Children of God and Children of the Devil Celebrating Christmas

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

 

There is a popular Christmas song that we do not sing in our churches because we believe its message is unbiblical:

Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

This song describes Santa Claus as a giver of gifts. However, Santa only brings gifts to people (to children in particular) who are nice and good. He does not present gifts to naughty and bad children. Thankfully, our God is not like the fabricated Santa Claus, because according to our text, God offers His Son—the greatest gift of all—to sinners such as you and I:

 For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,

Who is the “us” here? Well, looking at the immediate context, this pronoun “us” refers to the people of Israel who at this time were living in utter darkness of sin. They were very naughty and bad. Yet, the Prophet Isaiah says, “For unto us [sinners] a child is born, unto us [sinners] a son is given.” This is good news!

Observe the following:

1. God’s gift is a person: “a child,” not a thing or an animal. This gift is so precious and unique, and worthy of all acceptation.

2. God’s gift is particular: “a son.” This is God’s only Son—the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to save sinners from the power and penalty of sin.

3. God’s gift is presented: “given to us.” God is graciously giving His only Son to us sinners for our salvation. And John the Beloved tells us that all who receive His Son and believe in His name will be given the right to become God’s children (John 1:12).

Have you received God’s Son? If not, you remain a child of the devil. Remember what Jesus says of those who do not receive Him as Lord and Savior, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). Sadly, many people around the globe celebrate Christmas without Christ. Ironically, they celebrate Christmas as children of the devil. Are you one of them?

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An Interview with William VanDoodeward about his book The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition: Atonement, Saving Faith, and the Gospel Offer in Scotland (1718-1799). Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 313 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As a lover of historical theology, I enjoyed reading your well researched book—the best on the subject.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. Can you please briefly explain to us the terms “Marrow controversy” and “Seceder tradition”? Also, how are these two subjects connected to each other?

The “Marrow controversy” refers to a theological and ecclesiastical controversy in Scottish Presbyterianism between the years 1718-1726, centering on the republication of The Marrow of Modern Divinity by a gospel-hearted minister, James Hog of Carnock, in response to what he and others saw as a growing tendency towards legalism. A decade later, over a different issue in the life of the church, patronage (which allowed local nobles a key hand in the calling of ministers) several of the ministers who had been involved in the Marrow controversy (including Ebenezer Erskine) became instrumental in forming the Associate Presbytery (the beginning of the Scottish Secession churches). In my work I sought to evaluate whether the theology of the Marrow supporters in the window of the controversy was similar to the theology characterizing the Secession churches during the following century.

 

  1. What are the issues central to the Marrow controversy and why are these issues important to us today?      

Issues of legalism and antinomianism were key to the English and Scottish contexts of the Marrow of Modern Divinity, through in the Scottish context it appears the key challenge was error on the side of legalism – particularly a legal preparationism. As Sinclair Ferguson notes in his lectures, legalism and antinomianism are perennial issues of the sinful human heart. We try to establish our own righteousness before God apart from Christ, and we pursue sin and treat his costly grace as through it were a cheap thing, or act as through his holiness, expressed to us by his law, has no claims on us. These two errors often go hand in hand. It is the faithful preaching of the gospel which unmasks the ugly reality of both and graciously provides the divine answer in Christ.

 

To keep reading the interview, click here.

Gospel Marrow Controversy Puritan Scottish Presbyterianism Seceder Tradition

A Brakel’s Use of Doctrine in Calling Sinners to Repentance and Faith

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th century Baptist preacher said “Soulwinning is the chief business of the Christian minister, indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer.” In 2 Timothy 4:5 the Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, to not only preach the Word, but to do the work of an evangelist in order to fulfil his ministry. Evangelism and soul-winning ought to occupy the mind and heart of every minister of the gospel. It is clear from Brakel’s works that he had a great concern for the salvation of the unconverted. Throughout his instruction in Christian doctrine and practice there are numerous sections where he seeks to exhort and persuade sinners to come to Christ for salvation. From this it is evident that Brakel was more than just a theologian. He was a pastor with a heart for the lost. He no doubt preached as he wrote, pleading with and exhorting sinners of their need of Christ. We can learn from Brakel in this today.

 

The article is by Jonathan Holdt, a Th. M. student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Click here to read his entire paper.

Evangelism Faith Gospel Repentance Wilhelmus à Brakel