Thomas Chalmers Exegetical Scholarship

Eudokias Foundation, Inc. is the sponsor of the Thomas Chalmers Exegetical Scholarship, which is awarded annually to students at the Atlanta Campus of the Reformed Theological Seminary in recognition of the creation of outstanding essays on God's grace. In previous years, essays were required to focus on Eph. 3:14- 21 or more general aspects of God's love. This year, one possible essay focus, among others, is exploring theological underpinnings of how we can assist others through counseling, mentoring, and discussion groups to have encounters with the Holy Spirit to be empowered to have heartfelt knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us as our identities are grounded in being His beloved little children. Hopes for this scholarship include reducing financial burdens for winning students and encouraging all students to study these subjects more deeply for the spiritual edification of themselves, those they serve, and others who read their contributions. Additional submission details are provided below.

To be considered for this scholarship, essays must have 6,000-10,000 words, with 20+ references, and must be emailed to [email protected] by the Tuesday before Spring graduation. Scholarship amounts may change over time and are currently set at $5,000 for 1st place, $3,000 for 2nd place, $2,000 for 3rd place, and five (5) $1,000 additional awards.

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The Meaning Of The Name

This scholarship is named after Thomas Chalmers, a Scottish minister and professor of theology who was born in 1780 because of his sermon, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. As explored below, “seized by the power of a great affection” was a similar phrase later used in America to describe the salvation experience. Paul similarly expressed in 2 Cor 5:14 that “the love of Christ compels us,” and Jesus spoke of the fruit that will result from simply “being” branches in his vine in John 15. There is further insight in Eph 3:14-21 regarding how the power to have heartfelt knowledge of God's great affection for us is the real key to God working through us in unimaginably abundant ways. More attention is due to this thread of receiving the compelling power to fully know God’s love at an identity level as the uncontrollable cause and strength for us to be able to glorify God and enjoy God forever. In short, we need more help knowing how to “be” God's beloved little children than what to “do” to act like them because we need God’s power to flow through us instead of trying to make fruit from our own separated branches or dig our own cracked cistern (Jer 2:13).

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Further Insights

Many errant perspectives throughout the history of humanity can be boiled down to a failure to respect the glory and holiness of God because of our pride and/or a failure to fully understand how much God loves us. In essence, we need strength and wisdom to be able to give more glory to God and receive more grace from God. We do not need a balance of the two, but more of both. Another way of understanding both the grace and glory of God is that he is both “willing and able,” i.e., “willing” because of God's grace and “able” because God is glorious. The first answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism speaks to this very issue: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This dual purpose is also referenced in Luke 2:14, in which the heavenly host announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace toward those on whom his favor rests.” Since the manuscript debate over that verse appears to have been settled in favor of the genitive “eudokias,” the significance of this change puts more focus on being “of” God’s favor/grace, i.e., having our entire identity resting only in being loved by God.

While the Old Testament provides abundant examples of humanity’s failure to respect and glorify God, rather than themselves or other gods, it also provides insights into the unfailing character of God’s love for us and the effect His love should have on our hearts. Joel 2:12-13 revealed that God is most interested in our hearts, indicating, “return to me with all your heart, … rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” We also know from Prov 4:23 that we are to guard our hearts above all else, “for everything we do flows from it.” Additional references to God’s love include Ex 34:6-7, Psa 31, and Zeph 3:17.

Relevant portions of The Expulsive Power of a New Affection include:

  • “It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God's children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us - it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible.”
  • “Neither they nor anyone else can dispossess the heart of an old affection, but by the expulsive power of a new one - and, if that new affection is the love of God, neither they nor anyone else can be made to entertain it, but on such a representation of the Deity, as shall draw the heart of the sinner toward Him. Now, it is just their unbelief that screens this representation from the discernment of their minds. They do not see the love of God in sending His Son into the world. They do not see the expression of His tenderness to men, in sparing Him not, but giving Him up unto the death for us all. They do not see the sufficiency of the atonement or the sufferings that were endured by Him who bore the burden that sinners should have borne. They do not see the blended holiness and compassion of the Godhead, in that He passed by the transgressions of His creatures, yet could not pass them by without an expiation. It is a mystery to them how a man should pass to the state of godliness from a state of nature, but had they only a believing view of God manifest in the flesh, this would resolve the whole mystery of godliness for them. As it is, they cannot get rid of their old affections because they are out of sight from all those truths which have influence to raise a new one.”

Brennan Manning discovered and discussed a similar phrase in The Ragamuffin Gospel:

  • “Over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase so common in our Christian culture today, born again, was seldom or never used. Rather, the phrase used to describe the breakthrough into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was “I was seized by the power of a great affection.” These words described both the initiative of God and the explosion within the heart when Jesus, instead of being a face on a holy card with long hair and a robe with many folds, became real, alive, and Lord of one’s personal and professional life. Seized by the power of a great affection was a visceral description of the phenomenon of Pentecost, authentic conversion, and the release of the Holy Spirit.”

The notion of being God’s children referenced by Chalmers was also strikingly emphasized by J.I. Packer in an article for Evangelical Magazine:

  • If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.

And Packer further developed the spirit of adoption in Knowing God:

  • For the vital truth to be grasped here is that the Spirit is given to Christians as “the Spirit of adoption,” and in all his ministry to Christians, he acts as the Spirit of adoption. As such, his task and purpose throughout is to make Christians realize with increasing clarity the meaning of their filial relationship with God in Christ and to lead them into an ever deeper response to God in this relationship. Paul is pointing to this truth when he writes, “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom 8: 15 KJV). “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying [that is, prompting you to cry], ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal 4: 6 KJV). Just as adoption itself is the key thought for unlocking, and the focal thought for unifying, the New Testament view of the Christian life, so a recognition that the Spirit comes to us as the Spirit of adoption is the key thought for unlocking, and the focal thought for integrating, all that the New Testament tells us about his ministry to Christians.

In Watchman Nee’s Sit, Walk, Stand about Ephesians, chapters 1-3 are described as the “sit” (in your identity) section, chapters 4, 5, and the first half of 6 as the “walk” (the Christian life) section, and the last half of chapter 6 as the “stand” (against the enemy) section. Nee argues that the order is significant because we must be able to fully know our identity before we can walk or stand successfully. Because Eph 3:14-21 is at the end of the sit section, there is additional significance to this passage.