Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Packer on the pervasiveness of the atonement

J. I. Packer, in his chapter entitled The Atonement in the Life of the Christian as it appears in The Glory of the Atonement, writes on the pervasive character of the atonement as it relates to Christians:
So the atonement-which we have already seen is for the believer the
foundation of faith,
the source of freedom,
the ground of justification,
the spur for sanctification,
the theme of witness,
the trigger for worship,
the warrant for hope
and the model for love-
is also the litmus test for reality: should we lose sight of the atonement, our Christianity would reduce to hollow externalism, a mere copy of the real thing. This is perhaps the first truth to establish in any systematic reflection on the Christian life. (line breaks mine)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The seed and serpent in Thessalonians

One of the things that I appreciate about Jim Hamilton's biblical theology God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment is the manner in which Hamilton ties together different strands that occur throughout the biblical narrative. He regularly retrieves ideas, themes, symbols, and images from the Old Testament and shows how they have been woven into the new Testament. In this excerpt he discusses the serpent/seed of woman motif that runs throughout the Bible:
As the seed of the serpent makes war on the seed of the woman (cf. 1 Thess. 2:14-16), the response of the seed of the woman testifies to the past, present, and future realities of the glory of God in salvation through judgment. The past reality is the triumph of God in Christ, on which the faith of the Thessalonians is based (1:3; 3:5-6). What God has done in Christ frees the Thessalonians to live by faith and enact the present reality of God's glory in salvation through judgment, which is evident in their love for one another and even in their persecutors (1:3; 2:12; 3:6; 4:2-8, 9-12, 13-18; 5:8, 12-28). This love exposes and overcomes the hatred and brutality and shameful conduct of Satan and his seed. The future reality of the glory of God in salvation through judgment is focused on the future visitation of God's wrath (1:10). The rebel seed of the serpent are filling up the full measure of their iniquity for that great day of God's wrath (2:16). Jesus will execute this wrath on "the day of the Lord" (5:2), when he will bring sudden destruction on his enemies who have troubled his people (5:3), simultaneously-at his coming-delivering those who believe the gospel and imitate his patient endurance in faithfulness to God (1:10; 2:19; 4:13, 16-17; 5:9, 23).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

DeYoung on preaching in Acts

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Five Features of Preaching in the Book of Acts

In his book on Acts, Alan Thompson notes five characteristics of apostolic evangelistic preaching (90-99). These five features serve as good models for all types of preaching, both then and now.

1. God-centered. The sermons in Acts begin with God. They announce the good news of what God has promised, what God has done, and what God will do. The preaching is not centered around the felt-needs of the audience, but around the mighty acts of God in history. The emphasis is on God’s initiative and how we are accountable to him.

2. Audience-conscious. While the preaching begins with God, it is not ignorant of those to whom the sermon is delivered. We see throughout Acts evidence of audience adaptation and sensitivity to what the audience already knows or doesn’t know. The sermons do not unfold as canned messages with a series of doctrinal propositions. The preaching is deeply theological, but not at the expense of be careful to communicate that theology in a way that is understandable. The core content stays the same, but the starting point and type of final appeal may change.

3. Christ-focused. Though God is often portrayed at the main actor in history, the preaching in Acts is relentlessly focused on Christ. The sermons highlight the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. They also explain the theological significance of these events. Christ is proclaimed as the climax of redemptive history and the good news for today’s sinners.

4. Response-oriented. The preaching in Acts is not response-driven. That is, we never see messages crafted or delivered in such a way as to manipulate a desired response. But the preaching always called for a response. This is often the difference between faithful teaching and anointed preaching. The apostles not only taught about God and Christ, they peppered their preaching with promises and warnings. Specifically, they called people to faith in Christ and repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

5. Boldness. The noun form of “boldness” is used five times in Acts and the verb form is used seven times (out of a total of nine in the NT). If there was one distinctive homiletical trademark of apostolic preaching it was boldness. In the context of much hostility, the apostles were often granted a unique freedom to preach Christ with exceptional clarity. In an age like ours with increasing opposition to Christianity and Christian claims, it is imperative that preachers reclaim this mantle of boldness. Preachers should not be obnoxious or obtuse, but we must question our approach to preaching if we are not willing “to be clear in the face of fear” (97).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chandler and Wilson on being inoculated to Jesus

From The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler and Jared Wilson:
I meet a lot of people swimming neck deep in Christian culture who have been inoculated to Jesus Christ. They have just enough of him to not want all of him. When that happens, what you have are people who have been conformed to a pattern of religious behavior but not transformed by the Holy Spirit of God. This explains why we see a lot of people who know objective spiritual truths but in the end have failed to apply them in such a way that their lives demonstrate real change. They're hearing, but they're not hearing. (72)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hamilton on Phiippians 1:27-30

From God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment by Jim Hamilton:
Paul wants the Philippians to strive for the gospel (1:27b) by adopting his perspective and doing what he is doing. If they will embrace this cruciform pattern, they will agree that "to live is Christ" (1:21a), and they will suffer for Christ (1:29b) and join Paul in the self-sacrificing  struggle for the souls of others (1:30). They will also agree that death is gain (1:21b), which will make them fearless before their opponents (1:28a). Living this way on the basis of the glory of God in the salvation through judgment he accomplished by Christ's death on the cross will enact salvation through judgment in their own experience: the Philippian Christians will become living demonstrations that God will destroy the wicked and save his people (1:28b). The life worthy of the gospel is based on and lives out God's glory in salvation through judgment. (486)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oliphint on God's self-identifying name

From Reasons for Faith by Scott Oliphint:
When considering the essence of God, it would be difficult to overstate the significance of God's self-identifying name in Exodus 3:14: "I AM." As we noted earlier, it would be possible to pour philosophical content into the implications of the name that may stretch its real meaning. That should certainly be avoided. The simple point to see, however, is that such a name, given the context of its declaration and the interpretation given it by God himself, requires us to attribute to God absolute independence, sovereignty, and power. (199)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Frame on Jesus' personal words

From The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame:
Jesus' personal words are of utmost importance to the message of the NT. There is no trace of any development from a word-centered revelation in the OT to a nonverbal revelation in the NT. Quite the contrary. Jesus' personal words are crucial to his ministry. In the community of his disciples, his word is the supreme criterion of discipleship. Jesus teaches that calling him Lord is meaningless unless we do the will of his Father (Matt. 7:21-23). The will of his Father is to be found in the law of Moses (Matt. 5:17-20), and also in Jesus' own words (7:24-29). Those who hear Jesus' words and do them will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock. Those who do not hear and obey will be like the fool who built his house on sand. (61)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Preach the Gospel to yourself

HT: David Mathis

The Shelf Life on Preaching the Gospel to Yourself


The clock is ticking. If you’re faithfully “preaching the gospel” to your own soul, day in and day out, but distancing yourself from regular Bible intake, your freshness is fading. There’s an expiration date on this fruit once it’s off the vine.
Don’t think I’m down on preaching the gospel to ourselves. I love it. I commend it. It’s one of my main conscious sources for sanctification, an indispensable weapon for fighting the fight of faith. I’m eating this fruit daily. Warning you about the “shelf life” on gospel self-preaching is in hope of guarding and preserving this precious reality in the Christian life.
Gospel and Scripture — Together
The concern is that those of us convinced of our ongoing need for the gospel should take care that our so-called gospel centeredness not lead to laxity with the Scriptures. God has designed the two to be united. And what God has joined together, let no man separate.
Without relentless reorienting on the gospel, our study of the Scriptures quickly veers off course. And without keeping ourselves freshly filled with the Scriptures, our gospel self-preaching soon runs on empty.
Gospel Perspective in Scripture Reading
John 5 shows the folly of fixing on the Scriptures while ignoring the God of grace. Jesus crossed paths with a troop who liked to think of themselves as soaked in the Scriptures, but they were getting them all wrong, taking them in through the wrong grid. What an epic tragedy: They had God himself in the flesh, standing in their very midst, and they missed him because their Bible reading was going awry with self at the center.
Jesus says to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). The lesson for us is to never disconnect our searching of the Scriptures from a conscious awareness and pursuit of Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and Treasure. The gospel of Jesus is the core, culmination, and meaning of the Scriptures. No matter how passionate the study, regular Bible intake that is not in accord with the truth of the gospel becomes zeal without knowledge.
Displace the gospel from the center, and studiousness with the Scriptures soon becomes a massive self-salvation project.
Bible Intake and Preaching to Yourself
But there’s another side to the coin, and it’s the one that’s our focus here. God does not intend for the message of the gospel to get cut loose from the Scriptures either. Regular Bible intake — whether it’s reviewing memorized Scripture, Bible-infused conversations with fellow believers, or receiving the public preaching of God’s Word — serves to shape and strengthen and sustain the daily preaching of the gospel to ourselves. The Scriptures, rightly understood with Jesus at the center, nourish our hearts, and sharpen our minds, to be able to rehearse the truth of the gospel with texture and edge and definition, with freshness and power.
The message of the gospel is not meant to be something we “get,” carve into canned lines, and tell ourselves over and over for a lifetime as some sort of magic to fight sin. God means for us to be regularly pushed and formed, hurt and healed, challenged and encouraged by passages we’ve never heard before, haven’t given enough attention to, or haven’t considered in a while. He means for us to understand even our best known verses at new depth, and know the power of his grace more deeply, through new applications, as we encounter situations in life we’ve never faced before.
Keeping Your Gospel Fresh
This is why he gives us teachers, fellow believers, and access to his objective, “external word,” as Luther called it, amazingly preserved in a Book for millennia, to continue shaping and upholding the church today. He means for us regularly to hear other Christians articulate the truths most precious, and to be pressed time and again with God’s own inerrant speaking in human language in the biblical canon.
So, yes, keep the gospel central in sanctification. Eat daily from the fruit of preaching the gospel to yourself. And keep your stock fresh with regular picking from the cornucopia of Bible intake in its varied forms.

David Mathis is a seminar speaker at our National Conference on the topic "Mission and Disciple-Making." Visit the event page to learn more or register.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A week away

I will be gone for the next week or so. I have scheduled posts so that, if all goes as planned, there will be fresh content for each day I'm away. On Friday, I'll be crossing of one of the items on my bucket list: hearing John Piper preach live and in person. Nicole and I will be at the seminar described below.


On August 24-25 at Bethlehem Baptist Church (North Campus) in Minneapolis, Pastor John will be giving a free, two-day seminar on the theme of The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God. The seminar is open to all — we'd love for you to join us.

The Pleasures of God Seminar from Desiring God on Vimeo.


Bethlehem Baptist Church (North Campus)
5151 Program Avenue
Mounds View, MN 55112

Day 1
Friday, August 24
7:00 - 9:00pm (two sessions, + Q&A)

Day 2
Saturday, August 25
9:00am - 12:00pm (three sessions)

And if you'd like to stick around after the seminar on Saturday, Pastor John will be preaching at 5:30 PM that evening at Bethlehem's downtown campus.

Registration is available online only. There are just 1,000 tickets available, so register quickly. Members of Bethlehem Baptist Church are also required to register.
Register Now
You will receive an email confirmation immediately after registering that will include your tickets to the seminar. If you do not receive a confirmation, it could indicate that your registration did not process correctly. In this case, please send us an email.

If you're unable to attend in person, the entire seminar will be live-streamed for free at

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Theology Breakfast #4

Theology Breakfast 4 was a good one! Pastor Nathaniel Wright presented from part 2 of Jonathan Edwards' classic Religious Affections. Nathaniel delivered a concise talk that generated significant discussion which was, in my estimation, very helpful. Below are are condensed notes from what he presented.

“Signs of Nothing”
from part 2 of A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections
by Jonathan Edwards

 Now let us look at this man who has had such a lasting influence, and who seems to be becoming again almost a dominating influence in religious thought in America. I confess freely that this is one of the most difficult tasks I have ever attempted. The theme is almost impossible, and very largely for the reason that I have already given, namely the influence of Edwards upon me. I am afraid, and I say it with much regret, that I have to put him ahead even of Daniel Rowland and George Whitefield. Indeed I am tempted, perhaps foolishly, to compare the Puritans to the Alps, Luther and Calvin to the Himalayas, and Jonathan Edwards to Mount Everest! He has always seemed to me to be the man most like the apostle Paul. Of course, Whitefield was a great and mighty preacher as was Daniel Rowland but so was Edwards. Neither of them had the mind, neither of them had the intellect, neither of them had the grasp of theology that Edwards had; neither of them was the philosopher he was. He stands out, it seems to me, quite on his own amongst men ... There are so many approaches to this great summit; but not only so, the atmosphere is so spiritually rarefied, and there is this blazing whiteness of the holiness of the man himself, and his great emphasis upon the holiness and the glory of God; and above all the weakness of the little climber as he faces this great peak pointing up to heaven. All I can hope to do is to give some glimpses of this man and his life, and what he did, with the ultimate end and object of persuading every one to buy these two volumes of his works, and to read them
                                                                                                Martin Lloyd-Jones


I. That religious affections are very great, or raised very high, is no sign
II. That they have great effects on the body, is no sign
III. That they cause those who have them to be fluent, fervent, and abundant, in talking of the things of religion, is no sign
IV. That persons did not excite them of their own contrivance and by their own strength, is no sign
V. That they come with texts of Scripture, remarkably brought to the mind, is no sign
VI. That there is an appearance of love in them, is no sign
VII. Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one another, is no sign  
VIII. That comforts and joys seem to follow awakenings and convictions of conscience, in a certain order, is no sign  
IX. That they dispose persons to spend much time in religion, and to be zealously engaged in the external duties of worship, is no sign
X. That they much dispose persons with their mouths to praise and glorify God, is no sign
XI. That they make persons that have them exceeding confident that what they experience is divine, and that they are in a good estate, is no sign
XII. That the outward manifestations of them, and the relation persons give of them, are very affecting and pleasing to the godly, is no sign


XII. They have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice
1. Christian practice and holy life is a sign of sincerity to others
2. Christian practice is the chief evidence to ourselves, much to be preferred to the method of the first convictions, enlightenings, comforts, or any immanent discoveries or exercises of grace whatsoever.

What are the Practical Implications?
  • Necessity for the gospel to be a part of regular church life.
  • Signs/Gifts should not be elevated or sought at the expense of Holy Practices.
  • Help to Christian Counseling/ Accountability.
  • Promotes a healthy Fear of God (Phil 2:12)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Frame and Poythress

Well, I have allowed the blog to sit on the 1500th post for a couple of days. This was not intentional, unless you consider procrastination intentional. Post #1501 will not be groundbreaking or paradigm-shifting. I'll just make you aware of a wonderful resource for your edification and sanctification.

The Works of John Frame and Vern Poythress is a site which contents are exactly what they suggest. The site has a collection of resources from Frame and Poythress which includes-or will include-articles, ebooks, audio files, and course materials. This is a great gift to the body of Christ!

I have read two of Frames book: The Doctrine of God and The Doctrine of the Word of God. Both were excellent and the former title in particular had a huge impact that continues to this day. I thoroughly enjoy how Frame writes and I find what he writes to be significant. I have not read any of Poythress' books, but I have read numerous articles by him that have also been well-worth the time invested.

If you search "John Frame" on this blog you will see my interaction with the aforementioned titles.

Take a look at this site and enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Akin on Same-Sex Marriage; Does Jesus Teach About It?

Is it true Jesus never addressed same-sex marriage?

Posted on Aug 9, 2012 | by Daniel Akin
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- Today it is popular among those promoting same-sex marriage to say that Jesus never addressed the issue, that He was silent on the subject.

Those who affirm the historical and traditional understanding of marriage between a man and woman often are admonished to go and read the Bible more carefully. If we do so, we are told, we will see that Jesus never addressed the issue. So, the question that I want to raise is, "Is this assertion correct?" Is it indeed the fact that Jesus never addresses the issue of same-sex marriage?

When one goes to the Gospels to see exactly what Jesus did say, one will discover that He addressed very clearly both the issues of sex and marriage. He addresses both their use and misuse. And, as He speaks to both subjects, He makes it plain that issues of the heart are of critical importance.

First, what did Jesus say about sex? Jesus believed that sex is a good gift from a great God. He also believed that sex was a good gift to be enjoyed within a monogamous, heterosexual covenant of marriage. On this He is crystal clear. In Mark 7 Jesus addresses the fact that all sin is ultimately an issue of the heart. Jesus was never after behavioral modification. Jesus was always after heart transformation. Change the heart and you truly change the person.

Thus, when He lists a catalog of sins in Mark 7:21-22, He makes it clear that all of these sins are ultimately matters of the heart. It is the idols of the heart that Jesus is out to eradicate. Among those sins of the heart that often give way to sinful actions He would include both sexual immorality and adultery (Mark 7:21). The phrase "sexual immorality," in a biblical context, would speak of any sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage between a man and woman. Therefore, Jesus viewed pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior as sinful. And, He knew that the cure for each is a transformation of the heart made possible by the good news of the Gospel. The Gospel changes us so that now we are enabled to do not what we want, but what God wants. Here we find real freedom and joy.

Second, what about the issue of marriage? Is it truly the case that Jesus never spoke to the issue in terms of gender? The answer is a simple no. He gives His perspective on this when He addresses the issue in Matthew 19:4-6. There, speaking to the institution of marriage, Jesus is clear when He says, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." That Jesus was committed to heterosexual marriage could not be more evident. A man is to leave his parents and be joined to a woman who becomes his wife. This is heterosexual marriage. That He also was committed to the permanence and fidelity of marriage is clear as well.

So, how might we sum up the issue? First, Jesus came to deliver all people from all sin. Such sin, He was convinced, originated in and was ultimately a matter of the heart. Second, Jesus made it clear that sex is a good gift from a great God, and this good gift is to be enjoyed within heterosexual covenantal marriage. It is simply undeniable that Jesus assumed heterosexual marriage as God's design and plan. Third, Jesus sees all sexual activity outside this covenant as sinful. Fourth, it is a very dangerous and illegitimate interpretive strategy to bracket the words of Jesus and read into them the meaning you would like to find. We must not isolate Jesus from His affirmation of the Old Testament as the Word of God nor divorce Him from His first century Jewish context. Fifth, and this is really good news, Jesus loves both the heterosexual sinner and the homosexual sinner and promises free forgiveness and complete deliverance to each and everyone who comes to Him.

John 8 tells the story of a woman caught in adultery. The religious legalists want to stone her, but Jesus intervenes and prevents her murder. He then looks upon the woman and, with grace and tenderness, tells her that He does not condemn her. Then He says to her, "go and sin no more." In Matthew 11:28 Jesus speaks to every one of us weighed down under the terrible weight and burden of sin. Listen to these tender words of the Savior, "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." This is the hope that is found in Jesus. This is the hope found in the Gospel. Whether one is guilty of heterosexual or homosexual sin, one will find grace, forgiveness and freedom at the foot of the cross where the ground is always level.

When I came to fully trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 20, I determined that I wanted to think like Jesus and live like Jesus for the rest of my life. When it comes to sex I want to think like Jesus. When it comes to marriage I want to think like Jesus. That means I will affirm covenantal heterosexual marriage. It also means loving each and every person regardless of their lifestyle choices. It means, as His representative, proclaiming His Gospel and extending the transforming grace of the Gospel to others that takes us where we are, but wonderfully and amazingly, does not leave us there. That is a hope and a promise that followers of Jesus gladly extend to everyone, because we have been recipients of that same amazing grace.

Daniel Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. This column also was posted at, a Southeastern Seminary website. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ambivalence unlikely

"Jesus puts it simply: "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Matt. 12:30). The gospel is such power that it necessitates reaction. Jesus Christ has worked such an outrageous wonder that he demands response, whether hatred or passion. Anyone ambivalent about what Christ has actually done just isn't clear on the facts. To present the gospel, then, is to place a hearer in an untenable position. The heart of the hearer of the gospel must move, either toward Christ or away from him."

(Chandler, Matt, and Jared C. Wilson. The Explicit Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 63)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review - Jonathan Edwards and Justification

Book Review – Jonathan Edwards and Justification

A Great Doctrine and a Great Theologian

In a different book on justification called The Justification Reader, Thomas Oden writes of the great reformer Martin Luther’s opinion on the doctrine of justification: “Luther regarded justification as the “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines” ” (4). Oden goes on to declare that justification is “central to the Christian teaching of salvation. . .So pivotal is it to Christian preaching that if unbalanced in any way, reverberations are felt in the whole edifice of faith” (4). Clearly, justification is a momentous doctrine. In similar high praise, Jonathan Edwards has often been labelled North America’s greatest theologian. Obviously what North America’s greatest (arguably) theologian has to say about Christianity’s greatest (arguably) doctrine is of considerable import. In Jonathan Edwards and Justification, Editor Josh Moody and several significant Edwardsean scholars deliver a book that reveals Edwards’ position on justification. The authors rebut some misconceptions that some have proposed about this Puritan pastor’s stance on justification. And in the process, the book reminded me of some powerful Edwards’ books that I had read previously.

A Position Revealed

The multiple authors of Jonathan Edwards and Justification cover Edwards’ position on justification quickly yet thoroughly. The authors are uniform in their assertions concerning Edwards’ doctrinal perspective on justification; this famous pastor-theologian believed justification in a manner that could only be described as a Reformation Protestant view.  Moody notes that he was creative in how he described this doctrine and its ramifications, but in its essence Edwards offered nothing new. Strobel emphasizes how Edwards locates justification as the hinge point of redemption and is found in Christ and brought by the Spirit. Bezzant shows how Edwards preached a gospel rife with Reformed notions of justification that “was designed to revive and to reform” (73).  Logan shows Edwards’ theology through how he would answer a question: What makes a person a Christian? And Sweeney fleshes out Edwards ideas on justification by looking beyond the most obvious of Edwards’ writings into understudied sermons and manuscripts.

It seemed that all of the authors touched upon the idea of union with Christ and how this doctrine heavily influenced Edwards on the doctrine in question. I found these explanations of Edwards’ opinion on the interplay of union and justification edifying and interesting.

A Proposal Rebutted

Throughout this book the authors address the numerous proposals made by many scholars that suggest Edwards had a less-than-traditional take on justification. Edwards, a staunch anti-Catholic, is even accused of holding to a Roman Catholic view of this great doctrine. One of the strong points of this book is how it chose to rebut these proposals. The authors recognize that Edwards could be very creative in how he articulated his views and justification was no different. Some unique terms and phrases are utilized by Edwards, but this creativity when viewed in light of the context of his writing, as well as the context of his living, still displayed a stance on justification that was “as thoroughly orthodox . . . as Calvin’s or Luther’s” (13). Though I was not familiar with the accusations against Edwards and his position on justification, the authors explained them clearly and defended Edwards ably.

A Powerful Reminder

One of the most valuable effects of this book on me was how it caused me to remember other books of Edwards that I had read. Particularly, Logan’s chapter entitled ‘Justification and Evangelical Obedience’ relied heavily on Religious Affections. I found this recap of Edwards’ best known book simply delightful. As I read through these current essays on Edwards I was willingly forced to reflect on more of Edwards’ corpus that had influenced me so positively before. This was an unexpected benefit in reading this work.

Concerning justification and this great theologian’s perspective on it, this book recognizes contrary-minded opinions but puts forth Edwards as traditional and within the bounds of Reformed Protestant theology. It explains why others might disagree with them, points to some creativity and contextual issues, but never concedes that Edwards was anything but orthodox is his beliefs and teachings about justification. This book references many Edwardsean writings, some of which have had a profound influence on me. I recommend this book.

I was given a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I love you God

This article appeared on the site Patheos:

Loving God, and Saying So in the Bible

When you love God, it seems altogether natural to say so: to God (“I love you, Lord”) and to others (“I love the Lord”). But OT scholar Daniel Block claims that it’s just not an Old Testament thing to do.
Block has made this claim in a few places. I just saw it again in his recent How I Love Your Torah, O Lord! Studies in the Book of Deuteronomy (Cascade, 2011). Here is how he puts it: “Given the ubiquitous practice in contemporary worship, it comes as a surprise to many to learn that in the Old Testament people would never have had the chutzpah to tell God they love him.”

Never ever? I mentioned this surprising claim to my wife, and (Proverbs Thirtywonderful Thang that she is) she immediately replied, “what about Psalm 18?” “I love you, O LORD, my strength.” That sure sounds like an Old Testament person having the chutzpah to say he loves God. And what about Psalm 116, “I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice?” No, more chutzpah!

But apparently not. As Block immediately explains in a footnote, those apparently straightforward statements are much more oblique in the original Hebrew text:
The verb ahab, “to love, to demonstrate covenant commitment in action that serves the interest of the other,” never appears with a first person subject with God as the object. Neither Ps 18:1 nor 116:1 contradicts this observation. In Ps 18:1 the psalmist intentionally avoids the statement, preferring an extremely awkward construction involving the only occurrence in the entire Old Testament of the qal form of raham , which in piel means “to show pity, have compassion,” and always expresses the disposition of a superior to an inferior in need. Psalm 116:1 does indeed use the verb ahab with a first person subject, but the Hebrew translates literally, “I love because YHWH has heard my voice.” As in 1 John 4:19, the verb lacks an object.
The explanation makes sense, even though, not knowing Hebrew, I have to take Block’s word for the awkward qal and piel part. And I can’t think of any other passages that even apparently contradict his claim. So we do have here a very interesting observation about the Old Testament: nobody says “I love God” with the kind of directness I would have expected!

Block contrasts this OT reticence to say “I love God” with “the ubiquitous practice in contemporary worship,” but I’m more interested in the millennia in between: Is “I love God” (or “I love you, God”) a New Testament kind of thing to say? Did it become part of Christian prayer early, and in what context? If the practice just became ubiquitous in the 1960′s, that’s cause to pause, but I bet it goes further back.

I’m tempted to say that the filial boldness of the new covenant might lead believers in Christ to speak with more freedom (parrhesia) toward God than was conceivable before the coming of Christ and the Spirit. Perhaps this OT background provides contrast for the NT breakthrough, in which we are given confidence to enter into the holy place by a new and living way. It may be that when we are adopted as sons, we cry not only “Abba, Father,” but also “I love you, Lord.” There may be a logic to the new covenant which (though I can’t think of any explicit statements to this effect in the New Testament) inevitably leads to this kind of praise.

On the other hand, there may be a biblical reverence and restraint here that spans both testaments and offers more direct instruction to us about how we should speak. In the Bible, the idea of love is bundled with the idea of giving. When John says that God loved the world, he explains his meaning by saying “God… gave his only Son (John 3:16).” When Paul says that the Son of God loved him, he explains his meaning by saying “he gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).” Perhaps, in the biblical mind, to say “I love God” would carry the connotation of “I give something to God,” which would be all wrong (or at least in need of careful, dialectical explanation). As Block points out (in the footnote quoted above), even 1 John doesn’t say “We love God, because he first loved us,” but the verb “lacks an object,” saying “we love, because he first loved us.” Is this a pervasive biblical usage rule?

Block’s main point, however, is not the absence of direct statements about loving God, but the “equally surprising” presence of “unrestrained expressions of love for the Torah, particularly in Ps 119.” What the Bible is filled with is elaborate statements of love for the law of God. If these shock our sensibilities or stand in need of explanation, that tells us something about our sensibilities, and invites us to be formed instead by what is actually said in Scripture. As you can tell, I’m apparently not far down that path.

Friday, August 10, 2012

George Eldon Ladd on Christ's return

From Between Two Worlds:

When Will Christ Return?

And this gospel of the kingdom
will be proclaimed
throughout the whole world
as a testimony to all nations,
and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

New Testament scholar George Eldon Ladd, writing in the 1950s, comments:
The subject of this chapter is, When will the Kingdom come? I am not setting any dates. I do not know when the end will come.
And yet I do know this: When the Church has finished its task of evangelizing the world, Christ will come again. The Word of God says it.
Why did He not come in A.D. 1oo? Because the Church had not evangelized the world.
Why did He not return in a.d. 1000? Because the Church had not finished its task of world-wide evangelization.
Is He coming soon? He is—if we, God’s people, are obedient to the command of the Lord to take the Gospel into all the world.
. . .  “How are we to know when the mission is completed? How close are we to the accomplishment of the task? Which countries have been evangelized and which have not? How close are we to the end? Does this not lead to date-setting?”
I answer, I do not know. God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who “all the nations” are. Only God knows exactly the meaning of “evangelize.” He alone, who has told us that this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations, will know when that objective has been accomplished.
But I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms of our task; our responsibility is to complete it. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.
. . .  Here is the motive of our mission: the final victory awaits the completion of our task. “And then the end will come.” There is no other verse in the Word of God which says, “And then the end will come.”
When is Christ coming again? When the Church has finished its task.
When will This Age end? When the world has been evangelized.
“What will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matt. 24: 3). “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations; and then, and then, the end will come.” When? Then; when the Church has fulfilled its divinely appointed mission.
Do you love the Lord’s appearing? Then you will bend every effort to take the Gospel into all the world. It troubles me in the light of the clear teaching of God’s Word, in the light of our Lord’s explicit definition of our task in the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 18-20) that we take it so lightly. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is the Good News of the Kingdom. . . .  All authority is His. “Go ye therefore.” Wherefore? Because all authority, all power is His, and because He is waiting until we have finished our task. His is the Kingdom; He reigns in heaven, and He manifests His reign on earth in and through His Church. When we have accomplished our mission, He will return and establish His Kingdom in glory. To us it is given not only to wait for but also to hasten the coming of the day of God (II Pet. 3:12). This is the mission of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and this is our mission.
George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959), ch. 9, “When Will the Kingdom Come?”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Facts reveal God

Scott Oliphint, in his book Reasons for Faith, suggests that if our intellectual faculties were not influenced by sin than we would all know, believe, and acknowledge God in his existence and in his character. However, sin has influenced every human being and thus Oliphint writes,
But our faculties no longer function that way. They have been damaged, fractured, broken, impeded, hindered, hampered, thwarted from doing what they were designed to do, since the effects of sin have enslaved and influenced them. Whereas we were designed to do all things to the glory of God-whether eating, drinking, thinking, knowing, and so forth-sin has constrained us so that, enslaved to it, we do all things to our own glory, or to the glory of something or someone other than God. If every fact is such that it reveals God, we may take that fact and believe it to be what it is, but in our sin we believe such without acknowledging the God who is revealed in that fact. In every aspect of knowledge or belief, therefore, in which the effects of sin's enslavement are operating, our cognitive faculties fail to function as they were designed to function. There is, we could say, in every functioning of our cognitive faculties in which sin dominates, an element, perhaps a strong element, of self-deception. (159)
I love the idea that every fact, in its truth and in its reality, reveals God. That is an astounding way of viewing God as the foundation for existence and as the only truly independent thing that exists.

But sin prevents us from seeing facts this way. Sin prevents us from seeing things as they really are. But the Spirit of God helps us to see and when He does, we see things as they truly are and recognize that God is revealed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tim Kerr on prayer

From the Sovereign Grace Ministries blog:

Tim Kerr: If prayer is such a good thing, why does it seem so hard?

We've invited Tim Kerr, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church Toronto (Ontario), to answer the question, "If prayer is such a good thing, why does it seem so hard?"

Tim has studied and taught on the topic of prayer extensively. Most recently, Tim spoke on this topic at The Gospel Coalition's Regional Conference in Ontario. Tim is also the author of the excellent Scripture-based prayer resource Take Words With You.

If prayer is such a good thing, why does it seem so hard? Of the many reasons for this struggle, most would not come up with the reason given by the prophet Isaiah: “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities” (Isa. 64:7).

According to Isaiah, prayerlessness is evidence of a judgment from God. This is sobering to contemplate. With a few notable exceptions, the North American church is not especially known for its vibrant prayer life. This problem, according to Isaiah, is not going to be fixed by a few more strong exhortations, reading the right books, a new conference on prayer, or even better daily discipline.

If the sun were removed from our solar system, the earth would quickly grow dark, cold, and all life would soon stop. We need the sun’s presence to stay alive. In spite of all of our technological progress, we are utterly dependent on the sun. In the same way, we are dependent on the light of God’s face for prayer. If God hides his face from us, prayer becomes very difficult, if not impossible.

Until the light of God’s face shines on us, our prayers will likely remain shallow, short, or absent altogether. Isaiah mentions another cause of prayerlessness: our sin. The word “melt” has the idea of losing strength. Indulged sin, even if limited to the thought life, will effectively paralyze prayer.

So what’s to be done? In order to receive the grace to change, we need to implore God to help us, but that is our problem in the first place!

If sin makes God hide his face, the great question is, “What then makes God show his face?” If we find the answer to this, we will start to unravel the root problem of our prayerlessness.

The Scripture speaks of only one reality that compels the Almighty to turn his face toward us. When the Ancient of Days has His exacting justice fully satisfied, all shall be well between creature and Creator. But how can an infinite being ever be fully satisfied? An offering must be made that is not only capable of dying the sinners death, but of swallowing the everlasting darkness of that infinite sentence. Surely only one who is both Transcendent and Immanent could possibly qualify. Infinite Spirit mixed with flesh and blood. Set apart from sinners yet not set apart from humanity.

Here is the word we are looking for. Propitiation. Where the offended God is appeased fully. Where fury is turned to favour. The lamb slain from the foundation of the earth. Sent on a mission propelled by God’s love to drink every drop of the wine of God’s wrath. Not a drop left over for us. Not a single drop!

In other words, propitiation provides for prayer! So here’s the practical part. The first movements of renewal in prayer begin with a look at Calvary—but not in the way we usually look at that sacred cross. We are prone to see the cross horizontally—what it does for us, what Jesus did on the cross for us. But the jumper cable “look” at the cross that restarts our prayer lives is of a completely different variety. We must look at the cross vertically—what the cross did to God, how the cross affected infinite holiness. How the cross satisfied God.

Look now. Do you see the light of his face? The frown of God turned to a smile! Nothing reinvigorates prayer like the welcoming face of our God, arms outstretched, welcoming us into his presence! Let that light draw you to Him today!

“In the light of a king's face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain” (Prov. 16:15).

For further resources from Tim, please see the series of articles he contributed to desiringGod on "Pastors, Devote Yourselves to the Word and to Prayer."

You can also download Take Words with You here for free.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Limited Atonement

Raymond A. Blacketer on limited atonement:
The Synod of Dort affirmed what has come to be called the doctrine of limited atonement, although definite atonement or particular redemption would be more apt descriptions of this teaching. In brief, this is the belief that the satisfaction rendered by Christ on the cross was of infinite value and worth by virtue of Christ's incarnation but that its intended object was not sinners in general, or every individual, but rather those whom God had elected from eternity. Furthermore, this specific, or definite efficacy is not the result of human failure to believe. Rather, it is the divine decree of election that is the limiting factor. the Father sent his Son to the cross to pay the price of the sins of the elect. (Nicole, Roger R., Charles E. Hill, and Frank A. James. The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Historical & Practical Perspectives : Essays in Honor of Roger Nicole. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. Print. 304-5)

Monday, August 6, 2012

God did all of this

Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Commenting on the above passage, Dr. Jim Hamilton writes,
God is the initiator here: God chose, God loved, God predestined, God adopted, and God did all of this according to the pleasure of his will (1:3-4). God did not do this for the Jews or the Gentiles because either group had earned it, because either group had sought it, or because either group would respond rightly to it. God did this "for himself, according to the pleasure of his will" (1:5). He did it because he wanted to, and Paul gives the ultimate reason why he did it in Ephesians 1:6: "for the praise of the glory of his grace, with which he graced us in the beloved." God wanted his grace to be praised, so he stunned cognizant beings in the heavens and on earth (3:10, 20-21) by including the Gentiles in Christ. The Gentiles did not earn this. God graced them in his beloved Son (1:6). (Hamilton, James M. God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print. 480)

Friday, August 3, 2012

My boy is a man

I love my son deeply. He is a wonderful boy. He is kind, smart, and mostly quiet. He is sensitive. He is a fun younger brother for his three older sisters and a caring older brother to his lone younger sister. He is athletic, very athletic, which is due to his small size and-I like to tell myself-his genetics. And he is obedient. He listens to his parents, his teachers, his coaches. He is wonderful and I am biased. But even in my biased-admiration I regularly remind myself that likely my most potent influence on him is my contribution to his sinful nature. Barring a miraculous and Divine intervention, the legacy of sinfulness that I have contributed to his existence will be the most devastatingly effectual part I play; despite all of his amazing qualities, he is a sinner. As Robertson Davies has written,
A boy is a man in miniature, and though he may sometimes exhibit notable virtue, as well as characteristics that seem to be charming because they are childlike, he is also a schemer, self-seeker, traitor, Judas, crook, and villian-in short, a man.
My son, Judah-boy as I like to call him, needs a Saviour just as any other man or woman. And apart from God's sovereign grace, my son, and all other participants in my race, would be lost. I'm thankful that my son has shown evidence of God's merciful hand in his life and I pray that this continues until his last day; I believe it will.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

God is an anchor for knowledge

If it is the case, therefore, that all of us know God, and we know him by virtue of being created in his image (itself a metaphysical notion), then there is a universal, metaphysical ground for anything, and everything, else that we can know and do know. Given that all of us begin our cognitive awareness with sure and certain knowledge (of God), all else that we know will have that knowledge as its anchor. If we know anything, it will be consistent with that knowledge. It would be impossible for us to know something, therefore, that in any way contradicted or contravened that essential, fundamental, metaphysical knowledge of God. Since God is the immediate, metaphysical fact par excellence, anything else that comes to us as knowledge will have that knowledge as its Archimedean point. (Oliphint, K. Scott. Reasons [for Faith]: Philosophy in the Service of Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 2006. Print. 156)

A few things from this passage:
  • humanity has a ground for all its knowledge: God
  • this ground is true whether God is acknowledged or suppressed
  • all true knowledge is consistent with the fact that God is the Creator
We serve a mighty God who is indeed the epicenter of all things, including knowledge.