Search Results for: feet

 

Aug

09

2013

Justin Taylor|7:00 am CT

Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair

Francis Schaeffer once described moral relativists as those “who have both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” (See Koukl and Beckwith’s helpful book built on that title.)

An even more vivid illustration is that of Cornelius Van Til who sought to describe the impossibility of unbelieving reasoning if their worldview is employed consistently:

Suppose we think of a man made of water in an infinitely extended and bottomless ocean of water.

Desiring to get out of water, he makes a ladder of water.

He sets this ladder upon the water and against the water and then attempts to climb out of the water.

So hopeless and senseless a picture must be drawn of the natural man’s methodology based as it is upon the assumption that time or chance is ultimate. On his assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. On his assumption even the laws of logic which he employs are products of chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are still bound to be products of chance.

—Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (P&R, 1972), p. 102. (The link is to the newer edition edited by K. Scott Oliphint, but the page number is from the original edition.)

For a similar argument from C.S. Lewis, see Victor Reppert’s C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (IVP, 2003).

 
 

Oct

10

2011

Justin Taylor|4:00 pm CT

How to Think on Your Feet

Charles Spurgeon:

You will not be able to extemporize good thinking unless you have been in the habit of thinking and feeding your mind with abundant and nourishing food. Work hard at every available moment. Store your minds very richly, and then, like merchants with crowded warehouses, you will have goods ready for your customers, and having arranged your good things upon the shelves of your mind, you will be able to hand them down at any time without the laborious process of going to market, sorting, folding, and preparing. . . .  Take it as a rule without exception, that to be able to overflow spontaneously you must be full.

HT: Trevin Wax

 
 

Mar

11

2010

Justin Taylor|12:00 am CT

Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air

Below is a very helpful introduction to the fatal flaws of moral relativism, as laid out by Greg Koukl (founder of Stand to Reason) before a skeptical audience at UCLA in 2001.

If you want to go into more depth on this topic, see the book Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, co-authored by Koukl and Frank Beckwith.

For another lecture contra moral relativism, below is Peter Kreeft on the topic at UC Santa Barbara in 1998. Kreeft’s book on the topic is A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist.

 
 

Apr

18

2014

Justin Taylor|8:33 am CT

It’s Friday—But Sunday’s Comin’

I never get tired of listen to this Easter meditation S.M. Lockridge (1913-2000), pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego from 1953 to 1993.

It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s a sleeping
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe him in scarlet
They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And his spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands
To the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross
And then they raise him up
Next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by his Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save him?
Ooooh
It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields his spirit

It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered
and Satan’s just a laughin’

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place

But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

 
 

Mar

03

2014

Justin Taylor|9:15 am CT

The Final Days of Jesus

finalLent—when many in the Church mark the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday—begins this Wednesday.

Crossway has recently published The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, which I co-authored with noted New Testament scholar Andreas J. Köstenberger.

The book is available at Amazon, WTS, B&N, CBD, and other retailers.

For those who might want to read the book during Lent as a small group or for churches who wanted to order multiple copies, the best deal I’ve seen is from WTS, which is offering it for only $7 a copy (61% off) if you order 5 copies or more.

Note that Crossway has also made available a free discussion and study guide (by Alexander Stewart), along with a free 40-day reading guide (by David Schrock).

Here are a couple of comments about the book that summarize what we were trying to accomplish:

“This is an immensely helpful guide to the last week of Jesus’s life—historically, theologically, and devotionally. Historically, it provides a likely chronology of Passion Week, chock full of historical, cultural, and geographical insights. Theologically, the authors provide the text of the four Gospels with helpful commentary, noting the theological contributions of each evangelist. Devotionally, the reader has the privilege of walking with Jesus through the most important week of human history—the climax of God’s redemptive plan. A feast of insights for both mind and heart.”
—Mark Strauss, Professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary San Diego

“Holy Week is arguably the most sacred time of year for Christians. Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor provide a simple yet eloquent survey of the final week of Jesus’s life. They take readers on a pilgrimage through the Gospels and invite us to follow Jesus in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, on to the dark and tragic moments of Golgotha, and through to the glorious and unspeakable joy at the feet of the risen Jesus. In short, this is a wonderful resource for individuals, families, and fellowships to learn more about the Easter story, the greatest story ever told.”
—Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology, Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry

In short, you’ll find the complete Gospel accounts of Jesus’s final week, arranged in a day-by-day order in harmony format, with informed but accessible commentary, along with maps, charts, diagrams, and a glossary.

You can take a look here:

 
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Jan

21

2014

Justin Taylor|12:00 am CT

John Piper on Why You Should Read John Owen

From John Piper’s foreword to an unabridged edition of John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation, which I edited with Kelly Kapic:


As I look across the Christian landscape, I think it is fair to say concerning sin, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11, ESV). I take this to refer to leaders who should be helping the church know and feel the seriousness of indwelling sin (Rom. 7:20), and how to fight it and kill it (Rom. 8:13). Instead the depth and complexity and ugliness and danger of sin in professing Christians is either minimized—since we are already justified—or psychologized as a symptom of woundedness rather than corruption.

This is a tragically light healing. I call it a tragedy because by making life easier for ourselves in minimizing the nature and seriousness of our sin, we become greater victims of it. We are in fact not healing ourselves. Those who say that they already feel bad enough without being told about the corruptions of indwelling sin misread the path to peace. When our people have not been taught well about the real nature of sin and how it works and how to put it to death, most of the miseries people report are not owing to the disease but its symptoms. They feel a general malaise and don’t know why, their marriages are at the breaking point, they feel weak in their spiritual witness and devotion, their workplace is embattled, their church is tense with unrest, their fuse is short with the children, etc. They report these miseries as if they were the disease. And they want the symptoms removed.

We proceed to heal the wound of the people lightly. We look first and mainly for circumstantial causes for the misery—present or past. If we’re good at it, we can find partial causes and give some relief. But the healing is light. We have not done the kind of soul surgery that is possible only when the soul doctor knows the kind of things Owen talks about in these books, and when the patient is willing to let the doctor’s scalpel go deep.

What Owen offers is not quick relief, but long-term, deep growth in grace that can make strong, healthy trees where there was once a fragile sapling. I pray that thousands—especially teachers and pastors and other leaders—will choose the harder, long-term path of growth, not the easier, short-term path of circumstantial relief.

The two dead pastor-theologians of the English-speaking world who have nourished and taught me most are Jonathan Edwards and John Owen. Some will say Edwards is unsurpassed. Some say Owen was the greater. We don’t need to decide. We have the privilege of knowing them both as our friends and teachers. What an amazing gift of God’s providence that these brothers were raised up and that hundreds of years after they have died we may sit at their feet. We cannot properly estimate the blessing of soaking our minds in the Bible-saturated thinking of the likes of John Owen. What he was able to see in the Bible and preserve for us in writing is simply magnificent. It is so sad—a travesty, I want to say—how many Christian leaders of our day do not strive to penetrate the wisdom of John Owen, but instead read books and magazines that are superficial in their grasp of the Bible.

We act as though there was nothing extraordinary about John Owen’s vision of biblical truth—that he was not a rare gift to the church. But he was rare. There are very few people like this whom God raises up in the history of the church. Why does God do this? Why does he give an Owen or an Edwards to the church and then ordain that what they saw of God should be preserved in books? Is it not because he loves us? Is it not because he would share Owen’s vision with his church? Great trees that are covered with the richest life-giving fruit are not for museums. God preserves them and their fruit for the health of his church.

I know that all Christians cannot read all such giants. Even one mountain is too high to climb for most of us. But we can pick one or two, and then ask God to teach us what he taught them. The really great writers are not valuable for their cleverness but for their straightforward and astonishing insight into what the Bible really says about great realities. This is what we need.

The Bible is God’s word. Therefore, it is profound. How could it not be? God inspired it. He understands himself and the human heart infinitely. He is not playing games with us. He really means to communicate the profoundest things about sin and hell and heaven and Christ and faith and salvation and holiness and death. Paul does not sing out in vain, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33, ESV). No. He summons us to stop settling for pop culture and to learn what the Bible really has to say about the imponderable depths of sin and grace.

Owen is especially worthy of our attention because he is shocking in his insights. That is my impression again and again. He shocks me out of my platitudinous ways of thinking about God and man. Here are a few random recollections from what you are (I hope) about to read. You will find others on your own.

“There is no death of sin without the death of Christ” (Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, chapter 7). Owen loves the cross and knows what happened there better than anyone I have read. The battle with sin that you are about to read about is no superficial technique of behavior modification. It is a profound dealing with what was accomplished on the cross in relation to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit through the deep and wonderful mysteries of faith.

“To kill sin is the work of living men; where men are dead (as all unbelievers, the best of them, are dead), sin is alive, and will live” (chapter 7). Oh, the pastoral insights that emerge from Owen! As here: If you are fighting sin, you are alive. Take heart. But if sin holds sway unopposed, you are dead no matter how lively this sin makes you feel. Take heart, embattled saint!

“God says, ‘Here is one, if he could be rid of this lust I should never hear of him more; let him wrestle with this, or he is lost’” (chapter 8). Astonishing! God ordains to leave a lust with me till I become the sort of warrior who will still seek his aid when this victory is won. God knows when we can bear the triumphs of his grace.

“Is there the guilt of any great sin lying upon you unrepented of? A new sin may be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance” (chapter 9). What? God ordains that we be tested by another sin so that an old one might be better known and fought? Sin is one of God’s weapons against sin?

“The difference between believers and unbelievers as to knowledge is not so much in the matter of their knowledge as in the manner of knowing. Unbelievers, some of them, may know more and be able to say more of God, his perfections, and his will, than many believers; but they know nothing as they ought, nothing in a right manner, nothing spiritually and savingly, nothing with a holy, heavenly light. The excellency of a believer is, not that he has a large apprehension of things, but that what he does apprehend, which perhaps may be very little, he sees it in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light; and this is that which gives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts or curious-raised notions” (chapter 12). How then will we labor to help people know much and know it “in a right manner”? What is that?

“[Christ] is the head from whence the new man must have influences of life and strength, or it will decay every day” (chapter 14). Oh, that our people would feel the urgency of daily supplies of grace because “grace decays.” Do they know this? Is it a category in their mind—that grace decays? How many try to live their lives on automatic pilot with no sense of urgency that means of grace are given so that the riches of Christ may daily be obtained with fresh supplies of grace.

The list could go on and on. For me, to read Owen is to wake up to ways of seeing that are so clearly biblical that I wonder how I could have been so blind. May that be your joyful experience as well.

 
 

Jan

08

2014

Justin Taylor|11:13 am CT

What Would Jonathan Edwards Say If a Teenage Girl Wrote to Him for Spiritual Advice?

 

In early April of 1741, the pastor of the church in Suffield (then part of Massachusetts, now part of Connecticut) passed away. On April 14, Jonathan Edwards filled the pulpit, and the church experienced an awakening to the things of the gospel. (Just three months later he would preach his famous sermon on “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in neighboring Enfield, just 10 miles to the east across the Connecticut River.)

Six weeks after his return to Northampton from Suffield, he received a letter from 18-year-old Deborah Hatheway, who had been recently converted (perhaps under his preaching at her church) and wrote to him for spiritual counsel on how to live as a Christian. This letter (reprinted below from the Yale edition), was later published as Advice to Young Converts and became Edwards’s most famous printed work (after Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God), with hundred of thousands printed. It is an interesting window into Edwards’s gentle and pastoral tone with young people in particular.

– 91 –
∗ ∗ ∗

Northampton

June 3, 1741

Dear Child,

As you desired me to send you in writing some directions, how to conduct yourself in your Christian course, I would now answer your request. The sweet remembrance of the great things I have lately seen at Suffield, and the dear affections for those persons I have there conversed with, that give good evidences of a saving work of God upon their hearts, inclines me to do anything that lies in my power, to contribute to the spiritual joy and prosperity of God’s people there. And what I write to you, I would also say to other young women there, that are your friends and companions and the children of God; and therefore desire you would communicate it to them as you have opportunity.

[1] I would advise you to keep up as great a strife and earnestness in religion in all parts of it, as you would do if you knew yourself to be in a state of nature and was seeking conversion. We advise persons under convictions to be earnest and violent for the kingdom of heaven, but when they have attained to conversion they ought not to be the less watchful, laborious and earnest in the whole work of religion, but the more; for they are under infinitely greater obligations. For want of this, many persons in a few months after their conversion have begun to lose the sweet and lively sense of spiritual things, and to grow cold and Hat and dark, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows, whereas if they had done as the Apostle did, Philippians 3:12-14, their path would have been as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day. Don’t leave off seeking, striving and praying for the very same things that we exhort unconverted persons to strive for, and a degree of which you have had in conversion. Thus pray that your eyes may be opened, that you may receive your sight, that you may know your self, and be brought to God’s foot, and that you may see the glory of God

– 92 –
and Christ and may be raised from the dead, and have the love of Christ shed abroad in your heart; for those that have most of these things, had need still to pray for them; for there is so much blindness and hardness and pride and death remaining, that they still need to have that work of God wrought upon them, further to enlighten and enliven them; that shall be a bringing out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and a kind of new conversion and resurrection from the dead. There are very few requests that are proper for a natural person, but that in some sense are proper for the godly.

[2] When you hear sermons hear ‘em for yourself: though what is spoken in them may be more especially directed to the unconverted, or to those that in other respects are in different circumstances from yourself. Yet let the chief intent of your mind be to consider with yourself, in what respects is this that I hear spoken, applicable to me, and what improvement ought I to make of this for my own soul’s good? Though God has forgiven and forgotten your past sins, yet don’t forget ‘em yourself: often remember what a wretched bond slave you was in the land of Egypt. Often bring to mind your particular acts of sin before conversion, as the blessed apostle Paul is often mentioning his old blaspheming, persecuting and injuriousness, to the renewed humbling of his heart and acknowledging that he was the least of the apostles, and not worthy to be called an apostle, and the least of all saints, and the chief of sinners. And be often in confessing your old sins to God, and let that text be often in your mind, Ezekiel 16:63, “That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.” Remember that you have more cause, on some accounts a thousand times, to lament and humble yourself for sins that have been since conversion than before, because of the infinitely greater obligations that are upon you to live to God. And look upon the faithfulness of Christ in unchangeably continuing his loving favor, and the unspeakable and saving fruits of his everlasting love, notwithstanding all your great unworthiness since your conversion, to be as great or wonderful, as his grace in converting you. Be always greatly abased for your remaining sin, and never think that you lie low enough for it, but yet don’t be at all discouraged or disheartened by it; for though we are exceeding sinful, yet we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, the preciousness of whose blood, and the merit of whose righteousness and the greatness

– 93 –
of whose love and faithfulness does infinitely overtop the highest mountains of our sins.

[3] When you engage in the duty of prayer, or come to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship, come to Christ as Mary Magdalene did, Luke 7:37-38. Come and cast yourself down at his feet and kiss ‘em, and pour forth upon him the sweet perfumed ointment of divine love, out of a pure and broken heart, as she poured her precious ointment out of her pure, alabaster, broken box.

Remember that pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ; it was the first sin that ever was, and lies lowest in the foundation of Satan’s whole building, and is the most difficultly rooted out, and is the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts, and often creeps in, insensibly, into the midst of religion and sometimes under the disguise of humility. That you may pass a good judgment of the frames you are in, always look upon those the best discourses and the best comforts that have most of these two effects, viz. those that make you least, lowest, and most like a little child; and secondly, those that do most engage and fix your heart in a full and firm disposition to deny yourself for God, and to spend and be spent for him.

If at any time you fall into doubts about the state of your soul under darkness and dull frames of mind, ’tis proper to look over past experiences, but yet don’t consume too much of your time and strength in poring and puzzling thoughts about old experiences, that in dull frames appear dim and are very much out of sight, at least as to that which is the cream and life and sweetness of them: but rather apply yourself with all your might, to do an earnest pursuit after renewed experiences, new light, and new, lively acts of faith and love.

One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face, and the fountain of his sweet grace and love will do more towards scattering clouds of darkness and doubting in one minute, than examining old experiences by the best mark that can be given, a whole year.

When the exercise of grace is at a low ebb, and corruption prevails, and by that means fear prevails, don’t desire to have fear cast out any other way, than by the reviving and prevailing of love, for ’tis not agreeable to the method of God’s wise dispensations that it should be cast out any other way; for when love is asleep, the saints need fear to restrain them from sin and therefore it is so ordered that at such times

– 94 –
fear comes upon them, and that more or less as love sinks. But when love is in lively exercise, persons don’t need fear, and the prevailing of love in the heart, naturally tends to cast out fear, as darkness in a room vanishes away as you let more and more of the perfect beams of the sun into it, 1 John 4:18.

[4] You ought to be much in exhorting and counseling and warning others, especially at such a day as this, Hebrews 10:25. And I would advise you especially, to be much in exhorting children and young women your equals; and when you exhort others that are men, I would advise that you take opportunities for it, chiefly when you are alone with them, or when only young persons are present. See 1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

When you counsel and warn others, do it earnestly, affectionately and thoroughly.

And when you are speaking to your equals, let your warnings be intermixed with expressions of your sense of your own unworthiness, and of the sovereign grace that makes you differ; and if you can with a good conscience, say how that you in yourself are more unworthy than they.

If you would set up religious meetings of young women by yourselves, to be attended once in a while, besides the other meetings that you attend, I should think it would be very proper and profitable. Under special difficulties, or when in great need of or great longings after any particular mercies for your self or others, set apart a day of secret fasting and prayer alone; and let the day be spent not only in petitions for the mercies you desired, but in searching your heart, and looking over your past life, and confessing your sins before God not as is wont to be done in public prayer, but by a very particular rehearsal before God, of the sins of your past life from your childhood hitherto, before and after conversion, with particular circumstances and aggravations, also very particularly and fully as possible, spreading all the abominations of your heart before him. Don’t let the adversaries of religion have it to say, that these converts don’t carry themselves any better than others. See Matthew 5:47, “What do ye more than others”; how holily should the children of God, and the redeemed and the beloved of the Son of God behave themselves? Therefore walk as a child of the light and of the day and adorn the doctrine of God your Savior; and particularly be much in those things, that may especially be called Christian virtues, and make you like the Lamb of God; be meek and lowly of heart and full of a pure, heavenly and humble love to all; and abound in deeds of love to others,

– 95 –
and self-denial for others, and let there be in you a disposition to account others better than yourself.

[5] Don’t talk of things of religion and matters of experience with an air of lightness and laughter, which is too much the manner in many places. In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ’s hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on his hands and side, whence came the blood that cleanses you from sin and hiding your nakedness under the skirt of the white shining robe of his righteousness. Pray much for the church of God and especially that he would carry on his glorious work that he has now begun; and be much in prayer for the ministers of Christ, and particularly I would beg a special interest in your prayers, and the prayers of your Christian companions, both when you are alone and when you are together, for your affectionate friend, that rejoices over you, and desires to be your servant,

In Jesus Christ,

Jonathan Edwards.

—Source: Jonathan Edwards, “To Deborah Hatheway,” in Letters and Personal Writings, ed. George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 91-95. Bracketed numbering and bold emphasis are mine.

 
 

Dec

14

2013

Justin Taylor|5:19 pm CT

Charles Wesley’s “And Can It Be”: Background and Scriptural Allusions

Charles-Wesley-preachingAccording to the editor of The Oxford Edition of the Works of John Wesley (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975-1983, vol. 7), “And Can It Be” was written immediately after Charles Wesley’s conversion (May 21, 1738). Wesley knew his Bible well prior to this time, but had not yet experienced assurance of new birth or the fulness of grace in his life.

The editor also that it was probably this hymn, or “Where Should My Wond’ring Soul Begin?” that was sung late on the evening of his brother John’s Aldersgate Street conversion just three days later on May 24.

John Lawson, in A Thousand Tongues: The Wesley Hymns as a Guide to Scriptural Teaching (London: Paternoster, 1987), says this “is perhaps the best known and best loved of all the Methodist hymns associated with the conversion experience.”

Wesley begins the first stanza by expressing amazement over the love expressed in God the Son dying for him; it is a mystery that we who caused his death now benefit from it.

In the second stanza, Wesley calls for adoration at the incomprehensibility of God’s love and mercy in this sacrifice.

In the third stanza, Wesley recounts the infinite grace and mercy of Christ’s love and humility in the incarnation, death, and finding of lost sinners.

Now in the fourth stanza, Wesley turns his attention to the bondage of his own sin and the freedom he found in Christ.

Finally, he explores the results of Christ’s amazing and merciful work: there is no condemnation for those made alive in Christ and clothed in his righteousness; rather, there is bold access to the throne as we have the right to claim the eschatological crown.

Using and adapting the notations in the reference works cited above, I have sought to identify probable biblical allusions (in the KJV) that probably implicitly or explicitly informed Wesley’s wording and concepts in this great hymn:

1. And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour’s blood?[1]

Died he for me? who caused his pain![2]

For me—who him to death pursued?[3]

Amazing love! How can it be[4]

That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?[5]

 

2. ‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:[6]

Who can explore his strange design?[7]

In vain the first-born seraph tries[8]

To sound the depths of love divine.[9]

‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore![10]

Let angel minds inquire no more.[11]

 

3. He left His Father’s throne above[12]

So free, so infinite his grace![13]

Emptied Himself of all but love,[14]

And bled for Adam’s helpless race.[15]

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,[16]

For O my God! it found out me![17]

 

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay,[18]

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;[19]

Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray[20]

I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed thee.[21]

 

5. No condemnation now I dread;[22]

Jesus, and all in him, is mine;[23]

Alive in Him, my living head,[24]

And clothed in righteousness divine,[25]

Bold I approach th’eternal throne,[26]

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.[27]

 


[1] Eph 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Eph 1:14, “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

[2] Gal 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

[3] Acts 9:4-5, “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

[4] Isa 29:14, “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” 1 John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

[5] Gal 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

[6] 1 Cor 2:7-8, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Phil 2:6-8, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation [=emptied himself], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

[7] Isa 28:21, “For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.”

[8] Job 38:7, “ When the morning stars [=angels] sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Isa 6:2, “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.”

[9] Eph 3:18-19, “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

[10] Hab 2:20, “But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.”

[11] 1 Pet 1:12, “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”

[12] John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Rev 22:3, “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.”

[13] 2 Cor 8:9, “ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

[14] Phil 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation [=emptied himself], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”

[15] Rom 5:12, 14, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned . . . Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.” Rev 5:9, “And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

[16] Ps 145:9, “Jehovah is good to all; And his tender mercies are over all his works.” Rom 11:32, “For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.”

[17] Acts 9:15, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel.” Gal 1:15-16, “But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

[18] Ps 107:10, “Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron.” John 8:34, “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” Acts 12:6-9, “And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.”

[19] Rom 6:17, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” 1 Cor 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

[20] John 1:4, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

[21] Acts 2:7-8, “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.” Luke 5:28, “And he left all, rose up, and followed him.” John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Rom 6:18, “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”

[22] Rom 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

[23] Rom 8:32, “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” 1 Cor 3:22, “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s.”

[24] 1 Cor 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Col 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

[25] Isa 68:10, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Phil 3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

[26] Eph 3:12, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Heb 4:6, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb 10:19-22, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

[27]  2 Tim 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” James 1:12, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” Rev 2:10, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

 

 
 

Nov

18

2013

Justin Taylor|8:32 am CT

The Definitive Work on Definite Atonement: A New Website, New Interview, and New Video

from-heaven-he-cameFrom Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, edited by David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, is a major publication. It is hard to imagine someone weighing in on this debate henceforth without interacting with this volume. I suspect that it will convince those who are open and correct many caricatures.

David Wells says, “This is the definitive study. It is careful, comprehensive, deep, pastoral, and thoroughly persuasive.”

Michael Horton calls it “the most impressive defense of definite atonement in over a century.”

D. A. Carson writes, “I cannot imagine that this book could have been published twenty-five years ago: there were not at that time enough well-informed theologians working in the Reformed heritage to produce a volume of such clarity and competence. Whatever side you hold in this debate, henceforth you dare not venture into the discussion without thoughtfully reading this book, which, mercifully, makes argument by stereotype and reductionism a great deal more difficult. Above all, this book will elicit adoration as its readers ponder afresh what Jesus achieved on the cross.”

John Frame adds: ”There is a conventional wisdom that seems to believe definite atonement is the weakest of the five heads of doctrine confessed at the Synod of Dort. But you may come away from this book believing it is the strongest, in its historical attestation, biblical basis, and spiritual blessing.”

Finally, Kelly Kapic points out that this book is for both fans and critics: “Whether you are sympathetic to or suspicious of definite atonement, this book will surprise you. Here are historical details, exegetical links, theological observations, and pastoral perspectives that are fresh and fascinating, even though there is also plenty that will prove controversial.”

The book now has a website where you can explore more about it. And at the end of this post you can watch a short video that contains some introduction to the argument and focus.

I had the privilege of interviewing the editors and some of the contributors

It took you guys six years to acquire and edit contributions from 21 contributors for this massive project. What motivated you to tackle a project of this size and scope?

David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson: Since John Owen’s classic work The Death of Death there has not been a thoroughly comprehensive, contemporary treatment of the doctrine from all the theological disciplines: historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral. Some of the traditional “Calvinistic” approaches can be too forced, too hasty in trying to prove the doctrine; some are more biblicist than biblical and fail to see the doctrine as a biblico-systematic conclusion. The same problem of biblicism also attends some of the objections to definite atonement (e.g., Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears in Death by Love: Letters from the Cross).

Assembling the line up of scholars we wanted and giving them a substantial amount of time to write their chapters made for a lengthy project. As essays came in, there was a lot of sharpening of arguments and feedback among the contributors. So the completed manuscript took longer than expected. The benefit of this, however, is that each chapter has effectively been peer reviewed and exhibits real quality in the argumentation. We wanted a volume written at the highest academic level. We also desired a warmth and winsomeness that might diffuse some of the heat associated with definite atonement and allow the glory of this truth to sparkle and shine. We don’t want to win an argument; we want to help the convinced and win the unconvinced.

What unique contributions does this book make that won’t be found elsewhere?

David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson: The breadth of scope is balanced with detail of focus. There are close readings of individual biblical texts (Alec Motyer on Isaiah 53, for example), as well as fluent treatments of key theological issues connected to the doctrine (Donald Macleod on the divine decree, or Garry Williams on the nature of punishment). Many of the chapters plough fresh furrows. The book also shows the practical usefulness of definite atonement for the Christian life, something which detractors are often quick to challenge: see the chapters by Daniel Strange on mission, Sinclair Ferguson on assurance of salvation, and John Piper on preaching.

But mainly this volume attempts a new approach by arguing the four sections of the book work together to provide the right kind of lens for looking at the doctrine. In our Introduction we take our cue from John Calvin’s theological method and argue that Bible readers need a Bible map drawn with historical awareness, exegetical care, theological coherence and pastoral insight. We’re saying the four sections need each other in order to sketch a pathway to definite atonement and that travelling along this road allows the reader to see the reality and beauty of definite atonement in the Scriptures.

What historical pedigree does the doctrine of definite atonement have?

Raymond Blacketer: Like all theological topics, questions about the universal and particular scope of the satisfaction Christ rendered on the cross arose from biblical exegesis: the attempt to make sense of apparently dissonant texts.

So Jerome commented on Matthew 20:28 that Jesus “does not say he gave his life for all, but for many, that is, for all those who would believe.”

The medieval Glossa Ordinaria further specified “the many” as “those predestined to life.”

Peter Lombard formulated the classic distinction that Christ’s satisfaction was sufficient to redeem every person, but effective only for the elect.

Following Augustine, who frequently emphasized the particularity of Christ’s redemption, Thomas Aquinas interpreted 1 Timothy 2:4 to mean God desires the salvation of all classes of humanity.

Martin Luther insisted it pertains “to the elect only . . . For in an absolute sense Christ did not die for all . . .”

Reformers Calvin and Beza continued in this exegetical trajectory.

The Synod of Dordt drew upon the Christian exegetical and theological tradition to clarify that God intended Christ’s redemption for the elect. It rejected Arminian assertions that the cross makes salvation available to all, yet specific to none, and conditional upon any individual’s choice to believe and persist in faith.

Some critics of definite atonement argue no one would ever come to believe in it merely by reading the Bible. On top of this there are several “problematic” biblical texts for definite atonement. How does this book deal with those issues?

Thomas Schreiner: Three things can be said in reply.

First, the Bible often explicitly teaches definite atonement. For instance, Christ laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:11, 15), gave himself up for the church (Eph. 5:25), and purchased some from every people group by his death (Rev. 5:9).

Second, some doubt we can place such weight upon these verses, but these texts must be interpreted along with what scripture teaches about God’s election and other soteriological realities. In other words, the Son dies for those whom the Father elects, and the Spirit applies his efficacious work to the same.

Third, texts that are alleged to teach unlimited atonement are often cited superficially. When we examine 2 Peter 2:1 and consider it in the context of 2 Peter 2 (esp. vv. 20-22), we see that the redemption posited there is phenomenological. Similarly, the context of 1 Timothy 2:4 indicates that Paul thinks of people groups (cf. 2:7), so that the verse doesn’t contradict what Paul teaches elsewhere about unconditional election. Hebrews 2:9 says that Christ tasted death for every person, but a closer look at the chapter reveals that the reference is to Jesus’ brothers and sisters (2:11-12), to the children God gave him (2:13), to the offspring of Abraham (2:16). Each of these passages are considered more closely in the book along with a host of other texts so that our aim, in fact, is to suggest that definite atonement is what one should believe from reading the Bible.

Some within evangelicalism wish to defend penal substitution but not definite atonement. In your chapters you argue this cannot be done. Why not?

Garry Williams: The argument of the first chapter is that if the penalty borne by Christ was a true penalty, then it must have been borne for specific sins committed by specific people. Otherwise, it is not a proper penalty but is simply some kind of unspecified suffering. Scripture teaches, for example in Leviticus, that sacrifice is made for specific offerers and their sins. It thus precludes a doctrine of general ransom.

In the second chapter I argue that the traditional “double payment” argument (God cannot punish the same sins twice, once in Christ at the cross and again in the impenitent in hell) needs to be expressed carefully, but it is valid. It does not rely on over-applying the financial metaphor for punishment and atonement. A description purged of such language and cast in terms of the biblical image of punishment as God’s answer to sin would sustain the impossibility of double punishment just as well.

What is the connection between Christ’s priestly ministry and definite atonement?

Stephen Wellum: In Scripture, the relationship between the role of the High Priest and the act of atonement is tight. Under the old covenant, the High Priest serves as the mediator for a particular covenant people. We see this on the Day of Atonement where the High Priest has the incredible privilege of entering into the Holy of Holies, on behalf of the people and as the covenant mediator of Israel. But it is important to note that the Priest’s act of sacrifice and intercession is a definite work.

As our Lord Jesus brings all of this to fulfillment, this same particular work is stressed. Christ is the new covenant head, mediator, and its great High Priest. As the new covenant head, his work is specific and effective for all those in that covenant. However, Scripture also teaches that everyone without exception is not in the new covenant. All people enter this world in Adam and under the dominion of sin, and it is only by Christ’s priestly work and the Spirit’s application, that we are transferred from Adam to Christ. The priestly and covenantal categories of Scripture demand that we view Christ’s work as definite.

How does definite atonement help us in the task of world mission and in thinking about the fate of the “unevangelized”?

Daniel Strange: In my chapter I argue that those who hold to an unlimited atonement get themselves into some inevitable and ultimately insoluble theological knots when it comes to the category of the unevangelised, that is those who have never heard the gospel. Believing in a definite atonement avoids these knotty problems and dilemmas. Moreover a definite atonement gives us a great confidence in the missionary task. It is said that the song sung in Revelation 5:9-11, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, . . . ” was the passage that sent William Carey to India because he knew that there were people ordained to life there. God has chosen to call a people to himself and he has given us the awesome privilege and responsibility of being inextricably involved in this urgent rescue mission. As servants of the king, we have been commanded to go and invite to the wedding feast as many we can find. We have confidence, in that we know that the message of the cross we proclaim does not merely offer people the possibility of salvation, but offers salvation itself, Christ himself. Confidence, that because the Father, the Son and the Spirit have complete unity of purpose, that those whom the Father has chosen, those for whom Christ died, are now those being prepared by the Spirit to hear the gospel message, repent and believe, and come to the feast.

You have recently retired after 33 years as a pastor. What advice would you give to younger pastors and preachers about the place of this doctrine in ministry?

John Piper: When I came to Bethlehem 33 years ago, I was wobbly on the atonement. That’s not a good thing to be wobbly on. So I resolved to work through Owen’s Death of Death. I came out with my feet on solid, biblical ground. I am glad I did. So my first advice would be: Don’t stay wobbly on this. Dive into the deeps, and don’t come up till you have the pearl.

Second, I would emphasize that particular redemption affirms more, not less, about the atonement. We all agree that the death of Christ warrants the free offer of the gospel to everyone: “If you receive Christ, his death covers all your sins.” But the more is that there is a particularly “great love” (Eph. 2:4) for the elect that “made us alive,” and this too was purchased by the blood of Christ. He died to secure for his sheep the living heart of faith.

Third, I would plead: Don’t let your blood-bought flock fail to enjoy the logic of Romans 8:32. If the “us” of that verse is all human beings, then the promise is void.

 
 

Sep

13

2013

Justin Taylor|9:13 am CT

50 Years Ago This Sunday: The Bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham

This Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the reprehensible bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four young girls were killed while attending Sunday School.

The victims are pictured above. Going clockwise (from the top left) are Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Cynthia Wesley (age 14), Carole Robertson (age 14), and Denise McNair (age 11—a friend and schoolmate of 8-year-old Condoleeza Rice, who could hear the bomb down the street from her father’s church).

No one was convicted of the crime at the time, though Klansman Robert Chambliss (1904-1985), nicknamed “Dynamite Bob,” was a suspect. Eight years later, in 1971, the case was reopened, and in 1977 he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He died at the age of 81, proclaiming his innocence.

In 2001-2002, three co-conspirators were also declared guilty: Herman Cash died before he could be charged; Bobby Frank Cherry died in prison in 2004; and Thomas E. Blanton Jr. is still serving a life sentence at the age of 82.

Timothy George narrates the story of one young woman, Carolyn Maull McKinstry, who was in the church when the bomb ripped through the building:

It was gray and overcast on Sunday morning, September 15, 1963. Some rain had fallen in the night, but no one knew that the heavens would weep again before the day was done. It was “Youth Sunday” at the church, and Pastor John Cross had announced that he would preach a sermon titled ”A Love that Forgives” based on the Gospel text in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Carolyn Maull, 14, the Sunday School secretary, hurried to fulfill her responsibilities. She greeted visitors, counted Sunday School offerings, and reported the day’s attendance. In the brief interval between Sunday School and the morning worship service, Carolyn stopped by the girls’ restroom and spoke to her friends, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, and Carole Robertson, all 14, and Denise McNair, who was 11. She left the restroom, walked up the stairs to the church office, and answered the ringing phone. A man’s voice said simply: “Three minutes.” He hung up.

Carolyn felt confused. She walked into the sanctuary, where the clock hanging on the wall indicated that the time was 10:22 a.m. Then she heard the blast. Boom! For a second, she thought it was thunder or a lightning strike. Then she realized—it must be a bomb. She vividly remembers two things from that horror-filled moment: the sound of feet scurrying past her to get to the exits, and looking up at the stained glass window—the same one that had brought her such comfort when she looked into the face of Jesus at her baptism. The window was still intact . . . all except the face. Jesus’ beautiful face was gone.

George writes:

This coming Sunday, September 15, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the bomb that shook the church and changed the world. The theme for the service will once again be “A Love that Forgives.” The clock on the wall has been left as it was at the moment of the bombing, a lasting reminder of what happened fifty years ago at 10:22 a.m. But the face of Jesus in the church window, shattered by hate fifty years ago, has since been restored, so that the Savior looks down in mercy and love once again.

You can read his whole piece here.

On September 18, 1963, three days after the attack, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered his “Eulogy for the Young Victims.” King said that “These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.” He argued that “in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death.” He insisted that “they did not die in vain. God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force that will bring new light to this dark city.”

King also pastorally addressed the bereaved families: “I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal.”
You can listen to the entire eulogy below:

You can also watch Spike Lee’s 1997 Academy-nominated documentary, 4 Little Girls, here:

 
 

Jul

22

2013

Justin Taylor|7:00 am CT

The Gospel Project Now Available in the ESV

The folks at LifeWay and Crossway are grateful for a new partnership that will now allow adults, students, and kids to access The Gospel Project (curriculum from Lifeway) with the English Standard Version (Bible translation from Crossway).

The two publishers have partnered together to give away 15 Group Starter Kits (worth $100), which include:

Here’s a short description of The Gospel Project:

The Gospel Project is a Bible study resource that invites Adults, Students, and Kids of all ages to dive deeply into God’s story of redemption through Jesus Christ. In every lesson, participants are immersed in the gospel and learn how when the gospel works on them, they become a part of the story, too, the very hands and feet in God’s gospel project. The Gospel Project is designed to unify an entire church under a single Christ-centered curriculum. Separate study plans for adults, students, and kids ensure the proper focus and depth for each age group.

Trevin Wax (PhD cand., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the managing editor of the Gospel Project, and Dane Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton Graduate School) is senior vice president for Bible publishing at Crossway and the managing editor of the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. They were both kind enough to answer some questions about the partnership and their respective projects

What have you enjoyed most about working on each project? 

Trevin on TGP: Two things stand out for me. The first is the sheer privilege it is to labor over the Word of God and grow in my own understanding as I help fashion tools for leaders and teachers to expound God’s Word to others. I love being in God’s Word, so much of my enjoyment comes from spending so much time in the text.

The other aspect that I’ve enjoyed is getting to work with so many gifted people. From my fellow Gospel Project team members, to the writers we’ve brought in, to the pastors and leaders who love the material. . . . I’ve met many amazing people in the past two years.

Dane on the ESV: There is no greater earthly treasure than the Bible. I get up in the morning and travel four blocks to get to my Crossway office to spend the day helping people around the world have the Bible and theologically responsible, gospel-rich resources on the Bible. All working from a translation that is both accurate and elegant. You kidding me? What privilege.

How has the Church responded to the work? 

Trevin on TGP: We’ve been blessed by the response. We launched last fall with almost 500,000 participants. We believe we’ll surpass that mark this fall as more and more churches begin using the curriculum. When I talk with people using The Gospel Project, I generally hear two things: “Thank you” (they are grateful for Bible study for all ages that intentionally focuses our attention on Christ) and “This is rich” (they enjoy the depth of discussion prompted by the questions).

Dane on the ESV: It is nothing short of remarkable to see the growth of interest in the ESV around the world in the short 12 years it has been in existence. Awana, Child Evangelism Fellowship, and the Gideons have recently adapted the ESV. The ESV Bible is the number one annotated resource on Amazon—that includes not just Bible, and not just Christian books, but all books, period. We at Crossway sit back stunned at what God has done with this faithful, readable translation.

What are some thoughts on The Gospel Project now being available with ESV?

Trevin: I have been a reader of the ESV since it first came out. I appreciate the translation philosophy, the literary aspect of working from within the King James tradition, and the multiple formats the text is available in. It is a terrific translation. For this reason, as LifeWay has multiplied translation options in recent months, I was particularly excited to know that churches using The Gospel Project would now have the option of adopting the ESV as their translation of choice.

Dane: I love LifeWay. I love The Gospel Project. It is therefore a joy to partner with LifeWay by providing the ESV for this important curriculum. I believe strongly not only in the broader mission of LifeWay, but also in The Gospel Project specifically. In a publishing world that is happily seeing an abundance of gospel-rich resources, this is among the best.

How would churches, small groups, individuals benefit from this partnership?

Trevin: Church leaders recognize the value of having people use the same translation of Scripture. If a pastor preaches from the ESV every week, it will be a help to his congregation if their small group curriculum also uses the ESV as its main translation. I pray that pastors and churches will benefit from using the same translation in the pulpit and in the small group every week.

Dane: By having The Gospel Project available in the ESV, believers who use the ESV in daily life don’t need to be switching back and forth between different versions as they now work through The Gospel Project. This partnership therefore helps the church by allowing for continuity between the Bible they read and hear preached on the one hand and the Bible they study through The Gospel Project on the other hand.

 
 

May

08

2013

Justin Taylor|3:12 pm CT

A Note from Crossway’s President

Dear Friends of Crossway,

As you may have heard, a flood recently swept through Crossway’s headquarters. About two feet of water poured into our 32 first-floor offices due to unrelenting rains. The damage was extensive and repairs and rebuilding will take five or six months. You can see the damage here in this video.

More important, however, is the impact this could have on major ministry projects that we have planned.

As a not-for-profit ministry, Crossway is not only committed to publishing the ESV Bible and gospel-centered content, but also to providing God’s Word to hundreds of thousands of people overseas, either free or at a substantially reduced cost. Because of the recent flood, however, some of these international ministry efforts are now at risk.

Your willingness to stand with us today will help Crossway recover and carry forward our not-for-profit ministry and our strategic efforts to reach the world with the gospel and the truth of God’s Word.

That’s why I’m sending this e-mail — first, to ask for your prayers at this critical moment; and, second, to ask (if the Lord should lead you) for a gift of support. Your gift will help us cover three things: (1) the portion of the damage not covered by insurance, and (2) the installation of new safeguards to flood-proof our building. But most importantly (3) your gift will help ensure that crucial Bible ministry projects can continue to advance.

I would be deeply grateful to you if you are able to help us at this critical time. Specifically, we need your help to raise $360,000 by the end of our fiscal year, May 31st. Your support will make it possible especially for us to continue moving forward with the following priority projects:

  • Translation costs for the ESV Chinese Study Bible, to be published in Mainland China
  • Printing costs for 60,000 copies of the Chinese-English ESV bi-lingual Bible, also for publication and distribution in Mainland China
  • Completion and global distribution of the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible this fall
  • Development of the Knowing the Bible studies, to be offered free digitally worldwide

Though we don’t know exactly how the Lord will use these events for his kingdom and for his glory, we are confident in his grace and mercy and in his gracious provision for the work he has called us to do—trusting his words in Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

With my great appreciation for your prayers and support,

Lane T. Dennis, PhD
President

Crossway.org/support

 
 

Apr

23

2013

Justin Taylor|5:00 am CT

Put a Pebble in His Shoe

Greg Koukl:

I think that in some circles there’s pressure for Christian ambassadors to “close the sale” as soon as possible. When pressed for time, get right to the meat of the message. Get to the Gospel. If the person doesn’t respond, you’ve still done your part. Shake the dust off your feet and move on.

A wise ambassador, though, weighs his opportunities and adopts an appropriate strategy for each occasion. Sometimes, the simple truth of the cross is all that’s needed.  The fruit is ripe for harvesting.  Bump it and it falls into your basket.

Usually, though, the fruit is not ripe; the nonbeliever is simply not ready.  He may not even have begun to think about Christianity. Dropping a message on him that, from his point of view, is meaningless or simply unbelievable doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, it may be the worst thing you can do. He rejects a message he doesn’t understand and then he’s harder to reach next time.

Now here is my own more modest goal. I want to put a stone in his shoe. All I want to do is give him something worth thinking about. I want him to hobble away on a nugget of truth he can’t simply ignore because it continues to poke at him.

I think this is wise counsel. Of course we want our hearer to be saved, and we should pray toward that end. But an all-or-nothing approach to evangelism can be paralyzing for some of us. I sometimes have prayed for the first step of a response simply being a sleepless night as the person has a hard time shaking a certain truth or question.

For more on this approach by Koukl, see his excellent book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.

 
 

Mar

01

2013

Justin Taylor|4:00 am CT

Heralds of Peace Wielding the Sword of the Spirit

Robert Plummer and John Mark Terry have edited a new book entitled Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours (IVP Academic, 2012), building upon Roland Allen’s classic Missionary Methods: Saint Paul’s or Ours? from a century ago.

IVP has given me permission to post the entire chapter of Craig Keener’s chapter, “Paul and Spiritual Warfare” (PDF)—taken from Paul’s Missionary Methods edited by Robert L. Plummer and John Mark Terry. Copyright(c) 2012 by Robert L. Plummer and John Mark Terry. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com.

What follows is an excerpt of his helpful discussion on “the armor of God”:

* * *

By comparing the lists in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 and Ephesians 6:14-17, we see that elements of the believer’s armor can prove interchangeable from one letter to another. That is, Paul draws on the particular items in the familiar Roman soldier’s equipment not to pair spiritual concepts with these items in a one to one correspondence, but to illustrate that we need to be spiritually equipped. Salvation or the hope of salvation is a helmet in both cases, but Paul has the breastplate of faith and love in one case, with a breastplate of righteousness and shield of faith in the other.

We should note that his images of spiritual warfare do not involve special formulas or secret techniques, but salvation, faith, love, righteousness and so on. Without having to rule out the “mystical” elements that some see in spiritual warfare at times (as in 2 Kings 6:17), Paul’s images of spiritual warfare tend to be more practical than some imagine. Most involve protective armor, and we are protected by our right relationship with God and one another.

As is also often pointed out, God’s warriors, like Roman soldiers, have protection only for the front and not the back. Soldiers who discarded their shields and fled made easy targets for pursuing enemies; Roman soldiers who marched side by side, advancing on the enemy, were considered virtually invincible.

Whereas soldiers wore some pieces of armor in other circumstances, they normally donned the helmet and breastplate only for battle. The armor depicted here, therefore, involves a spiritual warrior directly engaged in spiritual war, with the assumption that this is the believer’s normal state. . . .

What we can say for certain in Paul’s context is that we dare not wage our battle in our own strength, but by depending on God (Eph 6:10). Western Christians have grown accustomed to depending on economic resources, technology, information and everything else but God; the way to advance the kingdom, however, is by humble recognition that God does the most important work and deserves the real credit.

[Belt]

Because the first piece of armor mentioned guards the waist or loins (Eph 6:14), it refers to a “belt” or “girdle.” It may thus evoke the Roman soldier’s leather apron beneath the armor or the metal belt that guarded his lower abdomen. God’s warrior is protected partly by truth, which in the context of other virtues mentioned here may include integrity (cf. Eph 4:15, 25). For Paul, however, including in Ephesians, “truth” involves particularly the truth of the gospel, recognizing and living in the reality of God’s claims as opposed to the world’s falsehood (see Eph 1:13; 4:21, 24-25; 5:9; cf. Rom 1:18-19). Believers must live and speak consistently with God’s reality.

[Breastplate]

Paul next mentions the “breastplate” (Eph 6:14), meant to protect the chest and usually made of leather with metal over it. God himself wears “righteousness as a breastplate” in Isaiah 59:17, so he can enact justice and righteousness in a world that has abandoned it (Is 59:14-16). Part of God’s mission into which he has invited us as agents is to work for righteousness and justice, for God’s honor and the right treatment of people made in his image. Given Paul’s usual usage, however (including in Eph 4:24; 5:9), this “righteousness” is also part of the new standing and character God has given us in Christ. Only those with this status and heart before God will be pure agents of his righteousness in the world.

[Footwear]

Soldiers also would wear sandals or half boots (Eph 6:15); this was necessary preparation for battle, so that one could advance against the enemy without needing to be distracted by what one might step on. Paul applies the image to “the gospel [good news] of peace,” clearly alluding to Isaiah 52:7, where heralds bring good news of divine deliverance and restoration for God’s people. Readiness to carry the gospel is necessary for God’s warriors to advance and, as we shall see, prepares us for the one offensive weapon that Paul will include: the gospel message (Eph 6:17).

[Shield]

Roman soldiers used rectangular shields about four feet high, covered with leather. Because such shields could be vulnerable to flaming arrows, soldiers could wet their shields before battles where such projectiles were expected. As the soldiers marched together in formation, the front row’s shields covering their front and the second row’s lifted shields guarding both rows from above, they were considered virtually invulnerable to projectiles that individuals hurled against them. Greeks and Romans sometimes thought of sexual temptation in terms of fire or wounds, but the meaning is undoubtedly broader than that; Scripture already used arrows as a metaphor for attacks from the wicked, including slander (Ps 11:2; 57:4; 58:6-7; 64:3; cf. 120:2-4; Prov 25:18). Given the normal case of the Roman soldier, however, Paul might assume something about our defense that we sometimes neglect: we dare not break ranks. We must march together, protecting one another.

[Enemy]

The threat for Paul is not human, as for Roman armies, but “the evil one.” While Satan is powerful, however, Paul declares that the shield of faith is sufficient to put out the fire on his arrows. Believers should not become fearful of Satan’s attacks, but stand firm in faith. When readers think of “faith” today, because of the past two centuries of trends in philosophy we often think of a subjective feeling or of a mental ability to extinguish all doubt, both of which approaches put the focus on the believer’s effort. In Jesus’ teaching, however, the question is not how much faith one has (a mustard seed is enough), but in whom one has faith. In Paul’s letters, Jesus and God the Father are the proper objects of faith. This is not a leap into the dark, as some generalized attitude of belief would be; this is a deliberate step into the light of God’s reality. The protection afforded by faith comes not when we trust our faith, but when we trust God who is absolutely trustworthy and able to protect us.

[Helmet]

Roman soldiers wore for battle bronze (or iron) helmets with long cheek pieces (Eph 6:17). The specific phrase, “helmet of salvation,” echoes Isaiah 59:17, as in Ephesians 6:14. In the immediate context in Isaiah, this helmet referred to God acting to deliver the oppressed from the wicked (Is 59:15-16), but in the larger context of Isaiah the theme of salvation included God delivering his people and all who would turn to him among the nations (e.g., Is 46:13; 49:6; 51:5-8). The message of salvation and God’s reign is also called “good news of peace” (Is 52:7; see also Eph 6:15). That context might suggest that we participate in bringing God’s message of salvation; more directly, given Paul’s usage in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul means that we are protected by means of God’s salvation.

[Sword]

The list climaxes, however, with the only offensive weapon in the soldier’s equipment that Paul will list (Eph 6:17). This limitation is not because Roman soldiers carried only one weapon; in fact they carried more, a pike or lance (or two) as well as their sword and dagger. For believers, however, there is only one weapon—God’s message—and it is logical that Paul chooses the image of the sword over the lance. The front row of an advancing legion carried heavy pikes that deterred attackers and could be thrust into them at fairly close range. Once close battle ensued, however, the heavy pikes became less practical than swords. (The sword here was the gladius, roughly 20-24 inches in length.) Paul envisions hand-to-hand combat, spiritual warfare not from afar at this point but at close range.

Paul declares that this one offensive weapon is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” While God’s word includes Scripture (which Jesus deployed against Satan at his temptation), Paul usually uses this phrase especially for the gospel (e.g., the same term in Rom 10:8, 17; the same idea in Eph 1:13). Every other piece of equipment Paul mentions protects us; the one piece that enables us to take back ground taken by the devil is the gospel—evangelism. Too often the church lives off the benefits of past revivals, waging a merely defensive battle as the world surrounds and constricts the church. The most strategic means God has provided us of reversing the direction of influence is for us to bring the good news of peace and salvation to the world, through evangelism. Evangelism is the one element of spiritual warfare that takes back Satan’s possessions. Without it, spiritual warfare is incomplete. Likewise, we are kept safe by truth, righteousness and salvation.

[Conclusion]

Heralds of peace, bearing the sword of the Spirit, will not always be well received. People in antiquity understood that heralds were granted diplomatic immunity, and any mistreatment of an ambassador signaled an act of war against the sender. Paul, however, is “an ambassador in chains” (Eph 6:20). Rome’s earthly empire was not willing to submit to God’s greater kingdom. Yet past earthly empires, including Rome, now lie in the dust, and God’s kingdom spreads, as promised, among all peoples. Jesus will return, and God’s kingdom will prevail. In the meantime, it often spreads, not through conquest, but through its agents’ suffering, as in Paul’s case.

 
 

Feb

04

2013

Justin Taylor|1:34 pm CT

Happy 100th Birthday, Mrs. Parks

Today would have been the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks, Civil Rights heroine. The definitive biography has recently been published: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, by Jeanne Theoharis, a Brooklyn College political science professor. Charles Blow, writing in the New York Times, provides a summary: “It argues that the romanticized, children’s-book story of a meek seamstress with aching feet who just happened into history in a moment of uncalculated resistance is pure mythology.”

Below is an earlier write-up I posted trying to summarize that fateful day in 1955 when she refused to move her seat on the bus, and what happened in the days after her actions.

On a cool Thursday morning, December 1, 1955, a 42-year-old seamstress named Rosa Parks boarded a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on her way to work at the Montgomery Fair Department Store, about five miles from her apartment complex—just as she did every weekday morning.

At the end of the workday—around 6 PM—she boarded the bus for her return trip home.

Contrary to some perceptions, she was not sitting in the “White’s Only Section,” but was rather in the middle neutral section with its floating cut-off line (indicated by a movable sign), depending on the number of white passengers.

Three stops later, her actions would set in motion what has been called “the greatest nonviolent revolution in American history (one of the greatest in all history).”

Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Taylor Branch picks up the story in the first volume of his magisterial series on America in the King Years. Describing Rosa Parks as “a tireless worker and churchgoer, of working class station and middle-class demeanor,” he writes:


All thirty-six seats of the bush she boarded were soon filled, with twenty-two Negroes seated from the rear and fourteen whites from the front.

Wikipedia: "The No. 2857 bus which Rosa Parks was riding on before she was arrested (a GM transit bus, serial number 1132). She was sitting in the 2nd row from the front, all the way to the right window (looking from the back)."

Driver J. P. Blake, seeing a white man standing in the front of the bus, called out for the four passengers on the row just behind the whites to stand up and move to the back.

Nothing happened.

Blake finally had to get out of the driver’s seat to speak more firmly to the four Negroes.

“You better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats,” he said.

At this, three of the Negroes moved to stand in the back of the bus, but Parks responded that she was not in the white section and didn’t think she ought to move. She was in no-man’s-land.

Blake said that the white section was where he said it was, and he was telling Parks that she was in it. As he saw the law, the whole idea of no-man’s-land was to give the driver some discretion to keep the races out of each other’s way. He was doing just that.

When Parks refused again, he advised her that the same city law that allowed him to regulate no-man’s-land also gave him emergency police power to enforce the segregation codes. He would arrest Parks himself if he had to.

Parks replied that he should do what he had to do; she was not moving.

She spoke so softly that Blake would not have been able to hear her above the drone of normal bus noise. But the bus was silent.

Blake notified Parks that she was officially under arrest. She would not move until he returned with the regular Montgomery police.


Here is audio of Mrs. Parks a few months later (April 1956) recounting the story:

Mrs. Parks was not the first to refuse to move, nor the first to be arrested. But leaders like E. D. Nixon needed a “test case” to challenge the system, and Mrs. Parks—with an impeccable reputation and a quiet demeanor—was the ideal candidate. He bailed her out of jail that night.


That evening the idea for a one-day bus boycott was hatched, and with Rosa Parks’s permission Jo Ann Robinson—an Alabama State College professor and head of the Woman’s Political Council—secretly used her school’s mimeograph machine to produce 35,000 handbills calling for a boycott of the Montgomery bus system:

This is for Monday, December 5, 1955

Another woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down.

It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped.

Negroes have rights too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negro, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother.

This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.

The idea of contacting—much less convincing—40,000 people about anything seemed an almost impossible task, especially in pre-social media days. But word quickly spread as the handbills were distributed to students leaving school on Friday, and the local black churches were mobilized as word continued to spread on Sunday.

On Monday morning, December 5, after a brief trial, Mrs. Parks was found guilty and fined $14. Her lawyer appealed to the state court.

The entire city watched in amazement as empty buses like this one rolled along their routes:

That afternoon, at 3 PM, a group of leaders met at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church to discuss extending the boycott beyond that day and to plan a mass gathering that evening at Holt Street Baptist Church, in the working-class district of Montgomery. During that meeting they formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), electing as president the young pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist ChurchMartin Luther King Jr. Just 26 years old, he was 15 months into his first pastorate.

King only had 20 minutes or so to prepare his speech. Well before the proceedings began the spacious church overflowed with several thousand people—in the sanctuary, in the balconies, in the basement, and lining the streets outside to listen via loudspeakers.

Thundering applause and sustained cheering erupted when King said the following:

And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.

There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair.

There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.

There comes a time.

Here is the only audio excerpt I’ve been able to locate—a clip that follows shortly after the excerpt above—though the recording isn’t of great quality:

The boycott made a serious economic impact on the city of Montgomery with its near-empty buses, and required extraordinary discipline, organization, and sacrifice among the black residents of Montgomery. It was not without cost to the black citizens of Montgomery. For example, the Kings’s house was bombed and he spent two weeks in jail.

Mother Pollard, an 80-year-old matriarch, was asked at a mass meeting how she was doing, and her answer summed up the feeling of many: “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”

On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court upheld a federal district court’s ruling that Alabama’s segregation laws were unconstitutional, thereby allowing black bus passengers to sit wherever they wanted. The boycott officially ended December 20, 1956, having lasted for an amazing 381 days. Through non-violent means a revolution was well underway.

If you want a great film on the Montgomery Bus Boycott which accurately and compellingly tells the story above in more details, check out the HBO Film Boycott (2001). You can watch a trailer here.