Spiritual Gifts and the Lordship of Christ

Tom Schreiner: Spiritual gifts provide a fascinating topic of discussion.[1] Christians from different theological traditions have different opinions about the gifts. It is important to study what the Scriptures say, and it is important to understand the spiritual gifts, but we can have unity with brothers and sisters even if we are not on the same page regarding all the details of the gifts. However, there is one fundamental truth that we must affirm about the gifts, regardless of whether we hold a cessationist or continuationist view of the gifts as a whole: the lordship of Jesus Christ over spiritual gifts. Paul introduces the topic of spiritual gifts with the foundational truth of Jesus’ lordship. “Now concerning spiritual gifts: brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the

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What Is Discernment?

Sinclair Ferguson: Someone I know recently expressed an opinion that surprised and in some ways disappointed me. I said to myself, “I thought he would have more discernment than that.” The experience caused me to reflect on the importance of discernment and the lack of it in our world. We know that people often do not see issues clearly and are easily misled because they do not think biblically. But, sadly, one cannot help reflecting on how true this is of the church community, too. Most of us doubtless want to distance ourselves from what might be regarded as “the lunatic fringe” of contemporary Christianity. We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the

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Why does anyone become a Christian?

Tim Keller: Many say that Christians who maintain the historic, traditional doctrines are behind the times, are too exclusive, and are “on the wrong side of history.” Two recent books that cast doubt on this view are from historian and biblical scholar Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016) and Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries? (Marquette University Press, 2016). The earliest Christians were widely ridiculed, especially by the cultural elites, excluded from circles of influence and business, and often persecuted and put to death. Hurtado says that Roman authorities were uniquely hostile to them, compared to other religious groups. Why? It was expected that people would have their own gods, but that they would also be willing to show honor to all other gods as well. Nearly every home, every city, every professional guild, and the Empire itself each had its own gods. You could not

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10 Things You Should Know about Original Sin

Sam Storms: Original sin sounds so archaic, so pessimistic, so grimly medieval. For heaven’s sake, this is the era of the computer and the space shuttle. And haven’t the most learned psychologists and sociologists assured us that people are by nature good, having been turned to their evil ways not by some inner instinct but through the influence of a deviant culture and sub-standard education? These questions indicate how important it is for us to understand the biblical notion of original sin. So here are ten things to keep in mind. (1) The terminology of “original sin” has been used in any one of three ways. Often people think immediately of the “original” original sin, i.e., the first sin of Adam. Others use this language to refer to “inherited” sin, the idea that all humans are born morally corrupt and spiritually alienated from God. Finally, by “original sin” some are referring to the causal relationship between Adam’s sin and our

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Justified by “Thirst” Alone!

Sam Storms: In his description of the new heaven and new earth, John refers to several glorious blessings that God’s people will experience. In Revelation 21:6 he mentions one in particular. It is God himself who declares: “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” Why doesn’t he simply say, “to the one who believes”? Why “thirst”? In fact, this isn’t the only time this imagery is used. In Revelation 22:17 we read this: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” So here we have two words used: “thirsts” and “desires.” His point is that saving faith or belief is more than a merely intellectual agreement with the truth of the gospel. Saving faith, the belief that leads to eternal life, is the thirsting of the soul and the desiring of the soul for the satisfaction that only Christ can bring. If you prefer the “beverages” of the

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Pathways into personal revival

AW Tozer: 1.  Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself.  Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. . . . When speaking of earthly goods Paul could say, “I have learned to be content,” but when referring to his spiritual life he testified, “I press toward the mark.”  So stir up the gift of God that is in you. 2.  Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life.  Timid experimenters are tagged for failure before they start.  We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God. . . . 3.  Put yourself in the way of the blessing.  It is a mistake to look for grace to visit us as a kind of benign magic, or to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met.  There are plainly marked paths which lead straight to the green pastures; let us walk in them.  To desire revival, for instance, and at

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A Catechism on the Heart

Sinclair Ferguson: Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God. Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn: O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin set free.

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What Is the Church?

Derek Thomas: In the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the church comprises the “whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be, gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof” (25.1). This is otherwise known as the invisible church. In another sense, the church is the body of the faithful (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 2:21–22; Rev. 21:2, 9), consisting of those throughout the world who outwardly profess faith, together with their children (WCF 25.2). This is otherwise known as the visible church. The Greek word that is translated as “church” in the Bible is ekklēsia. Conscious as we should be of the etymological fallacy (the idea that a word means what its composite root means), in this case it would seem to have merit. Thus, ekklēsiatranslates the Hebrew word qahal, the noun form meaning “assembly” or “congregation” and the verb essentially signifying “to call.” Often in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word qahal is translated synagōgē. Common to both Hebrew and Greek words is

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4 Great “Therefore’s” in the Bible

Michael Kelley: Indicatives and imperatives. You find them both in the Bible. Indicatives are facts; they are realities. And in the Bible, they are firm and secure because the Bible is the unchanging Word of God. The imperatives are commands or implications. They are statements of direction, made with authority, that have a direct and expected act of obedience expected to follow. Often, the indicative is linked with the imperative. It’s a statement of fact with an implication of response. And most often, the indicative is about what God has done and the imperative is about what we must do, think, or believe in response as a matter of response and obedience. The order is important here – we respond because God has done. Not, “We behave so that God will do.” It’s the simple difference between something like “God loves you,” therefore you respond, and “I am obedient,” so God will love me. The link between the indicative statement of fact and the

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Is the Bible Pro-Slavery?

Gavin Ortlund: This is a common charge these days. It is a part of the New Atheist attack on religion, and it also comes from various progressive circles to defend certain social views (in line with the so-called redemptive-movement hermeneutic). It is not an incomprehensible claim. In fact, it has some apparent, face value support—and not just in Old Testament law regulations, but in New Testament epistles written by the very apostles of Jesus Christ: Ephesians 6:5: “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters” (all translations ESV). Colossians 3:22: “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters.” I Peter 2:18: “Servants, be subject to your masters.” Lately I’ve been thinking about how to respond to this concern. It is certainly a complicated issue that one blog post cannot resolve, but here are several initial appeals that may be helpful at least to draw attention to its complexity. Defining the word “slavery” When we read verses like Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, I Peter 2:18,

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The Day of Atonement and Our Need for a High Priest

Michael Morales: Atonement—that is, reconciliation between God the Creator and sinful humanity—is at the heart of the Pentateuch’s theology. Indeed, the Day of Atonement is found at the literary center of the Pentateuch’s central book, Leviticus 16. Simply called “the Day” by ancient Jews, the Day of Atonement is dubbed a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” in Scripture (Lev. 16:31), a day of solemn convocation where all members of Israel were called to participate both by ceasing from labor and by “afflicting [their] souls” (Lev. 16:29)—understood as the one annual day of fasting mandated by the LORD. Failure to observe this Day would result in being “cut off” from among God’s people and being “destroyed” by the LORD, a sobering threat meant to underscore the gravity of the liturgy (Lev. 23:26-32). The ritual drama performed by the high priest, along with the severe warnings against neglecting this convocation, served to catechize Israel about the dire need for cleansing and the forgiveness of sins.

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Will All People Be Equal in Heaven?

Randy Alcorn: All people are equal in worth, but they differ in gifting and performance. God is the creator of diversity, and diversity means “inequality” of gifting (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). Because God promises to reward people differently according to their differing levels of faithfulness in this life, we should not expect equality of possessions and positions in Heaven. If everyone were equal in Heaven in all respects, it would mean we’d have no role models, no heroes, no one to look up to, no thrill of hearing wise words from someone we deeply admire. I’m not equal to Hudson Taylor, Susanna Wesley, George Mueller, or C. S. Lewis. I want to follow their examples, but I don’t need to be their equals. There’s no reason to believe we’ll all be equally tall or strong or that we’ll have the same gifts, talents, or intellectual capacities. If we all had the same gifts, they wouldn’t be special. If you can do some

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The Reformed View of Sanctification

Sinclair Ferguson: Reformed theology owes a special debt to the principles of biblical exposition recovered for the church at the time of the Reformation. It is particularly associated with the work of John Calvin, but was later developed by such seventeenth-century Puritans as John Owen and Thomas Goodwin (in England), and Thomas Hooker and John Cotton (in New England). Many later Christians have owed a special debt to the Reformed theological tradition. They include preachers like George Whitefield, C. H. Spurgeon and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; and theologians such as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Abraham Kuyper and B. B. Warfield; as well as such influential twentieth-century Christian leaders as J Gresham Machen and Francis Schaeffer. From one point of view, most evangelical theology in the English-speaking world can be see as an exposition of, deviation from or reaction to Reformed theology.[1] A cursory glance at the biographies or writings of these men under lines the fact that Reformed theology has always

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Is God’s Love Unconditional?

R.C. Sproul: It has become fashionable in evangelical circles to speak somewhat glibly of the unconditional love of God. It is certainly a pleasing message for people to hear and conforms to a certain kind of political correctness. In our desire to communicate to people the sweetness of the gospel, the readiness of God to cover our sins with forgiveness, and the incredible depth of His love displayed on the cross, we indulge in a hyperbolic expression of the scope and extent of His love. Where in Scripture do we find this notion of the unconditional love of God? If God’s love is absolutely unconditional, why do we tell people that they have to repent and have faith in order to be saved? God sets forth clear conditions for a person to be saved. It may be true that in some sense God loves even those who fail to meet the conditions of salvation, but that subtlety is often missed by

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10 Things You Should Know about the Presence of God

J. Ryan Lister: 1. God is immanent because he is transcendent. The Lord is “God in the heavens above (transcendent) and on the earth beneath (immanent)” (Josh 2:11). But to understand God in full we must recognize that his drawing near to creation stems from his being distinct from creation. In other words, there is no deficiency in God that creation satisfies. The Lord doesn’t relate to this world because he lacks something within himself. No, God draws near out of the abundance of who he is. God’s transcendence distinguishes him from the created order and puts things in their right perspective. God does not come to us needy and wanting, but rather he comes to “revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite” (Isa 57:15). It is the holy and righteous One above who restores the broken and needy below. 2. The Bible emphasizes God’s manifest presence, not only his omnipresence. There is a difference between saying “God is everywhere,” and

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How Does God’s Sovereignty Not Violate Our Decision-Making?

John Piper: There aren’t many things more important than the sovereignty of God in our personal lives and how we make choices. The way we think about this does have implications for how we worship and serve and persevere as Christians, so let’s make a stab at it. I’m going to lay out seven points in what I think is a biblical view of the relationship between the human will and God’s sovereignty. Each one could have a book written about it, so these are simply pointers with biblical passages to think about. 1. Devastating Bondage Until someone is born again by the power of God’s Spirit, all human beings, ever since Adam, are spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4). They are darkened in their understanding, hardened in their hearts (Ephesians 4:18). They cannot grasp spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). They are rebellious against God (Romans 8:7), spiritually dead in trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6), and unable to

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What the Word of God Says About the Word of God, Book by Book

Jared Wilson: What God says about his word is a deep, complex, and staggering thing. And each book of the written word testifies to the wonder of his revelation. I decided to take a look, book by book, selecting a representative passage from each to highlight many of the things God’s word says about God’s words. The word of God is . . . Effectual Genesis 1:3 – And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Personal Exodus 6:2 – God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord.” Authoritative Leviticus 20:22 – You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. Exclusive Numbers 15:31 – Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him. Necessary

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The Holiness of God and the Sinfulness of Man

R.C. Sproul: One word that crystallizes the essence of the Christian faith is the word grace. One of the great mottos of the Protestant Reformation was the Latin phrase sola gratia—by grace alone. This phrase wasn’t invented by the sixteenth-century Reformers. Its roots are in the theology of Augustine of Hippo, who used it to call attention to the central concept of Christianity, that our redemption is by grace alone, that the only way a human being can ever find himself reconciled to God is by grace. That concept is so central to the teaching of Scripture that to even mention it seems like an insult to people’s intelligence; yet, if there is a dimension of Christian theology that has become obscured in the last few generations, it is grace. Two things that every human being absolutely must come to understand are the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. These topics are difficult for people to face. And they go

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Springs of life will flow

Closing thoughts from John Piper’s recent address at T4G’18: New God, New Gospel, New Gladness: How Is Christian Joy Distinct? And on this side of the incarnation and the cross, this new gladness is described with striking relevance to our text like this: The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . [But] God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [to remedy our blindness] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6) What was the psalmist crying out for in Psalm 4:6? “Lift up the light of your facr Springs of Life Will Flow And from this new heart of gladness, surpassing all the joys of the world, flow all springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). Out of

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How to Pray in the Holy Spirit

Jason Meyer: I spent five years immersing myself in the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It was truly a transformative season in my life. What was the biggest takeaway? The answer may surprise you. He taught me how to pray. Those who really knew Lloyd-Jones will not find that answer surprising at all. His wife once said, “No one will ever understand my husband until they realize that he is first of all a man of prayer and then an evangelist” (Bethan Lloyd-Jones). In particular, Lloyd-Jones, as a man of prayer, taught me how to pray in the Holy Spirit. My hunger for learning how to pray in the Spirit came from a perplexing problem. I read Ephesians 6:18, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” This text really bothered me because I could parse the words and diagram the grammar, but I had this nagging sense that I was not experiencing the reality of it. Lloyd-Jones

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