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John Frame – Theology and Scripture

4 Feb

We must be on our guard lest we confuse the technical theological definitions of biblical terms with the ways those terms are used by the biblical writers. It would be wrong to assume that whenever covenant is found in Scripture, the Westminster Confession’s “covenant of grace” is meant. It would certainly be wrong to assume that a full saving faith is in view whenever Scripture speaks of someone “believing” (cf., e.g., John 8:31 with v. 37-47) or that whenever someone is “called” in Scripture that effectual calling is meant.

Clearly, then, when we adopt a technical definition, we have no right to claim that we have found the “real meaning” or the “deeper meaning” that is only obscurely expressed by the biblical terms. Technical theology does not represent anything deeper or more authoritative than the biblical canon itself. On the contrary, technical theology always sacrifices some biblical meaning to make some biblical points more vivid to the reader. That sacrifice is not wrong. We must sacrifice something in our teaching, since we cannot say everything at once. But we must never assume that a theological system will teach us anything more than Scripture itself. Theology is application, not discovery of some new teaching.

~John Frame~


The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing; 1987) p. 223

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John Frame – The King of the Ages

9 Nov

Geerhardus Vos formulated Jesus’ view of the kingdom as follows:

To him the kingdom exists there, where not merely God is supreme, for that is true at all times and under all circumstances, but where God supernaturally carries through his supremacy against all opposing powers and brings men to the willing recognition of the same.

On this definition, the kingdom is dynamic, indeed dramatic. It is a world-historical movement, following the fall of Adam, in which God works to defeat Satan and bring human beings to acknowledge Christ as Lord. It is, preeminently, the history of salvation.

God could have remedied the fall in an instant, sending his Son in an accelerated time frame, bringing him to death, resurrection, ascension, and triumphal return in a matter of seconds. Or he might have accomplished this work in a matter of decades, allowing for a somewhat more normal kind of historical development. But instead he determined a process spread over millennia. He spent centuries narrowing the messianic line to a chosen family, bringing them into the Land of Promise, ordaining the birth of his Son in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4), accomplishing redemption in thirty-three years, and sending his disciples on a journey of several thousand years at least to bring this good news to all the nations.

Why he chose to stretch out the drama of salvation over so long a time is a mystery. The length of this time is related to other mysteries of Scripture, such as the problem of evil. We would not cry, “How long, O Lord?” (Pss. 6:3; 13:1; 80:4; 90:13; Hab. 1:2; Zech. 1:12; Rev. 6:10), if God had determined to complete his purposes in an instant, and the sting of pain and suffering would be much less if God were to abbreviate his story to a few decades. But God’s decision is clear: that the history of redemption will take millennia, leaving space for dramatic movements, ups and downs, twists and turns, longings and astonishments. Salvation is to be a great epic, not a short story. God will glorify himself, not by measuring his kingdom in time spans appropriate to human kings, but by revealing himself as “King of the ages” (Rev. 15:3 NIV).

~John Frame~


Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing; 2013) p. 87-88

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John Frame – Self-Esteem and True Meaning

16 Sep

Scripture is therefore not nearly as concerned as we are to promote our self-esteem. We would like to believe that the meaning and significance of our lives depends on what we do for ourselves, without any outside influences or constraints. In Scripture, however, the goal of human life is to glorify God. Our dignity is to be found not in what we do, but in what God has done for us and in us. Our meaning and significance are to be found in the fact that God has created us in his image and redeemed us by the blood of his Son. The Biblical writers, therefore, are not horrified, as modern writers tend to be, by the thought that we may be under the control of another. If the other is God, and he has made us for his glory, then we could not possibly ask for a more meaningful existence.

~John Frame~


The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing; 2002) p. 125

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John Frame – Scripture Itself Matters Most

15 Feb

Regular readers of my work know that I am critical of the typical method of modern theologians (including evangelical theologians), who include in their writing a great deal of interaction with other theologians and very little interaction with Scripture itself. This is an inheritance from the academic model of theology, which I have criticized elsewhere. Interaction with the theological literature is useful in a number of ways. But most important by far is what Scripture itself tells us.

~John Frame~


The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing; 2010) p. xxviii

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John Frame – God is Lord

10 Aug

Over and over [in the Old Testament], we are told that God performs his mighty deeds so that people “will know that I am the Lord” (Ex. 14: 4; cf. 6: 7; 7: 5, 17; 8: 22; 10: 2; 14: 18; 16: 6, 12; 29: 46; 31: 13; Deut. 4: 35; 29: 6; 1 Kings 8: 43, 60; 18: 37; 20: 13, 28; 2 Kings 19: 19; Ps. 83: 18; Isa. 37: 20; 2 Jer. 16: 21; 24: 7; Ezek. 6: 7, 10, 13, 14; 7: 4, 9, 27; 11: 10, etc.), or so that “my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Ex. 9: 16; Rom. 9: 17). We find “name” and “Lord” throughout the Scriptures, in contexts central to God’s nature, dignity, and relationship with his people. “Lord” is found in the New International Version of the Bible 7,484 times, mostly referring to God or to Christ.

The name Lord is as central to the message of the New Testament as it is to the Old Testament. Remarkably, in the New Testament the word kyrios, meaning “Lord,” which translates yahweh in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is regularly applied to Jesus. If the Shema summarizes, in a way, the message of the Old Testament by teaching that yahweh is Lord, so the confession “Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10: 9; 1 Cor. 12: 3; Phil. 2: 11; cf. John 20: 28; Acts 2: 36) summarizes the message of the New Testament.

~John Frame~


The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing; 2002) Chapter 2: The Lord

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John Frame – The Lord

8 Aug

The first thing, and in one sense the only thing, we need to know about God is that he is Lord. Surely no name, no description of God, is more central to Scripture than this.

~John Frame~






The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing; 2002) Chapter 2: The Lord

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John Frame – The Trinity and Our Understanding of God’s Grace

10 Apr

As we meditate on the different, but unified roles of the three persons in saving us, we are driven back to worship. We are saved by the eternal purpose of the Father, by the atoning work of the Son, through the power and wisdom of the Spirit. We grow in our understanding of God’s grace as we see how each person of the Trinity interacts with the others to bring us out of darkness and into the light.

~John Frame~




The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing; 2002) Chapter 29: Father, Son, and Spirit: Trinity and the Lordship of God

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