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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Anti-"Lordship Salvation" Teachers: On the Side of the Reformers? Not hardly.

[I originally published the following blogpost on 10/04/06. I sincerely hope that this is a mere historical artifact, though I fear there are probably still some Zane Hodges fans out there speaking against "Lordship salvation" (that is, against salvation).]

Background of the Lordship salvation controversy

For those readers blissfully ignorant of the Lordship salvation controversy, it all began when certain false teachers bucked 2000 years of Christian gospel preaching- preaching established by Jesus Himself from the outset of His ministry when He said, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15 ESV)- and began to assert that repentance is not necessary for salvation and, furthermore, justification is not necessarily followed by sanctification.

Consider the following quote from Zane Hodges' book Absolutely Free!

I have a friend, and more than a friend, a man who labored with me side by side in the ministry of God´s Word in the little group that has become __________ Bible chapel and this friend has fallen away from the Christian faith. He graduated from Bob Jones University and from Dallas Theological Seminary. And about the time when he and his wife left Dallas his wife contracted a very serious illness which over the years got progressively worse until she was reduced to being a complete invalid, and after the death of his wife I visited my friend (who now lives in the Midwest and who teaches Ancient History in a secular university). And as we sat in the living room together, face to face, he told me very frankly but graciously THAT HE NO LONGER CLAIMED TO BE A CHRISTIAN AT ALL, THAT HE NO LONGER BELIEVED THE THINGS THAT HE ONCE PREACHED AND TAUGHT, and the situation was even worse than he described because I heard through others that in the classroom on the university campus he often mocked and ridiculed the Christian faith. As I sat in that living room I was very painfully aware that it was impossible for me to talk that man into changing his mind.

What is surprising about the above quote is that Hodges believed that there was no question that his friend was yet a Christian, even while his friend openly "mocked and ridiculed" the Christian faith. According to this view we should never question anyone's salvation if they have ever made a profession of faith. This idea contradicts many Bible texts, including virtually all of 1 John: for example, 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us" (ESV). In contrast to this false teaching, faithful preachers of the gospel began to be labeled as those proclaiming "Lordship salvation"- teaching submission to the Lord Jesus is part and parcel with the gospel- though "Lordship salvation" is nothing other than the Good News of reconciliation to God through the Person and work of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

The (apparent) conclusion to the Lordship salvation controversy

In light of the false teaching from those holding to the anti-"Lordship salvation" position, Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church wrote The Gospel According to Jesus and The Gospel According to the Apostles. A few years later, MacArthur wrote Hard to Believe, a book on Christian faith and discipleship that effectively dealt with shallow gospel preaching: preaching that is often similar to the anti-"Lordship salvation" position. Soundly defeated, the anti-"Lordship salvation" advocates disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Or so I thought.

They're back.

What I didn't realize was the fact that, basically, false teachers are like B-movie horror villains. Just when you think they're vanquished, they come back for a "final scare." So one day I was reading the blog of Phil Johnson, an elder at Grace Community Church and friend of John MacArthur, when I noticed one commenter using the cover of Zane Hodges' Absolutely Free as his icon. When I saw this, I actually laughed out loud, certain that the commenter had a great sense of humor. I thought, "Maybe I should change my icon to the cover of Dave Hunt's What Love Is This? for today." I honestly continued to think that the commenter was being facetious, even after reading 2 or 3 of his comments, until I checked his blog. Then it dawned on me- "This guy is actually a Zane Hodges disciple!" Imagine my confused shock at this discovery. An actual living follower of the anti-"Lordship salvation" heresy. To me, this was like finding someone who claimed to be a Marcionite [even as I type this, I am concerned that someone will comment on my blog claiming Marcion as representative of biblical Christianity]. After it came to light that a small but painfully 'vocal' group of anti-"Lordship salvation" advocates were peddling their old defeated ideas all over cyberspace, Christians have worked to demonstrate, yet again, the repeated errors of this heresy.

Anti-"Lordship salvation" teachers' appeal to the Reformers

Not wanting to appear novel, and thus alone against the stream of Christian history, anti-"Lordship salvation" teachers (for lack of a better term) attempt to gain credibility by claiming that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as taught by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, supports the anti-"Lordship salvation" view, and they will often quote the Reformers to this end. They like to quote the Reformers because leaders like Luther and Calvin- in combating the Roman Catholic system that claimed that faith plus works such as sacramental penance yields justification- were often much more careful than today's theologians in distinguishing faith from repentance. Anti-"Lordship salvation" teachers capitalize upon this distiction and then introduce an idea unknown to the Reformers- namely- that faith and repentance are not only distinguishable, but they can also be separated. As Bible teacher R.C. Sproul notes:

Hodges appeals to [such passages as] Calvin's rejection of the identification of repentance and faith, citing Calvin's comment: "For to include faith in repentance, is repugnant to what Paul says in Acts [20:21]... where he mentions faith and repentance as two things totally distinct." 
Calvin indeed distinguishes between faith and repentance and argues strenuously that faith is not produced by repentance. Yet Calvin will not separate or disconnect repentance from faith. 
Calvin says: "That repentance not only follows faith, but is produced by it, ought to be without controversy. ... It is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path and making it his whole study to practice repentance" (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:509-10, 3.3.1). 
Earlier Calvin says: "The sum of the gospel is, not without good reason, made to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins; and, therefore, where these two heads are omitted, any discussion concerning faith will be meager and defective, and indeed almost useless" (Ibid, 1:509, 3.3.1). 
That Calvin was jealous to distinguish faith and repentance without separating them is made crystal clear when he writes: "Can true repentance exist without faith? By no means. But although they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished. As there is no faith without hope, and yet faith and hope are different, so repentance and faith, though constantly linked together are only to be united, not confounded. I am not unaware that under the term repentance is comprehended the whole work of turning to God, of which not the least important part is faith..." (Ibid, 1:512, 3.3.5).
Calvin will not allow for a repentance without faith. Neither will he allow for a faith without repentance.
[R.C. Sproul, Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1995. 169-170]

A simple study into Martin Luther likewise reveals quotes such as the following from his 95 Theses:

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

And in Martin Luther's definition of faith, found in his Introduction to Romans, a careful distinction is made between faith and good works of repentance, yet Luther asserts:

Faith cannot help doing good works constantly.

The Reformers clearly believed that repentance necessarily flows from faith even as faith necessarily flows from regeneration (another doctrine the anti-"Lordship salvation" group denies).

In light of the above information, why do the anti-"Lordship salvation" teachers so often quote the Reformers? Certainly, one reason is due to ignorance on the part of most Christians concerning what the Reformers taught about justification by faith alone. The anti-"Lordship salvation" proponents will give select quotes from Luther, Calvin, and others, but when passages such as those above are mentioned, they are quick to charge the Reformers with self-contradiction in their teaching on faith. (I've never seen anti-"Lordship salvation" teachers charge the Reformers with being self-contradictory before they begin quoting them, which leads me to conclude that -big surprise!- false teachers who do not believe in the necessity of submitting to the Lord are sometimes less than honest.) A thorough reading of the Reformers, however, reveals that they are not self-contradictory in their teachings on faith- they just do not teach what anti-"Lordship salvation" proponents imagine them to say. The Reformation understanding of Scripture is that justification is by faith alone, but the faith that justifies never remains alone: instead, this faith is a gift of God, having such a quality that it inevitably yields good works.

And this is exactly what the Apostle teaches in Ephesians 2:8-10,

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift: not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His making, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (HCSB)

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Praying Like An Apostle


I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
 (Philippians 1:3-6 NASB)

In this passage, Paul encourages the Philippian church by revealing to them the content of his prayers. Paul is constantly thanking God for the Philippian church with joy and confidence in God’s Grace. Paul, in revealing the content of his prayers to the Philippians, wasn’t boasting, as we might think, but, as he writes in chapter 3, verse 17 of the same letter: Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us (NASB). So he’s giving them an example to follow. And we, too, should thank God constantly for our church with joy and confidence in His Grace.

Three Aspects of Paul’s Prayers for the Church:
I. The content of Paul’s prayers: Paul’s prayers had content– there were specific things that he wanted to say to God when He came before His throne in prayer. He hadn’t reached some super-spiritual state where he had a prayer language that not even he could understand; he didn’t have rigidly formal prayers, saying the same religious words over and over again to God; rather, Paul understood his prayers as communication with Almighty God.
A. Paul prayed in joyful thanksgiving. Paul’s prayers were not self-centered. Paul didn’t only come to God with his needs and wants. And if we are only motivated to prayer out of wanting God to give us things we desire, then how can we truly be called God’s friends? As Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest, “What is the sign of a friend? Is it that he tells you his secret sorrows? No, it is that he tells you his secret joys. Many people will confide their secret sorrows to you, but the final mark of intimacy is when they share their secret joys with you” (June 3). It’s hard to think of sharing our secret joys with others in this cynical culture. Especially for men. It is often difficult for men in the Church to become accustomed to displaying brotherly affection for one another because we become anxious about appearing effeminate. But, in order to follow the Apostle’s example, we need to learn to encourage each other through sharing our joy, and, even more, we need to learn to speak of our joy to God in prayer. We need to learn to articulate our joys to Him and to offer thanksgiving to Him as the Giver of all good things (see James 1:17).
B. Paul prayed concerning the most important issue in the lives of those in the Church– their relationship to God through the gospel. Paul focused on gospel issues in His prayers. Looking through the rest of the letter to the Philippians, we see that those in the Philippian church were participating in the gospel in 3 specific ways:
1. Evangelism
2. Joyful suffering for the Gospel
3. Providing for the material needs of Gospel ministers
So, in our prayers, we need to see how our congregation is related to the gospel. Are we involved in the 3 areas listed above? If we are, then we need to give thanks to God, because He is using our congregation for His purposes. If we’re not participating in the gospel in the 3 ways listed above, then we need to pray for God’s forgiveness and His grace as we make the changes that are necessary.
II. The constancy of Paul’s prayers: Paul consistently turned his memories of the Philippian church into occasions for prayer. How many times do thoughts of our church congregation or of other Christians float through our heads to no benefit or purpose? What if we took all those thoughts and turned them to prayer? This is the example Paul seems to set in Philippians 1:3-6. We also see that Paul consistently focused on the joy the Philippian church brought him. Now, everything was not perfect in the Philippian church. As we read later, Paul wrote: I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord (Philippians 4:2 NASB). So we know of at least 2 individuals in particular who were struggling to live in harmony. But the problem attitudes of those in the Church wasn’t Paul’s focus when he prayed– his focus was on the joy that they brought him. In the same way, we don’t need to turn a blind eye to the problems in our congregation, but we have to focus on the joy that those in the Church bring to us and make that our focus, glorifying God through our thankfulness.
III. The confidence of Paul’s prayers: The word “confidence” quoted in the passage above is translated from the Greek word peitho, which literally means “persuaded to trust.” Paul had great reason to be persuaded to trust concerning God’s faithfulness to complete His work in the Philippian church. Paul had seen how God had founded His church in Philippi, he had seen God open the hearts of His chosen people in Philippi (see Acts 16:14-15), he had seen how God used extraordinary means– even supernatural means– like an earthquake to bring people to His Church there (see Acts 16:25-34). So Paul’s confidence in prayer was not dependent upon his ability as a missionary preacher, and it was not dependent on the Philippians’ faithfulness to his ministry, rather, his confidence was based on God’s work and on God’s purposes. And we can have this same confidence as we offer up joyful thanksgiving to God for our church, as we focus on the gospel ministry of our congregation in our prayers, as we constantly submit our thoughts of our congregation to God as occasions for prayer– focusing on the joy our church brings– we can be confident that God’s work and God’s purposes will not be frustrated. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my Church.”


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spiritual Leadership

Each person following Christ is also, in some sense, called to be a leader. None of us are justified in passively following those around us to whatever goals the world might set. Christians must personally be pressing toward the goal of glorifying God (1 Cor. 10:31) and enjoying Him forever (Ps. 73:25-26). And we cannot be content in pursuing this goal ourselves, we must also fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19).

In chapter 2 of his book Twelve Ordinary Men, John MacArthur examines some principles of leadership found in the biblical account of the interaction between the Lord Jesus and Simon Peter. Among other comments in this chapter, MacArthur gives 6 character qualities that a leader must develop and model before his followers:
  1. Submission: "Everything the true spiritual leader does ought to be marked by submission to every legitimate authority- especially submission to God and to His Word." (I Pet. 2:13-18)
  2. Restraint: A leader must develop and model "self-control, discipline, moderation, and reserve" following the example of Jesus. (I Pet. 2:21-23)
  3. Humility: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble". (I Pet. 5:5-6)
  4. Loving service: "The real leader is someone who serves, not someone who demands to be waited upon." (Mk. 9:35)
  5. Compassion: A leader must learn from their mistakes and trials so that he may comfort others and be patient with others. (I Pet. 5:8-10)
  6. Courage: A leader must be willing to suffer for the ultimate goal. (I Pet. 1:3-7)
In the comments section of the Total Leadership Blog [which is no longer active], Andy Stanley, the leader of North Point Ministries in the Atlanta area, once posed the question, "What is …distinctly spiritual about the leadership you do?" This question is answered in Twelve Ordinary Men on page 47, where MacArthur writes,
Obviously, in spiritual leadership, the great goal and objective is to bring people to Christlikeness. That is why the leader himself must manifest Christlike character. That is why the standard for leadership in the church is set so high. The apostle Paul summarized the spirit of the true leader when he wrote, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).
My prayer for all readers of this blog is that you would be conformed to the image of Christ and that you would lead others to also be made into the image of Christ by faith.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jesus: Good Shepherd or CEO? An Exercise in the Perspicuity and Sufficiency of Scripture

[This blogpost was originally published on 06/23/2006. To my knowledge, Andy Stanley's position on this issue remains unchanged.]

In an article entitled “The God Who Names Himself”, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary begins with these thoughts:

Calls for theological innovation and the employment of "theological imagination" are now routine among mainline Protestants and others prone to theological revisionism. Dismissive of doctrinal orthodoxy and biblical language as out of date, oppressive, patriarchal, and worse, the proponents of theological reformulation intend to restructure Christianity around an entirely new system of beliefs, playing with language even as they reinvent the faith.

The “theological innovation” Dr. Mohler decries is painfully obvious in situations such as the 2006 declaration by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. that different names– such as “Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-Giving Womb”– must be given to the members of the Trinity (this is the situation that sets the context for Mohler’s article), but extreme examples such as the actions of the PCUSA only come about after a long series of small moves away from a full confidence that God has clearly and sufficiently communicated the truth that He means for us to have.

One such “small move” is illustrated by the Spring 2006 Leadership Journal interview of Andy Stanley, the leader of North Point Ministries in the Atlanta area.

page 28 -
L: Should we stop talking about pastors as ‘shepherds’?
AS: Absolutely. That word needs to go away. Jesus talked about shepherds because there was one over there in a pasture he could point to. But to bring in that imagery today and say, “Pastor, you’re the shepherd of the flock,” no. I never seen a flock. I’ve never spent five minutes with a shepherd. It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant any more. Nothing works in our culture with that model except this sense of the gentle, pastoral care. Obviously that is a facet of church ministry, but that’s not leadership.

L: Isn’t shepherd the biblical word for pastor?
AS: It’s the first century word. If Jesus were here today, would he talk about shepherds? No. He would point to something that we all know, and we’d say, “Oh yeah, I know what that is.” Jesus told Peter, the fisherman, to “feed my sheep,” but he didn’t say to the rest of them, “Go ye therefore into all the world and be shepherds and feed my sheep.” By the time of the book of Acts, the shepherd model is gone. It’s about establishing elders and deacons and their qualifications. Shepherding doesn’t seem to be the emphasis. Even when it was, it was cultural, an illustration of something. What we have to do is identify the principle, which is that the leader is responsible for the care of the people he’s been given. That I am to care for and equip the people in the organization to follow Jesus. But when we take the literal illustration and bring it into our culture, then people can make it anything they want because nobody knows much about it.

There are many points that could be made about Andy Stanley’s words in this interview, but I will focus upon two:

1. Jesus was NOT striving for “cultural relevance” in His words about shepherding. When Jesus spoke of being a shepherd to His sheep, He did not choose the illustration of a shepherd based primarily on the experiences of His hearers. In John 21:16, Jesus told Simon Peter, “Shepherd my sheep”. Now we know that Peter was not a shepherd before following Christ, but rather a fisherman. And yet Jesus does not say, “Be like a really good fishing-boat captain to the other fishers.” There is richness in the metaphor that we must understand: the Bible has consistently names the LORD as our shepherd, those under God's covenant are called His sheep, and church leaders are given the task of following Christ’s example by living as a shepherds.

When the Apostle was addressing the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28, he said,
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (NASB)

While studying for my under-graduate degree in history at Georgia State University, I was constantly confronted with how erroneous a view of history we often develop. The way people live today, with all of our technologies and innovations, is not as dissimilar from past urban societies as we sometimes think (though things do happen much faster in the 21st century). Somehow, it seems that we get the idea that half the population in the Roman Empire at the time of Christ and His apostles was composed of shepherds and that a person could not walk through the streets of a major city without bumping into a shepherds' convention. But Ephesus at the time of Paul was, “an important political, educational, and commercial center, ranking with Alexandria in Egypt, and Antioch of Pisidia, in southern Asia Minor” [from the 2006 MacArthur Study Bible, NASB, page 1770]. So the urban elders addressed by Paul would not necessarily have had any more first-hand experience of shepherds than an individual in New York City would have today. And the thought that Jesus chose the illustration of the shepherd and the sheep due to the experiences of His hearers is betrayed in the fact that neither Jesus nor any of His 12 apostles are said to have held the occupation of literally tending sheep. At the time of Jesus people would have held a great variety of jobs– much as people do today– and they would not necessarily have had any more experience with shepherding than the majority of people reading this blog, yet they could understand the simplicity of Jesus’ illustration. I’ve never been a shepherd, but I can understand what a shepherd is and what he does. And any small child or CEO can understand the illustration of a shepherd with the slightest bit of explanation. If the Holy Spirit chose to reveal Christ as a shepherd– and names church leaders as shepherds following Christ’s example– then it is our duty, not to change the word “shepherd” to our modern context, but to help our hearers adapt their thinking to the biblical context. It’s less ‘cool’, but it’s not that difficult, and it honors the life-giving Word of God.

2. Jesus IS “here today” and He’s still talking about “shepherds”. Jesus promised to be with His followers always as we go and “make disciples of all the nations” (see Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus said that He would personally build His church upon the confession that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (see Matthew 16:16-18). This confession is not a mere utterance of words on the part of the confessor, but is a statement of true faith, which comes from hearing the word of Christ (see Romans 10:17). Now, the word– or message– of Christ is found only in the Bible. There is no other way that we would have sure information about who Jesus is and what He has done. The Bible is no dead book, but is rather “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NASB). The Bible is God-breathed and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB). Therefore, the Bible is sufficient to bring people to faith in Jesus, to instruct them in growing as disciples for Jesus, and in ordering and illustrating the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ, which is charged with making disciples for His glory. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35 NASB). So if we look at Jesus using the word “shepherd” in Scripture, an then make the statement, “That word needs to go away,” then we are contradicting the “living and active” word of our Lord. The Bible is the only blueprint for how God is working His redemptive plan in history. If we step away from the words of Scripture for any reason, whether it be “academic credibility” (as liberal scholars have) or “cultural relevance” (as many modern "evangelicals" have), we are stepping away from the redemptive power of God.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

In Defense of "Calvinism"

"Calvinism", I admit, is not a term with which I am entirely comfortable. I am not 100% content with identifying myself too closely with any human teacher, lest I fall under the rebuke of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul against fruitless divisiveness in passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-4. For this reason, and due to the fact that there is so much misunderstanding concerning the term, I virtually never self-identify as a "Calvinist". On the other hand, because the subject comes up so often within Southern Baptist life, I have- over time- found myself using the term "Calvinism" fairly often. And I would defend the word "Calvinism," on certain occasions, as a useful and appropriate theological shorthand to describe a set of beliefs drawn out from the biblical text. In this sense, "Calvinism" is similar to the word "Trinity," which is also a word not found in the Bible, though the concepts underlying the word are found throughout Scripture.

While listening to a cassette recording of a past Southern Baptist Founders' Conference, I heard this insightful explanation of why we sometimes use the term "Calvinism" as a label for our beliefs on what the Bible has to say concerning the Gospel of Grace:

We believe that Calvinism is the Gospel in its purest expression. We could rightly call it "Paulinism," but what Christian would not call their doctrine Pauline? We could rightly call it "Augustinianism," but Augustine developed his understanding of the Doctrines of Grace in a context that was not so aware of the necessity of the doctrine of justification by faith. And so we call it "Calvinism," because not only does it have the great Pauline and Augustinian doctrines of justification by faith, but it also sets these within the context of imputed righteousness as our only standing before God as set forth in the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith. (S.B.F.C. Tape Library, "The Biblical Doctrine of Accomodation" by Tom Ascol (sbf055), afterword by unknown speaker [believed to be Dr. Thomas Nettles of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary])
And the above quote is in agreement with Charles Spurgeon in his famous "Defense of Calvinism", when he said:

I have my own Private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.
I sincerely hope that the quotes cited in this blogpost are helpful to anyone reading this post, if you find yourself thinking on or discussing "Calvinism."

-To the glory of God alone.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Sovereignty of God and Evangelism

Since the Fall of Man into sin as recorded in Genesis 3, natural Man is dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1), alienated and hostile toward God (Colossians 1:21), utterly unrighteous (Romans 3:10ff), and unable to come to God (John 6:44, 65). Due to the truths related in the last sentence [known together by such nicknames as "Total depravity" or "Radical corruption"], the only way that we may be saved from sin- and thus saved from God's wrath against sin- is if the Holy Spirit does a supernatural work on our hearts, making us spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:5), delivering us from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13), granting us righteousness through faith- which faith is also a gift from God (Romans 3:21-22; Ephesians 2:8-9)- and drawing us irresistibly to Jesus (John 6:44, 65). The Holy Spirit does this work in our lives based on the fact that Jesus Christ has, by His death on the Cross, already paid the penalty of God's wrath against our sin [please see Hebrews 9:11-10:18 and Hebrews 10:14]. Once saved, we are "kept by the Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 1) so that having come to Jesus, it is certain that He will "raise [us] up at the last day" (John 6:44), and that once God begins a good work in us, we can be confident that He will "perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Taken together, these truths [along with the doctrine of "Unconditional election"] teach us that salvation is, as the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, "all of grace."

Now, many people charge that a consistent proclamation of the truths above will give people an excuse not to witness. They say that if we insist that salvation is God's work from start to finish, that people will use this as an excuse to slack off in their zeal to spread the gospel. And they're right. The truth is most Christians- regardless of their understanding of the Bible verses mentioned above- don't evangelize. Why is it that most Christians fail in their duty to proclaim the Good News of who Jesus is and what He has done? In answering this question, it is important first to identify a lack of evangelism as sin so that we understand that this is something for which we must repent. This sin can be rooted in a weak faith, which leads us to anxiety rather than thankful dependence upon God (Philippians 4:6). We may also sin by not being diligent in having our minds renewed so that we are transformed into what God would have us to be (Romans 12:2). You may- reflecting on the truths in the first paragraph of this post- become convinced that some of the evangelistic methods you have previously learned were bogus, but if so you must become diligent in finding out what true, biblical evangelism should look like. 


Friday, November 15, 2013

Evangelism: Meaning, Message, Motive, and Methods

A few years ago I had the privilege of substitute teaching for the Thursday night Bible study of Grace Heritage Church, where Abby and I were members. Usually on Thursday nights we studied through a book of the Bible, but I took the opportunity- since I wasn't the usual teacher- to lead the class in a discussion on biblical evangelism. My primary resource for an overview of what the Bible has to say about evangelism was the book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer (see Tim Challies' review of this book). While ESG is not necessarily perfect (see John Piper's argument against Packer's use of the word "antinomy" in describing the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of Man), this book is- in my opinion- one of the greatest works on the subject of evangelism ever written.

What follows below is an outline of what I taught from the chapter in ESG titled "Evangelism":

(Adapted from “Evangelism” in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer- a discussion on the meaning, message, motive, and methods of biblical evangelism.)

    1. Meaning
    1. Evangelism is proclaiming the Gospel: The Good News of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    1. Evangelism is declaring a specific message with a specific application.
    2. Evangelism defined through the ministry of the Apostle Paul:
      1. Paul evangelized as the commissioned representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.
        1. In evangelism, we act as Christ’s stewards.
            1. Scripture proofs: I Cor. 4:1-2; I Cor. 9:17
            2. Our position of stewardship highlights our accountability to evangelize.
        1. In evangelism, we act as Christ’s heralds.
            1. Scripture proofs: II Tim. 1:11; I Tim. 2:7
            2. Our position as Christ’s heralds highlights the authenticity of the evangelistic message.
        1. In evangelism, we act as Christ’s ambassadors.
            1. Scripture proofs: Eph. 6:19-20; II Cor. 5:17-20
            2. Our position of ambassadorship highlights our authority to proclaim the evangelistic message.
      1. Paul’s primary task in evangelism was to teach the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.
        1. Scripture proofs: Acts 9:29;18:11
        2. Paul primarily engaged the minds of his listeners.
      2. Paul’s ultimate aim in evangelism was to convert his hearers to faith in Christ.
        1. The New Testament speaks of preachers converting people, as they are His means for converting (Lk. 1:16; Acts 26:15-18; Jas. 5:19-20).
        2. Paul’s aim in evangelism was not just to spread information, but to save sinners (I Cor. 9:22).
    1. Message
    1. Evangelism is the proclamation of a message about God.
      1. Primarily, our message is about God as the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer (Acts 17:24-29).
      2. As God is our Sovereign Creator and Sustainer, we are shown to be entirely dependent upon Him        and subject to His will.
    1. Evangelism is the proclamation of a message about sin.
      1. We proclaim God as the Holy Lawgiver and the Law as a reflection of His holy character.
      2. By God’s Law, we are revealed to be lawbreakers- sinners against His holy character.
        1. Conviction of sin is essentially an awareness of a wrong relationship with God Himself.
        2. Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sins.
        3. Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sinfulness.
    2. Evangelism is the proclamation of a message about Christ.
      1. The person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
      2. The work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
        1. Incarnation
        2. Atonement
        3. Resurrection
        4. Ascension
        5. Heavenly session
    3. Evangelism is a summons to faith and repentance.
      1. Faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ who gave those promises. (Jn. 3:16)
      2. Repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving Christ the Saviour as king in self’s place. (Lk.9:23-24)
    1. Motive
    1. Our primary motive for evangelism is love for God and concern for His glory.
      1. Loving God:
        1. Love for God is the first and greatest commandment. (Mt. 22:37-38)
        2. We demonstrate love for God through obedience. (Jn. 14:21; I Jn. 5:3)
      2. Glorifying God:
        1. The Westminster Shorter Catechism: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. (1 Cor. 10:31; Ps. 73:25-26)
        2. Jonathan Edwards: “God infinitely values His own glory and finds His infinite joy in that glory…His greatest glory is displayed in the work of the salvation of sinners and therefore it is His highest joy… God has greatly glorified Himself in the work of creation and providence. All His works praise Him and His glory shines brightly from them all. But as some stars differ from others in glory, so the glory of God shines brighter in some of His works than in others. And amongst all these the work of redemption is like the sun in his strength… Christ has done greater things than to create the world in order to obtain His bride, and it is the joy of His marriage with her… God’s single end in redemption is His own joy.”
    2. Our secondary motive for evangelism is love for others and concern for their welfare.
      1. We should pray for the salvation of specific sinners.
      2. We should be alert for opportunities to evangelize and we should be enterprising in making full use of the opportunities God has given us- initiating situations and conversations in which to share the Gospel.
      3. H.C. Trumbull: I determined that as I loved Christ, and as Christ loved souls, I would press Christ on the individual soul, so that none who were in the proper sphere of my individual responsibility or influence should lack opportunity of meeting the question whether or not they would individually trust and follow Christ. The resolve I made was, that whenever I was in such intimacy with a soul as to be justified in choosing my subject of conversation, the theme of themes should have prominence between us, so that I might learn his need, and, if possible, meet it.
    1. Methods
    1. In our witness, we must have “confident humility” (Al Mohler) [The reference to Mohler was my own].
    1. Thoughts on methods we can use to evangelize.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bruce Ware on the Importance of Trinitarian Doctrine

"God cares that we know who he is and he longs for us to understand him rightly, according to what he has revealed in his Word." (23)

Previous to the quote above, Dr. Ware begins his book by listing 10 reasons why it is important to study and rightly understand the Trinity. Two of these reasons are:

· Worship of the true and living God consciously acknowledges the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (17)

· The triune relationships of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit cause us to marvel at the authority-submission structure that exists eternally in the three Persons in the Godhead, each of whom is equally and fully God. (21)

For Scriptural proof of the first point quoted above, Ware cites Ephesians 1:3-14,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption 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. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 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. (ESV)

Of this passage, Ware points out that (among other things) we are predestined by “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “according to the purpose of his will,” “through Jesus Christ,” and we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

In regards to the second point cited, Dr. Ware quotes 1 Corinthians 11:3,

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (ESV)

This passage demonstrates that our understanding of the equality yet submission found in a wife’s relationship towards her husband is based upon the pre-existing equality yet submission found in Christ’s relationship towards God. This relationship between Christ and God, I may add, has existed from eternity, as seen in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and in John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

My prayer is that everyone reading this blogpost will be stimulated to further study the eternal relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that the truth of God’s Word will vitally impact the way in which You glorify God and serve others in Jesus’ name.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

1 Timothy 5 Outline

In his Notes on the First Letter of Paul to TimothyKevin Gue, a deacon at Grace Heritage Church, begins by giving some insight into his method of studying through books of the Bible. Gue writes,

I begin always by reading the book several times to get the main themes and structure. I then construct an outline of the entire book, beginning with some brief research on its background. I beg my children [Gue’s book of notes is primarily addressed to his own children] not to skip the discipline of outlining- it is difficult work, but well worth it! God has given me many riches during this simple exercise.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to substitute for Dr. Gue in leading the teaching at a Thursday night Bible study for GHC. I taught from 1 Timothy 5. In preparing to teach this chapter, I attempted to follow Kevin Gue’s model by first reading through the chapter carefully “to get the main themes and structure” and then constructed an outline of the chapter. The following outline comes from my reading with the aid of Gue’s notes:

1 Timothy 5: Instructions for Church Conduct

I. Introduction: The Guiding Principle

A.  Appropriate Interaction of the Overseer with the Men of the Church (v. 1)
1. Older men are not to be rebuked, but encouraged as fathers (v. 1a.).
2. Younger men are to be treated as brothers (v. 1b.).

B.  Appropriate Interaction of the Overseer with the Women of the Church (v. 2)
1. Older women are to be treated as mothers (v. 2a.).
2. Younger women are to be treated as sisters, in all purity (v. 2b.).

II. Treatment of Widows

A. Care for Widows Primarily the Duty of the Widows’ Households (vv. 3-4, 8, 16)
1. Children or grandchildren of widows should be the first to care for the older widows in their family. (v. 3-4)
a. Caring for the older widows in our families is a way to demonstrate godliness.
b. Caring for the older widows in our families is a way to honor our parents.
c. Caring for the older widows (demonstrating godliness and obeying the Fifth Commandment) is pleasing in the sight of God.
2. Those in the Church who do not provide for their households are worse than unbelievers. (v. 8) [The following are two points on how this statement should be understood, first in light of the whole teaching of I Timothy, and second, in light of I Timothy 5.]
a. Those in the Church who do not provide for their households are worse than unbelievers in that they damage the testimony of the Church. (This is drawn out from previous discussion about I Timothy on the testimony of the Church before an unbelieving world.)
b. Those in the Church who do not provide for their households are worse than unbelievers in that they place an undue burden upon the Church. (v. 16)

B. Duties of Widows Receiving Church Support (vv. 5-7)
1. Widows receiving Church support are expected to dedicate themselves to God is a similar way that wives and mothers are dedicated to their families, serving Him and His Church through “supplications and prayers night and day” (v. 5).
2. Widows who are not going to remarry, and thus serve their families, and who are not truly serving the Church may as well be dead already (v. 6).
3. Elders are commanded to preach duties and warnings such as those above so that the widows will be without reproach (v. 7).

C. Qualifications for Enrollment of Widows for Church Support (vv. 9-10, 14a.)
1. Over 60 years old (v. 9a.).
2. A one-husband wife (v. 9b.). (This would not preclude widows who have previously been widowed and remarried; otherwise this requirement would tend to undermine v. 14a. following.)
3. Having a reputation for good works (v. 10a.), such as:
a. Bringing up children (v. 10b.).
b. Showing hospitality (v. 10c.).
c. Serving the saints (v. 10d.).
d. Caring for the afflicted (v. 10e.).
e. Miscellaneous (v. 10f.).

D. Command Against Enrolling Younger Widows (vv. 11-13, 14b.-15)
1. The negative aspect of the prohibition: Younger widows will NOT fulfill the duties mentioned above (vv. 11-12).
2. The positive aspect of the prohibition: They will become idlers, gossips, and busybodies, giving the adversary occasion for slander, and straying after Satan (vv. 13, 14b.-15).

III. Treatment of Elders

A. Monetary Support of Elders (vv. 17-18)
1. Elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor (v. 17).
2. Further Scriptural proof for this admonition (v. 18): Deut. 25:4 and Lk. 10:7.

B. Dealing With Charges Brought Against an Elder (vv. 19-21)
1. Charges must not be admitted “against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (v. 19).
2. Elders who persist in sin should (as other Church members) be rebuked in front of the whole congregation (v. 20).
3. The rules of Church discipline are to be kept without prejudice or partiality (v. 21).

C. Maintaining the Purity of Church Leadership (vv. 22-25)
1. Purity is maintained through a sensible use of caution
a. Elders should not be hastily ordained (v. 22a.).
b. Existing elders must take care to keep themselves pure in this matter, especially by not hastily giving their approval to a “minister”, thus implicating themselves in any misdeeds that may result (v. 22b.).
c. The desire for purity should not result in elders being placed under extra-biblical demands, which could actually cause them physical harm (v. 23).
2. A principle underlying the command to use caution in waiting before ordaining an elder:
a. The negative aspect of the principle: We must wait to see if there are any disqualifying sins in the potential elder’s life- either obvious sins which precede the potential elder in automatically disqualifying him, or hidden or habitual sins, which could also disqualify the potential elder (v. 24).
b. The positive aspect of this principle: We must wait to see any qualifying marks in the potential elder’s life- some potential elders may be gifted in doing conspicuous good works, while some may have a quiet lifestyle of encouragement and godliness, which would also qualify them as an elder. (v. 25).


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Perils of Pride -by C.J. Mahaney

[The following article originally appeared on the Crosswalk website.]
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The Perils of Pride
C.J. Mahaney
Sovereign Grace Ministries
Winston Churchill, who perfected the art of the clever put-down, once described a political opponent as “a modest little man who has a good deal to be modest about.” The last part of his remark is an accurate description of me—though I can’t say I’m humble, I certainly have much to be humble about! My general ineptness is well known to all who have even a casual acquaintance with me, and that’s no exaggeration.

If you were to speak to any of my friends, they would confirm how I continually surprise them with fresh discoveries of my inadequacies. I even provide them a certain degree of entertainment, especially when it comes to the hands-on and the mechanical.

Needing Help

A while back, someone informed me that my car’s rear left tire—or was it the rear right?—was low on air. Now, in fact, I had no idea how to put air in a car tire. (Really.) So I turned to a friend—a close friend, I’ll have you know—and asked for his help.

In such a moment, the godly and servant-hearted response from a friend would be to cheerfully answer, “Yes, let me help you.” Instead, my good friend exclaimed, “I cannot believe it. I cannot believe it! You don’t know how to put air in your tire?”

On and on like this he went, until he faced me squarely and added, “You, my friend, are a moron.”

My friend was merely having fun at my expense, but the truth of the matter is that on a previous occasion I had actually tried, on my own, to put air in my car’s tire. As I knelt to place the air hose on the stem—or whatever that little dealy’s called where you attach the hose to the tire— the extremely loud noise that erupted was an intimidating PHHHHT! PHHHHHHT!

Then a loud ringing started: DING DING DING DING! I was suddenly consumed by an intense fear that my tire was only seconds from blowing up. It’s going to explode, I told myself, and you’re going to die. And at your funeral, all your friends —while wiping away tears in the midst of their mourning—will be shaking their heads and saying to themselves, “What an idiot!”

I’m convinced that the sum effect of my attempt that day was only to let out more air than I put in. And as I drove away from the station with a badly underinflated tire, I could almost hear the faint sound of the station attendant’s laughter following me home.

Against All Logic

Now you might assume that in a normal human being, such ineptness couldn’t possibly coexist with any significant measure of pride. Someone as unskilled as I am would, naturally, be humble, right? However, let me assure you beyond doubt that both incompetence and pride are very evident in my life. Let me illustrate with another story.

One day my daughter informed me that our car was making a strange noise, so I went out to investigate. She tried to prepare me, but in no way did I anticipate the violent shrieking that assaulted my ears upon starting the car. I immediately turned off the engine.

In such a moment, wisdom demands one course of action only: Get out of the car, walk back into the house, and call a trustworthy auto-repair service.

That would have been the appropriate and prudent response. Instead, I followed the arrogant male instinct, which requires at bare minimum that the male lift the hood and stare intently at the engine. After all, neighbors might be watching, and we want to at least give the appearance that we have some mechanical knowledge.

But given my personal history, what groundless self-assurance could possibly motivate me to lift the hood to examine my engine? The only thing I actually know how to do is check whether the container for window-washer fluid needs refilling! So I checked that—with great authority. (It was more than half full.)

Then I shut the hood (also with great authority) and, proud fool that I am, got back into the car and turned the ignition once more—as if my having merely stared at the engine was sufficient to repair it; as if the broken parts were now calling to one another, “He’s seen us! Get back together, quick!”

Yet as I turned the key again, the same violent shriek issued forth.

Only at this point did I finally go back in the house to do what I should have done earlier: I telephoned the repair shop to notify them of my car’s condition—fully ready to pass along to them my firm conviction that the problem was not the window-washer fluid container.

Doesn’t pride have a strange way of ignoring reason altogether? The sad fact is that none of us are immune to the logic-defying, blinding effects of pride. Though it shows up in different forms and to differing degrees, it infects us all. The real issue here is not if pride exists in your heart; it’s where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life. Scripture shows us that pride is strongly and dangerously rooted in all our lives, far more than most of us care to admit or even think about.

In his essay, “Pride, Humility, and God,” John Stott wrote the following: “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”

In the previous column, we saw the promise of humility—the gracious support of God. But we must also be aware of the great perils of pride—not just occasionally or under certain circumstances, but at every stage and in every sphere. Throughout our time on this earth, and in every arena of our lives, you and I share a common greatest enemy: pride.

The First Sin

Pride has quite the history, one that precedes Adam and Eve.

Pride, it seems, was the very first sin. Isaiah 14 records the downfall of a king, but not a mere earthly ruler. This king is the embodiment of God-defying arrogance, but the language used here apparently references the rebellion and fall of Satan himself.

In Isaiah 14:13, the motivation behind Satan’s rebellion is exposed: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high.’” Led by the prideful Lucifer, powerful angelic creatures possessing beauty and glory far beyond our comprehension arrogantly desired recognition and status equal to God Himself. In response, God swiftly and severely judged them.

Pride not only appears to be the earliest sin, but it is at the core of all sin. “Pride,” John Stott writes again, “is more than the first of the seven deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.”
Indeed, from God’s perspective, pride seems to be the most serious sin. From my study, I’m convinced there’s nothing God hates more than this. God righteously hates all sin, of course, but biblical evidence abounds for the conclusion that there’s no sin more offensive to Him than pride.

When His Word reveals those things “that the LORD hates” and “that are an abomination to him,” it’s the proud man’s “haughty eyes” that head up the list (Proverbs 6:16–17).

When the personified wisdom of God speaks out, these clear words are emphasized: “I hate pride and arrogance” (Proverbs 8:13, NIV).

And consider the divine perspective on pride revealed in Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”
Stronger language for sin simply cannot be found in Scripture.

Contending with God

Why does God hate pride so passionately?

Here’s why: Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.

Charles Bridges once noted how pride lifts up one’s heart against God and “contends for supremacy” with Him. That’s a keenly insightful and biblical definition of pride’s essence: contending for supremacy with God, and lifting up our hearts against Him.

For purposes of personal confession, I began adopting this definition of pride a few years ago after I came to realize that, to some degree, I’d grown unaffected by pride in my life. Though I was still confessing pride, I knew I wasn’t sufficiently convicted of it. So rather than just confessing to God that “I was proud in that situation” and appealing for His forgiveness, I learned to say instead, “Lord, in that moment, with that attitude and that action, I was contending for supremacy with You. That’s what it was all about. Forgive me.”

And rather than confessing to another person, “That statement was prideful on my part; will you please forgive me?” I began saying, “What I just did was contending for supremacy with God,” and only then asking for the person’s forgiveness. This practice increased a weight of conviction in my heart about the seriousness of this sin.

Pride takes innumerable forms but has only one end: self-glorification. That’s the motive and ultimate purpose of pride—to rob God of legitimate glory and to pursue self-glorification, contending for supremacy with Him. The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.

No wonder God opposes pride. No wonder He hates pride. Let that truth sink into your thinking.

God’s Active Opposition to Pride

Now let me ask you: What do you hate?

I’ll tell you what I hate. I’ve got two lists. One is a silly list that begins with foods that I sometimes think must be products of the Fall. I detest meat loaf. I loathe sauerkraut. And I hate cottage cheese. I even hate it when anyone eats cottage cheese in my presence; it ruins my appetite.

I also despise any and all professional sports teams from New York City—that’s simply part of my heritage, being born and raised in the Washington DC area.

But that’s just the beginning, a little sampling of my silly list of things I hate. I also have a serious list of things I hate. I’m sure you have one, too.

I hate abortion.
I hate child abuse.
I hate racism.

What do you hate?

You and I hate nothing to the degree that God hates pride. His hatred for pride is pure, and His hatred is holy.

In his Commentary on the Book of Psalms, John Calvin wrote, “God cannot bear with seeing his glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to him is the sacrilegious arrogance of those who, by praising themselves, obscure his glory as far as they can.”

And because God cannot bear with this arrogance, He reveals Himself in Scripture as actively opposed to pride.


“God opposes the proud, ” says James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. “Opposes” in this statement is an active, present-tense verb, showing us that God’s opposition to pride is an immediate and constant activity. The proud will not indefinitely escape discipline.

Pride’s Potency

We would do well to note pride’s peculiarly destructive power. In his Advice to Young Converts, Jonathan Edwards called pride “the worst viper that is in the heart” and “the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ.” He ranked pride as the most difficult sin to root out, and “the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts.”
Despite this thorough understanding of its ugliness, Edwards himself constantly battled his own pride (a fact which gives me hope, knowing I’m not alone in this struggle). “What a foolish, silly, miserable, blind, deceived poor worm am I, when pride works,” Edwards once wrote in his diary. In his sermons and in his vast writings he constantly warned against pride, especially spiritual pride, which he viewed as the greatest cause of the premature ending of the Great Awakening, the revival that had brought so much spiritual vitality to the church in Edwards’s day.

Pride also undermines unity and can ultimately divide a church. Show me a church where there’s division, where there’s quarreling, and I’ll show you a church where there’s pride.
Pride also brings down leaders. “Pride ruins pastors and churches more than any other thing,” Mike Renihan writes in his essay “A Pastor’s Pride and Joy” from Tabletalk. “It is more insidious in the church than radon in the home.” When you read about the next public figure to fall, remember Proverbs 16:18—“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” That person’s situation might appear circumstantially complicated, but at root it’s not complicated: Pride goes before a fall.

God’s Merciful Warnings

The warnings from Scripture about pride could not be more serious and sobering. But they’re an expression of God’s mercy, intended for our good.

Don’t you think God is merciful to warn us in this way? He reveals this sin to our hearts and identifies its potential consequences. He is merciful, and He intends to protect us. So throughout His Word, God exposes pride as our greatest enemy.

By unmasking pride—as well as introducing us to humility, our greatest friend—God lays out for us the path to true greatness, a path that we see most clearly in our Savior’s life and death. 

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