I'm writing the questions for someone in my assembly, but hope they might be useful to other people as well. Have a read through them; see if you can answer them. They might serve to jog your memory; they might send you looking for answers.
As I said, they're study questions, so they're not designed to be too difficult. There are no trick questions here; just some good revision.
What is sin?
How did man become sinful?
What are the effects of Adam’s sin on all mankind?
What is imputation and what does it have to do with sin?
What is utter depravity?
What are the implications of utter depravity for our salvation?
What are the consequences of sin?
Explain the three types of death.
What is justification?
Justification is that act of God's grace which imputes to the sinner the righteousness of Christ, whereby he is accepted as righteous in God's sight (Rom. 4:5-8; 5:1).
On God's side of this matter all the work necessary to
make both our justification and our sanctification effective and complete has already been done by Christ (Rom 3:28). Both are given, and given only, to the believer who accepts the work of Christ on his behalf (Gal. 2:16; Acts 26:15, 18).
To "justify" in the Scriptural sense is not to make
a man righteous because of his own actions, but to reckon to him a Righteousness worked out by another for him. The one so justified is regarded as if he had never sinned. To use the Scripture expression, Righteousness is imputed to him (Rom. 4:6).
No man can be justified before God by his own works (Rom. 3: 20). Those who trust in Christ are justified by His Blood - His Blood
being His Life given when He died on the Cross (Lev. 17:11; Col. 1:20; Rom. 3:21, 22, 26; 5:9).
The righteousness reckoned to the believer is the righteousness of the life of Christ Himself as Son of God (11 Cor. 5:2 1), so perfect and complete that it is called in the Scriptures the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:22).
Christ was raised from the Dead for our justification, and by this we know that His Death for our sins has completely satisfied the demands of Divine Righteousness. Thus we have the assurance of our justification (Rom. 4:25).
(From Fundamentals of the Apostolic Church, p 15)
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In case you're wondering, that is not the purpose of the Church (nor of Christians). The Bible teaches that
Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might
sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might
present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such
thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27)
So according to the Bible, its Christ who does the doing. Christ is the subject and we are the objects of His work. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not denying body ministry or that works must flow from our faith, just some traps we can fall into in our thinking about these things.)
On that note, I come (finally) to the subject of this post: The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, by Walter Marshall. Marshall's point is just what I have been saying; we cannot do something to achieve holiness. Rather sanctification, like justification, is by grace.
Today, I think, most of us would prefer a How To book on holiness, or at least a 10-step guide. Preferably something we could start doing within a weekend. That is not at all what Marshall offers. This puritan gave no 5 point plan to achieve holiness before Christmas and no quick-fixes to besetting sins. Rather, Marshall turns our attention to the Gospel.
I think this Wordle of Marshall's book will give you good idea of his focus ...
Instead of pointing us to what we can do, Marshall points us to the Gospel, the Cross, Salvation, Grace, and Faith. Rather than encouraging us to look inward to our own works, Marshall encourages us to look outward to God's work in Christ.
Marshall brings us back to the Biblical truth that Christ is our sanctification (1 Cor 1:30). He reminds us of the truth of our tenet: 'Sanctification of the believer through the finished work of Christ.'
Since 1692 Marshall's book has been reminding Christians of the need for sanctification by faith. Even if his name is not well-known, and his book not atop the bestseller lists, throughout the years The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification has had a major impact. Such men as Andrew Murray, A.B. Simpson & William Cowper were all influenced by Marshall's book. John Murray went so far as to say that it was the most important book on sanctification that had ever been written.
Well, if Murray's right and it is the most important book on sanctification that has ever been written, I think that means it's worth a read.
The entire original text is available for free on PDF online from Monergism.com. The original text has also been republished by Reformation Heritage Books, or a modernized language edition has been published by Wipf and Stock.
If you really want to do something, read this book!
But it is truly laughable to hear doctrines established and taught by the(Devereux Jarratt, cited in Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism [Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1994], 84)
greatest divines for so many centuries, now condemned as execrable, by those,
who never studied divinity in their lives, nor never [sic.] read any system of
Boston and Calvin prove that youth does not necessarily imply irresponsibility and immaturity. Yet we don't need a puritan and reformer to prove that: Paul wrote to young Timothy, 'Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity' (1 Tim 4:12). Paul recognized that youth didn't necessarily equal immaturity.
But do we heed his words today?
I'm conscious of this issue. Sometimes I use my age as a reason not to do things, telling myself I'm too young (although probably couched in terms of lack of experience, or cultural norms, to make it sound a bit better). Sometimes other people use my age as a reason to tell me what I can't do. Yet, according to what Paul said to Timothy, age should not be used as an excuse. Maturity, capability, grace and age do not go together.
Yet statistics seem to show a different picture. In a study published in 2000, William Kay found that there are not very many young Pentecostal ministers in the UK. I teach at seminary, and our students can leave with their BA or BD at 21 years of age, and MTh at 23. Yet, proportionally, Kay found that there were not many Pentecostal ministers aged 29 or under. For the Apostolic Church only 2 pastors were in their 20s, and 12 were in their 30s (Kay, Pentecostals in Britain [Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000], 207, cf. xix).
Perhaps the insights of Trueman and my English-class newspaper article shed some light on these data. Perhaps not.
Certainly Thomas Boston and John Calvin show that it is possible to be young and used of God; young and mature in the faith. I pray that my young students would be more like Boston, Calvin and Timothy than the inhabitants of Carl Trueman's Neverland.
But, with these data and these examples, 2 questions spring to mind.
1) What are our expectations of young people?
Do we really have open minds as to their levels of responsibility and maturity, or do we make assumptions based on their age? Are we like Paul, or like those who despised Timothy's youth? Do we really leave room for (or even want) young people like Timothy, Calvin and Boston?
2) Do our expectations lead to the reality?
Don't worry, this is not an overly philosophical point. I simply mean that it is perhaps possible that young people see what the church expects of them and then act accordingly. If we organise a youth-group with little Biblical or doctrinal content, should it surprise us when our youth don't have the faintest idea about very basic Bible doctrines? If, in what we organise for the youth, or in the way we talk to and act around young people, we put across the idea that we don't expect responsibility or maturity, does that not convey the idea that irresponsibility and immaturity are quite alright?
So, if we want a few more Timothys, Thomas Bostons and John Calvins, perhaps we need to change our expectations. Let's stop focusing on the world's view of youth and replace it with a Biblical perspective à la 1 Tim 4:12.
To Christ the Lord let every tongue
Its noblest tribute bring
When He’s the subject of the song
Who can refuse to sing?
Survey the beauties of His face
And on His glories dwell
Think of the wonder of His grace
And all His triumphs tell
These words were written by Sammuel Stennet in the 18th Century. In fact they were the original first part of the hymn we know today as 'Majestic Sweetness sits enthroned' (if anyone still has a Redemption Hymnal, it's No. 191).
Even though the words are 200 years old, Stennet's advice is just as true today. Our worship should focus on the person and work of Christ - HIS glory, HIS grace, and HIS triumphs.
'When HE's the subject of the song, who can refuse to sing?'
The ministry of the Word, of course, refers most directly to biblical teaching. Right from the begining of the Church we see the importance of the teaching ministry of the apostles: the Christians 'continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine' (Acts 2:42). But the importance of the Word is also seen in other aspects of the apostles' ministry. Here are just a few examples.
One of the responsibilities of the apostles in Scripture is the appointment of elders. In Acts 14:23 we learn that it was the apostles Paul and Barnabas who 'appointed elders in every church'. The context of prayer and fasting suggest that this was not simply a human decision. Yet, whether called through the prophet (as Paul and Barnabas themselves had been - Acts 13:2), or by revelation to the apostles, the appointment of elders must still be subject to the authority of Scripture. Scripture lists qualifications for elders in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Thus anyone appointed as an elder must meet these qualifications. The Bible is a higher authority than either prophetical ministry or revelation received by the apostleship: prophecy and revelation are subject to Scripture and evaluated by Scripture.The apostles also have a final responsibility for church discipline. Yet discipline is not to be exercised arbitrarily, but rather, in accordance with the Word.
Another responsibility of the apostleship is 'the care of all the churches' (2 Cor 11:28). An example is seen in Acts 15 with the Council of Jerusalem. When James concluded the council, he appealed to the Old Testament Scriptures for authority for the decision which had been reached. The apostles and elders listened to the experiences of Peter, Paul and Barnabas, but that was not sufficient. They needed the authority of Scripture. The apostles could not simply decide for themselves; their decisions were subject to the higher authority of the Bible.
So, in every aspect of their ministry, the authority of the apostleship is subject to the ultimate authority of Scripture. Not only can we believe both in present-day apostles and Sola Scriptura, but moreover we should believe in both. A belief in present-day apostles without Sola Scriptura is not a belief in the true biblical doctrine of apostleship. In the words of the Book of Common Prayer, that which 'God hath joined together let no man put asunder.'
Again, to borrow from liturgical language, 'Here endeth the lesson.'
The chapter titles give a very clear overview of the contents:
1. Why Don't We Evangelize?
2. What is the Gospel?
3. Who Should Evangelize?
4. How Should We Evangelize?
5. What Isn't Evangelism?
6. What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
7. Why Should We Evangelize?
(I like chapter titles that actually give you an idea of what your going to get, and in this book each chapter does indeed 'do exactly what it says on the tin'.)
I think the chapter on 'What isn't evangelism' is incredibly valuable. Perhaps it's my particular local context, but I'm constantly explaining the difference between evangelism and personal testimony (or at least attempting to). In French there is no difference between the word for witness and the word for testimony, so when people hear verses like 'you shall be witnesses to me' (Acts 1:8), they tend to interpret it as meaning that we need to share our personal testimony, rather than witness to what Christ has done. It's a simple mistake, but unfortunately it often leads to a man-centred, rather than God-centred message. Dever points out this mistake, along with a number of other traps that we can easily fall into, and so helps us to avoid mistakenly replacing evangelism with something else.
Dever also gives some very practical advice. One thing that particularly struck me was his personal practice of regularly going to the same shops, cafes, etc. so as to regularly come into contact with the same people in order to have opportunities to share the gospel with them. It's such a simple thing, yet provides a great way for people who spend their working (or studying) days with other Christians to find opportunities for evangelism.
Dever is very clear throughout his book as to what the true gospel is,and what the appropriate response is. He doesn't try to avoid sin and repentance, but makes very clear that they are essential concepts to true evangelism. This book leaves no room for compromise; Dever takes a firm stand for biblical truth.
If you've ever wondered about evangelism (what it is, or how to do it), or even just want some advice on how to do it better, this is the book for you!
Whether you're a new Christian, a mature believer, a seasoned evangelist, a minister of the Gospel, or a seminary professor, I strongly recommend that you read this book.
As John Macarthur comments on the back cover, 'Doing [evangelism] effectively requires doing it biblically. Mark teaches us how to mobilize our churches to do just that.'
After Jesus ascended, the apostles dealt with Judas' defection. 'Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples ... and said, "Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled..."' (Acts 1:15-16). Peter immediately pointed to Scripture! It was on the basis of Scripture that Judas was replaced.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter did the same thing - he based what he was saying on Scripture, not on his own authority as an apostle. From the very beginning, the apostles knew that Scripture was the ultimate authority.
In Acts 6:4 the apostles defined their primary responsibilities: 'we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' Thus one of the two primary thrusts of apostolic ministry is 'the ministry of the word'. Apostles are not a substitute for Scripture - they are ministers of Scripture. One of their primary responsibilities is to expound and apply the Scriptures; and this can only be done if they are in submission to the authority of Scripture. After all, minister of the Word literally means servant of the Word!
In fact, we can see this in the New Testament itself, where we find mention of about 23 apostles. Yet only a handful of these were involved in the writing of Scripture. In fact, we do not have a record of a single word said by a number of Biblical apostles! If we did suddenly find a genuine letter written by one of the biblical apostles, we would not add it to the New Testament (this would be a denial of both God's preservation of Scripture and of the sufficiency of Scripture). That means we could not consider such a letter to contain the very words of God (or else it would be Scripture). Paul wrote more than two letters to the Corinthians, yet only the two included in our Bibles are the very words of God.
So, this means that Grudem's view of an apostle won't do. What, then, is the alternative?
Rather than apostles who are the equivalent of Scripture, what we find is that apostles are subject to Scripture. Scripture is the authority even over the apostles. This is biblical. Timothy is identified as an apostle (1 Thess 2:6; cf 1 Thess 1:1), yet Paul instructs him to 'hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me' (2 Tim 1:13) and to 'preach the word!' (2 Tim 4:2). Timothy was not supposed to rely on his own words as an apostle - on the contrary, he was to turn to a higher authority - the Scriptures. He was to hold on to the biblical teaching which he had received (he didn't have some innate knowledge of the truth), and he was to preach the word, not his own thoughts.
In this way Timothy is an important model of apostolic ministry. The apostles are subject to the word of God!
More to come ...
If this idea of apostleship were true, it would indeed be a denial of Sola Scriptura, for it would make the apostles the ultimate authority for the Church rather than the Bible. This would almost tend towards the Roman Catholic idea of the Magisterium (the bishops being seen as the successors of the apostles).
Wayne Grudem argues that the words of the apostles were 'the very words of God' (The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today [Eastbourne: Kingsway, 2000], 30). He goes on to write that 'to disbelieve or disobey an apostle's authoritative words is to disbelieve or disobey God' (ibid. 33). This sentance bears an uncanny resemblance to Grudem's definition of the authority of Scripture:
The authority of Scripture means that all the words in
Scripture are God's words in such a way that to disbelive or disobey any word of
Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.
(Grudem, Systematic Theology [Leicester: IVP, 1994], 73). Thus it is no wonder that Grudem concludes: 'In place of living apostles present in the church to teach and govern it, we have instead the writings of the apostles in the books of the New Testament' (The Gift of Prophecy, 235). For Grudem, one is obliged to choose between Sola Scriptura and contemporary apostleship.
But must we really choose between the two? Can we not have both? For nearly a century the position of the Apostolic Church has been that present-day apostleship and Sola Scriptura are not mutually exclusive beliefs; we can, and do believe in (and practise) both.
But how can that be? For the answer, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the next post!