Beware Theological Dangers on Both Left and Right

Tom Schreiner: Paul charges Timothy to “guard the good deposit” (2 Tim. 1:14), which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re to remain vigilant in guarding the gospel because both the Scriptures and also church history remind us that many have swerved from the truth. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that upholding the truth and the purity of the gospel has been a challenge from the beginning. We aren’t facing anything new in our day, and we have the promise that the church of Jesus Christ will triumph over “the gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18). In this article I want to briefly consider threats to the gospel—from the left and from the right. Dangers from the Left Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders is the only speech in Acts addressed to Christians (Acts 20:17–35), and it’s significant that it’s addressed to leaders, to the elders and overseers in the church (Acts 20:17, 28). Paul warns them in

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Justification and Assurance According to John Calvin

Tom Schreiner: Justification by Faith Alone Calvin, like Luther, stresses that justification is by faith alone. A right relationship to God can’t be gained by works since all people sin, thus the only pathway to salvation is faith. Calvin is careful to say, however, that faith shouldn’t be construed as a work, as if faith itself justifies us, for if such were the case, then faith would be a good work that makes us right with God. Instead, faith is the instrument or vessel that joins us to Christ, and ultimately believers are justified by Christ as the crucified and risen one. Faith itself, strictly speaking, doesn’t justify. Rather, faith justifies as an instrument, receiving Christ for righteousness and life. Indeed, faith is not something that originates with human beings. Yes, human beings believe the gospel and are saved, and so in that sense faith is exercised by human beings. At the same time, however, faith ultimately comes from the Holy Spirit

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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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The Role of the Old Testament Law in Galatians

Tom Schreiner: Communicating the role that the law played in God’s overall plan of salvation was one of the New Testament church’s biggest challenges. As Jews accepted that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, they struggled to understand how to bring their Jewish roots into this new reality. The Christian who had come out of Judaism had to reconcile their understanding of what the law actually accomplished and how it worked. In their understanding, the law purified them and made them righteous. Was that true? If not, why were they given the law? In his online course on Galatians, Thomas R. Schreiner explains Paul’s take on the law from Galatians 3:19–20. The following post is taken from Schreiner’s course. Why was the law given? “Then why was the law given? It was added on account of transgressions”—Galatians 3:19a–b If the law is not the primary covenant but is subordinate to the Abrahamic covenant, and if eschatological salvation is obtained through the

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Why We Must Understand the Covenants to Understand the Bible

Tom Schreiner: The Backbone of the Bible’s Storyline The covenants are crucial, as Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum have argued, because they are the backbone of the storyline of the Bible. The Bible isn’t a random collection of laws, moral principles, and stories. It is a story that goes somewhere; it is the story of redemption, the story of God’s kingdom. And the story unfolds and advances through the covenants God made with his people. If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we won’t understand how the story fits together. The best way to see this is by quickly surveying the covenants in the Scriptures. The Creation Covenant God created the world and human beings, showing he is the sovereign ruler of all. He created Adam and Eve as priest-kings, as those made in his image, to rule the world for God. They were to extend God’s rule over the entire earth.

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10 Things You Should Know about the Biblical Covenants

Tom Schreiner (author of Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World) 1. Covenants are the backbone of the biblical story. Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum have argued that the covenants advance the storyline of the Bible in their book Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants, and they are on target. If one understands how the covenants function in the Bible, one will have a good grasp of how the Bible fits together. If we see the big picture in Scripture, we will do a better job of interpreting the details, and the covenant plays a fundamental role in seeing the big picture. 2. Covenant can be defined as follows: a covenant is a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other. A covenant should be distinguished from a contract because it is a personal relationship which people voluntarily enter. The definition of covenant here is rather broad, but that is because there are many

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Do Paul and James Disagree on Justification by Faith Alone?

Tom Schreiner: Critics of the slogan “faith alone” often point out that Scripture only speaks once about whether we are justified by faith alone—and that text denies it: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, CSB). What does James mean in saying we are justified by works? I won’t defend the truth of justification by faith alone in detail, but it’s clearly taught, for example, in Romans 3:28: “A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Or, as Paul teaches inRomans 4:5, “God justifies the ungodly.” Both Abraham and David were justified by faith and not by works (Rom. 4:1–8; Gal. 3:6–9). Salvation, as Paul elsewhere demonstrates, is “by grace” and “through faith” (Eph. 2:8–9). Works are excluded as the basis of salvation—otherwise people could boast about what they have done. Salvation by grace through faith highlights the amazing and comforting truth that salvation is the Lord’s work, not ours. But does

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Why Doesn’t Our Faith Move Mountains?

Tom Schreiner: Peter tells us Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). Jesus said some difficult things, too. Twice the Lord told his disciples that if they had faith like a mustard seed they could do jaw-dropping things. In Matthew, mustard seed faith is tied to expelling a demon, and Jesus says those who have such faith can move mountains (Matt. 17:20). In Luke, those with mustard seed faith will be able to forgive those who sin against them since such faith can pluck up mulberry trees and cast them into the sea (Luke 17:6). All kinds of questions enter our minds. What is faith like a mustard seed? Why doesn’t our faith move mountains? Are we failing to see great things from God because of our lack of faith? Faith that Encourages In the stories recounted in both Matthew and Luke, the disciples long for more faith. Then they could do great things for God. Then they could cast out demons and

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What is Biblical Theology?

Tom Schreiner (part two of a three part essay): The solution to the problems of shallow preaching … is really quite simple: pastors must learn how to use biblical theology in their preaching. Yet learning how to do that requires us to begin by asking, what is biblical theology? Biblical vs. Systematic Theology Biblical theology, in contrast to systematic theology, focuses on the biblical storyline. Systematic theology, though it is informed by biblical theology, is atemporal. Don Carson argues that biblical theology stands closer to the text than systematic theology, aims to achieve genuine sensitivity with respect to the distinctiveness of each corpus, and seeks to connect the diverse corpora using their own categories. Ideally, therefore, biblical theology stands as a kind of bridge discipline between responsible exegesis and responsible systematic theology (even though each of these inevitably influences the other two).[1] In other words, biblical theology restricts itself more consciously to the message of the text or corpus under consideration.

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Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification

My thanks to Justin Taylor for this: John Piper’s foreword to Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification, by Thomas Schreiner: Knowing from James 2:26 that there is such a thing as dead faith; and from James 2:19 that there is such a thing as demonic faith; and from 1 Corinthians 15:2 that it is possible to believe in vain; and from Luke8:13 that one can “believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away;” and knowing that it is through faith that we are born again (1 John 5:1) and have eternal life (John 3:16, 36), therefore, surely we must conclude that the nature of faith, and its relationship to salvation, is of infinite importance. I use the word infinite carefully. I mean that, if we don’t have such faith, the consequences have infinite significance. Eternal life is an infinite thing. And thus the loss of it is an infinite thing. Therefore, any human concern that has only to do with this world, no matter how global, no matter how painful, no matter how enduring—if it has only to

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How to revive a dead church

By Tom Schreiner, courtesy of Credo Magazine: As Christians we should be responsible citizens and vote. It is especially important to vote on the great moral issues of our day, like abortion. Historians look back on what the Nazis did to the Jews with horror, and we can easily be dulled to the relentless murder of babies in our culture. Abortion is the great moral issue of our time. And those who fail to see this reveal their own moral blindness. But we must never put our faith in politics or any political party. The City of Man will never become the City of God. We should do our civic duty, and if you are called to politics, or to serving as a judge, that is a wonderful calling. But we do not put our hopes in the political process. We do not believe our nation will be transformed by passing laws which enshrine moral principles, even though the passing

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Tom Schreiner on Authorial Intent and Canonical Reading

  Justin Taylor: Here is an interesting answer to the question of whether the “Let us” of Genesis 1:26 is referring to the Trinity. In The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker, 2013), New Testament scholar Tom Schreiner (Southern Seminary) argues that (1) it is doubtful that the author of Genesis was specifically thinking about the Trinity when he used this expression, (2) it is doubtful that the earliest Israelites read it this way, but (3) it should still be understood as a reference to the Trinity when it is read as part of the whole canon of Scripture. Here is his explanation: Recent developments in hermeneutics, however, have rightly corrected an overemphasis on authorial intent. Interpreters of sacred Scripture must also consider the canonical shape of the Scriptures as whole, which is to say that we must also take into account the divine author of Scripture. Nor does appeal to a divine

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