Archives For Theology

And [Jesus] also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

- Luke 18:9–14 -

Pharisee and Publican

What intrigues me about the Pharisee in this passage is that he thanked God for his moral uprightness and religious devotion. He is not claiming, perhaps like the rich, young ruler did, that he had kept God’s law and thus is deserving of eternal life. He doesn’t believe that he’s earned his salvation by works of righteousness achieved apart from divine grace. No, he goes to thank God for the grace and charity that God had worked in him, by which he has become acceptable to God. He believes that he is justified by his faith in God as well as the good works which proceed from the divinely-imparted righteousness inherent within him. And he does not go to his house justified.

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How Stuff Works - GearsOver the past few days, we have been examining some fundamental biblical truths about the doctrine of sanctification. On Tuesday, we considered three of those truths. First, we saw that sanctification is a fundamentally internal and supernatural work. Second, as a result of that, we considered how sanctification is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God. But then we quickly observed how the Spirit’s sovereign work doesn’t cancel our work, because the Spirit employs means in sanctifying the believer. And yesterday, we looked into five of those means which we are to avail ourselves of in order to grow in Christlikeness.

Today I want to focus on how it is that those means actually work. In other words, I want to look at the actual dynamics of sanctification. Why is it that the Word of God, and prayer, and fellowship with the saints, etc., sanctify us?

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Watering Sweatpea SeedlingsYesterday, we looked into some baseline biblical facts about the nature of sanctification. We saw, first, that sanctification is a fundamentally internal and supernatural work. And so true holiness of heart is not something that we can accomplish directly in ourselves. Instead we learned, secondly, that sanctification is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God. The Scriptures everywhere attribute that work to Him.

But while it’s unmistakable that the Spirit is the sovereign agent of sanctification, that fact in no way contradicts the reality that He effects this transformation through the use of means which the believer must appropriate. God has ordained that the Spirit accomplish this glorious work through means. So when Scripture commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, it is commanding us to make diligent use of the means the Spirit employs in effecting our holiness.

Today, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about five of those means of sanctification—five means which we can appropriate, and, by doing so, put ourselves in the way of the Spirit’s sovereign, sanctifying work.

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SanctificationAs you are likely familiar with, there has been a fairly large-scale discussion taking place recently within evangelicalism surrounding the doctrine of sanctification. And that’s demonstrated that there is widespread confusion about what the doctrine of sanctification is, how it relates to our justification, and how God’s role and man’s role work alongside one another.

But if there’s a doctrine that we can’t afford to be confused about, it’s the doctrine of sanctification. And I say that because it’s where we all live. We all live in between the time of our past justification and our future glorification—in the present pursuit of Christlikeness. And so we need to get this right. If we are concerned to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1:27), if we desire to please the Lord in all respects (Col 1:10), if it’s our ambition to put the sanctifying power of Christ on display, then we need to be clear on how we go about growing in holiness.

So over the next few days, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about these issues, with the hope that I might be able to add something helpful to the discussion, and to help us align our thoughts with the biblical teaching on the matter.

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The word “false” is almost always followed by “teacher” (though sometimes “prophet” or “brother” or “convert” or “gospel”).  That specific word was thrown out a lot in the recent Strange Fire meltdown and is regularly getting stamped on a whole lot of people, movements and ideas.

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Seeing that there’s so many wrongful understandings and applications of the word and how it’s been used (in the specific phrases “false teacher” or “false prophet”) by both sides of the Strange Fire debate, I thought it would be worthy of a rather exhaustive treatment that will hopefully bring some clarity to who is and who isn’t a false teacher.  I’m going to do this in two steps:  First I’m going to:

(#1) do my best to give a biblical understanding of the term “false”

(#2) I’m going to do my best to  give a biblical understanding of the concept of “false teacher”

Let’s go! Continue Reading…

Dead Germans.

They are the subject of a lecture I give every spring in my church history classes: a brief overview of German theologians from the 19th and early-20th centuries.

It’s kind of a depressing lecture to deliver — the sad tale of skepticism intersecting with scholarship; a dismal depiction of the disaster unleashed by unrestrained doubt and disbelief.

Despite standing in the shadow of the Reformation, many German Protestant theologians abandoned the historic truth claims of biblical Christianity due to the mounting popularity of Enlightenment rationalism. In so doing, they shipwrecked their own souls while simultaneously devastating the faith of millions of others.

Higher critics, such as Johann Eichhorn and David Strauss, denied the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch, they claimed; nor did Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John write the four gospels. To make matters worse, they suggested that the Jesus of the Bible is not the same as the real Jesus of history. In their “quest to find the historical Jesus,” the critics created a “Jesus” of their own imaginations — essentially reducing him to a nice guy who couldn’t do any miracles, never claimed to be God, and was largely misunderstood by first-century Judaism. Continue Reading…