Read Grudem’s Systematic Theology (REQUIRED pp. 527-850). Note the percentage of the assigned pages that you read and provide a brief summary of each presentation topic (~1 page each) – see below for presentation topics and chapters from the textbook.
Reading Log and Summaries
a. The Gospel Call and Effective Calling (Chapter 33)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
In Grudem’s book, this chapter walks through a look at the gospel call and sees how this doctrine applies to our lives today. I remember when I heard the gospel for the first time, and it pierced my heart. I had not grown up in the church or a Christian environment when I was young, but i had listened to many preachers proclaim the good news, but it never really sunk in. I did not accept the gospel the first time I heard it; in fact, I continue in my unbelief for decades before God calls me to faith and repentance. How can this be? Why does it take so long for me or some to come to Christ? Let take a look at the two types of callings that Grudem outlines in this chapter. The general call (the external or gospel call) is when the gospel is preached to unbelievers. It is a universal call for all sinners to come to Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This proclamation includes the gospel message’s fundamentals, an invitation to respond in repentance, faith, and everlasting life assurance. This call is routinely denied, as men’s hearts are weak to respond without God’s quickening. A verse demonstrates the effectual gospel call. Romans 8:30, “those whom he predestined he also called, He also justified, he also glorified.” The difference between the general gospel calls and God’s effectual call is that the effectual call always results in salvation. There will be redemption for all those whom God calls in this way. Grudem explains it as follows: “effective calling is an exploit of God the Father, speaking through the human announcement of the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving belief.” The effectual call is not some programmed working that is absent of any human response, as some critics of the doctrine have suggested. There is always a call for each person to come to Christ for rest, and they must repent and have faith to be redeemed. Grudem addresses, “God does not save us ‘automatically’ without seeking for an answer from us as complete persons. Rather, God addresses the gospel call to our wills, our emotions, and our intellects.” As a demonstration of His mercy and love, this invitation includes the gospel’s glorious truths and speaks directly to our hearts.
b. Regeneration (Chapter 34)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
In this chapter, Grudem explains regeneration as “a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to me.” The crux of this explanation is that regeneration is ultimately an act of God. Jesus grants me insight into this “secret act,” as Grudem explains it, in John 3, where He encounters Nicodemus. Here Jesus assures him, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus shows the mystery of regeneration by comparing God’s act, particularly the Holy Spirit, to the wind. I cannot see the revelation of the new birth, but I can see its effects. Just as I cannot control the wind’s direction, I also am at the mercy of the sovereign will of God in regeneration. As spiritually deceased people (Eph. 2:1), running as fast as I can away from my Creator, I must be brought about to a whole new life to make any progress towards God. In support of God’s regenerating work, James talks of the Father of lights, who has “of his own will carried us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18). Peter likewise declares that God has “caused me to be born again…” (1 Pet 1:3). Indeed, throughout Scripture, I see that God is the only person who can grant spiritual life. Now that it is evident that God is the one who gives new life, I can look at what happens in regeneration. As stated before, much of it is a mystery, and I cannot explain all the details of the process, but I can discover certain truths from Scripture. One thing that can be noted is that the Bible often relates the new birth with ideas such as washing, cleansing, and renewing. I see this clearly in Titus 3:5, where Paul writes that God has “saved me, not because of works done by me in righteousness, but according to His grace, by the washing of regeneration and resurrection of the Holy Spirit.” Again, I see that God is the one who gives this new life to His covenant people, purifying them through the washing that comes from the Spirit. This passage from Ezekiel is a beautiful picture of God’s grace in removing my hardened to spiritual truth, the heart of stone, and replacing them with a heart of flesh that is alive and receptive to God’s word. I, who was once distanced from God and hostile towards Him, completely dead in my sins, have now been brought into a life where I can worship and glorify my maker (Col. 1:21).
c. Conversion: Faith and Repentance – (Chapter 35)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
Chapter 35 Grudem develops a biblical view of faith and repentance concepts and how they are applied to individuals. Despite the fickleness of worldly things, I am able and called to place my faith in the person of Jesus Christ, forsake my former ways of sin, and turn towards righteousness. Grudem explains the two acts of faith and repentance as including the manner of conversion, “the obedient response to the gospel invitation, in which I sincerely repent of sins and place my trust in Christ for salvation.” Grudem sets out three elements that build the biblical model of faith, the first of which is understanding. For me to be converted, it is apparent that I must have some knowledge about the gospel message of Christ. How can I place my trust in something that I know nothing about? As James informs us, even the demons believe (James 2:19). The second significant component of faith is approval. The sinner must acknowledge that Christ has indeed paid the punishment for sin at the cross and that Christ’s resurrection has secured a means of redemption for all who would believe. Thus, “redeeming faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.” When the Bible describes redeeming faith, it uses words like “come,” “believe in Him, “received Him.” I get the picture that a person who has faith in Jesus is completely dependent on Him and goes to Him for forgiveness because he trusts Jesus’ words and actions. Accompanying with faith, the Bible speaks of repentance as being a crucial ingredient for salvation. Grudem explains it as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a genuine commitment to surrender it and walk-in obedience to Christ.” As an outcome of the work of the Spirit in my heart, I see the ugliness of my sin and grieved by it. Like faith, there is worldly repentance, and there is true repentance. A truly repentant person will then turn their lives away from this sin and towards obedience. This is a change of heart. A heart that once loved sin now loves Christ and wishes to obey Him. Grudem explains that “when I turn to Christ for salvation from my sins, I am simultaneously turning away from the sins that I am asking Christ to save me from.” Thus, faith and repentance cannot be separated from one another.
d. Justification (Chapter 36)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
The man could not be made right with God based on his merit, but only through his faith in Christ. This issue of justification lies at the heart of the gospel message and is one of the main dividing lines between true Christianity and all other world religions. Therefore, I must understand it correctly so that my heart would be changed and my will would be affected. The precise definition of justification is the right legal standing before God. However, first, the assumption must be made that all men and women need righteousness. The Bible clarifies that justification does not make me righteous; God treats me as such. There is no need to rid me of certain sins before God justifies me. If this were the case, how could I know that I have attained the necessary amount of righteousness? Scripture presents an opposite picture, as the sinner praying in the temple goes home justified rather than the self-righteous Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). To those who have been justified: it is done! One of the most significant problems I face as Christians is thinking that justification is an ongoing process. When these ideas take hold in my head, I begin to try to work for my salvation. Say I miss a few days (maybe a few weeks) in my prayer life is not as it should be, or I keep struggling with a particular sin, should I feel condemned? If I misbelieve in justification, I probably will feel this way because I am now starting to base my standing before God on my performance. Instead, I need to rely on the righteousness of Christ and His perfect atonement on my behalf. At a church, it is tempting to look around and compare me to everyone else. “I do not serve as much as him” or “She seems to have so much more joy than me.” This mentality should have no place in the life of the Christian. I do not need to be like the “holy people” at church to be in God’s favor. God has set the standard for me to meet, and He treats me as if I have attained it! Therefore, I am freed from the guilt of sin and can glorify God by living in light of His grace, exercising good works because He has called me to do so.
e. Adoption (Chapter 37)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
In 1 John 3:1, John is directly connecting the love of God to our adoption. Thus, adoption is an act of love by God. I do not work in this process. Grudem calls God’s part as Father “the role that conveys the highest privileges of fellowship with God for eternity.” At the same time, He is still our judge, creator, and Lord, the reality of God as my Father is what allows me to take part in a vast amount of blessings. One of these privileges is getting to be a part of a new spiritual family with my new brothers and sisters as adopted sons and daughters. This thought of a family should be at the center of my relationships within the local church body. Being embodied in Christ and adopted by God, even the most opposite people can experience deep Christian fellowship and love. Somebody who has nothing in common with me is still my brother or sister in Christ. I should love, serve, and genuinely care for this person because they are genuinely a part of my family. Sadly, this is not often the case, as the socially awkward and less personable people are left out and uncared for. I hear of another church member’s struggles, but my heart does not grieve appropriately. A brother or sister experiences great joy, but I fail to rejoice with them. Would this be the case if I indeed saw them as members of my family? God has uniquely created and chosen me to be a part of a local church and placed me in relationships with people for a reason. I now have a unique opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives to be encouraged in their Christian walks and learn to know and love God more.
f. Sanctification (Chapter 38)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
Come to chapter 38 in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, dealing with the issue of sanctification. The two topics are often confused, leading to severe problems in daily life and application. To live a gospel-motivated and cross-centered life, the differences between the two must be apparent in our hearts and minds. To begin, Grudem defines sanctification as “a progressive work of God and man that makes me freer and freer from sin and like Christ in my actual lives.” This definition is purposeful in differentiating sanctification from justification. Instead of a one-time action, sanctification is progressive; it is a process that flows throughout my life. It is not only a work of God, but sanctification is also synergistic, involving both God and man’s efforts. Rather than being declared righteous, sanctification is the path to becoming Christ-like, though never perfect. Grudem also notes that justification is the same in all Christians, while holiness growth is experienced differently. The initiation of my spiritual growth begins immediately at regeneration. I see this displayed in the stark contrast Paul describes between the one who is in slavery to sin and the one who is a slave to righteousness. There is no middle ground between the two. Once someone is regenerated, they immediately lose their status of slaves to sin and begin a new life striving towards holiness. This gradual climb is something that continues until my life on earth is through. I am continually being renewed into the image of my Creator as I strive towards the upward call in Christ Jesus (Col 3:10, Phil 3:13-14). Speaking to redeemed believers, Paul also says that we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). This lifelong battle will finally end at the death when I am given perfect resurrection bodies, and sin will no longer remain. There will be no more growth because there will be no more room for it – no longer need to fight against sin, as it will be gone forever. Misunderstanding the way sanctification works can have profound impacts on my daily life. One instance this can occur in is when sanctification is believed to be entirely a work of God or altogether a work of man. Both stances are wrong and guide me into improper living. If God is the only one behind spiritual growth, then I am bound to be lazy, just waiting around for growth to occur. However, the reality is that I cannot grow without putting in the effort in disciplines such as Bible study and prayer.
g. Baptism in and filling with the Spirit (Chapter 39)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
The first issue in the chapter is what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. A key text in determining the meaning of this phrase is found in 1 Corinthians 12:13, where Paul writes, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” The greater context of the verse concerns the unity of the body and the diversity of spiritual gifts. Even though the body has many different members that play various roles in building it up, it is still one unified body. Paul makes this point clear to not elevate anyone’s gift over another. The same Spirit has baptized us all into the unified church of Christ. The inference here is that baptism in the Spirit occurs at the point of conversion and that ushers in the believer are being united to the body. Those in the more charismatic camps, particularly Pentecostals, will claim that baptism in the Spirit happens after a person is saved and can be repeated at various points throughout an individual’s life. Apparently, this must be prayed for fervently and will lead to greater sanctification and effectiveness in ministry. This baptism will most likely occur during an emotional experience, and the individual’s feelings are the ultimate authority. After all, you cannot argue with someone’s experience, right? I do not mean to form a caricature of all Charismatics, as I believe that many have genuinely examined the Scriptures and concluded. However, I do not believe that the Bible paints the same picture of what it means to be baptized in the Spirit. We will focus on how a believer can be filled with the Holy Spirit. The primary text to turn to here is Ephesians 5:18, where Paul tells believers not to “get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Here, we see that it is a command, and the Greek suggests that it is to be continually ongoing. It could read, “Be continually filled with the Spirit.” The result of obedience to this command is that they would be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord” (verse 19). The cross-reference for this verse is found in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We see that having the Word of Christ dwell deeply in the believer results in the same thing as being filled with the Spirit. Thus, to obey the command to be filled with the Spirit, we must continually hide the truths of God’s Word in our hearts. The effects of having prosperous, meaningful times in God’s Word are apparent when we come to church on Sundays. A week full of prayer and meditation on the Word leads to a worshipful, focused time of singing and listening during the service for the congregation. For the minister, having the Word of Christ dwell richly in Him throughout the week leads to empowerment and conviction when preaching. This is what a Spirit-filled life should look like. We do not need to be searching for a unique experience that will further our giftedness but rather digging deep into God’s Word so that it would overflow into our daily lives. Then the fruit of the Spirit will be exhibited to the rest of the world so that souls might be saved for Christ. So the next time I feel the need for the Spirit’s power, may I turn to the reliable and life-giving source of God’s Word.
h. Death and the Intermediate State (Chapter 41)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
Death is not a subject that we like to talk much about in our culture, yet it remains a constant occurrence in all life on Earth. The creation account of Genesis is where we must begin to gather a clear understanding of death as the Bible explains it. When God created the world and everything in it, He declared that “it was good.” Moreover, when God made man, He saw that “it was perfect” (Gen 1:31). Things changed dramatically just two chapters later when Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent, breaking the commandment that God has given to them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17). Disobedience to this law came with a punishment that was promised by God: “for in that day you eat of it you shall surely die.” It was this single act of rebellion against God that brought the whole Earth under the curse of death, as Paul writes, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom 5:12). Paul later reinforces this thought, stating that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). The reason for all the death that we see around us can be traced back to one man’s sinful actions in the garden. Indeed, all creation has been subject to this curse, as it groans in the pains of childbirth together with us (Rom 8:22). For the Christian, great hope can be found in the fact that they will be immediately brought into the presence of God. Their bodies will remain here on Earth, but their souls will see the Lord. Paul’s sentiments in Philippians 1:23 express that he desires to “depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” He expects that there will be immediate satisfaction found upon death, as he awaits union with his Creator. Echoing these thoughts, he writes in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he “would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” From these verses, we can gather that Paul eagerly desired to leave this world to be with Christ. However, this same anticipation does not fill the person who has not placed their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Bible clearly states that these people will only meet punishment and destruction. They will not receive a second chance, for “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). They will be judged fairly by God and receive their due wages.
More will come in a later article on this topic. Knowing that death is coming to each one of us, how then should we live? We must live our lives with one eye on heaven, knowing that the material things we gain here are of no value once we die. As the saying goes, “no one ever sees a hearse pulling a u-haul.” Not to say that a well-paying job is terrible, but is that all we are living for? If it is, then it shows that our affections are set on something other than the person of Christ. The reason Paul and Edwards were so preoccupied with heaven is that that is where Christ is! However, since we are not there yet, the only way we can honestly know Christ more is to read about Him in our Bibles. As we do so, a new affection for our Lord will rise above all the competing idols in our hearts, and we will desire more and more to be with Him in heaven. The things of this world will no longer rival the Lord, and we will live more generously, more thankfully, and more joyfully.
i. Glorification (Chapter 42)/ Percentage of the assigned pages that I read 100%
The subject of glorification is one that all Christians should be well versed in so that we know exactly what we can look forward to in eternity. If we are unaware of how our lives will be lived in heaven, then how will we be able to prepare for it?
Grudem defines glorification as “the final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own.” As we can gather from this definition, the doctrine of glorification is centered around the idea of the resurrection. Our hope as Christians is found in the fact that our bodies will be raised one day. If people cannot be raised from the dead, then we are of all men to be most pitied, as Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. In fact, this section in Paul’s letter opens a critical passage in terms of the doctrine of glorification.
One of the key issues that Paul deals with here is the nature of our bodies after we have been glorified. Some clear contrasts are made in verses 42-44 as he writes, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” The first thing to notice is that our raised bodies will be imperishable. Clearly, our bodies now are perishing daily. We see the results of injury and disease, but when we enter the glorified state all of this will be gone. There will be no more sickness and our bodies will not grow old with age. Moreover, he describes our bodies as being raised in glory and power. The idea of glory probably relates to a physical radiance that surrounds our body. Grudem argues that the fact that we will be like Christ in our resurrection bodies, coupled with the transfiguration scene support the assertion that there will be some sort of visible radiance around us. Being raised in power stands in contrast to the weakness that we experience now, as our bodies will be given the strength that we were intended to have when we were created. Possibly the most exciting element of our new bodies will be that they are spiritual rather than natural. We will no longer be controlled by the desires of our flesh, but our lives will be fully submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit. No longer will we struggle with the sin that entangles us and we will worship the Creator perfectly.
There are many implications of this doctrine, but the one that sticks out most to me is that I should desire to be in heaven more than I do now. I think it’s common for many believers to hold onto the things of this world, and not desire to be with Christ. We want to get married first or have children first, but none of these things will ever compare to the enjoyment we will find in heaven. Every time we get sick or get hurt, we should be reminded that our bodies are not as they we meant to be, making us long for the day when there will be no more sickness and no more death. So the challenge to me (and to all of us) is whether or not I truly desire heaven over this world. We should all be able to echo what Paul says in Philippians 1:23 and “desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” I think we can easily pay lip service to this truth, but do our lives display that it has truly affected our hearts? This is certainly a challenge that I must consider, and I hope the rest of you will as well.
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