"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Horton: What is the Gospel?

Michael Horton does a great job defining a word that has been so broadly used as to confuse its true meaning:

What is the Gospel?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Law and Gospel - Thesis III

Thesis III
To rightly distinguish Law and Gospel is the most difficult and highest Christian art - and for the theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in combination with experience.

Well Walther makes the difference between Law and Gospel seem easy. Yet in reality it is hard. In the third thesis he lays out many examples. First example? Everyone:

"But in the end, when Christians have learned to apply the proper distinction between Law and Gospel in the real world, they join St John in saying, 'God is greater than my heart. He has rendered a different verdict on people who sin, and that applies to me as well'. Yet how difficult this is to do! Blessed are you if you have learned this difficult art. But even if you have learned it, do not think you are experts at it. You will always be no more than beginners at this art. There will be days when you will not be able to distinguish Law and Gospel. When the Law condemns you, you must immediately grab hold of the Gospel." Walther - P52

Friday, February 11, 2011

Law and Gospel - Thesis II

Thesis II
"If you wish to be an orthodox teacher, you must present all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, yet you must also distinguish Law and Gospel."

"Note this well. When you hear some enthusiast preach, you may say, 'Well, he did preach the truth...' and yet you did not feel satisfied. Here is the key for unlocking this mystery: that particular preacher did not rightly distinguish Law and Gospel, and thus everything went wrong. He preached the truth of the Law where he should have preached the truth of the Gospel, and he offered Gospel truth where he should have presented the Law. Now, anyone following such a preacher will go astray; they will not arrive at the sure foundation of the divine truth; they will not attain the assurance of grace and salvation. This frequently happens when students give sermons. You will hear comforting remarks such as 'It is all by grace,' only to be followed by 'We must do good works,' which are then followed by statements such as 'With our works we cannot gain salvation.' There is no order in such sermons. Nobody understands them - least of all the person who needs one of these two doctrines most."

C.F.W. Walther
(Law and Gospel P38-39)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Need of Preaching the Law

Ever hear the Gospel in a sermon and think (though you would never admit it): So what?

What preceded it in the sermon? Was it historical detail? Was it Greek Grammar 101? Was it a story? Was it practical things we need to do, and perhaps are not doing (watch less tv, give to the church, give to the poor, give to the church, pitch Christianity to your co-workers, did I mention giving to the church) ?

Perhaps we did not hear and savor the Gospel, because the Law was not properly preached. Here's a section from Charles Bridges' work: The Christian Ministry

“We cannot have too much of the Gospel; but we may have too little of the Law. And a defect in the Evangelical preaching of the Law is as clear a cause of inefficient ministration, as a legal preaching of the Gospel. In such a Ministry there must be a want of spiritual conviction of sin generally – of spiritual sins most particularly -and- flowing directly from hence – a low standard of spiritual obedience. Indeed, all the prevalent errors in the Church may be traced to this source. We should never have heard of Methodist perfection – Mystic dependence upon the inward light – Antinomian delusion – inconsistent profession of orthodoxy – Pharisaical self-righteousness – or Pelagian and Socinian rectitude of nature – if the spiritual standard of the law had been clearly displayed, and its convincing power truly left. In the want of this conviction, the fullest perception of Evangelical view must fail in experimental and practical effect.

But there are Antinomian errors on the opposite side. If Antinomianism be the relaxation of obedience from the perfect standard of the law of God, is not mere moral preaching a refined species of this unhallowed leaven? Equally with the professed Antinomian, the standard of the law of God is exchanged for some indefinite and every-varying standard of inclination or caprice. The notions of mercy and salvation, as in the other case, are here used as the palliation of sin. All hope, and no fear – is the character of this preaching. How frightful to think of deluded souls sliding into eternity in this golden dream! And of what vast importance is it for the resistance of error, and for an effective exhibition of divine truth – that our Ministry should be distinguished by a full display of the spiritual character, and unalterable obligations, of the law of God!”

-Charles Bridges - The Christian Ministry. pg. 228-229

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love...

Genesis 22:1-2 - After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

I am teaching a Sunday School lesson on Genesis 22 and thought I would offer a few thoughts here.

We read this narrative and think:

“How can it be that God would require Abraham to sacrifice his all, his prosperity, his full love of his heart, his treasure, his son?!”

We see Abraham’s detailed meticulous preparation, over a long period of time, readying the sacrifice, preparing for the place and time of the sacrifice of his son for the sin’s of Adam’s race.

Yet, at the last moment, God stays Abraham’s arm and provides a substitute. A male sheep, a ram, a lamb of God.

But the Lamb was not the final substitute. The sacrifices continue throughout the story of the Old Testament.

Finally, when we reach the New Testament, we have a repetition of the themes of Genesis 22:

Genesis 22:2 He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love

Matthew 3:17 And behold! A voice out of the heaven saying, “This is My Son, my Beloved, in whom I have been delighting.”
Genesis 22:6 “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went up both of them together.”

John 19:17 and [Jesus] went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
Genesis 22:8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

John 1:29 The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"


Genesis 22:12b – “for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

John 3:16-17 "For God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
As Tim Keller put it: “And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

We began asking:

“How can it be that God would require Abraham to sacrifice his all, his prosperity, his full love of his heart, his treasure, his son?!”

Now we are wondering:

“How can it be that God would supply what he required of Abraham, to sacrifice His all, His prosperity, His full love of His heart, His treasure, His Son?!”

The story of the Old Testament is God’s detailed meticulous preparation, over a long period of time, readying the sacrifice, preparing for the place and time of the sacrifice of His Son for the sins of Adam’s race.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Friday, February 04, 2011

What makes a Defective Sermon

Andrew Webb has a great article on the different ways preaching goes wrong:

1. No Law, No Gospel. 2. Law, No Gospel. 3. Gospel, No Law

Three Basic Forms of Defective Preaching