Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thomas Schreiner is spot on:

"...If the law could be kept perfectly, then people would deserve salvation and therefore could boast. However, since all people sin and fall short of the glory of GOd, it is a great delusion for sinners to think that they can earn merit before God by their works. Paul condemns boasting in works because no one can possibly do all the works God requires. Human beings, though, are naturally given to idolatry (Rom.1:18-25), and thus they deveive themselves into believing that their obedience to the law somehow suffices to impress God and warrant salvation. Such folly stems from the failure to see how gloriously perfect God is, and how infinitely repugnant sin is to God" (The Law & Its Fulfillment, p.114).

Magnificently stated!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"A ministry that costs you nothing will accomplish nothing."

Friday, May 27, 2011

May this be our prayer today...

Open for me the wondrous volumes of truth in his, 'It is finished'.

Increase my faith in the clear knowledge of:
atonement achieved, expiation completed,
satisfaction made, guilt done away,
my debt paid, my sins forgiven,
my person redeemed, my soul saved,
hell vanquished, heaven opened, eternity made

O Holy Spirit, deepen in me these saving lessons.

Write them upon my heart, that my walk be sin-loathing, sin-fleeing, Christ-loving!

Let's pray that together.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sometimes called the silent years, the years of Jesus' youth and upbringing are not recorded in the pages of Scripture for some reason. I tend to think the primary reason for this was that Jesus' upbringing was no different than any other good, religious Jewish boy's upbringing.

Therefore, Paul Barnett has some helpful notes about the Jewish culture of raising boys during the time of Jesus:

The Law ... enjoins sobriety in the upbringing of children from the very first. It orders that they shall be taught to read, and shall learn both the laws and the deeds of their forefathers, in order that they may imitate the latter, and, being grounded in the former, may neither transgress nor have any excuse for being ignorant of them.

Jesus was thoroughly grounded in the law of God, as were most Jews of the time. This is clear from the comments of Josephus...

But, should anyone of our nation be questioned about the laws, he would repeat them all more readily than his own name. The result, then, of our thorough grounding in the laws from the first dawn of intelligence is that we have them, as it were, engraven on our souls. A transgressor is a rarity; evasion of punishment an impossibility.

The role of Joseph, the father of Jesus, was probably significant. As a descendant of the royal line of David, Joseph would have impressed upon Jesus at an early age the importance of his heritage. Assuming that Jesus' years of nurture were typical, Jesus would have received his education in the Scriptures from two main sources, his father and the synagogue attendant.

Before any instruction in the holy laws and unwritten customs are taught ... from their swaddling clothes by parents and teachers and educators to believe in God, the one Father and Creator of the world.

The more formal instruction mentioned by Philo was begun, according to the Mishnah, at give years of age: "At five years old one is fit for the scripture ... at thirteen for the commandments."

Thus we can get a glimpse into the simple yet focused upbringing of Jesus. It was an upbringing filled with learning and education primarily by his father and then by the educational institution—the synagogue. Even from the earliest of age Jesus would have learned about God, His Law, and the deeds He performed in past history.

SOURCE: Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity (101).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm continuing my work on a PhD project that I have to present in a few weeks at school titled: "what every NT PhD student should know about the nature and value of Patristic [=Church Fathers] materials for NT Textual Criticism [the science & art of finding the original text].

In my reading, I've come across some great quotes. Here is one by Edgar Goodspeed:

“We have been too much inclined to pass by all this literature and go directly to the NT, as though it existed apart from the contemporary and later Christian literature. And it is true that it was in the books of the NT and in the earliest collections of them-- of the letters of Paul and of the Four Gospels--that the letter and gospel types were first set powerfully before the early Church, while the Revelation & the Acts offered patterns for the apocalypses and acts that were to come. But the development of Christian thought did not stop with the writing of the NT, and though none of these later writers achieved the insight of Paul, the first of its authors, they have something of value to contribute to our understanding of historical Christianity, the development of Christian doctrine, and the extraordinary movement, so largely literary, that in a century and a half after its formation made the NT the religious authority of that ancient world" (A History of Early Christian Literature, 8-9).

This is not to imply that we should read the Apostolic Fathers on equal footing with the NT documents. By no means! Rather, Goodspeed simply notes that we should recognize that the NT is not an isolated corpus of literature in the first century AD! Many letters, gospels, Acts of the apostles, and apocalypses were written. Obviously, our 29 NT books are the only inspired, canonical books but it does prove helpful to know that there are many other documents that existed at the same time that can help us understand the text & wording of the NT documents, the theology of the early Church (most were premillennial!), and the preaching (=kerygma) of the early Church.

It would have been neat to live then! But then again, I'm thankful to live now with the wealth of extant literature available for us to read & study.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Last night I preached on the streets of Santa Monica, CA again with my buddy. Being May 21st at 6pm when we started preaching, we gathered quite a crowd—especially when a man walked up dressed in a full-on ancient outfit trying to impersonate Jesus Christ. It was blatantly blasphemous and severely mocking the gospel of Christ. So we went on to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ for the next few hours on 3rd street as floods of people walked by.

One thing that struck me—and fed my soul!—this morning is the statement by the Apostle Paul:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 — For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 — Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ ἀδιαλείπτως, ὅτι παραλαβόντες λόγον ἀκοῆς παρ᾽ ἡμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐδέξασθε οὐ λόγον ἀνθρώπων ἀλλὰ καθώς ἐστιν ἀληθῶς λόγον θεοῦ, ὃς καὶ ἐνεργεῖται ἐν ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν.

When I read these words this morning it hit me afresh like a ton of bricks. The preaching of the Word of God is not the word of men but it is the word of God. And here's the phrase that reminded me again of why we do what we do as preachers. It is God's Work (the relative pronoun "which" [ὃς] refers back to the phrase "word of God" [λόγον θεοῦ]) in taking His Word and making it effective upon the hearts of the hearers.

It is not the preacher who makes the preaching effective.
It is not the logic or persuasive arguments that makes preaching worthwhile.
It is not even the visible results that makes preaching seem successful.

It is God who takes His Word (*note* it must be the faithful & true preaching of His Word) and that word works (ἐνεργεῖται) in those who believe. God the Spirit takes the Word that is faithfully delivered through the mouthpiece of the preacher and He sovereignly accomplishes (=works) His will amongst those who hear.

What a reminder that God takes His Word and makes it effective. God is glorified through the preaching & proclamation of His Word.

Last night:
I preached Ephesians 2:1-10
Sherwood preached Matthew 7:21-23

Pray that God's Word bears fruit in the saving of souls.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

From my time with my college men last night. Intense and thrilling!

Friday, May 20, 2011

From Mr. Spurgeon:

“The duty of the Church is not to be measured by her success. It is as much the minister’s duty to preach the gospel in adverse times as in propitious seasons. We are not to think, if God withholds the dew, that we are to withhold the plough. We are not to imagine that, if unfruitful seasons come, we are therefore to cease from sowing our seed. Our business is with act, not with result. The church has to do her duty, even though that duty should bring her no present reward.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I like these guys (esp. the [non-shocking!] snapshot of Mohler on his iPhone on the bench!).

T4G 2012 Teaser: The Game from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say

1. Please forgive me.

Better than "I'm sorry," which can often be followed with an "if" or a "but," these words indicate a humble heart. Bad pastors hide their faults behind the cloak of their authority, practice self-defense against all charges, and basically pretend. Good pastors know they're sinners and admit it.

2. You're right.

Good pastors know they're not always (not usually?) the smartest, most "spiritual" person in the room. They are zealous to give credit and acknowledge achievement and intelligence, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it encourages and empowers others.

3. You're wrong.

Bad pastors chicken out when it comes to calling people on sin or biblical ignorance. Good pastors brave potential conflict and hurt feelings and say "You're wrong" in gentle but firm ways when necessary.

4. Jesus loves you.

Why did we stop saying this? I think because it became cliche. I'd love to see a recovery of the art of "Jesus loves you." Strategically said at times of others' admissions of failure, sin, or trouble, "Jesus loves you" is a fantastic way to speak the gospel into people's lives.

5. I love you.

I think one reason we stopped saying "Jesus loves you" to people is because we don't really love them ourselves. Might as well save the hypocrisy, eh? But good pastors lay their lives down for the sheep. Telling people you love them is a reminder to them and to you that sacrificial love is your calling.

6. Me too.

Next to "Grace is true" (see below), these might be the most important words in pastoral counseling. Bad pastors trade regularly in "Not me." In the pulpit and in the office, bad pastors set themselves apart from their congregations with tales of adventure, spirituality, and personal holiness. In the pulpit and in the office, good pastors talk of sin and trials and utter ineptitude and say, "Me too." I have seen entire countenances change when I've said some variation of "Me too."

7. Any time.

Of course you don't mean it literally. But you kinda do. Good pastors are available.

8. Thank you.

Bad pastors think they're owed. Good pastors know everything is a gift.

9. Grace is true.

I think deep down we all want to hear "You're approved" (see below), which is why we find "Grace is true" such a radical statement. You probably won't use the words, of course. But good pastors take the opportunity to glorify God by "talking up" his amazing grace every chance they get. Just 30 minutes ago, my writing of this post got interrupted by a visitor who wanted to talk about works and grace. I relished the chance to confirm his suspicion that grace is true. Bad pastors may say grace is true but the context of their teaching and the expectations in their leadership say "Your works must be this high to ride this ride." I know some of my friends hate it when "gospel" is used as a verb, but I just have to say it: Good pastors gospel their people. :-)

10. You're approved.

Everyone wants to believe they have what it takes, which is why it's such a bummer to hear the first half of the gospel and learn we really don't. Don't leave your people hanging. Be a good news pastor. Bad pastors beat their people up with their failures. Bad pastors are always disappointed. Good pastors know grace is true and Jesus is Lord, so they are ready to challenge every self-despairing soul with the wonderful truth that in Christ we are approved by God. Good pastors tell people they do have what it takes when they have Jesus' righteousness. Do you trust Jesus? You're all set, then.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"It is the Spirit who quickens; the flesh profits nothing." John 6:63

All real religion begins with the quickening of the Spirit. When we experience this . . .
we begin to breathe after spiritual things;
we open our eyes in a new world;
we hunger and thirst after righteousness;
and at length taste that the Lord is gracious.
We then have . . .
new thoughts,
new desires,
new hopes,
new fears,
new joys, and
new sorrows.
The eye fixes on Christ,
the heart goes out to Christ, and
the chief desire of the soul is to be like Christ.

James Smith (1858)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I preached last night on Revelation 3:14-22 on the Church of Laodicea — the lukewarm church at a rehab center. God taught me and He encouraged me as I had some great conversations with some of the men about their own spiritual lives.

I also took one of my college guys along for the experience. It was a great time around God's word and a great time of fellowship!

The sermon is here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

But there are some who disagree. Hear the (bold) words of Harrington:

"The futurist approach is a gross misinterpretation . . . unsavory and even dangerous. . . . The idea of an elect minority being shunted to the safe regions of the upper air while a vengeful Lamb destroys the inhabitants of the earth is scarcely Christian."

This is interesting on a number of fronts.

1. Harrington misunderstands the futurist approach — it's not a mere 'escapist' theology.

2. Harrington reveals an anthropological interpretation (man-centered) rather than a theocentric (God-centered) interpretation.

3. Harrington diminishes the utter holiness of God. It's not that God is mean to destroy the inhabitants of the earth during the Tribulation. He is just, right and fair in doing so. We all deserve to be destroyed by this Holy Lamb!

4. Harrington removes the joy, hope, and assurance of a believer in a God who promises to destroy evil not only in the spiritual realm but also on the physical earth while protecting His own people who are no longer under His judgment or wrath (Rom 5:9).
How timely that I read Ephesians 1-2 in my morning reading today and then I opened my email and received this magnificent reminder:

O the wonders couched in electing love!

This act of choosing such creatures as we are, to be a special people unto Himself, displays . . .
such grace,
such condescension,
such infinite wisdom and love!

God's election says, "The Lord loves you!" Loves us! Yes, and with a love that is eternal, immutable, sovereign, infinite, and free! All the love of God is lavished upon us as His special people in Christ. Oh, those wondrous words of Jesus, "You have loved them--even as You have loved Me!" John 17:23

But few among the worldly wise,
But few of nobler race,
Obtain the favor of Your eyes,
Almighty King of grace!

God's election must bring a holy wonder that God would choose such wretches as us to be His cherished treasures for eternity. What amazing, uncomprehensible, uninfluenced, amazing love!

Ephesians 1:3-6 — Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ, 4 καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ, 5 προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, 6 εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

One of the greatest privileges of being a preacher is that I get to spend a week studying and digging deep into the riches of God's Word so that I can be adequately prepared to herald God's truth authoritatively and accurately.

This morning I spent 4 hours working & finalizing two sermons:

1. Revelation 3:14-22 - The Church of Laodicea — Don't be Lukewarm!

2. Amos 8 - The Worst Kind of Earthly Judgment — A Famine for Spiritual Food!

And God richly nourished my soul.

I echo the words of the prophet Jeremiah. He said: But if I say, "I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name," Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it (Jer 20:9).

Friday, May 13, 2011

From Spurgeon...

This is my closing word, there is something for us to do in this matter. We must examine ourselves, and we must confess the fault if we have declined in grace. An then we must not talk about setting the church right, we must pray for grace each one for himself, for the text does not say, "If the church will open the door," but "If any man hear my voice and open the door." It must be done by individuals: the church will only get right by each man getting right. Oh, that we might get back into an earnest zeal for our Lord's love and service, and we shall only do so by listening to his rebukes, and then falling into his arms, clasping him once again, and saying, "My Lord and my God." That healed Thomas, did it not? Putting his fingers into the print of the nails, putting his hand into the side, that cured him. Poor, unbelieving, staggering Thomas only had to do that and he became one of the strongest of believers, and said, "My Lord and my God." You will love your Lord till your soul is as coals of juniper if you will daily commune with him. Come close to him, and once getting close to him, never go away from him any more. The Lord bless you, dear brethren, the Lord bless you in this thing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm reading for my NT textual criticism class (that's fancy lingo for the science of looking at the various Greek manuscripts of the NT and comparing, contrasting, and evaluating the variant readings in texts to ascertain the original text) and I came across this fascinating fact.

"In some manuscripts we find at the close of a colophon in which the scribe mentions the date when the work of copying was completed. The year is usually given according to the Mundane or Adamic era. This was reckoned from September 1, 5509 B.C., which was believed to be the date of the creation of the world. . . ."

In Bruce Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, 49.

NOTE: isn't that amazing that early scribes throughout the history of the Church (and even before!) dated their mss to the creation of the world. And the creation wasn't millions and billions of years ago; it was only about 5,500 years prior to their writing!
Psalm 103:1-2 — Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits.

Hear the words from Roy Clements:

"We need to ask ourselves whether or not there is any real praise in our hearts. it is so easy to come to church out of habit. It is so easy to repeat 'Amen' without ever really speaking to God. It is so easy to hear sermons without ever really listening to God. Spiritual lukewarmness is a common disease in a land like ours where being a Christian is respectable. If that is our condition, then we, like David, need to talk to ourselves. We need to stir our hearts up to a more appropriate emotional response to the truth about the God we know. If you find your heart cold, then do what David did and count your blessings."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

God Justifies the Ungodly… Part 4
By Geoffrey R. Kirkland

Greek Text:
τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην·

Geoff’s Translation:
But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

This pregnant verse encapsulates the core elements of the gospel. It includes such truths as the inability of mankind to work at attaining their own salvation (τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ), the necessity for humans to have true, saving faith to be saved (πιστεύοντι), the One whom we are to believe in and the One who justifies, namely God (τὸν δικαιοῦντα), and the prerequisite for being eligible to receive salvation is that one must be “ungodly”—and every single human being qualifies (τὸν ἀσεβῆ).

This launches us to our final element in this study on the gospel. It is an element that is often neglected from “gospel presentations” and from “evangelistic campaigns.” Yet it is at the very core of the gospel. It is at this point where the great exchange takes place. This is the biblical truth of God crediting my faith as righteousness (λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην). Theologians call this the doctrine of the imputation. At the moment of true, saving faith in Jesus Christ, the sinner’s faith (ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ) is reckoned or credited or accounted as righteousness. The picture is that of an accounting transaction that takes place. True saving faith in Jesus Christ reckons that ungodly sinner righteous. But that begs the question: how? How can God take the ungodly person’s faith and credit that as righteousness?

There are two answers to this question. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Something happens at the moment of salvation. It is called dual imputation. It is inextricably linked to justification. Not only are you declared by God to be forgiven of your sin; but you are also spiritually cleansed and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (the garment of Christ). Just as you got up this morning & clothed yourself to cover your body and keep you warm. So it is at the moment of salvation, God clothes you and covers you with the perfect garment of Christ’s righteousness and keeps you guarded from his violent and eternal wrath. This reckoning or accounting has two realities.

First, all your sin is credited (or reckoned) to Jesus Christ. This is what the prophet Isaiah means when he writes: “Yet He Himself bore the sin of many” (Isa 53:12). First Peter speaks of this same passage in Isaiah as referring to Jesus the Messiah: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Pet 2:24). It’s like if you were hiking with your spouse and she wears the heavy backpack for the first few minutes and then you take the entire load off her shoulders and place it on your own—you bear the entire weight of that burden. That’s exactly what happened when your sins were credited to Christ. First John 3:5 says that “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins.” Hymnwriter Charles Gabriel had it right when he wrote:
He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

And second, the necessary counterpart that is the flip-side to the same coin is the reality that all Christ’s righteousness was credited (or reckoned) to you. Jesus died for the ungodly and he took their sins; but he didn’t just leave them neutral; standing sinless. The biblical portrait is that God wrapped you with the eternal, saving, faultless, spotless garb of Christ’s perfection! The Scriptures speak to this in numerous accounts. Romans 5:19 says “For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous,” “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 3:9), “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).

Just as paint surrounds the outside of your car, so the righteousness of Christ completely surrounds the believer. Just as my DNA was transferred to my son, so Christ’s righteousness is transferred to us through saving faith. Just as on a cold winter day you cover your entire body w/ clothing, so Christ’s righteousness fully engulfs you finally and eternally and irremovably. Note one of the clearest verses in the New Testament that speaks of both realities of dual imputation: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21; cp. Rom 5:18-19).

This is the biblical gospel. The gospel is that God justifies ungodly men and women by means of true, saving faith in Jesus Christ. At that moment of salvation, God justifies them and in a spiritually mysterious and supernatural way, God credits all my sin to Christ and at the same time credits all Christ’s righteousness to me. This way God can treat us as His children; indeed, as sons and daughters of the Living God! Charles Spurgeon remarked on the mind-boggling reality of this truth that God justifies the ungodly. Here’s what he wrote.

You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him who justifies the ungodly.” I do not wonder at your surprise. For, with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder, at it either … Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This truth is a very surprising thing—a thing to be marveled at most of all by those who enjoy it. I know that it is to me even to this day the greatest wonder that I ever heard of—that God should ever justify me. I feel myself to be a lump of unworthiness, a mass of corruption, and a heap of sin, apart from His almighty love. I know and am fully assured that I am justified by “faith which is in Christ Jesus.” I am treated as if I had been perfectly just and made an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. And yet by nature, I must take my place among the most sinful. Though altogether undeserving, I am treated as if I had been deserving. I am loved with as much love as if I had always been godly, whereas before I was ungodly. Who can help being astonished at this demonstration of grace? Gratitude for such favor stands dressed in robes of wonder.

What an amazing reality to sear upon our minds again: “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5)!

Download the pdf here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'm off to Santa Monica to street preach with a seminary buddy. Pray for me. I have 2 sermons prepared:

1) God Justifies the Ungodly — Romans 4:5

2) Your Deeds Are but Filthy Rags Before God — Isaiah 64:6


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Here is part 3 of my ongoing series on the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ — God justifies the ungodly.

God Justifies the Ungodly… Part 3
By Geoffrey R. Kirkland

Greek Text:
τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην·

Geoff’s Translation:
But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

This verse shows that God saves the one who does not work for his salvation by meritoriously earning good deeds which will incur God’s favor (τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ) as this could never happen. Rather (δὲ), the it is the one who believes who is saved (πιστεύοντι). The previous article showed that true saving faith involves a submission to the Lordship of Christ and a proper recognition of who God is and what Christ has accomplished for sinners.

The next ingredient for study is to examine who it is who justifies. But first of all, justification should be defined. Justification is a legal, forensic term that refers to that one-time, supernatural, divine act of God whereby He declares a person to be FREED from sin’s consequences AND treats Him as though He were a perfect Son of His. In other words, justification happens to you, by God, one time and it is a spiritual and miraculous and declarative/forensic, judicial pronouncement. Justification is different from sanctification. Justification is a one-time act of God where sanctification is an ongoing act where the believer “pursues holiness” with the enabling grace and strength of God the Spirit (cf. Phil 2:12-13). Our verse in Romans 4:5 reveals in no ambiguous terms who it is who justifies—God. The phrase ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα is a present participle masculine singular. That means that there is one person who does the justifying and it’s not man, it is God. Scripture speaks of this reality in numerous places. Romans 8:30 says that “He [God] also justified them,” [He/God] who has saved us (2 Tim 1:9); “Salvation is from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9); But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). One may ask if man participates in his or her own salvation in any respect. The answer is an emphatic no. No man can ever participate in his or her own justification. Salvation is a monergistic work—that is, the work of one; it is not synergistic—the working together with. Salvation is all God’s work.

But someone may well reply that we place our own faith in Christ. So couldn’t this be seen as a work? The answer that the Scriptures reveal is no. Faith is not a work; it is a channel by which the rivers of salvation are brought to the needy soul of the sinner. Ephesians 2:8 says that we are saved “through faith and that is not of yourselves.” The word “that” goes back to its nearest antecedent which is faith. In other words, we are saved through faith and that faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (cp. Phil 1:29 where Paul says that it has been granted [lit. given/graced] to believe in the Lord Jesus).

Paul wants to make certain that his hearers in Rome understand the gospel correctly. Thus, he repeats himself again by noting that it is God who justifies the ungodly (τὸν ἀσεβῆ). Paul has already shown this to be so from Romans 1:18-32 where he condemned the Gentiles. Then in Romans 2 Paul condemned the Jews and noted how they are all alike under sin. Romans 3 encapsulated every single human being and thrust everyone under the judgment of God for “all have sinned” (v.23). Every sinner must come to this point of recognition that Christ did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

Every single person is ungodly by nature. Romans 5:12 says that when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, in some mysterious way his sin affected and infected all of his posterity. Thus, when Adam sinned you sinned. Therefore, by your very nature as a human being having come from Adam, you have inherited a sin nature. It’s not that you are a sinner because you sin; rather, you sin because you are a sinner. Psalm 51:5 says that when we were in the mother’s womb we were sinners. Every person is also ungodly in conduct. Ecclesiastes 7:20 makes this clear as it says: Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. The Scriptures also reveal that we are ungodly in our minds and in our thoughts. Moses confirms this in Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And if someone still tries to wiggle his way out of being called an “ungodly man,” Paul eliminates any means of escape when he writes:


Therefore, to put it bluntly, until you recognize you are a filthy and ungodly sinner who has profaned God’s glory by your sin; UNTIL you’ve done this and confessed it, you cannot be saved! Every true believer comes to this point of biblical repentance. There remains still one essential element of the biblical gospel but this will be the topic of the next article.

Read the pdf here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review of:
Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: Harper One, 2005.

Assessment of Book from a Layman’s Perspective:

Bart Ehrman certainly accomplished his purpose in writing a book for those who “know almost nothing about textual criticism” (15). Furthermore, this book shows “how scribes were changing scripture and how we today can recognize where they did so” (15). In this regard, Ehrman did a marvelous job at fulfilling the purpose of the book. It is easy to read, clear, very simple, and full of examples and various textual critical issues in the NT to support his hypothesis. With that said, I grieve for Ehrman and for those who read the book—especially those lay people with very elementary knowledge of the NT who read this book and are swayed to believe that it is only a “human book” (12, 211).

I could foresee a number of questions arising in the minds of laymen who read this book. Such questions may include: (1) why even study the Bible if in fact we don’t have the original words of Scripture anyway? (2) if scribes and copyists merely changed, altered, misread, and overlooked some (or, many) parts of the biblical text, how do we really know that we have a reliable translation of the Bible? (3) if the early church and scribes altered the text freely for theological reasons how can we really know what the original says? And, can we change and alter the text today to fit our theological presuppositions? (4) if the Bible is really demeaning to women and anti-Semitic why would I want to read an allegedly “God-inspired” book that humiliates women and Jews?

Ehrman’s introduction where he recounted his personal history and how he gained interest in the art of textual criticism proved helpful for me. It seemed that the turning point for him was the text in Mark about “Abiathar the high priest” where he finally concluded: “Hmm … maybe Mark did make a mistake” (9). This, for Ehrman, opened the door for skepticism, criticism, and doubt regarding the inerrancy and inspiration of God’s Word (which he admits in his own words on p.9). It seems clear to me that Ehrman has a theological agenda underpinning this book from beginning to end. That agenda is that the Bible is not the inspired and inerrant word of God but that it is a human book—and only a human book. Without explicitly stating that he wants to discredit the Word of God, he does this very thing in the book by bringing much doubt on the trustworthiness of the Scriptures.

One more point that I would want to certainly share with a layman who just read this book. Nowhere in the book does Ehrman mention anything about God’s supernatural preservation of His Word. He merely brushes off inspiration and inerrancy as something that he believed “in the past” in his late teens (211). But now that he has grown in his understanding of the text and in his scholarship, he sees how the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense “irrelevant to the Bible … since the words GOd reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost” (211).

In summary, I think the book is very helpful in that it clearly reveals much about textual criticism, the manuscripts, scribal tendencies, and theological and social contexts in a clear way for the theologically uneducated to understand. Nevertheless, I would quickly insert a book that strongly affirms the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word into that layman’s hands to read know that we can—and must!—believe God’s Word to be the inspired, inerrant, true Word of God in the original autographs. An essential element here is faith—something that Ehrman completely omitted from this entire book (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17; Ps 119:89; John 10:35).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

here is part 2 of the series: God justifies the ungodly.

God Justifies the Ungodly… Part 2
By Geoffrey R. Kirkland

Greek Text:
τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην·

Geoff’s Translation:
But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

The beginning of Paul’s discourse continues his thought from Romans 4:4 that if someone works his reward is not a gift but it is an obligation—that is, something that is “due”. It is not this way with the gospel (δὲ). The gospel is for the one who does not work to earn his salvation (τῷ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ). None will earn salvation. No one can work for his redemption. One can no more save himself than if he were drowning in the middle of the ocean with the towering billows and mighty waves pummeling down upon him while still trying to swim to shore for safety. It will not happen. Good works will not save. If they could, then salvation would not be by grace but it would be out of obligation (it would be a reward or a payment). Merit towards God cannot be earned by a life of morals. Outward deeds cannot save, they only condemn. Good works cannot deliver, they only damn (cf. Rom 3:20, 28). All the righteous deeds that people think they accomplish are but filthy rags before the all-holy eyes of God (Isa 64:6).

If you are trying to earn your salvation by your good works, you must cease trying to accomplish your own redemption. More specifically, you cannot contribute in the slightest to your salvation at all. All man does is defile himself with the filthiness and ungodliness that a sinful life lived for self brings.

The text in Romans 4:5 continues by saying that the one who does not work but believes (πιστεύοντι δὲ). This phrase contrasts (δὲ) the one who works (v.5a) with the one who believes (v.5b). Salvation is brought to an ungodly person by means of true saving faith. Faith is the channel through which the river of salvation flows. Faith is the instrument through which the eternal songs of heaven become a reality. Faith is the conduit through which the streams of God’s grace flow.

Saving faith is not only an intellectual assent. The devil and the demons believe in God and, most certainly, have a correct theology about God, yet they certainly are not redeemed (cf. James 2:19). Saving faith cannot be defined by a mere temporal faith. The Jews believed in Jesus yet only to find themselves picking up stones in order to kill Jesus (cf. John 8:31, 59; cp. 12:42-43). Saving faith is not an optimistic hope. Merely hoping for the best and seeing ‘what happens on the other side’ is not good enough. Mark it well: judas believed in Jesus, but he suffers in hell right now; the Pharisees believed in Jesus but they are being presently condemned in hell right now; many people in America believe in Jesus. Knowing about Jesus is not saving faith.

True saving faith consists of a confident and wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ that results in a life of submission, obedience, and joy. To put it in biblical terminology, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). This verse includes two essential truths about a faith that saves. First, the confession of one’s mouth that “Jesus is LORD” is not a simple utterance that one merely shuffles off the tongue. “Jesus is LORD” was a creed in the early Church that meant I am submitting my life to Jesus as My LORD—not Cesar. The Roman government demanded that you say “Cesar is LORD” and then you could worship whoever or whatever you wanted (it was a political statement for them). But the Christians still refused to succumb to this. They stood their ground and demanded that Jesus (and Him alone!) is LORD. Thus, this first part of Romans 10:9 is a submission to the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ in obedience—even if the consequence is death. Second, true saving faith includes a “belief in one’s heart that God raised Him from the dead.” This means one must intellectually believe in the work of Christ on the cross, bearing the sins of sinners, and resurrected on the third day.

And lest one think that putting their faith in Jesus Christ is a work that they do to merit their own salvation. Scripture speaks of saving faith as a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8 says that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith and that is not of yourselves.” The nearest antecedent to the word “that” is faith. Thus, faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Paul declares in Philippians 1:29 that it has been given (lit. granted) to believes not only to suffer for Christ’s sake but also to believe in His Name (cp. 2 Tim 2:25). Therefore the message is clear: it is by faith alone that one becomes right with God. No works, no merit, no achievements, no accolades, no accomplishments, no deeds, no dues. Salvation is by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone.

Find the pdf here. More on Romans 4:5 in the next post.
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