Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Who is "Antipas" in Revelation 2:13?

 I know where you dwell, where the throne of Satan [is located], and you have my name and you have not denied my Faith even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed in your presence, [there] where Satan dwells. (Revelation 2:13)

Who is the “Antipas” mentioned in the text? Simeon Metaphrastes, a tenth century Christian who collected stories of martyrs, wrote that Antipas was executed by being sealed inside a hollow statue of a bull–  made of brass– which had been heated until it was red hot and that Antipas called out prayers and thanksgiving from inside the bull. According to Metaphrastes, Antipas was martyred during Domitian’s reign (r. AD 81-96). If Metaphrastes can be trusted, this mention of “Antipas” helps to confirm the testimony of Irenaeus (AD 120-202) that Revelation was written “toward the end of Domitian’s reign.”
On the other hand, some historians– such as Philip Schaff–  and Bible commentators– such as Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown–  doubt Metaphrastes’ identification of Antipas. They note that Metaphrastes seems to accept fantastical and dubious accounts uncritically. Furthermore, no written record of Antipas exists from the time between Revelation and Metaphrastes; therefore, no one can check the sources of his account. For these reasons, those who argue for an earlier date of Revelation (during Nero’s reign, AD 54-68) do not accept Metaphrastes’ account as reliable evidence against their position.
“Antipas” is mentioned in this text as someone whose sacrifice was well-known to the entire Pergamene congregation. Antipas “was killed in [the] presence” of the Pergamene believers: this term probably indicates that the wicked authorities executed Antipas as an example and warning to other Christians. Yet even seeing Antipas slain, the Pergamene Christians refused to deny the “Faith” [Jesus says, th;n pivstin mou (tēn pistin mou) = “my Faith,” or, “the Faith concerning me”]; “Faith” is used here to indicate the gospel, or good news, about Jesus. Having died for his refusal to deny the Faith, Antipas has the honor of Jesus calling him oJ pistovV mou (ho pistos mou), “my faithful one.” Jesus also calls Antipas “my witness;” “witness” is a translation of the Greek wordmartuvV (martyr), and the use of this word in relation to Antipas’ death is one of the early indications for the reason why “martyr” came to mean “one who dies for his or her beliefs.”


Friday, October 25, 2013

The Poverty of the Smyrneans

I know your hardships: abject poverty– but you’re rich!– and the slander from those calling themselves Jews when they’re nothing but a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9)

The persecution suffered by the Smyrnean Christians is primarily defined in terms of their poverty and the slander against them.[1] Christians in the West today certainly may be slandered for our faith, and we should expect this to be the case (see, for example, Matthew 5:11). On the other hand, people in the West today generally do not expect that Christians– as a group, due merely to our profession of faith– will be any more subject to poverty than others. However, there are many places in the world today in which persecution is so severe that mere identification with Christ may mean the loss of livelihood (if not the loss of life itself). During the apostolic age, the great majority of Christians suffered from poverty to one degree or another (see 1 Cor 1:26; Jas 2:5).

[1]kai before th;n ptwceivan, in this case, is epexegetical. Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 162.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Should 'angeloi' in Revelation 1:20 be translated "messengers"?

[As for] the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lamp-stands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:20)

How is the reader to understand the a[ggeloi (angeloi) “angels” mentioned in this passage? The lexicons list “messengers” as a possible translation for a[ggeloi (angeloi), and some have suggested that these “messengers” should be understood as the human “overseers,” “senior pastors,” or “key elders” of the seven churches.[1] Others point out that in every NT occurrence– including throughout most of Revelation– a[ggeloi clearly indicates “angels”– the heavenly servants of God, as seen in the various contexts– so, without further indications from the text, those originally reading the book of Revelation would almost certainly have understood a[ggeloi to mean “angels” rather than “pastors.” On the other hand, one must note that although “angel” normally indicates a supernatural, heavenly servant of God, the biblical text also records some instances in which “angel” is used figuratively of a human minister: in Galatians 4:14, Paul writes that when he preached the gospel to the Galatians he was received wJV a[ggelon qeou: (hōs angelon theou) “as an angel of God,” and in Malachi 2:7 (LXX) each priest is admonished diovti a[ggeloV kurivou pantokravtorovV ejstin (dioti angelos kuriou pantokratoros estin) “because he is an angel of the Almighty Lord.”[2] These passages show that the early Christian community may have been familiar with some instances in which– through simile or metaphor– certain human ministers of God were indeed called “angels:” if Revelation uses the term “angel” in a figurative way to indicate a human being, it would not be the first time that Scripture does so.
As in all areas of biblical understanding, context is key to understanding the intended meaning of a[ggeloi. Is there anything in the context that would indicate whether these “angels” in Revelation 1-3 should be understood in the usual way– as supernatural, heavenly servants of God– or in a figurative way, as speaking of human messengers? Though understanding “angels” as supernatural, heavenly beings may seem to be the more natural reading of the text, notice that John is commanded to write letters to these angels and that, taking Revelation 1:11 into account, writing letters to the angels is seen as equivalent to writing letters to the individual churches that are named. Unless we imagine that supernatural, heavenly beings took John’s combined letters around to the seven churches in Asia Minor and let the church members know the contents of the letters, it is far more likely that the “angel” of each church should be understood as the “messenger” of each church: “the one reading” John’s writings to “those hearing” (Rev 1:3). The pastors of the churches were expected to publicly read Scripture (1 Tim 4:13), therefore the “seven stars” likely indicate seven pastors who had the privilege of reading the letters to the various churches.

[1]See, for example, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 1963.
[2]Malachi 3:1 is also relevant in this regard: the first part of this verse speaks of one who clears the way before the Lord– one who the NT identifies as John the Baptist (Mark 1:2-4), whose ministry cleared the way for the Messiah; in Malachi 3:1 (LXX) this forerunner to the Messiah is called to;n a[ggelovn mou (ton angelon mou) “my angel.” 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

James 4:6b Study Notes

[The following is an example of how I do in-depth Bible study, especially when I am preparing to teach from a Bible passage. Many of the initial steps that I take in examining a passage are influenced by discipleship I received from Dave Stephenson of Grace Bible Church.]

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b NIV 1984)

Christological Focus

The example of Christ:

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 HCSB)

The teaching of Christ:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3 NIV 1984)

The teaching of Christ, re: justification:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NKJV)

The “5Ws” of James 4:6b

Who: 1. God, who stands in opposition to the proud, but gives grace to the humble; 2. The proud, against whom God is in opposition; 3. The humble, who are the beneficiaries of God’s grace.

What: Grace.

Where: This verse sets forth a universal principle, applicable at all places.

When: Pride has been a chief manifestation of sin from the beginning, when Lucifer said in his heart, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God" (cf. Is. 14:13).

Why: Pride is a form of self-idolatry, and God stands in opposition to all idols.

How: Humility expresses utter forsaking of the core of rebellion, and acknowledges our essential dependence upon God, thus restoring (along with the righteousness of Christ) our primordial created position.

So what? If we stand under God’s opposition, then all we do will end in futility, frustration, and degradation. If we receive God’s grace, then all we do will be blessed, eternally significant, and we will be exalted to the glory of God.

2 Timothy 3:16 Hermeneutic

Teaching: This passage is doctrinal in nature, laying forth a spiritual principle that should shape our entire self-perception and response to God.

Rebuking: This passage rebukes the proud, exposing the fact that pride yields the opposition of God.

Correcting: This passage corrects any ideas that we can play a part in earning grace: it is only when we become utterly humiliated that we are in a position to become the benefactors of God’s grace.

Training in Righteousness: This passage trains us in rejecting pride and cultivating an essential attitude of humility.


[T]he original word, antitassetai, signifies, God’s setting himself as in battle array against them; and can there be a greater disgrace than for God to proclaim a man a rebel, an enemy, a traitor to his crown and dignity, and to proceed against him as such? The proud resists God; in his understanding he resists the truths of God; in his will he resists the truths of God; in his will he resists the laws of God; in his passions he resists the providence of God; and therefore no wonder that God sets himself against the proud. Let proud spirits hear this and tremble— God resists them. Who can describe the wretched state of those who make God their enemy? He will certainly fill with same (sooner or later) the faces of such as have filled their hearts with pride. We should therefore resist pride in our hearts, if we would not have God to resist us. [from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible]

4 ways in which God opposes the proud:
1. By refusing to speak to the proud. (Example: Luke 23:8-9, in which Jesus refuses to speak with Herod while Herod was exalting himself above Christ.)
2. By ridiculing their schemes (Example: Psalm 2:1-4, in which God laughs at those who exalt themselves against Him.)
3. By ruining their success (Example: II Chronicles 26, in which God curses King Uzziah’s pride when he taking a priestly job for himself.)
4. By removing their status (Example: Daniel 5, in which Nebuchadnezzar’s loses his sanity and his kingdom due to his pride.) [from Paul Stith, Grace Heritage Church,  15 May 2005]


Friday, October 11, 2013

Repentance: The Forgotten Word -by Adrian Rogers

[The following article from the late Dr. Adrian Rogers- former president of the Southern Baptist Convention- appeared on the Crosswalk website in March 2006. This teaching on repentance presented in this article is especially important in the light of the 'new theological position' that I recently examined, which denies that repentance is a necessary component of our response to the gospel.]

Repentance: The Forgotten Word
Adrian Rogers
Love Worth Finding
The word repentance has been neglected in many of today's churches. But while it may have dropped out of some pulpits, it has not dropped out of the Word of God. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about repentance.

The Mandate for Repentance

The first sermon Jesus preached was one of repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). And in the last message He gave to the church in Revelation 3:19, Jesus also preached repentance. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

And in Luke 13:1-5 Jesus again preached a message of repentance. Twice in this passage Jesus stated emphatically: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

People were talking about some who were put to death by Pilot and others who were killed when a tower fell on them. They were wondering what sins these had committed that were so terrible that they deserved death. But Jesus said, “No, they didn't die because they were more sinful than anybody else; and just because you are not experiencing trouble, doesn't mean you don't need to repent.” So we're all mandated to repent, but what is repentance?

The Meaning of Repentance

1. Repentance is more than conviction of sin. You can be convicted of sin and still not repent. Paul preached to Felix until he literally trembled under conviction (see Acts 24:25), but he didn't get saved. He was convicted, but he did not repent.

2. Repentance is more than confession of sin.
You can confess your sin and still not repent. There are a number of episodes in the Bible where men literally said, “I have sinned.” They confessed their sin, but none of them repented. Consider these examples:

A Horrified Confession - When God brought hail and fire on Egypt, Pharaoh said, “I have sinned...” But in Exodus 9:34, “… when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart...”
A Hypocritical Confession - Balaam wanted to serve God but also wanted to rake some profit off the side. His talking donkey saved him from the wrath of God, and in Numbers 22:34, “… Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned...” But he never changed.
A Half-hearted Confession - King Saul decided to keep some of the spoils of war against God's commands. When confronted by the prophet Samuel, he replied in 1 Samuel 15:24, “… I have sinned … because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.” Saul said, “I have sinned,” but he had an excuse - an alibi.
A Hemmed-Up Confession - There was also Achan in the battle of Jericho. He too brought home some of the spoils of war. When found in his sin, Achan answered, “indeed I have sinned” (Joshua 7:20). But his was a hemmed-up confession. He was not sorry for the sin but sorry he got caught.
A Hopeless Confession - And Judas confessed after betraying Jesus. In Matthew 27:4 Judas said, “…I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood…” But it was only a confession of remorse.

Repentance is more than conviction or confession of sin. Every one of these men used the words “I have sinned,” but not one of them repented.

3. Repentance is a heart change. To repent is to turn from sin to Jesus. There is a negative and a positive action involved. In Acts 20:21 Paul said we are to testify “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” You cannot repent to God unless you turn to Jesus. You must tell God you are sorry for your sin and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.

4. Repentance is a continuing change of heart. And it is not something you do once in order to get saved and then forget it. Repentance is a crisis followed by a process. We live repenting day-by-day.

The Motive for Repentance

Because we are all sinners, Acts 17:30 says, “… [God] commandeth all men every where to repent.” Repentance is the only way to remove the curse of guilt. Your heart will never find rest apart from repentance. Isaiah 57:20 says, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest...” Repentance allows God's grace to work in your heart. God will save you, but you cannot cling to your sin and to Jesus at the same time. It's time to repent!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Promise of Humility -by C.J. Mahaney

[The following article appeared on the Crosswalk website in March of 2006. This article was a great help to me when I had the opportunity to teach on James 4:6 -"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble"- on March 26, 2006 at Grace Heritage ChurchI hope that re-publishing it here will serve as a blessing to anyone who may read this blog.]

The Promise of Humility
C.J. Mahaney
Author, Pastor
In a culture that so often rewards the proud—a world quick to admire and applaud the prideful, a world eager to bestow the label “great” on these same individuals—humility occasionally attracts some surprising attention.

Take, for example, the bestselling book Good to Great. Since 2001, this leadership manual from Jim Collins has become one of the most popular and influential in the business world. I rarely meet a leader who hasn’t read it. The book is driven by this question: Can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? To find the answer, Collins and a team of researchers spent five years studying eleven corporations that had made the leap from being merely good companies to being great ones.

Later, I had the chance to hear Jim Collins speak on this topic to an audience of pastors and business leaders. In his presentation, Collins identified two specific character qualities shared by the CEOs of these good-to-great companies.

The first was no surprise: These men and women possessed incredible professional will—they were driven, willing to endure anything to make their company a success.

But the second trait these leaders had in common wasn’t something the researchers expected to find: These driven leaders were self-effacing and modest. They consistently pointed to the contribution of others and didn’t like drawing attention to themselves. “The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes,” Collins writes. “They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.”

When Collins interviewed people who worked for these leaders, he says they “continually used words like quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings; and so forth” to describe them.(1)

In God’s Gaze

Here, it appears, is an open acknowledgment of humility’s value—a recognition that humility works, that it goes far in building respect for those who have it and inspiring trust and confidence from people around them. Amazingly enough, humility sometimes attracts the world’s notice.

But here’s something even more astonishing: Humility gets God’s attention. In Isaiah 66:2 we read these words from the Lord:
This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

This profound passage points us to an altogether different motivation and purpose for humility than we will ever find in the pages of a secular business manual. Here we find motivation and purpose rooted in this amazing fact: Humility draws the gaze of our Sovereign God.

If we understand the background of this passage, the meaning grows even richer. Here God is addressing the Israelites, a people with a unique identity. Chosen by God from among all the nations on earth, they possessed both the temple and the Torah—the Law of God. But they didn’t tremble at His word. In a sense, they had everything going for them except what was most important. They lacked humility before God.

So in this passage, God in His mercy is drawing the Israelites’ attention away from their prideful assumption of privilege as His chosen people and away from their preoccupation with the trappings of religion. These things don’t attract His active and gracious gaze. But humility does.

God Helps Those…

The eyes of God are a theme running throughout Scripture. Take, for example, the familiar words of 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” Obviously God doesn’t have physical eyes; God is spirit (John 4:24). He doesn’t need physical eyes, because He’s also omniscient. Nothing escapes His notice. He’s aware of all things.

But though He’s aware of everything, He’s also searching for something in particular, something that acts like a magnet to capture His attention and invite His active involvement. God is decisively drawn to humility. The person who is humble is the one who draws God’s attention, and in this sense, drawing His attention means also attracting His grace—His unmerited kindness.

Think about that: There’s something you can do to attract more of God’s gracious, underserved, supernatural strength and assistance!

What a promise! Listen to this familiar passage again for the very first time: “God…gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not “those who help themselves” whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.

This is the promise of humility. God is personally and providentially supportive of the humble. And the grace He extends to the humble is indescribably rich. As Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The pleasures of humility are really the most refined, inward, and exquisite delights in the world.”(2) We want to position ourselves to receive and experience those exquisite pleasures.

What Is Humility?

For me, Jim Collins’s book was an encouraging reminder that even in a world that celebrates the proud, humility is still valued. But books like Good to Great have severe limitations; they can take us only so far in understanding humility because they’re not rooted in a biblical worldview. Our definition of humility must be biblical and not simply pragmatic, and in order to be biblical it must begin with God. As John Calvin wrote, “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”(3)

That’s where the following definition can help us: Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

That’s the twin reality that all genuine humility is rooted in: God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Without an honest awareness of both these realities, all self-evaluation will be skewed and we’ll fail to either understand or practice true humility. We’ll miss out on experiencing the promise and the pleasures that humility offers.

But using scriptural truth, we can evaluate our lives honestly, and find out if we're growing in the humility that draws His gaze and attracts more of His grace.

Do You Have It?

So let’s ask ourselves: When it comes to the values we live by, what will others say about us one day? Will they testify that humility characterized our lives?

So many human ventures, so many grand designs of mankind, have been undermined because humility was lacking on the part of those involved. Yet humility holds out an amazing promise to those who will embrace it: God gives grace to the humble!

What are you building with your life? A marriage? A family? A business? A church? A career? In all your ventures, are you aware of your need for God’s grace to give your efforts lasting value? Do you long for God’s providential help and blessing? Then let’s allow the promise of humility to shape our lives and choices, so our children and others will one day look back and say of us, They had that. They had humility. They had what mattered.

Excerpt from Humility by C.J. Mahaney. Used with permission.


Monday, October 07, 2013

I Call it Heresy! (Heresy Defined)

[The following is adapted from a blogpost that I originally published on 2/23/06.]

On the definition of heresy.

Looking up the meaning of the word "heresy" in most English dictionaries, one is likely to find a definition such as the following:

Heresy: 1 a) a religious belief opposed to the orthodox doctrines of a church, esp., such a belief specifically denounced by the church b) the rejection of a belief that is a part of church dogma [from "Heresy," Webster's New World College Dictionary, Victoria Neufeldt, ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1997), 631.]

This definition of "heresy" is defined primarily in terms of church decisions and is far more applicable in a Roman Catholic setting, which would emphasize the authority of the church, than in a Protestant setting, which would emphasize that Scripture alone is the "sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience" (1689 London Baptist Confession, Chapter One: "Of the Holy Scriptures"). The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, however, contains an article on "heresy" that is far more helpful, reading as follows:

Heresy: A view or opinion not in accord with the prevalent standards. The Greek word hairesis, meaning originally a choice, then a self-chosen belief, is applied by the Fathers as early as the third century to a deviation from the fundamental Christian faith, which was punished by exclusion from the Church.

From this article, I would like to focus on the idea of "heresy" as "a deviation from the fundamental Christian faith". This idea naturally gives rise to the question of how we should define "the fundamental Christian faith". What truths of the Christian faith are so foundational to our beliefs that they cannot even be up for debate, so that any deviation from these truths is considered heresy?

Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church has done an excellent job in helping to answer the above question in a chapter titled, "What Are the Fundamentals of Christianity?" found in his book, Truth Matters. In this chapter, MacArthur writes,

All who call themselves Christian should agree that there is a body of doctrine that is nonnegotiable. The articles of faith that make up this constitutional body of truth are the very essence of "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). These are the real fundamentals of the faith. They are so indispensible to true Christianity that we ought to break fellowship with any professing Christian who denies them.

MacArthur explores the fundamentals of Christianity under five chapter sub-headings, three of which I would like to call our attention to in this post. These sub-headings are titled "Everything Essential to Saving Faith is Fundamental", "Every Doctrine We Are Forbidden to Deny is Fundamental", and "The Fundamental Doctrines Are All Summed Up in the Person and Work of Christ".

Everything Essential to Saving Faith is Fundamental

From the Fall of Man into sin recorded in Genesis chapter 3, the Bible reveals God's work in restoring Man into a right relationship with Him. In fact, it may be rightly stated that the entire purpose of the Bible is to give sinful people the message of how they may be reconciled to God. This message of reconciliation is the Good News message of Christianity. This Good News- or gospel- message is the message of faith, which grants eternal life. So, as John MacArthur explains,

A doctrine must be considered fundamental if eternal life depends on it. Scripture is full of statements that identify the terms of salvation and the marks of genuine faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). That verse makes faith itself essential to a right relationship with God.

Every Doctrine We Are Forbidden to Deny is Fundamental

This sub-heading should be so obvious that it would not need to be mentioned, but people in general all too often overlook the fact that Scripture forbids us to deny certain doctrines. MacArthur's teaching is helpful in this area as well. Focusing on certain aspects of the doctrine of sin that we are explicitly forbidden to deny, MacArthur writes,

The apostle John began his first epistle with a series of statements that establish key points of the doctrine of sin (hamartiology) as fundamental articles of faith. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (I John 1:6). That condemns wanton antinomianism and makes some degree of doctrinal and moral enlightenment essential to true Christianity.

The Fundamental Doctrines Are All Summed Up in the Person and Work of Christ

Finally and, in a sense, most importantly, the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ truly sums up all fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Christianity by its very name is manifestly focused on Christ. It is Christ alone who establishes our reconciliation with God, as mentioned above. For this reason, we can confidently affirm with MacArthur that,

Christ Himself embodied or established every doctrine that is essential to genuine Christianity. Those who rejectany of the cardinal doctrines of the faith worship a christ who is not the Christ of Scripture.
The fundamentals of the faith are so closely identified with Christ that the apostle John used the expression "the teaching of Christ" as a kind of shorthand for the set of doctrines he regarded as fundamental. To him, these doctrines represented the difference between true Christianity and false religion.
This is why he wrote, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" (II John 9). Far from encouraging union with those who denied the fundamental truths of the faith, John forbade any form of spiritual fellowship with or encouragement of such false religion (vv. 10-11).

Why This Matters

Avoiding heresy and holding fast to the true Faith is a matter of life and death: a matter of eternal joy or eternal torment. A heretical message cannot lead anyone into a right relationship with God. God- through his written Word- forbids us to deny certain doctrines; when sinners contradict Scripture and deny these doctrines, this denial confirms them in a state of rebellion against God, hardening their hearts to the Truth. The good news message of the Christian Faith- the gospel- leads sinners to Christ so that by trusting in Him- in who He is and what He has done through His perfect life, sin-bearing death, justifying resurrection, and victorious ascension to Heaven- those under the conviction of sin may take hold of Jesus by faith and enjoy the salvation that He has secured. A heretical message contradicts the gospel, leading sinners away from Christ so that they trust in their own works and satanically-inspired religious ideas, which can never save.


Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Impact of Reformed Theology on Church Life -by Stan Reeves

[The following article was written by Stan Reeves, an elder at Grace Heritage Church, where my wife and I were members during the 2005-2006 school-year. With Stan's permission, I originally published his article on this blog on 2/17/06. I would like to preface this article by giving some brief information on why the topic of "The Impact of Reformed Theology on Church Life" is so important to me personally.

As many people reading this blog will know, on July 30, 2005 I had the unspeakable joy of marrying Abby, who is the love of my life. Upon our marriage, I moved to Auburn, Alabama, where she had been living and working as a nurse at East Alabama Medical Center, having recently graduated from Auburn University. During her time at Auburn up to the point of our marriage Abby had been a member of Lakeview Baptist Church. I myself had enjoyed great fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ each time I had visited the Lakeview congregation with Abby, but I had also learned of a congregation called Grace Heritage Church through the Founders Ministries website, and had listened to some of the Bible teaching found in the audio files of the Grace Heritage website. Though I had no specific complaint against Lakeview, I felt eager to visit Grace Heritage, which was a smaller, Reformed Baptist congregation. Immediately upon visiting Grace Heritage Church, Abby and I realized that we needed to move our membership to the GHC congregation. Since the time that Abby and I understood that we were going to join GHC- rather than Abby remaining a member of Lakeview and me joining that congregation- we have struggled to articulate how we came to our decision. Specifically: why should we have chosen to join a congregation that is self-designated as "Reformed" rather than another Southern Baptist congregation in which there are so many positive aspects to their ministry, but they avoid fully accepting Reformed theology? The three paragraphs that you are about to read have helped my understanding as to how these questions can best be answered and I hope that they are a benefit to you as well.]

Reformed theology confesses that God is sovereign and God is central. The creation and the church are for God's glory, not ours. In life we see God's mind revealed in the handiwork of his creation. Therefore, we study his world as a way of learning about God and bring order to it as a way of bringing glory to him, which is our ultimate purpose. We see God's good hand of providence in all the ordinary events of life, as well as the joys and tribulations. Our highest joy is to see God glorified in all of life.

In salvation and in church life we confess our utter dependence on him. Therefore, we dare not make the church in our image but look to God to tell us what the church should be. We will not presume to second-guess God in the methods he has ordained to build up the church. Instead, we embrace with all our energy the means that he has appointed to build his church, confident that he will be pleased to bless those means and not our personal preferences. Therefore, our evangelism is not the frantic sort that is motivated by guilt or hindered by fear but the sort that joyfully speaks the whole gospel with confidence, knowing that God is most glorified when his truth is manifested and his power rather than our persuasiveness is magnified. Our preaching depends on the power of God's Word and the working of his Spirit, not on emotional manipulation. Therefore, we give ourselves to prayer that He will own his Word and work through us as we strive to be faithful to his revelation. We dare not worship according to our own imaginations or devices, because he has told us how we are to approach him and our worship is to reflect our submission to his will. We are careful not to be driven by the desire for entertainment or social stimulation; therefore, we are suspicious of programs, structures, and activities that can function even when God has departed.

This is a vision rather than an actuality. Regrettably, we don't always act consistently with our convictions. We also gratefully acknowledge that many of these concerns are shared by non-Reformed folk. However, we believe that Reformed theology most consistently promotes this vision in a coherent and powerful manner.

[Via Facebook, Stan added a comment to this article, and I want to include his additional words below. In the way that the leadership of Grace Heritage Church seeks to hold fast to points of doctrine, which they believe are clearly taught in Scripture, while also reaching out to other gospel-preaching churches, who may see and do things a bit differently, I believe that they exemplify how a commitment to the Doctrines of Grace should make us more gracious toward other believers.

"As a point of clarification for anyone reading this: I did not write this with a particular church in mind but only to establish a clear vision for church life in contrast to much of the pragmatism we see in modern evangelical church life. Andrew Lindsey mentions a particular sister church in his blog as part of his story. I think he speaks graciously of this sister church, and I want to do the same. I am extremely thankful to God for the presence of this faithful church in our community and for the many brothers and sisters with whom I have fellowship there. They have a tremendous testimony in and ministry to our community that I would love for my church to emulate and cooperate with in some small way. Our church has had the advantage of starting from the ground up with the vision I wrote about. I am sure many both in the leadership and the membership of our sister church would share that same general vision. The size and history of that church give them a different context and a different set of challenges in seeking to implement that vision."]


Friday, October 04, 2013

The Subject of All Theology -by John Hendryx

[The following blogpost was originally published on 2/8/06. This entire post is simply a copy/pasted article from John Hendryx of the Reformation Theology blog. I posted this article here because it is so perfectly centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ -the gospel to which I have devoted my life- that the words below are as the beat of my own heart toward God.]

Jesus Christ is the focus and subject of all theology. He is not only the author and perfector of our faith and salvation (Heb 12:2), but is the the author and perfector of all things excellent, for in Him all things are consummated (Col 1:16-20). All theology is, therefore, Christology, for what we can, and do, know about God is summed up in the person of Jesus Christ. All light concerning God is refracted only through the Christ who has worked and revealed Himself through redemptive history. This means that all attempts to try to understand God redemptively in any sense that is different than Christ is futile, for apart from Jesus Christ, He is unknowable. While reason and creation may give us an idea of God and His greatness, only in the revelation of Christ can we come to know Him. While in Romans 1:18, 21 it says that the unregenerate "know" God as well, but the text makes clear that they only know Him as an enemy. Only through Christ do we know Him as a friend.

Calvin once said, " is obvious, that in seeking God, the most direct path and the fittest method is, not to attempt with presumptuous curiosity to pry into his essence, which is rather to be adored than minutely discussed, but to contemplate him in his works, by which he draws near, becomes familiar, and in a manner communicates himself to us."(Institutes Book 1, Chapter 5, section 9) In other words, we should only attempt to know God as He has revealed Himself to us. Other attempts are vain speculation.

So why study theology? Because theology is an interpretation of God as He revealed Himself, a revelation which was fulfilled in the gospel-event of Christ which took place in space-time history. The gospel is a narrative of the story of Jesus as God’s historical act to which all revelation pointed. It narrates the history of Jesus as the history of redemption that culminates in Christ's physical death and resurrection. The gospel defines the God who has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God. Incarnate to redeem His covenant people, He was executed on a cross, and was raised to life: this is the Christian definition of God which was fulfilled in His decisive act. "All the wisdom of believers", said Calvin, "is comprehended in the cross of Christ."

So it is an extremely urgent task in our era of religious chaos, that we use the word “God” only as describing the event that culminated in the history of Jesus Christ, God made flesh for His glory and our redemption. When we speak of the benefits of truths such as the doctrines of grace, they should never be spoken of as divorced from the Benefactor. And when we speak of God's various perfections, we do not simply speak in abstractions, but of a historic person who walked among us. God's love, glory, wrath, holiness are all seen to perfectly unite in the person of Jesus.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Meditation on the Right Purpose for Reading Scripture

(The following blogpost was originally published on 1/26/06.)

As a Reading teacher for Loachapoka Jr. High, one of the content standards that I had to cover included guiding students in "setting purposes for reading." Successful students understand that there are different purposes we must have for reading different kinds of texts. For example, students should read novels, plays, short stories, or poems for enjoyment or entertainment while they should read textbooks, newspapers, magazines, and reference books for information. But any given text may also have a more specific purpose applied to it as well. For instance, an author of a novel may wish his or her reader to identify with the development of the main character of the novel. If the student reads the novel constantly looking for some other type of information, he or she may fail to comprehend the entire point of the novel and he or she will be much less likely to remember anything from the novel.

In thinking of how to teach these concepts to my students, my thoughts turned to the Word of God. And as I began to think about the right purpose for reading Scripture, I began to meditate on the following words of Jesus recorded for us in the Gospel of John:

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40 HCSB)

In these two verses, Jesus imparts some crucial information on how we are to read the Holy Bible. First, we are to understand that Jesus Himself is the subject of all Scripture. Second, we are to understand that our attitude in approaching Scripture must be that of a willingness to come to Jesus and receive eternal life. Wanting only to receive eternal life itself is not enough. The passage above is a reprimand to those religious individuals who thought that they could gain eternal life through an intellectual process of poring over the Scriptures. But something- the absolutely critical thing- was lacking in their studies. These religious individuals lacked humility. The people reprimanded in the above verses were full of Scripture knowledge, but they were also full of pride. As Jesus began to challenge peoples' understanding of Scripture- by helping others in ways that religious people thought were against Scripture (i.e. healing on the Sabbath) and by proclaiming Himself to be equal to God (see John 5:18)- the experts in the Scripture pridefully turned away from Him. Jesus declared that these hard-hearted individuals would actually lose out on the the eternal life that they so earnestly desired. What these people lacked- and what we so often lack when we approach the Bible- is a focus on Jesus Christ: on who He is and what He has done. The right purpose for reading Scripture must be to come to Jesus Christ for the life that only He can give. And this approach toward Christ through Scripture must be done with humility rather than pride; we must be willing to accept the message of who Jesus is and what He has done as it is presented in Scripture, even if this message challenges our previously-held beliefs for:

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6 NIV)

I implore you, dear reader- whoever you are who might happen to be reading this post- think back on the last time that you read Scripture or heard it preached. Did you read or hear the Scripture humbly seeking to come to Jesus and receive eternal life from Him- either receiving this life for the first time or seeking to grow in this life and in knowledge of Him- or did you read or hear the Scripture with some other purpose? Your purpose in reading Scripture could make all the difference in your eternity.