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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

The Greatness of the Love of Christ

At the beginning of the third chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul begins to formulate an intercessory prayer for the church in Ephesus, upon the basis of the rich truths of the gospel which he had just been revealing to them in the first two chapters; but before he is able to express his prayer, he is drawn aside again to the greatness of the gospel mystery, and exults in the message which he has been entrusted with bringing to the Gentiles. This message is the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ, which in their depths and expansiveness had been hidden from the previous ages, but were finally being made known to all the world, viz., how all the nations of men, according to God's eternal purpose, were now being brought in to become full heirs of all the promises made to the saints, and how they had even more direct access to God the Father, and boldness to approach him such as even Abraham and Moses and other great men of God had never known. It is Paul's joy and passion to proclaim so great a gospel to every creature under heaven, not just so that many sinful men could come to know the free grace and boundless goodness of God, but so that, through this Church of redeemed sinners, the infinite and manifold wisdom of God might be displayed even before the highest angels and authorities in all creation.

Accordingly, Paul then picks up his prayer in verse fourteen, after he had left it for thirteen verses, and offers up a beautiful intercession for the saints, the pinnacle and capstone of which is the request that these believers might know with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the all-surpassing love of Christ, and that they might be filled with all the fullness of God. In a brilliant gospel paradox, this most impossible of things with men becomes possible with God, whose power to do good for us is above all that we could ask or think; and so we are strengthened to know that which surpasses knowledge, and to be filled with all the divine fullness that far transcends our finite boundaries. In this way, the glory of Christ shines through the Church with an eternal brilliance, thus consummating God's plan of the ages to display his great glory in Christ, by the Church.

Although there is much that could be said from these verses, I will content myself today with this observation: that our coming to an intimate knowledge of the greatness of the love of Christ is both the greatest treasure that we may obtain by the gospel of God's grace; and also the most perfect display of God's glory in the heavenly places. Now, as it is to our eternal profit and joy to know the love of Christ, and to the eternal glory of God that so great a love might be displayed in us, then actively seeking to know the greatness of the love of Christ is one great means by which we may strive to fulfill our created purpose of knowing and enjoying and glorifying God forever. There is no problem we may encounter in our lives that does not make sense and find a fitting place when we consider how the love of Christ employs everything for our good; and so, if we would know how to put every trial and difficulty and blessing and promise, and everything else that we encounter in our lives, to an eternally good use, the best way we may learn how to do so is first of all to trace out the boundaries of the almighty love of Christ. By the grace of God's Spirit I hope to make a start on this joyously everlasting labor by pointing out ten things wherein the greatness of the love of Christ toward us is displayed.

Continue reading "The Greatness of the Love of Christ" »

December 30, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Free Online Books at Monergism.com

Two newly uploaded free e-books on Monergism.com.

The True Scripture Doctrine by Jonathan Dickenson and

The English Puritans by John Brown.

December 30, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

John Piper's Christmas Poem

In this smelly place he lay,
Smelly like the swine,
Smelly like the rotting hay,
Like your sin, and mine.
Do you see how low he lay?
Do you see how low?
There is lower yet to go.
Lower yet to go.

He is lying where they eat,
Lying where the swine—
Lying like a piece of meat
Where the hungry dine.
Do you see the flow complete
Do you see the flow?
There is greater love to show
Greater love to show.

Continue reading "John Piper's Christmas Poem" »

December 26, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Book Review: Singleness of Heart, by Clifford Williams

Go to Monergism Books

We always have reasons for doing what we do. This is true whether we think consciously about those reasons or not. In fact, most of the time we just feel our reasons, acting intuitively and without deliberation. In other words, our motives often fly under the radar of our minds while moving us to action.

Now, if our motives were always and only good, maybe this wouldn't be a problem. After all, allies flying under our radar pose no threat. But what if our enemies were flying under our radar? What if those enemies were our own sinful motives, like self-advancement or self-justification? What if those motives were really good at concealing themselves from our awareness? What if those motives effectively took out our radar, enabling a whole host of evil motives to operate in stealth? Or, worse still, what if those motives scrambled our signals, convincing us that they were our allies to be welcomed instead of our enemies to be repelled?

That could be bad.

Continue reading "Book Review: Singleness of Heart, by Clifford Williams" »

December 25, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Merry Christmas!

“There’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King.” I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history. Originally, it was intended to honor, not Mithras or any of the other mystery religion cults, but the birth of our King. Incidentally, Easter can be traced to Ishtar in the ancient world. But the Christian church coming together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus is hardly something I think would provoke the wrath of God. I wish we had more annual festivals.” - R. C. Sproul

December 24, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Nativity

I

How wondrous is the light
That shineth in the darkness of the world!
That shineth from above,
That cometh from the first,
Before the world’s foundations had been laid;
That scattereth the darkness
Which comprehendeth not;
That openeth the eyes of men
Who will not understand;
Bright as the image of the Father’s glory; –
Bright as the dawn of the day of creation; –
Brighter than the midnight stars;
Proclaiming all the promises of God,
Full of grace and truth.

What night is this?
What blessed night is this?
The stars begin to twinkle through the mist;
The clouds begin to race across the sky;
The snow begins to glisten in the fields;
The breezes cease to sigh;
The pine trees cease their moan;
The earth still hurrying on its trackless path
Through myriad worlds all rolling to decay
Still cleaves the night, and hastens on its way,
Tracing its endless course around the sun;
And the perpetual groan
Of all creation briefly seems to halt:
The world slips off her shackles for a space,
And leaves behind the curse of endless years.
The stars of dawn rejoice!
The sons of morning shout!
The heavens raise their song
In giddiest exultation,
And strow their richest chords
Upon the world beneath;
All nature lifts a ringing voice of praise!
It is the night when darkness shall dispel; –
It is the night when tears shall flee away; –
It is the night when sin shall be destroyed; –
Sorrow and mourning shall cease;
The redeemed of the Lord shall rejoice,
And come with singing to the holy mount;
The crooked shall be straight;
The hills shall be made low;
And peace shall flourish like a mighty stream.
Tonight the promised Christ
Shall come upon the earth,
And God shall dwell among the sons of men;
Messiah cometh to the world,
And righteousness shall spring up in his steps!

Continue reading "The Nativity" »

December 24, 2009  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Book Review: The Marrow of Modern Divinity, by Edward Fisher

Fisher-Marrow.jpgThroughout Church history, there has been a constant tendency, new with every generation, to fall into one or the other of the twin errors of legalism and antinomianism. I know of perhaps no other text that better addresses both of these dangers from a wise, biblical, and evangelical perspective than Edward Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity. Anyone who reads this classic volume will come away much richer in the knowledge of the gospel; with a deeper understanding of the unity of the biblical message as a whole; and vastly better able to pursue a genuinely Christian life in a manner solidly rooted in the true gospel. This new and well done publication of the Marrow is a considerable boon to the modern Church, which I hope will be taken full advantage of.

Fisher's Marrow is an unusual book, structured in the form of two dialogues. The first is between Evangelista, a gospel minister, Neophytus, a recent convert, and two false Christians, Nomista (a legalist) and Antinomista (an antinomian). The second dialogue is between Evangelista, Neophytus, and Nomologista, a “Prattler of the Law”. In the first dialogue, the gospel minister, Evangelista, in order to address the confusion caused by the false perspectives of Nomista and Antinomista, describes the threefold perspective of the Law as revealed in the Bible: the Law of Works, which says, “Do this, and live”; the Law of Faith, which promises free pardon in the gospel; and the Law of Christ, which says, “Live, and do this”. The first two portions lay out the redemptive-historical, covenantal understanding of the gospel in as clear and helpful a fashion as is likely to be found anywhere; and the last of the three gives immensely practical guidance for living the Christian life in a manner that does not deny the gospel either by despising the Law and living in sin or by coming back under the Law as a Covenant of Works.

The second dialogue, which gives a very thorough explanation of the Decalogue, and indicates the proper way of putting it to use when dealing either with an unbeliever or with a genuine Christian, is also quite helpful. The vast extent to which the ten commandments reach is very helpfully described – much to the discomfiture of the legalist – on the basis of six principles: first, “where any evil is forbidden, the contrary good is commanded; and where any good is commanded, the contrary evil is forbidden”. Second, in every specific commandment “all of the same kind or nature [of action] is comprehended”. Third, the law is “spiritual, reaching to the very heart and soul”. Fourth, the law “must not only be the rule of our obedience, but it must also be the reason of it”. Fifth, obedience to the law must be directed to the end “that God alone may be glorified by us”. And finally, “we must be careful to do all our actions after a right manner”. After giving these premises, Evangelista describes in order the full import of each of the ten commandments, with great insight, showing how vast and all-inclusive is their extent; and with them, he adeptly breaks down Nomologista's self-sufficiency, but comforts Neophytus with the free grace of the Gospel.

One of the elements of Fisher's treatment of the gospel that I found particularly encouraging was the thoroughly Christ-centered treatment he made of the Old Testament. Without a true and genuine knowledge of Christ, interwoven throughout every page of the Hebrew scriptures, there is no profit to be had, either for us or for the Old Testament saints before us. “There is no question,” he says, “but every spiritual believing Jew, when he brought his sacrifice to be offered, and, according to the Lord's command, laid his hands upon it whilst it was yet alive (Lev. 1:4), did, from his heart, acknowledge that he himself had deserved to die, but by the mercy of God he was saved, and his desert laid upon the beast [typically]; and as that beast was to die, and to be offered in sacrifice for him, so did he believe that the Messiah should come and die for him, upon whom he put his hands, that is, laid all his iniquities by the hand of faith” (emphasis mine). Much more of the same could be adduced, but the sum of it is this, that the whole bible, when Fisher is speaking of the Law of Faith, or in other words, the gospel, is treated in a truly evangelical manner, which is very refreshing to see.

Fisher is also very gospel-centered in his teaching on sanctification, or in other words, how the believer is still subject to the Law, not as a law of works, but as the law of Christ. Although there is a sense in which the believer is under the law, it is never divorced from his gospel-freedom from the law. This makes for some very powerful and practical teaching on the Christian life. “If a man will go about this great work, to change his life, to get victory over any sin, that it may not have dominion over him, to have his conscience purged from dead works and to be made partaker of the divine nature, let him not go about it as a moral man; that is, let him not consider what commandments there are, what the rectitude is which the law requires, and how to bring his heart to it; but let him go about it as a Christian, that is, let him believe the promise of pardon, in the blood of Christ; and the very believing the promise will be able to cleanse his heart from dead works” (emphasis mine).

When you read Fisher's work, and in particular this edition of it, you will come away with much more than just Fisher's (significant!) wisdom; for Fisher himself mined the treasures of all the Reformers before him, and he quotes extensively from Luther, Calvin, and others; and in this edition, the very extensive commentary of Thomas Boston (one of the greatest Puritans) is included in an easy-to-follow format. Boston's comments alone would be worth purchasing, and contribute no small incentive to acquiring the Marrow. I hope may readers will put this treasure trove to good use.

Available at MonergismBooks

December 23, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Miracles Today? by Pastor John Samson

Do miracles happen today? If we believe in a God who still answers prayer, I am sure we as Bible believing Christians would say "yes." I try to refrain from using the word "miracle" too often though because as I understand its definition, it refers to something that totally defies natural law - something that cannot be explained by natural process alone.

I can testify to seeing the Lord do some amazing things in the region of Kerala, India. I remember taking a small team there and praying for two young girls aged 7 and 9, one deaf and mute since birth, the other deaf since birth, and they were totally healed by God's power, which resulted in their mother, a Hindu (before all this happened), making a profession of faith in Christ. It was something I will never forget and still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. The image of a young child hearing sound and speaking for the first time is forever etched on my mind.

In a village in Mongolia, I saw the pastor's mother healed of a lame leg which she had suffered with for more than 60 years. Apparently, she had injured her leg when she had fallen off a horse as a teenager, and now at age 76 brought her home village a tremendous visible testimony to the power of God and the authenticity of the gospel!

I mention these two incidents (though I could speak of others) because I am still in contact with people who were present at the time and who can verify these things.

Though I am sure every Christian can testify to seeing answers to prayer even in the realm of physical healing, why do we not see the same level of miracles today as in the time of the early church? Here (below) is a short video (less than 4 minutes) by Dr. John Piper which I think is quite helpful in this regard:

Continue reading "Miracles Today? by Pastor John Samson" »

December 19, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Doctrine is Practical

"The word doctrine simply means "teaching." And it's ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18-20). Yet there's no shortage of church-growth experts, professional pollsters, and even seminary professors nowadays who are cautioning young pastors that doctrine is too divisive, too threatening, too heady and theoretical—and therefore simply impractical. Impractical? I agree that practical application is vital. I don't want to minimize its importance. But if there is a deficiency in preaching today, it is that there's too much relational, pseudo-psychological, and thinly life-related content, and not enough emphasis on sound doctrine. Moreover, the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is completely artificial; doctrine is practical. In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine, because there's ultimately no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God's Word. Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they are divorced from divine principle. Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied. The New Testament church was founded on a solid base of doctrine. Without that, no practical application matters. True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison." - Dr. John MacArthur

December 19, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Jesus "the Christ"- Pastor C. R. Biggs

The angel told Joseph (and earlier Mary):

"[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

The angel declared to the shepherds:

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Jesus "the Christ" is the righteousness of God that God requires- -and amazingly provides - - for sinners to receive by faith.

Jesus simply means "YHWH is Salvation"; his name is JESUS because he will save his people from their sins.

"Christ" is not Jesus' last name (it would have likely been "Ben Joseph"). "Christ" is Greek for the Hebrew "Messiah". "Christ" means "Anointed One"; which means that Jesus Christ is our Savior from sins and our Anointed One.

Continue reading "Jesus "the Christ"- Pastor C. R. Biggs" »

December 19, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Caution: Make haste slowly...

The Manhattan Declaration - I do not feel I can sign it, sharing the sentiments of written statements of men like Dr. R. C. Sproul on the matter here and Dr. John MacArthur here. On the other hand, esteemed men like Dr. Al Mohler and Dr. Ligon Duncan are amongst the nearly 300,000 people who have signed it. The document, written to bring about a united purpose, can now possibly become a source of division, even within the ranks of those who have a firm grasp on the gospel. The question now is "how should we respond to precious brothers who take a different view on the matter (without throwing them under the bus)?" Dr. James White takes some time here to respond to this question. - JS

December 18, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Relationship Between Irresistible Grace and the Atonement

In a discussion relating to limited atonement I discussed how all redemptive blessings are found in Christ, including the blessing of irresistible grace.

A visitor responded:

John, Please help me understand your logic here. Irresistible grace is wrought through the atonement and not election? I am under the impression that God will have mercy on whom he wills. Whether the atonement is limited or not God has chosen his elect and they are atoned for. I am not seeing how by acknowledging that "irresistible grace is found only in Christ" we "acknowledge limited atonement by default". How are the two connected?

my response
Hello ______.

Election, by itself, has never saved anyone. It is God's blueprint, so to speak, of what he intends to do in time through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. God the Father elects, the Son redeems them, and the Spirit applies the work of Christ to the same. The Trinity, in other words, works in harmony, to bring about the redemption of the elect. God the Father does not do this alone, APART form the work of the other two Persons of the Trinity. All redemptive grace is found in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 explains it thus:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Eph 1:3-6)

Please note that all spiritual blessings are IN CHRIST, that the Father chose us IN CHRIST, that He predestined us to adoption as sons IN CHRIST. So yes, you are right, God elects according to his good pleasure but he gets the job done through Jesus Christ.

Limited Atonement is connected to irresistible grace in that, irresistible grace (all acknowledge) is given to the elect alone. It is not granted to the non-elect. And all spiritual blessing are in Christ... Therefore, Christ died in a way, a redemptive way to secure irresistible grace for the elect, that he did not for the non-elect. Irresistible grace was not purchased for the non-elect PERIOD. In other words, the redemptive blessing of irresistible grace is what Christ purchased on the cross to render certain the elect would respond positively to the outward gospel call. No redemptive grace is to be had outside of the work of Christ. All spiritual blessings are found in Christ and Christ alone. To claim otherwise is to deny Christ as our Savior and that his work is finished. At the very least, it denies that His work is sufficient to save completely. Those who deny limited atonement may well believe Christ's atonement was necessary, but it was not sufficient. Even Roman Catholics believe the grace of Christ was necessary, but it was not enough ... they must believe and persevere to the end and thus MAINTAIN their own just standing before God. We affirm that Christ work is complete ... it is totally sufficient to save. He is the author AND perfecter of our faith. There is nothing we can do to improve upon that. In 529 AD the Council of Orange worte the following;

if anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life... that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit ...he is led astray by a heretical spirit." The Council of Orange, CANON 7.(529 AD)

John Owen said, "To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect."

Consider: that whatever God requires of us also includes faith. We do not have the power to believe the gospel without the the Spirit uniting us to Jesus Christ.

In Ezekiel 36:25 God says, I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Notice that God first gives us a new heart so that we may keep his laws. Without the Holy Spirit, the word does not find a place in our heart. Jesus told his disciples that he must go to the Father so the the Spirit would come to the whole world. So again the Bible forces us to conclude that The Trinity works together to bring about his redemptive purposes.

Hope this helps
John
Monergism

December 16, 2009  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

The Doctrines of Grace (Video Seminar) - Dr. James White (Part 3)

December 16, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Doctrines of Grace (Video Seminar) by Dr. James White - Part 2

The concept of "Middle Knowledge" and the Divine Decree

December 14, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Question Concerning Man's Inability

Question from Visitor

Concerning man's inability to come to God on his own, which statement is true:

1. Man cannot come because he will not come.
OR
2. Man will not come because he cannot come.

I was reading and came across those statements. What is at the heart of man's inability to come to Christ? Is it his depraved will? Is it his spiritual blindness/deadness/bondage?

Kinda confused at what lies at the heart of man's inability.

---

Response

Hi and thanks. That is a great question.

The natural man is unspiritual, that is, he is not regenerated or indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so he acts in accordance with his own nature. Left to himself he both cannot and will not come to Christ. But let's be clear. God does not stop him from coming, nor coerce him in any way. His innate corruption means that he rejects Christ of necessity. Water does not rise above its source and a thorn bush does not produce figs, as it were.

Another way to consider this: If someone borrowed $100 million to fund a company and then immediately went and spent it all in a week of wild living in Las Vegas, his inability to repay the debt does not alleviate him of the responsibility to do so. So there is no contradiction between his responsibility and his inability. He created his own inability so he is responsible. Likewise Adam, our federal head, who represents the entire human race, fell and plunged all of us into a condition of debt which we cannot repay. Take note: this does not alleviate us of the responsibility to do so. We owe a debt we cannot repay. We are spiritually bankrupt and our heart needs to be renewed in the Holy Spirit who unites us the Christ. Only then do we have the mind and heart of Christ. ( See 1 Cor 2 ) Without the Spirit we are dead (even hostile) to spiritual things. But when the Spirit comes with the grace of regeneration, renewing our heart after the image of God, we both can and will come to Christ.

Hope this helps. Peace be with you
John
Monergism

December 11, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

COLLISION Playing at BAGDAD THEATER & PUB

COLLISIONKeyArt-1.jpgBAGDAD THEATER & PUB

Sunday, December 13
5 Points Media presents
COLLISION
Featuring leading atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist Douglas Wilson
Doors at 6 p.m.; event at 7 p.m. | $5 | Minor with parent

OVERVIEW
In May 2007, leading atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist Douglas Wilson began to argue the topic "Is Christianity Good for the World?" in a series of written exchanges published in Christianity Today. The rowdy literary bout piqued the interest of filmmaker Darren Doane, who sought out Hitchens and Wilson to pitch the idea of making a film around the debate.

In Fall 2008, Doane and crew accompanied Hitchens and Wilson on an east coast tour to promote the book compiled from their written debate titled creatively enough, Is Christianity Good for the World?. "I loved the idea of putting one of the beltway's most respected public intellectuals together with an ultra-conservative pastor from Idaho that looks like a lumberjack", says Doane. "You couldn't write two characters more contrary. What's more real than a fight between two guys who are on complete opposite sides of the fence on the most divisive issue in the world? We were ready to make a movie about two intellectual warriors at the top of their game going one-on-one. I knew it would make an amazing film."

In Christopher Hitchens, Doane found a celebrated prophet of atheism. Loud. Funny. Angry. Smart. Quick. An intimidating intellectual Goliath. Well-known for bullying and mocking believers into doubt and doubters into outright unbelief. In Douglas Wilson, Doane found the man who could provide a perfect intellectual, philosophical, and cinematic counterpoint to Hitchens' position and style. A trained philosopher and and deft debater. Big, bearded, and jolly. A pastor, a contrarian, a humorist--an unintimidated outsider, impossible to bully, capable of calling Hitchens a puritan (over a beer).

It was a collision of lives.

What Doane didn't expect was how much Hitchens and Wilson would have in common and the respectful bond the new friend/foes would build through the course of the book tour. "These guys ended up at the bar laughing, joking, drinking. There were so many things that they had in common", according to Doane. "Opinions on history and politics. Literature and poetry. They agreed on so many things. Except on the existence of God."

Visit collisionmovie.com for more information.

BIOS
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Christopher Hitchens (b. April 13, 1949) is a popular political journalist and the author of several books, including "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything". Hitchens is regarded as one of the most fundamental figures of modern atheism. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also appears regularly on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, Washington Journal, and Real Time with Bill Maher. He was named one of the US's "25 Most Influential Liberals" by Forbes and one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy. Hitchens lives in Washington, DC.

DOUGLAS WILSON
Douglas Wilson (b. June 18, 1953) is a pastor of Christ Church, editor of Credenda/Agenda magazine, and a Senior Fellow at New Saint Andrews College. A prolific writer, he is the author of many books, including The Case for Classical Christian Education, Letter from a Christian Citizen, Reforming Marriage and Heaven Misplaced: Christ's Kingdom on Earth. Wilson lives in Moscow, Idaho.


DARREN DOANE
Darren Doane is a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker. Doane made his name as a music video director. His work for Blink-182, AFI, Jimmy Eat World and Pennywise is credited for helping bring punk rock into the mainstream in the 1990s. His previous documentary film, The Battle For LA, explored the underground battle rap scene in Los Angeles. Doane is currently in production on the documentary film To Be Born Again about legendary musician Van Morrison and has also written and directed several feature films, including Godmoney, 42K and Black Friday.

COLLISION: Is Christianity Good for the World? (DVD)

December 10, 2009  |  Comments (28)   |  Permalink

The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Source of the Christian Mission

Finally, we must notice that the doctrine of the trinity is the source from which the Christian mission flows. We have already observed that mankind was created to show forth the image of the triune God, as a diverse and yet unified covenant people, reflective of the diverse and complementary persons of the trinity. But just as our ontological existence as the people of God has its source in the nature of the ontological trinity, so our economical function as the people who are responsible to fulfill the Great Commission has its source in the economical trinity, by which the various persons of the Godhead undertook to accomplish the work of redemption.

In his high priestly prayer, Jesus explicitly relates the mission of the disciples to the mission that he himself had undertaken in pursuit of our redemption. Just as the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus has sent us. Just as the Son sanctified himself for his own mission, so he sanctifies us for our mission (see John 17:18-19). In other words, the economical functioning of the trinity is the source of the economical functioning of the Church of Christ, as she pursues the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This understanding may be fleshed out with a couple of further observations.

First, the redemptive role of the Son is the pattern for the economical functioning of the Church. Just as Christ suffered in his physical body to accomplish redemption, so now he is suffering in his mystical body to spread the effects of that redemption. In Colossians 1:24, Paul makes the stunning statement, “I am filling up in my flesh that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, in behalf of his body, which is the Church.” Just as Christ had to suffer in the flesh for the purchase of redemption, so now it remains for his mystical body to suffer for the spread of redemption. According to Paul, there is something lacking in the sufferings of Christ: it cannot be that any more sufferings are necessary to provide redemption; but there are more sufferings necessary to apply the redemption which has already been bought. It is necessary for the mystical body of Christ to suffer, or else redemption will not spread to all the people whom the Father has chosen.

Continue reading "The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Source of the Christian Mission" »

December 10, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

R. C. Sproul on The Manhattan Declaration

By now, most of our readers will be very much aware of the recently released Manhattan Declaration. Dr. R. C. Sproul has provided a written response here. To quote Dr. Sproul, "The Manhattan Declaration confuses common grace and special grace by combining them. While I would march with the bishop of Rome and an Orthodox prelate to resist the slaughter of innocents in the womb, I could never ground that cobelligerency on the assumption that we share a common faith and a unified understanding of the gospel." I wholeheartedly agree with Sproul's sentiments, and for the exact same reasons stated in his article, will not be adding my signature to the Manhattan Declaration. - Pastor John Samson, King's Church, Phoenix, Arizona.

December 10, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

What must I do?

"What must I do to be saved!?"
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)

"...Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?...
If you would enter life, keep the commandments." Matthew 19:15-17

Notice the to different answers. One asks about salvation ... which means he sees his own desperate need and spiritual bankruptcy. The second question asks about what to do to get something? Jesus answers with the requirement of perfect obedience to God's Law.

As Luther said, the law is for the proud and the gospel for the brokenhearted.

December 09, 2009  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Book Review: Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, by John Gerstner

wronglydividing.jpgAnyone who remembers the firestorm of controversy occasioned by the publication of the late John Gerstner's polemical magnum opus against Dispensational theology may be apt to wonder, “Why another reprint? Aren't these disputes largely a relic of the not-so-distant past? Haven't we moved on from the sort of Dispensationalism Gerstner is arguing against?” In fact, there were not a few critics who thought that Dispensationalism had moved beyond Gerstner's critique before the critique was published! But is that really the case? In academic circles, perhaps to a degree. But what kind of world could sustain the immense popularity of the Left Behind novels, which came out significantly after this work? It must certainly be a world that still stands in desperate need of the rigorous and unabashed sort of refutation brought by Dr. Gerstner. The academics may have moved beyond the debate; but in a tragic sort of disconnect, the average pew-sitter is still left in the lurch.

What was it about Wrongly Dividing that was so inflammatory? Well, to anyone claiming the label “Dispensationalist,” it's obvious. Dr. Gerstner is not one to mince words, and his basic contention is that Dispensationalism was begun in very suspect circumstances with very suspect theological undergirdings; it erroneously laid claim to four of the five “points” of Calvinism while intending them in a manner much more consistent with classic Arminianism; and worse yet, it embraced certain errors so germane to the heart of Christianity that they can only be labeled a denial of the gospel. Furthermore, Gerstner contends, the underlying errors are just as prevalent in today's Dispensationalism as they were in Scofield's day. The only changes have been superficial and largely irrelevant.

So is Gerstner right, or do all the critics have a point? In his well-documented indictment, he makes a very compelling case for the dubious Evangelicalism of the early Dispensationalists; but more importantly, he makes a very good case as well for the essential similarity of the later Dallas theologians such as Ryrie, Hodges, and Walvoord. This is important, for the Ryrie/Walvoord type of Dipensationalism still has widespread influence on the Evangelical masses in America (and across the world!). If Gerstner is correct, there is still serious need of a warning call.

Where the critics have a legitimate point, however, is in Gerstner's lack of allowance for other Dispensationalists who have truly moved away from the dubious Evangelicalism of the past. The Progressive Dispensationalists, for instance, are scarcely addressed; and perhaps more importantly, after devoting a major and hard-hitting part of the book to displaying Dispensationalism's essential antinomianism – an insightful and important portion – he makes the offhand observation that John MacArthur has truly escaped this antinomian snare, as evidenced in his controversy with Zane Hodges. The problem is, Gerstner gives no account for how he could have done so; he does not show that MacArthur's Dispensational premises logically require Hodges' antinomianism. He does not show, in other words, that MacArthur is being inconsistent with his Dispensationalism when he rejects antinomianism. And in order to strengthen the case against him and his sort, that logical connection is requisite to show.

Of course, one could make the point that MacArthur is not Gerstner's target – rather, his target is the classic Dallas position which still has such widespread influence among the common crowds. And furthermore, although he did not show the logical connection between antinomianism and MacArthur's version of Dispensationalism, he still did an excellent job of refuting those Dispensational distinctives of MacArthur on their own terms – distinctives, that is, such as the essential distinction between Israel and the Church as two peoples of God. Whether that distinctive logically requires antinomianism or not, it is inherently wrong, as Gerstner capably proves.

This edition is particularly helpful in that it includes some of the sharpest critiques of the book, including those from Hodges, John Witmer, and Richard Mayhue, together with Gerstner's responses. Whether or not Gerstner was guilty of the charges brought against him, he has a forum at least to defend himself and show the ongoing validity of his case.

So back to the original question: is a republication necessary or likely to be helpful? Ask yourself that question the next time you see someone sitting in the airport reading Left Behind! I, for one, think it is. Even in a day when academic Dispensationalism is largely advancing beyond the Ryrie formulation, there is much Ryrianism out there. The publisher's preface rings true:

Unfortunately, as noted above, the older, classical and revised modern system still has an enormously large installed base.... Dispensationalism's “head” may have died but the body still moves in Frankenstein-like fashion, creating a continuing fascination among the masses armed with torches and continuing to look for the Antichrist. And because so many still cling to the old rugged dispensationalism, we need to keep harpooning it until we witness its final collapse.... Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth probably will not be read by the masses who still delight to play “pin the horns on the Antichrist.” But it will be read by some of the more astute students within the movement. And if they read far enough within, they may succumb and begin challenging their fellow stumblers.

May that “final collapse” soon come!

Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: Available at Monergism Books.

December 09, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Study Bible Recommendations

There are some very good study Bibles out there, but to provide some sort of leadership for the people I serve, today I wrote the following article where I shortened the recommendations to just two: here - Pastor John Samson

December 08, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Our Top Ten Books of 2009

In no particular order here are ten books that particularly stood out to me this year. This is by no means an exhaustive list. No doubt there are other ones you may think deserve a place in this list. These just happen to be my personal favorites.

The Marrow of Modern Divinity
An intriguing book, quite unlike any other, The Marrow of Modern Divinity defies categorisation. It is penned as dialogue between a minister (Evangelista), a young Christian (Neophytus), a legalist (Nomista) who believes Christianity is a set of rules to be obeyed and (Antinomista) who thinks sinning is not a big issue as God will forgive him anyway. The result is a wonderfully insightful book that remains tremendously relevant. This book is a classic on the gospel - not many books like it and we are dleighted that Christian Heritage has republished this work in such a beautiful easy-to-read format, with Thomas Boston's notes both on the edges and at the end of chapters. Clearly my favorite of the year.

Finally Alive by John Piper
There are very few doctrines, if any, that are more central to the distinction between true Christianity and false religion than the doctrine of the new birth, or regeneration. That is why we are at pains to specifically focus on this doctrine at Monergism. When a very religious Nicodemus sought Jesus out by night, it was the doctrine of the new birth that proved him an unbeliever, still dead in his sins. When the gnostic heretics were filling the church with confusion in John's day, it was the doctrine of the new birth, over and over again, that he used to distinguish true believers from false imposters. And so today, if we would learn what it really is to be a Christian – what distinguishes a true Christian from a merely religious person, how a person becomes a true Christian, what true Christianity looks like in a person's everyday life – it must be the biblical teaching on the doctrine of regeneration that informs our understanding. John Piper's new book, Finally Alive, is a lucid and compelling study of this vital doctrine. Argued adroitly from a wide range of scriptural passages, and applied poignantly and appropriately to the state of the Church in modern America, Finally Alive cannot fail to have a dramatic impact on our understanding of what a Christian really is, how we can examine our own hearts to discern if we are truly in the faith, and how we can labor more passionately and effectively for the gospel-accomplishment of regeneration in the hearts of those all around us and across the world who are still dead in trespasses and sins. This is not just first-rate exegesis – it is convicting, practical, exhortational material. Highly recommended!

A Treatise on the Law and Gospel
Having never before read any of John Colquhoun's considerable output, and only having, for that matter, a very sketchy idea of his place and significance in Reformed history, I was eager to get into what I thought could not but be his most important work, a treatise on the sum of biblical revelation, considered under the headings of Law and Gospel; but if I was eager beforehand, my enthusiasm only grew from the first page and on. “How,” I wondered, “did so insightful, meticulous, and applicational a writer escape my notice for so long?”. The treatise was a feast, and served further to drive home to me the unparalleled tendency of the historic Reformed faith to ground its adherents in the vast and glorious freedom of the Gospel, and always in such a way as not to minimize a life of practical holiness, but rather to excite and encourage true piety and devotion. I would earnestly recommend A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel to anyone at all, and in order to lend force to my recommendation, I would mention a few outstanding features of the work.

Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church, by Martin Downes
Risking the Truth is one of the most innovative and interesting books I have come across this year. Structurally, I have never encountered a book quite the same: in addressing a unified question, that of heresy within the Church, it draws on the insights and contributions of many leading Christian pastors, teachers, and theologians across the world (and the selection of contributors, by the way, is absolutely superb!); and yet it is not exactly like any other example of multi-author works available. It is not a collection of essays or chapters on assigned topics, but rather a series of one-on-one interviews, conducted by Downes, which make for a unique set of enjoyable benefits that I discovered to be consistently threefold at least: first is the benefit of a personal glimpse into the lives and ministries of humble and capable men of God; second, immense collective insight into how to discern and address heresy within the Church; and third, analyses and reflections upon specific modern errors and heresies by those who are leading experts in their particular fields.

The Law Is Not of Faith , by Bryan D. Estelle, J.V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen
In recent Reformed treatments of Covenant Theology, there have been several trajectories tending to emphasize ever more strongly the continuity between the Abrahamic, Sinaitic, and New covenants as different administrations of the Covenant of Grace, and correspondingly, to de-emphasize any discontinuities that may exist, particularly when it comes to the works-principle so evident in the giving of the Law, and in Paul's treatment of the Mosaic administration. Examples include John Murray's “monocovenantalism,” the New Perspective on Paul, and the Federal Vision, but the impact is wider than these examples might suggest, even to the extent that any suggestion within Reformed circles that Sinai entailed, in some sense, a republication of the Covenant of Works, is often met with stiff resistance and charges of Lutheran or (worse yet!) Dispensational influences. But does this widespread reaction against the teaching of republication have roots in historic Reformed thought? And more importantly, can it find support in the whole tenor of the Pentateuch and in the prophets and apostles who later interpreted it? According to the authors of The Law Is Not of Faith, the answer to that question is a resounding “No!”; and in support of that contention, they have mounted a redoubtable defense. This is stimulating, well-researched and exegetically-formidable writing, and at the same time it is very pertinent to many of the most hotly contended issues in Reformed theology today. I earnestly recommend it.

A Praying Life , by Paul Miller
While there are a multitude of resources out there on prayer, this one stood out as worth my time. Devotionally rich and profoundly insightful.

Counterfeit Gods , by by Tim Keller
In a very insightful examination of our cultural “gods” the things we look to for meaning and success, Keller diagnoses our true underlying problems, which go far beneath the panic we felt when the stock market crashed, and gives hope for a true and lasting solution. My personal favorite of Keller's books! In it he has displayed some amazing acuity in uncovering our “counterfeit gods” and that matters tremendously. Because the idols that we follow are not genies we control to get what we want, they are tyrants that control us and then destroy and forsake us. “Idols control us, since we feel we must have them or life is meaningless”. So instead of looking to those tyrannical traitors for what we want, we need to look for satisfaction in the God who really does reign, but is not a tyrant. How? “We have to know, to be assured, that God so loves, cherishes, and delights in us that we can rest our hearts in him for our significance and security and handle anything that happens in life” – and we really can come to that assurance, but only if “we look at his sacrifice on the cross, and say to God, 'Now we know that you love us. For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us'”.

Who Made God? ? by Edgar Andrews.
With the many responses to the new atheists out there, this is perhaps one of the most intelligent!. Andrews gives are very reasonable approach to refuting the presuppositions of atheism. Fun to read.

Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon.
This is a must read book for all preachers of the gospel as it relates to how media and society have shaped our messages. This is a book to be thankful for and has been a blessing to those I know who have read it.

CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet by Michael R. Emlet
I wanted to find a practical book among the more theological ones above and this book immediately came to mind. It is a book for all people active in personal ministry --- "ministry—counselor, pastor, discipler, spiritual mentor, small-group leader, campus ministry worker, youth leader, crisis pregnancy worker, or intentional friend."Samuel Logan says, "This is simply the best book about the nature and function of the Bible that I have ever read! Dr. Emlet has written a superb book, which anyone who wants to understand and apply the Bible really MUST read! "

December 08, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Means of the Christian Mission

Not only does trinitarian theology shape the goal toward which the Christian mission is striving; it also clarifies the means which are to be used in the pursuit of that goal. Redemption is ultimately an accomplishment of the triune God; he alone is the doer of the work, and therefore, any human activity must flow from his prior activity, and be directed and empowered by him. The mission that God left his people with is ultimately his mission, and advances on the basis of his eternal, immutable design; and so, any human activity which fails to take into account God’s redemptive plan as he has made it known is bound to be frustrated. Human mission endeavors are likely to be successful only as they understand the divine agenda and lean upon divine strength. This means that a first qualification for any missionary is a knowledge of the triune God; an awareness of the role of the persons of the Godhead in the work of redemption, as revealed in the scriptures; and a heart-attitude of faith in those joint operations of the persons of the Trinity.

For example, take the scriptural revelation of the work of the Father in the plan of redemption: he is the ultimate planner, the source from whom the whole work flows and is governed. We see throughout the gospel of John that the Son, in the fulfillment of his part of the redemptive work, acts in an unceasing obedience to the Father’s will (e.g. John 5:17-19, 30; 8:28-29; 10:17-18; 14:31; 17:4). Likewise the Spirit, when he comes, speaks not on his own, but only what he has heard from the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14). This role of the Father in planning out the work of redemption is seen with special clarity in the aspect of his choosing its subjects. We have already observed that the Father has chosen a specific people to give to the Son, and that the Son has purposed to redeem these alone (e.g. John 6:37-40; 10:29; 17:1-2, 6, 10); we may add to this testimony the witness of the epistles, which speaks of the Father’s choice of a certain people to be redeemed in no uncertain terms (e.g. Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Peter 1:1-2). We may learn further from the revelation of scripture that this people is chosen out of every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation (e.g. Revelation 5:9), and that it will be called out only when the gospel is proclaimed in all the world (e.g. Matthew 24:14).

So how does this truth affect the task of the Christian missionary? First, it gives him a clear directive in the pursuit of the task: as the Church continues to spread across the world, believers may know that in their missionary endeavors they ought to target the kindreds, tribes, tongues, and nations which are yet unreached, because they know that the conversion of representatives from these peoples is the Father’s will. Their task remains undone as long as there is any people group that has not heard the gospel, or that has not yet seen fruit from the proclamation of the gospel. Second, this understanding gives hope to missionaries laboring in the most difficult places. When Paul was experiencing opposition in Corinth, he was comforted by the realization that the Father had many people in that city, chosen for a redemption which had not yet been applied (see Acts 18:9-11). In the same way, the missionary who understands the biblical representation of the Father’s role in redemption has a strong hope that his labor will not be in vain, and has cause to cry out to God in faith for the success which has been promised. Because God has chosen a people, our ultimate success is guaranteed. This foundational awareness of the Father’s revealed role in the work of redemption drives a faithfulness which would otherwise wilt under the discouragement of unfavorable circumstances.

Continue reading "The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Means of the Christian Mission" »

December 08, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Doctrines of Grace - Video Seminar - Dr. James White

December 07, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Coventry Carol - Westminster Cathedral Choir

December 06, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Monergism Books Site Search

December 05, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Gregory Nazianzen on Flippant Theological Banter

Note: This portion is taken from Gregory's first, introductory, "theological oration". I suspect it contains much wisdom for the theological debates so widespread on the internet today. The rest of the "Theological Orations" may be read here.

III. Not to every one, my friends, does it belong to philosophize about God; not to every one; the Subject is not so cheap and low; and I will add, not before every audience, nor at all times, nor on all points; but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits.

Not to all men, because it is permitted only to those who have been examined, and are passed masters in meditation, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified. For the impure to touch the pure is, we may safely say, not safe, just as it is unsafe to fix weak eyes upon the sun's rays. And what is the permitted occasion? It is when we are free from all external defilement or disturbance, and when that which rules within us is not confused with vexatious or erring images; like persons mixing up good writing with bad, or filth with the sweet odours of unguents. For it is necessary to be truly at leisure to know God; and when we can get a convenient season, to discern the straight road of the things divine. And who are the permitted persons? They to whom the subject is of real concern, and not they who make it a matter of pleasant gossip, like any other thing, after the races, or the theatre, or a concert, or a dinner, or still lower employments. To such men as these, idle jests and pretty contradictions about these subjects are a part of their amusement.

Continue reading "Gregory Nazianzen on Flippant Theological Banter" »

December 05, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

An Interview with Dr. Michael Horton

An Interview with Michael Horton Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

December 04, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Five Theological Orations

Anyone interested in patristics or Church history will be pleased to know that Gregory Nazianzen's justly famous Theological Orations (the public domain translation of Charles Gordon Brown and James Edward Swallow) are now available in paperback. The Five Theological Orations, first delivered in AD 379 by Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three “Cappadocian Fathers” of the early Church, were immediately recognized as a landmark defense of the orthodox doctrine of the holy Trinity. Their historical importance as a decisive blow against the various trinitarian heresies of the fourth century – one from which they would never really recover – is indisputable; but just as obvious is their abiding value for clear-headed thinking, devotional fervor, and reverent humility becoming a genuine man of God. This is edifying reading for all the saints, no less in our day than in Gregory Nazianzen's.

This edition also contains Gregory's "Oration on Pentecost," a fitting appendix to the fifth theological oration, in which the deity of the Holy Spirit is established. The electronic version is available for free download, and the paperback may be purchased for $7.95, here.

December 04, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

I remember a time (May, 1981) when as a teenager, I was given the privilege of representing my High School in a soccer penalty shoot out competition. I survived the knock out rounds and ended up playing at Anfield, Liverpool's home ground in England before a crowd of more than 17,000 people. This was a very memorable night for me, to put it mildly - one I still remember with pleasure. At the time, Liverpool were the greatest soccer team in Europe. Three weeks later, they won the European Cup. As a boy I had stood on the terraces and watched my favorite team play so many times. Now it was my turn to play there and my emotions were mixed. I was both very anxious and extremely excited.

On the Sunday before this big event, a Christian brother, knowing what I would face and knowing that I was more than a little nervous to play in front of such a vast crowd told me to focus on the text mentioned above, namely Paul's words to the Philippians in chapter 4, verse 13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

At the time, the text was a real comfort to me and without doubt it became the object of my focus. But now years on, though I was inspired by the text, I do not believe it was a correct application of the text. Paul was not referring to sporting events in that text.

In our day, we are far too keen to rush to make application of the text. People want "practical" sermons and practical messages. Well there's nothing wrong with that. The Bible is intensely practical, yet we need to rightly interpret a text before we attempt to apply it. The one thing comes before the other. False interpretations lead inevitably to false applications.

Continue reading "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" »

December 04, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Casting the Gospel Seed Far and Wide

We are to cast the seed of the gospel far and wide, indiscriminately to all people. But the ground of people's hearts are naturally hardened. The gospel seed will fall on hard ground unless God plows up the fallow ground of our hearts... unless the Spirit unplugs our deaf ears to hear the gospel. So the Spirit and word work together. The word by itself is not enough. The Spirit must apply it to our hearts. Scripture proof: 1 Thess 1:4,5 says "He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction."

December 03, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Goal of the Christian Mission

The most basic application of the doctrine of the trinity to the goal of Christian mission is simply this: if the inter-relationships of the ontological trinity are indeed covenantal, then the goal of Christian mission must also be covenantal. When God first created man, it was explicitly for the purpose of showing his own image. Man was different from all the creatures in the garden because he alone was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When man fell and marred that image, God’s purpose was not frustrated: just as he had planned to show his image in creation, so he had planned to show his image even more fully in redemption. Not only did he create all things for his glory, he also engaged in all of his redemptive tasks for his own glory (see Isaiah 43:5-7); which is simply shorthand for the display of his own nature, which is eminently glorious.

What this means for the Christian mission is that, its ultimate goal is not simply to get as many individuals as possible off of the course of destruction, and into the bliss of heaven (as vital as that work of mercy is for displaying the character of a merciful God). On the contrary, it is all about reforming a new mankind, that will display God’s image in covenantal unity, even as the trinity exists in a covenantal love and unity. This is why, throughout the history of the Old Testament, God’s dealings with mankind were ever enacted on the basis of the covenants that he had inaugurated with them (see Genesis 9:8-17; 17:1-8; Exodus 19:3-6; 2 Samuel 7:12-16), and they ever involved the formation of an indissoluble and unified people of grace, and not merely a composite collection of persons of grace. God chose and saved the nation of Israel, not one person in ten from every nation of the world. And even now that he is expanding his kingdom to include every nation, he is still doing so by bringing representatives of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation into one new people, his own kingdom of priests (cf. Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:6; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 5:9-10).

This concept has at least three applications to the goal of missions: first, a Christian missionary’s task, when dealing with any unbeliever, is not just to get him a ticket to heaven, but to bring him into a covenantal relationship with God. Christ died, not so that we might sit on clouds with halos and strum our harps, but to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). The ultimate expression of the blessings of redemption is being brought into a covenantal relationship with God himself, which is substantially similar to the inter-relationship of the eternal persons of the trinity. Jesus died, by his own confession, to keep believers “in the name” of God (John 17:11-12). What that means precisely becomes clearer a little later when Jesus prays that they would “be one in us” (that is, in the Father and the Son – John 17:21), and that he himself would be “in them” (John 17:23, 26). The final goal of the Christian mission is to bring believers into a personal relationship with God which precisely expresses the personal relationships within the eternal trinity.

Second, the task of Christian missions is to bring believers into a mutual relationship with each other which in itself reflects the inter-relationships within the trinity. Throughout the epistles the virtue of Christian unity is espoused and urged more than almost any other virtue (e.g. Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 1:27; 2:1-5). Believers show forth the divine, inter-trinitarian image when they are united in a diverse, loving, and mutually-honoring covenantal relationship.

Third, the goal of the Christian mission is ultimately to glorify God. If believers are to be perfectly happy, it is only to be by entering into a state similar to that of the perfectly blessed (i.e. happy) Godhead (e.g. 1 Tim. 1:11; 6:15). True Christian joy reflects the state of unruffled blessedness that has always existed in the trinity, the persons of which bring constant and illimitable joy to each other unceasingly. Therefore, it is a joy which is primarily designed to glorify God, that is, to display the nature of God. In other words, as great as are the blessings which God has given to followers of Jesus, those blessings themselves serve the greater purpose of glorifying God. God accomplished his work of redemption in order “to show…the riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). It was “to make known the riches of his glory in vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand unto glory” (Romans 9:23). Thus, any expression of the goal of the Christian mission which stops short with the needs of the unbeliever is essentially inadequate. Missions exists to bring eternal joy and life to sinners, but only because that will bring eternal glory to God, by displaying his nature in those whom he saves. -- from How the Doctrine of the Trinity Shapes the Christian Mission

December 02, 2009  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

"God's Electing Love in Christ"- Ephesians 1:3-14

EPHESIANS 1:3-14
“GOD’S ELECTING LOVE IN CHRIST”
REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS

Part Two in a sermon series on Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians

Last week we learned from the Book of Ephesians that Grace and peace are the two main ingredients for life in the Christian community. Grace and peace should inform our ultimate identity in Jesus so that we can live worshiping and serving God as we are called to do.

Summary statement for today's sermon: Predestination and election (or being chosen) humbles and exalts God’s purposes, power and glory. The path of our apprehension of this Biblical teaching must begin at the foot of the cross. The cross is the realization of predestination and election and the beginning of the response of the true worship of God.


There was a real and radical change of the Apostle Paul by God’s grace from inside-out- -he was a new creation- -with a new identity in Jesus Christ: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God: (1:1b)

“An Apostle of Christ Jesus”- No longer, a blasphemer and persecutor of the Church: Not “Saul, a Pharisee of Pharisee, self-righteous, proud, according to the “traditions of the fathers”.

“By the will of God”- Not his own idea, but according to Christ’s call.

Paul now encourages the Ephesians who were part of a wicked worldly environment, that there greatest hope is in God’s electing love in Christ.

Continue reading ""God's Electing Love in Christ"- Ephesians 1:3-14" »

December 02, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink