Reformed Precision

Precision especially in matters of religion are extremely important. But sadly today we live in a lackadaisical world. A world of lukewarmness if not straight out frigid cold when it comes to matters of religion. We live in an age of Antinomianism (No Lawism) and Neonomianism (New Lawism). And to extreme disappointment we live in an age that consider precisionism in matters of religion to be legalistic (by their false definition) and down right Pharisaical!

Were not the Pharisee the Precisionist of their day? Were they not the right handed ultra conservative? Many believe today that they were. But the answer is no, the Pharisees were the left handed liberals of their day. They made void the laws of God by making God’s law of no affect. They replaced God’s holy law with their own set of moral codes. And they broke God’s law not only the spiritual letter of the law but most times also the literal letter of the law.

Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for being doctrinal purists. He faulted them for being false teachers who abandoned the truth of God’s Word in favor of the erroneous word of man (Matthew 16:11–12; 15:1–9; Mark 7:6–13).

It is the Christians duty to be Precisianist and God expects us to obey His laws. Not for matters of Justification for no man can keep the law of God perfectly but He still expects us to obey His laws as a rule of life.

Trying to be precise about obeying God’s commands is not legalism, it is obedience, holiness, and love for our Saviour.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Jesus called Christians who demanded doctrinal purity “disciples,” not “Pharisees.” “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32) In fact, Christians who demand doctrinal purity are really following the example of Jesus and the Apostles (Matthew 7:15; see also Matthew 24:10–11; Mark 9:42; 2 Corinthians 15:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Timothy 4:16; 6:3–4; Titus 1:7–9; 2:1, 7–8; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 3:17).

Christ did condemned the Pharisees for their apostasy. The Pharisees had abandoned the Old Testament faith and therefore they rejected Jesus Himself (Matthew 8:11–12; 21:42–46; 22:41–46; Luke 7:29–30; 13:28–30; John 5:39, 43–47; Acts 4:10–12; Romans 9:1—11:36; 1 Peter 2:7–8). Christ also condemned the Pharisees for softening the demands of the Law. The Pharisees diluted the Law’s requirement of perfect obedience with manageable human rules that they could keep (Matthew 5:17–48). And then finally Christ condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

The condemnation of the Pharisees had nothing to do with doctrinal purity but had everything to do with the false hope of human obedience.

The Pharisees taught that salvation was the result of God’s mercy plus man’s obedience.

The Pharisees abandoned God’s Word for the word of man. And in this sense, the Pharisees were really the Liberals of their day.

I get so tired of people calling precisionism and obeying the law (as a rule of life) legalism. THAT IS NOT LEGALISM!!! No one Reformed is saying here that we keep the laws of God for Justification.

The world might define it legalism, the modern evangelical church might define it legalism, but that is NOT how the Reformed Faith defines legalism. The Reformed Faith teaches being Precise and being observant in the minutest detail and circumstance in our worship, our doctrine and our practices. That is how we got the name Puritan and Precisionist.

When someone remarked to Richard Rogers’ (1551-1618) : ‘I like you and your company very well, only you are too precise.’

Rogers famed reply to the scoffer, ‘Oh Sir, I serve a precise God’, which gave the occasion for the puritans to be called ‘precisionists’.

The Great Covenanter Commentator Matthew Poole wrote, “What Galen said of Physics is even truer of religion. There is nothing small and trivial in it.”, he continues elsewhere, “God esteems nothing small in his worship and service, and he expects his will should be observed in the minutest circumstances.”

Nadere Reformatie (Dutch Further or Second Reformation Theologian Gisbertus Voetius wrote,

“The object [of precision] is the practice of piety or obedience according to all the parts, actions, grades and circumstances that God’s word requires. Therefore, the following are to be directed in precision: (1) our thought and faith in all concerns of religion (Lk. 8:18; Phil. 1:9-10); (2) our observance of all things, both natural and legislated, pertaining to the worship of God, adding nothing, taking away nothing, leaving out nothing; (3) observance of all things which are necessary for the practice of love and justice toward our neighbor, and toward ourselves; (4) observance of all things which pertain to our particular vocation; (5) resulting from this, control of thought, word, action, and behavior in this world, in the presence both of those who are within and those who are without [the church] (1 Cor. 10:31-32)…” -Gisbertus Voetius, Selectae Disputationes Theologicae, “Concerning ‘Precision’ in Interpretation of Questions 94, 113, and 115 of the [Heidelberg] Catechism,” in John W. Beardslee, III, ed. and trans., Reformed Dogmatics – Seventeenth-Century Reformed Theology Through the Writings of Wollebius, Voetius, and Turretin, p. 319

English Puritan Richard Alleine wrote,

1. Christians must be Precisians.

2.. Precisians are no fools:, or Christians of an exact, and circumspect life are, whatever the world accounts them, truly wise men. This latter observation it is which I intend to insist upon.

Beloved, I am, entering upon a discourse on a sort of people, of whom we may say, with those Jews,” Concerning this sect, we know that it is every where spoken against; (Acts 28: 22; ) and who, with the Apostle,” are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and -to men;” (1 Cor. 4: 9; ) concerning whom, heaven and earth are divided, and the world is divided within itself; of whom God says,” the world is not worthy;” of whom the world say, they are not worthy to live; of whom GOD says, they are the “apple of mine eye;” of whom the world say, “they are a sore in our eye;” whom GOD accounts his jewels; whom men account” the filth of the world,” and” the offscouring of all things;” of whom GOD says, they are the “sons of wisdom,” but men say they are fools. And as God and men are thus divided, so are men no less divided among themselves. Some few say concerning these, as they of old concerning CHRIST,” They are good men;”_ others say,” No, but they are deceivers of the people.” A Precisian, with the most, is grown into a proverb of reproach, a mark of infamy. To be a drunkard, a fornicator, a swearer, is no reproach, in comparison of being noted for a Puritan.

Well, but let us inquire a little more narrowly into this sort of people, about whom the world is thus moved, and has been in all ages. In order hereunto, I shall show you,

First, What a Precisian is; and Secondly, prove to you, against all the world, that he is no fool, but a truly wise, yea, the only wise man.

Touching the former, What a Precisian is, a Scripture Precisian, let me first tell you, to prevent mistakes, who he is not.

1. Not a Pharisee, a painted sepulcher, whose religion is a mere show; who has the form of godliness without the power; who is pure in his own eyes, and yet not cleansed from his filthiness; who is exact about the punc*tilios of religion, and hath a great zeal about the lower and more circumstantial matters, and neglects the weightier things of the law. This is not be.

2. Not an Enthusiast, properly so called; (though that be a vizard put upon him by some, as the hides of beasts were put upon the Christians of old; ) not an Enthusiast, I say, whose religion is all fancy, imagination, enthusiasm, the dreams and visions of his own heart. Neither is this he. Christianity is not a castle in the air, but is a building that has foundation. …

By a Precisian, I mean, a sincere, circumspect Christian; one whose care and endeavor it is” to walk uprightly, according to the truth of the Gospel;” who, withdrawing himself from the fellowship, fashions, and lusts of the world, and denying himself the sinful liberties thereof, does exercise himself to keep a good conscience towards GOD and men.” -Richard Alleine, on Eph. 5.15, in Vindiciae Pietatis; or, a Vindication of Godliness, in the Greatest Strictness and Spirituality of it, from the Imputations of Folly and Fancy, together with Several Directions for Attaining and Maintaining of a Godly Life

The Cry of every Believer should be “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.” Psalm 119:97-98

Gospel and Law are not mutually exclusive. We are to obey the command of the scriptures to believe but we are also to love and obey God’s law and meditate upon it night and day. The continuity of scripture must be stressed. To sacrifice Gospel or Law is to sacrifice the whole of Scripture. Antinomianism and Legalism must always be avoided.

And so we have been free from the bondage of sin, so that we can keep the laws of God.

We are told in the Old Testament that the law brought liberty (Psalm 119:45), wisdom (Psalm 119:98), and peace (Psalm 119:165).

To the godly man, God’s law is not a burden but a delight, for “the law of the Lord is perfect” (Psalm 19:7), and we may “behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18). Paul said: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22). The law cannot save, of course, but to the sinner saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ, he can say sincerely: “Thy law is my delight” (Psalm 119:77).

True Christian Liberty is that we have been free from the Bondage of Sin through Regeneration by the Spirit of God So that we can Keep the Laws of God

“The law sends us to the gospel that we may be justified; the gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty as those who are justified.” -Samuel Bolton

“The Gospel is temporary, but the law is eternal and is restored precisely through the Gospel. Freedom from the law consists, then, not in the fact that the Christian has nothing more to do with the law, but lies in the fact that the law demands nothing more from the Christian as a condition of salvation. The law can no longer judge and condemn him. Instead he delights in the law of God according to the inner man and yearns for it day and night.” Herman Bavink

“When once the fiery law of God Has chas’d me to the gospel road; Then back unto the holy law Most kindly gospel-grace will draw.” – Ralph Erskine (1685 – 1752), Seceder, Associate Presbytery

“These lands pride themselves and glory in their numbers, their navies and armies, but this glory will soon wither before a blast of God’s judgments; this ‘glory shall be made thin’ when many are cut off, and few left; when the slain of the Lord shall be many; and when Christ, with his rod of iron, shall dash these nations into pieces for refusing to submit to the sceptre of his word of grace…and as faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will be the most necessary and reasonable exercise in that day of calamity; so it is the best to prepare for it.” — — Alexander Moncrieff, “Practical Works, Vol. II”, pg. 23

“It is striking how frequently the other nations are called upon in the Psalms to recognize and to honor God, And how complete is the witness of the prophets against the nations surrounding Israel. God does not exempt other nations from the claim of his righteousness; he requires their obedience and hold them responsible for their apostasy and degeneration.” -J.H. Bavinck

“The gospel does not abrogate God’s law, but it makes men love it with all their hearts.” -J. Gresham Machen

“If the law might be disannulled as to new creatures, then why doth the Spirit of God write it with such legible characters in their hearts?…Now that which the Spirit engraves upon the heart, would Christ come to deface and abolish?” -Thomas Manton – Quoted in Kevan, The Grace of Law, 157

“The justice of God is very dreadful in itself, that threatens an eternal curse to every soul that does not obey it in everything. In Deuteronomy 33:2 it is called a “fiery law.” That’s part of God’s law, the fiery law of God. And we know how the law was given, with what dreadfulness, as you may see in Exodus 19. The mountains shook and trembled when the Law of God was given. And God expects that the heart of sinners should tremble when they hear the Law of God at any time.” Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Fear, 1643

“So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.” Psalm 119:44-45 Observe how he resolves to keep God’s law, [1.] Continually, without trifling. God must be served in a constant course of obedience every day, and all the day long. [2.] For ever and ever, without backsliding. We must never be weary of well-doing. If we serve him to the end of our time on earth, we shall be serving him in heaven to the endless ages of eternity; so shall we keep his law for ever and ever…. ‘I not only give consent to them as good, but take complacency in them as good for me.’ All that love God love his government and therefore love all his commandments…. He promises himself here in the strength of God’s grace…that he should be free and easy in his duty: ‘I will walk at liberty, freed from that which is evil, not hampered with the fetters of my own corruptions, and free to that which is good, doing it not by constraint, but willingly.’ The service of sin is perfect slavery; the service of God is perfect liberty. Licentiousness is bondage to the greatest of tyrants; conscientiousness is freedom to the meanest of prisoners…” Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible

“Of Admonition, to take heed how we vilifie or contemne this Law of God … What, shall we revile that which is God’s great mercy to a people? Because the Jews and Papists do abuse the Law, and the works of it to justification, shall it not therefore have its proper place and dignity? Take heed therefore of such phrases, An Old-Testament-spirit, and, His Sermon is nothing but an explication of the Law: For it ought much to rejoyce thee, to hear that pure and excellent image of Gods holiness opened. How mayest thou delight to have that purity enjoyned, which will make thee loath thy self, prize Christ and Grace more, and be a quick goad to all holiness? And if you say, Here is nothing of Christ all this while: I answer That is false, as is to be proved, if the Law be not taken very strictly: And besides, the Law and the Gospel are not to be severed, but they mutually put a fresh relish and taste upon each other. And shall no mercy be esteemed, but what is the Gospel? Thou art thankfull for temporall mercies, and yet they are not the Gospel; but this is a spiritual mercy.” -Westminister divine Anthony Burgess, Vindiciae legis

When it comes to being Reformed and what Reformed is and means, means you don’t get to redefine terms and pretend you’re “within the bounds” of what the nomenclature ‘Reformed’ is.

Find it depressing, find it sad then perhaps you might not be Reformed as you think you are.

“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”

The Tyranny of the Weaker Brother is on full display when you’re being accused of sin for thinking that something is sinful or foolish.

Wisdom is a thing. It’s in the holy Scriptures. There are entire books on the topic.

The impulse to shout “legalist” at anyone who tries to think through wisdom issues (or expresses an opinion on a wisdom issue) is not a godly impulse. It’s not an impulse derived from Scripture.

If God didn’t want us to think through these issues, He would have just spelled everything out in the Scriptures. He didn’t do that!

As Christians we must be extremely careful and be extremely precise when it comes to the Scriptures, the Divines Laws of God and what we think, how we act, how we behave and what we do or do not do. We are called to be Precisionist and if you are Reformed then you should know already that we are called to be Precise in all things that pertains to religion right down to the minutest detail and circumstance.

Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4).

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