Wisdom for Proud Theologians

Spurgeon's Rebuke is a needed tonic in our day.

Beloved Brother or Sister, you know very well that I would be the last person in the world to speak lightly of the value of sound doctrine. I wish we were all far more acquainted with the Scriptures than we are and that the Doctrines of Grace were more clear to our understandings and more imprinted upon our hearts. But there are some people who love a certain set of doctrines so much, that if you differ a hair’s breadth, they will denounce you as rotten to the core!

They will not associate with any who do say, “Shibboleth,” and sound the “sh” very harshly, too! They will cut off and condemn all God’s people who do not precisely agree with them. Now, mark you, it is not written, “Unto you that believe a code of doctrines will be precious.” That is true, but it is not written so in the text. The text is, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.” It is better to count Christ precious than it is to count orthodoxy precious! It is not loving a creed, but it is loving Jesus that proves you a Christian! You may become such a bigot that it may be only the laws of the land which keep you from burning those who differ from you, and yet you may have none of the Grace of God in your heart! I love Protestantism, but if there is anything in this world that I have a horror of, it is that political Protestantism which does nothing but sneer and snarl at its fellow citizens—but which is as ignorant as a cow about what Protestantism truly is. The great truths of Protestantism—not merely Protestant ascendancy—and the great secret power of those truths, far more than the mere letter of them, is the thing to be prized.

You may get it into your head that you are a member of the one only true church. You may wrap yourself about with any quantity of self-conceit, but that does not at all prove you to be a possessor of Grace. It is love to Christ that is the root of the matter. I am very sorry, my dear Brother, if you should hold unsound views on some points, but I love you with all my heart if Jesus is precious to you! I cannot give up Believers’ Baptism. It is no invention of mine and, therefore, I cannot give up my Master’s ordinance. I am sure that it is Scriptural. I cannot give up the Doctrine of Election—it seems to me so plainly taught in the Word. But over the head of all doctrines and ordinances, and over everything, my Brother and Sister, I embrace you in my heart if you believe in Jesus and if He is precious to you, for that is the vital point! These are the matters of heart-work that mark a Christian— nothing else is so true a test. If you cannot say, “Jesus is precious to me,” I do not care to what church you belong, or what creed you are ready to die for, you do not know the Truth of God unless the Person of Christ is dear to you!

This may serve as a test for each one here. My Brother, my Sister, do you believe in Him who is the Son of God and yet was born of the Virgin here on earth? Do you rely alone on Him who, on the Cross, poured out His heart’s blood to redeem sinners? Do you depend on Him who now stands with His priestly garments on before the Throne of the Infinite Majesty, pleading for the unjust that they may live through Him? If you do, then answer this question—Do you love Jesus now? Do you love Him with your heart and soul? Would you serve Him? Do you serve Him? Will you serve Him? Will you subscribe your hand to be His servant from this day forth? Do you declare now, if not with lips, yet honestly with your soul, “He is precious to me, and I would give up all else sooner than give up Him”? Then it is well with you! Be happy and rejoice! Come to His Table and feast with Him at the banquet of love!

Source: A Sermon From a Sick Preacher (No 3014) Published on Thursday, Nov. 15, 1906
Delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1869

Soteriology Simplified

Burk ParsonsThe word “soteriology” is the combination of two words; “ology” (the study of) and the Greek sōtēria (salvation). So, soteriology is the study of what the scriptures say in reference to salvation. Volumes have been written on the subject but it’s always helpful to find definitions that help us to convey monumental truths in memorable ways.  I came across a quote from Burk Parsons in which he offered a simple, useful and memorable explanation of soteriology.

“Soteriology simplified: God saves us by Himself from Himself unto Himself for Himself.” ~ Burk Parsons

There’s so much packed into that short statement! I posted the quote on Facebook and two comments inspired this post. One was “I’m so confused!” and the other was “…from Himself? That’s thin ice.” Comments like those are usually multiplied among readers and so I want to provide a brief comment and scriptural basis for each of the four ways in which God saves us.

1) God saves us by Himself.  

The song rings out in Revelation (7:10; 19:1) “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” God Himself is the one who has provided salvation for us through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s gracious gift of salvation is His alone to give. We merit nothing by our works, no matter how “good” we may think them to be. Even the faith to trust in Christ comes from God to us. ” For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

2) God saves us from Himself.  

The Bible is very clear on man’s relationship to God apart from Christ. Yes, God is love and it is His love that motivates the sending of His Son to secure our salvation. God is also holy and it is His holiness that required the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. Apart from the righteousness of Christ we remain in our unholy, sinful rebellion before God. The Bible tells us that we are God’s enemies (Rom.5:10; James 4:4), hostile to His law (Rom.8:7; Col. 1:21), spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), deserving of judgment (Rom. 2:2-5; 12) and objects of God’s wrath (Rom. 2:8; Eph. 5:6). We cannot separate God’s wrath from His love. Both are central parts of His identity. God’s wrath is not human wrath. It is not an explosive reaction but rather a settled opposition to all that diminishes His glory. It is personal. It is an expression of His nature. So apart from Christ, we face the wrath of Holy God. John captures both ideas in the third chapter of his gospel. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In the very same chapter we read:  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36) This is where we all remain apart from Christ, under the wrath of God. God does not personally deliver His love to the redeemed and leave some wrathful force outside of Himself to express judgement on the un-redeemed.  No, both flow from His own nature. This is the glory of the gospel! A holy God who cannot receive rebellious sinners into His eternal presence, satisfies the demands of His own justice by becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ, living out the perfections of the Law as our “Second Adam”, taking our justly deserved punishment upon the cross, destroying the power of death in the resurrection and  securing for all time a bold and free approach into God’s eternal glory for all who put their hope in Christ. (2 Cor. 5:18-19; Rom. 3:21-25)

3) God saves us unto Himself.  

The idea that we are rescued from God’s wrath, eternal separation and sin’s enslavement – while true – is only half the story. We have not only be saved from these things but saved unto the God who loves us. God has always determined to have a people for Himself. At Mount Sinai, after Israel has been brought out of Egypt, God expresses His desire this way: ” Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6) This has never changed! Peter tells us that in Christ, God has realized this eternal plan: ” you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5) and in Revelation we see the culmination of what God began at Sinai. (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6)  (Rev. 5:9-10).

4) God saves us for Himself.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) God saves us unto Himself and for Himself.  He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19), redeeming us for His own possession (1 Peter 1:13-21), making possible and accomplishing our adoption as His own children (Gal. 4:5-6; Rom. 8:15). The great song of praise at the send of the age will be one of praise to the Lamb who has redeemed for God a worldwide people by His blood (Rev. 5:9) and  all of this is ultimately for His own glory. God is no egotist. He is perfect within Himself and values that which is most perfectly glorious: Himself! All that God has done in creation and redemption is for the glory of His own matchless grace. ” 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.” (Ephesians 1:5-6) “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-14) As God’s redeemed people we are to live for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 1:11; 2:11; 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 4:11).

This idea is presented beautifully in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV)

 

From Him
Through Him
To Him.
All things!
(Romans 11:36)

 

 

 

Does Your Worship Prepare People to Die?

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

– Colossians 3:16

church cemetaryAugustine told us that the “law of prayer is the law of belief.”  In other words, what touches the heart is what tends to be remembered and treasured. In our day we could easily say that the law of song is the law of belief. I have many volumes of systematic theology on my shelves. Few of those will ever be read by the average believer, and not one line in any of those books will be remembered more than the lyrics of beloved hymns.  If music is a vital means of imparting spiritual truth to the hearts of God’s people, then it’s important we present as full a spectrum of theology as possible. That includes the reality of death.

“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27

We all face the inevitability of it. Sometimes we’re reminded by the sudden and shocking departure of a loved one, or their slow descent into the shadows of death through disease. Sometimes the descent is our own. What about our young men and women in the military, or our police and rescue squads that place themselves in harms way? What about their families who face the threat with them?  How do we prepare our people to view death through the prism of hope and not despair? In part, we sing about it.

Songs about death don’t fall into the category of “happy-clappy,” and so they are often avoided. But the Scriptures don’t avoid it and neither should we. We must be preparing people to die, not simply react to death when it comes. We sing songs about facing trials and difficulties with faith. Why? Simply as a reaction? No! We sing those worship songs because they prepare the heart and fortify faith for the trials we surely will face. I’m grateful for two “re-tuned” hymns I have found genuinely full of faith in the face of death. These hymns I have used for funerals but, I have also used them in our worship service.They are not maudlin or cheesy, but instead rich in metaphor and truth. They also bring the hope we have in the face of death straight to our hearts and minds. Songs of hope help us live in the power of faith in future grace.

I’m going to share the lyrics to both songs here along with the links to where the sheet music can be obtained. Are there other songs about death you could suggest that might provide the same hope and truth?

It is Not Death to Die – Bob Kauflin

Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864), Translated by George Bethune (1847), Music, Chorus, and Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin. Sovereign Grace Music

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lyrics, chord charts, piano and string scores.

Good Night by Matthew Smith

I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears
To heavenly joy and freedom
From earthly bonds and fears
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

Why thus so sadly weeping
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious
Though now He bids us part
Oft have we met in gladness
And we shall meet again
All sorrow left behind us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I go to see His glory
Whom we have loved below
I go, the blessed angels
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed
I go to find again
And wait for you to join us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I hear the Savior calling–
The joyful hour has come
The angel-guards are ready
To guide me to our home
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

from Watch The Rising Day, released 17 August 2010

©2010 Detuned Radio Music
Written by Matthew S. Smith
Based in part on a hymn text by an unknown German writer, translated by Jane Borthwick

Find sheet music for Matthew Smith’s songs here.

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener

MacArthur-Strange-Fire

Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. and Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary penned the following review of MacArthur’s Strange Fire. It is published in full at the The Pneuma Review website. Here’s a bit to whet your whistle…

John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, Nov 12, 2013)

While offering some very needed points, John MacArthur’s Strange Fire unfortunately extrapolates from those points to an entire “movement.” As I note below, I also believe that MacArthur suppresses some biblical truth on the basis of a postbiblical doctrine, the very offense with which he charges others.

Nevertheless, there is much to be learned from his criticisms; he has brought again to our attention some serious errors that charismatic churches must be on their guard against. I start with some agreeable points in the book and then move to points where I believe MacArthur has clearly overstepped the bounds of reason and Christian civility; there my tone cannot be as conciliatory.  (Continue reading)

 

Historians of the Christian Tradition: Their Methodology and Influence on Western Thought – Michael Bauman (Editor)

“Ecclesiastical amnesia is a serious and crippling disease. A Church without a memory is doomed to invent the churchly and the theological wheels anew. The writing of religious history, in other words, is the necessary prop our naked memory requires in order to draw upon the accumulated wisdom of the ages, enabling us to withdraw at our need the deposit of insight and truth generously stored up for us by our predecessors in the faith”

He is Risen!

 

One of my favorite authors, Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn sent out the following today. Just want to pass on the good word and helpful resources to all of you. Enjoy! 

Christianity is unique among all the world religions in our dependence upon history. In the Apostles’ Creed, we confess that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate” and in the Nicene Creed, we confess that Jesus was “crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.” How did a second rate governor of a backwater district of the Roman Empire make it into two of the foundational Creeds of Christianity? Simply because we believe that Jesus lived, died, and was raised in real time and space. History matters to the central tenets of our faith.

As Easter approaches, the historicity of Christianity will come under assault in television specials, magazine cover stories, and perhaps even in casual conversations with your family and friends. I hope that White Horse Inn can be a resource to you in times like these so that you can “know–and share–what you believe and why you believe it.”

Here are several resources for you to read, listen to, and use in the coming days:
  • We recently concluded an important series that is available for streaming from our website: The Messiah. This four-part series unpacks the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ: why did the Second Person of the Trinity need to become Incarnate man and “suffer for us under Pontius Pilate”?
  • Last year, I wrote up a brief list of the facts that help prove that Jesus of Nazareth not only lived and died, but also rose again.
  • The March/April issue of Modern Reformation takes up the tragic stories of individuals leaving evangelicalism for Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or even atheism and agnosticism. This issue is filled with insights into why people are leaving our churches and how to talk with people who may seem hostile to the truth claims of Christianity.

I hope that these resources are helpful to you. Please feel free to pass them along to other friends and colleagues who may be looking for resources to help them “know what they believe and why they believe it.” You can help bring about a modern reformation just by sharing the information that has been helpful to you!

All the staff and the usual Cast of Characters from the White Horse Inn join me in wishing you and your family a joyous Lord’s Day this Sunday as we celebrate Easter.

The Lord is Risen!

Michael Horton

“Know what you believe and why you believe it.”

Character and Attributes of God by Sinclair Ferguson (MP3 Series)

Sinclair Ferguson

Monergism.com is providing a series by Sinclair Ferguson on the character and attributes of God. Dr. Ferguson is a teacher of extraordinary insight. Well worth the investment of time!

Character and Attributes of God by Sinclair Ferguson (MP3 Series)

Sinclair Ferguson is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary. One of the most renowned Reformed theologians in our day, Dr. Ferguson is also a member of the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He is a prolific author whose many books include The Holy Spirit, The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, and In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life

To Download MP3, Right Click and Save to your Hard Drive…

Character and Attributes of God, Part I – Romans 1:20-21 (MP3)

Character and Attributes of God, Part II – Genesis 18:16-17 (MP3)

Character and Attributes of God, Part III – Deuteronomy 24:13-14 (MP3)

Character and Attributes of God, Part IV – Isaiah 14:24-27 (MP3)
Deity of Christ: Old Testament Revelation of Trinity, Part I – Matthew 28:18-20 (MP3)

Deity of Christ: Old Testament Revelation of Trinity, Part II – 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 (MP3)
Divine Decrees; Divine Providence, Part I – Romans 9:19-20 (MP3)

Divine Decrees; Divine Providence, Part II – Colossians 1:15-17 (MP3)

OT Revelation of the Trinity, Part I – Exodus 6:6-7 (MP3)

OT Revelation of the Trinity, Part II – John 14:21-23 (MP3)

An Inadequate Doctrine

John Stott“All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell–deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.”

— John Stott
The Cross of Christ