Andrew Wilson: What goes up must come down. The earthly ministry of Jesus culminates in his going up: up to Jerusalem, up to Skull Hill, up onto the cross, up from death to life, up to the Mount of Olives, and finally up into heaven. But the story of the gospel, Luke explains, is only what Jesus began to do and teach (Acts 1:1). The next part of his activity on earth, which Luke focuses on in Acts, takes place through the church. And it involves a coming down. Pentecost and Babel The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost is often associated with Babel, and with good reason. People are not scattering, God comes down and works a miracle of language, people scatter throughout the world, and the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham begins. At Babel, this scattering was an act of judgment in response to disobedience, bringing incomprehension and fracture. At Pentecost, it’s an act of blessing in response to obedience,
What Does It Really Mean to Be the Salt of the Earth?
Andrew Wilson: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matt. 5:13) Few things in creation are more ordinary than salt. Most of us have interacted with it in the last couple of hours, whether we realize it or not. We use it to make leather, pottery, soap, detergents, rubber, clothes, paper, cleaning products, glass, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. It sits largely unnoticed on hundreds of millions of café and restaurant tables around the world. Unlike pepper, which is often sitting next to it, salt is essential for our health and has always been eaten by human beings wherever we have settled. We add it to so much of our food that many languages simply distinguish between sweet and salty flavors. We spread it across roads when it snows. More than half
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Why Do We Read Scripture?
Andrew Wison: Sometimes I use this blog as a place to jot down preaching and teaching ideas that occur to me, so I can find them later. (Come to think of it, that’s pretty much all I use this blog for, it’s just that some jotting takes more time than others.) The question I was thinking about recently was this: Why do we read Scripture? What is it that we are trying to achieve as we do? What are the marks of reading it successfully (a horrible word in the context, but you know what I mean)? Here is one wrong answer, and five right ones. We do not read it to earn. It is so easy to be tricked into thinking like this, but the purpose of reading the Bible is never to present God with a good work that entitles you to a reward. You are no more justified after reading a Bible for an hour than you are after playing
The Whole Bible in 12 Verses
Andrew Wilson: If you had to summarise Scripture in 12 verses, which would you choose? Here are mine: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:17–18). “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house
The Relationship between Warnings and Assurance
Andrew Wilson: Paul is a puzzle. He often warned his converts that if they didn’t persevere, or behaved in certain ways, they’d miss out on final salvation. He also assured his converts that, because of the faithfulness of God and his gift of the Spirit, they’d be preserved to the end without falling. As I say: a puzzle. Some people like the assurances (because they’re comforting), but don’t like the warnings (because they frighten believers). Some people like the warnings (because they take sin seriously), but don’t like the assurances (because they make people complacent). Some people don’t like either of them, because taken together they make it sound like John Calvin was right, and we can’t have that. Some people think Paul got himself in a hopeless tangle on the subject, and we should politely ignore him. WARNINGS AND ASSURANCE COMBINED Then there are those—we happy few—who try to have our cake and eat it too. The warnings are real:
Is Faith Without Works Dead, Or Just Sleepy?
Andrew Wilson: Steve Holmes and Alan Jacobs are two of the most thoughtful, insightful evangelical theologians around today. When they line up together on an issue, and you don’t, it’s usually safe to assume they are right and you are wrong. (Fortunately, since one is very Anglican and the other very Baptist, this doesn’t happen as often as you might think.) Recently they’ve both written articles arguing that, although they hold to the traditional view of sexual ethics, holding to the revisionist view doesn’t make a person a false teacher. That perspective will cause some people to agree strongly, some to disagree strongly, and some to wonder what to think. But I want to focus on a particularly fascinating—and, I think, ultimately wrong—reason given for this view, especially in Steve’s article. The argument, essentially, is that ethical behavior does not put a person’s final salvation at risk. Their Arguments For Steve Holmes, the central evangelical claim of sola fide (“by faith alone”) should settle the discussion.
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
The Lord’s Prayer Advert Has Been Banned For Being Offensive – Which It Is
Andrew Wilson: There’s been a kerfuffle in the UK over this cinema advert, in which the Lord’s Prayer is prayed by various different people across the nation, being banned in cinemas. It was due to go out before the new Star Wars movie, but it has been pulled because it could offend or upset people of other faiths or none: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Not Allah’s, or anyone else’s: yours. There is only one who is holy, and he is our heavenly Father. May your name be recognised as great by all the nations, including those (like ours) who dismiss, blaspheme, patronise or ignore it. May your kingdom come. One day, all the kingdoms of the earth will become the kingdom of God and his Messiah. In the meantime, as we wait for you to gather up all your enemies and turn them into your footstool, we cry to you: let your reign be shown
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Simon Gathercole Gets It Wright
Andrew Wilson: Simon Gathercole is one of the brightest New Testament scholars around, as well as being a conservative evangelical, which makes him something of a unicorn. In a recent review of Tom Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, he puts his finger on something I’ve never quite been able to nail down, but have always had a funny feeling about: . “The argument here is, at risk of caricature, that big is better. The broader the canvas and the more all-encompassing the narrative, the more important the theme is. But I’m not sure that that does best justice to Paul. It remains unclear to me that the main theme of Paul’s gospel was ‘God’s restorative justice for the whole of creation’. When he summarises his gospel, he uses not themes and language comparable to those of Romans 8.18-27, but rather talks of Christ’s death for our sins and his resurrection on the third day. This is the focus in
“We Always Worship, and We Usually Preach”
Andrew Wilson: Theologian and teacher types are often taken for pedants, and no doubt that’s often with good reason. When, for example, I make the observation / loaded comment / speech / rant that “worship” isn’t the bit with the guitars at the start of the meeting, as in many charismatic circles, people tend to roll their eyes and wonder why anyone would bother being so fussy. What does it matter what we call it? Surely what matters is that we’re doing it, right? Well: yes and no. Yes, it matters more that we worship God than that we use the right language for it. But no, the words we use are not irrelevant, and can in fact inhibit and prevent true worship from happening if they are used often enough and inaccurately enough. For a case in point, consider this statement I heard recently, which is (so I’m told) a regular part of the culture at one very
Cessationism and Strange Fire
Andrew Wilson‘s excellent reponse to the “Strange Fire” conference: It’s good to face robust challenges to what you believe, every now and then. The more deeply held a belief is, the harder it is to think it through afresh, and the more possibility there is that you will become hardened in a wrong position. To that extent, I’m grateful for John MacArthur and co for putting on “Strange Fire”, an anti-charismatic conference which is nothing if not robust, even if I remain convinced that the tone in which MacArthur in particular has spoken of hundreds of millions of Christians has not been especially helpful. Wrestling with the content of the sessions has been sharpening and illuminating, although admittedly difficult and painful in places. In this post I want to respond specifically to one of the more measured messages to emerge from the conference: Tom Pennington’s admirably clear case for cessationism. There are two reasons for this – firstly, it is