“The God whose grace Paul proclaimed is the God who alone does great wonders. He creates the universe from nothing; he calls the dead to life; he justifies the ungodly. This third is the greatest wonder of all: creation and resurrection are consistent with the power of the living and life-giving God, but the justifying of the ungodly isprima facie a contradiction of his character as the righteous God, the Judge of all the earth, who by his own declaration “will not justify the ungodly” (Exodus 23:7). Yet such is the quality of divine grace that in the very act of extending it to the undeserving God demonstrates “that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).”
F.F. Bruce – Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 18-19
as a brother in Christ (and I do believe you when you call yourself a Christian) I was discouraged to see how you answered our brother in Christ on Q&A last night. I was discouraged for the following reasons:
Firstly, I was discouraged by the way you handled the scriptures. You said that the Bible condoned slavery and if we take it literally we should have been fighting for the confederacy in the American Civil War and your point (I think) was that just because the Bible condemns something that doesn’t mean the Bible is right. This argument makes it quite easy for people who don’t believe the Bible to be bolstered in their opposition to the Bible and I’m sure, as a Christian, you wouldn’t want people to oppose the Bible but to love reading it as they hear God speaking to them through it. As a Christian brother, I wish you defended same sex marriage by not firstly attacking the Bible which, as a man with your intellect and learning, you could have easily done. The Bible is under enough attack from people who aren’t Christians without having Australia’s most prominent self confessed Christians trashing it.
Secondly, I was discouraged by your statement that the Bible was about “universal love, loving your fellow man”. This statement has an element of truth in it for the Bible does speak of God’s universal love for everyone and that Christians should love our neighbour as ourselves. But we can say true things in a way and in a context that misconstrue the truth and can give people a false impression of what the truth is and this is what you did last night. Saying the Bible is about “universal love, loving your fellow man” is true if God’s universal love is couched in the fact that this love is not given to us all because we are beautiful little Vegemites who deserve God’s love but quite the opposite. God’s universal love is given despite ourselves. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and therefore God can justly judge us and condemn us to hell. But God, in his great universal love for all mankind, becomes a man and takes the punishment that was ours as he dies on the cross so that if we trust in him we can be saved from his right and good judgement. This sacrifice is for everyone and therefore this love is given to all. This is the context in which the Bible talks about God’s universal love. And loving your fellow man therefore is not saying to people “live however you want” it is about seeking their best and if the best thing for them is lovingly telling them about Jesus so that they would repent of sin well this is how we love.
My fear is that people heard your statement that the Bible is about “universal love, loving your fellow man” they heard that God loves me for who I am and doesn’t want me to change. Brother, we both know, Jesus clearly asks people to repent or change their ways as they come to know and love him. I fear that your statement about what the Bible is about will allow people to misconstrue the love of God and duck Jesus’ tough and yet loving call for everyone to repent and follow him.
And finally, I was discouraged by the way you treated a brother in Christ. I am fine with passionate disagreements (I think we need to have them in order to have a truly tolerant society). But I have not read one person, Christian or not, who didn’t think you were angrily dressing down the brother in Christ who asked you a very legitimate question. Your tone was off brother and as someone whose tone is off a lot of the time I know how hard it is to keep your cool when answering an intense and and passion fueled question. We all screw up, we all make mistakes and forgiveness is there for us all.
You are usually very cool when answering all kinds of questions and so your answer last night made me think if you are passionately answering this question not because you are passionate about it but for political expediency in that you wanted to show people who are passionately for gay marriage that you too are in their corner. I hope I am wrong.
Kevin, as a student of the scriptures you know how short lived our lives (especially political ones) are. You also know that one day we will have to give an account for the words we uttered. I can assure you when you stand before Jesus on that last day you will not say “I wish I was more unclear on what the Bible says so that I will get more votes”. No I think you will say “I wish I had been clearer and stronger on what the scriptures say.” Because on that last day you it won’t matter how many votes you received when you were on earth it will only matter if one person votes in your favour and whether that one person says to you “Well done good and faithful servant” or “away from me I never knew you”.
You and Mr Abbot are in my prayers.
Your Brother in Christ,
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I have blogged about Definite Atonement before here. There are significant pastoral implications and reasons why we should hold to Definite Atonement. Don Carson lists two:
(1) This approach, I content, must surely come as a relief to young preachers in the Reformed tradition who hunger to preach the Gospel effectively but who do not know how far they can go in saying things such as “God loves you” to unbelievers. When I have preached or lectured in Reformed circles, I have often been asked the question, “Do you feel free to tell unbelievers that God loves them?” No doubt the question is put to me because I still do a fair bit of evangelism, and people want models. Historically, Reformed theology at its best has never been slow in evangelism. Ask George Whitefield, for instance, or virtually all the main lights in the Southern Baptist Convention until the end of the last century. From what I have already said, it is obvious that I have no hesitation in answering this question from young Reformed preachers affirmatively: Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them.
Not for a moment am I suggesting that when one preaches evangelistically, one ought to retreat to passages of the third type (above), holding back on the fourth type until after a person is converted. There is something sleazy about that sort of approach. Certainly it is possible to preach evangelistically when dealing with a passage that explicitly teaches election. Spurgeon did this sort of thing regularly. But I am saying that, provided there is an honest commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God, preachers in the Reformed tradition should not hesitate for an instant to declare the love of God for a lost world, for lost individuals. The Bible’s ways of speaking about the love of God are comprehensive enough not only to permit this but to mandate it. [Footnote 4: Cf. somewhat similar reflections by Hywel R. Jones, “Is God Love?” in Banner of Truth Magazine 412 (January 1998), 10-16.]
(2) At the same time, to preserve the notion of particular redemption proves pastorally important for many reasons. If Christ died for all people with exactly the same intent, as measured on any axis, then it is surely impossible to avoid the conclusion that the ultimate distinguishing mark between those who are saved and those who are not is their own will. That is surely ground for boasting. This argument does not charge the Arminian with no understanding of grace. After all, the Arminian believes that the cross is the ground of the Christian’s acceptance before God; the choice to believe is not in any sense the ground. Still, this view of grace surely requires the conclusion that the ultimate distinction between the believer and the unbeliever lies, finally, in the human beings themselves. That entails an understanding of grace quite different, and in my view far more limited, than the view that traces the ultimate distinction back to the purposes of God, including his purposes in the cross. The pastoral implications are many and obvious.
Taken from The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.
If you want to more on definite atonement check out the forthcoming book by David and Jonny Gibson From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective
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If you are a Christian today and you try to tell your friends about Jesus two of the ways your friends will respond to the great news about Jesus is to want to know more or to mock.
It is amazing when our friends want to find out more isn’t it? I hung out with a mate this week and just kept asking questions about Christianity and Jesus. I am so encouraged in this because I see God working slowly but surely in my friends life.
But I have experienced too many times, as I am sure you have, the mocking that comes from some people towards God and the gospel. How should we as Christians respond to mockery? Firstly we should expect that it will come and don’t take it personally because they are rejecting Jesus not us. Secondly, we love our mockers. We pray to for our mockers and we are going to ask God that he would be merciful to them. Why are we going to do that? Because it is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus as he was dying on the cross was mocked and ridiculed and yet what the words that came out of his mouth were not words of hate but words of love. He prayed to God that he would forgive his mockers (Luke 23:32-39). If you are mocked for being a Christian you are called to love and your love will outlast mockery. Because in the end the love of God will always outlast those who mock.
And lastly as we are mocked we know there is something that is special about Christianity that allows people to mock us. As Ravi Zacharias shows in this brilliant video:
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One of the things I loved about being at college was figuring out what the Bible said about various theological issues. While at college I studied various issues like the atonement, gender, church government, church discipline, the 39 articles, baptism,etc. in an effort to come to a position on each of them. One of my biggest shifts theologically was going from a person who believed that Jesus died effectively for all to believing that Jesus died purposely for the elect. At college I embraced the doctrine of definite atonement.Many theologians and well known pastors hold to the biblical doctrine of definite atonement. Here is the eminent pastor/ scholar himself John Piper explaining why he holds to definite atonement:
Hand in glove with the doctrine of our disabling depravity is the doctrine of God’s effective purchase of his people on the cross. The reason it’s like hand and glove is that our inability because of sin calls for a kind of redemption that does more than offer us a forgiveness we don’t have the ability to receive. Rather, it calls for a redemption that effectively purchases not only our forgiveness but also our willingness to receive it. In other words, the unwilling glove of depravity calls for the insertion of a powerful hand of ability-giving redemption.
Sometimes this doctrine is called “limited atonement.” It’s not a helpful term. Better would be the terms definite atonement or particular redemption. The reason limited atonement isn’t helpful is that, in fact, the doctrine affirms more, not less, about Christ’s work in redemption than its rival view called “unlimited atonement.”
The view of unlimited atonement takes all the passages that say the death of Christ is “for us” (Rom. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:10), or for his own “sheep” (John 10:11, 15), or for “the church” (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25), or for “the children of God” (John 11:52), or for “those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14) and makes them refer to all human beings. In this “unlimited atonement” view, the sentence “Christ died for you” means: Christ died for all sinners, so that if you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins.
Now as far as it goes, this seems to me to be biblical teaching— salvation is offered to all because of Christ. But then this view deniessomething that I think the Bible teaches. It denies that Christ died for his church—his bride (Eph. 5:25)—in any way different from the way he died for unbelievers who never come to faith.
There is no dispute that Christ died to obtain great saving benefits for all who believe. Moreover, I have no dispute with saying that Christ died so that we might say to all persons everywhere without exception: “God gave his only begotten Son to die for sin so that if you believe on him you will have eternal life.”
The dispute rather is whether God intended for the death of Christ to obtain more than these two things—more than (1) saving benefits after faith, and (2) a bona fide offer of blood-bought salvation to every person on the planet. Specifically, did God intend for the death of Christ to obtain the free gift of faith (Eph. 2:8) and repentance (2 Tim. 2:25)? Did the blood of Jesus obtain not only the benefits that comeafter faith but also the gift of faith itself?
We want to be biblical. Does the unlimited atonement interpretation of any of the “universal” texts on the atonement necessarily contradict thismore that I am affirming about God’s intention for the death of Christ—texts like John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 2:1; and 1 John 2:1–2?
I don’t think so…
…The fact that God makes salvation possible for all through the blood of Christ does not contradict the view that God does more than that through the death of Christ. I don’t affirm that God does less but that he does more. He actually secures the salvation of his chosen people. He secures all the grace needed for their salvation, including the grace of regeneration and faith.
Paul says in Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This was a particular redemption. Christ had his bride in view differently than he had all in view. He knew his bride, and he wanted his bride, and he bought his bride. Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). He said, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you [Father] have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9). He said, “And for their sake I consecrate myself [to die], that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:19). In other words,Christ had a specific design in his death for the sake of his people—the cross would be sufficient for the salvation of the world, but efficient for his sheep, his bride.
And Paul carried through this understanding of Christ’s work when he said in Romans 8:32–33, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” God’s elect in verse 33 are the same as the “us all” in verse 32. This group, he says, will most surely receive “all things.” God will see to it. And the reason Paul gives is that Christ did not spare his own Son but gave him up “for us all.” That means that the giving of the Son guarantees all the blessings of the elect.
This does not limit the extent of what the atonement offers. The benefits of the atonement are offered to everyone.
If you believe on Christ, they are all yours. But “the Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). For them, for his bride, he is securing something that cannot fail—their faith and their justification and their glorification. Those for whom he died, in this fullest sense, will most certainly obtain all things—they will finally inherit the kingdom of God. His death is infallibly effective for the elect.
–pg. 136-138, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper (Crossway, 2011)
The reason that all Christians should believe in definite atonement because only when we see the atonement is for the elect can we say Jesus died to save without reservation or qualification.
If you want to read more on the biblical doctrine of definite atonement make sure you pre order the book that my good friend Jonny Gibson and his brother David edited From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral PerspectiveWith contributors like J. I. Packer, Henri A. Blocher, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Paul Helm, Robert Letham, John Piper, Thomas R. Schreiner,Carl R. Trueman , Lee Gatiss, Donald Macleod, J. Alec Motyer, Garry J. Williams this will be the book on definite atonement.You may also like:
As a pastor I want to see people’s lives change. But when I am not being refreshed by the gospel I preach morality rather than grace. I preach that peoples morals need to change rather than preaching the gospel and showing how the gospel changes morality. The difference is subtle but the outcomes are huge. In the end the very moral change I want to see in my people won’t come if I preach morality but, if over time, I preach the gospel the change will come. This is exactly what Tim Keller shows us in his great book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City:
Moralistic behavior change bends a person into a different pattern through fear of consequences rather than melting a person into a new shape. But this does not work. If you try to bend a piece of metal without the softening effect of heat, it is likely to snap back to its former position. This is why we see people who try to change through moralistic behaviorism find themselves repeatedly lapsing into sins they thought themselves incapable of committing. They can’t believe they embezzled or lied or committed adultery or felt so much blind hatred that they lashed out. Appalled at themselves, they say, “I wasn’t raised that way!” But they were. For moralistic behaviorism — even deep within a religious environment — continues to nurture the “ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on self that is the mark of Hell.”5 This is the reason people embezzle, lie, and break promises in the first place. It also explains why churches are plagued with gossip and fighting. Underneath what appears to be unselfishness is great self-centeredness, which has been enhanced by moralistic modes of ministry and is marked by liberal doses of sanctimony, judgmentalism, and spite. To complete our illustration, if you try to bend metal without the softening effect of heat, it may simply break. Many people, after years of being crushed under moralistic behaviorism, abandon their faith altogether, complaining that they are exhausted and “can’t keep it up.” But the gospel of God’s grace doesn’t try to bend a heart into a new pattern; it melts it and re-forms it into a new shape. The gospel can produce a new joy, love, and gratitude — new inclinations of the heart that eat away at deadly self-regard and self-concentration. Without this “gospel heat” — the joy, love, and gratitude that result from an experience of grace — people will simply snap. Putting pressure on their will may temporarily alter their behavior, but their heart’s basic self-centeredness and insecurity
How can you remind yourself to preach the gospel for change and not just moral change itself?
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I love the theological college I went to. I love the faculty, I love the things I learnt there, I love the people I met there. If you have been to a bible/ theological college I hope you love the one you went to as much as I love the one I went to.
Every week I pray for my college. One of the things I pray for every week is that it would stay theologically strong. Satan would love to see any theological college turn into a theologically liberal college.
Here are the powerful words Albert Moher wrote about the place of theologcial colleges in the life of the church and how liberal theology can creep into them:
Theological education is a deadly serious business. The stakes are so high. A theological seminary that serves faithfully will be a source of health and life for the church, but an unfaithful seminary will set loose a torrent of trouble, untruth, and sickness upon Christ’s people. Inevitably, the seminaries are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.
Sadly, the landscape is littered with theological institutions that have poorly taught and have been poorly led. Theological liberalism has destroyed scores of seminaries, divinity schools, and other institutions for the education of the ministry. Many of these schools are now extinct, even as the churches they served have been evacuated. Others linger on, committed to the mission of revising the Christian faith in order to make peace with the spirit of the age. These schools intentionally and boldly deny the pattern of sound words in order to devise new words for a new age — producing a new faith. As J. Gresham Machen rightly observed almost a century ago, we do not really face two rival versions of Christianity. We face Christianity on the one hand and, on the other hand, some other religion that selectively uses Christian words, but is not Christianity.
How does this happen? Rarely does an institution decide, in one comprehensive moment of decision, to abandon the faith and seek after another. The process is far more dangerous and subtle. A direct institutional evasion would be instantly recognized and corrected, if announced honestly at the onset. Instead, theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation. Eventually, the drift accumulates into momentum and the school abandons doctrine after doctrine, truth claim after truth claim, until the pattern of sound words, and often the sound words themselves, are mocked, denied, and cast aside in the spirit of theological embarrassment.
As James Petigru Boyce, founder of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued, “It is with a single man that error usually commences.” When he wrote those words in 1856, he knew that pattern by observation of church history. All too soon, he would know this sad truth by personal observation.
Please read the rest of the article called Confessional Integrity and the Stewardship of Words and please pray that our theological and bible colleges would remain faithful to God’s word.
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A mate tells me a story about the first time he played golf. Needless to say he sucked. One shot was far left and in the trees and the other was far right in the water. His friend that took him out to play golf said that he was only off by a few millimeters! My friend then hit another ball in the water and said “Yeah looks like it!”. His friend said “No your club face is just a few millimeters off from where it should be. If you turn the club face a tiny bit in the wrong direction in has huge results. A small change here means huge changes down there!”
I hate golf but I think this is a great analogy for doctrine. Because if doctrine shifts subtly in one area we may not see the full affects of this shift till we we are long gone. A small change in doctrine can have huge affects later on down the line. And therefore we must assess changes in doctrine, however subtle, just on whether they are still within in the bounds of evangelical belief but also how will this shift affect the witness of the gospel in future generations. Small changes in doctrine may mean huge changes in later generations. This is what P.T Forsyth helpfully pointed out about a century ago:
The ideas at the centre of the Christian faith are too large, too deep and subtle, to show their effects in one age; and the challenge of them does not show its effect in one generation or even in two. Individuals, society, and the Church, indeed, are able to go on, externally almost unaffected, by the way that they have upon them from the past; and it is only within the range of several generations that the destruction of truths with such a comprehensive range as those of Christianity takes effect. Therefore it is part of the duty of the Church, in certain sections and on certain occasions, to be less concerned about the effect of the Gospel upon the individual immediately, or on the present age, and to look ahead to what may be the result of certain changes in the future. God sets watchmen in Zion who have to keep their eye on the horizon; and it is only a drunken army that could scout their warning. We are not only bound to attend to the needs and interests of the present generation; we are trustees for a long future, as well as a long past. Therefore it is quite necessary that the Church should give very particular attention to these central and fundamental points whose influence, perhaps, is not so promptly prized, and whose destruction would not be so mightily felt at once, but would certainly become apparent in the days and decades ahead. P.T. Forsyth The Work of Christ, pp. 142-43
Let us not be historically naive Let us make sure we learn from the past and see how small shifts in doctrines may mean huge losses in the future.
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So many people today find their identity in the work they do. Is this a harmful or a good thing? I have been reading Peter Bregman’s book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done in which he quotes Dr. Paul Rosenfield, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University who says:
Establishing your identity through work alone can restrict your sense of self, and make you vulnerable to depression, loss of self-worth, and loss of purpose when the work is threatened
This seems to me to be exactly in line with what the Bible says about identity. When we find our identity in anything other than Jesus we will always find the thing we build our identity on to be lacking.
What are you building your identity on?
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This is an amazing testimony!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes Romans 1:16
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