29 July 2011

Back August 22

Blogging for a friend the next 10 days or so and then, after a bit of teaching and preaching, on vacation through August 21. Till then!

Adam and Christ

'. . . full of grace and truth.' -John 1:14

Luther, preaching on this text--
This world is a veritable vale of tears, an abode of sadness, a cheerless desert; for we behold Adam and all men full of God's disfavor, displeasure, wrath, curse, and condemnation. Adam is not full of grace.

By contrast, nothing but pure grace, love, peace, joy, and favor is evident in Christ. All of these are lavishly and profusely His, since He is the dear Child of the heavenly Father. Therefore He is a far different man from Adam. The comparison between the two is like that of devil and angel. (LW, 22:119)

28 July 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

'An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.' -Proverbs 12:4

27 July 2011

Does this fit into your theology of what the death of Christ did?

He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. -2 Corinthians 5:15

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. -1 Peter 2:24
Notice how seamlessly Paul and Peter tie the death of Christ into the life we live as believers.

It is of course blessedly true that Christ's death results in atonement. That is fundamental and non-negotiable. Paul and Peter say just that in the immediate context of these two texts. But that's not what they say in these verses. Here they say not that Christ's death results in (the 'that' in each text is the Greek word hina--'in order that,' 'so that') living in heaven when we die but living in a heavenly way here and now. Christ's death produces something not only for us but also in us.

Not sure quite what to do with this. But I know this demands reflection in my life and theology. Maybe yours too.


Registration closes in a few days. Details here.

Looking forward to a great year.

Just Say What God Says

I am content to live and die as the mean repeater of scriptural teaching, as a person who . . . invented nothing, as one who never thought invention to be any part of his calling, but who concluded that he was to take the message from the lips of God to the best of his ability and simply to be a mouth for God to the people, mourning that anything of his own should come between, but never thinking that he was somehow to refine that message, to adapt it to the brilliance of this wonderful century, and then to hand it out as being so much his own that he might take some share of the glory of it.
--Charles Spurgeon, as quoted in H. M. S. Richards, Feed My Sheep (Review and Herald, 1958), 38

Blessed plagiarism.

26 July 2011

More Real

Come to the Father--really come to know God, so that God becomes to you more real, in a sense, than anything you see. This is essential to obtaining a quiet and untroubled heart.
--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preaching on John 14:6-7, in Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Crossway, 2009), 114

Unhealthy Individualism vs Healthy Concern for Individuals

Here's the first page, and the first page of the conclusion, of Gary Burnett's published dissertation, Paul and the Salvation of the Individual.
In New Testament studies over the past 25 years there has been an increasing emphasis on the understanding of the documents against a background of people groups--Jews and Gentiles--and how the NT writers understood the relationship of these groups within what they saw as the emerging plan of God.

The result of this has been that more and more emphasis has been given to the relevance of the texts to questions of collective identity and social cohesion, and less and less importance attached to how the texts might address issues more to do with the individual, the salvation of the individual and individual behaviour. This has developed largely as a result of two influences: that of the tools and methods of the social science disciplines, to which NT scholars have increasingly turned for assistance in their quest to understand the texts; and that of the New Perspective on Paul, which has served to highlight Paul's concern about the relationship between Jew and Gentile in the community of the people of God and along with the the wide acceptance of a covenantal framework for understanding first century Judaism and the worldview of the NT writers. (p. 1)
Burnett then goes on to examine at length some key passages in the first 8 chapters of Romans to consider carefully the degree to which Paul seems to have in mind the individual.

He concludes:
Recent approaches to NT study have, quite rightly, given much more attention than ever before to the socio-historical situation in which the texts were originally written and read, and have often sought to find useful tools by which to do this by recourse to the disciplines of sociology and social anthropology. In addition, in the New Perspective that has emerged in Pauline studies, interpretations of Paul have become much more focused on Paul's concern with the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the people of God. . . .

While both these factors have resulted in much benefit in understanding the Pauline texts, there has been something of an imbalance in recent years, where the implications of Paul's arguments for the individuals in the churches to which he wrote, and indeed, we might say, for the individual in general, have been either neglected or dismissed. It is the contention of this thesis, that not only are there implications for the individual in what Paul has to say, but it was his intention to address the individual. . . . Paul's argument had the individual in mind, rather than simply broad 'macro' issues, such as the identity of the people of God. (p. 215)
--Gary W. Burnett, Paul and the Salvation of the Individual (BibInt 57; Leiden: Bril, 2001)

A very important and needed corrective. A corrective that should not displace the gains of recent scholarship, yet it should supplement, and even sober, current scholarly tunnel vision regarding Paul's concerns.

25 July 2011


I find this moving every time I'm reminded of it. In A.D. 404 John Chrysostom, the early church father, was brought in before the Roman emperor. The emperor threatened him with banishment if he remained a Christian.

Chrysostom responded, 'You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father’s house.'

'But I will kill you,' said the emperor.

'No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,' said Chrysostom.

'I will take away your treasures.'

'No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.'

'But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left.'

'No, you cannot, for I have a friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you, for there is nothing you can do to harm me.'

Self-control Is Not for the Timid

Ed Welch:
There is a mean streak to authentic self-control. Underneath what seems to be the placid demeanor of those who are not ruled by their desires is the heart of a warrior. Self-control is not for the timid. When we want to grow in it, not only do we nurture an exuberance for Jesus Christ, we also demand of ourselves a hatred for sin. . . .

When was the last time you said 'No' to something, out of obedience to Christ, when it actually was hard to say 'No'? Maybe you can say 'No' quite easily to cocaine, but you linger over salacious advertising. Maybe you can say 'No' to the second or third drink, but you will never miss a dessert (though you vow weekly to change your eating habits). Whatever earthly desire doesn’t take 'No' for an answer is a lust that surpasses your desire for Jesus Himself. With this in mind, we quickly realize that self-control is not simply an exercise in self-improvement. It is an essential discipline in a high-stakes spiritual battle. The only possible attitude toward out-of-control desires is a declaration of all-out war.

14 July 2011

See Ya Soon

Away for a bit of unplugged time. Back in the blogging saddle next . . . oh, who knows when.

13 July 2011

Woodbridge: Inerrancy

An interesting, and moving, lecture by John Woodbridge on the occasion of Wheaton College's 150th birthday in October 2009. Dr. Woodbridge calls Wheaton to be faithful to its roots, roots that held high the sacred authority of the Bible without heed to scholarly respectability.

The Most Orthodox Theologian in the Universe

The devil is orthodox in his faith; he believes the true scheme of doctrine; he is no Deist, Socinian, Arian, Pelagian, or antinomian; the articles of his faith are all sound.
--Jonathan Edwards, 'True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils,' in Works, Hickman ed., 2:43

No More Important Event

Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), first professor at Princeton Seminary, on regeneration--
There is no more important event, which occurs in our world, than the new birth of an immortal soul.

Heirs to titles and estates, to kingdoms and empires, are frequently born, and such events are blazoned with imposing pomp, and celebrated by poets and orators; but what are all these honours and possessions but the gewgaws of children, when compared with the inheritance and glory to which every child of God is born an heir!

The implantation of spiritual life in a soul dead in sin, is an event, the consequences of which will never end. When you plant an acorn, and it grows, you expect not to see the maturity, much less the end of the majestic oak, which will expand its boughs and strike deeply into the earth its roots. The fierce blast of centuries of winters may beat upon it and agitate it; but it resists them all. Yet finally this majestic oak, and all its towering branches, must fall. Trees die with old age, as well as men. But the plants of grace shall ever live. They shall flourish in everlasting verdure. They will bear transplanting to another clime--to another world.
--Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1844), 35-36

12 July 2011

The Story

This is a really nice resource, produced by Spread Truth Ministries, presenting the gospel in the biblical-theological terms of creation, fall, rescue, and restoration.

"The Story" Promotional Video from The Story (ViewTheStory.com) on Vimeo.

11 July 2011

Being Right Is Not Enough

On October 26, 1951, Francis Schaeffer wrote a letter to a pastor friend of his, a friend who had recently assumed leadership of an independent, fundamentalist-leaning church. Schaeffer was himself in the throes of removing himself from the Presbyterian group that had been growing increasingly vociferous in its denunciation of liberal theology.

Part of that letter reads--
As I have thought perhaps more quietly than in previous days, it has seemed to me that in the past there has been a fallacy in my thinking. That fallacy is simply this: that insofar as we are so abundantly right (as we are concerning the biblical position of separation), therefore it would certainly follow of a necessity that God's rich blessing would rest upon us as individuals and as a movement. I no longer believe this is so. For increasingly the realization has welled up in my own soul that although this principle [of separation] is of tremendous importance, nevertheless there are other principles in the Word of God which must be kept with equal fidelity if God's full blessing is to be upon us. . . .

What does all this mean to me? I am not sure, except that it brings me increasingly to my knees--to ask that the Holy Spirit may have His way in my life; that I may not think just of justification and then the glories of Heaven (with merely a battle for separation between). But that I may think of all the wonders of the present aspect of my salvation, and that they may be real to me in my life and ministry. What a wonderful Lord we have, and how glorious it is to indeed have God as our Father, and to be united with Christ, and to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Oh, would to God that our ministry could be under His full direction, and in His power without reservation.
Three years later Schaeffer wrote similarly to another friend of the family:
Events since we have seen each other make me more sure than ever that the Lord is calling some of us indeed to learn all that the blood of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit should mean to us in this present life. Increasingly, I believe that the Devil fears this above all else. Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important, but only as a starting-point to go on into a living relationship--and not as ends in themselves.
--Lane T. Dennis, ed., Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer (Crossway 1985), 35-36, 46

08 July 2011

What is Humility?

Groveling self-deprecation?

Smarmy self-loathing?

Incessant refusal to acknowledge anything one contributes, by God's mercy, to the world?

True Christian humility of heart tends to make persons resigned to the will of God, patient and submissive to his holy hand under afflictions, full of awful [i.e. awe-full] reverence towards the Deity, ready to treat divine things with great respect, and of a meek behavior towards men . . . respectful towards superiors, gentle, easy to be entreated, not self-willed, not envious, but contented with his own condition, of a peaceable and quiet spirit, not disposed bitterly to resent injuries, but apt to forgive.
--Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, Works, Yale ed., 8:304-5

Content to Wait

George Whitefield, in a letter to an American correspondent concerned about a rash of slanderous public statements about Whitefield:
I am content to wait till the judgment day for the clearing up of my character; and after I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, 'Here lies G.W. What sort of a man he was the great day will discover.'
--quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the 18th Century Revival (2 vols; Banner of Truth, 1970, 1980), 2:258

Wise Counsel to Those Working Hard for Jesus

Jack Miller writes to a young missionary in Uganda--
Just a few quick thoughts for you, dear brother.

Remember first that I love you and keep right on loving you. We all have you in our hearts. Not because of your faithful work--which truly is wonderful--but because you belong to us in Jesus. You are first His work, and we praise Him for that.

My second thought is to make sure you are enjoying yourself and not taking your work too seriously. You don't have anything to prove to us or the world. The work is finished at Calvary, and that work alone has unlimited meaning and value. Keep your focus there. And then read [novelist] Robert Ludlum and/or go on vacation.

My third thought is help others relax and enjoy the work. . . .

Fourth, major in giving thanks for what has been accomplished and don't spend more than one-half hour looking at your sins. Keep praise constant. Imagine, in a little over two years a green mission has fielded a whole new team in Uganda and is now fielding another in Ireland. Amazing, really!
--Jack Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R 2004), 43-44

Thanks to our brother Drew Hunter for alerting us to this.

06 July 2011

What Is Envy?

Envy may be defined, a spirit of opposition to others' comparative happiness, or to the happiness of others considered as compared with their own. The thing to which envious persons are opposed is the comparative relation between that state of honor or happiness which others have, or may have, and their own state.
--Jonathan Edwards, sermon 5 in Charity and Its Fruits, in Works, Yale ed., 8:219

05 July 2011

A Christologian

Fred Zaspel:
More than just a polemic theologian, Benjamin Warfield was first and foremost a christologian.

The person of Christ and his work clearly topped the list of Warfields many interests as measured by his literary output and preaching, as well as his recurring mention of and express concern for the doctrine. His reasons were more than academic: he was deeply convinced that in this theme we are brought to the very heart of the Christian faith. For Warfield, to maintain vigorously and carefully the doctrine of Christ set forth in Scripture is to preserve Christianity itself. The contemporary denials of the historicity of Christ, his mighty works, his deity, his two natures, his vicarious death, and his triumphal resurrection all threaten the very essence of Christianity. If these issues are not understood scripturally, the entire Christian structure crumbles, and redemption from sin is only a dream.

Warfield writes, therefore, as the polemic theologian he is—with penetrating analysis, careful exposition, and often devastating critique. Yet he consistently displays a sense of adoration of Christ and of utter dependence upon him for redemption from sin. Without question, in the person and work of Christ . . . we have reached the heart of Benjamin Warfield.
--Fred G. Zaspel, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway 2010), 213-14

03 July 2011

Bavinck: What Happened in Christ

The sun of righteousness rose to its zenith in the heavens and shone out over all peoples.

The law and the prophets have been fulfilled and in Christ as their end and goal reached their destiny. . . . He is the truth, the substance in whom all the promises and shadows have been realized. In him all things have been fulfilled. He is the true prophet, priest, and king; the true servant of the Lord, the true expiation, the true sacrifice, the true circumcision, the true Passover, and therefore his church is the true seed of Abraham, the true Israel, the true people of God, the true temple of God, the true Zion and Jerusalem, its spiritual offering, the true religion.

Nothing of the Old Testament is lost in the New, but everything is fulfilled, matured, has reached its full growth, and now, out of the temporary husk, produces the eternal core.

It is not the case that in Israel there was a true temple and sacrifice and priesthood and so on and that all these have now vanished. The converse, rather, is true: of all this Israel only possessed a shadow, but now the substance itself has emerged.
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 3:224; Scripture references omitted

02 July 2011

Where Ephesians 1-3 Takes Us

Taking a breath after three exultant chapters reminding his readers of what God in Christ has done, Paul turns in Ephesians 4 to remind them what this means for their personal conduct.

'I exhort you, therefore, as a prisoner in the Lord, to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all ____________________.' (Eph 4:1)

What would you expect there?

Paul, suffering as a prisoner in the Lord, turns his attention now to the Ephesians; he is not so much looking at Christ in light of the Ephesians but looking directly at the Ephesians in light of Christ.

I would expect something like:

'. . . with all sacrifice'; '. . . with all zeal'; '. . . with all untempered courage.'

Paul says: '. . . with all gentleness and humility.'

That is where the first three chapters of Ephesians, lofty chapters which refuse to be exhausted by the unending proliferation of academic scrutiny, take us.

Ephesians 1 to 3 may call some of us to great sacrifice ten years from now in a Muslim land. First, though, Ephesians 1 to 3 calls all of us to great sacrifice this weekend in our living room.