31 August 2011

John Stott at Wheaton

Three talks on the authentic Jesus in 1998, with a Q&A in 2000, here.

I remember sitting in the chapel as he gave these talks. I knew I was up against something solid and real.

Already Under the Love

Eric Ortlund--
When you were having devotions this morning, or not; when you were rubbing your eyes and waiting for the coffee to kick in and going to work, you were under the love and compassion of an infinite Friend and Savior. When you prayed this morning, you did not have to compose your soul in order to win a hearing. If yesterday's failings were weighing on you, you did not have to become suitably humble and mournful in order for him to listen to you. You can say, "In my heart of (hardened) hearts, I still love that sin--deliver me from my impenitence," and his mercy quickly attends you.

Where Jesus Saw His Own Face

British Bible scholar and churchman Chris Wright--
We are . . . familiar with the idea that, as Paul put it, 'all the promises of God are "Yes" in Christ' (2 Cor. 1:20). But in a sense all the acts of God are 'Yes' in Christ also. For the Old Testament is much more than a promise box full of blessed predictions about Jesus. It is primarily a story--the story of the acts of God in human history out of which those promises arose and in relation to which only they make sense. . . .

It was the Old Testament which helped Jesus to understand Jesus. Who did he think he was? What did he think he was to do? The answers came from his Bible, the Hebrew scriptures in which he found a rich tapestry of figures, historical persons, prophetic pictures and symbols of worship. And in this tapestry, where others saw only a fragmented collection of various figures and hopes, Jesus saw his own face. His Hebrew Bible provided the shape of his own identity.
--Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (IVP, 1995), 27, 108; emphasis original

30 August 2011

The Kind of Man Jesus Loved

Hugh Martin, commenting on the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22), in a paragraph underlined and marked up in other ways by my grandfather, who left this book to me and who embodied with his life the very thing he underlined with his pen--
Jesus loved the enthusiast, the man who knew what side he was one and threw himself whole-heartedly into the struggle. He liked energetic action, as in the men who climbed the roof and broke a way through for their paralyzed friend, or in Zacchaeus who forgot his dignity and swarmed up a tree. He loved the generous giver. All four Gospels quote His saying, 'He who loves life loses it; he who spends keeps.' It sums up His attitude to life. He praised the man who banged on the door till he got an answer; He wanted men to show that kind of determination in the affairs of religion. He praised the widow who badgered the unjust judge into doing justice. He did not like playing for safety or burying one's talent. It is the peace-makers rather than the peace-keepers whom He blesses. Goodness is a positive active loyalty.
--Hugh Martin, The Seven Letters: Christ's Message to His Church (London: Carey Kingsgate, 1956), 107

No, by 'the kind of man Jesus loved' I am not denying the wonderful truth that Jesus loves all of his adopted brothers and sisters with a beautiful equality. Indeed, on one level, it was precisely the person who knew their poverty and inherent inability to generate any kind of enthusiasm for whom Jesus' heart broke and for whom he had a special care.

But you cannot tell me that there is not in the heart of God a special pleasure over, and even a special love for, those children of his who live all out for him. Whole-hearted earnestness. Not frothy frivolity, not artificial painted-on smiles. But a glad determination that picks itself up from the ground after every emotional leveling and rejoices its way back into sanity and hope once more.

29 August 2011

What kind of September 2011 do you want to look back on in 2030?

Now go get it.

We Are All Papists

Here's how George Whitefield opens a sermon on Jeremiah 23:6, entitled 'The Lord Our Righteousness.'
Whoever is acquainted with the nature of mankind in general, or the propensity of his own heart in particular, must acknowledge, that self-righteousness is the last idol that is rooted out of the heart. . . . [W]e have contracted such devilish pride, by our fall from God, that we would, if not wholly, yet in part at least, glory in being the cause of our own salvation. We cry out against popery, and that very justly; but we are all Papists; at least, I am sure, we are all Arminians by nature; and therefore no wonder so many natural men embrace that scheme. It is true, we disclaim the doctrine of merit, are ashamed directly to say we deserve any good at the hands of God. . . .

This is the sorest, though, alas! the most common evil that was ever yet seen under the sun. An evil that in any age, especially in these dregs of time wherein we live, cannot sufficiently be inveighed against. For as it is with the people, so it is with the priests; and it is to be feared, even in those places, where once the truth as it is in Jesus was eminently preached, many ministers are so sadly degenerated from their pious ancestors, that the doctrines of grace, especially the personal, All-Sufficient Righteousness of Jesus, is but too seldom, too slightly mentioned. Hence the love of many waxeth cold; and I have often thought, was it possible, that this single consideration would be sufficient to raise our venerable forefathers again from their graves; who would thunder in their ears their fatal error.
--George Whitefield, Sermon 14 in Selected Sermons of George Whitefield

The Sweep of the Bible in Two Weeks

If a freshman in college or stay-at-home mom or aspiring deacon or friend from work or anyone else asked me how they might get a rough grasp of the macro-storyline of the Bible in a few weeks, I'd send them not to any secondary resource but to the Bible itself for a reading plan that might look something like this.

Week 1
Sunday - Genesis 1-3
Monday - Genesis 12-17
Tuesday - Exodus 1-3, 12
Wednesday - Exodus 14, 19-20
Thursday - Joshua 23-24; Judges 1-2
Friday - 1 Samuel 8, 16; 2 Samuel 7, 11; Psalm 105
Saturday - Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 35, 52-53, 65
Week 2
Sunday - Jeremiah 30-33; Ezekiel 36-37, Zechariah 9; Malachi 3-4
Monday - Matt. 1:1; Mark 1:1-15; John 1:1-18; 5:39-46; Luke 24
Tuesday - Mark 14:1-16:8
Wednesday - Acts 1-2; 13:13-49
Thursday - Rom. 1:1-6; 16-17; 3:9-31; 5:12-21; 8:18-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-23
Friday - Heb. 1:1-4; 10:19-12:2
Saturday - Revelation 1; 20-22

How to Read the Bible

All the actual biblical texts should be read slowly and reflectively since they have a power of their own. The ancient method for reading the Bible is to involve yourself so deeply that you feel yourself as part of the story. This means that you are actually there. This is not a piece of pious fiction, but based on the way the text was written. It was designed as a living drama in which the audience is there as part of the action.
--J. A. Grassi, The Five Wounds of Jesus and Personal Transformation (Alba House, 2000), ix; emphasis original (HT: Peter Bolt)

Not the only thing to be said; but a neglected one.

27 August 2011

Help in Gospel-Centered Bible Reading

In some recent teaching I drew up a list of books I've found helpful in how to read the Bible from a macro-perspective with Jesus as the point of the whole Bible. Maybe it would be useful to the odd reader of this blog.

Authors to read for further study on gospel-centered hermeneutics:
* = entry level
** = intermediate level
*** = advanced level

T. Desmond Alexander
*The Servant King: The Bible’s Portrait of the Messiah. Regent College Press, 2003. 172 pp.

*From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Kregel, 2009. 208 pp.

G. K. Beale
***A New Testament Biblical Theology: Transformation of the Old Testament in the New. Baker, 2011. 992 pp.

**“The Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology.” In The Reader Must Understand: Eschatology in Bible and Theology. Edited by K. E Browner and M. W. Elliot. InterVarsity, 1997. 60 pp.

D. A. Carson
*The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in the Story. Baker, 2010. 240 pp.

Bryan Chapell
**Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. 2d ed. Baker, 2005. 400 pp. Note especially chapters 10 and 11.

Roy Ciampa
**“The History of Redemption.” In Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity. Edited by Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House. Baker, 2007. 50 pp.

Edmund Clowney
**Preaching Christ in All of Scripture. Crossway, 2003. 192 pp.

**The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament. Presbyterian & Reformed, 1991. 208 pp.

Stephen Dempster
**Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible. InterVarsity: 2003. 267 pp.

William Dumbrell
**The End of the Beginning: Revelation 21–22 and the Old Testament. Wipf & Stock:2001. 216 pp.

Graeme Goldsworthy
*According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. InterVarsity, 2002. 251 pp.

**The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Gospel and Kingdom, Gospel and Wisdom, The Gospel in Revelation). Paternoster, 2001. 586 pp. (esp. Gospel and Kingdom)

***Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation. InterVarsity, 2007. 341 pp.

**Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching. Eerdmans, 2000. 287 pp.

Sidney Greidanus
**Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method. Eerdmans, 1999. 392 pp.

Dennis E. Johnson
**Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures. Presbyterian & Reformed, 2007. 494 pp.

Sally Lloyd-Jones
*The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Zondervan, 2007. 352 pp.

Vaughan Roberts
*God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible. InterVarsity, 2003. 160 pp.

O. Palmer Robertson
**The Christ of the Covenants. Presbyterian & Reformed, 1981. 308 pp.

Colin Smith
*The Plan. TGC Booklets. Crossway, 2011. 30 pp.

Michael Williams
*Far as the Curse is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption. Presbyterian & Reformed, 2005. 319 pp.

Christopher J. H. Wright
**Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament. InterVarsity, 1992. 256 pp.

26 August 2011

The Law and the Conscience

Luther, in the preface to his 1591 commentary on Galatians:
For a Christian the law ought to have dominion only over the flesh. When it is so, the law is kept within bounds. But if it presumes to creep into your conscience and tries to reign there, you must make the right distinction. Give no more to the law than is right, but say,

'You want to climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, do you, Law? You want to reign over it and reprove sin and take away the joy I have by faith in Christ and drive me to desperation? Keep within your bounds, and exercise your power over the flesh, but do not touch my conscience. By the Gospel I am called to share righteousness and everlasting life. I am called to Christ's kingdom, where my conscience is at rest and there is no law, but rather forgiveness of sins, peace, quietness, joy, health, and everlasting life. Do not trouble me in these matters, for I will not let an intolerant tyrant like you reign in my conscience, which is the temple of Christ, the Son of God. He is the King of righteousness and peace, my sweet Savior and Mediator; he will keep my conscience joyful and quiet in the sound, pure doctrine of the Gospel and in the knowledge of Christian and heavenly righteousness.'

When I have this righteousness reigning fertile in my heart, I descend from heaven like the rain that makes the earth fertile. That is to say, I come out into another kingdom, and I do good works whenever I have a chance.
--Martin Luther, Galatians (Crossway, 1998), xxii

One Reason Homosexual Desires Are Dishonorable

I had never considered this insightful point in considering what is 'dishonorable' in homosexual 'passions' (Rom. 1:26). Our friends write in the ESV Study Bible--
Homosexual desires are 'dishonorable' both because they are contrary to God's purpose and because they treat a person's biological sex as only half of what it is. While the logic of a heterosexual bond is that of bringing together the two (and only two) different and complementary sexual halves into a sexual whole, the logic of a homosexual bond is that another person of the same sex complements, and fills what is lacking in, that same sex, implying that each participant is only half of his or her own sex: two half males making a full male or two half females making a full female.

In other words, the logic of sexual intercourse requires a sexual complement, and thus a same-sex bond is a self-devaluing of one's own gender inasmuch as one sees the need to complement structurally one's own sex with someone of the same sex. (p. 2548)

25 August 2011

Heap it up Mountain High

The founder of Westminster Seminary with a word in season to all of us who have trouble 'forgiving ourselves,' in a musty old book left for me by my grandfather a few years ago--
There may be some foul spot in our lives; the kind of thing that the world never forgives, the kind of thing, at any rate, for which we who know all can never forgive ourselves. But what care we whether the world forgives, or even whether we can forgive ourselves, if God forgives, if God has received us by the death of His Son?

That is what Paul means by 'boasting' in the cross of Christ. . . . Little care we whether our sin be thought unpardonable or no, little interested are we in the exact calculation of our guilt. Heap it up mountain high, yet God has removed it all.

We cannot explain God's act; it is done on His responsibility, not ours. 'I know not,' the Christian says, 'what my guilt may be; one thing I know: Christ loved me and gave Himself for me. Come on now ye moralists of the world, come on ye hosts of demons, with your whisperings of hell! We fear you not; we take our stand beneath the shadow of the cross, and standing there, in God's favor, we are safe. No fear of challenge now! If God be for us, who can be against us?'
--J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1925), 82-83

How Not to Quote the Bible to Hurting People

From Mike Emlet of CCEF.

Build 2011

This looks like a solid weekend taking place next month for Christian men.
Location: Normal, Illinois

Date: Saturday, September 24

Sponsor: Acts 29

Speakers: Elliot Grudem, Scotty Smith, Bob Smart, and others

Description: "Founded in 2010, BUILD is an Acts 29 Regional Men’s Conference designed to help men re-orient their lives around the gospel. Men often see themselves as workers, providers, and builders, yet in the midst of “building” fail to see their own need to be built. This is not a one-time occurrence but a daily pattern of confessing and repenting of sin, while trusting and rejoicing in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the gospel!) is the power unto salvation and of first importance each day of our life. Through an ever deepening faith in the gospel, we begin to build our lives: on the gospel, with the gospel, for the gospel."

Registration: here

24 August 2011

The Almost Christian

George Whitefield--
An almost Christian, if we consider him in respect to his duty to God, is one that halts between two opinions; that wavers between Christ and the world; that would reconcile God and Mammon, light and darkness, Christ and Belial.

It is true, he has an inclination to religion, but then he is very cautious lest he go too far in it: his false heart is always crying out, Spare thyself, do thyself no harm.

He prays indeed that 'God's will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven.' But notwithstanding, he is very partial in his obedience, and fondly hopes that God will not be extreme to mark every thing that he willfully does amiss; though an inspired apostle has told him, that 'he who offends in one point is guilty of all.'

But chiefly, he is one that depends much on outward ordinances, and on that account looks upon himself as righteous, and despises others; though at the same time he is as great a stranger to the divine life as any other person whatsoever.

In short, he is fond of the form, but never experiences the power of godliness in his heart.

Two Covenant Seminary Clips

A few nice videos from our friends at Covenant Theological Seminary, one of Robert Peterson responding (with typical gracious clarity) to Rob Bell's Love Wins, and one of Jerram Barrs commenting (with typical quiet thoughtfulness) on the final Harry Potter book. Nice to see these sage comments from two equally godly older men on two equally dark-haired, glasses-wearing, sleight-of-hand enjoying younger men.

Warning: Spoiler in this video.

23 August 2011

A Mediator

How is dust and clay to be reckoned that he should recount these things continually, and take a stand in place before you, and come into community with the sons of heaven? There is no intermediary (Heb. malitz) to answer at your command. . . .
–a conscientious, devout Jew, in 4Q427, fragment 7ii18, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of texts belonging to a separatist Jewish sect around the time of the New Testament
There is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.
–the Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 2:5

Psalm 85 Revival

God Gives New Beginnings from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

22 August 2011

Gospel Men

I see four ways masculinity is expressed by Christian men today; three wrong, one right.

1. Soft exterior, soft interior. Effeminate inside and out, top to bottom. Yuck.

2. Hard exterior, soft interior. Posers. Macho. Insecure, covering it with how much they can bench.

3. Hard exterior, hard interior. Genuinely strong, willing to lay down their life for Jesus and family, but earnest to make sure everyone knows that about them. Not only wants to be strong in actuality but needs to be strong in image. Stiff not only in conviction but in demeanor.

4. Soft exterior, hard interior. Rock solid, responsible, risk-taking, calls heresy heresy, calls error error, willing to take shots for the good of the team, able to stick his neck out in elder meetings when the pastor is being maligned by fellow-elder-golfing-buddies--but all soaked in a gentle demeanor, seasoned with grace, someone the guy struggling with homosexuality would confide in.

The answer to the first two is not the third but the fourth.

Paul said 'Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men' (1 Cor 16:13) and he said repeatedly to do all things with gentleness (Gal 5:23; Eph 4:2; 2 Tim 2:25). I think in the past I've received the first thing to the neglect of the second.

A mature oak tree is immovable when the storms rage against it, but it's also beautiful, and invites shelter to others. Isn't that what gospel men should be?

Take Heart

'In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.' --John 16:33

Love is Patient

A wonderful word from Zack Eswine on the stamina of love.

Is everything sad going to come untrue?

Tolkien, The Return of the King, as Sam sees Gandalf after thinking him dead--
But Sam lay back, and started with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last has gasped: 'Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?'

'A great shadow has departed,' said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

'How do I feel?' he cried. 'Well I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel' – he waved his arms in the air – 'I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!'
'. . . for the former things have passed away.' -Revelation 21:4

Briercrest Seminary: MABLE

This looks like a solid program indeed for students wanting to get their faces into the original languages of the Bible, a program led by my brother Eric. Outstanding.

'Be in these things.' -1 Timothy 4:15

19 August 2011

Meandering Reflections on Gospel-Informed Sanctification

Emerging out of my hobbit-hole after a week offline and interested to read through the recent wise stuff on the gospel and growth. A few thoughts, open to correction, as I think out loud here.

In no particular order.

1. May the tag on the life preserver explaining how to use it never distract soggy, once-drowning men of the wonder of being rescued as they are pulled to shore. May blog posts on gospel sanctification never distract saved sinners from the wonder of having been rescued.

2. Simply amazing how many thoughtful brothers God continues to give the church. I'm thinking especially just now of Kevin and Tullian. Jeremiah 3:15, period. The very thought of them heartens me.

3. Agreed--we're all on the same team here. I never grow weary of reading that introductory clarification on these kinds of posts. Still, let's never stop striving to manifest that unity not only in content but in tone. Almost without fail this conversation has done this.

4. Surely, ministry context plays a part in how we parse out the gospel and its relation to growth.

5. I suspect, too, that personality--specific, unique, wiring; our own personal bent--plays a role.

6. So too, no doubt, does personal history and background.

7. Neither 4 nor 5 nor 6, nor all together, can be the whole story. Let's allow room for different emphases due to ministry context, wiring, and personal background. But at some point we need to say: here's the biblical balance, now let's all get on board. While we'll all contextualize the gospel and sanctification, it should be the same gospel and the same sanctification that we're contextualizing.

8. Bible; Bible; Bible. Sit under, not stand over. Self-consciously, not assumingly. It's tantalizingly easy (I have found in my own thinking) to slip from claimed biblical authority with functional biblical authority to claimed biblical authority with functional personal-framework authority. Anyone can extract a few texts and make 'the Bible' say what they want. The question is: whose delineation presents biblical truth with the rhythm and flavor of the Bible itself? We can sound clever, and quote texts, all the while lacking the aroma of truth that arises from a wise synthesis of all the Bible says. You can smell when someone's really sitting under the Bible, the whole Bible, or not.

9. So many related theological convictions inform how we relate the gospel to growth. What's our understanding of eschatology? The Holy Spirit? Regeneration? Mosaic law? The new covenant? Union with Christ? The sacraments? If everyone weighing in on the gospel/growth discussion prefaced their comments with a paragraph on each of these and other doctrinal convictions of theirs, clarity would go up and misreadings would go down. It's impracticable, of course. Just making the point that our articulation of the gospel and sanctification are linked up with, and influenced by, our articulation of other doctrines, other doctrines which generally are implicit, not explicit.

10. As born again believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, already resurrected (!) by faith if not by sight, regenerate Christians have a new inclination to obey God. The law of God now lands on them differently than it did before regeneration. Adopted children, when they realize what's happened to them, want to please their magnanimous father. Not all attempts to please God are moralistic. When we communicate that they are, we are being reductionistic and one-dimensional. A 1-to-1 correspondence between seeking to please God and works-righteousness simply cannot be sustained if we submit to the New Testament in its entirety.

11. Yet: something I wish I heard more of from those emphasizing the positive role of the law in the life of the believer, and the legitimate call to effort in sanctification (which is undoubtedly biblical, and a crucial staple of a healthy spiritual diet), is the remaining fallenness even in the redeemed, one big manifestation of which is a bent to earn rather than receive God's love. From one angle, the Christian life really is one of rooting out the Pharisee in each of us. The bent to earn is given a decisive blow at regeneration. But the old man continues to rear its head.

12. Jesus. At times these conversations become a bit de-Jesus-ized. Of course there is no gospel without Jesus, they're inextricably linked, yes yes yes. But might we so finely express how the gospel relates to sanctification, getting all the causes and effects so precisely and carefully parsed out, that somehow Jesus himself in all his magnetic beauty becomes backgrounded, replaced in the foreground by tidy formulas? I'm not sure quite how to express this. But I was very struck with Jared's word a few weeks ago that we not become gospel-centrality-centered instead of gospel-centered. I think also of Sinclair Ferguson's arresting point that there is no such thing as 'grace' abstractly conceived as some kind of substance that one 'gets'; rather, grace comes to us only in the person of Jesus.

13. To carry that last point a bit further, this time positively rather than negatively--seems to me that it isn't remembering the gospel, strictly speaking, that changes us, but rather communing with Jesus. I can remember the gospel, be grateful for forgiveness, and slide right back into all my old resentments. (I know because I've done it.) But I can't really commune with Jesus, really looking at him as 2 Cor 3:18 describes, and then follow that up with bitterness. I just can't. I'm different as I leave the presence of Jesus. There's a wonderful softening that happens, softening that feels rock-solid at the same time. Calm returns. Gentleness. Sanity. Fresh life. But what is so right about the call to gospel-remembrance, which I love and continue to trumpet, is that this communion is uniquely flavored by the grace of Jesus. It has to be; otherwise we can't even approach him in the first place. The one place in all four Gospels when Jesus tells us about his heart, he tells us it is gentle and lowly (Matt 11). And Jesus is the perfect image of the Father (John 14). Grace is who the Triune God is (Exod 34). And I will grow in godliness no further than I grasp that.

14. I keep hearing, 'Let's not preach only grace but the whole counsel of God.' I wonder if those who say this have carefully considered that entire speech in Acts 20 that Paul gives to the Ephesian elders and seen how else Paul describes his ministry. Not only does he say he preached 'the whole counsel of God' in v. 27 but he describes that same ministry by summing it up a few verses earlier as testifying 'to the gospel of the grace of God.' Testifying to the gospel of grace is 'the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus,' says Paul. This merits reflection. Could it be that 'the whole counsel of God,' in biblical context, is not a phrase that means 'gospel grace, plus a bunch of other things, so don't forget those other things,' but something more like 'gospel grace, as such grace manifests itself in eldership, and in missionary endeavors, and in suffering, and in doctrine, and in . . .'

15. The main (not the only) answer to those who ask, 'What about all those people who know and believe the gospel but are ethically lazy?' is that they don't really know and believe the gospel. Not in the biblical sense of 'know' and 'believe.' The obedience deficit is due to a gospel deficit, not a gospel surplus that hasn't been adequately supplemented.

16. But: we simply cannot communicate that the only way the New Testament generates obedience is by going back to the gospel. Paul doesn't come to the end of Ephesians 1-3 or Galatians 1-3 or Romans 1-11 and, about to launch into imperatives, catch himself and say, 'Oh! Whoops--never mind. I was about to give you a series of sound exhortations, but the truth is, the only way you're going to grow is by going back to the gospel, so please go reread what I've already said in this epistle, and then out will come obedience.'

17. The proof is in the pudding. Give me a guy involved in this discussion oozing joy and simplicity and love and tenderness, and give me another guy who for all his fine sounding arguments is a bit prickly, and the first guy is immediately more convincing to me. Before I give one brain cell to considering their reasoning, the first guy is already out ahead in persuasive power. It's not everything. But it's something.

18. How awful to call some in this discussion 'the grace guys.' Surely this is all of us?