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Showing posts from March, 2014

He Is All My Righteousness [Repost]

There's an old chorus that, despite its failings, has an incredible verse. So incredible is this verse that I would venture to say that it's one of the greatest lines of any worship song I know: He is all my righteouness; I stand complete in Him What incredible truth! Jesus is ALL my righteousness. He's not just part of it. He's not just the initial righteousness I need to "get in". He is all my righteousness.
You see, even though we believe in the imputation of Christ's righteousness in justification, we can still sometimes end up falling into the trap of divorcing that from the Christian life. We end up thinking of justification as being for the beginning (sort of like conversion), but then think that we need to go on from there.
Someone expressed it to me recently as God's grace in justification raising the bar. But the bar can't be raised. The only righteousness that God accepts is perfect righteousness. And any attempt of our own at righteous…

Back to the Barnacles: When Evangelicals don't share a Christology

A while back, I wrote about the problem with a popular evangelical diagram that tries to explain the Incarnation of Christ. And I'm coming back to that today, reflecting on two recent blog posts elsewhere that highlight the problem in practice. (So, I should probably warn you right at the start that this will get theological.)

Then last week I read an excellent short post by David Murray about how Jesus was still God in the tomb. But to my surprise, a few days later I stumbled across a response to David Murray. Justin Taylor had felt the need to call in the aid of Stephen Wellum (Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) to respond to what Murray had written. Now, how often does a prominent evangelical writer feel the need to call in the help of a professor of theology to respond to a 500 word blog post? That rather makes it seem as if he thinks there's something quite significant to respond to here.

Jesus' View of Scripture

Something that seems to have been going on quite a bit lately is attempting to set Jesus over against Scripture. The most prominent example of course is Steve Chalke's recent article on Scripture and what he's said in his debates with Andrew Wilson. But I've also noticed similar ideas creeping in in much less blatant ways elsewhere. It might be cast in terms of contrasting Jesus with Paul, or Jesus with the Old Testament, but it still amounts to setting Jesus over against parts of the Bible.

Now, I've already written about the problems with Chalke's pitting of Christ against the Scriptures, so I'm not going to repeat that again today. Instead I want to look at what Jesus Himself had to say about the Scriptures, for when we do that, I think that helps stop us from creating artificial differences between the two.

Jesus Calls Scripture the Word of God
In the first of his debates with Andrew Wilson, Steve Chalke says of the Bible, 'I'm not sure it's hel…

Why "Yes" to Prophecy, but "No" to "Rhema" Words: What's the Difference?

On Monday I endeavored to debunk the idea of the "rhema"-word and show why the concept is such a serious problem. But perhaps you're wondering what's the difference between the idea of a "rhema" word and prophecy. After all, they could both, in some ways, be thought of as God's word for the present time. So why say "Yes" to prophecy, but a very strong "No" to "rhema" words? Just what is the difference? Let me try to answer that question by way of a few contrasts.

God's "Now-Word" is Jesus: There's no such thing as a "rhema" word

I want to clear up something very important today. You see, somehow an idea has crept in among charismatics, which then makes it's way over to pentecostals, that God speaks two types of words, which can be distinguished by two different Greek words - logos and rhema.

According to this "teaching", a "logos" word is what God has spoken in the past, which we have written down in the Bible. The "rhema" word, however, is supposed to be something new and fresh, which God speaks now - it's His "now-word". As a result, the impression often comes across that the "rhema" word is somehow better or more desirable than the "logos" word, with the "logos" seen as rather like dry words on a page until the "rhema" comes.

Now, it's true that there are two words in Greek, logos and rhema, which could both (depending on the context) be translated as "word" in English. But does that mean we can build a d…

More About Jesus

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me. 
      More, more about Jesus,
      More, more about Jesus;
      More of His saving fullness see,
      More of His love who died for me. 
More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me. 
More about Jesus; in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line,
Making each faithful saying mine. 
More about Jesus; on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of Peace.

Who needs Doctrine anyway?

A few days ago I was having a conversation with another pastor. He was asking about some projects I've been working on, and so I explained that one was an introduction to Christian doctrine. 'Obviously very few people will have any interest in that one', he said, matter-of-factly.

Happily that wasn't the only conversation I've had with pastors about the value of doctrine lately, and the discouragement of it is far outweighed by the encouragement of other conversations, yet it still saddens and, to an extent, worries me. You see, doctrine isn't some specialised subject for particularly academically minded Christians, or merely something kept tucked away in the darkest recesses of the Bible colleges and universities to give theologians something to do. No! Doctrine is for proclamation, for doctrine is quite simply the content of 'the faith'. The Gospel itself is doctrine; it is the doctrine that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on true humanity …

Calvin on Suffering and Communion with Christ

Those whom the Lord has chosen and honoured with his intercourse must prepare for a hard, laborious, troubled life, a life full of many and various kinds of evils; it being the will of our heavenly Father to exercise his people in this way while putting them to the proof. Having begun this course with Christ the first-born, he continues it towards all his children. For though that Son was dear to him above others, the Son in whom he was “well pleased,” yet we see, that far from being treated gently and indulgently, we may say, that not only was he subjected to a perpetual cross while he dwelt on earth, but his whole life was nothing else than a kind of perpetual cross. The Apostle assigns the reason, “Though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” (Heb. 5:8). Why then should we exempt ourselves from that condition to which Christ our Head behoved to submit; especially since he submitted on our account, that he might in his own person exhibit a model of…

The Trouble With Testimonies

Testimonies are a beloved institution in the evangelical world. Normally they seem to find their place in evangelistic meetings in the form of exciting conversion stories. Testimonies of God's goodness in the Christian life often find their place in small groups. Some people even want to fill church services with multiple testimonies.

Now, testimonies can also be troublesome things. There's nothing wrong with testimonies per se, but it's what we do with them that can cause the trouble with testimonies. And usually that trouble comes through an overemphasis on testimonies (like when we demand them in every church meeting, or fill Bible-study groups with them). So here are four types of trouble that come from an overemphasis on testimonies.

Of 'First Importance' and Fads

When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he reminds them what's of 'first importance'. They were quite a distracted lot in Corinth, with everything from church splits (or, at least, significant divisions), to sex scandals, to people getting drunk at the Lord's Supper, to major abuses of spiritual gifts, to distract their attention from what was most important. So, right at the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds them again what is most important. (And, by the way, it's not just something he slips in as a by-the-by at the end of the letter, but something that he highlights right at the beginning as well.)

So, what is it that Paul wants to remind them is most important? What is the thing that their focus and attention should be on?
Now I would remind you, brothers,of the gospel preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of fi…

The God of Angel Armies

I was in our York church last Sunday and one of the lines from one of the songs they sang there has stuck in my head ever since. I'd never heard the song before, and can't remember any of the rest of it, but what has stuck with me is its description of God - 'the God of Angel Armies'! What a wonderful expression of a very biblical truth!

Although I've never heard it put in exactly that way before, this is actually one of the biblical names of God. We just tend to translate it a different way. So you might be more familiar with 'LORD God of Hosts' (as in the NKJV, KJV, or ESV) or 'LORD God Almighty' (as in the NIV). When I lived in Belgium, I was always struck when this particular name of God was read out in the Bible reading in church, as the French is literally 'Lord of Armies' (which is exactly what Lord of Hosts means, we just don't talk about Hosts that way anymore, so it's much less striking). So LORD God of Angel Armies is exac…

Some Reading from Luther

Martin Luther is one of the great figures in the history of the church, and he's still well worth reading today.

I had promised someone that I'd give some links to some great stuff Luther wrote (which are also good places to start reading Martin Luther, or just great things to read in general), so that's what I have for you today - a few links. I'd actually hoped to have a few more, but it turns out that, apart from a few major works, it's not all that easy to find online copies of Luther. Anyway, I did manage to find what I think are the three best places to start, so here they are:

What to Look for and Expect in the GospelsThe Freedom of a ChristianThe Heidelberg Disputation Anyway, all of these and much more can be found in Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings (edited by Timothy F. Lull), which is the book to get if you want an introduction, not to what people have said about Luther, but to what Luther himself said.


Read this Book! - You Can Pray by Tim Chester

Some books start with a bang and quickly fizzle out. Others are hard to get into, but eventually provide some helpful insights. Some are take weeks to slog through, with golden nuggets dispersed throughout to keep you going. Others have one amazing chapter that's worth the price of the book (and sadly many chapters which, well, aren't). This is not any one of those types of book.

About once a year or so a popular level book comes along that's so good I just can't help recommending it to everyone. Last year it was David Murray's Jesus On Every Page, and the year before that Mike Reeves' The Good God. They're the sort of books that I can't wait to re-read, that I can't stop myself from urging other people to pick up, and of which I end up joyfully giving multiple copies as gifts. That's the sort of good I'm talking about when I say that Tim Chester's new book, You Can Pray, is good.

James: The Exceptional Apostle?

James, the Lord's brother, was a key leader in the early church. When we think of James our minds probably go straight to the short New Testament letter he wrote, but that's not the only place James makes it into Scripture. Today, we probably associate Peter and Paul with the leadership of the early church, and in many respects that's true. But although we know a lot less dramatic detail about James, the Bible shows us that, at least for a time, he was the leader among the apostles. So, when the apostles gather for the Jerusalem Council, Peter and Paul speak, but it's James who leads (Acts 15:13-21).

A lot of ideas and theories float around about what an apostle is supposed to be, and yet many of them don't seem to take James, one of the leading apostles of the early church, into account. Is James simply to be treated as an exceptional apostle, or should his exceptionality not show us something about some of these ideas about apostles?

The Words of Institution: Are We Really Breaking Bread?

Following on from yesterday's satire, there's something that's been on my mind for a while now, but which I've been reluctant to write about up to now. One of the distinctives of the Apostolic Church (it's not something unique to us, but it is quite different from many forms of evangelicalism) is that our main service each Lord's Day is the Breaking of Bread. Yet, despite the fact that it's still our main service, there have been very significant changes in a lot of places in our practice of the Lord's Supper in recent years. This isn't something completely new - some of the changes started creeping in maybe two decades or so ago - but it's something that does seem to have been accelerating more recently and to have reached a crucial point in many places. And it's this crucial point that has convinced me to abandon my reluctance to mention the issue. So, the crucial point is this: I'm worried that in many places, people aren't getti…

What if we applied our treatment of the Lord’s Supper to Baptism?

Hello everyone, and welcome to this special service. We’re delighted to have you with us today for this special occasion in the lives of Mary, Joe and Sam. They just really want to show their love for God today, so we’re gonna do something a bit different this morning. As the band’s just leading us in worship they’re just gonna come up to the front and show their commitment as I baptise them. Now, maybe you’ve seen a baptism before, and you might be expecting a big pool of water, but, well, you know, it’s a bit unhygienic to use the same water for three baptisms. I know we’re showing our commitment and all that, but we don’t really want to get anyone’s germs! Haha. So I’ve got individual bottles here to use for each baptism – much more hygienic that way. And, it’s not really all that nice getting covered in water, so instead of using water – it’s only a symbol after all – we’re gonna use perfume/after-shave. So they’re each gonna come up in turn, while we just keep on singin, and I’m …

Applying Irenaeus on True and False Pastors and Elders in the Evangelical & Pentecostal World Today

Irenaeus (a disciple of a disciple of the apostle John) was convinced that 'it is necessary to obey the presbyters [pastors and elders] who are in the Church' (Against Heresies 4.26.2). He wasn't just making that up, by the way - it's a Scriptural principal (Heb. 13:17). And Irenaeus particularly points this out in connection with the right reading of the Scriptures, seeing Christ and His Gospel in the Scriptures. It is, after all, the task of the presbyters to feed the flock by proclaiming Christ biblically.

But, if we're to obey, or submit, to the presbyters who are in the church, that means we need to know who the true presbyters are. That's a major issue today, just as it was in Irenaeus' day. You see, Irenaeus realised something that we often don't realise: just because someone claims to be a pastor, doesn't mean they really are a pastor. So Irenaeus gives us some helpful advice on how to distinguish true and false presbyters.

Now, before I gi…