Daily Archives: October 19, 2013

New Post: Strange Fire Conference: MacArthur’s Appeal to His Continuationist Friends

The Strange Fire conference closed with a final address from John MacArthur. In this address he responds to seven accusations brought against the conference, follows with eight appeals to his continuationist friends, and concludes by walking through 1 and 2 Timothy, highlighting the need to stand firm in guarding divine revelation against false doctrine.

Before addressing the accusations against the conference, MacArthur charged attendees to carefully read their copy of Strange Fire and to measure it against the Word of God. He is convinced that this book, with its well-documented research and extensive footnotes, will withstand careful scrutiny. He reminds us that this book and conference is intended for the Church. He has no expectation for either one to be helpful to non-believers, which he suspects makes up much of the charismatic movement.

MacArthur then shared from his heart responses to seven accusations against the conference. These accusations have arisen from the Internet. It is interesting to note that we live in a time where we are able to give more people access to information simultaneously like never before, which then puts us quickly under scrutiny as never before.

Seven Accusations

Here are the seven accusations, along with brief responses.

Read More Here: http://www.challies.com/liveblogging/strange-fire-conference-macarthurs-appeal-to-his-continuationist-friends

New Post: Acting Like Men? Mark Driscoll Crashes Strange Fire, James MacDonald Watches

The Strange Fire conference has caused no small stir among charismatics. Leaders of the movement like Michael Brown have been outspoken about their disapproval of the event in the weeks leading up to it. But so-called ‘Reformed Charismatics’ have been more silent, yet it is this group that largely should be listening to the truth taught at this conference. They have been silent, that is, until now.
On his way to James MacDonald’s “Act Like Men” conference, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, decided to make a side stop at the Strange Fire Conference. He was not registered for the event, but felt the need to stop and hand out free copies of his own book, A Call to Resurgence.

Source

Driscoll himself is a continuationist who has declared that “cessationism is worldliness.” His apparent “spiritual gift” is what he calls a “gift of discernment” that allows a television screen in his head to reveal to him the filthy and lewd sins of others.

Mark Driscoll: Self Promoting Deceiver

Zwinglius Redivivus

Mark Driscoll openly lies about what happened at his publicity stunt at Strange Fire.

The director of the conference explained to Driscoll that those who are distributing books have gone through an extensive process and that they’d like him not to distribute them. After continuing to direct attendees to take the books, security offered to help him take the books back to his car. Driscoll insisted multiple times, “No, they’re my gift to Grace Church. I want you to have them.” After insisting that security not help him with the books back to the car, the conference director accepted the gift and brought them to GCC offices.

That’s what happened. Driscoll’s reporting of it in such a way is nothing short of lying, absolutely shameful, and unbefitting of one who would take upon himself the calling of preaching the Truth.

The members of Driscoll’s church need to get out of…

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The Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (1:16–17)

After having gained the attention of his readers by explaining the purpose of his writing and then introducing himself (1:1–15), Paul now states the thesis of the epistle. These two verses express the theme of the book of Romans, and they contain the most life-transforming truth God has put into men’s hands. To understand and positively respond to this truth is to have one’s time and eternity completely altered. These words summarize the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul then proceeds to unfold and explain throughout the remainder of the epistle. For that reason, our comments here will be somewhat brief and a more detailed discussion of these themes will come later in the study.

As noted at the close of the last chapter, the introductory phrase for I am not ashamed of the gospel adds a final mark of spiritual service to those presented in verses 8–15, the mark of unashamed boldness.

Paul was imprisoned in Philippi, chased out of Thessalonica, smuggled out of Damascus and Berea, laughed at in Athens, considered a fool in Corinth, and declared a blasphemer and lawbreaker in Jerusalem. He was stoned and left for dead at Lystra. Some pagans of Paul’s day branded Christianity as atheism because it believed in only one God and as being cannibalistic because of a misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper.

But the Jewish religious leaders of Jerusalem did not intimidate Paul, nor did the learned and influential pagans at Ephesus, Athens, and Corinth. The apostle was eager now to preach and teach the gospel in Rome, the capital of the pagan empire that ruled virtually all the known world. He was never deterred by opposition, never disheartened by criticism, and never ashamed, for any reason, of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although that gospel was then, and still is today, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, it is the only way God has provided for the salvation of men, and Paul was both overjoyed and emboldened by the privilege of proclaiming its truth and power wherever he went.

Although every true believer knows it is a serious sin to be ashamed of his Savior and Lord, he also knows the difficulty of avoiding that sin. When we have opportunity to speak for Christ, we often do not. We know the gospel is unattractive, intimidating, and repulsive to the natural, unsaved person and to the ungodly spiritual system that now dominates the world. The gospel exposes man’s sin, wickedness, depravity, and lostness, and it declares pride to be despicable and works righteousness to be worthless in God’s sight. To the sinful heart of unbelievers, the gospel does not appear to be good news but bad (cf. my comments in chapter 1), and when they first hear it they often react with disdain against the one presenting it or throw out arguments and theories against it. For that reason, fear of men and of not being able to handle their arguments is doubtlessly the single greatest snare in witnessing.

It is said that if a circle of white chalk is traced on the floor around a goose that it will not leave the circle for fear of crossing the white mark. In a similar way, the chalk marks of criticism, ridicule, tradition, and rejection prevent many believers from leaving the security of Christian fellowship to witness to the unsaved.

The so-called health and wealth gospel that has swept through much of the church today is not offensive to the world because it offers what the world wants. But that spurious gospel does not offer the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the false teaching of the Judaizers, it is “a different gospel,” that is, not the gospel at all but an ungodly distortion (Gal. 1:6–7). Jesus strongly condemned the motives of worldly success and comfort, and those who appeal to such motives play right into the hands of Satan.

A scribe once approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Knowing the man was unwilling to give up his comforts in order to be a disciple, the Lord answered, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:19–20). Shortly after that, “another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ ” The phrase “bury my father” did not refer to a funeral service but was a colloquialism for awaiting the father’s death in order to receive the inheritance. Jesus therefore told the man, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (vv. 21–22).

Geoffrey Wilson wrote, “The unpopularity of a crucified Christ has prompted many to present a message which is more palatable to the unbeliever, but the removal of the offense of the cross always renders the message ineffective. An inoffensive gospel is also an inoperative gospel. Thus Christianity is wounded most in the house of its friends” (Romans: A Digest of Reformed Comment [Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1976], p. 24).

Some years ago I spoke at a youth rally, after which the wife of the rally director approached me. Expressing an unbiblical mentality that is common in the church today, she said, “Your message offended me, because you preached as if all of these young people were sinners.” I replied, “I’m glad it came across that way, because that is exactly the message I wanted to communicate.”

Paul’s supreme passion was to see men saved. He cared nothing for personal comfort, popularity, or reputation. He offered no compromise of the gospel, because he knew it is the only power available that can change lives for eternity.

In verses 16–17, Paul uses four key words that are crucial to understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ: power, salvation, faith, and righteousness.

Power

for it is the power of God (1:16b)

First of all, Paul declares, the gospel is the power of God. Dunamis (power) is the Greek term from which our word dynamite is derived. The gospel carries with it the omnipotence of God, whose power alone is sufficient to save men from sin and give them eternal life.

People have an innate desire to be changed. They want to look better, feel better, have more money, more power, more influence. The premise of all advertising is that people want to change in some way or another, and the job of the advertiser is to convince them that his product or service will add a desired dimension to their lives. Many people want to be changed inwardly, in a way that will make them feel less guilty and more content, and a host of programs, philosophies, and religions promise to meet those desires. Many man-made schemes succeed in making people feel better about themselves, but the ideas promoted have no power to remove the sin that brings the feelings of guilt and discontent. Nor can those ideas make men right with God. In fact, the more successful such approaches are from their own standpoint, the more they drive people away from God and insulate them from His salvation.

Through Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). It is not within mans power to change his own nature. In rebuking the Sadducees who tried to entrap Him, Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). Only the power of God is able to overcome man’s sinful nature and impart spiritual life.

The Bible makes it clear that men cannot be spiritually changed or saved by good works, by the church, by ritual, or by any other human means. Men cannot be saved even by keeping God’s own law, which was given to show men their helplessness to meet His standards in their own power. The law was not given to save men but to reveal their sin and thus to drive men to God’s saving grace.

Later in Romans, Paul declares man’s impotence and God’s power, saying, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6), and, “What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin” (8:3). Affirming the same basic truth in different words, Peter wrote believers in Asia Minor: “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

Paul reminded the church at Corinth that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18), and “we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (vv. 23–25). What to the world seems to be utter absurdity is in fact the power by which God transforms men from the realm of darkness to the realm of light, and delivers them from the power of death and gives them the right to be called the children of God (John 1:12).

Ancient pagans mocked Christianity not only because the idea of substitutionary atonement seemed ridiculous in itself but also because their mythical gods were apathetic, detached, and remote-totally indifferent to the welfare of men. The idea of a caring, redeeming, self-sacrificing God was beyond their comprehension. While excavating ancient ruins in Rome, archaeologists discovered a derisive painting depicting a slave bowing down before a cross with a jackass hanging on it. The caption reads, “Alexamenos worships his god.”

In the late second century this attitude still existed. A man named Celsus wrote a letter bitterly attacking Christianity. “Let no cultured person draw near, none wise, none sensible,” he said, “for all that kind of thing we count evil; but if any man is ignorant, if any is wanting in sense and culture, if any is a fool, let him come boldly [to Christianity]” (William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], p. 21; cf. Origen’s Against Celsus). “Of the Christians,” he further wrote, “we see them in their own houses, wool dressers, cobblers and fullers, the most uneducated and vulgar persons” (p. 21). He compared Christians to a swarm of bats, to ants crawling out of their nests, to frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, and to worms cowering in the muck!

Not wanting to build on human wisdom or appeal to human understanding, Paul told the Corinthians that “when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1–2). Later in the letter Paul said, “The kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (4:20), the redeeming power of God.

Every believer, no matter how gifted and mature, has human limitations and weaknesses. Our minds, bodies, and perceptions are imperfect. Yet, incredibly, God uses us as channels of His redeeming and sustaining power when we serve Him obediently.

Scripture certainly testifies to God’s glorious power (Ex. 15:6), His irresistible power (Deut. 32:39), His unsearchable power (Job 5:9), His mighty power (Job 9:4), His great power (Ps. 79:11), His incomparable power (Ps. 89:8), His strong power (Ps. 89:13), His everlasting power (Isa. 26:4), His effectual power (Isa. 43:13), and His sovereign power (Rom. 9:21). Jeremiah declared of God, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom” (Jer. 10:12), and through that prophet the Lord said of Himself, “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm” (Jer. 27:5). The psalmist admonished, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:8–9). His is the power that can save.

Salvation

for salvation (1:16c)

Surely the greatest manifestation of God’s power is that of bringing men to salvation, of transforming their nature and giving them eternal life through His Son. We learn from the psalmist that, despite their rebelliousness, God saved His chosen people “for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known” (Ps. 106:8). As God incarnate, Jesus Christ manifested His divine power in healing diseases, restoring crippled limbs, stilling the storm, and even raising those who were dead.

Paul uses the noun sōtēria (salvation) some nineteen times, five of them in Romans, and he uses the corresponding verb twenty-nine times, eight of them in Romans. The basic idea behind the term is that of deliverance, or rescue, and the point here is that the power of God in salvation rescues people from the ultimate penalty of sin, which is spiritual death extended into tormented eternal separation from Him.

Some people object to terms such as salvation and being saved, claiming that the ideas they convey are out of date and meaningless to contemporary men. But salvation is God’s term, and there is no better one to describe what He offers fallen mankind through the sacrifice of His Son. Through Christ, and Christ alone, men can be saved from sin, from Satan, from judgment, from wrath, and from spiritual death.

Regardless of the words they may use to describe their quest, men are continually looking for salvation of one kind or another. Some look for economic salvation, others for political or social salvation. As already noted, many people look for inner salvation from the guilt, frustrations, and unhappiness that make their lives miserable.

Even before Paul’s day, Greek philosophy had turned inward and begun to focus on changing man’s inner life through moral reform and self-discipline. William Barclay tells us that the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus called his lecture room “the hospital for sick souls.” Another famous Greek philosopher named Epicurus called his teaching “the medicine of salvation.” Seneca, a Roman statesman and philosopher and contemporary of Paul, taught that all men were looking ad salutem (“toward salvation”). He taught that men are overwhelmingly conscious of their weakness and insufficiency in necessary things and that we therefore need “a hand let down to lift us up” (The Letter to the Romans [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], p. 19).

Salvation through Christ is God’s powerful hand, as it were, that He has let down to lift men up. His salvation brings deliverance from the spiritual infection of “this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40), from lostness (Matt. 18:11), from sin (Matt. 1:21), and from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9). It brings deliverance to men from their gross and willful spiritual ignorance (Hos. 4:6; 2 Thess. 1:8), from their evil self-indulgence (Luke 14:26), and from the darkness of false religion (Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9), but only for those who believe.

Faith

to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (1:16d)

The fourth key word regarding the gospel is that of faith. The sovereign power of God working through the gospel brings salvation to everyone who believes.

Piteous̄ (believes) carries the basic idea of trusting in, relying on, having faith in. When used in the New Testament of salvation, it is usually in the present, continuous form, which could be translated “is believing.” Daily living is filled with acts of faith. We turn on the faucet to get a drink of water, trusting it is safe to drink. We drive across a bridge, trusting it will not collapse under us. Despite occasional disasters, we trust airplanes to fly us safely to our destination. People could not survive without having implicit trust in a great many things. Virtually all of life requires a natural faith. But Paul has in mind here a supernatural faith, produced by God-a “faith that is not of yourselves but the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Eternal life is both gained and lived by faith from God in Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” Paul tells us (Eph. 2:8). God does not first ask men to behave but to believe. Man’s efforts at right behavior always fall short of God’s perfect standard, and therefore no man can save himself by his own good works. Good works are the product of salvation (Eph. 2:10), but they are not the means of it.

Salvation is not merely professing to be a Christian, nor is it baptism, moral reform, going to church, receiving sacraments, or living a life of self-discipline and sacrifice. Salvation is believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation comes through giving up on one’s own goodness, works, knowledge, and wisdom and trusting in the finished, perfect work of Christ.

Salvation has no national, racial, or ethnic barrier but is given to every person who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. It was to the Jew first chronologically because Jews are God’s specially chosen people, through whom He ordained salvation to come (John 4:22). The Messiah came first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24).

The great Scottish evangelist Robert Halftone wrote,

From the days of Abraham, their great progenitor, the Jews had been highly distinguished from all the rest of the world by their many and great privileges. It was their high distinction that of them Christ came, “who is over all, God blessed for ever.” They were thus, as His kinsmen, the royal family of the human race, in this respect higher than all others, and they inherited Emmanuel’s land. While, therefore, the evangelical covenant, and consequently justification and salvation, equally regarded all believers, the Jews held the first rank as the ancient people of God, while the other nations were strangers from the covenants of promise. The preaching of the Gospel was to be addressed to them first, and, at the beginning, to them alone, Matt. 10:6; for, during the abode of Jesus Christ upon earth, He was the minister only of the circumcision, Rom. 15:8. “l am not sent,” He says, “but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”; and He commanded that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, “beginning at Jerusalem.” … Thus, while Jews and Gentiles were united in the participation of the Gospel, the Jews were not deprived of their rank, since they were the first called.

The preaching of the Gospel to the Jews first served various important ends. It fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, as Isa. 2:3. It manifested the compassion of the Lord Jesus for those who shed His blood, to whom, after His resurrection, He commanded His Gospel to be first proclaimed. It showed that it was to be preached to the chief of sinners, and proved the sovereign efficacy of His Atonement in expatiating [sic] the guilt even of His murderers. It was fit, too, that the Gospel should be begun to be preached where the great transactions took place on which it was rounded and established; and this furnished an example of the way in which it is the will of the Lord that His Gospel should be propagated by His disciples, beginning in their own houses and their own country. (An Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans [MacDill afb , Fla.: MacDonald Publishing Co., 1958], p. 48)

All who believe may be saved. Only those who truly believe will be.

Righteousness

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (1:17)

The fourth key word Paul uses here regarding the gospel is righteousness, a term he uses over thirty-five times in the book of Romans alone. Faith activates the divine power that brings salvation, and in that sovereign act the righteousness of God is revealed. A better rendering is from God, indicating that He imparts His own righteousness to those who believe. It is thereby not only revealed but reckoned to those who believe in Christ (Rom. 4:5).

Paul confessed to the Philippians, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:8–9). “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:21–24).

The German pietist Count Zinzendorf wrote, in a profound hymn,

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in Thy great day,

For who aught to my charge shall lay?

Fully absolved through these I am,

From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

From faith to faith seems to parallel “everyone who believes” in the previous verse. If so, the idea is “from faith to faith to faith to faith,” as if Paul were singling out the faith of each individual believer.

Salvation by His grace working through man’s faith was always God’s plan, as Paul here implies in quoting from Habakkuk 2:4, as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Abraham, the father of the faithful, believed, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3), just as every person’s genuine faith, before and after Abraham, has been reckoned to him as righteousness (see Heb. 11:4–40).

There is emphasis here on the continuity of faith. It is not a one-time act, but a way of life. The true believer made righteous will live in faith all his life. Theologians have called this “the perseverance of the saints” (cf. Col. 1:22–23; Heb. 3:12–14).[1]

 


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 49–57). Chicago: Moody Press.

Martin Luther’s Text (Romans 1:17)

Romans 1:17

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

In the year 1920 an English preacher by the name of Frank W. Boreham published a book of sermons on great Bible texts, in each case linking his text to the spiritual history of a great Christian man or woman. He called his book Texts That Made History. There was David Livingstone’s text: Matthew 28:20 (“Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age”). There was John Wesley’s text: Zechariah 3:2 (“Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”). There were twenty-three sermons in this book, and Boreham published four more similar books in his lifetime.

Of all the texts that are associated with the lives of great Christians, none is so clearly one man’s text or so obviously a driving, molding force in that man’s life as Roman 1:17. And, of course, the man whose text it was is Martin Luther.

I propose that we study Romans 1:17 from the standpoint of Luther’s life. Already we have seen that Romans 1:16–17 are the theme verses of this important Bible book. We have studied them from two perspectives. The first study focused on the chief idea: that there is a righteousness from God, which God freely offers human beings and which alone is the basis of their justification before him. It is received by faith. The second study worked through these verses in detail, showing eight reasons why Paul could say (and all true believers today can continue to say) that they are not ashamed of God’s gospel. In this study we want to see the outworking of that gospel in the life of just one man, Martin Luther.

In the Convent at Erfurt

Martin Luther began his academic life by studying law, which was his father’s desire for him. But although he excelled in his studies and gave every promise of becoming successful in his profession, Luther was troubled in soul and greatly agitated at the thought that one day he would have to meet God and give an account before him. In his boyhood days he had looked at the frowning face of Jesus in the stained-glass window of the parish church at Mansfeld and had trembled. When friends died, as during his college days two of his closest friends did, Luther trembled more. One day he would die—he knew not when—and he knew that Jesus would judge him.

On August 17, 1505, Luther suddenly left the university and entered the monastery of the Augustinian hermits at Erfurt. He was twenty-one years old, and he entered the convent, as he later said, not to study theology but to save his soul.

In those days in the monastic orders there were ways by which the seeking soul was directed to find God, and Luther, with the determination and force that characterized his entire life, gave himself rigorously to the Augustinian plan. He fasted and prayed. He devoted himself to menial tasks. Above all he adhered to the sacrament of penance, confessing even the most trivial sins, for hours on end, until his superiors wearied of his exercise and ordered him to cease confession until he had committed some sin worth confessing. Luther’s piety gained him a reputation of being the most exemplary of monks. Later he wrote to the Duke of Saxony:

I was indeed a pious monk and followed the rules of my order more strictly than I can express. If ever a monk could obtain heaven by his monkish works, I should certainly have been entitled to it. Of this all the friars who have known me can testify. If it had continued much longer, I should have carried my mortification even to death, by means of my watchings, prayers, reading and other labors.

Still, Luther found no peace through these exercises.

The monkish wisdom of the day instructed him to satisfy God’s demand for righteousness by doing good works. “But what works?” thought Luther. “What works can come from a heart like mine? How can I stand before the holiness of my Judge with works polluted in their very source?”

In Luther’s agony of soul, God sent him a wise spiritual father by the name of John Staupitz, the vicar-general of the congregation. Staupitz tried to uncover Luther’s difficulties. “Why are you so sad, brother Martin?” Staupitz asked one day.

“I do not know what will become of me,” replied Luther with a deep sigh.

“More than a thousand times have I sworn to our holy God to live piously, and I have never kept my vows,” said Staupitz. “Now I swear no longer, for I know that I cannot keep my solemn promises. If God will not be merciful towards me for the love of Christ and grant me a happy departure when I must quit this world, I shall never with the aid of all my vows and all my good works stand before him. I must perish.”

The thought of divine justice terrified Luther, and he opened up his fears to the vicar-general.

Staupitz knew where he himself had found peace and pointed it out to the young man: “Why do you torment yourself with all these speculations and these high thoughts? … Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood that he has shed for you; it is there that the grace of God will appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in him—in the righteousness of his life—in the atonement of his death. Do not shrink back. God is not angry with you; it is you who are angry with God. Listen to the Son of God.”

But how could Luther do that? Where could he hear the Son of God speak to him as Staupitz said he would? “In the Bible,” said the vicar-general. It was thus that Luther, who had only first seen a Bible in his college days shortly before entering the cloister, began to study Scripture.

He studied Romans, and as he pondered over the words of our text the truth began to dawn on him. The righteousness we need in order to stand before the holy God is not a righteousness we can attain. In fact, it is not human righteousness at all. It is divine righteousness, and it becomes ours as a result of God’s free giving. Our part is merely to receive it by faith and to live by faith in God’s promise. Guided by this new light, Luther began to compare Scripture with Scripture, and as he did he found that the passages of the Bible that formerly alarmed him now brought comfort.

In his sermon on Luther’s text, Boreham describes a famous painting that represents Luther at this stage of his pilgrimage. The setting is early morning in the convent library at Erfurt, and the artist shows Luther as a young monk in his early twenties, poring over a copy of the Bible from which a bit of broken chain is hanging. The dawn is stealing through the lattice, illuminating both the open Bible and the face of its eager reader. On the page the young monk is so carefully studying are the words: “The just shall live by faith.”

The Road to Rome

In 1510, five years after he had become a monk and two years after he had begun to teach the Bible at the new University of Wittenberg, Luther was sent by his order to Rome.

On the way, while being entertained at the Benedictine monastery at Bologna, Luther fell dangerously ill and relapsed into the gloomy dejection over spiritual matters that was so natural to him. “To die thus, far from Germany, in a foreign land—what a sad fate!” D’Aubigné wrote, “… the distress of mind that he had felt at Erfurt returned with renewed force. The sense of his sinfulness troubled him; the prospect of God’s judgment filled him once more with dread. But at the very moment that these terrors had reached their highest pitch, the words of St. Paul, ‘The just shall live by faith,’ recurred forcibly to his memory and enlightened his soul like a ray from heaven.” Luther was learning to live by faith, which was what the text was teaching. Comforted and eventually restored to health, he resumed his journey across the hot Italian plains to Rome.

“Thou Holy Rome, Thrice Holy”

Luther had been sent to Rome on church business. But, in spite of this, he approached the ancient imperial city as a pilgrim. When he first caught sight of Rome on his way south he raised his hands in ecstasy, exclaiming, “I greet thee, thou holy Rome, thrice holy from the blood of the martyrs.” When he arrived, he began his rounds of the relics, shrines, and churches. He listened to the superstitious tales that were told him. At one chapel, when told of the benefits of saying Mass there, he thought that he could almost wish his parents were dead, because he could then have assured them against purgatory by his actions.

Yet Rome was not the center of light and piety Luther had imagined. At this time, the Mass—at which the body and blood of Jesus were thought to be offered up by the priests as a sacrifice for sins—was the center of Luther’s devotion, and he often said Mass at Rome. Luther performed the ceremony with the solemnity and dignity it seemed to him to require. But not the Roman priests! They laughed at the simplicity of the rustic German monk. Once, while he was repeating one Mass, the priests at an adjoining altar rushed through seven of them, calling out in Latin to Luther, “Quick, quick, send our Lady back her Son.” On another occasion, Luther had only reached the gospel portion of the Mass when the priest administering beside him terminated his. “Passa, passa,” he cried to Luther. “Have done with it at once.”

Luther was invited to meetings of distinguished ecclesiastics. There the priests often ridiculed and mocked Christian rites. Laughing and with apparent pride, they told how, when they were standing at the altar repeating the words that were to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, they said instead (no doubt with solemn intonation), “Panis es, et panis manebis; vinum es, et vinum manebis” (“Bread you are, and bread you will remain; wine you are, and wine you will remain”). Luther could hardly believe his ears. Later he wrote, “No one can imagine what sins and infamous actions are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. Thus, they are in the habit of saying, ‘If there is a Hell, Rome is built over it; it is an abyss whence issues every kind of sin.’ ” He concluded, “The nearer we approach Rome, the greater number of bad Christians we meet with.”

Then there occurred the famous incident told many years later by Luther’s son, Dr. Paul Luther, and preserved in a manuscript in the library of Rudolfstadt. In the Church of St. John Lateran in Rome there is a set of medieval stone stairs said to have originally been the stairs leading up to Pilate’s house in Jerusalem, once trod upon by the Lord. For this reason they were called the Scala Sancta or “Holy Stairs.” It was the custom for pilgrims, like Luther, to ascend these steps on their knees, praying as they went. At certain intervals there were stains said to have been caused by the bleeding wounds of Christ. The worshiper would bend over and kiss these steps, praying a long time before ascending painfully to the next ones. Remission of years of punishment in purgatory was promised to all who would perform this pious exercise.

Luther began as the others had. But, as he ascended the staircase, the words of our text came forcefully to his mind: “The just shall live by faith.”

They seemed to echo over and over again, growing louder with each repetition: “The just shall live by faith,” “The just shall live by faith.” But Luther was not living by faith. He was living by fear. The old superstitious doctrines and the new biblical theology wrestled within him.

“By fear,” said Luther.

By faith!” said St. Paul.

“By fear,” said the scholastic fathers of medieval Catholicism.

By faith!” said the Scriptures.

“By fear,” said those who agonized beside him on the staircase.

By faith!” said God the Father.

At last Luther rose in amazement from the steps up which he had been dragging himself and shuddered at his superstition and folly. Now he realized that God had saved him by the righteousness of Christ, received by faith; he was to exercise that faith, receive that righteousness, and live by trusting God. He had not been doing it. Slowly he turned on Pilate’s staircase and returned to the bottom. He went back to Wittenberg, and in time, as Paul Luther said, “He took ‘The just shall live by faith’ as the foundation of all his doctrine.”

This was the real beginning of the Reformation, for the reformation of Luther necessarily preceded the reformation of Christendom. The later began on October 31, 1517, with the posting of his “Ninety-Five Theses” on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg.

J. H. Merle D’Aubigné, the great nineteenth-century historian of the Reformation, wrote:

This powerful text had a mysterious influence on the life of Luther. It was a creative sentence both for the reformer and for the Reformation. It was in these words God then said, “Let there be light! and there was light.” … When Luther rose from his knees on Pilate’s Staircase, in agitation and amazement at those words which Paul had addressed fifteen centuries before to the inhabitants of that same metropolis—Truth, till then a melancholy captive, fettered in the church, rose also to fall no more.

“Here I Stand”

When Luther rose from his knees on the steps of the Scala Sancta, the high point of his long career—his refusal to recant his faith before the imperial diet at Worms—was still eleven years away. But Luther was already prepared for this challenge. He would be ready to defend his position, because he now saw that a man or woman is not enabled to stand before God by his or her own accomplishments, however devout, still less by the pronouncements of ecclesiastical councils or popes, however vigorously enforced, but by the grace and power of Almighty God alone. And if a person can stand before God by grace, he can certainly stand before men.

Luther was summoned before the diet by the newly elected emperor, Charles V. But it was really the Roman See that had summoned him, and the champions of Rome were present to secure his condemnation. Upon his arrival at the town hall assembly room at four o’clock on the afternoon of April 17, Luther was asked to acknowledge as his writings a large stack of books that had been gathered and placed in the room. He was also asked whether he would retract their contents, which called for reform of abuses rampant in the church, asserted the right of the individual Christian to be emancipated from priestly bondage, and reaffirmed the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith.

Luther asked that the titles might be read out. Then he responded, “Most gracious emperor! Gracious princes and lords! His imperial majesty has asked me two questions. As to the first, I acknowledge as mine the books that have just been named. I cannot deny them. As to the second, seeing that it is a question which concerns faith and the salvation of souls, and in which the Word of God, the greatest and most precious treasure either in heaven or earth, is interested, I should act imprudently were I to reply without reflection.… For this reason I entreat your imperial majesty, with all humility, to allow me time, that I may answer without offending against the Word of God.”

It was a proper request in so grave a matter. Besides, by taking reasonable time to reflect on his answer, Luther would give stronger proof of the firmness of his stand when he made it. There was debate concerning this request, but at last Luther was given twenty-four hours to consider his response.

When he appeared the next day, the demand was the same: “Will you defend your books as a whole, or are you ready to disavow some of them?”

Luther replied by making distinctions between his writings, trying to draw the council into debate and thus have an opportunity to present the true gospel. Some of his books treated the Christian faith in language acceptable to all men. To repudiate these would be a denial of Jesus Christ. A second category attacked the errors and tyranny of the papacy. To deny these would lend additional strength to this tyranny, and thus be a sin against the German people. A third class of books concerned individuals and their teachings. Here Luther confessed that he may have spoken harshly or unwisely. But if so, it was necessary for his adversaries to bear witness of the evil done. Luther said he would be the first to throw his books into the fire if it could be proved that he had erred in these or any others of his writings.

“But you have not answered the question put to you,” said the moderator. “Will you, or will you not, retract?”

Upon this, Luther replied without hesitation: “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightiness require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear to me as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning— unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted—and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience.”

Then looking around at those who held his life in their hands, Luther said: “Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.” Thus did the German monk utter the words that still thrill our hearts after four and a half centuries.

The Master of All Doctrines

Later in life Luther was to write many things about the doctrine of justification by faith, which he had learned from Romans 1:17. He would call it “the chief article from which all our other doctrines have flowed.” He called it “the master and prince, the lord, the ruler and the judge over all kinds of doctrines.” He said, “If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time.” He argued, “It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God, and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour.”

What a heritage! What a rebuke against the weak state of present-day Christianity!

If justification by faith is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls, our contemporary declines are no doubt due to our failure to understand, appreciate, and live by this doctrine. The church of our day does not stand tall before the world. It bows to it. Christians are not fearless before ridicule. We flee from it. Is the reason not that we have never truly learned to stand before God in his righteousness? Is it not because we have never learned the truth: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31b)? The church will never be strong unless it is united around faithful men and women who firmly hold this conviction.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 119–126). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Not Ashamed: 8 reasons why we should not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17)

Romans 1:16–17

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

At first glance it is an extraordinary thing that Paul should say that he is “not ashamed” of the gospel. For when we read that statement we ask, “But why should anybody be ashamed of the gospel? Why should the apostle even think that something so grand might be shameful?” Questions like that are not very deep or honest, since we have all been ashamed of the gospel at one time or another.

The reason is that the world is opposed to God’s gospel and ridicules it, and we are all far more attuned to the world than we imagine. The gospel was despised in Paul’s day. Robert Haldane has written accurately:

By the pagans it was branded as atheism, and by the Jews it was abhorred as subverting the law and tending to licentiousness, while both Jews and Gentiles united in denouncing the Christians as disturbers of the public peace, who, in their pride and presumption, separated themselves from the rest of mankind. Besides, a crucified Savior was to the one a stumbling-block, and to the other foolishness. This doctrine was everywhere spoken against, and the Christian fortitude of the apostle in acting on the avowal he here makes was as truly manifested in the calmness with which, for the name of the Lord Jesus, he confronted personal danger and even death itself. His courage was not more conspicuous when he was ready “not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem,” than when he was enabled to enter Athens or Rome without being moved by the prospect of all that scorn and derision which in these great cities awaited him.

Is the situation different in our day? It is true that today’s culture exhibits a certain veneer of religious tolerance, so that well-bred people are careful not to scorn Christians openly. But the world is still the world, and hostility to God is always present. If you have never been ashamed of the gospel, the probable reason, as D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggests, is not that you are “an exceptionally good Christian,” but rather that “your understanding of the Christian message has never been clear.”

Was Paul tempted to shame, as we are? Probably. We know that Timothy was, since Paul wrote him to tell him not to be (2 Tim. 1:8). However, in our text Paul writes that basically he was “not ashamed of the gospel,” and the reason is that “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ”

In this study, following the treatment of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I want to suggest eight reasons why we should not be ashamed of this gospel.

The Gospel is “Good News”

The first reason why we should not be ashamed of the gospel is the meaning of the word gospel itself. It means “good news,” and no rational person should be ashamed of a desirable proclamation.

We can understand why one might hesitate to convey bad news, of course. We can imagine a policeman who must tell a father that his son has been arrested for breaking into a neighbor’s house and stealing her possessions. We can understand how he might be distressed at having to communicate this sad message. Or again, we can imagine how a doctor might be dismayed at having to tell a patient that tests have come out badly and that he or she does not have long to live, or how a person involved in some great moral lapse might be ashamed to confess it. But the gospel is not like this. It is the opposite. Instead of being bad news, it is good news about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. It is the best news imaginable.

The Way of Salvation

The second reason why we should not be ashamed of the gospel is that it is about “salvation.” And not just any salvation. It is about the saving of ourselves.

The background for this side of the Good News is that, left to ourselves, we are in desperate trouble. We are in trouble now because we are at odds with God, other people, and ourselves. We are also in trouble in regard to the future; for we are on a path of increasing frustration and despair, and at the end we must face God’s just wrath and condemnation. We are like swimmers drowning in a vast ocean of cold water or explorers sinking in a deep bog of quicksand. We are like astronauts lost in the black hostile void of outer space. We are like prisoners awaiting execution.

But there is good news! God has intervened to rescue us through the work of his divine Son, Jesus Christ. First, he has reconciled us to himself; Christ has died for us, bearing our sins in his own body on the cross. Second, he has reconciled us to others; we are now set free to love them as Jesus loved us. Third, he has reconciled us to ourselves; in Jesus Christ (and by the power of the Holy Spirit) we are now able to become what God has always meant for us to be.

We can say this in yet other ways. Salvation delivers us from the guilt, power, and pollution of sin. We are brought back into communication with God, from whom our sins had separated us. And we are given a marvelous destiny, which Paul elsewhere describes as “the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul expresses these truths somewhat comprehensively when he writes that “Christ Jesus … has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, because it was about a real deliverance—from sin and its power—and about reconciliation to God.

God’s Way of Salvation

The third reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is that it is God’s way of salvation and not man’s way. How could Paul be proud of something that has its roots in the abilities of sinful men and women or is bounded by mere human ideas? The world does not lack such ideas. There are countless schemes for salvation, countless self-help programs. But these are all foolish and inadequate. What is needed is a way of salvation that comes not from man, but from God! That is what we have in Christianity! Christianity is God’s reaching out to save perishing men and women, not sinners reaching out to seize God.

Paul speaks about this in two major ways, contrasting God’s way of salvation with our own attempts to keep the law, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, with our attempts to know God by mere human wisdom.

As to the law, he says, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3–4). This means that, although we could not please God by keeping the law’s demands, God enables us to please him, first, by condemning sin in us through the work of Jesus Christ and, then, by enabling us to live upright lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As to wisdom, Paul writes, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).

The Power of God

This leads to the fourth reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, the matter he chiefly emphasizes in our text: The gospel is powerful. That is, it is not only good news, not only a matter of salvation, not only a way of salvation from God; it is also powerful enough to accomplish God’s purpose, which is to save us from sin’s pollution.

It is important to understand what is involved here, for it is easy to misconstrue Paul’s teaching. When Paul says that “the gospel … is the power of God for salvation,” he is not saying that the gospel is about God’s power, as if it were merely pointing us to a power beyond our own. Nor is Paul saying that the gospel is the source of a power we can get and use to save ourselves. Paul’s statement is not that the gospel is about God’s power or even a channel through which that power operates, but rather that the gospel is itself that power. That is, the gospel is powerful; it is the means by which God accomplishes salvation in those who are being saved.

Since Paul puts it this way, we are right to agree with John Calvin when he emphasizes that the gospel mentioned here is not merely the work done by God in Jesus Christ or the revelation to us of that work, but the actual “preaching” of the gospel “by word of mouth.” He means that it is in the actual preaching of the gospel that the power of God is demonstrated in the saving of men and women.

In the previous section I quoted what the King James Version calls “the foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor. 1:21), and since that is Paul’s own phrase, we can see it as proof that Paul was himself aware of how foolish the proclamation of the Christian message is if considered only from a human point of view. Some years ago I had the task of talking about “The Foolishness of Preaching” as one message of seven in a weekend conference on reformed theology. My address came after a break for lunch in the middle of what was a very long Saturday, and I began by saying that if there was anything more foolish than the foolishness of preaching, it was preaching about the foolishness of preaching after lunch on a day during which the listeners had already heard a number of other very distinguished preachers. It was a way of capturing what every preacher feels at one time or another as he rises to proclaim a message that to the natural mind is utter folly and that is as incapable of doing good in the hearers as preaching a message of moral reformation to the corpses in a cemetery—unless God works.

But that is just the point! God does work through the preaching of this gospel—not preaching for its own sake, but the faithful proclamation of God’s work of salvation for sinful men and women in Jesus Christ.

Let me say this another way since it is so important. We read in the first chapter of Acts that when the Lord Jesus Christ dispatched his disciples to the world with his gospel, he told them: “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v. 8). Earlier they had been asking about the kingdom of God, no doubt thinking of an earthly, political kingdom, which they highly valued and hoped for. But Jesus’ reply pointed them to something far greater. His was a spiritual kingdom—not spiritual in the sense of being less than real, but a kingdom to be established in power by the very Spirit of God—and they were to be witnesses for him. Moreover, as they witnessed, the Holy Spirit, which was to come upon them, would bless their proclamation and lead many to faith.

And so it happened. Three thousand believed at Pentecost. Thousands more believed on other occasions.

So also today. The world does not understand this divine working, but it is nevertheless true that the most important thing happening in the world at any given time is the preaching of the gospel. For there the Spirit of God is at work. There men and women are delivered from the bondage of sin and set free spiritually. Lives are transformed—and it is all by God’s power. As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “The thing to grasp is that the apostle is saying that he is not ashamed of the gospel, because it is of God’s mighty working. It is God himself doing this thing—not simply telling us about it: doing it, and doing it in this way, through the gospel.”

A Gospel for Everyone

The fifth reason why Paul was not ashamed of this gospel is that it is a gospel for everyone—“everyone who believes.” It is “first for the Jew” and then also “for the Gentile.”

Paul’s phrase “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” has led readers to think that he was saying something like “to the Jew above the Gentile” or “to the Jew simply because he is a Jew and therefore of greater importance than other people.” But, of course, this is not what Paul intends. In this text Paul means exactly the same thing Jesus meant when he told the woman of Samaria that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Both were speaking chronologically. Both meant that in the systematic disclosure of the gospel the Jews had occupied a first and important place. This was because, as Paul says later in Romans, theirs was “the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Jesus Christ …” (Rom. 9:3–5). No one can fully understand the gospel if he or she neglects this historical preparation for it.

But this does not mean that Paul is setting the Jew above the Gentile in this text or, as some would desire by contrast, that he is setting the Gentile above the Jew. On the contrary, Paul’s point is that the gospel is for Gentile and Jew alike. It is for everybody.

Why? Because it is the power of God, and God is no respecter of persons. If the gospel were of human power only, it would be limited by human interests and abilities. It would be for some and not others. It would be for the strong but not for the weak, or the weak but not for the strong. It would be for the intelligent but not the foolish, or the foolish but not the wise. It would be for the noble or the well-bred or the sensitive or the poor or the rich or whatever, to the exclusion of those who do not fit the categories. But this is not the way it is. The gospel is for everyone. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, italics mine). At Pentecost Peter declared, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21; cf. Joel 2:32). Indeed, the Bible ends on this note: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take of the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17). (I have added italics to these passages to emphasize this important point.)

How can one be ashamed of a gospel which offers hope to the vilest, most desperate of men, as well as to the most respectable person? How can we be ashamed of anything so gloriously universal.

Salvation Revealed to Sinners

The sixth reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is that God has revealed this way of salvation to us. The gospel would be wonderful even if God had not revealed it. But, of course, if he had not revealed it, we would not know of it and would be living with the same dreary outlook on life as the unsaved. But the gospel is revealed. Now we not only know about the Good News but are also enabled to proclaim God’s revelation.

And there is this, too: When Paul says that the gospel of God “is revealed,” he is saying that it is only by revelation that we can know it. It is not something we could ever have figured out for ourselves. How could we have invented such a thing? When human beings invent religion they either invent something that makes them self-righteous, imagining that they can save themselves by their own good works or wisdom—or they invent something that excuses their behavior so they can commit the evil they desire. In other words, they become either legalists or antinomians. The gospel produces neither. It does not produce legalists, because salvation is by the accomplishment of Christ, not the accomplishments of human beings.

Christians must always sing: “Nothing in my hand I bring, / Simply to thy cross I cling.” But at the same time, simply because they have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ and have his Spirit within them, Christians inevitably strive for and actually achieve a level of practical righteousness of which the world cannot even dream.

A Righteousness from God

The seventh reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is the one we considered most fully in the previous chapter, namely, that it concerns a righteousness from God, which is what we need. In ourselves we are not the least bit righteous. On the contrary, we are corrupted by sin and are in rebellion against God. To be saved from wrath we need a righteousness that is of God’s own nature, a righteousness that comes from God and fully satisfies God’s demands. This is what we have! It is why Paul can begin his exposition of the Good News in chapter 3 by declaring, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (v. 21). (As previously mentioned, this verse is a repetition of the thesis presented first in Romans 1:17.)

By Faith from First to Last

The eighth and final reason why the apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is that the means by which this glorious gift becomes ours is faith, which means that salvation is accessible to “everyone who believes.”

What does Paul mean when he writes, ek pisteōs eis pistin (literally, “from faith to faith”)? Does he mean, as the New International Version seems to imply, “by faith entirely” (that is, “by faith from first to last”)? Does he mean “from the faith of the Old Testament to the faith of the New Testament” or, which may be almost the same thing, “from the faith of the Jew to the faith of the Gentile”? Does he mean “from weak faith to stronger faith,” the view apparently of John Calvin? In my opinion, the quotation from Habakkuk throws light on how the words ek pistẽs are to be taken. They mean “by faith”; that is, they concern “a righteousness that is by faith.” If this is so, if this is how the first “faith” should be taken, then, the meaning of the phrase is that the righteousness that is by faith (the first “faith”) is revealed to the perceiving faith of the believer (the second “faith”). This means that the gospel is revealed to you and is for you—if you will have it.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 111–118). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

The Prosperity Gospel’s Functional Idol and its fruit

The Domain for Truth

Among other things, John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference has touched on the false teachings of the Prosperity Gospel.  It’s influence among Charistmatic circles is huge.  Known as the Word of Faith/Name-it-Claim-it/Blab-it-Grab-it theology, the impact of such teachings has dangerous spiritual repercussions and even at it’s best is a distraction from the Gospel (though I would add that its focus on the wrong things actually undermine the message and priority of the Gospel).

Over the years we have documented on our blog some of the dangerous fruits of Third Wave Continuationists and the Prosperity Gospel; and the fruits are not pretty.

I’m convinced that at the root of the problem with the Prosperity Gospel is the issue of idolatry.  That is, it’s an issue of who it is that is one’s God.  The functional god of those who are preachers and “parishioners” of the Prosperity Gospel is not the God of…

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Theology: GOD IS FREE

You have probably heard the joke about the 500-pound gorilla. What does a 500-pound gorilla do? Anything He Wants To. This is a part of what we talk about when we mention the freedom of God.

 

To define freedom in relation to God we would want three aspects for our definition.

 

a. God cannot be hindered. No matter how late you sit up thinking of a way to mess up his plan, there is no way that you ever will. He has an overall plan for all of time and all of mankind. He has planned in all the dumb things that you might come up with to thwart His plan.

 

b. God cannot be restricted. You can’t build a fence around Him. You can’t set up a force field around Him. You can’t set up a situation where He can’t do what is correct.

 

c. God cannot be controlled. Not even Abraham when he was dealing with the Lord for the sparing of Sodom was controlling Him. Abraham was flat pushing his luck, but was not controlling God. There is nothing that we can do that will control God. We can’t get Him into

trouble with our prayer life. We can’t set up a situation where He must act because of our command or prayer.

 

God Can Do Literally Anything He Wants To.

 

He is His only limit. He can do whatever he wants, whenever He wants. His desires, plans and will are the only control that is placed upon Him.

 

He is free from the creation and His creatures. He is independent of us and all that we do. In relation to this I was reminded of a fact of life that is constantly plaguing our household. We are not independent of our belongings. The more nice things that you get, the more things you have to fix. There are times when my list of things to fix is longer than things I want to have.

 

Again, I would like to think of the animal world for a moment. The animals of the field are active only on the prompting of their instinct.

 

 

They cannot rise above their environment. They are limited to activity within the confines of where they are. They cannot decide to move into town and rent a condo — they are limited to live in those areas where they can walk and run.

 

Man on the other hand can in his activity rise above his environment if he desires to do so, and has the time, energy, and talents to do so. Man can determine his own activities up to the limits placed upon him by His creator. Man is free for the most part within those limits.

 

What are some limits that God has placed upon man that would limit his activity?

 

a. Government, and the laws that usually come with government.

These are established and ordained by God. Romans 13:1

 

b. Natural laws of nature certainly control us to a point. I cannot determine to fly to California for the winter unless I have money for a ticket. I can’t just walk outside and fly there on my own.

 

c. Conscience sets certain limits upon the individual. There are things that my conscience just won’t allow me to do. The conscience may be formed partially by our environment when we were growing up.

 

d. Marriage sets a certain set of limits upon the individual. Someone has suggested marriage isn’t a noun or a verb, but that it is a sentence. I won’t comment on that.

 

e. Economic and geographical limits may hamper some activities the man might desire to do. I have many things that I would like to do, but without the finances, I am limited. Man is free to do as he desires within these limits.

 

God on the other hand has none of these limits.

 

Believers are free within the same limits. God however gives the believer a little bit of liberty that the lost do not have.

 

a. We can fellowship with God in prayer and share our burdens with Him as well as seek His help and counsel.

 

 

b. We have the Word of God that gives us freedom from guilt. It also gives us a certain set of restrictions that the lost do not have.

 

c. We also have church leadership placed over us and they may set restrictions upon our activities through the ministry of the Word and discipline, if needed.

 

d. The Lord, His Word and will should also set some of our limits as well.

 

God on the other hand has no limitations.

 

Definition: God has the ability to rise to any level He desires above His environment.

 

In short you might say, “If He’d rather do it Himself — He can most surely do it Himself. To show this we need to look at a few references (Take time to read these: Job 23:13, Daniel 4:25, Psalm 115:3).

 

APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE

 

1. It refutes two wrong concepts of God.

 

a. Fatalism: The idea that fate is the force that determines the outcome of all things. This would be the idea there is a plan that is in effect and there is absolutely nothing that can change that plan, and that it will take place as planned.

 

If your room mate trips on your dirty clothes laying on the floor — that is fate. Nothing could have been done to avoid it. If your room mate dies due to the fall, that was fate. She would have tripped there even if the dirty clothes hadn’t been there.

 

b. Pantheism: God is locked in nature and can do nothing except within the laws of nature. We know this to be in error for we know that God has done things outside the laws of nature in the past. The miracles of the Old and New Testament are good examples of this.

 

Besides, how can God make something out of nothing if He is locked inside of nothing. That would say that God does not exist.

 

 

2. God has chosen to limit Himself in several ways that we need to consider.

 

a. He has limited Himself to operate within the laws of nature for the most part. It is only on special occasions whereby He sets the laws of nature aside. (He is free to do so at any time, it should be emphasized.)

 

b. He has limited Himself to work with mankind. He is locked into completing that which He has started with man. His plan of glorification and His side plan of redemption are on course and must be completed.

 

He has also limited Himself to work within time, which was a new experience for Him when He created.

 

c. He has limited Himself also in the area of working through man. He has chosen US to be His ambassadors to the lost world around us. Meditate on that one for a while. The God Of The Universe Limited Himself To Mess Around With Us. To trust us to do a good job.

 

The saddest part of this point is that very few generations have actually done the job that they were given to do. The missionary effort in many generations has been miserable at best. Today we are seeing the decline of missions and very little is being done about it. The Third World countries are becoming the prominent hope of missions in the future. These countries are sending out more and more missionaries each year while the major countries of the world are sending fewer and fewer.

 

3. The freedom which God possesses is our guarantee that all will come to pass as His people have prophesied through the ages. If He were not free to do as He pleases, then He would not be free to do as He has promised.

 

4. This doctrine has application to the local church. Not only is God free to do as He pleases in His own realm but He is free to do as He pleases in the realm of the church.

 

Example: If a pastor has a rich family over three weeks in a row some of his members may decide that he isn’t being fair. They have never been to the pastors house. Jealousy can crop up. It may be that the rich man is a new Christian and this is how the pastor has decided to disciple the man.

 

 

Do not fall into the trap of judging people on surface observation. God may lead the pastor to do many things that you do not understand. Example: God gives gifts as He so chooses. He may give one person several gifts and another person only one. I spent some time in a church that had a pastor that was an excellent preacher but a mediocre teacher. Not that he was bad but he wasn’t as good as others. When this pastor would see gifted teacher beginning to have a ministry in the church the pastor would get jealous and run the teacher off.

 

God Can Do As He Pleases In The Church. God gives gifts as He pleases. God gives looks as He pleases. God gives brains as He pleases. God gives money as He pleases. God gives personality as He pleases. God gives homes as He pleases. God gives cars as He pleases. God gives abilities as He pleases. God gives etc. as He pleases.

 

5. God decides to take some believers home much sooner in life than others. It is His choice, not ours.

 

The following quotation comes from the days of the Boxer Rebellion in China. All foreigners were fleeing for their lives and many Christians were being martyred.

 

“Before giving a brief account of our deliverance on that awful journey in 1900, I wish first humbly to submit the following, for well I know there will be those who will read these pages whose dear ones were NOT delivered but whose lives were given up for Christ in glorious martyrdom for His Name’s sake.

 

“When in Canada, following the experiences now to be recorded, we were faced with the question, put in various ways — ‘How can you say as you do, that it was by God’s power and grace that you were all brought through? If this were so why did He not deliver the hundreds of missionaries and native Christians who were even then being done to death throughout China?’ Truly a vital question, which could not be lightly set aside. Humbly and prayerfully we pondered this ‘WHY’ in the light of Scripture. In the twelfth chapter of Acts we read of Herod’s succeeding in putting James to death by the sword, and directly after comes the story of how Herod was hindered in carrying out his intentions to kill Peter who was delivered by a miracle. Then who could read that marvelous eleventh chapter of Hebrews with its record of glorious martyrdoms and miraculous deliverances without being thrilled. In face of these and many other passages, while still unable to answer the ‘WHY’ we saw our Almighty God used His own prerogative to glorify His name whether in the glorious martyrdom of some or in the miraculous deliverance of others.” (Goforth, Rosiland, “GOFORTH OF CHINA”; Wheaton: Zondervan Publishing House, 1937)

 

6. This point of application may encourage you. God can change any of the attributes or talents that you have for the better. (He may change them for the worse also — I used to have dark curly hair, but now am on the gray, fringe area, so to speak.)

 

Looks for example: We had a girl in our 4th and 5th grade class that was UGLY. Some one really beat her with a big UGLY STICK. In fact we all suspected that she took ugly pills on the side. We called her flea bag and she didn’t argue with us usually. BAD. (No, we were not nice to her.)

 

One evening in my Senior year of High School this beautiful girl in a neat car pulled up beside me and told me she wanted to talk to me. We talked for some time before she said who she was. GUESS WHO????? (She never mentioned how she had been treated as a youngster — she was nice to us.)

 

Money for example: Mark Anderson, I have been told, of the Hyles Anderson college in the Chicago area, dedicated himself and $2000 to the Lord’s use and seven years later he was a millionaire serving God and giving and giving and giving.

 

Personality for example: Many ministers that I have been privileged to know were at one time quiet, withdrawn and shy individuals. Now they are outgoing servants of God.

 

7. Ryrie has one application and I would like for you to consider it for a moment. He suggests that God can never become indebted to us. He does as He chooses. In short, no matter how great you are, He is not obligated to bless you or do anything for you.

 

 

God Can Do As He Pleases. God Can Do As He Wants. God Can Do As He Desires.

In closing this section we must consider some questions that Isaiah asked. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor, hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?” Isaiah 40:13-14

 

Of course the answer must be a resounding, NO ONE.

 

God Is Self-Conscious

 

Personality begins to appear in a child as they become conscious of themselves. One of the traits of a growing child is the different levels of self-awareness. Most parents will say that the baby begins to take on personality very early in life. A baby will cry out of instinct however it isn’t long before the baby becomes aware that it is them that is crying, and then they become aware that mom comes when they cry. Soon they have mom and dad trained quite well.

 

Another item of maturation is the idea of babies playing with their feet. They have no idea, for some time that those things belong to them. They just play with what is handy. Those two feet stick up, so why not play with them. Many children react when they realize those funny looking things are theirs.

 

Man is for the most part conscious of himself, but not necessarily completely conscious. We are not aware of many things in our lives. We may have personality traits that have not surfaced as yet. We may have talents in areas that we haven’t explored as yet.

 

God is conscious of Himself in a most complete way. Exodus 3:14 “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” God is that He is, and He knows that which He is.

 

There is nothing about God that He does not know. There is no personality trait that will emerge in the next 100 million years that He did not know was there.

 

 

1 Corinthians 2:10,11 states, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but he Spirit of God.” This text shows that man cannot know God completely. It does show, however that GOD KNOWS HIMSELF COMPLETELY.

 

APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE

 

1. We are dealing with a God that knows all there is to know about Himself and we can be sure He isn’t going to change His mind because He just found out that He is a just God.

 

2. If He is totally conscious of Himself, then He is totally conscious of me. That should put me at peace about who I am. I am that which He has made me. I am just exactly what God wanted me to be this day, at this hour, at this moment.

 

I’m going to pick on the ladies for a moment or two and try to bring these two items together into one big application.

 

It is not only aimed at the women, but to the men as well for this may help them to help women that come to them for counseling in their ministry.

 

I have known of seven or eight women that have walked out on their husbands in recent years. These are Christian women. I have heard of others as well. Their reason for leaving is, “I need to find myself.”

 

I find in talking to the husbands that the wife does not know who she is. She doesn’t know what her identity is. This line of irrational thought is very frustrating to the husband that has just received total responsibility for caring for the family from a woman that he has known for a number of years, which suddenly doesn’t know who she is.

 

Most of these women are unsatisfied with being who they are so they set out to find themselves. They think by going out into the world they can make themselves over into what they want to be.

 

I tend to think that part of this is due to the media telling them that the housewife is a foo foo that is foolish for fooling with food for fuddy duddy hubby. The media demands that women be professional businesswomen, and a total knockout looks wise, or she is a flop.[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

New Post: Strange Fire – A Call to Respond – John MacArthur

For those who were unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1,  (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1, Q&A 1, Session Eight, Session 9, Breakout Session 2, Q&A 2). It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Read More Here: http://thecripplegate.com/strange-fire-a-call-to-respond-john-macarthur/

New Post: Strange Fire – Panel Q&A 2 – MacArthur, Mbewe, Johnson, & Busenitz

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1,  (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1, Q&A 1, Session Eight, Session 9, Breakout Session 2). It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Read More Here: http://thecripplegate.com/strange-fire-panel-qa-2-macarthur-mbewe-johnson-busenitz/

New Post: Strange Fire – Providence is Remarkable – Phil Johnson

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1, Q&A 1, Session Eight, Session 9). I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to do other sessions (check out Tim Challies’ blog for his coverage) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Read More Here: http://thecripplegate.com/strange-fire-providence-is-remarkable-phil-johnson/

Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Strange Fire and Leslie Nielsen

Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

Well, I was cross-border shopping this afternoon and playing in a park with my kids, but when I got back to the border, my phone went nuts with alerts/messages.  Apparently some rather ironic and humorous events happened today at the Strange Fire conference involving two well-known continuationist practical cessationist dudes and some boxes of books.  I’m guessing you already know what I’m talking about…

The dudes:

Bo

The boxes of books:

Twilight

Wow.  You were WAY off.

I said “dudes”, not “dukes”.  You should read more carefully…

These were the dudes:

James and Mark

(photo credit)

And they were handing out boxes of this book:

Call Resurgence

Now there are two sides saying what did and what did not happen, and since I wasn’t there I won’t weigh in with any ideas along the lines of that…but I will weigh in on the fact that they tried it

Mark Driscoll and James…

View original post 913 more words

[New post] A biblical response to Halloween

Halloween, from a degree of difficulty perspective, is the most challenging of all our holidays. A few days out of each October we are asked to give mental energy to this tradition.

This makes Halloween no different from any other thing in our lives. It is just another discipleship opportunity–a privilege the LORD gives us to bring a right response to our annual interruption and He does not leave us alone during this process.

The Spirit of God gives us clarity to all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). His authoritative and sufficient Word comes alongside us to guide our thoughts (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have each other to bounce off our ideas (Proverbs 11:14).

The triangulation of God, Scripture, and community provide us with unassailable wisdom to formulate a biblical response to Halloween. This is great news because like every other secondary issue, our collective perspectives and approaches are all over the map.

What shall I do?

Read More Here

New Post: Do We Care About Persecuted Christians?

On Tuesday, I began a slow return to virtual society at the Cripplegate with a post on Do American Christians Care about Persecuted Christians?

Referencing another article, I suggest 4 reasons why Americans seem to be apathetic toward the persecuted church:

1. Our media is focused on America.
2. Our spiritual and biblical ignorance of Christian fellowship.
3. Our understanding of “Christianity” is unbiblical.
4. Our hands feel tied.

With the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church weeks away (IDOP 2013), it seems like a timely subject. I found interaction in the comments to be uniquely helpful as well.

You can read the entire article and comments here.

Read More Here