Take up the Whole Armor of God

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899 — 1 March 1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London.

Be Strong in the Lord

The Whole Armor of God

The Shield, Helmet and Sword

Praying in The Spirit

The Regulative Principle of Worship

derek-thomasby Derek Thomas (original source here)

Put simply, the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture. On the surface, it is difficult to see why anyone who values the authority of Scripture would find such a principle objectionable. Is not the whole of life itself to be lived according to the rule of Scripture? This is a principle dear to the hearts of all who call themselves biblical Christians. To suggest otherwise is to open the door to antinomianism and license.

But things are rarely so simple. After all, the Bible does not tell me whether I may or may not listen with profit to a Mahler symphony, find stamp-collecting rewarding, or enjoy ferretbreeding as a useful occupation even though there are well-meaning but misguided Bible-believing Christians who assert with dogmatic confidence that any or all of these violate God’s will. Knowing God’s will in any circumstance is an important function of every Christian’s life, and fundamental to knowing it is a willingness to submit to Scripture as God’s authoritative Word for all ages and circumstances. But what exactly does biblical authority mean in such circumstances?

Well, Scripture lays down certain specific requirements: for example, we are to worship with God’s people on the Lord’s Day, and we should engage in useful work and earn our daily bread. In addition, covering every possible circumstance, Scripture lays down a general principle: “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” (Rom. 12:1–2). Clearly, all of life is to be regulated by Scripture, whether by express commandment or prohibition or by general principle. There is therefore, in one sense, a regulative principle for all of life. In everything we do, and in some form or another, we are to be obedient to Scripture. Continue reading

Luther on Justification, the Will and Election

Luther-bobble-headThese quotes were taken from A World Upside Down: Four Essays on the Life and Theology of Martin Luther, by Charles E. Fry, with a Foreword by Jerry Bridges. (original source here)

“Luther found peace with God through being justified by faith alone. Yet in finding peace, he discovered he was at war with the world. The irony—that the sweet and pure good news from heaven would bring such enormous warfare and destruction—was not missed by Luther. In his later years, he would reflect on how the world has ever been at war with the gospel, going back even to Paradise and the murder of Abel by Cain. He perceived this rage against the promise of grace continuing on through history, up to his own time. ‘Yet I am compelled to forget my shame and be quite shameless in view of the horrible profanation and abomination which have always raged in the Church of God, and still rage to-day, against this one solid rock which we call the doctrine of justification.’”1 (Page 35)

“Luther [recognized] that the law and gospel are two entirely distinct categories: law is not gospel, gospel is not law. The beauty and power of each vanish when they are blended together. The perfection and majesty of the law is compromised, and the announcement of the good news that Christ kept the law for us and suffered the curse of the law for us is entirely lost. Blending the two leads one into suffocating moralism, anguished guilt, or a lofty legalism that destroys everything and everyone in its wake.” (Page 47)

“Luther grasped the fact that sinners were declared righteous by God apart from any of their works, whereas the [Roman] Church in Luther’s day taught that sinners were made righteous in actual conduct as they cooperated with God’s grace. This actual righteousness, the Church taught, was the means by which a person was justified before God. Luther understood the subtle yet damning error in this teaching, for while it acknowledged God’s grace as helping the sinner to obey, it placed salvation back into the efforts of man and removed the objective peace of God that rested entirely in Christ alone.” (Page 51)

Three Problems with Free Will

“Salvation by works. Luther understood free will as being at the very heart of the gospel. He realized that if man’s will is truly free, then man is capable of keeping God’s law perfectly and thus earning a right standing with God. Continue reading

The Earliest Listing of the New Testament Canon

books-of-the-New-Testament-envelope-bookArticle: What is the Earliest Complete List of the Canon of the New Testament? By Michael Kruger

(original source here)

In the study of the New Testament canon, scholars like to highlight the first time we see a complete list of 27 books. Inevitably, the list contained in Athanasius’ famous Festal Letter (c.367) is mentioned as the first time this happened. As a result, it is often claimed that the New Testament was a late phenomenon. We didn’t have a New Testament, according to Athanasius, until the end of the fourth century.

But, this sort of reasoning is problematic on a number of levels. First, we don’t measure the existence of the New Testament just by the existence of lists. When we examine the way certain books were used by the early church fathers, it is evident that there was a functioning canon long before the fourth century. Indeed, by the second century, there is already a “core” collection of New Testament books functioning as Scripture.

Second, there are reasons to think that Athanasius’ list is not the earliest complete list we possess. In the recent festschrift for Larry Hurtado, Mark Manuscripts and Monotheism (edited by Chris Keith and Dieter Roth; T&T Clark, 2015), I wrote an article entitled, “Origen’s List of New Testament Books in Homiliae on Josuam 7.1: A Fresh Look.”

In that article, I argue that around 250 A.D., Origen likely produced a complete list of all 27 New Testament books–more than a hundred years before Athanasius. In his typical allegorical fashion, Origen used the story of Joshua to describe the New Testament canon:

But when our Lord Jesus Christ comes, whose arrival that prior son of Nun designated, he sends priests, his apostles, bearing “trumpets hammered thin,” the magnificent and heavenly instruction of proclamation. Matthew first sounded the priestly trumpet in his Gospel; Mark also; Luke and John each played their own priestly trumpets. Even Peter cries out with trumpets in two of his epistles; also James and Jude. In addition, John also sounds the trumpet through his epistles [and Revelation], and Luke, as he describes the Acts of the Apostles. And now that last one comes, the one who said, “I think God displays us apostles last,” and in fourteen of his epistles, thundering with trumpets, he casts down the walls of Jericho and all the devices of idolatry and dogmas of philosophers, all the way to the foundations (Hom. Jos. 7.1).

As one can see from the list above, all 27 books of the New Testament are accounted for (Origen clearly counts Hebrews as part of Paul’s letters). The only ambiguity is a text-critical issue with Revelation, but we have good evidence from other sources that Origen accepted Revelation as Scripture (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.25.10).

Of course, some have rejected this list and have argued that it reflects the views not of Origen but of Rufinus of Aquileia who translated Origen’s Homilies on Joshua into Latin. I respond at length to this claim in the above-mentioned article, arguing that Rufinus is much more reliable of a translator than prior scholars have supposed.

The reliability of Origen’s canonical list finds additional support in the fact that it fits with what Origen says elsewhere. For example, Origen enumerates all the authors of the New Testament in his Homilies on Genesis, and this proves to be a remarkable match with his list of New Testament books:

Isaac, therefore, digs also new wells, nay rather Isaac’s servants dig them. Isaac’s servants are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; his servants are Peter, James, Jude; the apostle Paul is his servant. These all dig the wells of the New Testament (Hom. Gen. 13.2).

One can quickly see that this list of authors (again in classical allegorical style) matches exactly with his list of books. Although Rufinus also translated the Homilies on Genesis, are we really to think that he changed both passages in precisely the same way? It seems more likely that they match with one another simply because they both reflect Origen’s actual views.

Our suspicions are confirmed when we compare these two passages in Origen–the list of books in Homilies on Joshua and the list of authors in Homilies on Genesis–with Rufinus’ own list of canonical books. If Rufinus were guilty of changing Origen’s list to match his own, we might expect a lot of similarities in structure between all these lists. But, that is precisely what we do not find. In fact, Rufinus’ own list differs from Origen’s in a number of important ways (which I detail in the aforementioned article).

In the end, we actually have very good historical reasons to accept Origen’s list as genuine. And if it is, then we have evidence that (a) Christians were making lists much earlier than we supposed (and thus cared about which books were “in” and which were “out”); and (b) that the boundaries of the New Testament canon were, at least for some people like Origen, more stable than typically supposed.

Origen does not offer his list as an innovation or as something that might be regarded as controversial. In fact, he mentions it in the context of a sermon in a natural and matter-of-fact sort of way.

Thus, for Origen at least, it seems that the content of the New Testament canon was largely settled.

Jesus Above All!

Text: Ephesians 1:18-23

Christianity is everything or it is nothing. There is nothing in between. Jesus Christ is, right now, the Lord and King of this Universe, head over all things to the Church. The reality of this is something Paul wishes us to know, for the ramifications of this truth are extreme and far reaching.

Debate/Dialog: Is the Jesus of Mormonism the Jesus of the Bible?

James White dialogs with Alma Allred on the question, “Is the Jesus of Mormonism the Jesus of the Bible?”

Why the English Standard Version?

bibleHere at King’s Church we recommend the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible and it is the one most frequently used in our services. I say this for two main reasons; the first being that it can be very confusing if we have the different words in front of us in our Bibles as the sermon is being preached. This can be very alarming for new Christians who are not aware of the issues and see a text in front of them that is sometimes quite different from what the preacher is using.

Decades ago, there was only one real Bible version of choice, the King James Version. History tells us that it was actually the Geneva Bible, with its Reformation based explanatory study notes, that was the very first Bible to come over to the shores of America on the Mayflower. However, the growing popularity of the KJV eventually made seeing the Geneva Bible a rare event in church services and homes.

The King James Version is certainly an excellent translation which has served the church for many generations. However, the meaning of words have changed a great deal in the centuries since the first printing of the KJV in 1611. Many preachers (me included) found that when using it, much time was required in a sermon to update and explain the archaic language used. A newer translation removes the need for this.

In addition to the archaic language of the KJV, what we know of the original text and languages has improved significantly in the last 400 years or so. The Church in our day has needed a Bible translation which reflects this great advancement in scholarship.

In some church services, there can be as many as 10 to 15 different versions in use. Of course, people can use any translation they like. They are definitely free to do so! Yet I think it is very helpful for pastors and elders to recommend one main translation to eliminate any potential confusion for a congregation.

With this as a foundation, the next question we need to ask is “which is the best Bible to use?”

This leads me to talk about the second reason for choosing the ESV. It stems from the desire to have an essentially literal translation (a “word for word” translation) in use rather than a dynamic equivalent, or “thought for thought” one. The primary advantage in choosing a “word for word” translation is that it gives us confidence that what we read in our Bibles are the equivalent English words for what the authors actually wrote. There is no need to wonder at every point where translation ends and subjective, personal commentary begins or if important material might have been been omitted from the original.

Certainly, there are other excellent translations out there. For years I have used the New American Standard Bible (NASB) which is a tremendously accurate translation. However, a choice needed to be made. The ESV is known for both its very accurate translation and for its language flow. It is very easy to read and to memorize. It is great for both adults and children. Because of this, it is the ESV that has become our Bible of choice here at King’s Church.

While we are still on the subject of Bibles, I am often asked to recommend a good Study Bible. I always point people to either the Reformation Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible, both of which use this same English Standard Version (ESV) text. These are the two exceptional Study Bibles out there. I love using both of them and am confident that in directing people to these notes, they will not be led too far astray. I certainly cannot say that about all Study Bibles out there but these two are remarkable gifts to the Body of Christ at large. Always keep in mind though that the study notes in a Bible, while they can be very helpful and informative, are never inspired. Only Scripture is. The Bible alone is the word of God.

SOME QUOTES ON THE ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION:

“With the myriad of new Bible translations on the market today, few stand out. The ESV is one of the few, and surpasses the others in its simple yet elegant style. In many respects the ESV has accomplished in the 21st century what the KJV accomplished in the 17th: a trustworthy, literary Bible that is suitable for daily reading, memorizing, and preaching.” — Daniel B. Wallace

“We are building all our future ministry around the ESV….The ESV satisfies the preaching, memorizing, studying, and reading needs of our church, from children to adults.” — John Piper, Chancellor, Bethlehem College and Seminary; Founder and Teacher, desiringGod.org

“The ESV represents a new level of excellence in Bible translations—combining unquestionable accuracy in translation with a beautiful style of expression. It is faithful to the text, easy to understand, and a pleasure to read. This is a translation you can trust.” — R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“I’m so grateful for a translation that I can trust for its accuracy and enjoy for its clarity. This is the Bible for our entire family.” — Carolyn Mahaney

“I’ve been using the ESV for my personal study since it was released. Then I began to preach from it. Then our congregation switched over to it. I hope others will do the same. The ESV is the simply the best translation for combining accuracy, readability, and fidelity to the rich history of English Bible translation. I thank God for the ESV and pray that it will be the new standard in English Bibles for years to come.” — Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, MI

“I appreciate deeply the evident commitment to the absolute truth of Scripture, and the willingness of these scholars to yield to the Spirit rather than bend to the wind of cultural trends.” — Bryan Chapell, President Emeritus, Covenant Theological Seminary; Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Peoria, IL

“The ESV embodies both word–for–word exactness and easy readability. It has quickly become my primary Bible for both personal use and public teaching.” — Jerry Bridges, Former Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Navigators

“We use the English Standard Version as our church Bible because we are passionate about God’s Word—every last word of it—and because we want our children to have the best available translation for reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and serious Bible study.” — Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

“The great strength of the ESV is first and foremost that it allows readers to trust the words to be the Word of God. I delight to find a clear, beautiful translation that allows me to get as close as possible to the actual words God inspired.” — Kathleen B. Nielson, Director of Women’s Initiatives, The Gospel Coalition; author, Living Word Bible Studies

“I recommend the ESV as the best literal translation for Bible study in my hermeneutics class and in Bible study seminars. Congratulations on a job well done.” — Grant R. Osborne

“The ESV shows exactly what the original says—and with elegance of style! I welcome its publication with enthusiasm.” — Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, TN

“Retaining the majesty of language with the clarity of thought, the English Standard Version is a grand accomplishment.” — Ravi Zacharias

“I highly recommend the English Standard Version to you.” — Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

“The translation is outstanding. The ESV achieves a new standard in accurate Bible translations for our day.” — R. C. Sproul, Jr.

“I believe the ESV is the Bible of the future. It is readable, accurate, and reverent.” — Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Elegant in every way, the ESV is certain to take its place as one of the finest translations in the grand tradition of the English Bible. Scholars will appreciate the care and nuance of the translation, pastors will appreciate the cadence and rhythm of the text, and all who read it will appreciate the craftsmanship of this richly textured version. It has become my version of choice.” — Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College; Chief Academic Officer, Ligonier Ministries

“After twenty years of teaching God’s Word and changing translations I have found at last, by God’s grace, a translation that is easy to read and immensely accurate. The ESV is the new first choice for serious students and careful communicators of God’s unchanging Word.” — James MacDonald, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, Illinois

“The ESV beautifully blends good, contemporary English with reverence and accuracy.” — Erwin W. Lutzer

“Meticulous care and passionate research make the ESV a crisp, accurate, and valuable translation.” — Max Lucado

“Having now read through the ESV several times in my personal devotional life, I have adopted it as the primary text for my teaching and writing ministry. I appreciate…the ESV [because it] retains theological terminology that is at the heart of the Christian faith and exercises care and precision in the translation of nuances and gender language, so as to preserve a text that is as faithful as possible to the original. By the same token, the translators have maintained clarity and literary excellence, making this an accessible translation for modern readers. My hope is that the ESV will draw millions of people into the reading and study of God’s Word and into a more intimate relationship with the God of the Word.” — Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Radio Host, Revive our Hearts and Seeking Him

“I am so impressed with the clarity, beauty, and power of the ESV that I feel that I am reading the Bible again for the first time. From now on the ESV will be my Bible of choice. I simply don’t have the words to say how thankful I am for the ESV, its faithfulness to the original, and its beauty.” — Stephen W. Brown, Professor Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando; radio broadcaster, Key Life

“The ESV promises to be true to its name: the English Standard Version for the coming generation. It is a careful rendering that captures and communicates the sense of the original biblical text and does so in flowing modern English….Well done!” — S. M. Baugh

“I thank God for the ESV. It combines up–to–date accuracy in the text and absolute faithfulness to the words of Scripture with a literary skill and beauty in the translation which, in my judgment, is unsurpassed.” — Eric Alexander, Retired Senior Minister, St. George’s-Tron Parish Church, Glasgow, Scotland

The Will of God

sproul-r-c-This excerpt is taken from Dr. R. C. Sproul’s book, “Everyone’s a Theologian.”

What does the Bible say about God’s leading? It says that if we acknowledge God in all our ways, He will direct our paths (Prov. 3:5–6). We are encouraged by Scripture to learn the will of God for our lives, and we do so by focusing our attention not on the decretive will of God but on the preceptive will of God. If you want to know God’s will for your life, the Bible tells you: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). So when people wonder whether to take a job in Cleveland or in San Francisco, or whether to marry Jane or Martha, they should study closely the preceptive will of God. They should study the law of God to learn the principles by which they are to live their lives from day to day.

The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1–2). The godly man’s delight is in the preceptive will of God, and one so focused will be like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” (v. 3). The ungodly, however, are not like that but “are like chaff that the wind drives away” (v. 4).

If you want to know which job to take, you have to master the principles. As you do, you will discover that it is God’s will that you make a sober analysis of your gifts and talents. Then you are to consider whether a particular job is in keeping with your gifts; if it is not, you should not accept it. In that case, the will of God is that you look for a different job. The will of God is also that you match your vocation—your calling—with a job opportunity, and that requires a lot more work than using a Ouija board. It means applying the law of God to all the various things in life. Continue reading

The Canonical Books

canonBelgic Confession

Article 4: The Canonical Books

We include in the Holy Scripture the two volumes of the Old and New Testaments. They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel at all. In the church of God the list is as follows: In the Old Testament, the five books of Moses– Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; the two books of Samuel, and two of Kings; the two books of Chronicles, called Paralipomenon; the first book of Ezra; Nehemiah, Esther, Job; the Psalms of David; the three books of Solomon– Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song; the four major prophets– Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel; and then the other twelve minor prophets– Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. In the New Testament, the four gospels– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen letters of Paul– to the Romans; the two letters to the Corinthians; to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians; the two letters to the Thessalonians; the two letters to Timothy; to Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews; the seven letters of the other apostles– one of James; two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.

Article 5: The Authority of Scripture

We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith. And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them– not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God. For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

Article 6: The Difference Between Canonical and Apocryphal Books

We distinguish between these holy books and the apocryphal ones, which are the third and fourth books of Esdras; the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch; what was added to the Story of Esther; the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace; the Story of Susannah; the Story of Bell and the Dragon; the Prayer of Manasseh; and the two books of Maccabees. The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the authority of the other holy books.