Category Archives: Gaffin

Joy to the World!

icicles_16494ac“’All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth and sky and sea.’ To sing that line from this well-known hymn is to confess that the present praise of creation is not merely pre-eschatological, destined in the end for the silence of eternal extinction. The present creation awaits the eschatological voice it will receive when, free at last from its ‘bondage to corruption,’ it will ‘obtain the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.’ With this obtaining together with the sons of God, creation’s praise— beyond all sighing and in a manner beyond present comprehension— will heighten their enjoyment of that freedom and glory in the new creation of God. (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “What ‘Symphony of Sighs’” in Redeeming the Life of the Mind, pp. 160-161).

“The language of the Psalmist amounts to a declaration that God would not save the world by means of an ordinary kind, but would come forth himself and show that he was the author of a salvation in every respect so singular…. [M]ercy of such a wonderful, and to us, incomprehensible kind, should be celebrated by no ordinary means of praise.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, on Psalm 98).

“The Psalms we sing now are a rehearsal, and God’s presence among his worshippers is a prelude to His appearing to the world.” (Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 353).

Quotes used in the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.

Unashamed of the Gospel

Bible_14579cp“Faith always connects the power of God with the word, which it does not imagine to be at a distance, but . . . possesses and retains it.” (John Calvin, Commen­tary on 2 Timothy).
“The origin of the believ­er’s faith does not lie in himself but in the calling of God, which in its irrevocable efficacy and power is life-giving and creative (Rom. 4:17; 11:29; Eph. 1:18-20; II Tim. 1:9). Yet this call­ing only realizes its en­livening function in the act of establishing fel­lowship with Christ (I Cor. 1:9), the life-giving Spirit, apart from whom there is neither life nor justification nor adoption nor sanctification nor any other saving reality. . . .” (Richard B. Gaffin, The Centrality of the Resurrection: A Study in Paul’s Soter-iolo­gy, p. 142).

Used in the Sunday afternoon Bible study on 2 Timothy 1 at Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.





Rm0829a“With an eye to current ongoing discussions, where charges of ‘antinomianism’ and ‘legalism’ are often exchanged—sometimes warranted, sometimes not—it will help to keep clear that in its application salvation is neither justification-centered nor sanctification-centered, but is and has to be both because it is Christ-centered. Both justification and sanctification are central to the gospel, because union with Christ in all his benefits is its center.” (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “The Work of Christ Applied,” in Christian Theology. Reformed Theology for the Catholic Church, M. Allen and S. Swain, eds., 2016).

“For Us and for Our Salvation”

NH_coverAs the congregation I serve gathers for worship tomorrow morning, we will use the Nicene Creed as a confession of faith. What does the phrase, “for us and for our salvation” really mean? Dr. Richard B. Gaffin explores that: He asks:

This confession prompts the question I want to consider here. How specifically is the resurrection “for our salvation”? What in particular is the saving efficacy, or “efficiency,” of the resurrection? Or, to ask the question negatively, without the resurrection, what would become of our salvation?

To the question of how Christ’s death is for our salvation, virtually every Christian will likely have a ready and heartfelt answer: he died that my sins might be forgiven, to bear in my place the eternal punishment my sin deserves. Most if not all believers grasp in some measure the saving truth of penal substitution, of Christ’s “once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God” (Shorter Catechism, 25). At the same time, however, it seems fair to say that in general Christians are not as clear about the answer to our question about the saving efficacy of the resurrection.

Near the end he writes:

Our privilege, great beyond our comprehension, is this: we have been chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) to the ultimate end that we be like Christ. This conformity to his image, already being worked in us by the sanctifying power of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19), will be fully realized when, like him, we are raised bodily.

But there is more to this than what is ultimate for us. Even more ultimate in God’s predestinating purposes is what is at stake for the Son personally in our salvation, what he has invested for himself. This, as much as anything, is why from all eternity the Son willed, together with the Father and the Spirit, to become incarnate, to suffer and die. He did so, so that, having been resurrected triumphant over sin and death, he might have brothers like himself—brothers glorified not because of anything in themselves, but entirely because of his saving mercy. They will share with him in this triumph and magnify forever his own preeminent exaltation glory. And so his “kingdom shall have no end.”

Surely there can be no more ultimate perspective on Christ’s resurrection “for us and for our salvation” than this.

You will read the article with profit!

No Condemnation!


“In late medieval Roman Catholicism, the future verdict at the final judgment was the uncertain outcome of the Christian life. In contrast the Reformers came to understand that, in effect, the verdict belonging at the end of history has been brought forward and already pronounced on believers in history, and so constitutes the certain and stable basis for the Christian life and provides unshakable confidence in the face of the final judgment.” (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., By Faith, Not by Sight, p. 92).

“…when the Father sent the Son it was for the purpose of dealing with sin. Nothing should be allowed to detract from that simple but profound truth. For by it we are advised that the coming of the Son of God into the world had no relevance apart from the fact of sin.” (John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 1, p. 280).

This Friday evening’s 101 Bible Study in Astoria focuses on Romans 8:1-4. You are welcome to join us! Call or text 971/238-6101 for details.

Law and Gospel, Faith and Works

ephes_12191cIn preparing for the next 101 Bible Study I ran across this:

For Paul, faith and works, that is, an extraspective trust in and reliance on Christ, as an act of obedience, and other acts of obedience are distinct from each other but inseparable. In fact, we may say, faith and good works, thus distinguished, are always synecdochic. To speak of the one invariably has the other in view; they are unintelligible apart from each other. They always exist  without confusion, yet inseparably. James 2:18, “Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works”–which admits of no exceptions for those in restored fellowship, by faith, with God–is a fair commentary on Paul in this regard.

From this perspective, it should be appreciated that the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself, it is not a theological ultimate. That antithesis arises not by virtue of creation, but as the consequence of sin, and the gospel functions to overcome it. The gospel removes an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer. How so? Briefly, apart from the gospel and outside of Christ, the law is my enemy and condemns me. Why? Because God is my enemy and condemns me. But with the gospel and in Christ, united to him by faith, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend. Why? Because God is no longer my enemy but my friend, and the law, his will–the law in its moral core, as reflective of his character and of concerns eternally inherent in his own person and so of what pleases him–is now my friendly guide for life in fellowship with God.

faith_4118a(Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation, pp. 117-118)

There’s a lot to chew on in these few sentences! In context Gaffin is discussing the concept of faith working through love in Galatians 5:6 and similar expressions in Ephesians 2:10, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

Sin as an act of deprivation

At first glance this may not seem to be relevant to the theme of the incarnation–but on reflection, it has everything to do with why God became man in Jesus Christ. I am listening to a lecture by Dr. Richard Gaffin (Doctrine of Salvation, # 24, which you can find here): “The downside of sin is not only its consequences, but sin itself is an act of deprivation. For me to sin is to deprive myself of the enjoyment of God.”