Monthly Archives: July 2011

A Brief Biblical Theology of God’s Word

Overview of God’s Word: A Brief Biblical Theology of The Word

In Genesis 1-2, God powerfully speaks all things into existence—by the sheer power of His voice He creates everything “out of nothing”. The act of creation demonstrates the authority and beauty of His creative word. In Genesis 3, we see the first pronouncement of the gospel. He speaks of sin’s consequences and promises redemption—the seed of the woman will one day crush the serpent. While mankind has brought sin upon itself, God has chosen to intervene on behalf of His people, as a result of His grace and love. In Genesis 9, we see what God will do throughout a number of generations—He makes a covenant with Noah and his offspring and provides deliverance according to their faith. In Genesis 12 & 17, God calls Abraham by the word of His promise—Abraham turns from his sin and trusts in God. As a result, God not only provides a son of promise but also a vicarious sacrifice. In Genesis 35, God blesses Jacob and forms the nation of Israel from his descendants.

In the early pages of Exodus, God calls forth a redeemer and delivers His people from Egypt by the power of His word. He demonstrates His absolute authority by sending judgment against Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, and in so doing He secured the salvation of His people. In Exodus 19, He calls them a treasured possession, a holy nation, and a kingdom of priests—and in Exodus 20 He gives them the word of His law to guide them in faithful worship. In Deuteronomy 6, He reveals to them that He alone is their God and that they ought to love Him with a holistic love—all one’s heart, soul, and strength. In Judges, God speaks judgment against His people for forsaking His word. In 1-2 Samuel, God calls forth Samuel to represent Him among the people, and makes a covenant with David that includes the promise of an everlasting dynasty that will culminate in a King greater than David. In 2Kings, God reforms His people through Josiah’s recovery of His word; and in Ezra and Nehemiah God restores His exiled people by the convicting power of His word. And, God reveals the grace-giving effects of His word in Psalms 1, 19, and 119.

Throughout the various Prophets, God calls His people to repentance and promises a coming restoration. In Isaiah 55, we see that God works sovereignly through the agency of His word. In Ezekiel 36, He gives hope that He will transform hearts and implant His Spirit as He empowers the obedience of His people. In Ezekiel 37, His word breathes new life in order to resurrect the dead. In preaching God’s word to dry bones, Ezekiel demonstrates God’s power to bring new life. It’s riveting to read!! In Jonah God uses His word to break the hearts of the Israel’s greatest enemy and makes enemies into sons and daughters. In Hosea, God’s son is instructed to marry a harlot and through redeeming love, he reveals the relentless, enduring love of Christ for His Bride.

In John 1, we see that God sends His Son as the Word incarnate—Jesus makes the character and activity of God visible and tangible in human flesh. Throughout the Gospels, He heals the sick, forgives the sinner, and raises the dead. In Acts, God’s word builds the church and advances His kingdom; and in Romans, we see that He uses His word to produce faith in His hearers. Throughout the various Epistles, we find that God uses His word to sanctify us and conform us to Christ as we see and worship Him. In 1Corinthians we see that God, by His word, will finally put an end to sin and death. In Hebrews, He proclaims Christ to be the ultimate sacrifice and the place of eternal rest for His people. In 1 Peter, He reveals Jesus as the giver and keeper of our eternal inheritance, and in Jude He declares the church as the pillar and foundation of truth—the earthly guardian of His word. And in Revelation, He demonstrates that He will fully reveal Himself in all of His glory and that He will finally set all things right, both now and forever, in the establishment of the New Heavens and New Earth.

And yet, the most incredible facet of God’s word is that it reveals His character and activity. And since God is unchanging, His eternal Word is the display of His glory—both in Scripture and in His Son. Scripture expresses His heart and intention for humanity—in both hatred for sin and forgiveness in Christ. It is living and active, and in every place—reveals our need of Christ and points us to the person of Christ. So, while God’s word is both powerful and creative, the most beautiful, heart-gripping aspect of God’s word is that is makes known to us the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. All that God intends to express about Himself has been revealed through His everlasting word, inspired and written down for us—and His eternal Word, His Son, sent from heaven and sacrificed for us. Thus, it is in God’s eternal Word, His very own Son, that we see His character and glory made visible in human flesh. All that is true of God’s written word as an expression of His character and activity is most fully and clearly communicated through the unveiling of His Son, Jesus Christ.

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Gospel Powered Parenting ($5 Sale)

Reformation Heritage Books is having a great sale ($5) on Gospel Powered Parenting, an excellent new resource by William Farley.

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Thirsting for Revival…

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

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The Church’s Fallen Soldiers and Wounded Warriors

A Sobering Account: Fallen Men–One Out of Every Ten

Here is an extended excerpt from Steve Farrar, recounting the dangers of spiritual leadership:

John Bisagno was twenty-one, he was very excited. He was getting ready to graduate from college and marry the love of his life. He had also decided to go into full-time ministry. He was very optimistic about his future. One night, he was having dinner at his fiancee’s home. After dinner, he went outside on the porch with his future father-in-law, Dr. Paul Beck. Dr. Beck had been in ministry since he was John’s age. As they were talking about John’s future plans and dreams, Dr. Beck gave him some advice, “As you go into ministry, John, make sure you stay close to Christ every day.”

Young John replied, “Yes, sir. I know that’s important.” His future father-in-law continued: “You’re just getting started in this race. And it’s a very long race. You won’t hit the finish line until you’re in your seventies or eighties. The finish line is a long way off, John. But the goal of this race is to finish strong. And that the last thing that Satan wants you to do. That’s why you have to keep your heart close to Christ every day. It’s been my experience that for every ten men who start strong with Christ in their twenties, only one out of those ten will finish strong.”

That shocked John Bisagno. The staggering statistic left him in unbelief. “That cant’ be, just one out of ten?” “Unfortunately, John, that has been my experience. Some men are taken out by the love of money, others are taken out by theological liberalism, and many more are taken out by sexual immorality. Satan knows how to lay a trap and set an ambush. He knows every man’s weaknesses. That’s why it’s been my experience that only one out of ten will finish strong.”

John was blown away by the remarks of the older man. He was so stunned that he went home and started thinking about his friends. They were all in their early twenties and all had bright futures. They were all fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. He took out his Bible and wrote down the names of twenty four of his friends [those pursuing vocational ministry]. He knew these guys. The idea that all of them wouldn’t finish strong was unthinkable. Maybe Satan would pick off a few, but surely most of them would stick. These guys would be willing to die for Christ, if necessary.

I [Steve Farrar] heard John tell this story a number of years ago. It got very quiet in the room when he began to tell the rest of the story. “As the years have gone by, from time to time I have gotten a letter or telephone call. And sadly, I have turned to the page in the back of my Bible and had to put a line through a name. I would always do that with such great sadness. The years have gone by and I am now fifty-three years old. Of the original twenty-four names in the back of my Bible, there are just three of us left.”[1]

The Christian life, especially the ministry-focused life, is full of spiritual pitfalls. This is a spiritual war and there will be casualties. The previous account is sobering–it illustrates the subtle dander that is reserved fro those who take spiritual leadership lightly, approach situations flippantly, or fail to recognize their vulnerability and complete inadequacy apart from the singular source of power and protection–the Spirit of Jesus Christ. May we cling to Christ and plead with Him to “guard our hearts and minds” by the power of His grace and love!!

For further reading, see: “The Almost Inevitable Ruin of Every Minister… And How to Avoid It” by Don Whitney

[1] Steve Farrar, Finishing Strong (Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, 1995).

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Guarding the Heart…

Charles Bridges, from his commentary on Proverbs, on the topic of “Guarding the Heart”:

“Let it be closely garrisoned. Let the sentinel never be sleeping at its post… If the citadel be taken, the whole town must surrender. If the heart be seized, the whole man–the affections, desires, motives, pursuits–will all be yielded up. The heart is the vital part of the body. A wound here is instant death. Thus–spiritually as well as naturally–out of the heart are the issues of life. It is the great vital spring of the soul, the fountain of actions, the center and seat of principle, both of sin and holiness (Matthew 12:34-35). The natural heart is a fountain of poison (Matthew 15:19). The purified heart is a well of living water (John 4:14). As is the fountain, so must be the streams. As in the heart, so must be the mouth, the eyes, the feet. Therefore, above all things keep thine heart. Guard the fountain, lest the waters be poisoned… Many have been the bitter moments from the neglect of this guard. All keeping is vain, if the heart be not kept.”[1]

Sobering words… “All keeping is vain, if the heart be not kept”!!!

[1] Charles Bridges, Proverbs (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1968), 53.

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Holiness of Heart and Life

The Gospel Produces the Fruit of Holiness

Charles Hodge wrote the following thoughts on holiness:

“Holiness is essential to the correct knowledge of divine things and the great security from error… Wherever you find vital piety, there you find the doctrines of the fall, of depravity, of regeneration, of atonement, and of the deity of Jesus Christ.”[1]

Keeping the gospel before us is God’s way of protecting us from error–as a result, our lives will reflect the fruit of His Spirit and character of His Son.

Guarding One’s Heart

In lectures to his seminary students, he wrote the following:

“‘Keep your hearts with all diligence, for out of them are the issues of life.’ Remember that it is only in God’s light that you can see light. That holiness is essential to correct knowledge of divine things, and the great security from error. And as you see, that when men lose the life of religion [the Spirit of God], they can believe the most monstrous doctrines, and glory in them; and that when clergy once fall into such errors, generations perish before the slow course of reviving piety brings back the truth; ‘what manner of men ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness.’ Not only then for your own sake, but for the sake of your children, and your children’s children, forsake not your God…

“Finally, lean not to your own understanding. If there be any declaration of the Bible, confirmed by the history of the church, and especially by the recent history of European churches, it is that ‘he that leaneth to his own understanding is a fool.’ When men forsake the word of God, and profess to be wise above that which is written, they inevitably and universally lose themselves in vain speculations… Submit yourselves, therefore, to the teaching of him, in whom ‘are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ It is only when thus taught, that you will be able to teach others also.'”[1]

The heart is the well-spring of life. Where there is true piety–spiritual regeneration–there will be Christlike fruit and increasing maturity and spiritual security. The Spirit of the Lord guides, grows, and guards His own.

[1, 2] David Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning (1812-1868) (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 123-24.

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Thirty Years to Nothing

Upon his thirtieth birthday (December 1827), Charles Hodge wrote the following:

This night thirty years ago I was born. Thirty years of love and mercy. Thirty years of sin. Thirty years and nothing done. Oh my God, from my soul I pray thee, grant me thy Holy Spirit that if permitted yet longer to live, it may be to more purpose,–that my time may be better improved in working out my own salvation and the salvation of my fellow-men.[1]

God was gracious to Mr. Hodge in giving him many more years of life and Christian ministry. He completed many more years of teaching at Princeton Seminary, composed three volumes of Systematic Theology and commentaries on Ephesians and 1,2 Corinthians. Even more, he invested in the lives of many through his regular teaching, preaching, and mentoring ministry. He did much for the gospel because he was a recipient of God’s grace, and he regularly recalled the depth of his own depravity and the magnitude of the Savior’s mercy and love. Yet, it’s striking that much of Hodge’s focus was on his own sinfulness in light of God’s indescribable love and mercy. All things come to nothing apart from God’s sovereign kindness toward helpless, undeserving sinners. I am 27 years old, and I understand much of what the eminent Mr. Hodge has written, for my heart resembles that of his, upon his 30th birthday. At times, it feels as though I’ve spent 27 years squandering God’s grace toward me… that reality brings me great sadness and stirs up a resolve to invest wisely in the next 27, should the Lord provide such continued mercy.

May we never forget that which we’ve been given–for it is only in this vein that we shall be keen enough to ask for more grace that we might know more of Christ’s person and bear more fruit through the ongoing work of His Spirit! 

______

[1] David Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning (1812-1868) (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1996), 121.

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Disproportionate Grief

Disproportionate Grief

Grieving over unfulfilled desires can be legitimate. It can also be self-centered. Generally-speaking, it’s often disproportionate. We all have them, and we’re all guilty at sometimes grieving disproportionately and sinfully.

“There is legitimate grief in deferred hopes and unfulfilled desire for [____________]. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that many of my hot tears have been motivated by self-pity more than anything else. I wish the plight of those who reject God would move me as much, but I must confess I’ve not cried as much for their souls as I have for my own desires. Author and pastor John Piper says, ‘Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering.’ Ouch! But so true.” [1]

Sadly, we tend to grieve more for our own temporary discomfort than for those who are on-course to receive eternal damnation. Lord, change our hearts, help us–help me–to be less self-focused and sinfully self-centered. Help us to grieve over lost souls much more than we grieve over the loss or delay of deeply-meaningful, yet temporary graces.

[1] Carolyn McCulley, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 59.

[2] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, 1996), 250: “Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Self-pity sounds self-sacrificing. The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego [i.e., entitlement], and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but as heroes. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of the unapplauded pride.” (emphasis added)

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Precious Stones of Godly Character

“Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility. An able, yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” -William Penn

Five character qualities worth pursuing in times of difficulty:

  • Trust in God when your hopes are deferred
  • Contentment while you’re waiting
  • Faithfulness to sow to the future when you’re in tears
  • Graciousness when others receive what you would like
  • Humility to pray to be a blessing, rather than to receive a blessing [1]

[1] Carolyn McCulley, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 53.

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More Light Lord, More Light…

“More Light, Lord… More Light!!”

Charles Spurgeon in his lecture entitled “Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love.” wrote this brief account of a desperate prayer for greater illumination: “I suggest to you all the prayer of a Puritan who, during a debate, was observed to be absorbed in writing. His friends thought he was taking notes of his opponent’s speech; but when they got hold of his paper, they found nothing but these words, ‘More light, Lord! More light, Lord!’ Oh, for more light from the great Father of lights!”

The Importance of the Holy Spirit in the Life of a Theological Student:

Archibald Alexander, the first President of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812:

The student of the Bible must receive illumination and assistance from the Holy Spirit in order to “be possessed of sincere and ardent piety. He should be a man ‘taught of God,’ conscious of his own insufficiency, but confident of the help of the Almighty… he, who would understand the Scriptures, therefore, ought not to ‘lean to his own understanding,’ but by continual and earnest prayer should look unto the ‘Father of lights,’ from whom proceedeth every good and every perfect gift; and who hath promised to give wisdom to those who lack it, and ask for it… There is no person who needs more to be in the constant exercise of prayer than the Theological student: not only at stated periods, but continually in the midst of his studies, his heart should be raised to heaven for help and direction.” [1]

Ashbel Green, former President of the College of New Jersey (1812, Princeton) on the purpose of a theological institution:

The primary purpose of a theological seminary would be a gospel institution that serves to: “unite, in those who shall sustain the ministerial office, religion and literature [faith and learning]; that piety of the heart which is the fruit only of the renewing and sanctifying grace of God, with solid learning; believing that religion without learning, or learning without religion, in ministers of the Gospel, must ultimately prove injurious to the Church.”[2]

Education without a regenerate heart, proves inadequate and spiritually-destructive, often evidenced in self-promotion and pride. A regenerate heart that does not seek to grow and learn shall bear little fruit within itself and spur on even less in the lives of those around it. In everything a seminary seeks to be, it is useless without the powerful working of the Holy Spirit to effect all that it is and hopes to be for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom.

[1] David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning (1812-1868) (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 35.

[2] Ibid, 31.

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