The Reality of Apostasy
Dr. James White exegetes 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."
The Story of the Bible
From a recent conference of 9Marks at Southeastern Seminary, Dr. Mark Dever gives an excellent overview (or big picture) concerning the contents of the Bible.
Interview on ReformedCast
Scott Oakland has recently begun ReformedCast, in which he provides a weekly interview with persons in the Reformed Community. I was interviewed yesterday for his third episode. The topic: From Credobaptism to Paedobaptism. Make sure you also check out the first two interviews with Bob Hayton and Sean Michael Lucas, and look for the upcoming weeks with new interviews on the topics of the English and American Puritans.
The Wind Blows Where It Wishes
"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.â€ John 3:8
At age 14, something amazing happened to me. - JS
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: Church History did not begin with the birth of Billy Graham!! Because the Bible has not changed through the centuries, what it teaches has not changed either. I have found that although those who were the titans of the faith in the past were never infallible (nor did they ever claim to be), it is arrogant in the extreme to think that we who live in the 21st century cannot learn anything from the gifted teachers God gave to His church in times past. The ascended Christ dispensed gifts to His church (Eph 4:8-12). These gifts were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; men of God, who often upon the threat of death, labored intensely to understand and proclaim the God breathed Scriptures in order to instruct, guide and nourish the people of God. Though now having departed the world's stage, these gifts of Christ can still bless us today through their writings! This quote (below) from the 1689 Westminister Confession of Faith is a rich and detailed summary of what the Bible teaches on the subject of justification, with every word crafted with care and precision. - JS
I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christâ€™s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.
Psalm Twenty-One: You Have Not Withheld the Request of His Lips
How rich and wonderful beyond expression was the substance of the prayer offered up for the Anointed King in the last psalm! And as we move beyond those sacred vistas into new and equally holy prospects of the most blessed psalter, how our heart thrills within us to hear that exuberant affirmation of the king, that the Lord has held back nothing of the request of his lips. Is our own salvation not thereby guaranteed by this testimony? Can we restrain our own hearts from rejoicing with the king in the strength of the Lord, and from exulting in his salvation, seeing that God has given him all his heart's desire? Not so, O Christian, if we truly belong to the Christ; for in his success and glory is our own eternal joy and salvation.
If Paulâ€™s Epistle to the Galatians was Published in Christianity Today
The following is a parody from the archives of the Sacred Sandwich website. . . but is it really just a parody? Though dripping with obvious satire, it provides much food for thought.
If the Apostle Paulâ€™s letter to the Church in Galatia had been published in Christianity Today how would it be received by those who read that magazine? Well, what follows are the letters from readers in response to Paulâ€™s inspired Epistle.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Dear Christianity Today:
In response to Paul D. Apostleâ€™s article about the Galatian church in your January issue, I have to say how appalled I am by the unchristian tone of this hit piece. Why the negativity? Has he been to the Galatian church recently? I happen to know some of the people at that church, and they are the most loving, caring people Iâ€™ve ever met.
Phyllis Snodgrass; Ann Arbor, MI
How arrogant of Mr. Apostle to think he has the right to judge these people and label them accursed. Isnâ€™t that Godâ€™s job? Regardless of this circumcision issue, these Galatians believe in Jesus just as much as he does, and it is very Pharisaical to condemn them just because they differ on such a secondary issue. Personally, I donâ€™t want a sharp instrument anywhere near my zipper, but that doesnâ€™t give me the right to judge how someone else follows Christ. Canâ€™t we just focus on our common commitment to Christ and furthering His kingdom, instead of tearing down fellow believers over petty doctrinal matters?
Ed Bilgeway; Tonganoxie, KS
Images of the Savior (6 - Joshua's Victory Over Many Enemies)
After the fierce anger of the Lord against that which was accursed among the people had been turned away by the utter destruction of Achan and his family, Joshua and the people of Israel enjoyed great success in their warfare against all the nations surrounding them; but the enemies of the people did not just lie down and die, but the more clearly they saw their advancing doom, the more they raged and schemed and strove against the certain victory of Israel's captain, and sought by any means possible to subvert them. First of all, one hostile nation tried to infiltrate the people by deception, and had some measure of success; and then, a great king arose in Jerusalem, and gathered other kings unto himself, and waged a last great assault against Israel, hoping utterly to defeat them once and for all; but instead, they were put to a terrible end, for the Lord fought for Israel, and did great and wonderful things that had never been seen before. How this all happened, and what it foreshadowed, will be the subject of our enquiry.
Breakthrough Technology That Changes Everything
Introducing the Bio-Optically Organized Knowledge Center
You might also be pleased to know that there is an international help desk available for anyone new to this technology (see below):
The Westminster Confession of Faith
The Westminster Confession of Faith (.pdf) EPUB - Kindle
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide. In 1643, the English Parliament called upon "learned, godly and judicious Divines", to meet at Westminster Abbey in order to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England. Their meetings, over a period of five years, produced the confession of faith, as well as a Larger Catechism and a Shorter Catechism. For more than three centuries, various churches around the world have adopted the confession and the catechisms as their standards of doctrine, subordinate to the Bible.
Psalm Twenty: O Yahweh, Save the King!
Everywhere one may turn, the psalms are full of the prayers of the Davidic King, who intercedes for his people and pleads God's eternal blessing and favor upon them; but in this psalm, we find the roles reversed, as it were, and the people of God all lifting up their voice in one accord on behalf of their King. â€œMay the Lord save you!â€, they cry out to him; â€œMay his Name protect you, may he send you aid from his sanctuary, may he remember your sacrifices and burnt offerings, may he fulfill your plans, may we rejoice in your salvationâ€ â€“ these and other such requests they offer up for him.
Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement
Saturday, September 18 is Yom Kippur on the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement. Here is a very interesting video (introduced by Todd Bolen) on the significance of the sacrificial lamb in Jewish thought, pointing us to the atonement of Christ.
Images of the Savior (5 â€“ Achan's Curse)
We may learn something very important from the account of Achan, and the trouble he brought upon Israel; and that is, that even when God has entered into covenant with his people, he still cannot tolerate that which is accursed, and will not permit it to enter his presence, but will pour out his fierce anger upon it, until it is utterly consumed. The people of Israel, under Joshua, that great type of the Savior, had just won a mighty victory over Jericho, and were confident that the Lord would fulfill to them his promise, and give them all the land that he had covenanted to give them. And so, when they came upon the next city, a little place named Ai, they sent only a few men against it, and were very certain of its soon downfall; but those men were dealt a resounding defeat, and they were all perplexed, and cried out to the Lord.
John 3:16 (Revisited)
From Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, pg 73-75
It is ironic that in the same chapter, indeed in the same context, in which our Lord teaches the utter necessity of rebirth to even see the kingdom, let alone choose it, non-Reformed views find one of their main proof texts to argue that fallen man retains a small island of ability to choose Christ. It is John 3:16: â€œFor God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.â€
What does this famous verse teach about fallen manâ€™s ability to choose Christ? The answer, simply, is nothing.
The argument used by non-Reformed people is that the text teaches that everybody in the world has it in their power to accept or reject Christ. A careful look at the text reveals, however, that it teaches nothing of the kind. What the text teaches is that everyone who believes in Christ will be saved. Whoever does A (believes) will receive B (everlasting life). The text says nothing, absolutely nothing, about who will ever believe. It says nothing about fallen manâ€™s natural moral ability. Reformed people and non-Reformed people both heartily agree that all who believe will be saved. They heartily disagree about who has the ability to believe.
Some may reply, â€œAll right. The text does not explicitly teach that fallen men have the ability to choose Christ without being reborn first, but it certainly implies that.â€
I am not willing to grant that the text even implies such a thing. However, even if it did it would make no difference in the debate. Why not? Our rule of interpreting Scripture is that implications drawn from the Scripture must always be subordinate to the explicit teaching of Scripture. We must never, never, never reverse this to subordinate the explicit teaching of Scripture to possible implications drawn from Scripture. This rule is shared by both Reformed and non-Reformed thinkers.
If John 3:16 implied a universal natural human ability of fallen men to choose Christ, then that implication would be wiped out by Jesusâ€™ explicit teaching to the contrary. We have already shown that Jesus explicitly and unambiguously taught that no man has the ability to come to him without God doing something to give him that ability, namely drawing him.
Fallen man is flesh. In the flesh he can do nothing to please God. Paul declares, â€œThe fleshly mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please Godâ€ (Rom. 8:7, 8).
We ask, then, â€œWho are those who are â€˜in the fleshâ€™?â€ Paul goes on to declare: â€œBut you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in youâ€ (Rom. 8:9). The crucial word here is "if."
What distinguishes those who are in the flesh from those who are not is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one who is not reborn is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. People who are in the flesh have not been reborn. Unless they are first reborn, born of the Holy Spirit, they cannot be subject to the law of God. They cannot please God.
God commands us to believe in Christ. He is pleased by those who choose Christ. If unregenerate people could choose Christ, then they could be subject to at least one of Godâ€™s commands and they could at least do something that is pleasing to God. If that is so, then the apostle has erred here in insisting that those who are in the flesh can neither be subject to God nor please him.
We conclude that fallen man is still free to choose what he desires, but because his desires are only wicked he lacks the moral ability to come to Christ. As long as he remains in the flesh, unregenerate, he will never choose Christ. He cannot choose Christ precisely because he cannot act against his own will. He has no desire for Christ. He cannot choose what he does not desire. His fall is great. It is so great that only the effectual grace of God working in his heart can bring him to faith.
The New Creation
"And as it was with respect unto him and his work in the old creation, so it was also in the new. All things in their first production had darkness and death upon them; for "the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Gen 1.2 Neither was there anything that had either life in it, or principle of life, or any disposition thereunto. In this condition he moved on the prepared matter, preserving and cherishing of it, and communicating unto all things a principle of life, whereby they were animated, as we have declared. It was no otherwise in the new creation. There was a spiritual darkness and death came by sin on all mankind; neither was there in any man living the least principle of spiritual life, or any disposition thereunto. In this state of things, the Holy Spirit undertaketh to create a new world, new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness should dwell. And this, in the first place, was by his effectual communication of a new principle of spiritual life unto the souls of God's elect, who were the matter designed of God for this work to be wrought upon."
- John Owen from his classic work on The Holy Spirit
Believer's Reason Conference 2010
Believerâ€™s Reason is the annual apologetics conference hosted by Newberg Christian Church. This yearâ€™s attendees will hear varying perspectives on the topic of hell and purgatory through formal academic debate and workshops.
Bringing these perspectives to light are numerous speakers and authors from around the country including: James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and Doug Pagitt of Solomonâ€™s Porch.
Consider joining us this year for two days of engaging theological dialogue. In doing so, you will gain solid insight and will be well equipped to articulate and defend a biblical perspective.
Friday, October 22
7-10 PM James White and Robert Sungenis
Debate on the subject of Purgatory
Saturday, October 23
12-4pm Each Speaker will give a lecture on the presuppositions of their debate topic
4-6pm Dinner Break
6-9pm Doug Pagitt and Chris Rosebrough
Debate on the topic of Hell
Believers Reason Conference
Newberg Christian Church
2315 Villa Rd
Newberg OR 97132
Psalm Nineteen: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God
Who is glorious like our God? And what tells forth his glory, but the Word of God? In the beginning, God gave forth his voice, he spoke the worlds into existence, and by his Word all creation was made (Gen. 1; John 1:1-3); and now, from one day to another, the glories of the sun and sky and stars above all give an unceasing testimony to the greatness of this God. There is no part of the world where divine glory does not overwhelm our myopic, sin-stained eyes with a dazzling brilliance. All creation shouts forth the majesty of the Creator with a voice loud enough to wake the deaf and shake the earth's foundations. And these are but a whisper of his ways! The staggering beauty of the heavens are but the echoes of that voice that first thundered â€œLet there be Lightâ€! And the whole universe is awash with these echoes of the Word â€“ so that they are rendered utterly without excuse, who exchange the glory that can be known from Creation, even the divine majesty and Godhead of the Creator, for a lesser glory to worship (Rom. 1:18-32).
For Preachers: IMAGINE - Its 9/10/01 - and you are are given an amazing assignment - the privilege of preaching to all on the 11th floor of one of the Twin Towers... and somehow, God lets you know that EVERYONE you will talk to that day will be dead within 24 hours... (ohhh - and you are absolutely forbidden to tell them that)..
Some Questions: WHAT would you preach? HOW would you preach it? Would you have to adjust your sermon from the regular feel good "five steps to a happy life" or "try Jesus" or "try Christianity, you will really like it" idea? If you have to adjust your sermon from your normal one - what does that tell you about what you normally preach? Does your normal sermon seem just trivial now? Or does what you normally preach carry with it the weight and urgency and power of the Gospel? Quite a thought, isn't it?
Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (that based on Scripture alone, the most wretched sinner is justified - declared right before God - by God's grace alone, received through faith in Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone) with GREAT boldness, with SINCERE love, with REAL urgency, and with AUTHORITY as A HERALD OF THE KING, as if HEAVEN AND HELL were real places that people go to for eternity - and that hell is a certainty for all who ignore or reject this Gospel you are preaching that day - but that God's love for the world is seen by the giving of His one and only Son so that everyone who places their faith and trust in Christ would in no way perish, but have everlasting life for certain!
And.. one final question:
As you would consider what and how you would preach that day and find your answers in God's word, should it not be that you preach the exact same way every time you preach, for is it not true that there is no guarantee than anyone hearing you will live another 24 hours?
Let him who thinks he has made a save take heed lest... well, take a look
In a tense match between Maghreb Fez and FAR Rabat to decide who reaches the quarterfinals of Morocco's Coupe du Trone, they had to go to a penalty shootout to decide a winner.
The Bible says, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Application for goalkeepers: make sure you actually have saved the ball before celebrating victory in a penalty shoot out. FAR goalkeeper Khalid Askri thought he came up with a big stop and ... the rest, as we say, is history. His team ended up losing the shootout 7-6.
Book Review: My Almost for His Highest, by John Barber
Anyone who is familiar with John Barber's magisterial The Road from Eden could use a disclaimer from the outset concerning his new book, My Almost for His Highest: this is an entirely different sort of book, accessible to an entirely different kind of audience. The former work was lengthy, scholarly, and sweeping in its historical survey and analyses. This one is brief, easy to read, and touches only upon that which is of immediate and central concern to today's western Church. Is it hard-hitting? Yes. Will it make you uncomfortable? Probably, at points. But is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. If you are a Christian in America today, I cannot imagine that you could read this book and not profit. It is a passionate appeal, driven by a strong conviction that the Church is presently in dire need of a sobering, yet hopeful message. And that this is truly the case is made firm beyond argument in the crystal clear and insightful comments that lace the book from cover to cover.
Of course, it is no secret that contemporary Evangelicalism has suffered a great decline in doctrinal stability, true gospel holiness, and influence in the broader culture. Several excellent books have come out rather recently to speak to that fact. So what is it about Barber's contribution that makes it different from these? I would suggest two characteristics:
First, it is one of the most accessible books you will find on the topic. Perhaps the outstanding literary feature of Barber's book is its economy with words, its pithy, forthright sentences that hit hard and forcefully confront hidden attitudes and presuppositions. Although examples could be drawn from almost every page, I've culled a few specimens to give a taste of his style and blunt wisdom:
â€œFundamentally, people aren't products of culture. They're products of Adamâ€ (p. 13).
â€œ...overly sophisticated churches of today see little to no benefit in articulating their oneness with other churches. In reality, when it comes to the historic creeds and confessions of the Church their attitude tends to be wholly dismissiveâ€ (p. 24).
"Innovation is not a sign of the Church" (p. 24).
"Jesus doesn't call us to attract people to our churches. He calls us to minister the gospel through which He attracts people to Himself. This is what men have forgotten today: the inherent power of the cross to draw people to Jesus!â€ (p. 26).
â€œWhy have many evangelical pastors abandoned the message of the cross in favor of innovation in the ministry? They no longer believe in the power of the gospel!" (p. 28).
â€œ...there's a world of difference between talking about Jesus and preaching Christ. To preach Christ is not to talk about how Jesus is the answer for your mid-life crisis. To preach Christ is to preach the realities of sin, salvation, heaven, hell, His passion, the glorious grace of God to sinners as repentance from sin, trust alone on Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and holiness of livingâ€ (p. 28).
â€œTruth be told, we have already arrived at a time when those that still wish to live radical lives for Jesus are perceived as a greater threat to the life of the Church than those who live in open sinâ€ (p. 37).
â€œThe person and work of Christ is the central message of every passage of scripture. Christ is the Bible's subject and objectâ€ (p. 37).
â€œThe problem people have with biblically prescribed church discipline flows from their deeper problem with God's justiceâ€ (p. 44).
â€œThe evangelical movement is no longer a threat to the world systemâ€ (p. 69).
Second, Barber's work stands out in its hope-filled tenor and confident expectation of the swiftly-hastening triumph of Christ's Church, regardless of how bad the current malaise has become. Drawing from examples in the bible and throughout Church history, Barber's enthusiastic prognosis is that revival, change, and reformation will certainly come again. God's Spirit will soon begin to stir the hearts of God's people, granting them anew a true sense of their utter depravity and helplessness, and causing them to cry out from the depths of their hearts for the sovereign mercy of Christ in his unchanging gospel. When the Church has become exceedingly corrupt in times past, God has done this very thing; and to the end of the age, he will continue to work in like manner, until the world is full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
Now, if there is one quibble I have with the book, it has to do with the largely positive (although brief) treatment Barber gives of the Second Great Awakening in particular, which, in my opinion, has much more to do with the contemporary problems that he so forcefully argues against throughout the book than he lets on, being a movement, as I suppose, which inherently contained some of the seed ideas and doctrines which could not but have brought forth the devastating fruit we have experienced in our generation. But whether or not I am right on this point, I am at least confident that Barber both diagnoses the current problems accurately, and basically offers the way forward with unerring skill â€“ with the only possible exception, in my mind, being a hint of a more Keswickian-leaning flavor of sanctification than I am comfortable with, in the last chapter, and which, I suspect, has something to do with a too positive view of the second awakening which gave it so much impetus. But that is a minor point of disagreement from a book that otherwise I very enthusiastically recommend for its deep and desperately-needed wisdom on so many points of vital concern.
In the final few chapters of the book, Barber gives a scriptural explanation of the largely forgotten and misunderstood doctrines of gospel repentance and faith that it would do well for any Christian at all to read and consider very seriously. In those brief chapters, there is much helpful medicine for today's ailing Church, that has been very wanting in Evangelicalism at large since the days of the Puritans. If anyone purchases the book for nothing else but to read those chapters carefully and in a spirit of self-searching, Spirit-assisted reflection, he will doubtless find the time and money so invested to be very richly rewarded in spiritual gain.
Update: I have been personally assured by John Barber that he is thoroughly opposed to Keswick theology, esp. as seen in Henrietta Mears, Bill Bright, et al, and that, although he appreciates some more Reformed elements of the Second Great Awakening, he also recognizes the deviant doctrine integral to much of it. My difficulties with some of his teaching on sanctification may lie, in part, with the lack of any sustained argumentation and clarification on his part, given the brevity of the book, as well as with an unfortunate coincidence of terminology (but not necessarily of actual doctrine) in some of the Keswickian/Revivalistic experiences of my own past.
The Five Solas of the Reformation by James Montgomery Boice
â€œ1. Scripture alone. When the Reformers used the words sola Scriptura they were expressing their concern for the Bibleâ€™s authority, and what they meant is that the Bible alone is our ultimate authorityâ€”not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. Other sources of authority may have an important role to play. Some are even established by Godâ€”such as the authority of church elders, the authority of the state, or the authority of parents over children. But Scripture alone is truly ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities depart from Bible teaching, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected.
2. Christ alone. The church of the Middle Ages spoke about Christ. A church that failed to do that could hardly claim to be Christian. But the medieval church had added many human achievements to Christâ€™s work, so that it was no longer possible to say that salvation was entirely by Christ and his atonement. This was the most basic of all heresies, as the Reformers rightly perceived. It was the work of God plus our own righteousness. The Reformation motto solus Christus was formed to repudiate this error. It affirmed that salvation has been accomplished once for all by the mediatorial work of the historical Jesus Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification, and any â€˜gospelâ€™ that fails to acknowledge that or denies it is a false gospel that will save no one.
3. Grace alone. The words sola gratia mean that human beings have no claim upon God. That is, God owes us nothing except just punishment for our many and very willful sins. Therefore, if he does save sinners, which he does in the case of some but not all, it is only because it pleases him to do it. Indeed, apart from this grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that flows from it, no one would be saved, since in our lost condition, human beings are not capable of winning, seeking out, or even cooperating with Godâ€™s grace. By insisting on â€˜grace aloneâ€™ the Reformers were denying that human methods, techniques, or strategies in themselves could ever bring anyone to faith. It is grace alone expressed through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ, releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from death to spiritual life.
4. Faith alone. The Reformers never tired of saying that â€˜justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.â€™ When put into theological shorthand the doctrine was expressed as â€œjustification by faith alone,â€ the article by which the church stands or falls, according to Martin Luther. The Reformers called justification by faith Christianityâ€™s â€œmaterial principle,â€ because it involves the very matter or substance of what a person must understand and believe to be saved. Justification is a declaration of God based on the work of Christ. It flows from Godâ€™s grace and it comes to the individual not by anything he or she might do but by â€˜faith aloneâ€™ (sola fide). We may state the full doctrine as: Justification is the act of God by which he declares sinners to be righteous because of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.
5. Glory to God alone. Each of the great solas is summed up in the fifth Reformation motto: soli Deo gloria, meaning â€˜to God alone be the glory.â€™ It is what the apostle Paul expressed in Romans 11:36 when he wrote, â€˜to Him be the glory forever! Amen.â€™ These words follow naturally from the preceding words, â€œFor from him and through him and to him are all thingsâ€ (v. 36), since it is because all things really are from God, and to God, that we say, â€˜to God alone be the glory.â€™â€
â€“James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2001), pp. 65-149.
Expository Preaching (Roundtable Discussion)
From the Gospel Coalition blog site:
First of all a very short video on the future of expository preaching by Bryan Chapell (president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis and author of Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Message):
Then, secondly, a roundtable discussion on how and why pastors should preach expository messages from Godâ€™s Word? Three noted preachers and trainers of preachers take up the question:
â€¢Mike Bullmore, senior pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin, and former chair of the practical theology department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School;
â€¢Bryan Chapell; and
â€¢David Helm, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago and executive director of the Charles Simeon Trust.
Meet Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
After my years of theological training, when I entered into Christian ministry back in 1987, my father made a significant investment in my future ministry by buying me many books containing the sermons of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was my father's favorite preacher, but more than that, he is regarded by many as the greatest preacher of the 20th Century. His series on Romans and Ephesians are timeless, classic works. I hope you get time to enjoy this video (lasting just over 10 minutes) outlining the life story and ministry of a man named affectionately as "the Doctor." - JS
Psalm Eighteen: He Shows Steadfast Love to His Anointed, to David and His Seed Forever
He is either blind or a fool who can look upon a powerful thunderstorm without reflecting in trembling awe upon the might and majesty of the Lord. Immense reserves of strength beyond imagination break forth in the winds and hail and lightnings that sweep so suddenly over the resting world, and the stentorian voice of the thunder testifies to the solemn import of the display â€“ and all this is but the breath of the nostrils of him who rides on the wings of the wind, as David here observes. What utter lunacy could permit a man to see so fearful a nostril-blast without ever trembling at the power of the God who so breathes, and pouring his whole being into answering the question of whether that perfect puissance will prove to be for him or against him?
The Firstborn of all Creation
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesâ€”all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:15-17
There is much that could be said about the title "firstborn". It is a title of honor and refers to Christ being given all "the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: â€œI will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earthâ€ (Ps. 89:27)." (ESV Study Bible notes)
The phrase "firstborn" does not mean that Christ is a created being. We can establish that by reading the words that immediately follow in the text. Jesus is presented as the Creator of all things and He is before all things! This passage is in fact one of many that presents a clear affirmation of the Deity of Christ.
Here, and elsewhere, the "Bible" of the Jehovah's Witnesses (New World Translation published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) deliberately changes the scripture to obscure this truth. Rather than repeating the phrase "all things" over and over again, as Paul did, the Watchtower translation inserts another word, "other," into the text, making it read, "because by means of him all [other] things were created... All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist."
The reason for the translation change is easy to understand: Their theology says that God the Father created Jesus and then Jesus created all other things and therefore, since Watchtower theology insists Jesus is merely a created being, this passage must be rendered this way.
Is there a legitimate reason in the text itself for this insertion? No, not at all - it is merely the blatant attempt to hide the truth.
The Reformed Man Says.. The Arminian Man Says
Have you ever been involved in (or witnessed) a conversation where a reformed person is talking with an Arminian and there are what we might call dueling Bible verses? It goes something like this. The reformed person quotes a verse such as John 6:44 to say that no one has the ability to come to Christ unless God draws them and this is an effectual drawing because all those drawn in this way will be raised up to eternal life. Then the Arminian quotes John 12:32 which talks of Christ being lifted up and drawing all men to Himself. The conversation never gets any deeper than that and any on-looker might just shrug his or her shoulders and come to a conclusion that these things are just mysteries that we cannot fathom now but we will all likely see these things clearly when we get to heaven, but not this side of the grave. These people might well quote 1 Cor. 13:12 which says, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." Their theological stance is to have both feet firmly planted in mid air!
I understand. I have been there. I do believe there are many mysteries in this life that await a heavenly explanation. I also think that there are some things that might always be mysterious to us. Though we will be in a glorified state, we will still only ever be a glorified humanity, and there is a limit as to what human beings can comprehend. However, I dont believe the issue concerning the reformed v. arminian controversy is meant to be forever mysterious to us. I believe there is a consistent biblical position that allows us to embrace all that Scripture teaches. Its taken me a long time to come to that conclusion but here's my basis for saying this.
We as Christians believe the Bible is the word of God, and because the Author is Divine, He at least is not confused on these issues, even if we are. We believe there is a consistent message in the Bible - that it does not contradict itself. And so what do we do? Well some throw up their hands in despair and never look into these matters, but if we love the Lord and His truth, that is not really an option for us. We are to study the Scriptures and seek to find the consistent message that is there. So the question is - does research into the Scriptures provide us with a solution on these matters?
Some people are not interested in an answer even if there is one. I find that attitude hard to comprehend but there are actually genuine Christians who just dont want to study these things. They are not interested. They see these things as the source of division and controversy (perhaps that has been their experience), but I believe God has revealed this to us because He had a good reason to. He put words like election and predestination in the Bible not because He wanted us to have controversy but because He wanted to show us the ground and basis of His work of grace in the lives of His people; He wanted us to be sure of His love for us; and for our hearts and minds to be captivated by the amazing grace and glory of God in salvation.
So back to the dueling verses mentioned above. How are we to deal with them?
God, the Gospel and Glenn Beck
Russell D. Moore wrote an excellent article concering the Glenn Beck rally and the reaction of American Christians. He writes:
A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that theyâ€™ve heard the gospel, right there in the nationâ€™s capital.
The news media pronounces him the new leader of Americaâ€™s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of Americaâ€™s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.
If youâ€™d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But itâ€™s not. Itâ€™s from this weekâ€™s headlines. And it is a scandal.
Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isnâ€™t the problem. Heâ€™s an entrepreneur, heâ€™s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. Iâ€™m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the â€œTea Partyâ€ or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.
Crowning Grace with More Grace
The Scripture says, "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, â€œGod opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.â€ (James 4:7)
Question: God gives grace to humble people. How is this not grace given for the human merit (or work) of humility, which would be the very opposite of grace (unmerited favor)?
Answer: God works to will and to do of His own good pleasure, graciously bestowing upon His people all that He requires of them, even instilling humility in them, so that the humility He gives is not a work of merit undertaken by the recipient, but God's work of grace in the heart of His elect people, which He then crowns with the reward of more grace. - JS
God bestows upon His elect all that He requires
"...in the covenant of grace he (man) is enabled to meet them (requirements of the covenant) only by the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. God works in man to will and to do, graciously bestowing upon him all that He requires of him. It is called the covenant of grace, because it is an unparalleled revelation of the grace of God, and because man receives all its blessings as gifts of divine grace."
Berkhof. Found on p. 264 of his Systematic Theology: