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,
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.
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
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. A cursory glance at the biographies or writings of these men under lines the fact that Reformed theology has always
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sam Storms: If the apostle Paul himself had not warned us about quenching the Spirit, who among us would have thought it was possible (1 Thessalonians 5:19–22)? To suggest that the omnipotent Spirit of God could ever be quenched, and thus restricted in what he might do otherwise in our lives, and in the life of the local church, is to tread on thin theological ice. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5 that God has granted to Christians the ability either to restrict or release what the Spirit does in the life of the local church. The Spirit comes to us as a fire, either to be fanned into full flame and given the freedom to accomplish his will, or to be doused and extinguished by the water of human fear, control, and flawed theology. How many of us pause to consider the ways in which we inadvertently quench the Spirit’s work in our lives individually and in our churches corporately?
Russell Moore: Could you explain the gospel to an unbeliever using only three words? That was the challenge someone posted a couple of weeks ago on social media. “One can’t explain the whole gospel in only three words,” I mumbled to myself. “That’s why we have a canon of 66 books.” The more I thought about it, though, the more my mind changed, and I became open to taking up the challenge. I think I could explain the gospel in three words, so long as I would have follow-up time to explain all three words. And those words would be “Lord Jesus Christ.” 1. Lord The word “Lord” would mean pointing to the Godness of God, what it means to speak of God as sovereign king and as loving Father. This would entail a discussion of God as Creator, what it means for us to be his creatures. This would involve a discussion of what God has revealed to us
Randy Alcorn: The 1998 movie What Dreams May Come portrays heaven as a beautiful but lonely place for Chris Nielsen (played by Robin Williams) because, although his children were there, his wife wasn’t. Remarkably, someone else is entirely absent from the movie’s depiction of heaven: God. That movie’s viewpoint mirrors numerous contemporary approaches to heaven which either leave God out or put him in a secondary role. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, a best-selling novel by Mitch Albom, portrays a man who feels lonely and unimportant. He dies, goes to heaven, and meets five people who tell him his life really mattered. He discovers forgiveness and acceptance — all without God and without Christ as the object of saving faith. This is a portrayal of a heaven that isn’t about God and our relationship with him, but only about human beings and our relationships with each other. A heaven where humanity is the cosmic center, and God plays a supporting role.
Al Mohler: The Great Commission stands at the center of Christianity as the command of the risen Lord Jesus Christ for his church to proclaim the name of God in the world for the sake of all nations and God’s glory among them. The church fulfills the commission by making disciples of Christ, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded his church to believe and obey (Matt 28:18-20). Evangelism that calls sinners to repentance and spreads the fame of God’s name, then, is at the very heart of the mission of God’s people. EVANGELISM IN A POST-CHRISTIAN WORLD Every culture and civilization embraces a certain set of assumptions about life, truth, significance, and what it means to be human. Without these shared assumptions, societal life would be impossible. Individuals within these societies may not give much active thought to these common assumptions, but their decisions, expectations, and general dispositions reflect the presence of these assumptions as what some philosophers call
Sam Storms: As I’ve been preaching through the book of Revelation it has become ever more evident to me that reading divine providence is a tricky and often dangerous business. By “reading providence” I mean the tendency that all of us have to interpret what God is doing in the world around us and even in our own lives. We typically try to read providence because we are uncomfortable with mystery. We don’t like being kept in the dark about why God does or doesn’t do certain things. We don’t like having to tell people that we can’t answer their questions about why, if God is good and powerful, he permits evil to flourish in the world. We would much rather create an answer, even when the Bible remains silent. I am regularly asked what natural disasters mean. Why do they occur? Is God trying to tell us something? Is it always punishment for sin, or could it be a
T. D. Alexander: “Meaningless! Meaningless! . . . Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Eccl. 1:2)! So cries the author of Ecclesiastes as he attempts to make sense of this world “under the sun.” Looking around, it’s easy to conclude that life is absurd. We live in a world full of injustice. Evil people prosper; good people suffer. We live in a world terrorized by death. Life can be snuffed out unexpectedly. Death comes to everyone; no one escapes. We live in a world that throws the unexpected at us. Our inability to control our destiny adds to our sense of despair and hopelessness. For some in difficult circumstances, death can seem better than life itself. While Christians aren’t immune to feelings of despair and hopelessness, faith in Jesus Christ lessens the pain of pessimism and despair. Faith in the resurrected Son of God gives us confidence to trust that this life is but the prelude to something more wonderful. City
D.A. Carson: A layperson can read the Scriptures and understand the Scriptures. It is important to keep saying that. There is no esoteric guild of specialist priests who impose a certain kind of interpretation on the conscience of believers. And even in practical experience you sometimes see that, don’t you? Occasionally you’ll find an old woman or man who is semi-literate, and yet such people may have read their Bibles through again and again. Although they can’t self-consciously make all the correlations a sophisticated systematics can make, nevertheless, they have a kind of nose for error and heresy. Somebody comes along with some screwball idea, and they can immediately say about forty verses that make them question something or other. You want to say even at a practical level, I want people to read and reread their Bibles. God himself says, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is of a contrite spirit and who trembles
The Place of Israel Sermon by John Stott: Our topic has been announced as “The Place of Israel,” and the topic that has been set for us is an object lesson in biblical hermeneutics as it’s usually called in the principles of interpreting the Bible. But I would like to remind you right at the beginning that there are at least four ways in which the word “Israel,” whose place we are to investigate, can be used. One: Israel was that devious scoundrel, the second son of Isaac, whose first name was Jacob – meaning “he who deceived or he who struggles,” who amply lived up to his name – but whom God renames “Israel,” because having struggled with men all his life, he at last came to struggle with God for the blessing he needed (a blessing to which he was not entitled). Two: Israel is the chosen people of the Old Testament days – the 12 tribes descended
D.A. Carson: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12) The person who has true faith in Jesus is promised that she will do greater things than Jesus’s works. But what does “greater” mean? Shall Christians perform more sensational acts? It’s difficult to imagine miracles more sensational than those of Jesus; “greater” surely doesn’t mean that. Might “greater” mean “more numerous” or “more widely dispersed”? In that sense, Christians have indeed done “greater” things than Jesus did. We have preached all around the world, seen millions of men and women converted, dispensed aid, education, and food to still more millions. The “greater” works may therefore be the gathering of converts into the church through the witness of the disciples (cf. John 17:20; 20:29), and the overflow of kindness that stems from transformed lives. Jesus says