What Shall I Do to be Saved?

Where were you when that dumpster exploded on Saturday, the 17th of September, 2016, at about 8:30 PM, between 6th and 7th Avenues on 23rd Street in Manhattan? Witnesses reported an event that shook buildings around the epicenter. Windows were blown out, and those on the street were injured. It didn’t look like terrorism initially (it was,) but the neighborhood was shaken up.

Something similar happened in first century Philippi, in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Greece. This time it was an earthquake that shook up the neighborhood. Doors to cells in the local prison were opened, and the jailer, no doubt shaken from sleep, supposed his life was forfeit because his charges had escaped. One of the prisoners, the Apostle Paul, called to the jailer not to harm himself; they were all still there. The jailer, trembling with fear, rushed to Paul and his companion, Silas, and:

…He brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30 English Standard Version (ESV)

Paul and Silas “spoke the word” to the jailer and his household. As a result, he and his household all believed in God. John Calvin comments on this verse here.

This same Apostle Paul concisely addressed the nature of this belief:

…If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

But, how are we to believe this? Is it by strength of will or a leap into the dark? Stepping back a bit, Calvin says we must first have faith to believe. What, then, is the nature of this faith? To this, the author of the letter to the Hebrews says:

…Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

Calvin explains the second clause of this verse this way:

…We ought to be fully persuaded that God is not sought in vain; and this persuasion includes the hope of salvation and eternal life.

And, it behooves us to recognize that God freely grants us this faith by His unmerited favor (i.e., grace) so that we might believe in Him:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

Probing further, this belief was encapsulated in the Apostle’s Creed (as early as 180 AD):

  1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
  2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
  3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
  4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
  5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
  6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
  7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
  8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
  9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
  10. The forgiveness of sins:
  11. The resurrection of the body:
  12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

After controversies over God’s nature, a creedal statement, attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria and rooted in Augustine’s On the Trinity (415 AD), was formulated that encompassed right belief on the matter. The gist of the Athanasian creed is:

  • Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [i.e., all-embracing or universal] faith;
  • And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
  • Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Nicene creed (381 AD) appears to combine significant elements of the prior two creeds:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen

These and other historical creeds have been systematized in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Many scripture truths are condensed in the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

I heartily encourage that you study these Westminster documents as you diligently read the Scriptures which, as the Apostle James admonishes, are able to save your soul.

So, if you have believed in His name; be certain that it has been granted to you and:

…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

Now, we embark together to follow our Savior.

Stephen Nichols: East of Eden: Our Need for a Savior, Reformation Bible College

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