Resources for Preaching on Galatians

For the weeks leading up to December 25 (what the un-RPW world calls otherwise known as “Christmas” & “Advent”), we’re taking a 30,000 ft aerial flyover of the book of Galatians. Thinking especially that God sent His Son “in the fullness of time,” we’ll be using Galatians as a foil for considering Christ – and His benefits – that have come to us in these last days where we have the fullness of Christ. Topics like justification, adoption, freedom, covenant, the apostolic ministry, sanctification, and the Gospel will be addressed. And with the short window we’re giving ourselves, along with the 30k ft approach, that means I have to be pretty concise; so no, I won’t be doing any extended reflections in this series on “what are the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου?”Here are some of the resources that I’ve found helpful for thinking about Galatians:
F.F. Bruce’s commentary in the NIGTC series. I love this series (usually) and I enjoy Bruce. Continue reading

Reformation Day Lesson 2011: Standing Firm in the Faith to the End

Things have been pretty busy for myself, my church, and my family lately, so I doubt I’ll put up the whole text from our Reformation Day festivities at church, but what follows is the outline for Reformation Day conference that encouraged us to stand firm in the faith. May we all stand firm in the power He provides. “Our hope is in no other save in Thee / Our faith is built upon Thy promise free / Oh grant to us such stronger help and sure / That we can boldly conquer and endure.”

Standing Firm in the Faith
I. Introduction
A. How Scripture Exhorts Us to Stand Firm
1. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. (Exodus 14:13)
2. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
3. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
4. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits1 to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)
5. I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. (1 Peter 5:12)

B. How the Reformation Exhorts Us to Stand Firm

II. The Uniqueness of the Protestant Reformation
A. The General Consensus on the Need for Reforming the Church
B. Previous Reformation Attempts
C. What Was Unique About the Protestant Reformation

  1. Creeds vs Deeds
  2. Reformation vs Revolution
  3. New Technology – the Gutenberg Press
  4. Continue reading

Owen’s Two Definitions of Sanctification

Compare these two definitions of sanctification. The first comes from John Owen’s Works, the second from the Savoy Declaration of Faith, a document Owen, Goodwin,and many other influential congregationalist ministers had a large role in forming.

Owen’s Works, 3:386

Sanctification is an immediate work of the Spirit of God on the souls of believers, purifying and cleansing of their natures from the pollution and uncleanness of sin, renewing in them the image of God, and thereby enabling them, from a spiritual and habitual principle of grace, to yield obedience unto God, according unto the tenor and terms of the new covenant, by virtue of the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Savoy Declaration of Faith

Chapter XIII: Of Sanctification
They that are united to Christ, effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also further sanctified really and personally through the same virtue, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened, and mortified, and they more and more quickened, and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

What strikes you from these two definitions? The first seems to emphasize the Spirit while the second emphasizes (union with) Christ. The first mentions the imago Dei while the second mentions other facets of the ordo salutis. The first treats sin in its staining effects, whereas the latter looks at sin in its power. The first thinks of vivification in terms of “obedience” while the latter speaks of “holiness.” Only the first mentions covenant (“new covenant”), while only the latter mentions mortification. Both are clear that it is by “virtue” of Christ’s death and life/resurrection. Both are speaking of progressive, not definitive, sanctification.

So why the difference(s)? Can any Owen scholars weigh in and touch on the various emphases? Clearly, Savoy 13 is not very original to Owen or the congregationalist ministers, as it reads very similar to the WCF (click here for a comparison and scroll down). Is that the only difference here, or are there other factors at play behind these two very similar yet different definitions of sanctification?

Reformed Exclusivism

How do the various claims to truth of world religions relate to one another? Further, how should Christians think of salvation for those who have never heard? The traditional distinction to answer this question breaks into three categories:

  1. Exclusivism: Jesus is the only Savior of the world, and one must believe God’s special revelation culminating in the gospel of Christ to be saved.
  2. Inclusivism: Jesus is the only Savior of the world, but one does not have to believe the gospel to be saved.
  3. Pluralism: All paths are valid and lead to God.

Andy Naselli points to Christopher W. Morgan’s “Inclusivisms and Exclusivisms” in Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (WTS books). Morgan drills down into these categories, and notes that while most theologians still operate within these traditional sectors as a framework, in reality there are nine discernible categories:

  1. Church exclusivism: No, outside the church there is no salvation.
  2. Gospel exclusivism: No, they must hear the gospel and trust Christ to be saved.
  3. Special revelation exclusivism: No, they must hear the gospel and trust Christ to be saved, unless God chooses to send them special revelation in an extraordinary way—by a dream, vision, miracle, or angelic message.
  4. Agnosticism: We cannot know.*
  5. Continue reading

Dear Pastor: Straight Talk on Hell

Dear Pastor,
This article was sent to me from a friend who does not believe in hell. He believes a loving father would never send His child to hell is what . I know he sent this to me because he knows I do believe in hell. How do I respond in a clear fashion?
Thanks,
[redacted]

You asked about the article that was sent to you, written by an author named Oliver Thomas. In the article, he makes some claims in the article that I want to point out, and then I’ll give you a few thoughts on how you should speak to your friend about this, as well as some resources that are available to help you. But first, let’s examine some of the author’s claims:

Hell in the Old Testament
1. Does the Old Testament teach everlasting punishment after death? The author of the article says, “Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) is the abode of the dead described as a place of eternal punishment.” The article is quite correct, in that the most common description of what awaited people after death was known as sheol, a shadowy, uncertain place. Both godly, righteous people and the wicked ended up in sheol. But sheol has a few different meanings in the Old Testament, and the author is ignoring parts of what the Bible says. Continue reading

Resources on Regeneration

I’m hoping to do some extended thinking (and preaching?!) on regeneration in the next few weeks/months, and I was thinking I should line up a list for reading and meditating on this important doctrine. Unfortunately, it can be a little difficult to find extended discourses on the topic of regeneration. I attribute that to a variety of factors:

  • In the history of doctrine, regeneration has been something of a moving target, especially for Calvin’s successors, where regeneration can mean anything from conversion, repentance, sanctification, or the newer clarification of speaking exclusively of the (initiation of) spiritual life.
  • Continue reading

Calvin: Benefits from Justification for Children

Calvin wanted Christ’s little lambs to know the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and he wanted them to know that justification also provided:

  1. Sanctification – as distinguished from, but – inseparable with it

    Master.But can this [imputed] righteousness be separated from good works, so that he who has it may be void of them?

    Scholar. That cannot be. For when by faith we receive Christ as he is offered to us, he not only promises us deliverance from death and reconciliation with God [i.e., justification], but also the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which we are regenerated to newness of life [i.e., sanctification]; these things must necessarily be conjoined so as not to divide Christ from himself.

  2. Assurance of salvation

    M. What advantage accrues to us from this forgiveness [which is, of course, included in justification]? Continue reading

Adoption in Scripture

Time Reference Category
Eternity past in the counsel of the Holy Trinity Ephesians 1:4-5

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Adoption according to unconditional election based on God’s choice in eternity past
History of redemption Romans 9:4

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.

A temporal adoption based on the Mosaic Covenant
Incarnation Galatians 4:4-5

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Adoption corresponding to salvation in general based on Christ’s redemption
Individual experience in human history Romans 8:15

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Adoption applied individually as conversion or regeneration
The Future Day of the Lord and Second Coming Romans 8:23

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Glorification of people and creation as the fulfillment of God’s election (see top)

 

Every instance of υἱοθεσία (“adoption”) in Scripture.  (Acts 7:21 is actually ἀνaipεὼ, “to take up.”)  Based off of reflections from here.