures, it is union with Christ. There are other things, of course, that are very important, but if you were to choose just one item, it would be that we have our life in union with Jesus Christ. Now that's a theological concept indeed which is taught throughout the Scriptures, particularly in Ephesians 2 and Colossians 3. But it's more than that and that's what we're going to see here this morning. It was the warp and the woof of the life of the apostle Paul. It was that which captured his soul; it was that which motivated him. It was that which controlled him in his ministry in the church. And I trust that for everyone here, it will be a controlling idea as well; but especially our student and those who minister in the Word.

We're going to see that in the union with Christ, we are united to his righteousness; we are united to the power of his resurrection; and we are united in the sufferings of Christ himself.

When Paul went to Philippi, he was called there in the Macedonian call out of Asia Minor. This was the first city that he reached in Macedonia. When he arrived, there was no synagogue of the Jews and so he went down by the river, found some devoted women and there proclaimed the gospel to them. As you


1 This is a revised version of the graduation address delivered at the First Commencement of Northwest Theological Seminary, May 14, 2005. Our thanks to Doris (Mrs. Gerald) Vander Vate for the transcription.


know, Lydia was converted and she and her whole household were baptized. Later on, Paul was cast into prison on account of his preaching and his healing. There he met the Philippian jailor. He too was converted and he, with his family, also were baptized. Paul then he went on his way.

Paul is now in prison, probably in Rome. He has good hopes that he will be released from prison because he has more work to do. For him to live is Christ, to die is only gain. And so it is that as he writes to these Philippians, he comes now to the third chapter. Here in particular, we find that he calls upon all the people of the church to rejoice in the Lord. Prior to this in the epistle, he has talked about rejoicing, but this is the first time he says, "Rejoice in the Lord." Now he is going to center his attention precisely upon the Lord and the relationship with the Lord. But before he gets to explaining his own personal relationship with the Lord, he warns them of the Judaizers who have infiltrated the ranks. Evidently, these Jewish Christians looked for these places, even though there was no synagogue there in the beginning—looked for the places where they could come and spread their doctrine. They thought of themselves as watchdogs, but that's not what Paul says of them. In great satire he says, "you're dogs." Dogs—those were the words that were used of the Jews, the true Jews when they referred to Gentiles. They were the unclean. Dogs went around scouring the streets, eating garbage. That's what dogs did in those days. They weren't friendly household pets. And he says, you're like that. You're bringing the impure into the pure: you're dogs.

Yes; and he says, you're men who do evil. You think you're keeping the law. You think you are righteous and doing what is right, but in actual fact what you are is converting, and changing and destroying what God is building up through his Son Jesus Christ. Therefore you are doing evil. You think you are the circumcised, the peritome, but really what you are is the katatome. You are mutilators, like those prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel who cut themselves in their ritual to worship their god Baal. Yes, that's what you are. You are cutting the flesh. You want to see to it that every man out there, every Gentile in the church too is circumcised. It's only of the flesh.

We are the circumcised. We, who are now Israel—we are the true people of God, the covenant people of God. And we are therefore the circumcised: not necessarily circumcised in the flesh, but circumcised in the heart as the proph


ets of old said we must be. Yes, that's who we are because we are those who serve God by the Holy Spirit. You want us to serve by the law and have these ceremonies and all these other things that must be done—these outward effects, but the real circumcised are those who by the work of the Holy Spirit serve God. And we glory, we boast in the Lord Jesus. Yes! We do not boast in the law. We do not boast in Moses. We boast in Jesus Christ. He has come and that which is old is past and the new has arrived. Yes! And we put no confidence in the flesh. That's what you are doing, he is saying. The word `flesh', of course, can be used with many different nuances as it is found in the Bible. But to have confidence in the flesh means confidence in that in which Jews boasted.

He says if you think you're all so good in that regard, look at my heritage. I was circumcised on the eighth day—not on the ninth day, not on the seventh day, not later on as a proselyte into the church. I had it done precisely as it was decreed by God to Abraham and carried out through the dictates of the law. On the eighth day!— I am indeed properly circumcised. I am of the tribe of Israel. I am born into the descendants of Israel-Jacob. I am a real Jew all the way. I didn't have to fake my papers; I didn't have to be brought in through some other means. I am a real Jew of the Jews. And furthermore, he says, I am of the tribe of Benjamin. My name is Saul. You remember the great king who was a Benjamite—Saul, the first king of Israel. I was named after him; I'm part of that. And you remember the Benjamites. They stayed with Judah and they followed the true way of God. They aligned themselves with Jerusalem when all the ten tribes to the north went their way and were eventually taken into Assyria. Yes, I'm a Benjamite—the finest of the finest, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I didn't have to go to synagogue school to learn Hebrew. We spoke Hebrew in the home. Yes, I am a true Hebrew—a Hebrew of the Hebrews. That is my lineage, that is my genealogy and it is impeccable.

And all these Judaizers who think they are so Jewish who come in and tell you about their credentials, they don't know about my credentials. And furthermore, as to my personal life, I followed the way, the proper way. Yes, I followed the law and I didn't do so as a Sadducee. I wasn't loose in my way of handling the law. I was a Pharisee, a true Pharisee who kept track of that law, who saw to it that every jot and tittle was there—who studied at the feet of Gamaliel, the finest teacher of the Pharisees. Yes, I was one who upheld the law in all of its ways.


And as far as zeal for that law and zeal for the people of Israel, I had that too. I persecuted the church; I was there when they stoned Stephen and I consented to it. Yes, that's what I am. And as far as the keeping of the law, I was blameless. In no way ever could you accuse me of violating the law.

Those are quite some credentials, aren't they? He shows who he was in relation to these Judaizers who are trying to promote the flesh. But notice what he says. He says, "Whatever was to my profit I consider loss for the sake of Christ." Now those are two very interesting words in the Greek, profit and loss. They come from the financial world. The world whereby you add up all the numbers and when you come to the end and get to the bottom line, it's either black or red. It's either a profit or a loss. And so when he added up all these things that were true of him and the way he lived, then he could come and say, "Yes, there was a profit. I was a good Jew and I was righteous according to the standards of being a good Jew. There was a profit there, not a loss." However he says, "I now consider it all a loss for the sake of Christ." I gave it all up. It wasn't really a profit after all.

I am a new person in Christ. All of these things have changed. My standards have changed. My view of life has changed. My realization of righteousness and sin has all changed. All of that which was part of my former life is gone. It's a loss. I consider it a loss. I put it in the loss column for the sake of Jesus Christ. "Not only so," he says, "but I consider everything as a loss for the sake of Christ." Prestige, power, wealth, standing in a society, being accepted by men—all of that I consider as a loss, that I may know Christ. Yes, it's a loss because of its comparison with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ my Lord. Yes, Christ my Lord. In knowing Jesus Christ there is a submission to him as Lord. You know that he who controls the universe, he who rules in the heavenly courts over all things, and in particular over his church—he is my Lord! The direction he gives me in life is the direction I must go. The provisions he gives me in life are the provisions that are necessary and that all of this fleshly accounting is for nothing. My life is in the hands of my God and I know him. I consider everything as garbage. It's actually stronger than that. It means dung. "I consider them garbage that I might gain Christ" that I can have the profit on the ledger in Christ—that I might be found in him.


And when you're found in him, then what is true? "I will have then a righteousness not of my own that comes from the law." No. "I will have a righteousness that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." See, you don't have to earn it; you can't earn it. You don't follow the old principles of do this and do that and the other thing, follow the law and somehow or other you'll be righteous. That was the old way. No! No! No! I've found the new way in Christ. By being united to Jesus Christ, I have his righteousness which God has provided. The only way that you can get to God is through Jesus Christ. That righteousness, you see, is the righteousness of his perfect obedience to the law, which no other man could have. I've learned now that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I've learned now that I of all men am the worst of all sinners. No, I've learned the righteousness, the only righteousness that can be found, is found in Jesus Christ—his righteousness, which is now mine when I'm united to him by faith. I've found in him the one who can forgive my sins, who paid the debt—the penalty—for my sins when he died on the cross. He took care of my sins—they're gone. They've disappeared. They're completely removed and in their place, I've been cleansed and all is new and all is fresh. Yes, that's the righteousness I've found—a righteousness that's only there in union with Christ.

And Oh, how important it is that that be the foundation for the church. The problem, of course, is that foundation in many places is crumbling these days. That foundation is being attacked. E.P. Sanders says in his book, Paul, the Law and Jewish People (page 44), these words concerning this passage in Philippians: "There is a righteousness which comes by Law, but it is now worth nothing because of a different dispensation. It is this concrete fact of Heilsgeschichte which makes the other righteousness wrong." That's rubbish! That goes in the same ash can with the Judaizers. There is not a righteousness that comes by the law. That was never correct even in Old Testament times. The Heilsgeschichte, yes the "salvation history," is that from Adam's fall until the end of time there's only one way to be saved and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. No other way. You cannot be saved by keeping the law. That was true of Noah, that was true of Abraham, that was true of Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon. They all had to be saved by looking forward to the coming of Jesus Christ and his fulfillment of the law. All of the sacrifices of the Old Testament are there to show us that we cannot keep that


law, to show us that there has to be one atoning sacrifice and that atoning sacrifice was in Jesus Christ alone. Now that's the righteousness that we must preach. That is the righteousness that we must live by. You see, to know Christ in your life is to know that righteousness.

You know you're going to find that that's so important in your ministry. Very important because, you know, sometimes you're going to get up and you're going to preach and you're going to say, hey, that's a pretty good sermon. I like that one. And you're going to get accolades from people when you walk out the door. Oh, that was a great sermon. Then you're going to feel pretty good about yourself. Maybe I can do this job pretty well. I think you've already had a few of those things. On other occasions, you may be up half the night with mental turmoil or with some sickness or something else and then get to the pulpit and fumble around. And you're going to say, Oh that was terrible. And this old lady comes to you at the door and says, Oh that was a tremendous sermon, Domine. And you're going to say to yourself, what was she listening to? It sure wasn't my sermon and you're going to have all of these ups and downs that will invade your life. There are weeks when it is going to look like the congregation is growing, you've got visitors coming. There will be week after week when nobody new shows up and maybe somebody leaves here and somebody is moving there to another city and you say to yourself, I wonder if this thing is going to go. There will be all of these ups and downs and you have to find your life not in what is happening, not in what you are doing but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You go back and cling to him. Your place before God is not in all the things that you do or in all the things the Lord has called you to do, but your place in God is in Jesus Christ and you are accepted in him and you sit with him in heavenly places now. Whatever transpires has to be taken with a grain of salt. All the ups and downs, the ins and the outs. I hope you learn that early. It will help you a lot, believe me.

But union with Christ, you see, if its foundation is in the righteousness of Christ, is more than that. It's not only the position that you have in Christ, that you are now raised with Christ, that you have died with Christ, that you now sit with Christ in heavenly places. It's not only that. It is that and upon that you rest. But it is more than that. As Paul goes on to say here in this marvelous verse. He says, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. I want to know Christ." It's not just something that you have that is a present posses


sion. It is that and it's more. It is a growing in Christ, a learning in Christ so that what you do in your life and in your ministry is done out of the power of Christ's resurrection and not out of the power of your flesh.

Indeed, the Lord has given you great talents and you have demonstrated those talents while here in this institution. But it's the power of his resurrection. He must keep you; he must motivate you; in him, you must find your confidence for your ministry—no one else. Otherwise, you will stumble and fall because it is Christ who has called you to this ministry; it is Christ who will equip you for this ministry; it is Christ who will use you in this ministry. The power of that ministry is in Christ and in his resurrection alone.

But Paul doesn't stop there. He not only wants to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, but also the sharing in his suffering. Now a lot of people want to leave that one out. That's not quite so pleasant, is it? How do you share in his sufferings? You have to go hang on a cross somewhere and there share in hanging on a cross? There are some foolish people who think that that's what is being meant here, but that's not true. No. Christ indeed completed his sufferings when he declared, "It is finished." But in a way those sufferings continue. We read in Colossians 1:24: "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body which is the church." How can he fill up the afflictions? Well, this is his body, is it not? this church that's on this earth? It's his body and his body is still going through all the turmoils and the troubles and the afflictions. All that is transpiring and we are involved in that. We're in the world, but we're not of the world. We are here participating in all of the effects of sin that invade this world and we're groaning until the day when it shall be redeemed. But he's not referring just to that. If you're part of the church, you're identified with Jesus Christ and when you are identified with Jesus Christ, you are identified with his sufferings. And as he is suffering in his church until we are conformed to his image, as he is suffering in your life and in my life and in everyone else's life here, so that has to continue and we have to participate in it. When someone is weeping, you have to weep. When someone is going through great turmoil, you have to go through great turmoil with them. You cannot just stand to the side and say I feel sorry for you, brother. This is a terrible hard time you are going through. We understand. Let's pray. You


have to suffer with them. Christ is suffering with them—with all the afflictions of this age until we come to that finality, that great age when Jesus returns and we have the new heavens and the new earth when all things will be well. Until that time, we have to share in Christ's sufferings. Yes, and Paul wants to know that. He actively seeks that. How many of you actively seek that? How many of you?

Most of us like to avoid suffering. There's always the strange one who climbs in the bathtub full of ice and says, I do this because it's so good when I get out. Strange people. The world has plenty of strange people. But this is a biblically oriented participation in Christ, a sharing in his sufferings because we have to go through suffering to glory; because it is a part of sharing in the church; it's part of the ministry of the church. Someone calls and they're going through great hardships. You can't say, well it's my day off, I'll talk to you tomorrow. Oh, I know ministers who do. I've had that experience right in my own family. It's horrible. It does not represent Christ properly. It does not cause us to grow in Christ and to have that intimate, absolutely intimate union with Christ whereby we participate not only in his power that comes through the resurrection but also in his suffering. Yes, that is what we must do so that we will become like him in his death. We have to die to our own selfish ideas, die to our aggrandizing of our own position and ways. We have to die to this world. That's part of that union with Christ so that in the process of going through this development of union with Christ, we arrive finally at the resurrection—to somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that Paul's feeling that he's not going to make it. That's not the idea at all; that's what it sounds like to some, but that's not what he is referring to at all. Rather this is the means by which he gets to that attainment.

Well, that's the ministry. That's what it's all about. We welcome you to the ministry. I trust you know what's coming and I trust that, like Paul, you will seek to know more of Jesus Christ in union with him. Amen.


[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 11-12]

Heaven and Earth

Charles G. Dennison

How we need that good ol' gospel,

only the good ol' gospel will do;

or even a good ol' conversion,

a preacher that weeps a bit, too.

Not one of those trite off-the-street types

with strained and fire-voiced whine,

but a fireside, reborn-at-noon fellow

recently party to crimes.

Give me a fellow from Oxford,

a man whose wenching is done,

who retells his story for profit,

whose poems are hailed as the sun.

Enough of these predictable pastors,

these affordable five and ten grinds,

these preachers with sins too respectable,

those with their lusts too refined.


Some of them talk about heaven,

their shrill prattle infecting the air;

they would drive us, it seems, from this world,

to one—who knows if it's there?



[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 13-34]

Natural and Special Revelation:

A Reassessment1

William D. Dennison, Ph. D.

Introduction: Raising the Issue

"Then God said, `Let there be light;' and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning the first day" (NKJ Gen. 1:3-5).

As God created the light on the first day of creation, and he separated the light from the darkness, I ask you, should we understand the creation of the light as natural revelation or special revelation? I think we tend to say, natural revelation.

Let us move quickly ahead and glance at the dawn of the new creation!


1 With some revisions, this article was delivered as a public lecture on August 13, 2005 at Northwest Theological Seminary in Lynnwood, Washington under the title, "Apologetics and Creation." Although delivered in August, the lecture was part of the program for the Kerux Conference in May 2005. I wish to thank the Lilly Endowment through the Kaleo Center at Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, GA for a grant to research this subject. Specifically, I thank Dr. Kevin Eames, Director of the Center for Theological Exploration of the Kaleo Center, who graciously approved the grant.


"All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him" (NKJ Jn. 1:3-10).

Later in John's gospel, the Light in John's prologue speaks to us—our Savior Jesus Christ affirms: "I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (Jn. 8:12; cf. Rev. 21:23).

As the new creation dawns by the coming of the Light of life into the world (Jesus Christ), should we understand Christ's redeeming work in the world as natural revelation or special revelation? I think we tend to say that Christ's redeeming work is special revelation.

It seems that we understand the distinction—right? God's creation of light on the first day of the original creation is an expression of natural revelation, whereas God sending the divine Light, Jesus Christ, to usher in the new creation is an expression of special revelation.

The boundaries and the limits of natural revelation and special revelation are set. Natural revelation is a distinct and separate revelation, communicating God's imprint upon the created universe; special revelation is a distinct and separate revelation, communicating God's saving activity to humanity. Although distinct and separate, the two revelations are complimentary and do not contradict each other. Indeed, we have an efficient, tightly defined system that distinguishes both revelations. It has been said, therefore, that natural or general revelation provides the "evidences that a supreme being has created the universe, but we do not see that the being is triune, nor do we see a plan of redemption anywhere in the created order."2 Rather, for humanity to see that


2 R.C. Sproul. Defending your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003), 74.


the Supreme Being is triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and for us to see God's plan of redemption, we need special revelation.3 Hence, special revelation communicates the triune God of the Bible and the plan of redemption focused in Christ.

With this typical distinction between natural and special revelation before you, permit me to ask this question: does the Bible present natural revelation and special revelation within such rigidly defined boundaries? In order to stimulate your thinking, permit me to set before you a few observations from the twentieth century Reformed apologist, Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987). Van Til questions whether nature reveals nothing about God's grace.4 In fact, he writes: "Saving grace is not manifest in nature; yet it is the God of saving grace who manifests himself by means of nature."5 It is not entirely apparent what Van Til means by the first phrase, but as one wrestles with the entire statement in the context of his apologetic, it becomes clear that Van Til holds the position that God displays his saving grace upon the landscape of nature. Perhaps, it can best be said in this manner: saving grace is not nature itself, but saving grace is always displayed by the free and sovereign action of God upon the natural terrain of created history. For this reason, Van Til does not speak of two distinct and separate revelations—natural and special; rather, he understands revelation as a unity that is disclosed in two forms—natural and special. Van Til writes:

Any revelation that God gives of himself is therefore absolutely voluntary. Herein precisely lies the union of the various forms of God's revelation with one another. God's revelation in nature, together with God's revelation in Scripture, form God's one grand scheme of covenant revelation of himself to man. The two forms of revelation must therefore be seen as presupposing and supplementing one another. They


3 Ibid.

4 Christian Apologetics, ed. William Edgar, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 66.

5 Ibid.


are aspects of one general philosophy of history.6

Perhaps, an example will help; let us turn to one of Van Til's favorite Biblical characters and stories, Noah and the flood.7

In the flood, God executes his wrath upon unbelief; he uses nature (flood) to wipe the reprobate from the earth. On the other hand, God's grace is displayed to Noah and his family on the landscape of nature; God preserves their lives from judgment as they take up residence in an ark that was constructed from natural materials. Certainly, God's covenant of grace is a saving grace, and after the flood that covenant is mediated through Noah to his descendents and to every living creature (Gen. 8:21; 9: 9-11). In fact, God uses a natural object to be a "sign" of the covenant that he would never again destroy all flesh with a flood; that natural object is the rainbow (Gen. 9:12-15). The rainbow—a natural object—is not saving grace, but it is a sign of God's saving grace to Noah in what Van Til called "a limiting notion."8 In other words, the "sign" is always a "limiting notion" until it is completely fulfilled in its "reality"—the saving grace that can only be fulfilled in the future redemption of Christ for Noah. Hence, in the story of Noah, Van Til directs our attention to the fact that saving grace is "mediated through nature." Specifically, we see throughout Biblical revelation in the Old Testament that nature serves "the purposes of redemption. The forces of nature are always at the beck and call of the power of differentiation that works toward redemption and reprobation."9


6 Ibid. Italics are mine. Here Van Til is following the line of Herman Bavinck who wrote, "Scripture, though it knows of established natural order, in the case of revelation makes no distinction between `natural' and `supernatural' revelation. It uses the same terms for both… In its origin all revelation is supernatural. God is always working." (Prolegomena, vol. 1 of Reformed Dogmatics, general editor, John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 307.

7 See Christian Apologetics, 67-68.

8 Ibid., 68. Bavinck states, "The covenant that after the flood was made with Noah and in him with the new human race is a covenant of nature, yet no longer natural but the fruit of non-obligatory supernatural grace" (Prolegomena, 311).

9 Van Til, Christian Apologetics, 68. Interestingly, Jonathan Edwards conveyed the same idea in the eighteenth century, i.e., that creation serves redemption. Edwards wrote: "This seems to have been one reason why God made the world by Jesus Christ, viz. that the creation of the world was a work that was subordinate to the work of redemption," The "Miscellanies" (Entry Nos. 501-832), vol. 18 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Ava Chamberlain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 289.


As Van Til stresses the unified understanding of the two forms of revelation—natural and special, he demands that we view this in the context of two Biblical truths:

(1) the triune God of the Bible, and (2) God's "one unified comprehensive plan for the world."10 First, concerning the triune God of the Bible, we must keep in mind that the God of Scripture has no facsimile to deism or pantheism. Specifically, nowhere in the Bible, or more specifically, in the history of revelation (since the beginning of the creation) is God pictured through the lenses of deism. In other words, nowhere does the Bible teach that natural revelation is without the complement of supernatural revelation. Or, to put it another way, nowhere in the Bible does the Word of God display nature as a product of natural laws set by a supreme being who put everything in motion—a theistic adaptation to Aristotle's unmoved mover. Simply stated, it does not seem to me that Aquinas's view of natural revelation can be rescued from laying the foundation of seventeenth and eighteenth century deism.11 In contrast to those who maintain that natural revelation does not reveal the triune God of the Bible, Scripture as well as the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that natural revelation (creation) is the product of the Father (Gen. 1:1), Son (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16), and the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2; cf. WCF IV:1). The entire creation bares the blueprint of the triune God of heaven and earth, and furthermore, the Bible presupposes that no one can interpret or understand the theistic construction of the creation unless one stands in the palm of the triune God of Scripture.

Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible, or more specifically, in the history of revelation (since the beginning of the creation) is God pictured through the lenses of pantheism. In other words, nowhere does the Bible teach that natural


10 Christian Apologetics, 78.

11 Perhaps, the contrast here can be seen in the way Guido de Brès intended the opening of Belgic Confession, Article II to be understood. The opening phrase presently reads, "We know Him by two means," which refers to creation (natural revelation) and Scripture (special revelation). As it presently reads, many find in this phrase a construction that fits with Aquinas. However, it is known that in the original draft de Brès wrote: "we confess to know Him as such by two means," which stresses the organic union of the two revelations (one revelation in two forms) rather than a sequential movement of two revelations (Aquinas) (see G. C. Berkouwer, General Revelation [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955], 275).


revelation is swallowed up by special revelation to the point that the differentiation between the two is lost. The point here is this; if we lose sight of their difference, then we will possibly identify supernatural revelation with natural revelation to the degree that natural revelation is virtually eliminated and we transform revelation into a supernatural pantheism. Let me provide an example from the apostle Paul to illustrate my point. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul states that the "rock" from which God provided water for the Israelites to drink in the wilderness "was Christ" (Ex. 17:6; cf. Ps. 95:1; 114:7-8). If the rock is part of natural revelation, and Christ is the supernatural revelation of God Himself, how are we to understand Paul's statement? Is Christ really that rock; if Moses or an Israelite picks up that rock, are they handling or touching Jesus? Is the rock to be identified as the saving grace of God to the point that I may put my faith in that rock in the same way I put my faith in Christ? In other words, has natural and special revelation become so unified that there are no longer two forms of revelation, and thus, we now have the very being of God identified with natural phenomena—i.e., God is one with the created world—a supernatural pantheism? Not at all; Paul's language is an "ontological revelational metaphor." The rock, from which water comes, in Exodus 17:6 is a metaphor that points us to the reality of Christ as the eternal and everlasting water of life (cf. Jn. 6:35). The rock is not the divine-human Christ incarnate; rather, the rock is a "sign," as natural revelation, directing the covenant people of God to the reality of the water who will not allow anyone to thirst—the special revelation of the divine-human incarnate Christ.

Second, concerning God's "one unified comprehensive plan for the world," Van Til's conception is insightful and crucial. Van Til holds that natural revelation and special revelation must be viewed from within the spectrum of God's "all-comprehensive plan for the created universe."12 To repeat from an earlier quotation that I placed before you, Van Til states, "the two forms of revelation


12 Christian Apologetics, 76. Again, Edwards would agree—creation serves redemption. Moreover, Edwards sees providence in this vein: "And that work of God's providence to which all other works of providence, both in the material and immaterial part of creation, are subservient, is the work of redemption. All other works of providence may be looked upon as appendages to this great work, or things which God does to subserve that grand design" (The "Miscellanies," 284).


[natural and special] must therefore be seen as presupposing and supplementing one another. They are aspects of one general philosophy of history."13 For Van Til, you can only speak of natural revelation and special revelation upon the landscape of God's providential history; or to put it another way, you can only speak about the two forms of revelation within the context of revelational-history. Perhaps even more enlightening is Van Til's profound statement: "He [God] has planned the end from the beginning."14 The earmarks of Geerhardus Vos are clearly in place in Van Til's remark. Van Til holds that the entire plan for the creation is to be seen from its endpoint, not its starting point. In fact, you are to understand and interpret the beginning from its endpoint. You start with where the plan is going to end, and then you interpret the beginning. In the vernacular of Biblical eschatology, Van Til works from our present stance in the eschatological (final) kingdom of Christ and works back to the beginning of the creation. Simply, in Van Til's view of history, the two forms of revelation and the discipline of apologetics are shaped by eschatology.

Let us return to my opening remarks and briefly sketch how this works. We can never understand fully the creation of light on the first day of creation unless we understand the eschatological Light of the new creation—Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus Christ brings the light of the original creation into existence (Jn 1:3; Col. 1:16). Furthermore, Jesus Christ, the special revelation of God is the pattern for the natural light of natural revelation in the original creation.15


13 Christian Apologetics, 66.

14 Ibid., 76. Van Til comments further: "It is not that we are merely brought into existence by God, but our meaning also depends upon God. Our meaning cannot be realized except through the course of history. God created man in order that man should realize a certain end, that is, the glory of God, and thus God should reach his own end" (The Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed. [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967], 40). Edwards also seems convinced that we need to understand the beginning from its end: "The work of redemption may be looked upon as the great end and drift of all God's works and dispensations from the beginning, and even the end of the work of creation itself; yea, the whole creation. It was the end of the creation of heaven: the preparing that blessed and glorious habitation was with the eye to this" ("The "Miscellanies," 284).

15 Edwards was emphatic about his point: "That the recovery of the world from confusion and ruin is by Christ, who is the wisdom of God and the brightness of his glory and the light of the world; and that the first thing that was done in order to the recovery of the ruined world, was the giving of Jesus Christ to be the light of the world to put an end to its darkness and confusion" (ibid., 284-285).


On the other hand, the light of the original creation is a "sign" and "pointer" to Christ as the Light of the new creation. Let us go one step further; as light gives resolution to the darkness in the original creation—as God separates the light from the darkness in the original creation, likewise, Christ as the Light of the world gives resolution to the darkness in the new creation—Christ comes to separate the light from the darkness (Gen. 1:1-5; cf. Jn. 3:16-21). The eschatological coming of Christ, as the divine Light, sets the pattern for the light in the original creation. The eschatological work of Christ's redemption in the new creation (special revelation) is written upon the fabric of the original creation (natural revelation). The end determines the beginning. For this reason, the natural revelation of the original creation is inherently eschatological, i.e., written upon the very fabric of the original creation (natural revelation) is a telegram which informs all humanity that they must see upon its natural aspects the special revelation of Christ. A person cannot understand the one form of revelation without the other; or to put it another way, one cannot interpret Genesis one without John one. In fact, the eschatological pattern for which Van Til is arguing is this: starting with John one, one must interpret Genesis one.

On the basis of such a Biblical construct of revelation, the believer possesses an unique epistemological self-consciousness against modern naturalistic science because one should never look at natural phenomenon outside the eschatological reality of Christ. Furthermore, no natural phenomenon can be understood correctly outside the integrated work of God's plan for the creation. We can say it like this; if there is no new creation, there can be no original creation. Any understanding of the original creation without the new creation is reductionist—one has removed oneself from the integrative fabric of supernatural revelation!

Paul's View of Revelation in Romans

Van Til's position is helpful in addressing some challenging texts found in Paul's epistle to the Romans: 10:18; 8:18-30; and 1:18-25. I wish to begin with Romans 10:18 and make our way back to Romans one because Romans 10:18 presents us with a major problem which possibly sheds light upon a better understanding of Romans 8:18-30 and Romans 1:18-25.


In Romans 10, Paul is speaking of the propagation of the gospel into the world. He has placed before his audience that both Jew and Greek are in need of salvation, and hence, whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (10:11-13). Herein Paul raises an obvious question: who will call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? These questions are often heard within the church; simply put, how can a person be saved if they have never heard about Jesus—if they have never heard the gospel preached to them? In fact, how can a person be responsible before God, if they have never heard the name of Jesus, or the preaching of his Word? Have we not all wrestled with this question; is it fair for God to send someone to Hell if they have never heard of Jesus or of the gospel? After all, our inclination is to cry out that such persons never had a chance to be saved! Moreover, Paul is specific: "how shall they hear without a preacher?" (10:14)—"how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (10:15a). The church may respond, however, with a voice of self-justification; she may claim that the gospel has gone forth into many areas of the world (fulfilling Isa. 52:7), but as the gospel goes forth, many of these people have not obeyed the gospel. Like Isaiah, the apostolic church raises the same question: "Lord, who has believed our report?" (Isa. 53:1). This leads Paul to this comment: "so then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (10:17). In other words, saving faith and obedience to the gospel is a result of effective listening to the Word of God.

We may continue, however, to press the point that many in the world still have not heard the gospel; they have not had a preacher come to them to instill faith in Jesus Christ. So, are we to be content that the gospel has been preached to many people but not all people; and are we to be content that the gospel has been received in faith or rejected by many people but not all people? If you are one who is hung up with the "many" versus "the all," then Paul's rhetorical question may be a bombshell (vs. 18): "But I say, have they [all] not heard?"—Paul answers: "Yes, indeed [the all]," and then Paul proceeds to quote Ps. 19:4: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world." Paul says that the communication of the Word of God concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached to the ends of the world. Paul makes his case by quoting Ps. 19:4; in other words, Paul quotes Ps. 19:4 as a defense that everyone has heard the gospel on the face of the earth.


Specifically, Psalm 19:4 is a reference to the universal propagation of the gospel through the preaching of the Word of God. One may wish, however, to ask: "why would one be amazed to find Paul's quotation and application of Ps. 19:4 to the preaching of the gospel?" Because within the traditional understanding of the boundaries between natural revelation and special revelation, it is usually affirmed that Ps. 19:4a-b relates to natural revelation. For example, John Murray stated that Psalm 19:1-6 relates to general or/and natural revelation, whereas Psalm 19:7-14 relates to special revelation.16 It is said that Ps. 19:1 denotes the content of natural revelation for the first six verses: "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows his handiwork."17 However, here lies the problem; Paul does not apply the first part of the Psalm 19: 1-6 exclusively to the distinct category of natural revelation. Rather, in Romans 10:18 Paul applies Psalm 19:4 to the gospel, i.e., to special revelation.18 Has Paul lost his way? Does he not understand the theological prescription here; verses one through six of Psalm nineteen only reveals the divine attributes of God's wisdom and power from natural revelation, whereas verses seven through fourteen reveal God's supernatural revelation from his Word—the law (righ-


16 The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), 61.

17 In fact, the Belgic Confession (1567) captures the element of communication that pertains to natural revelation in Ps. 19 when it discusses that natural revelation is a book that is read. After all, as the Psalmist says that nature speaks and propels knowledge, we note that such speech is so broad that everyone has heard its voice. Hence, Reformed theologians have said correctly that natural revelation manifests the truth that all humanity has heard the voice of God.

18 There is a wide range of perplexity over this text, particularly Paul's use of Psalm 19:4. Charles Hodge was clear that Paul does not intend that Psalm 19:4 be applied specifically to the "preaching of the gospel." Rather, Hodge contends that Paul uses Psalm 19:4 to state that the "proclamation of the gospel was now free from all national and ecclesiastical restrictions" in order to go to Jew and Gentile (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Philadelphia: Grigg & Elliot, 1835], 443-44). John Calvin rejects the ancient "allegorical" interpretation in which the sun equals Christ (Ps. 19:4) and the heavens equal the apostles (Ps. 19:1). Rather, for Calvin, Paul invokes his teaching from Romans 1. Paul is using Ps. 19:4 not to declare that "the Gospel" has gone to the Gentiles, but that "the whole workmanship of heaven and earth spoke and proclaimed its Author by its preaching." In the fashion of Aquinas, Calvin is holding that Paul's use of Ps. 19:4 here is a reference to natural revelation alone—that God preaches through natural revelation his "divinity" to Jew and Gentile (The Epistles of Paul The Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. Ross MacKenzie [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1960], 234). John Murray saw the "difficulty" here. Murray wonders if Paul has a lapse of memory since he seems to be quoting Ps. 19:4 in the context of special revelation instead of natural revelation. After all, we must remember


teousness) of the Lord? How is it that Paul will quote Psalm 19:4 to verify that the gospel has gone forth to all humanity by virtue of the testimony of the creation? Although much study is yet needed, allow me to suggest two points: (1) the creation declares the supernatural deeds/acts of the Lord, and (2) within the fabric of natural revelation lays the essential nature of supernatural revelation.

First, in respect to the creation declaring the supernatural deeds/acts of the Lord we note that in various passages in the Old Testament the heavens are described as witnessing and testifying to the acts of God. For example, in passages in Deuteronomy, God seems to be holding court, and the witnesses are the "heavens and the earth" (4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1). Simply, the witness is the created order (also true for prophetic literature: Isa. 1:2; Am. 4:13; Mic. 6:1, 2). Isaiah (1:2) may capture best the point I am attempting to make. The Lord testifies to the heavens that he has "nourished and raised his children" (they are objects of his acts of redemption) and that those same children are sinful and corrupt, and therefore, objects of God's anger (judgment). The Lord makes his appeal to the heavens because they have witnessed God's blessing and judgment with respect to God's activity; on the terrain of the creation God


that the Psalmist deals with general revelation in verses 1-6 and with special revelation in verses 7-14. For Murray, although in the strict sense Ps. 19:4 applies to natural revelation, Paul has the liberty to use it in any way he pleases. Simply put, according to Murray, Paul is using Ps. 19:4 as a pattern for the gospel going "to the uttermost parts of the earth." To put it another way, general revelation (Ps. 19:4), as it testifies of God to all humanity, is now an analogy for the gospel (special revelation) going out to all humanity (Romans, 61). C. E. B. Cranfield suggests a simple solution; he holds that "probably all that he [Paul] wants to assert is that the message has been publicly proclaimed in the world at large—the significant thing is that it has been quite widely preached to the Gentiles…" Like Murray, Cranfield maintains that Psalm 19:4 is being used by Paul as an analogy of expanding the preaching of the gospel (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2 [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1979], 537). Karl Barth avoids the reference of Psalm 19:4 altogether. In light of his dialectical view of transcendence and cosmos this is not surprising. Barth will avoid the traditional view of natural revelation with respect to Psalm 19:4, and thus, he will place the verse in the context of the preaching of the Word of Christ within the church. As the church goes into the world, it proclaims the kerygma (The Epistle to the Romans, trans. Edwyn C. Hoskyns, 6th ed. [1933; reprint, London: Oxford, 1972], 389. N. T. Wright holds that Paul's quote of Psalm. 19:4 is directing us back to the "created order" as stated in Romans 1:18-20, but Wright admits that Paul is not clear concerning how the reference to Psalm 19:4 is related to the gospel. Wright realizes that Paul's use of the Psalmist is a reference to the proclamation of the gospel, but he does not know how (Paul for Everyone: Romans: Part Two: Chapters 9-16 [London: SPCK, 2004], 37).


has performed his deeds. The heavens and the earth have seen how God has actually pruned his children—whether he has brought them through the Red Sea on dry ground, or whether the Lord has hosted them in a "land that flows with milk and honey." In this context God does not partition or divide himself as if there are certain attributes only revealed by natural revelation and only certain attributes revealed by special revelation. God's revelatory activity is one; it is supernatural as well as comprehensive. Moreover, such revelatory activity is always the product of the God of the Bible—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The heavens witness his activity—even the activity of special revelation upon the terrain of natural revelation (these acts are done in the creation). To put it another way, the heavens serve to declare the glorious supernatural deeds of God by simply witnessing his activity upon the landscape of creation (cf. Ps. 97:6).19

Second, I have noted that within the fabric of natural revelation lies the essential nature of supernatural revelation. In order to illustrate this point, I want to direct our attention to Romans 8:18-31, and then on the basis of some observations about that text, I want to make a connection with Romans 10:18 and Ps. 19:4.

Romans 8

In Romans 8, Paul opens by speaking of the believer in union with the effectual work of Christ; there is no condemnation for those in Jesus (vs. 1). On the plain of redemptive-history a transformation has occurred in the believer by virtue of the coming of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit. The believer is now under the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ" who has released the believer from the law of sin and death (vs. 2; 5b). The believer's life in the Spirit is now in distinct contrast to walking according to the flesh (vs. 3, 5a, 7-8).

With this context before us, Paul tells us that the believer has received the


19 The material in this paragraph is stimulated by a sermon delivered by Rev. Charles G. Dennison (1945-1999) on Psalm 19 that was preached on November 27, 1994 at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sewickley, PA.


Spirit of adoption (vs. 12-17) that brings the believer into intimate communion and fellowship with his heavenly Father (vs. 15). Through the work of Christ and the entrance of the Spirit, the believer has moved into the eschatological presence of the Father as his adopted child—such a child is not an object of his wrath (cf. Rom. 1:18). The believer is assured of this adoption by virtue of the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the believer's spirit (vs. 16). Moreover, as the adopted child of God, the child of the Spirit is being conformed to the eschatological state of being a joint-heir with Christ (vs. 17). Meanwhile, as the children of God continue their pilgrimage here on earth, they assume the pattern of Christ in this world. Like Christ, the child of God lives the pattern of suffering to glorification (vs. 17).

Paul is so overcome by the final glorified state of believers, i.e., when they become joint-heirs with Christ, that he holds that the present state of suffering in this world cannot be compared with the glorious state of heavenly inheritance (vs. 18). As Paul makes his argument, verse eighteen serves as the hinge pin for what follows. For not only do we suffer in this world as an anticipation of our glorified state, but also the creation shares in our suffering condition as the creation itself waits for the glorification of the "sons of God" (vs. 19; cf. Ps. 102:25-28; Isa. 51:6). As we keep in mind that the creation is in the state of futility and bondage because God has subjected it to such a state by virtue of Adam's fall into sin (vs. 20-21),20 Paul directs our attention to the fact that like the birth of a child, the creation is going through the pains of labor—groaning and crying out for the release of her child and the ceasing of pain (vs. 22). Likewise, the believer, who already has received the firstfruits of the Spirit, groans like a mother in labor for the final adoption of their glorified body (vs. 23; cf. vs. 26). Simply, for Paul the parallel is clear; the believer lives the life of suffering waiting for his release, and likewise, the creation exists in a state of suffering waiting for its release.21 Paul seems to infer here that the creation can


20 Going back to the fall seems to be agreed upon by Murray, Romans, 303; Wright, Romans, I: 151; Cranfield, Romans, I: 413; Calvin, Romans, 173.

21 Wright draws the analogy between Israel and their bondage, not Christ (Romans, I: 151). Cranfield goes so far as to say that Christ is not in view at all in verses 18-23 since Paul does not mention him (Romans, I: 416-417). On the other hand, Charles Hodge thinks the phrase "glorious liberty" in verse 21 (cf. also vs. 18) is a phrase that has been applied to Christ, and now is applied in a similar manner to the creation (Romans, 337).


be said to be "joint-suffers" with the children of God as those children wait for the day to be joint-heirs with the glorified Christ.

Let us draw out the pattern more directly. One must not miss the fact that Christ sets the pattern! The pattern of Christ's redemptive work is from suffering here on earth to glorification in heaven. Likewise, following the pattern of Christ, the pattern for the believer is suffering here on earth to glorification in heaven. Do not stop there; likewise, following the pattern of Christ and the believer, the pattern for the creation is suffering in its present state while it waits for the glorification of the "sons of God." Here is the point: since the fall, God has subjected the creation itself to the visible pattern of Christ—it is one of suffering to exaltation. Hence, God wrote the pattern of suffering to exaltation upon the very fabric of natural revelation; the creation was not meant to be an end for itself. Rather, the creation's own pattern of suffering to exaltation is always a witness and a testimony to Christ's pattern of suffering to exaltation as well as the believer's pattern of suffering to exaltation. In fact, the creation takes this pattern because it is the fiat creation of Christ; as the product of Christ's creative word, the creation takes on the pattern that the Father has marked for his Son as Christ is delivered into the creation.22 In light of this Christocentric pattern, the special revelation of the gospel's pattern of suffering to glorification is written upon the very fabric of natural revelation. For this reason, as Paul moves to his discussion in the tenth chapter about the gospel being heard by all, he quotes Ps. 19:4 as the sure evidence that creation itself has proclaimed the kerygma—the gospel message of suffering to exaltation has been preached to every single person on the face of the world. Everyone has seen and heard this testimony. Indeed, the creation proclaims its message in sermonic form. As the creation groans and cries, it is declaring the pattern of the cross for the exaltation of Christ's church! In this way, Paul applies Psalm 19:4, which is usually bound by theologians to the realm of natural revelation, to the universal proclamation of the gospel!

The Biblical picture should be becoming more apparent; God's revelatory work and activity comes to humanity in two forms: special revelation and


22 Wright sees a restorationist view of creation here (Romans, I: 152). Barth works with his transcendence-cosmos dialectic (see his Romans, 302-15).


natural revelation. Although there are two forms, they are inseparable. In fact, the creation (natural revelation) declares the supernatural deeds/acts of the Lord (special revelation). This observation does not mean that the creation (natural revelation) tells you that the death of Christ will be on Calvary, nor does the creation (natural revelation) tell you that Christ's resurrection will occur in the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea (Jn. 19:38). Even so, the creation witnesses that Christ died on the cross, and the creation witnesses that the resurrected Christ broke the bonds of the tomb (Mt. 27:45, 50-54; 28:2-3). The creation has witnessed the entire story of redemption and testifies to that entire story by virtue of its pattern of existence—suffering waiting for the exaltation of the Christ and the church! For this reason, we must acknowledge that within the fabric of natural revelation lays the essential blueprint (pattern) of special revelation. The creation receives its freedom and release from bondage when the children of God are released from their suffering state in the creation—the creation serves redemption; the creation serves the church.23 Creation gives way to the church as the eternal flock enters into joint-inheritance with the glorified Christ. The restoration of the creation is not the end; rather, the joint-inheritance of the church and Christ is the end; creation serves grace. Creation serves eschatology!

Romans 1

Before we look at Romans chapter one, permit me to remind us that we have been proceeding in reverse order: Romans 10:18, 8:12-30, and 1:18-3:20. If we pause, however, to look at these texts in sequence, we can make the following observation. In Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul sets up the strict antithesis between the righteous and the unrighteous upon the landscape of revelational-


23 The creation also seems to assume the position of the sacrificial system that obviously points us to Christ (see Lev. 6:1-13; 9:23-24). Note that offerings must be consumed (burned up) in order to bring peace and holiness (note the eschatological structure of the sacrifice being on the altar from night to morning [creation language from "evening and morning"]). What happens to the sacrifice will happen to the creation (2 Pet. 3:10ff.)—the creation is consumed by fire so that the sons of God may be brought into the consummation of God's peace.


history. In Romans 8:12-30, Paul informs the church of her final end—the cre-ation will surrender itself for her consummation. From Romans 1 to Romans 8, therefore, we move from creation to consummation; we move from the plain of creational-history to the plain of the transcendent age to come. In Romans 10, however, Paul returns to the present task of the church in light of her mission to both Jew and Gentile; and that present task is the preaching of the gospel (10: 8-21). Hence, in terms of the sequence of Paul's argument in Romans, the present task of preaching is done on the backdrop of the antithesis of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan (1:17-3: 20) as well as the understanding of the final end for the glorious children of God. Indeed, the final flock of the Lamb enjoys the justifying and sanctifying grace of God the Father through His Son by the work of the Holy Spirit (8: 12-30).

Even so, in contrast of the sequence of the text, we have made our journey in reserve order. I have taken this approach in order to offer a challenge with respect to an organic understanding of supernatural revelation. In my mind, if the problems surrounding the exegesis of Romans 10:18 can approach resolution, then issues in Romans 8 and Romans 1 may be reexamined in a better light. Indeed, Paul tells us by quoting Psalm 19:4 in Romans 10:18 that the heavens have witnessed the supernatural activity of God upon the plain of the natural creation, and furthermore, the creation proclaims that testimony every single day to all men. Moreover, in Romans 8, Paul notes that an essential characteristic of the gospel is inherently written upon the fabric of natural revelation; it is the pattern of suffering to exaltation (a component of special revelation). Let us keep these fundamental truths about the fabric of supernatural revelation before us as we now proceed to Romans 1.

Paul's argument in Romans 1 is redemptive-historical; in verses 17-25 Paul does not intend to prescribe the foundations of theological prolegomena for future theologians along the line of a defense for theism and/or a construct for natural theology. Rather, Paul places us in the midst of the redemptive-historical drama between the seed of the woman (the kingdom of God) and the seed of the serpent (kingdom of Satan). The contrast is grounded in eschatology, i.e., the present and final revelation of the righteousness of God (vs. 17) in contrast to the present and final revelation of the wrath of God against all ungodliness


and unrighteousness (vs. 18).24 Simply, Paul is mapping out the strict antithesis between faith and unbelief; faith results in salvation, and unbelief results in wrath.25 There is no middle ground; moreover, theism based on natural theology does not get it half right. Rather, the strict antithesis is before the reader; there are those who are redeemed by faith in Christ (vs. 16,17), and there are those who are condemned by their own unbelief, and thus are objects of God's fury (1:18-3:20).

The reason that unbelievers are condemned is because they are "without excuse" to believe (vs. 20: avnapologh,touj); their rebellion is self-imposed.26 They not only know God as image-bearer (vs. 19 "sense of divinity within them"), but they also know God "through the things that are made" (vs. 20). For Paul, the knowledge of God is not limited to the divine attributes of a theistic being deduced logically and exclusively from natural revelation. Why? First, according to Paul, the God who is revealed and known is the God of the Bible. Human beings are the image-bearer of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1:19 corresponds to Gen. 1: 26-28), and the creation is the product of the activity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1:20 corresponds to Gen. 1—Father; Jn. 1: 2-3—Son; Gen. 1:2—Holy Spirit). Second, the arena on which the triune God of the Bible displays himself is upon the creation (1:20). In light of this point, I want to reassess verse 20. Let me reiterate that Paul has placed the reader of this passage within the spectrum of the entire story of the history of redemption. We are viewing Paul's analysis of the landscape of redemptive-history "since/from" the creation of the world. Simply, Paul is telling us that since the creation of the world, the "invisible things of the Lord are clearly seen" upon the continuum of history.27 John Murray indicates that Paul seems to be caught in an "oxymoron" here, i.e., how can something invisible be


24 The same Greek verb appears in both verse 17 and verse 18: avpokalu,ptetai. In both cases, the verb is in indicative present passive 3rd person singular.

25 Murray sees the passage in the context of strict antithesis as well: "`The wrath of God' stands in obvious antithesis to `the righteousness of God' in verse 17" (Romans, 35).

26 One can say that unbelievers are literally "without an apology"—"without a defense"—against the testimony of the true God and his supernatural revelation.


clearly seen (visible)?28 In verse 20 Paul provides an answer; the invisible is a reference to the God's eternal power and divinity. In other words, God's eternal power and divinity (which is invisible) is clearly seen and understood by the things that are made. In order to fit into a certain theological construct, however, many theologians have held that verse 20 is a reference to God's creative act of bringing forth the creation, and that the creation reveals the "invisible attributes" of God (i.e., his eternal power and divinity) which leaves humanity without excuse. Although it is absolutely true that the creation reveals the blueprint of God's invisible attributes, I am not convinced that such a theological construct is in the mind of Paul in this text.29 Again, Paul has placed us within the continuum of history "since/from" the creation, and therefore, he is not isolating our attention upon the natural phenomena of the creation that God created. Rather, God's eternal power and divinity are clearly seen and understood by the things the Lord is "doing" in created history (cf. Ps. 136). In other words, God's creative power with respect to bringing the creation into being is not what is in view in this text; rather, what is in view is God's activity—God's doing—in the creation (cf. Ps. 145:10-13; 146:5-9; 148:1-14; 150:1-


27 In the NKJ we have: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen." The word "attributes" is not in the Greek text. NIV has: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen…" ASV (1901) and KJV both have: "For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen."

28 Romans, 38; Cranfield also places the concept of oxymoron before us (Romans, I: 115); Calvin ties the text to Hebrews 11:3 (Romans, 32).

29 On the basis of Greek and Roman literature, Cranfield sees this as a reference to the "attributes" of God (Romans, I: 115; e.g. Homeric hymns, Hesiod, Cicero). Cranfield's assessment can be questioned. What is known, what is seen, and what is perceived are the "invisible things of God" (vs. 20). Paul is not arguing from the visible to the visible; rather he moves from the invisible to the visible—the invisible is revealed in the visible, and from the visible the invisible is known. We cannot overlook the Greek term that Paul uses here with respect to God's revelation of the "invisible" (avo,ratoj adjective nom. pl.). When this particular form of the Greek word for "invisible" appears in the New Testament, it has either a direct or indirect reference to Christ (Col. 1: 15, 16; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27). Simply put, the invisible things of God include the person, identity, and ordained work of Christ. Look at Col. 1: 15, 16; as Paul refers to the things that have been made in Romans 1, i.e., as Paul looks at God's activity in creation, we do well to look at the Colossians passage as further commentary. In, by, through, and unto Christ were all things created—visible and invisible, including the basic patterns which are found in Christ's creative


2). Paul does not use a form of the Greek word, ktizo (kti,zw) that usually refers to the creative work of God with respect to the creation; rather, Paul uses the form of the Greek word, poyeo (poie,w) that usually refers to an activity (do, make, working).30

Let me illustrate by using Israel's exodus from Egypt as an example! Again we must keep in mind that "since/from" the creation the invisible things of God, i.e., his eternal power and divinity are clearly seen by virtue of the things that he is doing. In this light, we need to pick up simply upon such statements from the Lord in Exodus 14:4, 18 about the unbelieving nations:

" `Then I harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.' And they did so" (vs. 4)… " `Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen'" (vs. 18; cf. also Josh. 23:4-9).


activity in the original creation (Gen. 1) as they come to be found also in the gospel centered on Christ: e.g., light testifies to the Light; chaos testifies to order; void testifies to fulfillment; formlessness testifies to resolution; a first day testifies to a final day of consummation (Sabbath day); and eventually, a fallen groaning creation testifies to the deliverance of God's children. Indeed, Christ, as the "firstborn of all creation" (vs. 15) points to Christ being the "firstborn from the dead" (vs. 18), i.e., having the position of priority (pioneer, go before) in the creation order as the second person of the Trinity points to the fact that he also has the position of priority in the resurrection of the dead on behalf of his body of believers, the church—the invisible is made visible as his Father makes the tomb vacant! Christ, as the great "I am of God" (Ex 3:14; cf. Jn. 6:35, 38) made his invisible person known to Moses out of a bush (the invisible in a visible natural object) that would not be consumed as Moses' faith exchanged fearing the wrath of God for not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh (Heb. 11:27). The same Christ took Paul on a similar path like Moses (cf. 1 Tim. 1:12-17). In my judgment, when we fully grasp what Paul means by "the invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen" (Rom. 1:20a), it is not the attributes of a theistic being that is revealed, rather the attributes of the triune God of the Bible as well as the essence of his being are revealed which are exhibited in the pattern of the gospel itself.

30 The Greek word for "made"—poih,masin—noun, dat. pl. (of things done or made would be the literal); its specific form is only found twice in the New Testament, both in the writings of Paul: Rom. 1:20; Eph. 2:10—"we are the workmanship of Christ Jesus." Christ is active in the things that are made.


Keeping the event of the exodus in mind, let us look at God's incredible act in light of Romans 1. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were truly witnesses to God's invisible power and divinity; moreover, they clearly understood God's invisible power and divinity on the basis of the visible activity (doing) of the Lord. In fact, they "knew God" (Rom. 1: 21) on the basis of God's activity, and thus they were without excuse.31 Furthermore, not only did Pharaoh and the Egyptians know God, but also they refused to glorify him as God, nor were they thankful; rather, they lifted up futile thoughts as they lived with darkened hearts (Rom. 1:21). Indeed, the Egyptians are a perfect example of "changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man" (Rom. 1:23). In other words, the Egyptians are a perfect example of those who exchanged "the truth of God for lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25; cf. Ps. 115:1-8; 134:15-18)!

We must not stop there; we must press on from the antithetical structure of Romans one to the consummation of creation in Romans 8. After all, the exodus is a preview of the consummation of God's activity upon the landscape of creation history. In the exodus the creation witnesses its own preview of its eager expectation of the glorification of the sons of God (in this case, the Israelites final release from bondage; cf. Rom. 8: 19). In fact, the creation subjects itself to God's sovereign activity in the exodus in the hope of being delivered from its own bondage through the glorious freedom experienced by the children of God (the exodus itself; cf. Rom. 8: 21).

Moreover, we must not stop there; we must press on to the present nature of preaching the gospel (Rom. 10:18). The exodus is also a preview of the Lord preaching the gospel through the testimony of the creation (Rom. 10:18)! Was not God's special revelation organically connected with the natural revelation in this event; or to put it another way, in the exodus, are we not witnessing the supernatural revelation of God in its two overlapping forms—natural and special revelation? For we are told that the "Angel of God" (Jesus Christ) and the


31 Cranfield is on the right track when he writes, "The result of God's self-manifestation in His creation is not a natural knowledge of God on men's part independent of God's self-revelation in His Word, a valid though limited knowledge, but simply the excuselessness of men in their ignorance" (Romans, I: 116).


"the pillar of cloud" (Holy Spirit) which led the camp of Israel moved behind the camp of Israel and stood between the Egyptians and the Israelites—giving the Israelites protection during the night (Ex. 14:19-20). In fact, in the morning, as the Egyptians pursue the Israelites through the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and cloud (Holy Spirit) played havoc upon the Egyptian chariot wheels—so much so that the Egyptians say, "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians" (Ex. 14:25). Indeed, the creation witnesses and now testifies (preaches) that it has seen the gospel upon the landscape of creation history. The creation testifies that the children of God have gone from bondage to freedom, from slavery to resurrection by virtue of the joint operation of the Father, Son (Angel of God), and the Holy Spirit (pillar and cloud). The creation testifies to all humanity that has seen the gospel upon its site (cf. Josh. 2:9-12; 5:1; 9:1-2, 8-9).

Implication for Apologetics

As we focus upon this paradigm in Romans, it becomes a strong tool in the apologetic arena of ideas. For example, at the beginning of the 19th century, William Paley's work on Natural Theology was a popular academic textbook in the field of science throughout Britain. Like others in England, a young Charles Darwin was educated in the field of natural science and human anatomy by using Paley's natural theology as a textbook. When Darwin began to challenge the conclusions of Paley's natural theism, he, like many others, thought that the issue was merely to remove God out of the picture of naturalism. Since many naturalists had already rejected the Christian themes of redemption in Christ, they thought that all that remained was to reject the God of nature—a God of natural theology! Herein lies the genius of Paul's thought as well as the full-orbed understanding of Christian theistic revelation. Paul does not teach natural theology plus supernatural revelation; he does not even teach natural revelation plus supernatural revelation. Rather, the Biblical theistic position is that natural revelation can never be truly comprehended without special revelation, or natural revelation is always organically linked or united to special revelation in the entire spectrum of God's supernatural revelation. An excellent


example is provided in Paul's great sermon on Mars Hill. In his sermon, recorded in Acts 17:16-31, the issue for Paul is not natural revelation plus supernatural revelation, rather the issue is that the same God who created all things (Acts 17:24), and even gave the Athenians life (sense of divinity; cf. Rom. 1:19; natural and general revelation), is not only the true invisible God that cannot be served or made into a finite imagery, but he is the same God that will judge all humanity by his righteousness by virtue of the fact that he has raised Christ from the dead (Acts 17:30-31). One can never separate the fact that all humanity has their life, movement, and being by virtue of God's natural creative activity (natural revelation) from the fact that God has given life, movement, being to his Son at his resurrection (supernatural revelation). Moreover, one must not forget that the resurrection (supernatural) has occurred upon the plain of the natural order (natural); to reject the resurrection is to reject the true understanding of the natural (e.g., Athenians); moreover, to reject the true understanding of the natural is to reject the resurrection (e.g., Darwin and other naturalists). In the realm of apologetics, we demand that all human beings must repent because the realms of the natural and supernatural are inseparable! This is why the Christian apologist must be emphatic—to reject the God of the resurrection is to reject the God who made all things, including the natural world. If one rejects the God of Christianity, then one must reject the natural world as it appears to humanity since the phenomenon of nature is linked organically to the gospel. In a Biblical construction of supernatural revelation, a true view of natural revelation is dependent upon a true view of special revelation found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.


BWHEBB, BWHEBL [Hebrew]; BWGRKL, BWGRKN, and BWGRKI [Greek] Postscript® Type 1 and TrueTypeT fonts Copyright © 1994-2002 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. These Biblical Greek and Hebrew fonts are used with permission and are from BibleWorks, software for Biblical exegesis and research.


[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 35-36]

Peter Martyr Vermigli on Christ's

Resurrection and Justification1

For seeing that external kingdom is not restored, nor that we ought to look for restitution, we must have respect unto Christ, who reigns in heaven, and in them which are his and shall reign eternally. Concerning his death and resurrection, Christ alleged the types of Jonah the prophet (Mt. 12:39; 16:4); and in many such places, the death and resurrection of Christ was shadowed. Again, it is to be noted that these things which so went before were only types and shadows of the Lord's death and resurrection; but after a sort had in them the very truth itself of those things. For seeing that those holy men suffered many grievous things, and that in a while, help and deliverance came by God, insomuch as they were the members of Christ and had Christ for their Head, it follows that Christ in them both suffered and was delivered. Wherefore we say that the passion and resurrection of Christ began even from the first times, but that afterward they took place more manifestly in Christ himself, and yet still become more evident unto the church through the present death, which it daily


1 Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500-1562) was the great Italian Reformer from Lucca, who fled the Inquistion in 1542 for refuge in Zurich, Basel and Strassburg. He was influenced by reading Zwingli and Bucer among others. During the reign of Edward VI, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer invited him to England where he became regius professor of divinity at Oxford. Imprisoned at the accession of Mary Tudor in 1553, he was permitted to return to Strassburg and died in Zurich. Vermigli is one of the most remarkable 16th century Calvinists, clearly displaying the so-called `scholastic method' in his Common Places, i.e., `systematic theology'. The quotation above is taken from the 16th century English translation of that work, pp. 608 and 609. Our thanks to Benji Swinburnson for pointing out this profound reflection on resurrection and justification in Christ.


abides in labors and sorrows, expecting the blessed resurrection of the flesh.

Augustine, in his 16th book against Faustus, seems to bring this interpretation—that our faith is chiefly directed unto the resurrection of Christ. That he dies, the Ethniks2 also grant; but that he rose again, they utterly deny. And therefore, seeing faith is said to be the thing whereby we are justified, Paul would make mention of the thing wherein faith is most conversant. And for confirmation of his saying, he cites a place out of the tenth chapter to the Romans, "If with thy mouth thou confess thy Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in thy heart that he was raised from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (v. 9). By which words it appears that salvation and justification are attributed unto the faith of Christ's resurrection.


2 This term is used to refer to the heathen or Gentiles as distinct from Christians.


[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 37-44]

Salvation and the House

of a Harlot

Joshua 2

Steven Wright

She was a lady of the night. They were spies who had penetrated the defenses of this enemy city. They came to her home for refuge, but it seemed that refuge was to be short-lived. Soon after their arrival, a knock sounded on the door. Government agents had come looking for them. What would happen next? Would they be betrayed? Their fate lay in the hands of a harlot.

This may sound like the plot from a John LeCarre novel. It surely is a tale of espionage and intrigue. But this tale comes not from the pages of modern fiction, but from the annals of history. Indeed, the story of Rahab is part of redemptive history, that grand story of God's acts of revelation and redemption. As her story unfolds, we will be called to look back to God's previous acts and promises and also to look forward to promises later to be fulfilled. The theme of the story is salvation. We will see that theme developed at several levels as we consider salvation and the house of a harlot.

I. Salvation In the House of a Harlot (vv. 1-7)

Joshua could look back over forty years of wandering in the desert wilderness. Forty years ago the children of Israel had been perched on the edge of the Promised Land. From Kadesh Barnea, twelve spies had been sent out to


survey the land and its inhabitants. Their report about the land was glowing: "it truly flows with milk and honey" (Num. 13.27). But ten of the spies brought back an evil report about the inhabitants: "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger then we" (Num. 13.31). Joshua and Caleb had pled for faith in Yahweh to deliver the inhabitants of the land into their hands, but the people would not listen. And so, in punishment, that unfaithful generation had to pass away before the next generation would inherit the land.

And now, at Shittim, they are once more perched on the edge of the Promised Land. Moses has died and Joshua is the leader. He sends out spies again, but this time their number would be that of the faithful few who had gone before: "Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove [Hebrew, Shittim] to spy secretly, saying, `Go, view the land, especially Jericho' (v. 1)."

They came to the house of a harlot named Rahab. We are not told why they did so. Had they received some word that she might be sympathetic to their cause? Or was the house of a harlot simply a place where a few foreign men might blend in without being noticed? The text is silent on this point. What becomes clear is that Yahweh's sovereign hand is guiding them.

While the spies enter the city successfully, they do not do so in complete secrecy. Word quickly reaches the ears of the king of Jericho that men of Israel have entered the city on a mission of espionage. He sends agents to Rahab's door demanding that she surrender the men. It is a moment of vulnerability for the spies. They are trapped and at the mercy of a Canaanite prostitute.

Rahab had already hidden the men under stacks of drying flax on her roof. Now she concocts a tale designed to deceive the king's agents. "Yes," she admits, "those men came here, but I didn't know where they were from. They left about the time of the shutting of the city gate." Rahab proceeds to send the king's men on a wild goose chase: "I'm not sure where they were going, but if you hurry you can overtake them." They took the bait and sped off toward the fords of Jordan, where they expected the spies would try to cross back to their camp. With the city gates just closing behind them, they must have thought they were hot on the trail. Surely, the spies couldn't have gotten far.


Of course, the spies hadn't gone any farther than Rahab's roof! It had been a close call. Their fate had been in the hands of a foreign woman. But Yahweh had seen to it that the spies from his people found salvation—the saving of their physical lives—in the house of a harlot.

II. Salvation To the House of a Harlot (vv. 8-22)

Rahab had risked her life by lying to the king's agents in order to save the lives of the spies. Why had she done so? We learn that her motives were not entirely altruistic. The one providing salvation was also in search of salvation.

When the king's men have gone, Rahab joins the spies upon the roof and makes a remarkable confession:

I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. (vv. 9-11)

This confession is remarkable on several counts. First, it demonstrates that Yahweh keeps his promises. Hear some of the prophetic words of the song of Moses after the Red Sea passage:

All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over whom You have purchased. (Exodus 15:15-16)

Yahweh, through his prophet Moses, had declared that the peoples would hear of his great redemptive acts and would fear before the children of Israel. He had said, "Fear and dread will fall on them;" and Rahab reports, "the terror of you has fallen on us." Moses had sung, "all the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away;" and Rahab declares, "our hearts melted." Using the very language


of Moses, Rahab's confession is remarkable, in the first place, because it demonstrates Yahweh's faithfulness to his prophetic promises. Just as he foretold, the nations were in fear as his people advanced.

Second, Rahab's confession is remarkable as it reveals her to be a good history student. Consider how the Israelites had failed repeatedly in this regard. They had seen with their own eyes the miraculous parting of the waters of the Red Sea and they had passed through those waters themselves. Then they witnessed Yahweh's judgment upon the pursuing Egyptians as he caused the waters to crash down upon them with all their drowning fury. And yet, having experienced that deliverance, they murmured at Marah (Ex. 15.23-24). In the wilderness of Sin they cried out in unbelief, "Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!" (Ex. 16:3). Though Yahweh had cleansed the waters at Elim and provided quail and manna in the wilderness of Sin, the people complained once again about a lack of water at Rephidim (Ex. 17:1-3). We've already reflected upon the failure of faith at Kadesh Barnea, when they believed the evil report of the faithless spies rather than heeding the call to believe and conquer issued to Caleb and Joshua. What was wrong? The children of Israel knew the facts of history. Indeed, they had been participants in that history, again and again experiencing Yahweh's gracious deliverance and provision. Yet they failed to interpret history faithfully and, thereby, to trust in the God whom that history revealed.

Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, did understand. She looked at the drying up of the waters of the Red Sea and at the victories over the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, and she drew the proper conclusion. Yahweh had done these things, and it would be fearful and foolish for anyone to try to stand up against him. Before the onslaught of Yahweh, the appropriate response of his enemies was melting hearts and draining courage. Rahab had learned from history.

Third, Rahab's confession is remarkable because it portrays her as a believer in Yahweh. After rehearsing and properly interpreting the facts of history, Rahab concludes, "the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (v. 11). This is an amazing concession coming from a Canaanite. The Canaanites believed in dozens of deities. Rahab was supposed to believe that Baal and Asherah were the greatest of these gods. But now she takes on


her lips an Israelite confession of faith. Let us glance back again to hear the call to faith issued by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:39: "Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other."

In making this confession her own, Rahab is transferring her allegiance from the false gods of the Canaanites to Yahweh, the true God of Israel.

Rahab's confession has revealed Yahweh as a faithful promise keeper and Rahab as a good history student and a believer in Yahweh. Because she recognizes Yahweh as the true God, she recognizes these spies as his messengers. Indeed, the spies are called "messengers" elsewhere in Scripture (Josh. 6:25, Jam. 2:25). Rahab saw the spies as emissaries from Yahweh bringing a message of salvation. Just as Jacob had wrestled with a divine messenger until he received a blessing, Rahab now "wrestles" with these messengers:

Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. (vv. 12-13)

Rahab's "wrestling" is effectual. She extracts from the men an oath of protection for her and for her family when the Israelites take the city. It is a deadly serious oath: "our lives for yours" (v. 14). The spies personally promise to protect all who are within her house when the attack comes: "whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him" (v. 19). This personal covenant did have obligations for Rahab to fulfill: (1) she was to tell no one of the spies' business; (2) she was to mark her house with a scarlet cord that her attackers could recognize; (3) she was to be certain all her family remained in her house when the attack came. With this agreement made, Rahab helped the spies escape through her window and directed them on a safe course to elude their pursuers.

The sequel shows that Rahab fulfilled her obligations and the spies kept their oath. When the attack is launched, Joshua directs the spies personally to deliver Rahab and her household. They proceed to do so:


And the young men who had been spies went in and brought our Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel…. And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Josh. 6:23, 25)

In saving this Canaanite prostitute and her household, Yahweh demonstrates that his grace and mercy were never intended to be limited to Israel. He had promised Abram, "I will bless those who bless you, I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). Rahab blesses the God of Abraham and her family is blessed—a token of God's grace to the Gentiles. Yes, the story of Rahab is a story of salvation to the house of a harlot.

We have learned of salvation in the house of a harlot and salvation to the house of a harlot. But that is not the end of the story. Joshua 2 begins with Joshua sending out the spies and it ends with Joshua receiving their report. But we have not understood this story of Rahab fully until we look ahead to a second Joshua, a greater Joshua who was to come.

III. Salvation Through the House of a Harlot

In Joshua 6, we see that Rahab and her family are ultimately incorporated into the people of Israel as Gentile converts who have received the grace of Yahweh. Rahab is a celebrated proselyte. She is held up as an example of one who demonstrated her faith by her works in James 2:25: "Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?"

Rahab also receives New Testament praise in Hebrews 11:31: "By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace." Here in this great chapter celebrating the heroes and heroines of faith, Rahab finds her place alongside the likes of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. What an unlikely place to find the name of a


Canaanite prostitute! And yet, we would have to say it is not the least likely place we find Rahab's name.

For the least likely place, we must turn to Matthew 1 and its genealogy of our Lord. In verse 5, we learn that Boaz was a descendant of Rahab (a Canaanite). Boaz married the Ruth (a Moabitess). The line descending from them included Obed, Jesse, and David, the King of Israel. Not only was Rahab incorporated into Israel, but she became a forebear of King David! What a distinction for a sinner from among the Gentiles.

But, of course, that is not the greatest distinction, for if David descended from her then so did the greater David, the anointed Messiah, Jesus himself. Rahab's story is not some isolated event from Old Testament history. It is a story that continues to unfold until the coming of Christ. In highlighting foreigners like Rahab, Tamar, and Ruth in his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew wants his Jewish readers to be absolutely certain that the gospel was never intended to be the unique property of the Jews. The promise to make Abraham a blessing to all nations is evident in the fulfillment found in the lineage of Jesus. Salvation has come through the house of a Gentile harlot.

What majesty and mystery we find in the gospel. Through Rahab's descendants came the Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, this same Christ was the object of Rahab's faith and the source of her salvation! She knew of Yahweh's deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt and through the wilderness. The apostle Paul tells us that Christ was the Rock that gave the Israelites spiritual drink in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:4). Faith in Yahweh was faith in the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and faith in his promises, including the promise of the Messiah. What Rahab knew in shadowy form, we know clearly in the light of the glory of Jesus Christ.

Oh, it is a mystery. Christ was with Israel in the wilderness. Christ brought to the Israelite spies salvation in the house of a harlot. Through Joshua's men, Christ brought salvation to the house of a harlot. And Christ is the beginning and end of the salvation that came through the house of a harlot.

Be encouraged, this day, by the message of salvation and the house of a harlot. God used the faith of a Canaanite prostitute as part of his plan to bring salvation to all nations through the work of Jesus Christ. What is the final


chapter of Rahab's story, the story of God's grace flowing to Jew and Gentile alike? We can see it through the eyes of John on Patmos:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"(Rev. 7:9-10)

May our voices join the chorus of Rahab, and all the other recipients of God's grace throughout history, in praise of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. How great is the salvation that has come to us through the house of a harlot!

—Clinton, Mississippi


[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 45-46]

Calvin on DVD1

James T. Dennison, Jr.

My apologies to our readers if my title is somewhat misleading. No, this DVD does not bring us John Calvin redivivus. It does not preserve his voice (impossible!), nor does it give us live video of Calvin preaching at St. Pierre (also impossible!). It does not contain all of his works in English (certainly a worthy project), nor even those works which have been translated into English over the past four and one-half centuries. And yet, this DVD does contain the Calvin corpus, i.e., the whole body of his works from the edition printed in the Corpus Reformatorum. All 59 volumes of that particular compilation of Calvin's collected works have been scanned into pdf files and are fully searchable, retrievable and printable.

Calvin scholars cannot but rejoice at the release of this tool. It allows searches, Boolean and otherwise, of the entire works of the Geneva Reformer in seconds. Granted, the languages are Latin, French and a smidgen of German. This means that the user must have some facility in Calvin's original tongues. But the availability of this tool will greatly advance research into the Calvini Opera ("Works of Calvin").

The "Browse" mode allows the user to select any title from the 59-volume corpus in order to search it in particular. Alternatively, the entire 59-volume corpus may be searched, thus permitting the user to locate every use of a term


1 Herman J. Selderhuis, ed., Calvini Opera Database 1.0 (2005). Instituut voor Reformatienonderzoek, Wilhelminapark 4, 7316 BT Apeldoorn, The Netherlands.


in Calvin's Opera. Biblical texts may also be located so that the entire range of comment by Calvin on a passage is available. If desired, searches may be exported to word processors (i.e., Microsoft Word, etc.) and saved.

Navigation through searches is accomplished by clicking/highlighting the next document on the "Hits" list. Navigation within a document is performed by using the dark black right and left arrows at the top of each page (one is viewing the actual page of the Corpus Reformatorum edition on screen). In other words, the user is able to page forward and backward from within each document; or he may go to the next occurrence of his search criterion using the "Hits" list.

Clarity of output is very good. Anyone who has sat before the hardcopy of the Corpus Reformatorum knows that the pages are sometimes dark and yellowed, and the typeface fuzzy in places. This digitalized version is quite clean. Even where greater definition is necessary, the page may be "blown up" by using the + icon in pdf mode. NB: the DVD permits adjustments for "fuzziness" in the original. However, the user should be aware that increasing and/or decreasing the "fuzziness index" often alters the number of hits. Each user will need to experiment with this feature in order to insure the maximum number of hits for his specific criteria.

Computer system requirements are: Windows 98 or above; 256 Mb of memory; 5 gigs of free hard disk space; Adobe Acrobat reader. Transfer of the DVD to your computer hard disk is automatic—simply load the DVD and follow the on-screen directions. The process takes about two hours.

The Instituut is to be congratulated for making this tool available. It will aid Calvin research considerably. And though the cost is somewhat pricey (249 Euros or about $320 for individuals; 799 Euros or about $1025 for libraries), how much would you pay to search Calvin page by page by hand and the naked eye? This DVD becomes a great bargain as well as an immense time saver, given that prospect.



[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 47-49]

David Bagchi and David Steinmetz, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 289 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-521-77662-7. $25.99.

At the conclusion of this volume on the theology of the Reformation (the reader should not expect to learn about the history of the Reformation from these pages), the co-editor, David Bagchi, asks about the "way ahead," i.e., the future of scholarly research in Reformation theology. He is evidently confident that this volume has summarized the state-of-the-art on the topic to date. In the main, he is correct in that assessment—several of the essays in this volume are gems; in fact, models of summary and explanation of their respective topics. The authors of these outstanding essays have obviously been chosen for their expertise on their subjects: W. P. Stevens on Zwingli; David Wright on Scotland; David Steinmetz on Trent. What more can be said? Bagchi notes that the untapped corpus of the Reformers is their sermons. In this, he is certainly correct. The integration of the theology of the Reformers as it interfaces with pulpit and treatise has not greatly occupied scholars heretofore and thus, there is more work to do. While this reviewer does not expect any major revisions of the theology of the Reformers to arise from thorough analysis of their sermons, nonetheless this unexplored body of primary material remains a new frontier for the scholars of the future. Bagchi (254) also notes that the roots of Protestant scholasticism are indigenous to the 16th century and are not reserved to the post-Reformation (17th century) era. Vermigli, Musculus, Bucanus, Zanchius and others echo "Here! Here!"


However, Bagchi ignores the lacunae of this volume—the Reformation in Eastern Europe. The pages of our book include Reformation theology in England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland—Holland and France are mentioned (see the Index). But Poland, Hungary and Transylvania are absent. This is all the more striking in view of the important work on East European Reformation history and theology which has appeared in the past 15 years. Increasingly, the cross-fertilization and interdependence of the magisterial Reformation and the 16th century East European religious reform has been closely studied and explained to Western audiences. And as Eastern Europe was the scene of the Socinian and anti-Trinitarian movements of the 16th century, we miss a summary chapter on these heresies, particularly as they reprise age-old rationalisms, moralisms and reductionisms.

And yet this volume does give us Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Cranmer, Knox, as well as the Anabaptists and Roman Catholicism of the Council of Trent. Zwingli's endorsement of the third use of the law (98), more balanced biblically than Luther's law-gospel antithesis, will also be advocated by Melanchthon against Amsdorf (60). Nor is this the sole modification of Luther advocated by his great successor. Luther's "bondage of the will" yields to a more natural ability of the sinful will, which Melanchthon defends in his debates with Spangenberg (74-75). Calvinism, as Muller argues, develops and matures; it is not mutated by a post-Reformation revisionism, as neo-orthodox scholars once argued. Reformed scholasticism of the 17th century is a more precise and mature form of orthodoxy, not a rejection of it. This reviewer might note that Muller's inclusion of Amyraldianism (17th century theology of the Academy of Saumur) in the orbit of Reformed orthodoxy (141) is probably more generous than the 17th century opponents of Saumur (i.e., Francis Turretin, André Rivet, Frederick Spanheim, etc.) would grant. Steinmetz's observation that Reformation covenant theology articulated one covenant of grace "under different administrations" (117) is certainly reflective of the primary documents.

The chapter on the Anabaptists reminds us of their `radical' posture—restorationist, not reformationist (208). This laying of the ax to the root of the 16th century tree does not just involve baptism (paedo- versus anti-paedobaptism). Anabaptism stressed orthopraxis over orthodoxy—the emphasis falling on the practice of Christianity, not its abstract formulation. It is sufficient to be reminded of what the Reformers themselves regarded as prob


lematic (even unbiblical) in the movement: Anabaptism was non-Reformed, non-Augustinian and non-Pauline.

All in all, a handy "companion" to the subject—certainly helpful as an introduction and overview of the theology of the era, with attendant bibliographies (257-76) for more extensive study. Even lay persons will benefit from this title. And those seeking an orientation or refresher on the topic could not do better for $26.00.

—James T. Dennison, Jr.

[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 49-51]

Edmund P. Clowney, Preaching Christ in All Scripture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003. 189 pp. Paper. ISBN: 1-58134-452-X. $15.99.

Ed Clowney began teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia the year before I entered the school to study for my B.D. degree. I had him as my teacher for all of my courses in practical theology. He had a profound effect on my thinking, since prior to seminary I had no formal training in the Reformed faith. I was a new Christian and came to Reformed convictions by reading the Bible. What I especially appreciated about Ed's classes was the way he drew his teaching from Scripture and emphasized that the theology that came from the Bible tied the whole message together.

Since Ed was just formulating his courses and we were in a way his guinea pigs, I was very curious to find out what he had to say in this the last of his volumes on preaching. In the course of his maturing thought, what had he learned that could be of benefit to me in my preaching and teaching?

From the first chapter, it was evident that he has maintained his insistence upon the centrality of Christ for the message of the Bible. Jesus is the culmination of what the Old Testament is anticipating. He has come not to restore the old ways, but to bring them to their eschatological fulfillment. He spends a good deal of time showing that the relationship of the Old Testament to Christ is in symbols and types; thus to use allegory or moralistic application violates


their teaching. This is a very good chapter and worth the price of the book by itself.

The second chapter is entitled, "Preparing a Sermon That Presents Christ." I must admit that I was expecting a practical presentation about dealing with various texts and molding them into a sermon with Christ at the center. This is not at all what he does. Rather his concern is to present principles that must be observed to have a Christo-centric message. For instance, to avoid having explanation with application at the end of the sermon, or having little sermonettes with application after them and thus dividing up your message without a central theme, by placing Christ as the center of the message, you make him the focus of your explanation and application. Clowney also says, "all presentation of Jesus has a narrative dimension" (p. 50). He then spends the next pages showing how Jesus is involved in the Old Testament narrative and in the New Testament narrative. He then urges us to use direct address when referring to Christ, to preach with much prayer, and to practice the presence of the Lord. I found this chapter to be weak and somewhat scattered.

Following this there are 11 sermons which illustrate how Clowney preached Christ-centered messages. This is followed by two other messages that were delivered on other occasions. One was delivered at Inter-Varsity's Urbana Conference in 1973 and the other does not indicate when it was delivered.

Without question the sermons give excellent evidence of how to preach Christ in all Scripture. They take very important texts and plainly show the centrality of Christ, most of them being in the Old Testament. If you have any questions about preaching Christ in these passages, this is the book to pick up and read.

However, I must confess that I was not a little disappointed. For one thing, he seems to be very enamored of the narrative style of preaching. That is indicated in the quotation made above and also in the sermons that he chose to include in this collection. They are all of the narrative genre. Of course, the Bible has a great deal of narrative in it, but not all of the Bible is narrative. I was hoping that in his later years he could help us with learning how to preach on the wisdom books, for instance. How do you preach Christo-centrically on Job or Proverbs? And what about the variety of Psalms? Not just the 23rd Psalm,


but what about the imprecatory Psalms? And then there are the Prophets. What about the passages that deal with the judgment on other nations as well as many other sections?

Another disappointment that I experienced in his sermons was the lack of dealing with the specifics of the text. He emphasized this in the classroom when I was a student. But in the printed sermons, he seemed to be sacrificing the particulars of the text in its context to the flow of the story. Again, he seemed to be falling prey to the modern enthusiasm for narrative sermons. Maybe my problem is that I was looking for too much. But then, having received so much from him years ago, was it wrong to expect even more today?

—J. Peter Vosteen