J. I . Packer – Why Annihilationism is Wrong

packer-245x300Quote: “…But no proposed theory of the Bible’s meaning that doesn’t cover all the Bible’s relevant statements can be true. Texts like Jude 6, Matthew 8:12, Matthew 22:13, and Matthew 25:30 show that darkness signifies a state of deprivation and distress, not of destruction in the sense of ceasing to exist. After all, only those who exist can weep and gnash their teeth, as those banished into the darkness are said to do… at every point, the linguistic argument simply fails. To say that some texts, taken in isolation, might mean annihilation proves nothing when other texts evidently do not.”

Gavin Ortlund (quoting J. I. Packer) at the Gospel Coalition writes:

The doctrine of hell is the most difficult aspect of the Christian faith for many people. It is for me. I feel acutely the unremitting sadness of this doctrine. But to be a Christian is—at the very least—to confess Christ the Son of God, and to confess Christ the Son of God is—at the very least—to submit to his teaching. And this includes his teaching on hell (which was quite copious and colorful).

Saint Anselm once said we should give thanks for whatever of the Christian faith we can understand with our minds; but when we come to something we don’t understand, we should “bow our heads in reverent submission.” That seems like godly and wise advice to me. We simply don’t have the option to pick and choose from what the Bible teaches: we are called to submit to its authority over us.

The traditional doctrine of hell is currently undergoing significant challenges from both within and without the church. Many question the reality of hell outright, while many others opt toward annihiliationism—the belief that the damned won’t suffer eternally but will instead have their consciousness extinguished at some point. In 1997 J. I. Packer wrote a brief article in Reformation and Revival magazine reviewing the debate over annihilationism among evangelicals. In his historical summary, he defines annihilationism as follows:

What is at issue? The question is essentially exegetical, though with theological and pastoral implications. It boils down to whether, when Jesus said that those banished at the final judgment will “go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46), he envisaged a state of penal pain that is endless, or an ending of conscious existence that is irrevocable: that is (for this is how the question is put), a punishment that is eternal in its length or in its effect.

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Two Motivations for Pursuing Holiness

prayuThis excerpt is taken from Blood Work by Anthony Carter.

Peter gives us two truths worth remembering as motivations for our pursuit of holiness.

First, we must remember from what we have been ransomed. The Bible says we have been ransomed “from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). Life apart from a right relationship with God is futile. “Vanity of vanities,” the Bible calls it (Eccl. 1:2). No matter how religious, lavish, or popular your life before Christ was, it was empty. How empty? The Apostle Paul called it skubalon (“rubbish, dung, sewage”):

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Phil. 3:3–8)

According to Paul, his life prior to Christ would have been the envy of most in his world. He had everything anyone in his world could have wanted, and most of it was inherited from his forefathers. He had social status, religious status, educational status, financial status, and moral status. He was a pillar in his society, considered righteous and blameless. Yet, upon the revelation of Jesus Christ in his life, when Jesus ransomed him, Paul came to see all these things as loss, worthless, or even refuse and rubbish. In comparison to knowing Christ, these cultural, ethnic, and social riches were worthless. They belonged to the world of waste and deserved to be disregarded and disdained as such. While his society would have counted his status worthy of envy, Paul said it was futile, a vanity of vanities. Paul was ransomed from such vain pursuits, and so are all who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.

In Philippians 3:3–8 and 1 Peter 1:18, we see Paul and Peter saying the same thing. In Christ, we are ransomed from that futile, vain living that was ours from birth and that had been accumulating ever since. The idea of futility or worthlessness was particularly significant and poignant in Peter’s world, because he was writing to people who, in most cases, like Paul, were the first Christians in their families. Undoubtedly, many came from strongly traditional Jewish homes. Yet, Peter said many of the rituals their parents had handed down to them were empty and worthless, leading to bondage and away from God. But God, through the blood of Christ, had delivered them. Likewise, He has delivered us from futile things. The greatness of this deliverance should not be forgotten. We could not know the futility of our lives until we were made to see the utility of Christ.

Second, we must remember that with which we have been ransomed. Peter says that we have been ransomed not with perishable things but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19). Someone has said that salvation is free. Yes, it is free in that it does not cost silver, gold, dollars, or cents. But that does not mean that it does not cost anything. In fact, it cost Christ everything. Salvation is free to you and me because someone else paid the price:

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

It’s one thing to ransom someone from slavery in this world. Many have performed this gracious act, and we thank God for it. But how do we ransom people from slavery to sin? How much do we pay to ransom them from death and hell? For such a transaction, silver and gold are of no value. There is an economy wherein the only currency is the blood of Christ. It is God’s economy. It is the economy of the kingdom of God. It is the economy of the redeemed. To redeem us, Christ did not reach into the treasure bag; He reached into Himself—the treasure of all treasures—and set us free.

Psalm 94

I wish the person who put this together had better spelling but this song by Sons of Korah is amazing, especially in the light of current events. Christians are being martyred throughout the Middle East and Africa; babies are murdered by the thousands every day in the womb of their mothers, and last week, Christians were actually martyred on American soil in Roseburg, Oregon. Rise up O Lord:

Ten Commandments for Church Members (Regarding Your Pastor)

sheep8Joel Beeke writes:

1. Don’t idolize your pastor. Don’t expect him to be able to do what only God can do. Don’t make a savior of him.

2. Don’t criticize your pastor, unless he departs from the truth, and then do it with tears. And please don’t expect perfection. He is a mere man—a weak, sinful man at that, just like you. His office is divine, but his person is human. He sets before you treasure in an earthen vessel. If you don’t remember that, you will cry hosanna today, but will crucify him tomorrow.

3. Don’t avoid your pastor. Go to him, tell him your needs, open your soul, but don’t waste his precious time. It is your duty and privilege to go to him with your questions and spiritual troubles—and that will be to his encouragement and joy.

4. Do pray for your pastor. Pray for his soul, that he may be kept humble and holy. Pray for his body, that he may be kept strong and spared for many years. Pray that he may be a burning and shining light. Pray for his ministry that it may be abundantly blessed. Pray for his wife, his family, his sermon preparation, his delivery, his counseling. Pray your minister full and he will preach you full.

5. Do be a good listener to and doer of the sermons your pastor preaches. Listen to and obey your pastor. As long as he preaches the Scriptures, receive it as the very word of God. Remember, he is Christ’s gift to you.

6. Do be interested in your pastor. Don’t let all your conversation with him be focused only on you. Be kind to him. Show interest in him, his life, and the life of his family; he is human too!

7. Remember to appreciate your pastor’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses, always reminding yourself that your next pastor may not have your present pastor’s strengths. Don’t compare pastors to each other, but learn to appreciate each pastor whom God sends you for the peculiar gifts that God has given to that pastor.

8. Look above and beyond your pastor. Look to Him whom your pastor sets before you.

9. Do be coworkers with your pastor and the consistory. Be self-forgetters, Christ-exalters, and co-laborers. Covet humility, wisdom, peace, unity—and put on charity.

10. Keep an eternal perspective under your pastor’s ministry. Ask God that your pastor may give a good account of your soul on Judgment Day. Remember you don’t have to give an account of your pastor’s blemishes and strengths on the Day of days, but you do have to give an account of what you have done with the word that he will bring you. If you are as yet unsaved, look on his ministry as one more major opportunity God is giving you to receive with meekness His engrafted word. Through his ministry, the Lord is saying that He has more people from your church to be gathered into His eternal harvest—and why should it not be you? Oh, that you would know the day of your visitation under your pastor’s ministry!

Biblical Reflections on Hebrews 6

John-HJohn Hendryx: Can a Regenerate Christian Fall Away from the Faith?: Biblical Reflections on Hebrews 6

There are those who teach that Hebrews chapter six is a clear statement that Christians can fall away from the faith and thereby lose their salvation. The purpose of this short reflection is not only to show this to be a erroneous interpretation, but also that the persons making such assertions are in danger of making the very error which the passage is warning about. Lets take a look at the passage together:

“….it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.: – Hebrews 6: 4-8

Perhaps this is one of the most terrifying passages in Scripture, but, as is usually the case, when a passage is read in isolation and without regard to the context of the surrounding passage, theological error is bound to creep in.

We all know that Hebrews was written to give witness to the superiority of Jesus Christ to all other means of pleasing God such as temple sacrifice and the Law. In fact He is seen as replacing them all. Jesus Christ is shown to be more excellent than the Prophets (1:1), Angels (1:4-14), Moses (3: 3-6), the Levitical Priesthood and sacrifice (Heb. 5 & 9) and even Abraham (7: 4-14). The new covenant is shown to be better than the old because it fulfills everything the old covenant pointed to (Heb 8). Jesus Himself is revealed as the climax of the covenant of grace. The author of Hebrews says, “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” (Heb 8:6) Since this is the case, the text warns that, we must pay more attention and not fall away from believing that Jesus alone is sufficient, and is therefore more excellent, by order of magnitude, than all other means of pleasing God. There is no hope in trusting, even partly in, anything else as they can never forgive sins or make you just before God.

The passage that warns the Hebrews against falling away is warning them against one thing: abandoning trust in Christ alone by going back to now worthless and obsolete things, such as trusting in the temple sacrifice and obedience to the Law in order to be justified. The warnings are given to those in the faith community that they would not be tempted to turn from trusting Jesus alone (who is God over all) to some lesser, meaningless or obsolete ritual act that supposedly now can curry God’s favor. Trusting in anything except Christ alone, who is the light that scatters all shadows, is said to be tantamount to “trampling under foot the Son of God” believing that His once for all sacrifice is insufficient in itself to save. If something in place of, or in addition to, Jesus is trusted in it is no different than a denial of Him. So in context, the persons who go back by trading in Christ for the now-empty ritual of the temple (that itself was meant to point to the fulfillment in Christ), are then re-crucifying the Son to their shame. Hebrews 6:4-8 is often read in isolation apart from this context.

Tragically, the very next text (which is crucial) is also often left off by those who claim regenerate Christians can fall away … a text which qualifies the preceding text. The writer of Hebrews in verse 9 says, “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.” If the author of Hebrews is confident of better things of the persons he is speaking with, things that belong to salvation, then obviously falling away does not belong to it. This is a clear statement that the author was not describing saving faith of those who are in danger of falling away in the preceding passage, because the kind of response that falls away, he says, are not among the “things that belong to salvation.” So whatever the things the author just described about falling away in Heb 6:4-8 are not the characteristics of true regenerate persons. People can be enlightened and taste and partake …. They may be externally a part of the church and receive external blessings, yet if they abandon trust in Christ for ritual or something else, there is no hope for their salvation. They were never regenerate to begin with for falling away does not accompany or belong to true salvation, according to the text.

Ironically, those who teach that this passage speaks of the ability of regenerate Christians to fall away are actually committing the very error the passage itself warns against. How do I figure? The very assertion that a Christian can lose their salvation is tantamount to saying that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely and so you need to (at least partly) trust in yourself to maintain your own righteousness, and this is not unlike Roman Catholic theology. To say Christ can lose us is the same as believing that what Christ did is not enough for us… That you MUST MAINTAIN YOUR OWN JUSTIFICATION.

This is a form of legalistic self-justification to believe that you can either attain or maintain your own righteousness before God and it is itself a denial of Christ, the very error the Hebrews were tempted to make, that the author was speaking of. In fact this is a backdoor to the Galatian heresy where Paul says, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3) To believe one can lose salvation, therefore, is trusting in something other than Jesus Christ to keep you righteous in Him. The Hebrews were tempted to go back to temple sacrifice (trusting in something other than Christ) and the doctrine that one can lose salvation is likewise trusting in ones’ own moral ability to maintain a just standing before God, since Jesus, according to them, is unable to save completely those who He came to save. Even though the author of Hebrews declares that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him (Heb 7:25) and “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:14), Either we are trusting in Christ alone to both attain and maintain our just standing before God or we are trusting in something worthless which the author of Hebrews gives severe warnings about. Quite ironic. That passage is a warning passage for the very error those who teach we can lose salvation are making.

In the passage, turning back to Judaism is a deliberate and final forsaking of Christ and the guilt of His blood. They had been enlightened by the Word, tasted of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, shared as companions in the Holy Spirit i.e. shared the benefits of His supernatural work and manifestations…. … Perhaps you may recall the passage in the gospels where Jesus describes something similar about those who approach Him on judgment day. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” These persons shared in the outward benefits of church but trusted in something other than Jesus alone to both attain and maintain their salvation. “I never knew you” spoken to those who did miracles clearly indicates that while such people shared outwardly in covenant benefits, were themselves never at any time saved. Jesus did not say, “I knew you at one time and now I don’t know you any longer.” No, never means never. Again, the belief that a regenerate Christian can fall away, like some Hebrews were tempted to do, is dangerously close to believing that Christ in Himself is not sufficient to maintain our just standing before God: “we must do something in addition to what Jesus did to remain justified.” Those who believe such things take heed to the warning and trust in Christ, not self, who is both the author and perfecter of our salvation.

Question: “But doesn’t that go against the doctrine of efficacious grace? Is it possible for the Spirit to work on someone only partly?”

Answer: The doctrine of efficacious grace does not mean, nor has it ever meant, that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. In Acts 7:51 Stephen says to the Jewish leaders, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did.” And Paul speaks of grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). It means, rather, that the Holy Spirit can and does overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible according to His sovereign good pleasure at a time of His choosing. The Spirit does not exercise efficacious grace every time we preach the gospel to someone. When God undertakes to fulfill his eternal purpose to save those he covenanted with the Son to save (John 6:37, 39), no one can successfully resist Him. Notice in the passage in Acts above it says those who resist the Holy Spirit are “uncircumcised in heart and ears” >>> a phrase used for the unregenerate and yet in this passage the Spirit at work is being resisted. The gospel is being preached, the Spirit is at work but men are resisting. WHY? Because, the passage says, their hearts are “uncircumcised”!!!! They are natural men and cannot think spiritual thoughts. Water does not rise above its source. Their ears must first be circumcised by the Spirit or they will continue be hostile to the gospel for that is what they are by nature. Not being willing to repent is the same as resisting the Holy Spirit. So if God gives repentance (John 6:65, 2 Tim 2:25) it is the same as removing that hostile resistance. This is why we call this work of God “irresistible grace”.Also see 6:67-39

So this should be sufficient evidence in itself that the Spirit does often work partly, and not savingly, toward individuals. This is also what Paul explained in Romans 9:14-18, which caused a similar opponent to say, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” To which Paul answers: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me thus?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?” (Romans 9:20f).

Efficacious grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the rebellion of our heart and bring us to faith in Christ so that we can and will be saved. That is why no one can enter the kingdom unless they are first born again. As for Hebrews 6:9, this text clearly proves that whatever was described in the previous text about falling away was not equal to salvation. So this alone disqualifies this verse from meaning what you may believe it to mean.

Question: if perseverance of the saints is true then why do we need to give true Christians warnings?

Answer: Because the Holy Spirit almost always uses means to accomplish His purposes. Just as the Holy Spirit does not usually save people in a void but through the preaching of the gospel, so likewise He sustains and feeds the saints through the preaching of the word, prayer, fellowship and sacraments. The Word only has value to us if the Holy Spirit applies it to our heart and likewise the Holy Spirit does not work in a void but uses means just as a seed needs water to grow. There may be extraordinary circumstances where a Muslim may be converted to Christianity in some remote region of northeastern China after hearing a radio broadcast, a person who does not have a Bible or a preacher at hand. In such circumstances the Holy Spirit may sustain a true believer by pouring out an extra portion of Himself, but commonly the Spirit only feeds/sustains His people though the appointed means. God both calls us to persevere and promises to preserve us (John 15:16).

Here are some passages which show that we MUST persevere to the end: Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6; Hebrews 10:26-3; Hebrews 12:1

And likewise here are passages which teach that true believers WILL persevere to the end: John 6:38-40; John 10:28-29; Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 1:4-6; Philippians 2:12-13 1 John 2:19

Question: So if a fake Christian falls away (thus, proving he was never saved in the first place), he can “never be renewed unto repentance”? Why — now we are confronted with a problem against Unconditional Election. Some people are too evil to become saved.

The sin these persons were tempted to commit, according to the text we are investigating, is they had received all possible external benefits, light and conviction of the Spirit, to bring them to faith yet they chose to finally reject Christ alone as Savior …going back to Temple sacrifice. Continue reading

Ten Commandments (for Pastors)

joel-beekeJoel Beeke writes:

1. Give priority to your personal communion with God. Put your own soul first: your maintaining communion with God is a prerequisite for being an effective pastor to your people. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28).

2. Give priority to prayer and holiness. Undertake no sermon, no pastoral work, no task of the ministry without seeking God’s face in Jesus Christ. Follow John Bunyan’s advice, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Personal holiness is not only a necessary pursuit but a joyful one and is usually inseparable from divine success in the ministry.

3. Be bibline all your life. Be like Bunyan, of whom Spurgeon said, that if you pricked any vein, the blood that would flow out would be bibline. Read the Word, study the Word, believe the Word, pray over the Word, love the Word, live the Word, memorize the Word, meditate on the Word, sing the Word, and practice the Word.

4. Remember that preaching is the primary task of the ministry, and that to do it rightly, you need the Holy Spirit two times for every sermon: once in the study and then again on the pulpit.

5. Be profoundly thankful and humbled for the honor of being an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Remain convinced all your life that you have a crucial vocation, for you are dealing with never-dying souls for a never-ending eternity.

6. Preach Christ to the full. Be determined to know no man after the flesh—including yourself—and to glory in nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, exalted, and coming again! Be a self-forgetter and a Christ-preacher. You can never preach Him enough. Devote the best energy of your life into preaching Him biblically, doctrinally, experientially, and practically. Resolve, like Thomas Boston, to leave the savor of Christ behind in all that you do.

7. Love the triune God; love your wife and children; love people; love your work.

8. Maintain a radical sense of dependency on the anointing of the Holy Spirit in all that you think, say, and do. Lean upon the Spirit at all times.

9. Ask God to give you a few, very close pastoral friends with whom you can hold each other accountable. Love your brethren in the ministry, and do not compete with them.

10. Live every day with an eternal perspective that fuels evangelistic urgency for the lost and pastoral love for the saints’ maturation. Keep eternity in view in all that do, so that on the great day you may give a good account of your ministry and may hear your Master say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21)

Doesn’t the Cross Display God’s Wrath Better Than Hell?

john-piperJohn Piper writes:

Today’s question is from Clayton in St. Paul: “Pastor John, in your recent Look at the Book episode on Romans 9:22–23, you argued that the deepest answer to the question, ‘Why doesn’t God save everyone?’ is that he is seeking to put the full panorama of his glory on display for the vessels of mercy. But — and here’s the kicker — how would you respond to the claim that the cross is already the fullest and most ultimate expression of God’s love, grace, justice, and wrath? In light of the cross, isn’t reprobation unnecessary for the full display of God’s glory?”

Excellent question. That is so good. So let me read the text that Clayton is referring to, so we all have it in our heads and then give a possible answer.

Romans 9:22–23, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?”

And my argument was that the ultimate reason God shows his wrath and his power is to make known the fullness of his glory — his gracious — including the justice of wrath and righteousness on unrighteous and impenitent rebels and sinners.

Now Clayton’s question is, “Does the death of Christ, who bears the wrath of God for all who believe and displays the grace of God supremely, doesn’t that event display God’s wrathful justice on Jesus in our place so supremely that hell would not be necessary as a display of God’s justice and wrath in order for God to be known for what he truly is?”

Now two observations: One is method and then the other is an exegetical/theological answer to the question.

Methodologically, I work from what texts mean toward understanding what reality is, not from what reality is back to what texts mean. At least I try to; that is my goal. And as far as I can see, Romans 9:22–23 and other texts teach that wrath is coming on the world of unbelievers, and it will be eternal wrath for those who don’t repent and fly to Jesus.

Therefore I don’t think I should start with the assumption that the cross makes hell redundant and then come back and say, “Well, these texts can’t mean what they say.’ So, that is my method.

Now, this is more important. It may be that Clayton has posed the question differently than the apostle Paul would or did.

Clayton asks: If the cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s grace and righteous wrath against sin, why do we need hell to demonstrate God’s righteousness and wrath against sin?

Paul seems to ask: How can we see the cross and the supreme demonstration of God’s grace and righteous wrath against sin unless we see that he is thereby saving people from real, coming, eternal wrath?

In other words, the wrath that is coming is indispensable for understanding the very nature of what happened on the cross. For Paul it is precisely the reality of the coming eternal wrath of God that makes the meaning of Jesus’s substitution supremely glorious in absorbing that wrath for all who believe. If there were no eternal wrath for us to see and to be frightened by, the glory of the death of Jesus in the removal of that wrath would be scarcely visible. I think Paul would say that.

If there were no future eternal wrath, we could say Jesus is amazing in absorbing wrath, but in Paul’s mind — and I think in God’s reckoning — this would not carry the day in amazing God’s people forever. There would never have been any future threat of eternal wrath that we could see, that we could taste, that anybody was ever enduring. It would be a nonexistent possibility that never came to be.

But is that idea biblical? Well, I think so, because of Romans 5:9–10: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

For Paul, the glory of the death of Christ is seen precisely in the fact that wrath is coming and we, because of the cross, will escape it. That is how we are made to feel the wonder of what he achieved in saving us. We see it coming, and he is going to shield us from that and protect us. First Thessalonians 1:10 says that We “wait for [God’s] son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

So Paul’s answer, I think, for Clayton, would be, “Future, righteous, divine, everlasting wrath on unrepentant sinners doesn’t make the glory of the cross more wonderful, and it doesn’t make it less wonderful. It makes it more visible. The existence of hell is, and always will be, a vivid reminder of the hell that Jesus bore for all who believe.’”

The Trinity – No Contradiction

sproul-r-c-Classically the Trinity was defined in these terms:

God is one in essence
and three in person.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard or seen this formulation described as a “contradiction.” Why is it called a contradiction? We are accustomed to thinking in terms of “One person equals one essence.” This equation may be a convenient one, but it’s not a rationally necessary one. The Trinity is indeed unusual and mysterious, but it is not inherently or analytically irrational.

If the formula for the Trinity asserted that God is one in essence and three in essence or that he is three in person and one in person, we would be engaging in the nonsense of contradiction. Something cannot be one in A and three in A at the same time and in the same relationship. That’s contradiction.

The classical formula of the Trinity is that God is one in one thing (one in A, essence) and three in a different thing (three in B, persona). The church fathers were careful not to formulate the nature of God in contradictory terms. The distinction among persons of the Godhead may be “essential” to Christianity, but the distinction itself is not an essential distinction about God. That is, though the distinction among persons is a real and necessary distinction, it is not an essential distinction.

Lest we seem to be guilty of equivocation here, let me explain further. When I say that the personal distinction among the Godhead is not an essential distinction, I mean by “essential” that which refers to being or essence, not to that which is “important” or “necessary” for other reasons. The distinction is “essential” in the sense that it is important and necessary for our understanding. It is not “essential” in the sense that it distinguishes being or essence in God.

The formula is not meant to say that essence and person are the same things. Essence refers to the being of God, while person is used here as substance within being. Essence is primary and persona is secondary. Essence is the similarity, while personal is the dissimilarity in the nature of God. He is unified in one essence, but diversified in three personae.

This excerpt is taken from Not a Chance by R.C. Sproul.

The Christian and the Local Church

Sproul0003Do You Have to Go to Church to Be a Christian?

Is church attendance, if you’re physically able, a requirement to go to heaven? In a very technical sense, the answer is no. However, we need to remember a few things. Christ commands His people not to forsake the assembling together (Heb. 10:25). When God constituted the people of Israel, He organized them into a visible nation and placed upon them a sober and sacred obligation to be in corporate worship before Him. If a person is in Christ, he is called to participate in koinonia—the fellowship of other Christians and the worship of God according to the precepts of Christ. If a person knows all these things and persistently and willfully refuses to join in them, would that not raise serious questions about the reality of that person’s conversion? Perhaps a person could be a new Christian and take that position, but I would say that’s highly unlikely.

Some of us may be deceiving ourselves in terms of our own conversion. We may claim to be Christians, but if we love Christ, how can we despise His bride? How can we consistently and persistently absent ourself from that which He has called us to join—His visible church? I offer a sober warning to those who are doing this. You may, in fact, be deluding yourself about the state of your soul.

This excerpt is taken from What Is the Church? by R.C. Sproul.

The Courage to Preach

Acts 20:13-38

Paul’s last words to the Ephesian elders tell us much about his passion for the Gospel and the courage needed to proclaim the whole counsel of God.