Notes From Ligonier National Conference
I recently attended the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando, Florida. The focus on this conference was to deliver a statement on Christology, and all of the teaching sessions were built around that. I have decided to make my notes available and I hope these resources edify you as they have me. All the sessions can be viewed either on Ligonier’s website or on their mobile app.
February 25, 2016
God’s Design for Creation – W Robert Godfrey
Creation is Personal
The God of creation was already known to the Israelites at the time Genesis was written. For Christians, creation reveals to us a God that we already know, creation isn’t evidence of a God that we don’t know. We don’t live in a universe that is dead and lonely. When God created, he made a world that is suitable for man.
Creation is Plentiful
The bounty of creation is for man. Creation is for man’s amusement. Creation is sufficient for man’s sustenance. Creation is for man’s study and expanding knowledge. Mankind is at the epicenter of creation. Creation, in all its bounty, is for the benefit of man.
Creation is Purposeful
Man is given a directive as image bearers to take dominion of creation. Dr. Godfrey stated, “We have a divine purpose to reflect our divine Maker.” The directives in creation give man his purpose in this life. We have a purpose in work, and we have a purpose in rest. The “one day in seven” rest was given to us to be a purposeful pursuit of time with God himself. We have a directive to spend one day in rest, focused on God and not on our own devices.
God’s Design for Adam – William VanDoodewaard
A Historical Adam
Dr. VanDoodewaard stated, “What matters is not believing in an Adam and Eve, but the Adam and Eve of Scripture.” But what difference does this make? The infinite and marvelous work of God in creation seamlessly integrates with the nature of God elsewhere in Scripture. What happens when we say the description of the elements of creation is figurative? If we adopt this hermeneutic, there is no exegetical line to be drawn from the text. If we hold to a figurative approach at the beginning of Scripture, there is nothing to stop us from continuing this approach through the rest of Scripture. Our exegetical approach in the beginning of Scripture will drive our approach through the rest of Scripture. A literal reading of the creation account maintains the integrity of human life.
God’s Design for Male and Female – Albert Mohler
Every Word in that Title is Controversial
The meltdown of morality will not stop once it has begun to infect society. This is not a new reality, it is a denial of existing reality. To be human is to be “male and female.” Being fruitful and multiplying is, in societies without the Bible, an evidence of common grace. God’s purpose in creation is that men and women unite in marriage and multiply. Sin progressively works its way through society. We, as Christians, should subvert sin’s advance through the gospel. We are in the fight because it matters, not because we seek intellectual superiority.
The Gospel as Historical Fact – Albert Mohler
Questioning things like the historicity of things like the Fall, the Flood, and other ancient marvelous stories will naturally lead to questioning the historicity of the gospel accounts themselves. This is currently leaking into Evangelicalism. But this is not a modern heresy. 2 Peter 1:16-21 tells us that the writers of Scripture were witnesses of actual events, and did not devise such tales themselves, but were given the power to record them by the eternal Spirit of God. The apostles recorded these things so we might have “certainty” (Luke 1:4). Historical accounts do not begin in the gospels. Everything written since “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) is written to reveal to us things that really took place. The Bible’s understanding of history is that things happened as they were written. Questioning historical events didn’t begin in the Enlightenment, it began in the garden when Satan asked, “yea, hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1)
Chosen in Christ: God’s Eternal Plan of Redemption – Ian Hamilton
God’s plan to save sinners elected unto salvation should not be a doctrine of controversy, but a doctrine that drives us to worship. This should not leave us in a state of arrogance or pride, but in a state of marvelous thanks for God’s unsearchable depths of love. How does the Bible explain to us the full work of Christ? Christ came as the obedient servant of God, sent to earth from the throne of God to fulfill the commands of God. We are either joined to Adam as a covenant head, or we are joined to Christ as a covenant head. Adam was a disobedient son, Christ is the obedient Son, obedient even unto death. The covenant of redemption was made not only between the Father and the Son, but the Spirit as well. The Spirit empowered Christ to fulfill the covenant in our stead. God’s plan of redemption was laid in Christ to be accomplished by Christ. Christ himself is the founding cornerstone of the covenant of grace. In Christ alone rests our only hope. Our hope resides outside of ourselves. What is the ground of our hope in the gospel? It is not electing love that saves, it is Jesus Christ, the gift of God’s electing love that saves. It is not merely love that saves, but the obedient Son of God made flesh. The ground of our hope is not our own faith in Christ, but the work of Christ himself. The glory of the Reformed faith is not that we preach the Sovereignty of God, but that we preach the glory of the triune God himself. Our teaching and preaching should be primarily focused on the persons of the trinity, not merely their attributes. Why is this doctrine the greatest of comfort to believers? Doctrine is not for the learned few, but for all the people of God. Doctrine matters. A proper doctrine of our God will lead us to proper worship of our God. I have said before, accurate theology leads to adequate doxology. Jesus Christ is himself the gospel. The good news is Jesus Christ. The thing held out to us as the gospel is not just justification or redemption, but the person of Christ himself. The fullness of grace is revealed to us in God’s Son. Christ did not buy God’s love for us through the cross, but Christ’s atoning work on the cross was the gift of the Father to us, whom he loved before the foundation of the world in Christ. “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.” – Geerhardus Vos. Why has God loved us so? Why, oh why, has such loved been placed on me? This is the question that will drive us to worship for all eternity.
The English Reformation – Michael Reeves (Optional Session)
Why should we care about the English reformers? Two questions drove Dr. Reeves to discover the old reformers, “How can I be saved?” and “How can I know what is true?” Luther was taught salvation by grace, not grace alone. He was taught that grace was a catalyst to holiness, and God will only save those who are holy. Luther discovered that this is not sufficient to satisfy the soul. We recognize that it is only Christ’s righteousness given to us by grace through faith that we are saved. We cannot be holy in ourselves, we seek our strength in Christ alone. “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” – Richard Sibbes. This is laid out in Scripture, but how can we know this is true? We don’t prove Scripture, the Scripture proves itself. The Spirit effectually makes itself known to believers. This knowledge drove the English reformers to set a fire through the country. Reformers like William Tyndale, who made the Bible available in the English language for the first time, which was illegal at the time. Soon after, Bible reading in English was made legal for the first time. People soon began questioning the popish priests against the Scriptures. Pre-imminently, this revealed the comfort and delight of faith in the glorious Christ. This legacy gave way to the Puritan writers. “Christ cannot love me better than he does, I think I cannot love Christ better than I do now.” -Thomas Goodwin. The Puritans sought to move men’s eyes from their own works to Christ’s finished work.
A Survey of Church History – W Robert Godfrey (Optional Session)
Modern Christians have an attitude of being “latter day saints” in that we pretend we don’t need church history because we know best about matters of faith. Studying church history gives us a knowledge of solidified truths from the past, and errors from the past. Errors tend to resurface. Knowing errors from the past lets us respond well to errors today. Christianity has been fairly established many times in history, very recently in America. It has since been disestablished. How should we think about this? When persecution or ill befalls the church, it is a reminder to the church to remove our faith from our established privilege, and back to our only foundation of hope in Christ.
Calvinism and the Christian Life – Ian Hamilton (Optional Session)
Calvinism is deeper than a mere five truths. Has the system of Calvinism captured your heart, or only your mind? The intention is not to leave only our minds captivated by knowledge, but our entire lives. The saving grace of God subdues our rebellious heart and brings us to docility. A Calvinist will live a life resting in God’s sovereignty. A Calvinist is in love with God’s abounding grace. When we cherish God’s grace, we cherish God himself. A Calvinist lives a life “coram Deo” (before the face of God). John Calvin sought first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and a true Calvinist should do the same. Calvinism is a life shaped by God’s holiness. Worldliness has crept in and poisoned the church. A Calvinist satisfied by scriptural worship. Calvinism pursues a Godly catholicity. We should look beyond ourselves, and have a genuine love for the universal church. Calvinism seeks to pursue a holy communion with God. We should be marked by our desire to draw near to God.
Beginning with Moses: Christ in all the Scriptures – Steven Lawson
The whole Bible is about Christ. From the act of creation (Christ working as the agent of the Father), to the final benediction in Revelation, Christ is the fullness of the Scriptures. Moses and the prophets spoke with one voice concerning Jesus. Their entire message was about Christ. In Luke 24, Christ tells us of the unity of the Scriptures. The perfect unity of the Scriptures is that salvation is through Christ alone. The entire theme of Scripture is to testify of Christ. Theology must always return to Christ. Every aspect of Christian doctrine, whether it be soteriology, ecclesiology, or eschatology, should point us to Christ. A proper view of Christ in the Scriptures points us not only to his glory, but his debasement also. What is the proper response to this? We must read both the old and new testaments to see Jesus and understand his work in the plan of redemption. But, most important of all, search your heart to see if you have truly believed on Jesus Christ as your only hope of redemption.
Why the God-Man: The Mystery of the Incarnation – Stephen Nichols
If Jesus came only to heal, remove oppressive social structures, or raise the dead, he did not have to be God. Jesus, the God-Man, came to forgive sins. The ultimate problem that man has cannot be solved by man. The problem of sin must be solved by God himself. Christ’s mission as Messiah is to make God known by forgiving sins. Why must we have our sins forgiven? Because of the wrath of God. Our primary problem is the abiding wrath of God on sinners. The only answer is Christ making peace by the blood of his cross. Society continually tells us that man is not that bad. But inevitably, some event happens that reminds us of our need for a Savior. God would not be just to forgive the sin of men without a payment by a man. Jesus, as the perfect God-Man effectually purchased the redemption of sinful men.
February 26, 2016
No Hope Without It: The Life of Christ – Steven Lawson
When we think of the gospel, most times we think of the death and resurrection of Christ, but we also need to understand the active obedience of Christ. Not only are we saved by the death of Christ, but also the life of Christ. Christ died in our place, and lived in our place. The righteousness that we are clothed in does not come from nothing, it comes from the work of Christ. In Galatians 4:4, Paul tells us that Christ was born “under the law.” By being under the law, Christ is now accountable to fulfill the law. This is critical. If there is no imputation of Christ’s righteousness then there is no salvation. We are saved by works, but no ours, Christ’s. Every step of Christ’s life was to “fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) Christ did not end the law, but he fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). Christ did not give a new law, but revealed what the interpretation of the law was supposed to be when he originally gave it. Since we have been imputed Adam’s sin, we need another Adam to impute righteousness (Romans 5). Christ’s work is paralleled to Adam’s work. The obedience of Christ is an essential attribute of our salvation (Romans 5:19). Because of Adam’s sin, we have a negative balance in our spiritual account. Through Christ’s passive obedience on the cross, our negative balance due to sin has been removed. But we require Christ’s active obedience to move our account into the positive. Without Christ’s active obedience, we cannot enter heaven.
A Curse for Us: The Death of Christ – Ian Hamilton
The cross of Christ isn’t simply a truth we confess, but a truth we glory in. The cross is our only hope. Our sins are imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. Why does Paul mention Jesus’ sinlessness in 2 Corinthians 5? Because only he who did not have his own sin could beat the sin of others. We needed one like us to accomplish that we cannot. God made Christ to be sin. God himself delivered Jesus up for us out of love. Why did God make Christ to be sin? So that we might become righteous. Christ became sin so that we would become righteousness. God does not reconcile himself to all men without distinction, but to those in Christ. Only in Christ can we appear before God clothed in righteousness, because that righteousness is not ours, but Christ’s. Nothing we can do will add one inkling to our righteousness. It is all of Christ. It is not we who made Christ to be sin, it was the Father who did this because he loved us and wanted reconciliation with us, his children. How do I get out of my sin and into God’s righteousness? By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology – Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul
“We confess the mystery and wonder of God made flesh and rejoice in our great salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son created all things, sustains all things, and makes all things new. Truly God, He became truly man, two natures in one person.
He was born of the Virgin Mary and lived among us. Crucified, dead, and buried, He rose on the third day, ascended to heaven, and will come again in glory and judgement.
For us, He kept the Law, atoned for sin, and satisfied God’s wrath. He took our filthy rags and gave us His righteous robe.
He is our Prophet, Priest, and King, building His church, interceding for us, and reigning over all things.
Jesus Christ is Lord; we praise His holy Name forever.
Fellow Reformed Collective writer Tony Arsenal has written a response to this statement here. Please view his article for an in depth look. You can read the statement as well as the 25 Articles and explanatory essay at christologystatement.com.
He Is Not Here: The Resurrection of Christ – Michael Reeves
At the resurrection, we are looking at the inauguration of the new creation. This is the most glorious moment since the foundation of the world. Christ’s tomb became the womb of the new creation, giving birth to the first fruits of the new earth. The new creation (the new Eden), requires a new Adam (a new Gardener), Christ himself. Christ was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). On the third day of creation, we see the first fruits of creation bearing fruit after their kind. So also, Christ, being the first fruit of the new creation, will bear fruit after his own kind, to the benefit of those who are in him. Justification is equated with life. In Christ we are given new life, as those who are in him are the fruit after his seed. He shall see his seed (Isaiah 53:10).
Taken Up Into Heaven: The Ascension of Christ – W Robert Godfrey
How does Christ’s ascension benefit us? What is the advantage to us in Jesus leaving us? We are who we are as Christians because of who Christ is for us in heaven. The ascension speaks of how Christ is glorified in heaven. After his ascension, Christ is more fully glorified because of his accomplishing the commands of the Father. Christ has been glorified so that we will be glorified. We will share in his glory. Because of his glorification, we receive an abundance of gifts through Christ. Christ’s immeasurable power empowers us. Because of this, there is no resistance possible to Christ and his purposes. Christ is greater than all powers of this world. Christ left the earth so that all Christians could draw near to him by the Spirit. We have every spiritual blessing given to us by Christ. There is no other blessing to look for.
February 27, 2016
Our Great High Priest: The Heavenly Ministry of Christ – Ian Hamilton
Christ is supreme, and his sacrifice is perfect. His sacrifice did really accomplish a redemption for the people for whom it was intended. The knowledge of the greatness and glory shall be an immense comfort to his people. Jesus Christ himself is the application of the gospel. Hebrews 9:24 tells us that Christ currently appears before God for us. This is his present ministry. He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). What is Christ’s intercession? He is not pleading with the Father to bless us. His intercession is his presence at the right hand of the Father. It is not vocal. By his person he has secured every spiritual blessing for us. John Calvin remarks in his commentary on Romans 8:34, “But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.” What is the content of his intercession? We must look at what Christ prays in John 17. He prays that the Father would keep the apostles from the evil one. Our greatest enemy is not indwelling sin, or the corruption of the world, but the devil himself. Christ prays that the Father would separate us from the world and draw us to himself. We do not remove ourselves from the world, but we also do not become like the world. The Christian life is to live unto God. For whom is he interceding? For those united to himself. Why does God sanctify his people? To bring glory to his Son, Jesus. Christ prays also that the people of God would be unified. The world should see Christ lifted up by his people. Who are they that draw near to God? They are those who have believed the gospel. No matter how weak a person’s faith is, their faith in Christ will bring them to heaven. Jesus Christ is our salvation. Jesus Christ is the gospel.
All Things New: The Return of Christ – Michael Reeves
The Heidelberg Catechism question 2 states, “How does Christ’s return ‘to judge the living and the dead’ comfort you?” It seems odd to think that Christ’s return in judgement would be a comfort to us. Looking forward to Christ’s return return is our great comfort through the troubles of this life. Christ’s judgment means the removal of all sin and infirmity. Jesus comes to cleanse the earth of evil so that we would inherit the new creation. Even now, in us, Christ’s judgement removes sin from us through trials and discipline. But in the final day of judgement, all sin will be put away. We eagerly await the day of judgement because it means that the final victory of Christ over death and all things will be complete. When Christ returns, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
The Transforming Power of the Gospel – R.C. Sproul
This is God’s gospel. He has initiated the message itself, and ordained those who will preach it. Because the gospel is God’s, we must never tamper with it. This is why those who teach another gospel are anathema (damned, cursed). God will not hold us guiltless when we attempt to improve on his gospel. When we seek to change the gospel, we are denying the power of the true gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news about the kingdom of God. The message of the kingdom is always prefaced with an imperative. We must repent and experience a soulful sorrow for our offences against a holy God. The gospel is about Jesus. The transforming power of the gospel is that the just shall live by faith, and through faith, will be sanctified unto that final day of judgement.