All in All

I’ve always found the second of these two verses baffling:

For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

What does: “then the Son himself will also be subjected” mean? The commentator, John Calvin, says the following about these verses:

He hath put all things under his feet Some think that this quotation is taken from Psalm 8:6, and I have no objection to this, though there would be nothing out of place in reckoning this statement to be an inference that is drawn by Paul from the nature of Christ’s kingdom. Let us follow, however, the more generally received opinion. Paul shows from that Psalm, that God the Father has conferred upon Christ the power of all things, because it is said, “Thou hast put all things under his feet.”

Next is the part that I find confusing, to which, Calvin says:

All things put under him, except him who put all things under him. …It must be observed, that [Christ] has been appointed Lord and highest King, so as to be, as it were, the Father’s Vicegerent in the government of the world — not that he is employed and the Father unemployed (for how could that be, inasmuch as he is the wisdom and counsel of the Father, is of one essence with him, and is therefore himself God?)

But the reason why the Scripture testifies, that Christ now holds dominion over the heaven and the earth in the room of the Father is — that we may not think that there is any other governor, lord, protector, or judge of the dead and living, but may fix our contemplation on him alone.

We acknowledge, it is true, God as the ruler, but it is in the face of the man Christ. But Christ will then restore the kingdom which he has received, that we may cleave wholly to God. Nor will he in this way resign the kingdom, but will transfer it in a manner from his humanity to his glorious divinity, because a way of approach will then be opened up, from which our infirmity now keeps us back.

Thus then Christ will be subjected to the Father, because the vail being then removed, we shall openly behold God reigning in his majesty, and Christ’s humanity will then no longer be interposed to keep us back from a closer view of God.

Calvin’s description above brings to mind the description in the Book of the Revelation of the New Heavens and New Earth, the Holy City, and the River of Life. Carrying this thought further, Calvin says:

That God may be all in all …For the present, as the Devil resists God, as wicked men confound and disturb the order which he has established, and as endless occasions of offense present themselves to our view, it does not distinctly appear that God is all in all; but when Christ will have executed the judgment which has been committed to him by the Father, and will have cast down Satan and all the wicked, the glory of God will be conspicuous in their destruction.

The scriptures portray these events in the Defeat of Satan and Great White Throne Judgment. Calvin continues:

The same thing may be said also respecting powers that are sacred and lawful in their kind, for they in a manner hinder God’s being seen aright by us in himself. Then, on the other hand, God, holding the government of the heaven and the earth by himself, and without any [intervening agency], will in that respect be all, and will consequently at last be so, not only in all persons, but also in all creatures.

The Apostle Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, expressed it this way:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:19-21 (ESV)

Others have also commented on these verses, such as Chrysostom and Matthew Henry, who says that, when sin is no more, Christ in His glory will no longer be mediator between God and man but will be with man as God. But the commentary I like best is:

None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

    nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

1 Corinthians 2:8-9 (ESV)

Sunrise, Lake Michigan - Chicago, IL

Sunrise, Lake Michigan – Chicago, IL, 11 April 2012, 06:22:09, by vonderauvisuals, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Fear and Trembling

The Christian life is often criticized. Sometimes for right reasons and sometimes not. When it’s maligned, the Christian life is mischaracterized as an exercise in self-effort leading to self-aggrandizement. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we can’t live this life acceptably apart from total reliance on our Lord and Savior.

The Apostle Paul declared this doctrine in his letter to the Philippian church:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 English Standard Version (ESV)

For months, we’ve consistently appealed to John Calvin’s scripture commentary. His unique idiom is sometimes difficult to render, and even harder to untangle, in the English language. We’ve tried to simplify his compressed and iterative text by rephrasing or reordering his words. We indicate these modifications with ellipses and square brackets. Let’s examine his exposition of this doctrine. First, Calvin contrasts those who apply this principle with those who do not:

…[One makes] progress in the knowledge of both the grace of God and [their] own weakness [when, awakened from negligence, they] diligently seek God’s help; while those that are puffed up with confidence in their own strength, must necessarily be at the same time in a state of intoxicated security.

He differentiates between two types of fear, only one of which leads to a good outcome:

…There are two kinds of fear; the one produces anxiety along with humility; the other hesitation. The former is opposed to fleshly confidence, negligence, [and] arrogance; the latter [is opposed] to assurance of faith.

…For distrust of ourselves leads us to lean more confidently upon the mercy [and grace] of God [alone]. And this is what Paul [implies], for he requires nothing from the Philippians, but that they submit themselves to God with true self-renunciation.

It’s somewhat startling to read this view from the namesake of Calvinism. Further, from the scriptures, Calvin shows us that starting and continuing in self-renunciation is supplied by God:

…For [Paul] does not say that our hearts are simply turned or stirred up, or that the infirmity of a good will is helped, but that a good inclination is wholly the work of God…as he promises by Ezekiel, —

“I will cause them to walk in my commandments.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

From this we infer that perseverance, also, is his free gift.

Summarizing the doctrine, Calvin writes:

Hence [Paul] teaches, that the whole course of our life, if we live aright, is regulated by God, and that, too, from his unmerited goodness.

Therefore, let us acknowledge that we are His workmanship by walking in the works He created for us to do.

R.C. Sproul – Fear and Trembling – Fear and Trembling Series, Uploaded to YouTube on Apr 1, 2011

Nip ‘Em in the Bud

What a silly sounding phrase. What does it mean?

Wikidictionary gives:

  1. To remove a bud from a plant to prevent flower and fruit from forming.
  2. (idiomatic) To stop something at an early stage.

Phrases.org.uk says the idiom originated in 1607 and gives a definition:

Put a stop to something while it is still in its early development.

I think Wikidictionary definition one has been happening to my lilac bush for the past few years. But, let’s nip this silliness in the bud. What real importance does this idiomatic phrase hold for us?

It’s the usual approach used to discredit and cast doubt on the bible’s veracity. Why bother reading the Gospel of John when you can’t trust the very first book, Genesis, or so goes the argument. Really, the argument centers on the first two chapters of that first book. The bud, so to speak.

Wikipedia expounds on the controversy over the first two chapters of Genesis in their entry: Genesis creation narrative. The issues raised are: use of names of God, the uniqueness and mutability of man’s soul, and an issue with naming the animals and their creation. These discrepancies are attributed to different authorship and traditions. Also, the Wikipedia entry authors introduce the concept of borrowed mythology altered to represent monotheism.

Our go to reference, John Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis, discusses most of these points.

As to names of God, Calvin says:

Genesis, Chap. 2, Vs. 4. These are the generations… Some of the Hebrews think that the essential name of God is here at length expressed by Moses, because his majesty shines forth more clearly in the completed world.

To this, the Commentary translator, John King, adds:

A new section of the history of Moses commences at this point; and, from the repetition which occurs of some facts — such as the creation of man — which had been recorded in the preceding chapter, as well as from certain peculiarities of phraseology, many learned men have inferred, that the early portion of the Mosaic history is older than the time of Moses, and that he, under the infallible direction of the Spirit of God, collected and arranged the several fragments of primeval annals in one consistent narrative.

One chief argument on which such a conclusion rests is, that from the commencement of the first chapter to the end of the third verse of the second chapter, God is spoken of only under the name of Elohim [Spirit of God]; from the fourth verse of the second to the end of the third chapter, he is uniformly styled Jehovah Elohim [Self existent one, Spirit of God]; and in the fourth and fifth chapters, the name of Elohim or of Jehovah stands alone.

This, it is argued, could scarcely have occurred without some cause; and the inference has been drawn, that different records had different forms of expression, which Moses did not alter, unless truth required him to do so.

Against this view, however, [another commentator] argues with considerable force, in his Dissertation “on the Names of God in the Pentateuch;”… that these names are intended to present the Divine character under different aspects to our view.

As to uniqueness of man, Calvin says:

Chap. 1, Vs. 26, Let us make man…In our image… Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated, as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good.

Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth. …In the mind perfect intelligence flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and molded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order.

As to uniqueness of man’s soul as opposed to those of the animals, Calvin says:

Chap. 2, Vs. 7, And the Lord God formed man… Nevertheless, he, at the same time, designed to distinguish man by some mark of excellence from brute animals: for these arose out of the earth in a moment; but the peculiar dignity of man is shown in this, that he was gradually formed. For why did not God command him immediately to spring alive out of the earth, unless that, by a special privilege, he might outshine all the creatures which the earth produced?

And breathed into his nostrils… Three gradations, indeed, are to be noted in the creation of man; that his dead body was formed out of the dust of the earth; that it was endued with a soul, whence it should receive vital motion; and that on this soul God engraved his own image, to which immortality is annexed.

Man became a living soul I take nepesh for the very essence of the soul: but the epithet living suits only the present place, and does not embrace generally the powers of the soul. For Moses intended nothing more than to explain the animating of the clayey figure, whereby it came to pass that man began to live…

As to changeability of man’s condition, Calvin says:

Chap. 1, Vs. 26, Let us make man…In our image… But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed. For besides the deformity which everywhere appears unsightly, this evil also is added, that no part is free from the infection of sin.

Chap. 3, Vs. 6, And gave also unto her husband with her… Pride was the beginning of all evils, and that by pride the human race was ruined. Yet a fuller definition of the sin may be drawn from the kind of temptation which Moses describes. For first the woman is led away from the word of God by the wiles of Satan, through unbelief.  Wherefore, the commencement of the ruin by which the human race was overthrown was a defection from the command of God.

…At length, having despised the command of God, they not only indulge their own lust, but enslave themselves to the devil. If anyone prefers a shorter explanation, we may say unbelief has opened the door to ambition, but ambition has proved the parent of rebellion, to the end that men, having cast aside the fear of God, might shake off his yoke.

Chap. 3, Vs. 7, And the eyes of them both were opened… God created man flexible; and not only permitted, but willed that he should be tempted. …Therefore, whatever sin and fault there is in the fall of our first parents remains with themselves; but there is sufficient reason why the eternal counsel of God preceded it, though that reason is concealed from us.

As to the creation act, Calvin says:

Chap. 1, Vs. 3, And God said… Moses now, for the first time, introduces God in the act of speaking, as if he had created the mass of heaven and earth without the Word. Yet John testifies that ‘without him nothing was made of the things which were made,’ (John 1:3). And it is certain that the world had been begun by the same efficacy of the Word by which it was completed. God, however, did not put forth his Word until he proceeded to originate light; because in the act of distinguishing, his wisdom begins to be conspicuous.

Chap. 1, Vs. 5, The first day… Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction.

Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men. We slightingly pass over the infinite glory of God, which here shines forth; whence arises this but from our excessive dullness in considering his greatness? In the meantime, the vanity of our minds carries us away elsewhere.

For the correction of this fault, God applied the most suitable remedy when he distributed the creation of the world into successive portions that he might fix our attention, and compel us, as if he had laid his hand upon us, to pause and to reflect.

As to the first and second accounts of creation, he says:

Chap. 2, Vs. 4, These are the generations… The design of Moses was deeply to impress upon our minds the origin of the heaven and the earth, which he designates by the word generation… Wherefore, it is not a superfluous repetition which inculcates the necessary fact that the world existed only from the time when it was created since such knowledge directs us to its Architect and Author.

Chap. 2, Vs. 7, And the Lord God formed man… He now explains what he had before omitted in the creation of man that his body was taken out of the earth. He had said that he was formed after the image of God…

As to other creation accounts, he says:

Chap. 1, Vs. 1, In the beginning…  [Moses] moreover teaches by the word “created,” that what before did not exist was now made; for he has not used the term yatsar, which signifies to frame or forms but bara which signifies to create. Therefore his meaning is that the world was made out of nothing.

Hence the folly of those is refuted who imagine that unformed matter existed from eternity; and who gather nothing else from the narration of Moses than that the world was furnished with new ornaments, and received a form of which it was before destitute.

This indeed was formerly a common fable among heathens, who had received only an obscure report of the creation, and who, according to custom, adulterated the truth of God with strange figments; but for Christian men to labor …in maintaining this gross error is absurd and intolerable. Let this, then be maintained in the first place, that the world is not eternal but was created by God.

On an interesting point to note about God’s all–encompassing sovereignty, Calvin expounds:

Chap. 1, Vs. 3, Let there be light… It was proper that the light, by means of which the world was to be adorned with such excellent beauty, should be first created; …It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by accident, that the light preceded the [creation of] sun and the moon.

To nothing are we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments the agency of which he employs. The sun and moon supply us with light: And, according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for any light to remain.

Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon.

Roughly three hundred forty years later, B. B. Warfield, Princeton Theological Seminary’s last Calvinist Presbyterian Principal (equivalent to President), wrote the following in his 1915 article Calvin’s Doctrine of Creation.

“It should scarcely be passed without remark that Calvin’s doctrine of creation is, if we have understood it aright, for all except the souls of men, an evolutionary one. The ‘indigested mass,’ including the ‘promise and potency’ of all that was yet to be, was called into being by the simple fiat of God. But all that has come into being since — except the souls of men alone — has arisen as a modification of this original world-stuff by means of the interaction of its intrinsic forces. Not these forces apart from God, of course…”

Warfield’s incorrect attempt to reconcile Calvin’s Commentary with Darwin’s evolution theory through old earth creationism sounds very much like this dawn of man scene from 2001 space odyssey.

Dawn of Man Scene from 2001 Space Odyssey

You can’t have it both ways. As was said above, God is free to create in ways, timing, and manner as He sees fit ex-nihilo. He has graciously accommodated us in how He structured creation. Dorothy L. Sayers put forward an idea for us to understand the creation of man in the context of the fossil record as a unique act of creation with a perfect backstory (see Every Good Story – Thysdor Ya’Rosel).

If you attack the trustworthiness of the very first chapters, then have you not undermined the foundations and left entry for utter destruction of the rest? This can be seen in the split from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) after Warfield’s tenure by Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) under Machen in 1929. PTS abandoned the veracity of God’s word. WTS was formed to uphold it. The attack was successful then and it will be so again if we don’t hold on to the truth of the word of God.

Evolutionist propagandists are not concerned with the proper order of sediments, transitionary evidence, or aeons. Their concern is not for truth. Their concern is like those of their ancient compatriots, to throw off the yoke of the Lord who made them. For what purpose but that they may go their own way. And so they shall. Will you, however, follow them?

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole (

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1828, by Thomas Cole (1801–1848), public domain – US