The Jesus of Testimony

Jesus in Non-Christian Sources (Craig Blomberg)

The participants in the film (below) include many of todays top Christian apologists, authors and scholars including Richard Bauckham, Craig Blomberg, Michael Brown, Paul Eddy, Steve Gregg, Gary Habermas, Craig Keener, Mike Licona, Dan Wallace and Ben Witherington III.

Did Jesus really exist? If so, what can we know about Him historically? For any Christian, the historicity of Jesus isn’t merely a matter of curiosity. The Christian faith is dependent upon the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as historical reality. But how can we know if the Jesus of the the Gospels is historical or legendary? Jesus of Testimony answers many of the important questions for skeptics as well as Christians in the area of Christian apologetics.

Part 1: Lord or Legend, the historicity of Jesus Christ is demonstrated by the important non-Christian historical sources that are available to us today.

Part 2: Are the Gospels Reliable? examines the historical reliability of the Gospels as eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus.

Part 3: Miracles provides strong evidence that miracles happen today and happened in history.

Part 4: The Testimony of Prophecy, many of the Old Testament messianic prophecies are quoted along with their New Testament fulfillments which establish a solid confirmation of Jesus’ credentials as the Messiah.

Part 5: The Resurrection — Fact or Fiction? the case is presented for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Part 6: The Good News concludes that the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospels, dependent on eyewitness testimony, is more plausible than the alternative hypotheses of its modern detractors and presents the Jesus’ message of the Gospel.

To order DVDs, make donations or download visit:

Living in Light of Eternity

Text: Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Being truly heavenly minded is the only way to do the most earthly good.

On the right to bear arms

Update: 2008 / James White

I Beg To Differ, Brother Piper

This morning I was directed to a brief comment by John Piper found Piper draws a connection between the martyr missionaries of Through Gates of Splendor and a Christian defending his wife or daughter from an intruder in his home:

I suspect the same could be said for almost anyone who breaks into my house. There are other reasons why I have never owned a firearm and do not have one in my house. But that reason moves me deeply. I hope you don’t use your economic stimulus check to buy a gun. Better to find some missionaries like this and support them.

In the spirit of Christian freedom and with the deepest respect for brother Piper, I could not disagree more strongly with the sentiment here expressed. First, I see no parallel whatsoever between missionaries in the jungle seeking to open contact with a violent and primitive tribe and a meth-laden gang member seeking to rob, rape, and murder. In fact, I see many, many reasons to view the two very, very differently. The gang member in the streets of Phoenix has every possible opportunity to do good, to obey the gospel, to work and abide by the law. But he chooses, purposefully and knowingly, to do otherwise. He chooses to enter into my home, threatening the lives of my family. And he comes armed.

In the second place, I don’t believe a Christian is a martyr if they fall prey to the random, drug-induced violence of a gang member or criminal. There is a difference between being a victim because you did not take the proper precautions and being a martyr because you purposefully expose yourself to danger and even death in the service of the gospel.

Next, I believe I stand very firmly in a strongly biblical position to say that the Lord Jesus Himself took it for granted that a man is to defend his home against evildoers. His parable of the strong man makes no sense unless it was a given that a man defends who, and what, is his. Without this principle in place, anarchy reigns. Just a few relevant texts to ponder (my apologies for using the NASB instead of the ESV!):

Matthew 12:29 “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
Mark 3:27 “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.
Luke 11:21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.

Luke 22:36-38 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37 “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Now, it is not my intention to start a blog war or anything else over this topic, nor is it my purpose in this brief entry to go into every possible element of discussion of the exegesis of these texts, but it does seem fairly obvious to me that Jesus was in no way condemning the armed strong man in these words. And one must deal with the fact that Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloak to buy a sword! Self-defense is, in fact, a basic human right.

I stand very firmly in the Reformed tradition at this point as well. Question 135 of the Westminster Larger Catechism states:

Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

Finally, it is common for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:39 to be cited in this context, as if “resisting the evil” (and there is a question as to whether this means the evildoer, or evil as a whole) means the Christian is to do nothing about personal attack. But if the context is that of being slapped, this speaks of insult and abuse. That is not the same context as a man seeking to rape my wife or daughter or to take my life.

So with all brotherly respect I must disagree with John Piper on this topic. We live in a land where evildoers are flourishing and are often given special protection by the governmental authorities! But my duty to protect family and home is God-given, and I do not see how God is glorified by my allowance of violence against me or my family in my home. So, in closing, I have no suggestions to offer regarding your “economic stimulus” payment (a tank of gas, perhaps?), but in light of the Lord’s command to sell one’s cloak so as to obtain a sword, I would say you are surely not sinning to look to the protection of yourself and your family in your home. And should any evildoer think of looking up my home, thinking he will find an unarmed victim, think again. I will be glad to proclaim the gospel to you today, but if I find you coming through the window of my bedroom tonight, you will be ushered into eternity post-haste. Some decisions are, indeed, final.

The Reformed Baptist View of Baptism

Here is a short article that answers several of the common objections against Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology.

Stanley J. Reeves

Q. What books present the Reformed Baptist view of baptism?
A. The most important book in print is: The Baptism of Disciples Alone by Fred Malone, Founders Press, 2003.

This is an excellent, up-to-date treatment of the subject that interacts with the standard arguments as well as recent developments in paedobaptist thought. The author is a former paedobaptist. The book can be obtained from Founders Press.
Regrettably, some of the best books are out of print, but a few have been reprinted:

Infant Baptism & the Covenant of Grace by Paul K. Jewett, Eerdman’s, 1977.

This book is a definitive treatment of the subject, interacting both with older sources such as Calvin and Baxter, as well as with more modern advocates of infant baptism. The book is out of print but may be ordered from

Grace & Truth Books
3406 Summit Boulevard
Sand Springs, Oklahoma 74063
Phone: 918 245 1500

Jewett’s writing is at the same time lively and charitable.

Children of Abraham by David Kingdon, 1975.
This is an eminently readable book that makes many of the same arguments as Jewett. According to the Reformed Baptist grapevine, Kingdon wants to update the work in the near future. However, I have been hearing this for a long time, so don’t hold your breath.
In the meantime, you can get an authorized spiral-bound copy from James Drummond Christian Used & New Books.

Manual of Church Order by John L. Dagg, 1850. Reprinted by Sprinkle Publications.

Dagg deals with the subject in the general framework of ecclesiology. He addresses 1) arguments for infant church membership and 2) direct arguments for infant baptism. Dagg has a special ability to take arguments apart and address the root of the matter. He also has a chapter on the meaning of baptizo, which is the best thing I have ever seen on the subject. This chapter addresses the best arguments put forth by writers such as J. W. Dale, whose work on this subject has been reprinted recently. Dagg’s Manual is available on the web at the Founders Ministries site.

Should Babies Be Baptized? by T. E. Watson, Evangelical Press.
This book uses quotes from paedobaptists to allow them to refute themselves. He shows that there is a great deal of contradiction in the way paedobaptists go about establishing their case.
Dagg and Watson can be ordered from Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service.

Q. What readily available short works present the Reformed Baptist view of baptism?
A. There are quite a few good short works. One of the best available is A Critical Evaluation of Paedobaptism by Greg Welty, which is available on the web at the Founders Ministries site. The author is a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary in California. He presents a convincing rebuttal to all the standard paedobaptist arguments and criticisms of the Baptist view. It is available in print form from Reformed Baptist Press.

A String of Pearls Unstrung: A Theological Journal into Believers’ Baptism by Fred Malone is also available at the Founders Ministries web site. This pamphlet describes Fred Malone’s theological pilgrimage from a convinced paedobaptist and Presbyterian pastor to a convinced Baptist. This is a clear, easily read study of the subjects of baptism that interacts with all the major issues. It is available in print form from Founders Press.

Another useful resource on the web is A Short Catechism about Baptism by John Tombes. This is a very clear, succinct statement of the Reformed Baptist view from an early proponent (1659).

Babies, Believers, and Baptism by J. K. Davies, Grace Publications, 1983, 23pp, closely follows the arguments of Kingdon’s book Children of Abraham. This is a good, readable summary of the Reformed Baptist view of covenant theology and of children in the Old and New Testaments, but it will leave you wishing for more detail.

Q. Considering that Old Testament believers were commanded to place the sign of the covenant upon their infant children, why do we not have clear explanations in the New Testament that this pattern of infant inclusion has been abrogated?
A. The question itself makes an unwarranted leap. Old Testament believers were not commanded to circumcise their infant children as children of believers but as the offspring of Abraham (Gen. 17:9). This is further seen in the fact that the practice was to be continued through succeeding generations with no reference to the personal faith of the parents but rather to the child’s connection to Abraham (vv. 7,9). The blessings of the Abrahamic covenant had special reference to Abraham’s offspring, with blessings of fruitfulness and many nations from Abraham (v. 6), of possession of the land through Abraham’s descendents (v. 8), and of blessing to all families of the earth through Abraham’s descendents (12:3). These are the blessings that circumcision signified and sealed to Abraham.

The New Testament confirms this view of the Abrahamic covenant. Even the Pharisees understood that covenant blessings were for the offspring of Abraham. When the Pharisees came to John the Baptist for baptism, they didn’t come because their parents were in covenant but because they thought they were children of Abraham. The discussions between Jesus and the Pharisees assume that the real question of heart religion was whether they were children of Abraham. Paul makes this explicit in Galatians 3:29 and other places. The only claim that a believer has for being an heir of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant is that s/he is a child of Abraham. Of course, the New Testament lifts the promises of the Abrahamic covenant out of the shadows of the Old Testament, but the essential terms of the covenant are still the same. The sign of the Abrahamic covenant is for the seed of Abraham.

Some have objected to this reasoning by saying that it has always been the case that only those of faith are children of Abraham (Gal. 3:29) and that children were given the sign of the covenant in spite of this reality. This is a major part of Hanko’s argument in We & Our Children. But this objection ignores the progress of revelation and of redemptive history. The Abrahamic covenant did refer to those who have the faith of Abraham but only under the shadow of the more literal concept of the seed of Abraham. When Abraham was told to circumcise his offspring, he understood it to mean his physical descendents. Clearly, however, this meaning no longer has significance for those under the new covenant.

The proper question, therefore, is whether we find clear New Testament explanations of the abrogation of the shadow (the physical significance of the seed) and emphasis on the reality (the spiritual significance). Interestingly enough, we find many passages that explain and emphasize this change of focus (cf. Matt. 3:9, John 8:32-40, Gal. 3:7,9,18,29,4:28). This observation confirms that this is the proper question.

Q. Doesn’t Acts 2:39 indicate a continuation of the principle of including children under the new covenant?
A. In his Pentecost sermon Peter states, “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” The passage places two very clear conditions on all recipients of the promise — one from man’s perspective and one from God’s. From man’s perspective, the promise is to those who repent. From God’s perspective, the promise is to those whom God calls. Taken in its plain meaning, these conditions apply to all parties: “you, your children, and those who are far off.”

The paedobaptist response to this is that it doesn’t explain why Peter would’ve chosen the wording “you and your children”. Note first that the term for children here simply means progeny. It does not necessarily refer to infants. Peter’s choice of wording is quite natural to expect, as much from a baptist perspective as a paedobaptist one. First, the most immediate concern Peter is addressing is the fact that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of the Messiah. Just a few weeks earlier, many of these same Jews had accepted responsibility for Christ’s blood to “be upon us and our children”. They would naturally have been concerned as to whether they and their children could be forgiven (vv. 36-37). Peter’s statement is quite natural considering this context.

Apart from this is the more general recognition that God generally dealt with the Jews in solidarity with their children and did not distinguish outwardly between those whose hearts were circumcised and those whose hearts were not. They were quite accustomed to the outward covenant privileges enjoyed by themselves and their children. Peter, knowing this mindset, assured them that the promises were applicable to their children as well as to them. However, he also knew that the Jews had tended toward presumption in their relation to God because of their familial connection to Abraham. The Pharisees believed that their birth privileges were sufficient to qualify them for the preparatory rite of the new covenant (Matt. 3:7-10). The prophets had to continually emphasize the necessity of circumcision of the heart because the Jews so easily rested on mere outward circumcision. Peter clearly denounced this mindset in his statement. The promises are offered to your children, but they are offered on the same basis as they are to you and to everyone else — repentance on their part, God’s calling on His part.

Finally, the inclusion of the phrase “and to those who are far off” would have been completely unexpected by Peter’s Jewish audience. It immediately put them on notice that these promises would not operate in the old shadowy way of the OT promises to Israel. The Jews were no longer the special custodians of the promises (Rom. 3:2, 9:4). Instead, the promise was being sent forth conditionally to all who would repent and believe (Acts 17:30).

We have offered a very natural explanation for Peter’s inclusion of the phrase “and your children” without resorting to a paedobaptist viewpoint. Thus, Acts 2:39 furnishes no evidence for the paedobaptist claim that all children of new covenant believers continue to be included automatically in God’s covenant dealings the way they were in the Old Testament. In fact, it underscores the fact that the promise is given only to those who demonstrate God’s call by repenting of their sin.

Our view is confirmed by v. 41: “Those who received his word were baptized”. The most natural reading of this statement is that believers only were baptized.

Q. Does the Reformed Baptist view prevent us from embracing God’s promise to be a God to our children?
A. This is a difficult issue, both emotionally and exegetically. However, there are several things that can be said with confidence:

Whatever these passages mean, they can’t be an absolute guarantee of the salvation of our children. Therefore, we must all understand these promises in a qualified sense.
The sense given by Doug Wilson, Edward Gross, and others that it is conditional upon the faithfulness of the parents simply doesn’t fit the evidence. Isn’t Abraham presented to us in Scripture as the father and the example of faithfulness? Yet he was explicitly told that one of his children was not the child of promise. Frankly, if Abraham wasn’t “faithful” in the Doug Wilson sense, I don’t see how that provides a lot of confidence for most of us ordinary believers.

God clearly works through families, a fact that can be learned both from the experience of believers throughout the ages and from Scripture as well. Both blessings and curses tend to flow along family lines — read the 2nd Commandment! The very fact that God chose to work through the physical descendants of Abraham is an indication of God’s usual ways in this regard. However, God is still sovereign and is under no obligation to show mercy to any individual in particular, in spite of his ordinary pattern.

Benefits ordinarily flow to children of believers as part of the blessings of the covenant to believers, but that’s not the same as covenant membership of the children themselves. Granted that God deals in a special way with children of believers, this is not a ground for baptizing infants. It is simply a statement of what God has promised to do ordinarily (God’s decretive will), but it doesn’t say a thing about what we should do (God’s revealed will).

There are grounds for being hopeful, more so than for the children of unbelievers. In Proverbs we find many of God’s “general operating principles” (rather than absolute promises). In fact, there’s one that bears directly on this issue: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and in the end he will not depart from it.” This is a proverb, not a promise, so it does not give a 100% guarantee in this. However, it does provide great encouragement that God ordinarily works through the means of faithful parents to bring his grace to bear on their children. We have no guarantees, but we do have tremendous encouragement.

The only biblical evidence that your children are in a state of grace is that they repent of their sins, embrace Christ in faith, and demonstrate the fruit of repentance in their lives. The Pharisees were rebuked specifically for thinking that they could presume upon their lineage in their standing with God (Matt. 3:7-10).

Q. Is the sacrament of baptism a means of grace according to Reformed Baptist theology?
A. Some Reformed Baptists prefer not to use the term “sacrament” due to some negative historical associations. However, Reformed Baptists fully affirm a Reformed view of the sacraments as a means of grace.

The 1689 Confession is admittedly not as clear on this point as it could be. But Keach’s Catechism, which was written to clarify the theology of the Confession, makes it pretty clear:

Q. 95. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation. (Rom. 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Cor. 3:5; Acts 14:1; 2:41,42)

Q. 98. How do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation?

A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in him that administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them. (1 Peter 3:21; 1 Cor. 3:6,7; 1 Cor. 12:13)

Q. 99. Wherein do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ from the other ordinances of God?

A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ from the other ordinances of God in that they were specially instituted by Christ to represent and apply to believers the benefits of the new covenant by visible and outward signs. (Matt. 28:19; Acts 22:16; Matt. 26:26-28; Rom. 6:4)

Therefore, baptism is a means of grace in Reformed Baptist theology.

Q. How can baptism be a means of grace in Baptist theology when Baptists assert that a person must already be saved to be eligible for baptism?
A. It is too narrow a reading of the terms “means of grace” and “effectual to salvation” to limit them to the moment of conversion. Christ “communicates to us the benefits of redemption” in an ongoing way not only to regenerate and justify us initially but also to sanctify and preserve us throughout our Christian lives. When the Shorter Catechism (Q. 89) and Keach’s Catechism (Q. 96) ask “How is the Word made effectual to salvation?”, they do not limit the effect of the Word in salvation to the moment of conversion. In fact, they explicitly affirm in the answer that the Word is effectual to salvation both in conversion and in continuing the Christian life:

A. The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.
The two catechisms have identical answers to this question.
Some Reformed Baptists may be uncomfortable with this second response, but I’ll state it anyway. Baptists have historically seen baptism as the culmination of the conversion experience. Among other things, it seals and confirms, both to the party being baptized and to others, that the party has engaged to be the Lord’s and is now united with Him. Although no warrant is given to baptize someone with the goal of converting him, in many cases the person may exercise faith in Christ through the means either of contemplating or participating in baptism. Beasley-Murray in Baptism in the New Testament makes a very strong case that the conversion experience and the act of baptism need not be separated in our conception of the two, since the NT so often speaks of them in an interchangeable manner. This is true, in spite of the fact that the two can be separated for study or in one’s experience. From the believer’s perspective, baptism can be viewed as a visible prayer in which the believer “signifies [his] ingrafting into Christ and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and [his] engagement to be the Lord’s.”

One could also theoretically benefit from a sacrament as a means of grace before being converted, as paedobaptists argue that infants do in baptism. The objection to infant baptism in this respect is twofold. First, infants are not eligible for baptism and thus have no divine warrant to participate in a means of grace that is not designed for them. Second, baptism is a means of grace at the moment of participation (as well as before and after) that requires the awareness and voluntary participation of the party baptized. If God chose to design a means of grace to be applied to the unconverted and/or to those who can’t voluntarily participate, then we should have no problem imagining how they might benefit from it. But if the design includes the awareness and voluntary participation of the party baptized, then it is a perversion and a truncation of the sacrament to admit anyone else.

Q. Doesn’t I Cor. 7:14 teach that children of believers are covenantally set apart and thus eligible for baptism?

A. No. The term “sanctified” that describes an unbelieving spouse of a believer and the term “holy” that describes the children of believers are based on the same root word in Greek. Therefore, whatever holiness the children have is also shared by an unbelieving spouse. Since an unbelieving spouse is not in the covenant, one cannot use this passage to establish that the children are. Paul’s whole argument is grounded in the similarity of the two cases. If unbelieving spouses and children of believers do not share the same type of holiness, the difference between the two cases invalidates Paul’s entire argument from the holiness of the children to the holiness of the unbelieving spouse. In fact, Paul’s argument actually implies an argument against infant baptism. If the children in Corinth were baptized but unbelieving spouses were not, then the Corinthians would never have accepted Paul’s argument that the holiness of the children implied the holiness of unbelieving spouses.

I have elaborated on this argument in a separate article on I Cor. 7:14.

Christ’s Deity, Voluntary Subordination & Perfect Humanity

sproul-77The Deity of Christ – R.C. Sproul

The confession of the deity of Christ is drawn from the manifold witness of the New Testament. As the Logos Incarnate, Christ is revealed as being not only preexistent to creation, but eternal. He is said to be in the beginning with God and also that He is God (John 1:1-3). That He is with God demands a personal distinction within the Godhead. That He is God demands inclusion in the Godhead.

Elsewhere, the New Testament ascribes terms and titles to Jesus that are clearly titles of deity. God bestows the preeminent divine title of Lord upon Him (Philippians 2:9-11). As the Son of Man, Jesus claims to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) and to have authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12). He is called the “Lord of glory” (James 2:1) and willingly receives worship, as when Thomas confesses, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Paul declares that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily (Colossians 1:19) and that Jesus is higher than angels, a theme reiterated in the book of Hebrews. To worship an angel or any other creature, no matter how exalted, is to violate the biblical prohibition against idolatry. The I ams of John’s Gospel also bear witness to the identification of Christ with Deity. Continue reading

The Same God?

Various articles…

MohlerDo Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? – an article by Dr. Al Mohler (original source)

A statement made by a professor at a leading evangelical college has become a flashpoint in a controversy that really matters. In explaining why she intended to wear a traditional Muslim hijab over the holiday season in order to symbolize solidarity with her Muslim neighbors, Jesus said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). Later in that same chapter, Jesus used some of the strongest language of his earthly ministry in stating clearly that to deny him is to deny the Father.

Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. Christians worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and no other god. We know the Father through the Son, and it is solely through Christ’s atonement for sin that salvation has come. Salvation comes to those who confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). The New Testament leaves no margin for misunderstanding. To deny the Son is to deny the Father.

To affirm this truth is not to argue that non-Christians, our Muslim neighbors included, know nothing true about God or to deny that the three major monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — share some major theological beliefs. All three religions affirm that there is only one God and that he has spoken to us by divine revelation. All three religions point to what each claims to be revealed scriptures. Historically, Jews and Christians and Muslims have affirmed many points of agreement on moral teachings. All three theological worldviews hold to a linear view of history, unlike many Asian worldviews that believe in a circular view of history. Continue reading

Justification: By Faith or By Works?

stormsDr. Sam Storms has written a series of articles which be reconciled to God and made acceptable in his sight?”

There simply is no more eternally important question that any man or woman can ask and then answer than this: “How might I, a hell-deserving sinner, be reconciled to God and made acceptable in his sight?” Or we might pose the question in yet another way: “How might I, a man/woman who is undeniably unrighteous and thus deserving of eternal judgment, be made righteous in the sight of God?” Other questions might feel more pressing or more practical, but rest assured that nothing else in all of life matters much in comparison with the issue of how we can be made right with God and thus assured of eternal life in his presence.

To put it another way, what is it that commends us to God? On what grounds or for what reason does God receive us as his children and look on us with a smile of approval and joy?

You and I will make numerous colossally stupid decisions during our years on earth. But we will, in the end, survive them all. None of them is quite as devastating as we think. Whether it’s choosing the wrong job or purchasing the wrong car or making bad friends, as painful as such choices can be, we will survive them. But the issue that we encounter in James 2:14-26 is of an eternally different order. The conclusion you draw concerning the meaning of this passage and how you live your life as a result will bear consequences into eternity. Not just for the next few weeks, or even years, but for eternity. Continue reading

Christmas & Calvinism

star over city RESIZEDJonathan Master (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of theology and dean of the School of Divinity at Cairn University. He is also director of Cairn’s Center for University Studies. Dr. Master serves as executive editor of Place for Truth and is co-chair of the Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology. In an article and even many non-Christians pretend to believe – or at least to affirm that something good happened on the night Christ was born. Christmas would hardly seem to be the time to discuss the doctrines of grace. After all, we’re led to believe that Christmas is gloriously broad and Calvinism hopelessly narrow.

So why insert such dour doctrines into the broad and beautiful joy we share at Christmas? Well, in the first place, these doctrines are not dour at all, or narrow. They are enlivening and glorious, and their apprehension leads immediately to the kind of overflowing joy we associate with Christmas.

But there is more than that. The reason we should associate Christmas and Calvinism is that Jesus himself does. In John 6, Jesus gives a clear reason for the incarnation. And the incarnation is what we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas rightly. He says this: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). That broad statement of Jesus’ obedience takes further shape in the verses which follow: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:39-40). Later in the same discussion, Jesus expands on this will of the Father which he came to earth to carry out: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (6:44). And again, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (6:63). Finally, in response to the disciples’ questions about those who did not believe, Jesus says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (6:65).

Since Jesus’ stated reason for the incarnation is to do the Father’s will, it is worth looking at these teachings in a systematic fashion. First, we learn that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him or grants him this (John 6:44, 65). This is because the Holy Spirit alone gives life and man in his natural state cannot find spiritual life at all; in the flesh, human beings possess nothing profitable in accomplishing salvation (John 6:63). We learn that the Son came to save those who had been given to him (John 6:39). We are told that those drawn, given, and brought to life by the Father actually come: none can resist His transforming grace (John 6:37). And then, perhaps most remarkably, we learn that Christ guarantees that all who come to him in faith, those ones who are given by the Father and transformed by the Spirit, will surely be raised up on the last day (John 6:40).

In other words, when Jesus reflects on his coming to earth, he explains it in terms of the Father’s will in salvation, a will that is displayed against the backdrop of man’s total depravity, God’s unconditional election, Christ’s definite work in salvation, God’s irresistible grace in drawing and giving men to Christ, and the glorious promise that Christ will one day raise up those who look to him in genuine faith. This is what we mean when we speak of Calvinism. And as it happens, it is also what Jesus teaches when he speaks of Christmas.