Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom

By John M. Frame: DEFINITION Divine sovereignty, which is that God exercises efficacious, universal, and loving control over all things, is compatible with human freedom in that humans are free to do what they want to do, although God is sovereign over our desires.   SUMMARY The sovereignty of God is the same as the lordship of God, for God is the sovereign over all of creation. The major components of God’s lordship are his control, authority, and presence. To discuss the sovereignty of God, though, is to focus particularly on the aspect of control, though this should not bracket God’s authority and gracious presence out of the discussion. The control that God exercises over all things is both efficacious and universal; there is not one thing outside of his control. This even extends to human sin and faith. However, people still remain free and God remains innocent of sin. This is because humans have the freedom to do whatever it is that they

read more Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom

Finding God in the Darkness

Derek Thomas: Four times in Genesis 39 we read that God was with Joseph (39:2-3, 21, 23). The statements form a set of pillars at either end of the story of Joseph’s initial experience of Egypt. On the one end, they come at the beginning of the story after Joseph has been sold by the Ishmaelites to Potiphar, the pharaoh’s “captain of the guard” (39:1). The point of the description is to show to us that God’s presence “prospered” Joseph (39:2). He was a “successful man” (39:2) because “the Lord was with him” (39:3). William Tyndale translated it, “the Lord was with Joseph and he was a lucky fellow!” The point is that the presence of God in the life of Joseph prospered him. He was put in charge of Potiphar’s entire house entrusting everything that he had to Joseph. God was there, in the good times. True, he was a slave, but life was good. It is relatively easy to

read more Finding God in the Darkness

How Suffering Reveals Your True Self

Paul David Tripp: Trust Issues Here’s what happens in times of suffering. When the thing you have been trusting (whether you knew it or not) is laid to waste, you don’t suffer just the loss of that thing; you also suffer the loss of the identity and security that it provided. This may not make sense to you if right now you are going through something that you wouldn’t have planned for yourself, but the weakness that is now a part of my regular life has been a huge instrument of God’s grace (see 2 Cor. 12:9.) It has done two things for me. First, it has exposed an idol of self I did not know was there. Pride in my physical heath and my ability to produce made me take credit for what I couldn’t have produced on my own. God created and controls my physical body, and God has given me the gifts that I employ every day. Physical health and

read more How Suffering Reveals Your True Self

How Does COVID-19 Expose the Lie of the Prosperity Gospel?

Conrad Mbewe: Prosperity gospel preachers all over the world claim that Christianity, when well understood and applied, is meant to give you a long life of health and a lot of wealth. I often tell friends in the West that the prosperity gospel in Africa has a slightly different texture and emphasis from what was initially imported from there. Prosperity teachers in the West often teach carefully selected passages of the Bible in ways that are not in line with the original author’s intent. In Africa, prosperity teachers emphasize the “anointed man of God” who has power to deliver you from your poverty through his prayers. This is a very serious problem in Africa. It has spread like a wild forest fire. I am not sure about the Islamic states in north Africa, but south of the Sahara Desert it has become the most conspicuous form of Christianity. This is because prosperity gospel preachers tend to buy up time on

read more How Does COVID-19 Expose the Lie of the Prosperity Gospel?

His Delight Is Not in Your Strength

Marshall Segal:  We discover where we really find our strength not when we feel strong, but when we feel weak. Exhaustion and frustration have a way of blowing away the fog, revealing what’s really happening inside of us: Have we been leaning on God for all that we need, or have we made his help, his strength, his guidance a kind of last resort? Many of us are more self-reliant than we would admit, and self-reliance is far more dangerous than it sounds. The widespread delusion, especially among more secular people, is that I can do anything, if I am willing to work hard. I am stronger than I think, strong enough to do anything I want to do in the world. The reality, however, is that the vast majority of us are weaker than we realize — and yet love to think ourselves strong. And that false sense of strength not only intensifies our arrogance and our ineffectiveness, but it also offends our God. His

read more His Delight Is Not in Your Strength

8 Reminders in These Days of Panic

Dane Ortlund: These are strange days, days of fear, days of hysteria—in other words, days that simply bring all our latent anxieties up to the surface, anxieties that were there all along and are now made visible to others. What do we need to remember in these days of alarm? The World of the Bible. Now we know how the people of God felt throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament. The prophets and many of the psalms speak to people who are caught up in mass hysteria or subject to pandemics. Maybe the current cultural moment is precisely the hermeneutic we need to read the OT deeply for the first time, which can otherwise feel so foreign. Our True Trust. Times of public panic force us to align our professed belief with our actual belief. We all say we believe God is sovereign and he is taking care of us. But we reveal our true trust when the world goes into meltdown. What’s really our

read more 8 Reminders in These Days of Panic

3 Doctrines That Sustain Us in Suffering

  Ligon Duncan: Undergird Your Hope While we may not understand what God is doing, we can always trust who he is. We must never interpret God’s character by our circumstances. We must instead interpret our circumstances by God’s character. In Psalm 89, we can find three doctrines that undergird the psalmist’s hope in God and that sustain him in the midst of his suffering. 1. The Doctrine of Election First, we find the psalmist taking comfort from the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election is not an esoteric theological point for seminarians to fight about. Election in Scripture is meant to generate both hope for the people of God and worshiping hearts in the people of God. Notice how the psalmist celebrates God on account of his electing grace: I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. . . . You have said, “I have made a covenant

read more 3 Doctrines That Sustain Us in Suffering

The Christian Faith Is Not Based on the Evidence for the Resurrection

William Lane Craig: In considering the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, it is important to avoid giving the impression that the Christian faith is based on the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. The Christian faith is based on the event of the resurrection. It is not based on the evidence for the resurrection. This distinction is crucial. The Christian faith stands or falls on the event of the resurrection. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christian is a myth, and we may as well forget it. But the Christian faith does not stand or fall on the evidence for the resurrection. There are many real events in history for which the historical evidence is slim or nonexistent (in fact, when you think about it, most events in history are of this character). But they did actually happen. We just have no way of proving that they happened. Thus, it is entirely conceivable that the resurrection of Jesus was a real

read more The Christian Faith Is Not Based on the Evidence for the Resurrection

Why Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

  Brian Rosner: Why did Jesus rise from the dead? According to 1 Peter 1:3, his resurrection brings us at least two life-changing benefits: a living hope and a new life. Let’s consider these twin truths—twin promises—from the New Testament’s broader witness. Raised to Provide a Living Hope Death is a terrible thing. Most people face their own death with understandable trepidation. And if human life is about relationships, the death of loved ones rob us of those relationships we value most. The resurrection of Jesus means followers of Christ don’t face death as those who lack hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Paul’s great exposition of the meaning of Jesus’s resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 climaxes with the words: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:54–55) Through Christ’s resurrection, death has lost its sting. By his resurrection, he destroyed death and brought “life and immortality to light” (2 Tim. 1:10). But

read more Why Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

John Piper’s prayer during the Coronavirus pandemic

Father, At our best moments, by your grace, we are not sleeping in Gethsemane. We are awake and listening to your Son’s prayer. He knows, deep down, that he must suffer. But in his perfect humanity, he cries out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.” In the same way, we sense, deep down, that this pandemic is appointed, in your wisdom, for good and necessary purposes. We too must suffer. Your Son was innocent. We are not. Yet with him in our less-than-perfect humanity, we too cry out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.” Do quickly, O Lord, the painful, just, and merciful work you have resolved to do. Do not linger in judgment. Do not delay your compassion. Remember the poor, O Lord, according to your mercy. Do not forget the cry of the afflicted. Grant                                       

read more John Piper’s prayer during the Coronavirus pandemic

2 Reasons Jesus Died on the Cross

Brian Rosner: Why did Jesus die? Historically, from a human perspective, the answer is straightforward enough. The Jewish leaders plotted against him, Judas betrayed him, Herod and Pilate tried him, and the Roman soldiers executed him. A number of individuals and groups were responsible for his death. As Luke puts it, “Wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). But there’s another angle to consider. As Acts 2:23 also says, Jesus was “handed over by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” To get to the heart of the question of why Jesus died, we have to think from God’s point of view. Theologically, from God’s perspective, we may mention two main reasons. 1. Jesus Died to Bring Us Near to God Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Pet. 3:18) The purpose of bringing us to God implies that, prior to Jesus dying, we were far

read more 2 Reasons Jesus Died on the Cross

The Imperative-Indicative Balance

Brian Chapell: Right application of Scripture necessitates Herman Ridderbos’s famous insight into Paul’s theology. Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible (Acts 16:14–16; Col. 3:1–5; 1 John 5:1–5).[i] The human instinct with every non-Christian religion reverses the order, teaching that who we are before God is based on what we do for God. Thus, any preaching that is distinctively Christian must keep listeners from confusing, or inverting, our “who” and our “do.” What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ. We obey because God has loved us and united us to himself by his Son; we are not united to God, nor do we make him love us, because we have obeyed him. Our obedience is a response to his love, not a purchase of it. We keep this indicative-imperative relationship clear, not by when we happen to mention each element in a sermon, but by making sure

read more The Imperative-Indicative Balance

Is God Sovereign over Viruses?

Gene Edward Veith: The coronavirus epidemic has disrupted our lives, shut down the economy, and killed thousands of people. If God is sovereign and good, some are asking, why doesn’t He stop it? There are often, at the heart of such questions, misconceptions about both God and the world. The prevailing view of God today is that of “moralistic therapeutic deism.” God is loving and good, which means that He just wants us to be happy. He can help us with our problems and wants us to be loving and good too. But He is not particularly demanding or judgmental, and He basically leaves us alone. This view is rampant among teenagers, research has shown, but it can also be found among contemporary theologians who insist that God is so good that He would never condemn anyone to hell or punish His Son for other people’s sins. But while this sentimental view of God seemingly puts Him in a very

read more Is God Sovereign over Viruses?

What No Virus Can Take

John Piper: Romans 8 — “the great eight” — is a text I think everybody in this isolation period should be memorizing. I’m making that as a suggestion: it’s the best thing you could do with your time. Romans 8 gives greater foundations for this fearlessness than anything in the world — than anything the world has to offer. I’ll mention four: 1. For the called who love God in Jesus Christ, all of God’s righteous condemnation toward you was put on Jesus, and there is now no condemnation — no punishment — for those who are in Christ: “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). Condemnation for those who are in Christ is over. It happened at Calvary. That is wonderful. 2. God’s willingness to sacrifice his only Son for the called ones who love him means he not only died in their place, but will

read more What No Virus Can Take

Jesus Became a Curse for Us

R.C. Sproul: One image, one aspect, of the atonement has receded in our day almost into obscurity. We have been made aware of present-day attempts to preach a more gentle and kind gospel. In our effort to communicate the work of Christ more kindly we flee from any mention of a curse inflicted by God upon his Son. We shrink in horror from the words of the prophet Isaiah (chap. 53) that describe the ministry of the suffering servant of Israel and tells us that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Can you take that in? Somehow the Father took pleasure in bruising the Son when he set before him that awful cup of divine wrath. How could the Father be pleased by bruising his Son were it not for his eternal purpose through that bruising to restore us as his children? But there is the curse motif that seems utterly foreign to us, particularly in this time in history.

read more Jesus Became a Curse for Us

Coping with Coronavirus by means of Good Theology!

Sam Storms: Bridgeway Church likely is no different from other gospel-centered churches when it comes to the frequency and variety of suffering that people endure. On top of all it all, we can now add the emotional instability and, on the part of some, panic that has set in as we watch the spread of Covid-19. I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to such personal tragedies, such as the sudden and inexplicable death of a loved one or an extended illness or the loss of a job, is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly? How do we persevere in faith when the future days

read more Coping with Coronavirus by means of Good Theology!

What Is God Up to with Corona?

Erik Raymond: “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” (John Piper) I appreciate this quote because it reminds us of our limited perspective. We simply cannot see all that God is doing. But even above blind spots, we have capacity issues. Not only is God doing more than we can see, but he is also doing more than we can fathom. Therefore the first steps in Christian humility have to be in the path revealed by God’s Word. In it, we are given a divine intel briefing that helps us to know what’s going on. Take the current pandemic, for example. If I had a buck for every time someone postulated as to what God was doing in this situation, we’d be making our church budget. There are mysteries here that we simply do not know. But there are things revealed that we do know. Amid this current trial,

read more What Is God Up to with Corona?

4 Ways to Care for Fearful Church Members

Jonathan Rourke: The familiar voice of a pastor can bring peace in times of trouble. Your consistent ministry of the Word and love for your people create a strong bond. It’s often easily overlooked in the good times, but when circumstances suddenly change, so does our people’s appreciation for sound words of grace and truth. Though we can be tempted to judge people gripped by fear, this is a stewardship not to be squandered. After all, these members have been entrusted to you, and you will give an account for those souls. Below are lessons I’ve learned from sometimes failing to properly care for fearful members. First, acknowledge that fear is real.  Regardless of the actual threat level, you’re ministering to a person with a real need, and for that reason alone, it must be taken seriously. The fact that you’re not afraid, hurt, discouraged, confused, or suffering from any kind of distress does not discharge you from the duty

read more 4 Ways to Care for Fearful Church Members

The Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence of God

John Frame: DEFINITION The three “omni” attributes of God characterize him as all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present. Each of these involves the other two, and each provides a perspective on the all-embracing lordship of the true God. SUMMARY Omnipotence means that God is in total control of himself and his creation. Omniscience means that he is the ultimate criterion of truth and falsity, so that his ideas are always true. Omnipresence means that since God’s power and knowledge extend to all parts of his creation, he himself is present everywhere. Together they define God’s lordship, and they yield a rich understanding of creation, providence, and salvation. Introduction The prefix omni means “all,” so the three divine attributes in our title can be paraphrased by saying that God is “all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present.” Let us look at these individually. Omnipotence Scripture affirms God’s omnipotence by saying that God does whatever he is pleased to do (Psa 115:3; cf. Isa 55:11 and Jer 32:17). Nothing is

read more The Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence of God

Give Me Doctrine or Give Me Death

Greg Gilbert: In recent years, a number of books have been published that urge Christians to rethink a traditional understanding of “doctrine.” The discussions surrounding this question are many and varied, and they take place on every level of theological sophistication. At the highest levels, the questions probe whether doctrine is even possible given postmodern ways of thinking: How capable are we of formulating any objective statements at all, given that we are all products of a culture? Is the idea of propositional truth even valid? Does the Bible contain doctrine as we have defined doctrine in the past? These types of questions have begun to filter down into more popular works as well, so that they are becoming a part of the collective evangelical consciousness. At the more popular level, though, they are not articulated in terms of whether objective, propositional doctrines can exist in a postmodern world. They are stated like this: if I want a Christianity that

read more Give Me Doctrine or Give Me Death