Can We Be Saved Without the Church?

. Andrew Wilson: . Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, said Cyprian of Carthage: “Outside of the Church, there is no salvation.” Even more provocatively: “he cannot have God as Father who doesn’t have the Church as Mother.” Emphatic stuff. I’ve just finished Marcus Peter Johnson’s One With Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation, and somewhat surprisingly (and refreshingly) he concludes his survey with a chapter on the church, probing exactly this issue. Was Cyprian right? Can we be saved without the Church? No. Johnson says this for three reasons: The first reason … is that the proclamation of the gospel, the good news of salvation, is intimately bound up with the proclamation of the church. To proclaim the mystery of Christ includes the proclamation of the mystery of the church [he then cites and summarises Gal 3:26-28; Eph 3:1-12; 5:31-32; 1 Cor 6:15]. Our union with Christ provides a second reason … It is important to point out that the Protestant

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3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Church

. Steve Timmis: Joining a church is a big deal. By joining, I don’t mean just going to a regular meeting once or twice a week. I don’t even mean simply getting your name on the membership roll. I mean committing yourself to a covenantal relationship with a group of Christians who are your family and with whom you share life-in-Christ together. That’s how big a deal it is. So if you’ve relocated and need to find a church, then make sure you ask the right questions before joining. Though these questions aren’t the only ones to ask, they are important. None of them stands alone, but together they create a crucial decision-making framework. . 1. What do they believe? The idea of becoming part of a church that doesn’t love, preach, and teach the gospel is absurd. Far too much is at stake. But in order to make that judgment, we need to have some idea of what the

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The Temple and the Tabernacle

Tim Challies: If you are a committed reader, you know what it’s like when you get swept away by a book—where hours pass in what feels like minutes. You know the sheer pleasure of being drawn into a book that is unexpectedly interesting and intriguing. This was the case for me this weekend when I began to read The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation. Hidden behind that title is a brilliant and fascinating work that offers something to every Christian. This book, as the title suggests, is a study of the Old Testament temple and tabernacle. Yet it is much more than that. So central are these buildings to Old Testament worship and New Testament symbolism that understanding them, understanding the roles they played, understanding the way they were made, understanding their function to Old Testament worship, and understanding the key differences between them illumines so much of the Christian faith. We

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The Bible and the Religions of the World

This post is an excerpt written by Harold A. Netland for the ESV Study Bible. The Intersection of the Bible and Other Religions Although the Bible nowhere discusses “other religions” as such, much in it is relevant to the subject. The OT includes repeated references to the deities and religious practices of the Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Babylonians. The NT world was populated with “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” (1 Cor. 8:5) and characterized by religious syncretism. But the religions of the ancient world have been replaced today by the so-called major world religions. Biblical Themes and Other Religions Even a cursory survey indicates that there are some similarities between Christian faith and other religions. Islam and Christianity, e.g., both believe in an eternal Creator God and a judgment to come after death. Both Jesus and Confucius taught a version of the Golden Rule, and both Christianity and Confucianism teach respect for one’s parents. Such similarities are not surprising and

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Two Wills, One Outcome

Sam Storms: In his book, What About Free Will? (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2016), Scott Christensen seeks to articulate the significance of what is known as compatibilism. On pp. 77-78 he says this: “Biblical compatibilism seeks to demonstrate one simple reality. Every human action in the course of history has a dual explanation, one divine and one human. In this model of “double agency,” the human side of the explanation is the more tangible, visible and familiar side. The divine side is largely intangible, invisible and less familiar. This juxtaposition is expressed simply and clearly by Solomon: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9; cf. Prov. 19:21; 20:24). The vast throngs of earth’s inhabitants contemplate, deliberate and articulate their plans to pursue the paths that define their lives. Then they act upon those plans. Yet, God secretly stands behind them all directing each set of footsteps along the specific course he designed. His

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10 Things You Should Know about Union with Christ

  Marcus Johnson: 1. The Bible contains an astonishing number of terms, expressions and images that bear witness to the reality of our being made one with Christ Jesus. In the Newer Testament we find literally hundreds of references to the believer’s union with Christ. To cite merely a few examples, believers are created in Christ (Eph. 2:10), crucified with him (Gal. 2:20), buried with him (Col. 2:12), baptized into Christ and his death (Rom. 6:3), united with him in his resurrection (Rom. 6:5), and seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6); Christ is formed in believers (Gal. 4:19) and dwells in our hearts (Eph. 3:17); the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15; 12:27); Christ is in us (2 Cor. 13:5) and we are in him (1 Cor. 1:30); the church is one flesh with Christ (Eph. 5:31–32); believers gain Christ and are found in him (Phil. 3:8–9). Furthermore, in Christ we are justified (Rom.

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God Remembers You

Erik Raymond: In recent years there has been a renewed emphasis upon remembering the gospel. This is so healthy for our souls. So often we are beset with gospel amnesia, and we forget the rich truths of all that God has done for us in Christ. And when we remember the gospel we can’t help but remember God. At the foot of the cross we are taught theology and able to, with tears of joy, see God’s simultaneous display of love, righteousness, holiness, mercy, wisdom, and faithfulness. It is so very good for us to remember. But there is another angle to this that we sometimes forget. It is so simple that it’s often elusive. God remembers us. This is such good news to us. If we are honest we will admit that we do a poor job of remembering the gospel and remembering who God is. We are most often walking out of a theological fog distracted by commercials

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Lord, Enlarge My Love for You

Jon Bloom: It all begins with delight. The Christian life the New Testament describes simply cannot be lived if our hearts do not love and treasure God. No one sells all they own for a field, unless it holds a much more valuable treasure (Matthew 13:44). No one forsakes sin to trust and obey Jesus, unless his salvation holds out far more pleasure than sin (Luke 19:8–10). No one will — and no one can — draw near to God without believing he richly rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). No one counts their own righteousness as loss, unless they believe Jesus’s righteousness is the only thing that grants him the inexpressible joy of knowing the Father (Philippians 3:9–10). No one leaves “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands” for Jesus’s sake without the incentive of a far greater reward (Matthew 19:29). No one willingly suffers for Jesus’s sake, unless he believes his

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When God’s Timing Is Not Our Own

    Sam Storms: The God of the Unlikely Time Often our schedule and God’s seem out of sync. He acts earlier than we had expected, or later than we had hoped, or when it seems most awkward and inconvenient. The result is that sometimes we are impatient with God or choose to act impetuously, while on other occasions we are lazy and inactive. I suspect that’s how the Israelites must have felt as they stood on the banks of the Jordan River, prepared to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. They learned a lesson there that all of us must learn sooner or later. The lesson is simply that the God we love and serve is often the God of the unlikely time. When the two spies returned from Jericho, Joshua received the news he had been waiting for: “And they said to Joshua, ‘Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the

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4 Ways Confrontation Must Happen in Christian Community

Eric Geiger: We need confrontation. In Christian community, we live and labor alongside broken and struggling brothers and sisters. We ourselves, no matter how long we have walked with the Lord, are broken and struggling with our own issues. All of us are prone to wander and fall, so we need people around us who “if they see something, say something,” who care when something in our lives is left “unattended.” We need people around us who are loving enough to confront us when our hearts are unattended by His truth, when our marriages are unattended by our affections, when our relationships are unattended by forgiveness, and when our decisions are unattended by His agenda. We need to confront. If sin goes un-confronted, the community can self-destruct because the community loses the commitment to the values and beliefs that make her distinct. If you are in Christian community and you see something in a brother or sister’s life, if you

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What Does it Mean to Pray in the Name of Jesus?

Sam Storms: Can we really believe the words of Jesus in John 14:14 when he declares: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”? Twice in vv. 13-14 Jesus says you must pray “in my name”. What does that mean? Is Jesus telling us that all we have to do is attach the words, “In Christ’s name” at the end of each prayer and we will be guaranteed a positive answer? If that were the case, the words “in Christ’s name” or “in the name of Jesus” would function much like a magical incantation, no different from what a magician would do when he says “Abracadabra” or what the owner of a magic lamp would do to evoke the presence of a genie who would then grant him three wishes. It’s important to note that one need not even repeat the words “in Christ’s name” to pray “in Christ’s name.” The perfect inflection of the word

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How to pray for God’s favour

Denny Burk: This morning, I’ve been pondering and praying the words of Moses in Exodus 33:13: “If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight.” –Exodus 33:13 Notice three crucial things about this prayer, each of which illuminate how we ought to pray as well. 1. The Basis: Even though the sentence begins with “If I have found favor,” God’s favor toward Moses is not in question. We know that because God has already told Moses that his favor rests on him (v. 12), and God will tell him again “you have found favor in my sight” (v. 17). God’s gracious disposition toward Moses is not in question, and so the basis for Moses’ request is God’s free grace. 2. The Request: Moses asks to know God’s “ways.” God’s “ways” refer to God’s behavior and manner of conduct. It is God’s behavior

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What is Biblical Theology?

Tom Schreiner (part two of a three part essay): The solution to the problems of shallow preaching … is really quite simple: pastors must learn how to use biblical theology in their preaching. Yet learning how to do that requires us to begin by asking, what is biblical theology? Biblical vs. Systematic Theology Biblical theology, in contrast to systematic theology, focuses on the biblical storyline. Systematic theology, though it is informed by biblical theology, is atemporal. Don Carson argues that biblical theology stands closer to the text than systematic theology, aims to achieve genuine sensitivity with respect to the distinctiveness of each corpus, and seeks to connect the diverse corpora using their own categories. Ideally, therefore, biblical theology stands as a kind of bridge discipline between responsible exegesis and responsible systematic theology (even though each of these inevitably influences the other two).[1] In other words, biblical theology restricts itself more consciously to the message of the text or corpus under consideration.

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A Focused Faith

Chris Castaldo: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a Protestant pastor, was one of Germany’s leading scholars of the twentieth century. He courageously returned from Union Seminary in New York to oppose Adolf Hitler. His great desire was for Christians to follow Christ whatever the cost. It was a cost he knew only too well: he was arrested, imprisoned, and executed (just days before the end of the Second World War) for his opposition to the Nazi regime. In his most famous work, The Cost of Discipleship (1937), he urged Christians to throw off everything that hindered their wholehearted allegiance to Christ, including the accumulation of wealth. Jesus does not forbid the possession of property in itself. He was man, he ate and drank like his disciples, and thereby sanctified the good things of life. These necessities, which are consumed in use and which meet the legitimate requirements of the body, are to be used by the disciple with thankfulness . . .

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Paul and James on the Meaning of Genesis 15:6

Gerald Hiestand: One of the more revealing aspects of Paul and James’ soteriology is the different ways they both use Genesis 15:6 (“And Abraham believed God and it was counted for him as righteousness,”) as a proof text to defend their comments about the gospel. The key observation to make is that in Romans 4, Paul views the birth of Isaac as the fulfillment of Genesis 15:6, whereas in James 2, James views the offering of Isaac as the fulfillment of Genesis 15:6. These readings are not mutually exclusive, and ultimately serve as complementary theological readings of the same OT text. In what follows I offer a sketch (scratchy notes, if you will) of my reading of Paul and James’ use of Gen 15:6, with a view to showing how their use of this text sheds light on their respective soteriological frameworks. Paul and Genesis 15:6 In Romans 1-3 Paul is laboring to show that righteousness comes through faith in

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6 Truths that Will Lead You to True Joy

This post is adapted from Quest for Joy, a short-form tract by John Piper: 1. God created us for his glory. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth . . . whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7) God made us to magnify his greatness—the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God’s glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. 2. Every human should live for God’s glory. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) If God made us for his glory, clearly we should live for his

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What Did Jesus Believe About the Scriptures?

Sam Storms: The question: “What think ye of the Bible?” reduces to the question: “What think ye of Christ?” To deny the authority of Scripture is to deny the lordship of Jesus. So what did Jesus think of the Scriptures (or at least of the Old Testament)? Consider the people and events of the OT, for example, whom/which Jesus frequently mentioned. He refers to Abel, Noah and the great flood, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, Isaac and Jacob, the manna from heaven, the serpent in the desert, David eating the consecrated bread and his authorship of the Psalms, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha,, and Zechariah, etc. In each case he treats the OT narratives as straightforward records of historical fact. But, say the critics, perhaps Jesus was simply accommodating himself to the mistaken beliefs of his contemporaries. That is to say, Jesus simply met his contemporaries on their own ground without necessarily committing himself to the correctness of their views. He chose

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10 Things You Should Know about the Bible’s Teaching on Men and Women

By Andreas J. Köstenberger and Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger, authors of God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey. 1. We were created male and female by divine design. According to the Genesis creation account, God created humanity male and female (Gen 1:26–28). Maleness and femaleness are creational, not contractual. They are divinely instituted rather than socially defined. Thus our gender identity cannot simply be renegotiated the way in which we refinance a mortgage or reschedule an appointment. God created us, and we are his creatures, both men and women. 2. We were created male and female in God’s image. Humanity’s binary gender design as male and female reflects in some mysterious way the nature of God. While sharing a common humanity, the man and the woman are unique and complementary rather than identical. This complementarity, in turn, reflects a facet of God’s own nature. God, too, is a unity within diversity (three in one, equal in personhood, distinct in

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Leviticus: It’s all about Jesus

J.D. Greear: If you ask Christians for their favorite book of the Bible, hardly anyone is going to answer, “Leviticus.” (I do know one guy at our church who loved Leviticus—he called it “The Book of Enchantment,” though we could never figure out why—but he was probably the only one.) The book of Leviticus can seem downright strange to us. It’s got a lot of odd rules that don’t always make sense. It’s often tough to get through: more Bible Reading Plans have shipwrecked on the shoals of Leviticus than perhaps any other book of the Bible. But if we just skip over all the ceremonies and rituals and rules, we would miss one of the clearest images of Jesus in the entire Old Testament. Right in the center of Leviticus, in chapter 16, is a ceremony the Jewish people held to be more holy and crucial than any other—a day so thick with meaning and sacredness that they simply

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The Essential Warfare for Holiness

One of the great points the Puritans saw in Scripture is the connection between happiness and holiness. For them, to be perfectly holy would be to be perfectly happy. Pastor John, how would you articulate this connection between happiness and holiness? John Piper: My approach will be slightly different, because the more I think about Christian Hedonism, the more careful I am in phrasing this connection. Happiness is part of holiness, so that if you tried to describe what it means to be a holy person and left out happiness in God, you couldn’t do it. There is no such thing as holiness minus happiness in God. Happiness in God is the essence of holiness. God’s holiness is God’s being supremely valuable. That is his holiness. God infinitely delights in his infinite delightfulness because otherwise he would be a liar. He would be unrighteous. And so his holiness is being infinitely delightful and delighting infinitely in his infinite delightfulness. Our holiness

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