The messages from T4G are already posted on the T4G website. All the plenary sessions and the panels posted in order below. Lig Duncan’s is one you’ll want to listen to, so I featured it above.
1. The Covenant of Works. Reformed covenant theology teaches that the New Testament shows that God made a covenant with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Because God created Adam in His own image, he was created in knowledge, righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10), which means that Adam had the work of the moral law, the Ten Commandments, written on his nature. Romans 2:14-15 says, “For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness.” Adam was the first Gentile (Lk 3:38), made in God’s image, which means that the “work of the law” was written on Adam’s heart.
But what law is Paul talking about in Romans 2? Paul goes on and lists laws of the Ten Commandments: “stealing” (Rom 2:21), “adultery” (Rom 2:22), and idolatry (Rom 2:22). Paul even distinguishes this moral law of the Ten Commandments from the “positive law” (law that is uniquely posited by God in each distinct covenant) in verse 26, where he says it is possible to “keep the law” without being “circumcised.” Thus, Adam had the work of the moral law of God, the Ten Commandments, written on his heart by nature, but not the Old Covenant positive laws. And the sinfulness of Adam’s disobeying God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was rebellion against God, which is a moral transgression against the Ten Commandments.
God created Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden, and required of him perfect obedience to the whole moral law of God (the Ten Commandments). His obedience to the Ten Commandments would be tested by whether or not he obeyed the positive law of that covenant of works (not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). If Adam had passed the test and fulfilled all righteousness by perfect obedience to the law, he would be justified, granted eternal life, and glorified. Of course, Adam sinned against God’s good law, and as a result, Adam and all of his posterity were condemned and became justly liable to eternal punishment in hell. Because of Adam’s failure in the covenant of works, those who descend from Adam by ordinary generation inherit from him a sinful nature that rebels against the work of the moral law written on their hearts (Rom 5:12, 18-19).
The Second London Baptist Confession clearly teaches that there was such a covenant with Adam in the Garden. The confession says, “Although God created man upright and perfect and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof . . . [Adam] did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them in eating the forbidden fruit” (6.1). It also says, “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant” (7.1). And it says, “The covenant of works, being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life” (20.1).
In summary, the covenant of works promised justification and eternal life to Adam on the condition of perfect obedience to the law of the Ten Commandments, which was imprinted on his nature, and obedience to the positive law of the Garden of Eden, which God revealed by way of covenant.
2. The Covenant of Redemption. Temporally speaking, the covenant of redemption was formed in eternity past, but Christ actually obeyed its terms in His incarnate life (2 Tim 1:9-10). But logically speaking, the covenant of redemption comes after the covenant of works because Christ undoes what Adam did in the fall. That’s why Paul speaks of Adam as the federal head of the human race and then Christ as the federal head of His people. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience, the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). Christ answers the problem Adam created in the covenant of works. That’s why Paul calls Christ the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45), referring to His work in the covenant of redemption.
The covenant of redemption was an arrangement, principally between the Father and the Son, about the redemption of the elect. Our Lord Jesus covenanted with the Father to do what Adam failed to do. As a substitute for the elect, He agreed to obey the Ten Commandments perfectly to merit justification, and to suffer condemnation and death to satisfy the penalty of the violated law. For Christ, this covenant of redemption was a covenant of works, not a covenant of grace. He had to obey the terms of this covenant in order to satisfy the law’s penalty of death and to earn the law’s blessing of life, and His resurrection proves that He earned justification and life for all His chosen people. This is Christ’s substitutionary work of law-keeping, which is the basis of free and gracious justification by faith alone. Jesus did what Adam and his descendants failed to do so that we only need to trust Him to be justified and reconciled to our holy God.
The Scripture explicitly calls this arrangement between the Father and Christ a “covenant.” In Luke 22:29, Jesus says, “I assign [diatithemai] to you, as my Father assigned [dietheto] to me, a kingdom.” The word “diatheme” can mean “to make a covenant or to enter into a covenant.” And here Jesus tells us that the Father made a covenant with Him to give Him a kingdom. The arrangement between the Father and the Son is also called a “covenant” in Isaiah 54:10, referring to the work of Christ to make peace between God and men in Isaiah 53. Many passages speak of such a covenantal arrangement between the Father and the Son (Ps 40:6-8; Is 42:1-9; 49:1-26; Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 10:17-18; 17:1-5; Eph 1:3-14).
The Second London Baptist Confession speaks of this covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son. It says “This covenant is revealed in the gospel . . . and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the son about the redemption of the elect; it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all of the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency” (7.3).
In summary, Adam sinned against God’s law in the covenant of works and so failed to obtain justification and life for those covenantally united to him, and instead brought condemnation and death upon them. But Christ perfectly obeyed God’s law in the covenant of redemption, earning its blessing and paying its penalty, and so merited justification and eternal life for the elect who are all united to Him in time.
3. The Covenant of Grace. Founded upon the covenant of redemption with Christ, God made the covenant of grace with His elect people for their salvation from condemnation and punishment. This covenant of grace was inaugurated in Genesis 3:15, immediately after the fall, when God promised His people that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. This covenant is revealed by farther steps throughout the Old Testament (eg., Isa 61:8-10; Hab 2:4), such that Old Testament saints were saved only by this one covenant of grace. Hebrews 9:15-17 explains that the covenant of grace saved those in the old covenant but that it was legally established at the death of Christ and the inauguration of the new covenant.
“Therefore, he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive” (Hebrews 9:15-17).
And what are the graces of this covenant of grace? They are the merits of Jesus in the covenant of redemption. Christ’s perfect obedience to the law and His death merited His resurrection life and resurrection life for all who are united to Him.
Union with Christ. The saving benefits of the covenant of redemption come to the elect in union with Him in the covenant of grace. God has blessed His people “in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Eph 1:3). That is every single saving blessing of the Holy Spirit comes to the elect after they are united to Him. The Holy Spirit works regeneration in the elect in union with Christ. He works repentance in the elect in their union with Christ. And justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification are all in union with Christ. Every blessing of the Holy Spirit comes at the point in time when the elect are united to Christ.
How does the covenant of grace undo the lawlessness of Adam in the covenant of works? The covenant of grace reverses Adam’s lawlessness and the lawlessness of His elect posterity with the two blessings, of justification and sanctification, which Calvin called the “duplex gratia.”
The Duplex Gratia: Undoing Lawlessness
Justification. In union with Christ, God imputes the perfect righteousness of Christ, earned by His perfect obedience to the law in the covenant of redemption, to His people for their justification. Jesus obeyed the law and paid its penalty; therefore, when the elect are united to Him and His righteousness, they receive His justification. They receive justification by faith alone and not by works because Christ has done all the works necessary to merit justification. In the context of union with Christ in the covenant of grace, Paul says, “If because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jess Christ” (Rom 5:17). The elect consciously accept Christ’s righteousness by faith in union with Him, but even their faith is a fruit and purchase of His perfect meritorious righteousness (2 Pet 1:1). The term “justification” here stands for every objective blessing. Adoption and positional sanctification are merited by Christ’s work in the covenant of redemption in the same way.
Sanctification. In union with Christ, God regenerates and produces a progressive holiness in believers on the basis of Christ’s merits in the covenant of redemption (Rom 8:10). Christ’s work in the covenant of redemption earned life and freedom from sin and its miseries for His chosen bride, which is why the Spirit gives the elect freedom from actual sins in the covenant of grace. That means, He makes them to walk in His law (Rom 8:4). They freely and willingly keep the Ten Commandments from the heart. In Hebrews 8:10 God says that in this covenant of grace “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts.”
The Second London Baptist Confession speaks of the covenant of grace: “Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace, wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, His Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe” (7.2).
The Covenant of Works: The Law as a Covenant
Adam broke the law of God in the covenant of works and brought the curse of condemnation and actual sinfulness upon himself and his posterity.
The Covenant of Redemption: The Gospel Accomplished
But Christ obeyed the law of God in the covenant of redemption and purchased the resurrection life of justification (a righteous law status) and holiness (actual lawfulness) for His people.
The Covenant of Grace: The Gospel Applied
The Holy Spirit applies Christ to God’s chosen people by uniting them to Christ in the covenant of grace and giving them the double blessing of justification and sanctification. In justification, the law’s curse is cancelled and righteousness is imputed, giving them the right and title to eternal life. In sanctification, the Spirit works actual holy obedience to God’s good law, making them more and more like Christ for their joy and His glory.
Thus covenant theology preserves justification, which is at the heart of the gospel, and it preserves sanctification, which is likewise one of the gospel’s very precious promises. Those who love the Reformed understanding of the gospel should not neglect the Reformed doctrine of the covenants. There is richness and life to be found here.
– Episode 2253 –
John Macarthur: Tithing, Women Elders, Calvinism vs Arminianism
Segment 1 (00:00) – The tithe amount in the New Testament
Segment 2 (09:56) – Women elders is actually a question of scriptural authority
Segment 3 (19:56) – Offending everybody else!
Wretched Surprise! (26:09) – Grace Gem, Henry, Meekness
The post John Macarthur: Tithing, Women Elders, Calvinism vs Arminianism appeared first on Wretched.
What is a theologian?
For many in the church, it’s an intimidating term applied only to spiritually elite believers. It’s an achieved status—one earned through years of seminary, writing, and the other exploits of ivory tower academics.
But that is not a biblical distinction. The truth is, everyone is a theologian.
In simple terms, theology is what we believe about God. And in that sense, everyone has a particular theological perspective. Practically speaking, even atheists are theologians.
The real question then is not who is or isn’t a theologian, but what is the quality of a given person’s theology? Is it biblically based and doctrinally sound? Or is it a carelessly constructed hash of worldly wisdom and pseudo-scriptural ideas? Perhaps even more tragic are those who fight for precision on peripheral theological issues while confusing and corrupting the essentials.
We must not make the mistake of assuming we can spot good theologians by their clerical garb or credentials. We have to measure them by their fidelity to the gospel. On the other hand, if they’re wrong about the gospel, they might as well be wrong about everything.
In Luke 23 we observe an encounter between Christ and a truly great theologian. His brief, four-verse cameo succinctly communicates a tremendous wealth of doctrinal truth. In fact, widely-celebrated scholars have spent thousands of pages muddling what this man clearly enunciated in three short sentences.
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39–43)
The thief on the cross presents us with a basic but powerful systematic theology. His words give us a synopsis of essential gospel truth.
The Fear of the Lord
The first essential truth the repentant thief (from now on referred to as “the thief”) understood was that God should be feared. In fact, his first recorded words are a stern rebuke to the unrepentant thief: “Do you not fear God?” (Luke 23:40). John MacArthur points out that this sudden outburst represented a startling change considering both thieves had earlier hurled insults at Christ in unison (Matthew 27:44).
He confronted the tragic condition that only moments before had been his own. In a moment, he went from being part of it to being unable to comprehend it. He was convicted by the Holy Spirit that he was a violator of God’s law. By his own admission, his sentence from a human judge was fair and just, and he realized that the torment he was enduring for breaking the law was insignificant compared to what he could expect for his sin from the divine Judge. He was afraid, not of those who were destroying his body, but of God, who would destroy both his body and his soul in hell (Luke 12:4–5).
It is characteristic for the unregenerate to have no fear of God (Romans 3:18). But the conviction wrought by the power of the Spirit of God produces a holy fear of divine judgment. Convicted sinners cry out like the repentant tax collector in Luke 18:13, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” True salvation is not from material poverty or poor self-esteem, but from God’s wrath, justice, and judgment. 
As the thief faced the just consequences of his wicked lifestyle, he clung to the foundation of all true knowledge—“the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7). He heeded Solomon’s counsel: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). That was clearly evident in his refusal to join the chorus of unbelievers surrounding him.
The words of the thief stand in stark contrast to the blasphemous utterances coming from everyone else around him. The unrepentant thief, the Jewish rulers, and the Roman soldiers were all scornful and irreverent in their mockery of Christ. Their behavior showed no fear of God whatsoever—if anything, they were gleefully venting their unbelief.
The Jewish “rulers were sneering at Him, saying, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One’” (Luke 23:35). The Roman “soldiers also mocked Him . . . saying, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’” (Luke 23:36). The unrepentant thief “was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’” (Luke 23:39). Their taunting statements eerily echo Satan: “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3); “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here” (Luke 4:9).
Those disparate people shared one thing in common: they refused to acknowledge the deity of Christ. They would only worship God on their terms, according to the evidence they demanded. They stood in judgment over who God is and how He reveals Himself. In essence, they established themselves as sovereign over the Lord and Creator of the universe.
In a situation where all the visible power on display belonged to those on the ground—religious leaders, political rulers, and Roman soldiers—the thief made his appeal to the Man hanging beside him. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). Surrounded by sneering human authorities, the thief recognized who was really in charge, and cried out to the King of God’s kingdom.
Note also that the thief didn’t make demands or deliver ultimatums. He recognized the Lord Jesus as Messiah, and pleaded with Him for his soul. The thief understood the guilt he bore, and the righteousness of the One crucified next to him: “This man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). And although he hadn’t read a book on the attributes of God—he probably couldn’t even read—the thief could recognize true sovereign authority when he saw it.
What we initially see in the thief’s cry of repentance and faith is a healthy, reverential fear of God. It’s the starting point of all good theology, and it set him on a path that culminated with his humble willingness to beg for forgiveness and salvation. His right view of God led him to, among other things, a right view of himself and his sin.
And that’s where we will pick it up next time.
Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180323
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You
You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).
“You drive for show and putt for the dough.”
That’s a popular golfing proverb with more than a grain of truth to it. You can have every other technical detail locked down. But if you can’t master the basics and complete the fundamental goal, the rest of your proficiency is wasted and irrelevant. And that’s not just a problem for golfers—it’s a serious fault with many theologians today.
Plenty of celebrated theologians can wax eloquent about doctrinal fine points, but they can’t simply explain how a person can have his or her sins forgiven. They may be proficient in Hebrew and Greek, able to decipher the timing of Daniel’s seventieth week, and even know all the finer points of second-temple Judaism. But the clarity and simplicity of the gospel message eludes them—it’s lost in a sea of caveats and qualifiers.
We’ve devoted plenty of time on this blog to the immense dangers of gospel minimization and oversimplification. But overcomplicating the message of salvation is no less dangerous.
We recently asked John MacArthur about theological overcomplication and the need to keep the gospel pure and clear. His response points us to an outstanding theologian who displayed rare expertise. Surprisingly, this great Christian thinker didn’t go to seminary. In fact, he probably never went to school at all.
We should never complicate a message that’s meant to be clear and accessible to all people. The repentant thief, who spoke with Jesus while the two hung side by side at Calvary, provides a powerful biblical example of uncomplicated excellence in the theology of salvation.
His brief conversation with Jesus—just four verses (Luke 23:40–43)—reveals that this criminal was a theologian of the highest order when it came to matters of first importance. He clearly understood the essentials of theology, anthropology, eschatology, Christology, and soteriology.
Please join us in the days ahead as we examine “The Theology of the Thief.”
Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180321
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You
You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).
“God made men and women different from day one of creation… sorry, day six. He meant for men to fill certain roles and women to fill certain roles. We are one body in Christ made of individual parts, each functioning in their own way. One person is not to infringe upon another or take it upon themselves to do the task given to someone else.”
In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” The context here is church leadership, an instruction that continues into chapter 3. A woman is not permitted to be a pastor in a church (elder, bishop, overseer, etc.). Only a man can be a pastor.
This instruction is not limited to the time-period in which Paul was writing. It applies to all people in every place at every point in the history of the church. How do we know this? Because Paul goes all the way back to Genesis with his explanation: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (verses 13-14).
So the first reason the role of pastor is to be filled by a man is because Adam was formed first, and Eve was formed from Adam as his help-meet. The differences between the sexes and the different roles they are assigned are not a result of the fall. They were established at creation and have applied to all people in all cultures at all times.
The second reason a pastor is to be man is because Adam was not deceived by the serpent, but the woman was deceived and transgressed the law of God. This might seem unfair because Adam certainly sinned as well, and death came to all men because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21). But Adam wasn’t deceived, and Eve was. So whether we’re talking about a perfect, sinless world, or the fallen, sinful one we currently inhabit, God intends that a man be the one to shepherd the flock of God (pastor means “shepherd;” see also 1 Peter 5:1-5).
Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak at church” (1 Corinthians 14:33-35).
This doesn’t mean a woman is supposed to have duct-tape over her mouth from the moment she walks into church to the moment she walks out. The context is teaching the church, or administering the authority of the word of God over the gathered people of God. The role as overseer is set apart for specifically a man to fill.
This also doesn’t mean a church that obeys this instruction is oppressing women. Heavens, no! A woman sitting in that church during a gospel sermon is no more oppressed than any man in the congregation. The truth does not oppress those who listen to it — it sets them free (John 8:31). It is a woman’s delight to learn quietly with all submissiveness, and she does this in honor of the Lord.
Women serve an incredibly important role in the church. If a church was all men and no women, that would be a dysfunctional church (see Titus 2:1-8). The church is to be made up of men and women, young and old, complimenting one another in their strengths and weaknesses, working and growing together so that we may be a functioning body of Christ.
But each according to their own purpose. God made men and women different from day one of creation… sorry, day six. He meant for men to fill certain roles and women to fill certain roles. We are one body in Christ made of individual parts, each functioning in their own way. One person is not to infringe upon another or take it upon themselves to do the task given to someone else. We all submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
Bad Arguments for Women Pastors
Over the weekend, a friend got into a discussion over this topic with a feminist, and the feminist retorted with a list of names — women of the Bible who were more than just “helps” but, in her view, were qualified to be pastors. That list was as follows: “Deborah, Hannah, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Jael, Proverbs 31, Wisdom personified as woman in Proverbs 8 (present with God at creation), Phoebe, Lydia, Prisca, Mary, Mary Magdalene, [were] all just there ‘to help’?”
This is a very common tactic when arguing for why women deserve to be pastors: throw out the name of a woman from the Bible. Boom! But that name is always taken out of context. There are no examples of a woman serving as a pastor in the church. None of the apostles were women, for that matter. I can say “period” and leave it at that. The instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is clear.
But for the sake of teaching, I’d like to go through that list of names and explain why they’re actually bad examples. While they are not examples of women pastors, most of them are certainly great examples for being strong women of God.
The book of Judges captures a very dark time in Israel’s history. In those days there was no king in Israel, and the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25). But God gave them judges to be their leaders, decision-makers, and deliverers.
The pattern of the story of Judges goes like this: the people sinned and worshiped false gods, the Lord sent an enemy to punish and oppress them, the people cried out for mercy, so God sent a judge to conquer their enemies and deliver a semi-repentant Israel. Wash, rinse, repeat. Three of the most famous judges were Samson, Gideon, and a woman named Deborah.
Deborah was a prophetess and a God-fearing woman who judged during a time when there were no God-fearing men. In Judges 4, Deborah confronted Barak, commander of the Lord’s army, who was reluctant to do what God had told him to do: gather his troops and fight the Canaanites. Instead, Barak told Deborah, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” So Deborah mommied him and led him by the hand to get him to obey God.
If you had been reading through Deuteronomy and Joshua, by the time you got to Judges 4, you’d recognize Israel’s digression in faith and obedience. In Deuteronomy 1:15, the tribes of Israel had wise and experienced men as heads over them. In Joshua 24:1, these men met with Joshua to renew their covenant before God. But within a generation, Israel began worshiping the Baals and forgot what the Lord had done for them (Judges 2:10-12).
It got to the point that the men weren’t doing what the leaders of Israel were supposed to do. So God placed a woman over them as though to say, “Sure, I’ll deliver you from your enemies. But to your shame, I’m going to send a woman to do what no man will do.” It was an embarrassment that Deborah was judge, not a high achievement (consider Judges 9:53 where it was to Abimelech’s shame that he was killed by a woman and not a man). In Deborah’s song of victory, she praised the tribes that stepped up to fight and lambasted those who stayed home (Judges 5:14-18).
Isaiah 3:12 says, “My people — infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” It is the judgment of God upon a nation when women occupy the roles that should be filled by men. Barak should have been the judge of Israel, following in the footsteps of Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar before him. But because he was kind of a weenie, God gave Deborah to do what Barak wouldn’t.
So using Deborah as an argument for why it’s okay for a woman to be a pastor really isn’t a good move. It would be to admit, “There are no godly men here, so a woman is going to have to do this job.” When a woman is pastor, the church is immature and disobedient, just like Israel was when Deborah was judge. She is a great example of a God-fearing woman. She is not an example of a pastor.
The post Bad Examples of Women Pastors (But Great Examples of Godly Women) appeared first on The Aquila Report.
During the final ten days of December, we will be posting our top ten articles from 2015. Today’s post came in at number 5. This article was originally published on July 17.
But what about free online resources? Thankfully, the web has made it possible for almost anyone with a computer to access hundreds of valuable study tools. For people who don’t have immediate access to a sizeable library, that’s great news.
If you’re an avid online Bible student, you are probably already familiar with the ten resources I’ve listed below. But these are the ones that I find most helpful in my own personal study.
Having said that, I’m always looking for new sites, to add even more richness to my online study time. So, if you think of one I’ve missed, be sure to add a comment and mention it.
My Top-Ten Favorite Online Study Resources
1. The John MacArthur Sermon Archive — When it comes to clearly and accurately explaining the Word of God, there is no pastor I trust more than John MacArthur. The fact that he has preached through every verse of the New Testament, and that all of those sermons are available for free online (both in audio and transcript form), means that this resource is as exhaustive as it is valuable. The topical Q&A section is also an expansive resource, giving practical and biblical instruction on a wide variety of issues.
2. The Theological Resource Center — The featured resource on the site is a growing library of video lectures taught by the TMS faculty. These lectures can be watched, free-of-charge, by anyone with an internet connection. The site currently contains eleven full courses, consisting of more than 200 individual lectures. Over the next few months, the library will grow to include over 20 courses, offering hundreds of hours of seminary-level lecture content. When complete, this online video library will cover a wide range of topics including Bible Survey, Grammar and Exegesis, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, and Biblical Counseling.
3. BibleStudyTools.com – This website came in handy even when I was a seminary student. I especially appreciated the interlinear Bible which worked great with the corresponding BST Greek and Hebrew fonts. While it is no substitute for Logos, this website provides a number of helpful study tools for free—including commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and lexicons. Similar sites include http://www.studylight.org, http://www.e-sword.net, and http://www.blueletterbible.org.
4. Online Commentaries – There are probably two dozen classic commentary sets available online. One of the most expansive lists of online commentaries (organized by book of the Bible) is found here. Though the majority of these commentaries are older (which is why they are now in the public domain), they still represent a wealth of insightful information about the biblical text.
5. BibleGateway.com – I appreciate two things about Bible Gateway. First, it is one of the easiest-to-use Bible searching websites. Finding passages of Scripture in multiple versions is quick and painless. Second, it is home to the online-edition of the IVP commentaries . This is one of the few modern commentaries available for free on the web.
6. Google Books– Of course, if I want to peruse modern commentaries (or other books) without going to the library, I use Google Books. I am a huge fan of Google Books; and if you’ve never used it before, you really should try it out. It is incredible. Admittedly, most of the modern books are limited to only a “preview.” But, you can still search the entire book; which makes it an extremely useful database. And, sometimes you find a gem, like the full version of John Broadus on Matthew or Martin Luther on The Sermon on the Mount.
Another nice feature (especially for seminary students) is that, if you cite a source from Google Books, you can cite the actual page in your footnotes, and not some long, messy URL.
On a side note, if a page is not viewable in Google books (because of the “preview” limitations), you can often find it at Amazon.com, using the “Look Inside” feature. Partnering the Google Books database with the Amazon.com database results in more information online and fewer trips to the library.
Google Scholar is a related resource from Google. This is not quite as helpful as Google Books, and it’s still in a Beta Version. But in essence, what Google Books is to books, Google Scholar is to journals. So, it can still turn up helpful information, especially if you’re looking for journal articles on a given topic. (Of course, a number of schools make their journals available on their websites. For example, if you’re looking to search TMSJ, you can just click here.)
7. iTunes U – So, technically, this resource utilizes iTunes and not your normal web browser … but it is an incredible resource nonetheless. A significant number of theological institutions (as well as other universities and colleges) have made lectures available for free download through iTunes. Now you can get a free seminary-level education while you commute to work or run on the treadmill.
I’ve personally benefited greatly from some of the Church History lectures that are available from various evangelical seminaries. And it’s fun to know I can “sit in” on a class at MIT or Harvard anytime I want–even if I don’t get official credit for it. (For theological students, another website that is similar to this is, though on a smaller scale, is http://www.biblicaltraining.org.)
8. Christian Classics Ethereal Library – Speaking of Church History, an area near-and-dear to my heart, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library is undoubtedly the largest collection of historic Christian resources on the web. If I’m looking for something from the church fathers, or Augustine, or Aquinas, or Calvin, or the Puritans, CCEL is usually the first place I look.
(Of course, if I’m looking for stuff related to Charles Spurgeon, no site is better than Phil Johnson’s Spurgeon archive.)
9. Bible.org – This site houses an expansive array of articles, organized by both topic and by book of the Bible. Contributors include well-known scholars like Daniel Wallace, Kenneth Boa, Darrel Bock, Eugene Merrill, and John Walvoord. (The site’s connection to Dallas Theological Seminary is no secret.) Also, this site is the home of the NET Bible, which is notable because of the translation notes that accompany the text.
10. Monergism.com – This site is somewhat similar to http://www.bible.org, though from a more Reformed perspective. Also, it serves largely as a topic-based portal—directing visitors to helpful articles on a wide array of subjects. The site includes an excellent database of sermon manuscripts, making it especially helpful for Bible study.
Well, there you have my top ten picks.
There are obviously many more websites that I could have mentioned. You’ll notice I kept the “blog” category completely off of this list. (Perhaps that is due to the fact that blogs tend to distract me from studying, rather than help me study.)
Having said that, I’m always looking to expand this list to include other great websites.
If you think I missed something, please share it with us in the comments section below.
Abstract: Through following a distorted meaning of “love,” some in the present day have condoned homosexual practice, without realizing that biblical love excludes homosexuality because of its sinfulness. Christians can best share the gospel with homosexuals by calling their lifestyle what the Bible calls it—sin. Genesis 1–2, Matthew 19, and Ephesians 5 describe clearly the way that God has instituted marriage as a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. Genesis 19, Jude 7, and 2 Peter 2 illustrate how the Fall almost immediately eroded the purity of human sexuality, including a devastation of the divine institution of marriage. Leviticus 18 and 20 and Romans 1 lay out very plainly God’s instructions about how repulsive homosexuality is in God’s sight. Yet Isaiah 56 and 1 Corinthians 6 make plain God’s plan for homosexuals to find freedom and forgiveness through a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ. The door is wide open for homosexuals and lesbians to accept God’s invitation.
Abstract: A tidal wave of immorality has inundated the United States and the rest of the world, demanding that the church respond to homosexuality in four ways. First, it must expose the sinfulness of homosexuality as depicted in the NT. Second, it must clarify that the grace of God and forgiveness extends to homosexuals also. The NT also makes this clear. Third, the church must expel practicing homosexuals from its fellowship. For them to remain a part of the church activities is a blemish that cannot be tolerated because it would indicate moral compromise, a lack of courage in confronting sin, and a failure to exercise the biblical prerogative of excommunication. Fourth, the church must resist the assault of homosexuality on society as a whole. The purposeful effort to sell the homosexual lifestyle is organized and dangerous and needs a concerted resistance to halt that movement.
Abstract: The difficulties encountered in parenting, including that caused by children’s depravity, are best resolved through implementing biblical principles. In a society that is permissive and even positive toward the homosexual lifestyle, Christian parents should adopt eleven biblical goals in rearing their children. (1) They should do everything to reflect God and His glory. (2) They should help their children understand the gospel so that they receive salvation. (3) They should protect their children from physical and spiritual harm. (4) They should instruct their children in the truths of Scripture. (5) They should interpret Scripture so as to give their children a Christian worldview. (6) They should prepare their children for the responsibilities of adulthood. (7) They should prevent their children from falling to temptation by teaching them the consequences of sin. (8) They should correct any tendencies their children display toward sinful activities. (9) They should provide for the physical and spiritual needs of their children. (10) They should provide positive behavioral examples for their children to follow. (11) They should establish clear lines of communication with their children. These goals will help them deal with the same morally degenerate world as existed during NT times.
Abstract: Three questions need to be answered regarding cultural and medical myths about homosexuality: (1) Is there a “gay gene”? In giving a positive answer, some sources cite two categories, nature and nurture. Behavioral genetics have sought and allegedly found a source for homosexuality, but many scientists have strong questions about behavioral genetics. Various studies have failed to prove conclusively that a “gay gene” exists. (2) Is it possible for a person to change sexual orientation from being homosexual to heterosexual? The current consensus in the mental health profession is that attempts to convert a homosexual to a heterosexual are too likely to be harmful. A possibility of change has been demonstrated, but worldwide consensus continues to view such a change as impossible because of biological and psychiatric factors. Studies by Spitzer and Jones/Yarhouse have identified examples of change without harm to individuals involved. (3) How have homosexual activists impacted modern cultures throughout the world? Various pieces of legislation, both national and international, have put at risk anyone who dares to oppose homosexuality. Even some ecclesiastical leaders have softened their tone in speaking against this sexual deviation.
Abstract: Traditional interpretation of rsenokotai (arsenokoitai, “homosexuals”) in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 refers to sexual vice between people of the same sex, specifically homosexuality. Some restrict the term’s meaning to “active male prostitute,” but stronger evidence supports a more general translation, namely “homosexuals.” More recently the definition “homosexual” has been opposed on cultural and linguistic grounds, the claim being that the term “homosexuals” is anachronistic. In addition, criticism of the traditional rendering says the term today includes celibate homophiles, excludes heterosexuals who engage in homosexual acts, and includes female homosexuals. A concern for acts instead of the modern attention to desires was the only factor in the ancient world. The foregoing opposition to the translation of arsenokoitai by “homosexuals” has a number of debilitating weaknesses. Finally, this study argues that Paul coined the term arsenokoitai, deriving it from the LXX of Lev 20:13 (cf. 18:22) and using it for homosexual orientation and behavior, the latter of which should be an occasion for church discipline (1 Corinthians 5-6) and legislation in society (1 Tim 1:8-11).
Abstract: Isaiah speaks of the judgment inflicted by God’s wrath as His strange act and His strange work. The Pauline picture of human history in Rom 1:18–3:20 tells more about God’s judgment and why it is “strange.” His threefold use of paredôken tells of God’s giving mankind over to deserved punishment, which is more than a permissive divine action and more than a privative action—a withholding of common grace. It must be a judicial act of God in imposing His wrath on mankind. The devolution in human history is reflected in the more recent tendency of society to accept the sin of homosexuality and other sexual deviations as a mere sickness and not as sin. Civilizations throughout the world, particularly in the United States, are hurrying to their destruction by neglecting the righteousness of God in Christ, thus bringing on themselves the judgment of God as described in Rom 1:18–3:20. This is God’s temporal judgment which is preliminary to His eternal judgment on a rebellious human race. Retributive justice is an attribute of God and a necessary feature of His actions toward unbelieving humanity.
by John MacArthur
How do you overcome sin and live the Christian life? Is defeating sin something God does in you, or do you defeat it by obeying the commands of Scripture? In other words, is the Christian life an exercise in passive trust or active obedience? Is it all God’s doing, all the believer’s doing, or a combination of both? Those questions are as old as the church, and the varied answers have spawned movements and denominations.
This is not an unusual issue when dealing with spiritual truth. Many doctrines involve seeming paradoxes. For example, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man; and while Scripture was written by human authors, God wrote every word. The gospel is offered to the whole world, yet applied only to the elect. God eternally secures believers’ salvation, yet they are commanded to persevere.
Christians who try to reconcile every doctrine in a humanly rational way are inevitably drawn to extremes. Seeking to remove all mystery and paradox, they emphasize one truth or aspect of God’s Word at the expense of another which seems to contradict it. This is precisely how many Christians have handled the doctrine of sanctification. One view of sanctification emphasizes God’s role to the virtual exclusion of the believer’s effort. This is often referred to as quietism. The opposite extreme is called pietism.
The quietist sees believers as passive in sanctification. A common maxim is, “Let go and let God.” Another is, “I can’t; God can.” Quietism tends to be mystical and subjective, focusing on personal feelings and experiences. A person who is utterly submitted to and dependent on God, they say, will be divinely protected from sin and led into faithful living. Trying to strive against sin or discipline oneself to produce good works is considered not only futile but unspiritual and counterproductive.
One champion of this view was the devout Quaker Hannah Whitall Smith, whose book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life has been read by millions. In it she writes,
What can be said about man’s part in this great work but that he must continually surrender himself and continually trust? But when we come to God’s side of the question, what is there that may not be said as to the manifold ways, in which He accomplishes the work entrusted to Him? It is here that the growing comes in. The lump of clay could never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay pit for thousands of years; but when it is put into the hands of a skilful potter it grows rapidly, under his fashioning, into the vessel he intends it to be. And in the same way the soul, abandoned to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is made into a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use. (Westwood, N.J.: Revell, 1952, 32. Italics in original.)
How a Christian can fall into sin is a difficult question for the quietist to answer. They are forced to argue that such a person obviously misunderstands the matter of complete surrender, and has taken himself out of the hands of the heavenly Potter. But that flawed answer brings God’s sovereignty into question—if the Lord is completely in control, how can a believer take himself out of God’s hands?
Pietists, on the other hand, are typically aggressive in their pursuit of doctrinal and moral purity. Historically, this movement originated in seventeenth-century Germany as a reaction to the dead orthodoxy of many Protestant churches. To their credit, most pietists place strong emphasis on Bible study, holy living, self-discipline, and practical Christianity. They emphasize such passages as “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1) and “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).
Unfortunately, this unbalanced view often leads to an overemphasis on self-effort to the virtual exclusion of dependence on divine power. As you might expect, pietism frequently leads to legalism, moralism, self-righteousness, a judgmental spirit, pride, and hypocrisy.
The quietist says, “Do nothing.”
The pietist says, “Do everything.”
In Philippians 2:12–13, Paul presents the appropriate resolution between the two. He makes no effort to rationally harmonize the believer’s part and God’s part in sanctification. He is content with the paradox and simply states both truths, saying on the one hand, sanctification is of believers (Philippians 2:12), and on the other hand, it is of God (Philippians 2:13).
The truth is that sanctification is God’s work, but He performs it through the diligent self-discipline and righteous pursuits of His people, not in spite of them. God’s sovereign work does not absolve believers from the need for obedience; it means their obedience is itself a Spirit-empowered work of God.
Today there is an intense debate within the church about this vital issue. The stakes are high—your view of sanctification informs and directs how you understand your new nature in Christ, how you evangelize others, pursue godliness, govern your heart and mind, how you raise and discipline your children, and how you understand and follow God’s commands in Scripture. For pastors and church leaders, your position on this issue will determine how you preach and teach, how you give counsel to troubled hearts, and how you engage in church discipline.
Neither quietism nor pietism represents the biblical path of sanctification. Both are spiritual ditches to steer clear of—they will impede your spiritual progress, and potentially obstruct it altogether.
In the days ahead, we’re going to examine the model of sanctification Paul presents in Philippians 2, and explore the dual realities of God’s sovereign work and man’s responsibility.
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians.)
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140702
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by John MacArthur
There is colossal confusion about what it means to be a Christian. Through mass communication the culture receives conflicting messages about what defines authentic Christianity. Cults, charismatic speakers, and criminally convicted church leaders only muddle the confusion on a grand scale.
What’s perhaps worse than confusing the culture is giving false confidence to professing Christians and false doubts to true believers. False confidence comes from a gospel of cheap grace where one can believe without any cost to themselves (contrary to Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34-38). False doubts rise out of accusations of legalism and works-righteousness.
These problems are not new. Nearly as soon as the church began, counterfeit Christians brought confusion. The longest living apostle who witnessed counterfeits of every kind addressed these very issues under the inspiration of the Spirit.
The book of 1 John is about testing the authenticity of your faith. It’s about knowing what a true Christian’s life ought to look like, and carefully evaluating yourself according to the standard the apostle John spells out for his readers.
John’s portrait of true faith highlights the conflict between sin and saving faith. Over and over, he makes clear that true believers cannot and will not continue to live in open, unrepentant sin after salvation. That’s particularly clear in the verses we’ve been discussing over the last few weeks (1 John 3:4-10).
And as we come to the end of this passage, John presents us with one more reason that sin and saving faith are incompatible. The first two focused on the nature of sin and the work of Christ; today we focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
Old Sin Versus New Birth
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9-10)
The new birth—what John calls being “born of God”—epitomizes the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:3-8). The Spirit implants in those He regenerates the essence of His divine life, which John pictures as a “seed.” Just as a human birth results from an implanted seed that grows into new physical life, so also spiritual life begins when, at the moment of regeneration, the divine seed is implanted by the Spirit within the one who believes.
The instrument by which the Spirit gives new birth to sinners is the Word of God. As the apostle Peter explained to the readers of his first letter,
You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)
The new birth is from imperishable seed, securing the believer’s salvation for eternity. It enlightens the mind so one can discern spiritual realities (1 Corinthians 2:10, 13-14). It gives believers the mind of Christ so they can understand the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:16). It liberates and energizes the enslaved will, previously unable to obey God but now freely able and willing to do so (John 6:44, 65; Colossians 2:13).
The new birth signals the end of the sinner’s old life. Those who were hopelessly corrupt become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), buried with Him and raised unto a new life of righteousness (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:24). Therefore he states again that believers cannot practice sin because they are born of God.
God’s Work or My Work?
The new birth is also a monergistic operation, which means God’s Spirit alone accomplishes it (as opposed to synergistic, which means that human effort participates in the process). Paul’s language in Ephesians 2:4-6 is unmistakably clear in this regard:
God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Because unregenerate people are spiritually dead, they are unable to respond to divine truth. This doctrine of total depravity—better understood as the doctrine of total inability—does not mean that the unredeemed are as sinful as they could possibly be. Rather, it means that the fallen, sinful nature affects every area of life and renders them incapable of saving themselves. Thus the spiritually dead person needs to be made alive by God alone, through His Spirit. That same power energizes every aspect of Christian living (Ephesians 1:19-20; Colossians 2:12-13).
The Spirit-Empowered Result of Salvation
John concludes our passage with the summary statement of verse 10: “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”
There are only two groups of people in the world: “the children of God and the children of the devil.” The first exhibits God’s righteous character through obeying His law; the second exhibits Satan’s sinful character by disregarding the Word and habitually sinning. No matter what people may profess, or what past religious ritual or experience they may point to, the true nature of their faith ultimately shows itself in how they live.
The popular gospel today has no time for that truth. It only wants to drum up an emotional moment and affirm people’s salvation on the basis of that moment rather than on the evidence of a transformed life. But a no-repentance, no-holiness, no-submission, no-transformation gospel is the devil’s lie to give false security to damned people.
If you truly love the Lord, your life will evidence the authority of His Word, the righteousness of His Son, and the manifest work of His Spirit. If it doesn’t, then you have good reason to question whether you truly belong to Him.
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John.)
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140630
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by John MacArthur
What did Jesus set out to accomplish? Did His death and resurrection have any practical effect for this life, or was it all focused on eternity? Consider this: the holy Son of God set aside His glory, humbled Himself by taking the form of a man, lived a righteous life, and willingly surrendered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of others. Was all intended merely to forgive sin without removing it?
The apostle John wrote his first epistle to help his readers test the authenticity of their faith. These tests come down to examining whether Christ’s work has had its necessary effect on their lives. And in 1 John 3:5-8, he makes it clear that Christ’s work on our behalf ought to have a significant sanctifying impact in the lives of His people.
You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
Christ’s Work on Our Behalf
Jesus came to earth “in order to take away sins” (1 John 3:5). He came not only to pay the penalty for sin and provide forgiveness, but also to take sins away altogether. As a result of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, believers have been set apart from sin unto holiness. The lawlessness that once characterized their lives has been removed.
Therefore, it is inconsistent with His redeeming work on the cross for anyone who shares in the very life of Christ to continue in sin. In other words, because Christ died to sanctify the believer (2 Corinthians 5:21), to live sinfully is contrary to His work of breaking the dominion of sin in the believer’s life (cf. Romans 6:1-15).
The truth that Christ came to destroy sin is not merely a future hope; it is a present reality. John is not saying—as some have tried to infer—that believers will eventually be delivered from sin when they die, and in the meantime can be as sinful as they were before their conversion. On the contrary, while sanctification may be slow and gradual, Christ’s transforming work in salvation is immediate (Philippians 1:6).
At salvation believers experience a real cleansing of and separation from their sins. On a practical level, that separation continues as they become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Titus 2:11-14 summarizes well the present and future aspects of sanctification.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
So the one-time work of Christ on the cross initiates His ongoing work in our lives. But what fuels that ongoing work? What transformation takes place that enables us to overcome sin in this life?
Our New Nature in Christ
John concludes verse 5 with the phrase “in Him there is no sin.” Jesus Christ is the sinless One (2 Corinthians 5:21). This truth has immense practical ramifications. “If you know that He is righteous,” John wrote earlier in the epistle, “you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). When God’s saving power is applied to a new believer, they are born again—they receive a new nature. And like a newborn baby, they embark on a life of learning to live in God’s kingdom.
Then in verse 6 the apostle describes the character of the person saved through the work of Jesus Christ. “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” Abiding in Christ can be likened to dwelling in His kingdom, following His laws, and celebrating His victories. In short, the new nature draws one toward Christ and away from sin.
Years earlier Paul taught the same truth to the Roman believers.
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:4-7)
That description outlines key provisions of the New Covenant (Ezekiel 36:25-31), which Paul further elaborates:
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)
The emphasis of the apostle’s statements is on sanctification. True Christians have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-17), receive a new heart (Acts 16:14), complete forgiveness (Colossians 1:14), and a transformed life (Colossians 3:5-10)—all evidenced in their new ability to obey the law of God.
Sanctification and Assurance
John taught that “no one who sins” (1 John 3:6) can also abide in Christ. It is not that people who become Christians will never sin again (1 John 1:8), but that they will not live as they once did, because “no one who sins” consistently or habitually in the pattern of the unregenerate “has seen Him or knows Him” (3:6).
John further cautioned his readers to make sure no one deceived them concerning a correct understanding of sanctification. Despite any deceptive teaching to the contrary, only the one “who practices righteousness” can have any assurance that he “is righteous, just as [Jesus] is righteous” (1 John 3:7).
John makes the obvious conclusion that because “the Son of God appeared . . . to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), it is impossible and unthinkable that true believers would continue in devil-like behavior. Today Satan is still opposing the plans and people of God (1 Peter 5:8), but believers are no longer his children or under his rule. We who know and love Christ have been freed from the captivity of sin, and the apostle John—through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—says we must live accordingly.
So far we’ve seen that a lifestyle of sin is incompatible with saving faith because sin is lawlessness, and true believers have had that defiant, lawless heart replace with a heart of repentance. Today we’ve seen how Christ’s work not only forgives sin, but initiates the life-long process of sanctification. John has one final argument for why sin is incompatible with saving faith, and it focuses on the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit. We’ll wrap up this series with that last point next time.
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John.)
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140626
COPYRIGHT ©2014 Grace to You
1 John 3:4
by John MacArthur
Everyone sins, and everyone knows it. While it is true that fallen human nature minimizes or redefines sin, everyone knows they don’t meet the standard of perfection. Whether they call them “sins” or “mistakes,” everyone will admit to having lied, lusted, or lashed out in anger at some point in their lives—if not regularly.
That being the case, what is the difference between the sins of believers and unbelievers? When a believer sins, is it the same as when an unbeliever sins?
The Nature of Sin
The two primary biblical definitions of sin are “missing the mark” (hamartia) and “without righteousness” (adikia). At its core, sin is a transgression of God’s law; it is to think and behave as if there were no law. The apostle John emphasizes that lawless characteristic when he writes, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).
John wrote his epistle to help believers test the authenticity of their faith (1 John 5:13). Unlike many today, John does not test saving faith on the basis of a signed card, a walk down the aisle, or even a prayer made in a moment of contrition. In the passage we’re considering in this series, he’s focused on the incompatibility of sin with saving faith, and he’s making three arguments for the holiness of believers.
John’s first argument is that sin is incompatible with the law of God. As we saw in 1 John 3:4, he explicitly equates sin with an attitude of lawlessness and rebellion against God (cf. Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21).
Diagnosing Unbelievers’ Sin
John’s description of sin allows for no exceptions or double standards. Everyone who habitually practices sin is living in an ongoing condition of lawlessness. That’s not to say that they’re sinning to the full extent of their depravity. The lawlessness John refers to is more of an attitude than an action. It’s not merely transgressing God’s law—it’s living with an indifference to the law, as if there was no law-Giver at all.
We must not underestimate the severity of the unrepentant sin that flows from unbelief. We can’t define sin in bits and pieces as individual acts alone. Of course each individual sin is a serious offense to God, but we also need to be able to recognize and biblically diagnose the profound lawlessness of the unredeemed heart.
Diagnosing Believers’ Sin
If you’re a Christian, you no longer have that dominant attitude of lawlessness. The truly penitent heart resolves to obey God’s law (Psalm 19:7-11), deny fleshly lusts (Romans 13:14), resist the world’s allurements (Titus 2:12), and willingly submits to the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ in all things. Those whom God has saved and transformed have traded slavery to sin for slavery to God, as Paul wrote:
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)
That’s not to say believers never sin—no honest Christian would make that claim. But when we do give in to temptation, we experience godly sorrow, not an attitude that is cavalier and rebellious. The believer’s sin is not the product of a heart bent in defiant lawlessness.
Instead we’re heartbroken over transgressing God’s law. It’s the attitude David displays in Psalm 32 and 51, where he pleads for God’s mercy in the aftermath of grievous sin. We share the frustration with lingering sin that Paul expresses in Romans:
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (Romans 7:15, 18-20)
That penitent heartbreak comes from our love of God and His law. At salvation, each believer bows his knee to the lordship of Christ. It’s a commitment to obey Him, follow Him, and fulfill His law. The believer’s life is marked by willful, loving submission to God’s law in the pursuit of holiness. We understand that the law isn’t a system of works righteousness, or a legalistic set of outdated rules. It’s an expression of God’s holy character, and we join the refrain of Psalm 119, confessing “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
Therefore, how could authentic believers live in open, unrepentant lawlessness? John says they can’t.
But the lawless nature of sin is only the first of three reasons John gives for his conclusion. Next time we’ll look at how sin is also incompatible with the work of Christ.
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John.)
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140624
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