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 1 Cor. 15.3-4, in the passage where he explicitly describes in nuce the content of his gospel, and he states that that is what is ‘of first importance’. Paul does not generally summarise his ministry as contributing in some way, however indirectly, to justice for the whole creation. Rather he talks of preaching Christ and him crucified, or presenting his churches blameless on the day of Christ. To be sure, this needs to be set against the backdrop of Romans 8.18-27, but – I would aver – this is more the backdrop than the foreground. This passage in the middle of Romans 8 is comparatively unusual in Paul. Much more prominent in the letters is what Wright defines as the subsidiary theme, ‘the rescue of human beings from sin and death’.”
Which may be a relief to those who are trying to apply Paul to the everyday lives of believers, and/or those who are trying to fit the Paul of the general letters together with the Paul of Acts. Nicely played, sir.

Believer, Become What You Are

John Piper:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2)

Believer, you died and the new you is alive, and you are God’s. The whole of our Christian life is learning to become — by God’s Spirit — what we already are in Christ. These verses show us how this newness in us comes to life in our everyday choices. In this four-minute video, John Piper explains how the Spirit within and the word of God without work together to make us new.

Overcome with Awe


Trevin Wax:

After spending 11 chapters magnifying the grace of God shown to us in Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul broke out into a hymn of praise:

“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).

Have you come to this place before? A place of awe before an all-knowing, all-wise God?

Whenever we study the big questions of life, the big debates of our world, and the development of a biblical worldview, we can easily become smug and confident in what we know. We put God in a box and assume we have figured out His ways and His plans.

Reacting against this arrogant overconfidence, some Christians make everything about the Scriptures a mystery. They wonder whether we can know anything with certainty about who God is and what He has done.

The apostle Paul struck the right balance. Paul believed he knew things about God, and he held these truths with confidence. At the same time, the more Paul knew, the more he realized he didn’t know everything. In other words, though Paul could know many things about God with absolute certainty, he understood that he didn’t know God exhaustively.

So what was Paul’s response? He bowed his knees in worship. He proclaimed what he knew about God based on God’s revelation of Himself, and then he knelt in worship, fully recognizing his own limitations of knowledge. That’s where intellectual growth should lead us, not to overconfidence in our ability to figure God out but to our knees in worship, in awe of His goodness to us.

How to Disagree with Other Christians about Disputable Matters

I highly recommend this message from Andy Naselli.

Andy Naselli: “How to Disagree with Other Christians about Disputable Matters” – That’s the title of a sermon I preached on Sunday on Romans 14:1–15:7.

  • I open by explaining triage in order to introduce the idea of theological triage. We must distinguish between first-level, second-level, and third-level issues.
  • I suggest about 75 disputable matters (grouped into 17 rough categories) that can be extremely divisive in some churches.
  • I present 12 principles from Rom 14:1–15:7 about how to disagree with other Christians. I borrow these from a forthcoming commentary on Romans that veteran missionary J. D. Crowley wrote for people in Cambodia:
  1. Welcome those who disagree with you (Rom 14:1–2).
  2. Those who have freedom must not look down on those who are strict (Rom 14:3–4).
  3. Those who are strict must not be judgmental towards those who have freedom (Rom 14:3–4).
  4. Each believer must be fully convinced of their position in their own conscience (Rom 14:5).
  5. Everything you do, or refrain from doing, must be for God’s glory (Rom 14:6–9).
  6. Do not judge each other in these matters because we will all someday stand before the judgment seat of God (Rom 14:10–12).
  7. Your freedom to eat meat is correct, but don’t let your freedom destroy the faith of a weak brother (Rom 14:13–15).
  8. Disagreements about eating and drinking are not important in the kingdom of God; building each other up in righteousness, peace, and joy is the important thing (Rom 14:16–21).
  9. If you have freedom, don’t flaunt it; if you are strict, don’t expect others to be strict like you (Rom 14:22a).
  10. A person who lives according to their conscience is blessed (Rom 14:22b–23).
  11. We must follow the example of Christ, who put others first (Rom 15:1–6).
  12. We bring glory to God when we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us (Rom 15:7).

MP3 (about 57 minutes)

The Book of Romans in 45 Tweets

From Jonathan Parnell:

From beginning to end, the Book of Romans soars into the deep mysteries of God’s ways and spells out, in unprecedented clarity, the gospel of his son.

John Piper has called this book “the greatest letter ever written.” Martin Lloyd-Jones said it is “a colossal and incomparable statement of Christian truth.” J. I. Packer describes it as “the high peak of the Bible.” And Martin Luther, whose recommendation glows more than all, wrote of Romans:

It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.

We want to feast on this book. We want to taste the wonders of the Jesus it exalts. We want to deal with its content more and more. So what if we diced up the message of Romans into bite-sized summaries? What if we limited these summaries to 140 characters? What if we served up these summaries through Twitter?

Well, here’s our shot: the Book of Romans in 45 tweets. . .

Romans 1

The resurrected Lord Jesus has commissioned the advance of his gospel for the sake of his name among all nations (#Romans 1:1-7).

Serving God in the gospel of his Son and obligated to all peoples, preaching the gospel is marked by eagerness (#Romans 1:8-15).

The gospel is God’s power that results in salvation for everyone who believes. Everyone who believes (#Romans 1:16-17).

God’s wrath is made known against man’s unrighteousness — all who rebel against God to worship creaturely stuff (#Romans 1:18-32).

Romans 2

You presuming upon God’s kindness and refusing to repent is you storing up wrath for yourself on the day of judgment (#Romans 2:1-11).

A true Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is really a matter of the heart, by the Spirit (#Romans 2:12-29).

Romans 3

Jewish people are advantaged, entrusted with God’s oracles. Their faithlessness doesn’t nullify the faithfulness of God (#Romans 3:1-8).

We’re all the same, Jew and non-Jew. We’re sinners. None is righteous, nobody. And we can’t save ourselves (#Romans 3:9-20).

All who believe are justified by God’s gift through Jesus, who bore the wrath we deserved. Our boasting is excluded (#Romans 3:21-31).

Romans 4

Abraham is faith’s “Exhibit A”. He trusted the one who justifies the ungodly and it was counted as righteousness (#Romans 4:1-12).

It all rests on God’s grace, not works. The righteousness counted to Abraham is counted to us who believe in Jesus (#Romans 4:13-25).

Romans 5

Since we’re justified by faith like Abraham was, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (#Romans 5:1-5).

God shows his love for us in that Jesus died for us, us sinners. Now enemies no more. Wrath no more. We are saved! (#Romans 5:6-11).

Jesus is the Last Adam, giving us the headship through which grace reigns. Eternal life, not death (#Romans 5:12-21).

Romans 6

We’re done with sin. Now we’re in Jesus, united to him in his death and resurrection, dead to sin and alive to God (#Romans 6:1-14).

The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (#Romans 6:15-23).

Romans 7

In Jesus we’ve died to the law and now belong to Jesus, so that we bear fruit for God (#Romans 7:1-6).

Nothing good dwells in the flesh! It’s a mess. But thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (#Romans 7:7-25).

Romans 8

There’s no condemnation in Jesus. In him we’re free from sin and death, and we’re filled with the Spirit of life (#Romans 8:1-11).

And his Spirit testifies of our adoption. We are children of God. We call the Creator of the universe “Abba” (#Romans 8:12-17)

One day the whole world will know we’re God’s children. Everything is working towards this everlasting good (#Romans 8:18-30).

Really, who could be against us? Since God gave up his Son for us, he will certainly give us all things in him (#Romans 8:31-34).

Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus. Not tribulation or distress or whatever you can imagine. Nothing (#Romans 8:35-39).

Romans 9

Not all of ethnic Israel are children of promise. It’s not about our works or privileges. It’s about God’s call (#Romans 9:1-13).

God has mercy on whom he wills. Who are we to answer back? He’s God. And we’re humbled by the riches of his glory (#Romans 9:14-33).

Romans 10

Righteousness comes from God, not ourselves. Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (#Romans 10:1-4).

There’s no distinction here among peoples. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (#Romans 10:5-13).

People believe Jesus when they hear of him. They hear when he’s preached. He’s preached when we’re sent (#Romans 10:14-21).

Romans 11

God hasn’t rejected his people. There is a remnant that remains, chosen by grace (#Romans 11:1-10).

Stand in awe that the nations are grafted in, through Jesus, as the people of God. Note his kindness and severity (#Romans 11:11-24).

A partial hardening has come over Israel until the full number of the nations believe the gospel (#Romans 11:25-32).

Oh, the depths! From God and through God and to God are all things! To him be glory forever! Amen (#Romans 11:33-36).

Romans 12

Therefore, be a living sacrifice to God, not conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewal of your mind (#Romans 12:1-2).

Think of yourself in sober judgment. Not too highly. Our gifts differ according to the grace God has given (#Romans 12:3-8).

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection… (#Romans 12:9-21)

Romans 13

No governing authority exists unless God has instituted it. Resist them and you resist what God has appointed (#Romans 13:1-7).

Love one another. All the horizontal commands of the law are summed up: love your neighbor as yourself (#Romans 13:8-14).

Romans 14

Don’t pass judgment on another’s conscience. We serve the Lord. Whether we live or die, we are the his (#Romans 14:1-12).

The kingdom of God isn’t a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (#Romans 14:13-23).

Romans 15

The OT is for our instruction, so that through its encouragement and endurance we might have hope (#Romans 15:1-7).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the Spirit’s power you abound in hope (#Romans 15:8-13).

It’s a holy ambition to serve the nations — that is, to preach Christ where he has not been named (#Romans 15:14-21).

Paul is headed to Spain and hopes to visit the Romans in the fullness of the blessing of Christ (#Romans 15:22-33).

Romans 16

Greetings. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (#Romans 16:1-23).

To the only wise God, the one who strengthens you according to Jesus expounded from the OT, to him be glory forever (#Romans 16:25-27).


Transformation begins with thinking, not with doing

“After his exposition of the gospel in Romans 1-11, Paul begins to discuss the application of that gospel in chapter 12 by telling us to be transformed. But just how are we to be transformed? When we hear the word transformation, perhaps our first inclination is to think of the way we live, of doing the right things. We may tend to think of the Christian life as a series of observable do’s and don’ts. Those things are indeed important, and Scripture has much to say about them. But the first thing on Paul’s mind when he begins to think about the transformation of our Christian lives is the renewal of the mind. This means the that the way we think has much to do with the way we live.”

Oliphint, K. Scott. The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003. Print. 92

(HT: Jude St.John)

Romans 1:2

From David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ exposition of Romans 1, The Gospel of God; specifically Romans 1:2.

Why was the gospel hidden?

  • To reveal the depth of our sin
  • To show mankind cannot save himself
  • To show God’s lordship and sovereignty

Why does Paul appeal to the Old Testament?

  • To show the gospel was not something strange and new
  • To show the Bible as complete, authoritative, unified, essential
  • To show the New never contradicts the Old
  • To show the New fulfills the Old
  • To show salvation is for the world.

God’s Great Grace

I’m preaching through Romans midweek, and Ephesians on Sundays for my friends at King’s Church, Southend.

I like this from Justin Taylor:

One of the beautiful things about the book of Ephesians is the way in which Paul celebrates God’s grace, power, might, wisdom, love, and glory.

Follow the adjectives and superlatives to see an example of worshipful pastoral theology in action.

We are saved “to the praise of God’s glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6)

Our redemption and forgiveness through the cross is “according to theriches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Eph. 1:6-7).

We are called to know “the riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints” and “the immeasurable greatness of his power . . . and his greatmight” (Eph. 1:18-19).

Because God is “rich in mercy” and because of his “great love” toward us, we were saved” (Eph. 2:4).

In the coming ages God will show us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).

Paul preached to the Gentiles “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).

Though the church “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).

Paul prays that “according to the riches of [God’s] glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16).

One application for us is that we should notice how we speak of God’s love, wisdom, grace, etc. Do we feel, with Paul, how truly great God’s grace is?

Teaching through Romans

Tonight I begin teaching through the book of Romans at our church.

I have recently started reading R.C. Sproul’s new exegetical commentary on Romans and can recommend it as a helpful verse by verse guide. It’s not technical or verbose so is a great introduction to the great book of the gospel. I particularly appreciate how Sproul integrates aspects of church history – especially the Reformation – into his exposition.

Here’s a nice video clip of RC introducing his book:


(HT: Justin Taylor)