Archives For Theology

Reformation Day - Nerds497 years ago today, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation. Nearly 500 years later, God’s people reserve this day to celebrate the rescue of His Word from the shackles of Roman Catholic tyranny, corruption, and heresy. The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the sufficient Scriptures had been recovered, and it’s been doing its saving work ever since.

Romans 1:16–17 stands at the heart of the Reformation, especially because of how central it was in Luther’s conversion. Luther speaks of how he had hated the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” because he understood it to be speaking only of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners. But eventually, he says, “I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

Today, as we reflect upon and remember the grace of God that fell upon the world in the Protestant Reformation, I want to reflect upon the Gospel that made it happen—and particularly the concept of righteousness which was so central to the regeneration of the great reformer. And to do that I want to focus on another text that Paul penned, which gives us wonderful insight into the saving righteousness of God. In Philippians 3:9, Paul explains what it means to be found in Christ—namely, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (NKJV).

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Post Tenebras LuxWith Reformation Day coming up, this is a good time to recall why the Reformers departed from Roman Catholicism. In our day especially, it seems that many Christians have history-amnesia when it comes to the importance of what God did through the Reformers. During the Reformation, great confusion existed regarding what was, and was not, the true church of Christ. Rome had asserted itself as the true church for centuries, and continues to do so today. However, as the Reformers recognized then, Christians must follow in step today by recalling that joining hands with Rome is a departure from Christ.

To be clear, this is not to say that everyone who sits in a Roman Catholic church is not a Christian. What it is saying is that several changes must occur before Roman Catholicism, by the book, can be considered biblical Christianity. And the men and women of the Reformation understood this, hence their necessary break with Rome. In their case, and ours, joining Christ necessitates breaking with Rome and coming under Christ means coming out from under Rome.

Christians will know that it is time to join hands with Rome when it does the following:

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Edwards PortraitJonathan Edwards’ life, thought, and theology was dominated by the glory of God. Edwards argued extensively that God is chiefly concerned with His glory—manifesting the beauty of His perfections—and therefore all His creatures should be concerned with His glory as well. This commitment would shape Edwards’ entire theology, even as it related to theodicy and theology proper, the Calvinist-Arminian debate, the Christian’s pursuit of holiness, and the centrality of the affections in the Christian life. Indeed, it is no overstatement to say, along with one church historian, “No theologian in the history of Christianity held a higher or stronger view of God’s majesty, sovereignty, glory and power than Jonathan Edwards.”[1]

During his years ministering to the Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Edwards wrote his Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, where he masterfully develops the truth that God’s chief end in creating the world was to bring glory to Himself. He wrote:

All that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God’s works is included in that one phrase, the glory of God. … The refulgence shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary. The beams of glory come from God, and are something of God and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God, and God is the beginning, middle and end in this affair.[2]

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Last week, I was on holidays and spent 4 days driving with 2 toddlers.  They did astonishingly well, and while people slept I kept my mind going by listening to some sermons and catching up on the various issues of news/scandal in conservative evangelicalism.  On the way to our destination, I was catching up on the Kirk Cameron exposé/witch hunt that was happening, and on the way back I listened to the “Calvinism Exposed” message by Ron Vietti of Valley Bible Fellowship in Bakersfield, CA.  Ron Vietti warned his congregation that everyone would come after him, and people did respond to him (like here and here).  In a picture, this basically sums it up:

Hindenburg

The video is gone from their Youtube page since it was meant to be up for one week (according to their Facebook page), but it’s in their extended archives.  Nothing really disappears on the internet.  There’s also a copy posted here, for those theological masochists out there who want to attempt to stomach it.

It’s not my intention to respond to the video (beyond the above picture), except for one single point.  In the video, there’s the standard Arminian drumbeat of “God is love”.  At around 44:12 in the video, this statement is made:

“God would rather die than to be without us, and that is the most beautiful picture of our God that you could ever paint, and that is the image that I want all of you as believers to have of God.  That  he loves you so much he would rather die so that you could be with him for all eternity. He loves you.  He loves you with an everlasting love. Amen?”

Yup.  That’s the image of God that I find in the Bible.  He’s so lovesick that he’d rather die than be without me.

Yikes.

Now God is definitely not some suicidal teenager stalker, but the “God is love” idea is still in the Bible, right? Continue Reading…

AugustineMany Christians recognize the name of Augustine of Hippo from his valiant defense of the biblical doctrine of divine sovereignty against the man-centered heresy of the British monk Pelagius. And we know that the Reformers made exceedingly frequent references to Augustine’s work as they fought against the man-centeredness of the Roman Catholic Church. But what many don’t know about Augustine was his consistent emphasis on the centrality of the affections—and particularly joy—in the believer’s life. In fact, he even defined love for God in terms of enjoying Him: 

“I call [love to God] the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for his own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and of one’s neighbor for the sake of God.” [1]

It was this pursuit of his own pleasure—indeed, his own pleasure in God Himself—that strengthened Augustine to engage in the many debates and altercations of the Pelagian controversy. When a friend asked him why he even bothered with the polemical disputes, he answered:

“First and foremost because no subject gives me greater pleasure. For what ought to be more attractive to us sick men, than grace, grace by which we are healed; for us lazy men, than grace, grace by which we are stirred up; for us men longing to act, than grace, by which we are helped?” [2]

For Augustine, there was no dichotomy of “enjoying sovereign grace” on the one hand and “fighting for sovereign grace” on the other. The latter was fueled by the former. The joy of the Lord was his strength (Neh 8:10).

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Yesterday I explained that spiritual gifts were God’s way of uniting believers in the church and advancing the gospel through the church. Every believer uses their spiritual gifts when they serve the church for the purpose of building up each other (1 Cor 10:23-24, 1 Cor 12:7).

cessation.001

But there is an obvious exception to these principles: the sign gifts. By sign gifts I mean the gift of languages, interpretation, the gift of healing, the gift of apostleship, and the gift of miracles. These gifts were not merely examples of people serving the church, but instead they had a much more immediate role: they validated the ministry of the Apostles. This is exactly why Paul called them “sign” gifts (2 Cor 12:12).

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Last week, we considered Paul’s command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We saw how an implication of that command is that our fight for holiness is to be fueled by Gospel grace. But how does the Gospel directly shape and direct your pursuit of holiness? How do we practically bring the Gospel to bear on the various facets of our lives, so that we might conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel?

Gospel Driven

Today, I want to try to answer those questions by considering 12 different biblical virtues, and showing how the Gospel draws a straight line to each of them.

 

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kingdom_comeIs Revelation 6:9–11 a proof text for amillennialism?

A few months ago, Sam Storms wrote a blog article explaining that, unlike many of his fellow amillennialists, he came to embrace amillennialism because of Revelation 20, not in spite of it. According to Storms, the evidence in Revelation 20 is altogether persuasive that the millennial reign of the saints is “a reference to the experience of co-regency on the part of those believers who are now in the intermediate state with Christ.” For this reason, in contrast to the premillennial view that the thousand years of Revelation 20 will take place after the Second Coming, Storms believes “the millennium is a current phenomenon, in heaven, spanning the age between the two advents of Jesus Christ.”

In the remainder of the article, Storms offers ten reasons why Revelation 20 itself persuades him that amillennialism is true, all of which were also articulated in his recent book, Kingdom Come. In the fifth reason, Storms appeals to “the obvious parallel” between Revelation 20:1–6 and Revelation 6:9–11 (also see Kingdom Come, 457–58). Continue Reading…

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
– Philippians 1:27 –

Phil 1;27This little phrase is the very heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul’s preeminent concern in his letter to the church of Philippi is that they would bring the practice of their lives into conformity with the position they enjoy as sharers in the Gospel of Christ. In reflecting on this command, two implications become immediately apparent.

Sanctification is the Necessary Fruit of Justification

The first implication of this text is that sanctification is the necessary fruit of justification. The one who has been justified by grace through faith in Christ alone—the one who has been declared righteous in his position before God—will grow and progress with respect to practical righteousness in his life.

This is the consistent testimony of the New Testament, and especially throughout Paul’s letters.

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Who is church history’s most notorious false teacher?

It might not be possible to answer that question definitively. But if we were to create a top-ten “most wanted” list, the name Arius would undoubtedly be near the top.

In ancient times, Arius’s teachings presented the foremost threat to orthodox Christianity — which is why historians like Alexander Mackay have labeled him “the greatest heretic of antiquity.” None other than Martin Luther said this about Arius:

The heretic Arius [denied] that Christ is true God. He did much harm with his false doctrine throughout Christendom, and it took four hundred years after his death to combat its injurious influence, yea, it is not even yet fully eradicated. In the death of this man the Lord God exalted His honor in a marvelous manner.

In case his name doesn’t sound familiar, Arius was a famous fourth-century false teacher who taught that the Son of God was a created being. Consequently, Arius denied Christ’s equality with God the Father, and along with it, the doctrine of the Trinity. Essentially, he was the Continue Reading…