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Frustrated with a Friend

Introduction

Having an interest in Hebrew and Old Testament studies in particular there are few people to whom I am more indebted than the scholar Mark Futato. His language courses are brilliant and his contribution to Hebrew studies massive. Whether thinking of ‘BibleWorks’ or ‘Daily Dose of Hebrew’, though I have never met him personally, I regard him as a friend.

I Just Happened To Be Reading

I was, however, a little troubled recently, when I picked up a new book entitled ‘A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Promised’, edited by Ligon Duncan III: this text contains many brilliant contributions from numerous outstanding authors. It was with a sense of excitement, therefore, that I eventually turned to the chapter on the Psalms.

Why I was frustrated

I really was not anticipating what I encountered next, as I lit upon a surprising comment he makes, on page 353 of this tome. It comes at the end of a lucid, succinct, informative, in many ways excellent entry: the section is headed ‘Approaching the New Testament’; he is dealing with the question of how many or which of the Psalms should be considered Messianic? Let me quote what our brother says:

“The answer can either be […]

The Importance of Practical Religion

‘The Gospel is at stake! You must not budge an inch! Peter, brothers, Barnabas, you’ve got to change your practice!’

Is that how it happened in Antioch, with Paul’s face-to-face rebuke of Peter, where he refused the spare the blushes? The truth of the Gospel was endangered by behavior that was disconnected from principle (Galatians 2.11 & 14):

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned …But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of Gospel, I said to Cephas: ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews.”

In my initial naivety, I thought that there was only one simple single principle being taught: that we should lovingly, prayerfully, firmly, yet bravely, highlight hypocrisy publicly, if the Gospel is in jeopardy – of course we should do that, no matter who it embarrasses, for the love of Christ, with the hope of restoring brothers – but to bow to peer pressure, and create confusion about the Gospel, puts souls at eternal risk, so we cannot pass the buck!

However, on reflection, principial disconnection from practice […]

A Professor’s Prayer from Matthew 23

Heavenly Father,

May it never be that your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated on heaven’s throne, should look down upon me, teaching from my professor’s chair, and tell others, “Listen to what he says, but do not follow his example” (v. 2-3).

Please keep me from calling others to Christian duty and gospel sacrifices that I am unwilling to make myself (v. 4).

Guard my heart from such things as quoting Scripture or preaching, or putting on fancy coat and tie or academic regalia, to impress men rather than to serve you, O Lord (v. 5).

Help me to sit lovingly with the lowly rather than angling to be seated proudly with the powerful (v. 6).

As I teach and preach, may my heart’s true longing not be for people to put titles before my name or initials after it, but to know you as the only true Teacher, Father, and Lord (v. 7-10).

May any greatness be measured only on the scale of being a lowly, humble, thankful servant of my great Lord whose sacrifice gave me life and a place of service in his glorious kingdom (v. 11-12).

O, Lord, may I never hear you say of me that I closed the […]

Pipe Up Pastor: Justification, Sanctification, Good Works, and Judgment

Hold up! Someone on the internet is wrong. I think. Maybe. Perhaps. At least that’s what I was told. She says it’s him. He says it’s her. He says its him. Him says its he. They say it’s them. And…them say it’s they. Confusing, right? I have to admit that’s a bit how I’ve been feeling in this last week as I’ve tried to follow a dust-up caused by some comments that John Piper made in an article entitled “Does God Really Save Us By Faith Alone?” Many are thinking through justification, sanctification, good works, and final judgment. Those are important topics and the way Piper has interwoven them has caused some push back.

What do we make of this dust-up? Well, in one way I’m hesitant to draw unnecessary attention to it. In at least a couple of the rejoinders that have been made the authors – neither of whom are unintelligent or poorly read, and both who have been immensely helpful to me personally – have entered into a rather complex and nuanced disagreement with a lot of prepositions that is, to be honest, a little confusing if not a little discouraging. I’m not opposed to complex or nuanced […]

Sinners at the Sacrament?

Let a man examine himself. These words of the Apostle Paul weigh heavily upon the hearts and minds of so many believers as we prepare to the come to the Lord’s Supper. These are weighty and heavy words that can nag at us at times as we consider the struggles with sin and the enemy within. Let a man examine himself.

But what if I am unworthy? What if I continue to sin against God’s mercy? What if I am weak in my convictions? Surely then I ought not to go to the Supper!

Thomas Watson, a 17th century English Puritan, pastors the questioning saint as to why he or she ought to go to the Table in each of these instances. May reflection on these questions and answers lead you to Christ–and lead to you to his Table to receive the grace and mercy that you seek.

OBJECTION 1. But I am sinful and unworthy, and why should I meddle with such holy things?

ANSWER. Who did Christ die for but such? “He came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Timothy 1:15. He took our sins upon Him as well as our nature. “He bare our grief’s,” Isaiah 53:4. In the Hebrew […]

Here I Stand

An old friend, knowing that I have four daughters, who love Disney princess movies, recently sent me a poem he had written in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  His poem is actually an adaptation of the popular song, “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

Hearing the line, “Here I stand and here I’ll stay” from the song made him realize the entire song could be modified to describe Luther’s experience of finally coming to terms with what it means to be saved by the righteousness of Christ through faith.

Luther struggled for years to come to terms with the righteousness of God.  Finally, the Holy Spirit opened Luther’s eyes to understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (NKJV).

Reflecting on his experience some time later, Luther wrote, “Before these words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was […]

Theology on the Go

A pleasant and informative podcast I enjoy is called “Theology on the Go.” Found on the Place for Truth website of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Theology on the Go is hosted by Dr. Jonathan Master who conducts a brief interview on a topic that should be of interest to those in the church. A natural conversationalist with an encouraging spirit, Jonathan does a wonderful job of keeping his guests on topic and asking questions that guide the conversation from belief to beneficial practice for believers.

Recently, Jonathan interviewed yours truly regarding the marks of the church. If you would like to take a listen, you can go here.

(Also, as usual when doing things like this, I snap my fingers afterward wishing I had said something else. In this case, it is two other resources regarding the marks of the church I would recommend. You can do no better than going to Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology , especially the Eighteenth Topic in Volume 2 on the church where he develops teaching on the marks in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church. Another shorter volume that introduces the marks in a helpful way is Daniel Hyde’s Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims.)

Browse Worthy: Tim Challies’ Visual Theology

Little by little over the past few years, Tim Challies, with the assistance of a graphic artist, has been building an impressive array of visually sharp diagrams, charts, and displays of Biblical truth. Called Visual Theology, these products range from quotes by famous Christians to lists of the Kings of Israel to a blueprint for the Old Testament tabernacle. These graphics are great for teaching or placing on a wall to remind others of God’s truth. They are available for downloads and he also has a book he published last year with many of them in it.

Tim caught my attention recently with a new one called The Order and Causes of Salvation and Damnation: An Infographic. As you can see below, It is a beautiful reproduction (the chart is offered in much higher resolution in different formats at the website) of John Bunyan’s original “ocular catechism” that traces the decrees of election and reprobation out in believers and unbelievers’ lives with Bunyan’s typical rich use of Scripture. I first learned of Bunyan’s drawing a few years ago while sitting under Derek Thomas, who led us through this work in an approach similar to the one found here. (I also learned that William Perkins had […]

Bigger Thoughts

“Shorter! Simpler! More punchy!” Whether you’re a journalist or a teacher or a pastor, there is a constant pressure to consolidate our communication. Pastors are taught that our sermons need to have a theme that can be easily expressed in one, simple sentence. Many people don’t read past headlines, so we strive to make those headlines catchy and clear. Twitter’s 140-character limit protects us from rambling.

While these are not negative things in and of themselves (most pastors still need to work on simplicity and clarity in their preaching!), it is part of a bigger cultural force making deep thought and deep communication more difficult and foreign. The technological and societal pressures to communicate simply often lead to simplicity and facileness. By and large, we don’t read deeply, so we don’t think deeply and cannot communicate deeply. And the cycle continues. As someone who favors brevity over profundity, I freely acknowledge that I write as a culprit more than a solver.

Thankfully, Scripture shows a better way.

Necessarily, Freely, or Contingently

When God ordains the reprobation of a sinner, some believe that this choice must mean that God cannot greatly love the reprobate in history.  If God passes over an individual, it must follow that God cannot entreat that sinner to repent, or love that sinner, or send Christ for that sinner. But this is far too simplistic a notion. When God ordains all things, He exhibits His character in all the varieties of life, truly and really. The ordination rolls out and consists of a wide matrix of secondary causes that dare not be emptied of their significance. It includes a demonstration of God’s love. It includes His sending Christ for them. It includes the depths of God’s goodness, and condescension, and genuine yearnings for them to repent.

But it does not stop there. It likewise includes the sinner’s obstinate refusal, stiff necked rebellion, and awful spurning of Christ. And lest one think this unbelief is little more than the marionetting of a puppet, or the programming of a robot, God ordains the secondary causes to fall out necessarily, freely, and contingently. The sinner does what He wants.¹ And he is really confronted with God’s patience and goodness. All this by […]