Welcome to The Spurgeon Blog


Both Reformed and Calvinistic Baptists can trace their history back to the Puritan and Particular Baptists in Great Britain.  Of those Baptists none was more well known than Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Even today Spurgeon is regarded as one of the most articulate voices of the doctrines of grace.  He was a man for his time and a man ahead of his time.  And while this blog is called the “Spurgeon Blog”, it is not about exalting a man.  In fact, Spurgeon once said:

“Remember, dear brethren and sisters, if you would be preserved from falling, you must be schooled in humility, and keep very low before the Lord. When you are half-an-inch above the ground, you are that half-inch too high. Your safety is to be nothing. Trust Christ, but do not trust yourself. Rely on the Spirit of God, but do not rely on anything that is in yourself.”

This blog exists to pursue thought and discussion of Reformed theology.  Spurgeon never saw the worth of theology independent from right living.  Join with me in that endeavor – to know and to do, all to the glory of God!

No Trust in Self

indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:9

Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden was not actually eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam’s sin was rebellion. Eating of the tree was Adam’s rebellion put into action. Adam’s rebellion began in his heart. He became convinced that God was holding out on him. It was not enough that God gave everything to Adam for his enjoyment. The one thing God withheld was at the center of Adam’s sin of rebellion.

Adam is not alone in his rebellion. We struggle with this prime sin daily. We forsake the clear teachings of Scripture for our own way. When we do so we have rebelled against God. Sometimes our rebellion is actually confused with virtue. When we follow Frank Sinatra’s advice, and do it “my way”, we are contenting ourselves with out own counsel and not God’s. Typically the end result is akin to disaster.

This past Lord’s Day we sang a hymn titled, “I am a Wandering Sheep”. Like sheep we are prone to wander into other fields and get ourselves into trouble. Because we are prone to such wanderings, God reserves the right to bring difficulties into our lives in order to cause us to trust in Him. For Paul and his companions, God brought a serious adversity into their lives to the point where they despaired even of life. Death seemed preferable than life. But God did this “so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God”.

When God brings you to your knees through illness, financial setbacks, relationship problems, spiritual crisis, loss of a  job et. al; it is to cause you to trust in Him and not in yourself. God’s ways are better than our ways (Jer. 29:11). It is hard to believe that when we are in the midst of adversity. Also, God does not promise to remove our adversity. He does promise to give us the grace to endure it (2 Cor. 12:9). And there is coming a day when all adversity will be done away with. Maranatha! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

The Greater Progress of the Gospel

Tomorrow morning I am bringing the message at Grace Baptist Church of Odenton. The text I have chosen to speak on is Philippians 1:12-20. The reason I have chosen to preach from this text is partly due to the recent events that have occurred in the City of Houston. Mayor Annise Parker issued subpoenas against five Houston pastors who filed a lawsuit against Mayor Parker’s HERO law. It is time that the Church rejects societies attempt to marginalize our message and exclude us from public discourse. With that in mind I am including in this post the beginning of tomorrow’s message.

As a Reformed Baptist Church we believe that the Word of God, the Bible, is “the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience[1]”. It speaks with authority to all matters of faith and practice. We also believe that the truth and authority of God’s Word extends beyond just the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day. It applies to society as a whole. Just as the Old Testament prophets proclaimed the Word of God in the public square and before the government leaders of their day, so too the Church is to speak on the issues of the day in order to give God glory by calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. Society has convinced, even some churches, that they should not take a public stand on controversial issues like abortion or the redefinition of marriage. But this is not what I see in the Bible. Today’s message has a dual-purpose. First, to draw the Church’s attention to the fact that we must engage in society, not just among ourselves. Second, the Church must remember that we engage in society “for the greater progress of the gospel[2]”. With those two things in mind I want to introduce the facts surrounding a recent attack upon the Church that occurred by an elected official from the 4th most populous city in the United States. Then we will go back 2000 years to unpack the events that the Apostle Paul wrote about in Philippians 1:12-20.

The city of Houston passed a controversial law in May of 2014 commonly referred to as HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance). The law was the invention of Mayor Annise Parker. The law would allow any man who was dressed like a female to use a female-only restroom at any public restroom within the city of Houston. This means that sexual predators could dress like a female and have access to female-only restrooms. The law was never voted on by the residents of Houston. It was passed by the city council and signed into law by the mayor. Almost immediately a petition drive was launched, led by a coalition of pastors from the city of Houston. The petition was to place the new law on the ballot and to allow the residents of Houston to vote on it. The mayor and council knew that the HERO law was not supported by the electorate and would be voted down. For that reason the city claimed there were inconsistencies in the petition and rejected it. The coalition of pastors filed a lawsuit to force the City of Houston to place the HERO law on the ballot. In response to the lawsuit Mayor Parker directed the city attorney to file a subpoena against selected pastors involved in the lawsuit asking that any sermons and speeches that had to do with herself or the HERO law be turned over to the City. The pastors refused citing the 1st amendment of the Constitution.

The backlash against Mayor Parker’s unconstitutional overreach was considerable. The story went national. Christians from across the nation came to Houston and stood in solidarity with these pastors for the sake of the Gospel. Eventually the negative press against the Mayor and Council was so strong that Mayor Parker finally rescinded the subpoenas. But even though the subpoenas were rescinded the damage had been done. The 1st amendment had been assailed without apology. A precedent had been set by the City of Houston that government would move against the Church when it deemed it necessary. What Mayor Parker did against the pastors of Houston is not unique to that city. Christian business owners; whether they are bakers, florists, or national chains, have been under assault. But make no mistake. The issue is more than freedom of religion or freedom of speech. As Christians we answer to a higher authority. When the laws of man are in conflict with the Word of God, we are bound to obey the Word of God. Such obedience may come with a cost, and we must be prepared to pay such a cost. What Mayor Parker and the Houston City Council really tried to do through their subpoenas was to shut the mouth of the Church when it comes to social issues and to hinder the preaching of the Gospel. Praise God that these men, yielding to the Holy Spirit, resolved to stand strong. Praise God that because of their brave stand others were given confidence to do the same thing. The example they followed can be traced back to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi nearly 2000 years ago.

[1] 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1.1

[2] Philippians 1:12 (NASB)

Sermon for August 31, 2014

Since there was no recording of this morning’s sermon, I am posting it here in manuscript format.

The Garden of Gethsemane Narrative – The Disciples Perspective

Matthew 26:31-46   31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’  32 “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”  33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.”  34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”  35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.  36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.  38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”  39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”  40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?  41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.  45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  46 “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

The story of Christ’s passion in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the weakness of the disciples, should resonate with most Christians. Our Lord has since returned to the glory He shared with the Father since before the world began (John 17:5). But in a very real way He fellowships with us through the Comforter. This is our connection with His disciples in the Garden. They fellowshipped with Christ physically. We fellowship with Him spiritually (1 John 1:3). Christ understands our weakness. He proved it over and over during his time on earth. He proved it once again in the Garden. He was “grieved and distressed”, but he did not lose faith. He asked the Father to let the cup pass from Him, but was content to do the Father’s will. Three times he returned to find His friends sleeping, but He did not forsake them in return. How often have we forsaken God, but God has not forsaken us? How often have we received forgiveness and mercy instead of payment in turn?

Over the next two weeks I want to approach this portion of scripture from two different perspectives. This morning we will look at it from the perspective of the disciples who fell asleep in the Garden. Next Lord’s Day we will look at it from the perspective of the Lord Jesus Christ. Next week we will also harmonize both perspectives. It is my hope that we will recognize our connection with Christ’s disciples. Their weakness and failure is not foreign to us. But neither is the Lord’s mercy and grace that He displayed to them in spite of their failure. It was not just to the disciples that Jesus promised not to leave them as orphans by sending the Comforter (John 14:18).

Men and sheep share something in common

Men and sheep are both predisposed to stray. Sheep stray because it is in their nature to do so. They are dumb animals and do not possess common sense. Men stray because of sin.

1 Peter 2:25a For you were continually straying like sheep…

When Adam sinned he wandered into a different pasture. Instead of remaining under the care of a loving shepherd who protected him and lead him to safe pastures, Adam went into wild and unprotected pastures. Sheep that are not protected by their shepherd are an easy mark for predators. But even when they are not preyed upon by those with evil intentions, wild sheep often find their own dangers. But there is something else that men and sheep have in common.

Sheep are members of a flock made up of other sheep. The Bible identifies two different types of men: sheep and goats. Christians are often referred to as sheep. Unbelievers are referred to as goats. We see this difference in Matthew 25.

Matthew 25:31-34   31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;  33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Jesus has a special relationship with His sheep:

John 10:1-16   “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.  2 “But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.  3 “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  5 “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”  6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.  7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  8 “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  12 “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  13 “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.  14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,  15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”

The 18th century hymn writer Robert Robinson, in his hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” wrote these lyrics: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love”. Even though Christians are sheep that are members of God’s flock, we are prone to wander due to abiding sin. The spiritual war that we are engaged in is real. Paul wrote that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The temptations that Christians face are real. Sometimes they come from outside forces and other times they are result of our sinful thoughts and desires. But regardless of where they come from, they seek to have us wander from God. And God will sometimes allow us to wander, if only to teach us a hard lesson that wandering from good pastures comes at a cost. But because He is a merciful God, He often brings us back to His good pasture. 1 Peter 2:25 but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 

Pride comes before the fall, every time.

The Apostle Paul is often portrayed as a caricature of himself. He is the impetuous and impulsive Apostle. He spouts off without thinking. So it would seem here in this passage. In response to Jesus saying that all the disciples would fall away, Peter exclaims, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” But we would too harsh on Peter if we pointed him out for special criticism. In Matthew 26:35 we read these words, “All the disciples said the same thing too.” Peter was the most vocal, but he was by no means alone out on the limb. Peter’s prideful statement “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” was echoed by the other ten disciples present in the Garden.

We have discipleship all wrong in American churches. We have discipleship classes that give the impression, intended or not, that discipleship is something that can be attained. Finish the class, get your certificate, and you are now a mature believer. But that is not how the Christian life operates. Living the Christian life is not always a stroll in the park on a beautiful spring afternoon. Sometimes it is like walking on a narrow path on the edge of a perilous cliff in the dark. We are afraid to call out for help partly because we fear what people may think or say about us. Sometimes we do not even know we are on edge of the cliff. We press on in our own strength thinking we have a handle on the situation. But we soon find out that the path before us has crumbled into the chasm below. Instead of trusting in God, we trust in our efforts, and the end result is a predictable disaster. All of this is due to pride.

In Matthew 26 Peter leads the way. “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” The other disciples agreed with him. Their pride led them to make a rash statement that they would be incapable of backing up by their actions.

Romans 12:3   3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

How does God wants us to think of ourselves? He gives us some clues in the first two verses of Romans 12.

Romans 12:1-2  Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The Apostle Paul instructs us that we are to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. What does it mean to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice? The Greek word for ‘sacrifice’ is thusia. It is used in Ephesians 5 to describe the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:2  and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

As a sacrifice Christ “gave Himself up for us”. He yielded His very life to purchase our forgiveness by His death on the Cross. His sacrifice was a fragrant aroma to the Father. His sacrifice pleased the Father. In other words it was acceptable to the Father. The sin-debt that you and I owed was paid-in-full by Christ and accepted by the Father. Our lives are to be living and holy sacrifices to God. Everything we do should be done in order to please God. In order to please God we need to know how to please Him. We learn how to please God by doing what we are all doing this morning. We are being taught by the Word of God. We receive sound instruction and act on it. We are to follow James’ admonition to “be doers of the word” (Jas. 1:22). But we should do so prayerfully and carefully.

Philippians 1:20   20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

The Apostle Paul desired to glorify God in his body (through his actions), whether by life or by death. He makes this point more directly in Colossians:

Colossians 3:23-24  23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,  24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

It is the lord Christ whom you serve! We serve Him boldly, but also in humility. Knowing that we are prone to pride we should always check our motives and consider our ways.

Our true self will always be revealed

Actors act. There is one movie actor that I greatly admire for his ability to actually become the character he is portraying. He puts many hours into studying the real person he is going to portray. He talks like the character, he walks like the character – in short becomes the character. But he is not the character. After the shoot is over the actor cannot remain in character for the rest of his life. Eventually he has to start acting like himself. It is the same for us when exposing our true motives. It is not just what we say, but what we do that matters. The disciple’s actions in the Garden in Matthew 26 are a perfect illustration.

After stating that they would never fall away from following Jesus, even to the point of death, the disciples are taught a valuable lesson in humility. Jesus takes His closest friends Peter, John, and James with Him a bit further into the Garden. Jesus asked them to keep watch with Him while He went alone to pray. The word for “watch” means to remain vigilant. How would the disciples have understood Christ’s command? They should have understood that they were to remain alert. Perhaps for danger from the coming authorities, or maybe even to stop the other disciples from interrupting Jesus as He prayed. But note how the disciples acted in response to Jesus’ request.

Matthew 26:39-45  39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”  40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?  41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.  45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Our Lord did not just pray, He fell on His face and prayed. He heart was deeply grieved and disturbed. He knew the way to the Cross lay directly in front of Him. He petitioned the Father to let the cup pass from Him, yet He was content to say, “yet not as I will, but as You will.” He returned from His first time of prayer to find Peter, James, and John sleeping. Jesus spoke to Peter and gave Him a mild rebuke. “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” Their Lord was preparing to lay down His life to purchase their salvation, and they could not keep awake for one hour? Two more times Jesus went away to pray, and each time He returned to see his disciples sleeping.

How quickly had their earlier resolve disappeared! We will never forsake you. We will even die for you. Oh, but we will not be able to remain awake for any period of time. Their rash vow had already dissipated into nothing.

Now, I am not here this morning to take task with the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am just relaying what the Bible says about their words and their deeds during Jesus’ time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Through the power of the Holy Spirit these men would eventually acquit themselves well. Jesus forgave them of their sin and made them Apostles in His church. All but John would die as martyrs; ultimately fulfilling their vow that they would follow their Lord even to the point of death. But there is a lesson to be learned here.

Our Lord requires that we serve Him. Scripture says:

Colossians 3:3  3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

If our life is hidden with Christ in God, then that means we should cease to live for ourselves and instead live for Christ. But because we still struggle with sin, we will face difficulties in living for Christ. When we fall into sin, one of sin’s byproducts is guilt. Guilt tells us that we are not worthy. I am almost certain this is what Christ’s disciples experienced after they fell away. How could they face their Lord after they had turned their back on Him? Instead of receiving scorn from the Lord they received mercy and forgiveness. Jesus even said to them in Matthew 26, “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee”. Jesus planned to see His disciples again. He offered them mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.

I end by looking at this story of Jesus appearing to His disciples.

John 21:1-13  After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.  2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.  3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.  4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.”  6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.  7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.  8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.  9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.  10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.”  11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.  12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord.  13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.

Peter had denied Jesus three times after Jesus was taken into custody in the Garden. Peter’s vow in the Garden now stood to mock him. But here we read of Jesus standing on the beach calling His disciples “children”. This was a term of affection. In obedience to Jesus’ request they cast their net on the right side of the boat and made a great catch. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recognized that it was Jesus. Jesus had repeated the same miracle in Luke 5. When Peter learned that it was the Lord Jesus, he threw himself into the water. He could not wait to see His Lord! Peter certainly remembers Jesus’ words to him from the first miracle with the fish. Peter said to Jesus, “Go away from me Lord, for I am sinful man!” But Jesus, loving and tender, said to Peter, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).


So, what do we make of this this morning’s passage from the disciple’s perspective?

  1. We should always view ourselves as servants of Christ and follow the instruction of God’s word.
  2. We should be genuine and transparent with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot live the Christian life by ourselves. Together we all make up the body of Christ, and as a body we need each individual member.
  3. We should be careful not to make rash statements or actions that expose our pride instead of our faith.
  4. If we do sin in these areas we should be quick to confess it so that we can be restored. 1 John 1:9 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Next Lord’s Day we will look at the events that occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane from the perspective of Christ.


Jude 1:24-25   24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,  25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.













Putting Christus Victor in Proper Perspective


Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan responds to an online dialogue about Christus Victor vs. Penal Substitution.  Rev. Buchanan makes some excellent points.  Ad fontes is a two-edged sword.   The patristic age cannot be viewed as a single source on any doctrine.  The continuing revelation of scripture — from Genesis through Revelation — reveals the Bible’s position on the atonement.

1. Why do some think that one motif related to Christ’s atonement (or some other loci) precludes or excludes another?

2. A lot of people today want a Jesus whose presence or centrality is not brought on or in any way necessitated by divine wrath.

3. An integrated Bible, a common faith (essentially/principially the same) for both OT and NT saints, is a foreign concept to many modern Christians. If the coming of Jesus introduces a different kind of religion or relating to God–for whatever reason: e.g. dispensational “Messiah rejection” bringing in a church-age parenthesis–then no appeal to OT concepts by which Christ may (ought to) be understood will be seen as legitimate. Jesus has to “break out” of even the concepts by which someone like Isaiah presents him to an OT audience. Not even apostolic “appropriation” of the OT is seen as validating the prophets, but more like “adaptation,” unless such use is viewed as little more than residual reflexive appeal to (outmoded) authority, while waiting for a new body of NT literature.

4. A common tactic for those seeking to replace one view by something else, is the ad fontes appeal. After all, this is what the Reformers used in the 16th century against Rome. One frequently hears that Christus victor was the dominant theme for the atonement in the early church. This depends, of course, on how one defines “early,” and it also calls for an explanation of “dominant.” Also, why does some particular view have said dominance?

By no means is the early church record devoid of the language of substitution, and payment for sin. Note, it is not the Penal-Substitutionists who feel the need to “explain away” statements of various ECFs that highlight a CV theme. There is no sense of a need to exclude such a thing from the historical notices. However, like Romanists trying to explain away “by-faith-alone” statements of the ECFs, some modern CV proponents cannot live with the idea that “richness” of Atonement themes is as old as the first fabric of Christian theology.

In the end, I suppose that the real issue is the reality that the true message of Christianity is offensive. It always has been, note 1Cor.1. But people today–even those who go out to preach–believe something different. When they encounter dramatic resistance to basic concepts of Christianity, their theological grounding in vague and sentimental “God is love” ideas (which are not the biblical notions that gave us that language originally) cannot be reconciled to their experience. The old message of guilt and grace is, accordingly, too “out of step” with the nature of the men to whom they were sent with the appeal of the gospel.

And so (they decide) the message is the wrong one, at least for the audience of the present hour. God isn’t dealing with us as his ENEMIES, but treats us entirely as his darlings who have been cruelly taken by his foe and ours. There is no room in this view for the difficult truth that when God comes to save us, we love our sin despite the horrific damage it does. And we are at that time in no way disposed to accept God’s offer to save us–especially when it comes with a very clear demand for submission, servitude, even slavery to God. We prefer our “freedom” under Satan, the original rebellion by which we believed his lie and fell from our first estate. It takes an act of God to open our eyes to the harsh reality that we’ve been deceived the whole time.

Christus victor is one facet of the the Atonement that Penal Substitutionists don’t need to jettison; any more than they would shy away from Satisfaction (Anselm). However, Penal Substitution deserves the emphasis is has received, because as far back as Paul (Rom.1-3) God’s wrath against sin in rebels themselves, along with the OT legal treatment of sin’s consequences, highlights the grace of the gospel in stark relief. Losing that contrast will be the high cost of lowering (or worse, eliminating) PS’s profile in our message. It is a consequent lessening of the power of the gospel.

I think the deeper issues are tied right in to TULIP, and the consistency of the message.

Rev. Buchanan is the pastor of ChainOLakes Presbyterian Church, CentralLake, MI.

A Character Built on Repentance

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”
– 2 Samuel 12:13

David was a man of contrasts. As a young man he was zealous for God’s glory (1 Sam. 17); refused to lift his hand against God’s anointed (1 Sam. 24; 26); and displays great compassion (2 Sam. 9).  But David also committed serious sins. He committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11); conspired to have Bathsheba’s husband killed (2 Sam. 11); tempted God through a census (2 Sam. 24); and was a poor father who refused to deal with the sin of his children (2 Sam. 13).  So, why does the Bible call David a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) even though he had such a flawed, sinful character?  Perhaps it is because David was tenderhearted when confronted over his sin.  When Nathan the prophet confronted David for his sins of adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband, David’s response was one of confession and repentance.  Unlike his predecessor, Saul, David did not try to justify his actions (c.f. 1 Sam. 15).  David understood his sin, readily confessed it, and turned from it.  That is a sign of a regenerate heart. 

It is time for Christians to wake up Part Deux

Yesterday’s post resulted in some misunderstanding on the part of some.  Nothing that I wrote yesterday should be misconstrued as advocating Christian inaction. The Church, and individual believers, should engage in the serious issues of the day such as abortion, racism, biblical marriage et. al.  The Bible contains the answers to the problems society faces and we should not shy away from saying so. What we should beware of is placing our faith in secular political parties instead of God. I hope this eases the concern of some.

It is time for Christians to wake up.

tebowThe recent admission by NBA player Jason Collins that he is gay has been embraced by the media.  This is really not news.  The media has been in the tank for Gay Rights for decades.  In the beginning their bent was veiled.  Now it is nothing less than open advocacy.  This used to be the domain of the Left, but no longer.  Recently a major GOP PAC, American Unity PAC, lead by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, has come out in favor of same-sex marriage.  So much for social conservatism.  The GOP has always been one step behind Democrats on social issues.  Believe it or not, I think this is a good thing.  I welcome the media discarding even its last bit of pretense.  I welcome the GOP’s honesty in revealing it’s all about votes and power, not conviction.  I take an opposite view than most Christians.  Thank you mainstream media and the GOP for your honesty.

For too long the religious Right in America courted the favor of the GOP while vilifying the Democratic party.  Conservative office holders and candidates would throw the religious Right a few table scraps – enough to keep them satisfied and retain their vote.  But now the Republican Party realizes that it cannot win on a national basis without embracing the social mores of the day.  Even though that means turning their backs on the religious Right, Republican strategists figure that the socially moderate to liberal voting block has more of an ROI.  Politically active Christians have been nibbling at the heels of third party candidates or even Ron Paul.  They are looking for someone to validate their values and their message.  Unfortunately they are looking in the wrong place.

America’s hope rests in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  After every political party has finished kicking the Church to the curb, the Gospel still remains “the power of God unto salvation for all who will believe” (Rom. 1:16).  The world is a fallen place.  It is corrupt from head to foot.  Nothing this world has to offer can satisfy man’s deepest need and greatest longing.  Even if your political party won the presidency and both houses of Congress, society’s headlong rush into sin and depravity would nary be stopped for a nanosecond.  But the Gospel!  Ah, that is a different story.  The Gospel’s success is not measured by an electoral college, but by repentance from sin and true faith in the risen Son of God.  Perhaps God is in the process of pruning His Church.  As times goes by those Christians that have counted the cost, and decided to remain resolute in their profession, will almost certainly feel the wrath and scorn of a “tolerant” society.  But happy they will be!  Better to suffer for the sake of Christ, then to compromise and receive the praise of the world.

Please do not take my words as a suggestion not to be politically involved.  Political participation is certainly an option.  But be involved with your eyes wide open.  Beware of yoking yourself to a political party instead of Christ and His Church.  That is why I think good will become of today’s social and moral collapse.  Light always shines brightest in the darkness; and as society darkens the beacon of the Gospel will shine brighter.  Many will be saved out of this present darkness and their citizenship transferred to the kingdom of light.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Focus on Spurgeon: Cheer Up, My Dear Comrades!

Cheer Up, My Dear Comrades! is a sermon that Charles Spurgeon preached in 1880 at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle.  The purpose of the sermon was to encourage those who were either involved in the Lord’s work, or should be involved in the Lord’s work (which is every Christian); but were facing discouragement, doubt, adversity, lack of appreciation, and lack of success. While Spurgeon’s emphasis was Christian service, in the larger context this sermon would apply to whatever our work is; whether in Christian service or the business world.  If God is sovereign then all things are under His domain, and serving God in secular employment is as serving God in Christian ministry.

At the center of Spurgeon’s message is the unveiling of our heart attitude.  Our motivation.  Do you desire to serve God where He has placed you?  It does not matter whether you are a pastor, elder, or deacon.  It does not matter whether you are a student, businessman, or farmer.  Are you desirous of serving God?  I am not asking whether you think it is a good idea to serve God or whether it is the right thing to do.  I am asking whether you truly desire to serve Him.  If that is your motivation (that you truly desire to serve Him), then God can, and will, use you.  You can serve Him to the limits of your ability, and even beyond, by the equipping power of the Holy Spirit.

In his sermon Spurgeon writes:

And, first, I would speak a little to THOSE WHO THINK THAT THEY CAN DO NOTHING. They will tell me that in such a sermon not a sentence can concern them: if I am to encourage men to the service of the house of the Lord, it will be in vain for them, as they can do nothing at all. Well, dear friends, you must not take that for granted; you must make quite sure that you cannot do anything before I may venture to speak to you as if it were a matter of fact; for sometimes there is a want of way because there is a want of will. Though I do not go so far as to allege that this is your case, we know too well that “cannot” often does mean “will not,” and not to have triumphed may mean that you have not tried. You have been so discouraged that you have excused yourself for inaction, and your inaction has grown into indolence.

Some people think they are useless when it comes to serving God.  This feeling of uselessness can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Think you are useless long enough and useless you will become.  But there is no need to feel or be useless in the Lord’s service.  Spurgeon goes on to recount a story about King David in 1 Samuel 30:24-25:

Now, I want to encourage you first by reminding you that the law of the Son of David is the same as the law of David himself; and you know the law of David about those that went to the battle. There were some that were lame, and some that were otherwise incapable of action, and he left them with the baggage. “There,” he said, “you are very weary and ill: stop in the camp: take care of the tents, and the ammunition, while we go and fight.” Now, it happened once on a time that the men that went to fight claimed all the spoil. They said, “These people have done nothing: they have been lying in the trenches: they shall not carry off a share of the booty.” But King David there and then made a law that they should share and share equally—those that were in the trenches and those that engaged in the fray. “As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel.” Nor is the law of the Son of David less gracious. If by sickness you are detained at home,—if for any other reason, such as age or infirmity, you are not able to enter into actual service, yet if you are a true soldier and would fight if you could, and your heart is in it, you shall share even with the best and bravest of those who, clad in the panoply of God, encounter and grapple with the adversary.

Even if God, according to His providence, prevents you from the level of service you would like to perform,  serve Him to degree that you are able.  An act of compassion, a kind word, a display of hospitality, intercessory prayer; these things may lack notoriety or seem inconsequential, but they are equally as vital as preaching the Word or going on the mission field.  The littlest act, performed in faith, is a mighty deed in God’s eyes.

Matthew 25:34-40  34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me somethingto eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Blog Focus: The Confessing Baptist

confessing baptistThe Confessing Baptist is a well designed Reformed Baptist blog run by Junior Durán, Jason Delgado, and Javier Hernandez.  Besides having a bit of eye-jazz, it has great content.  Case in point is a podcast interview featuring Pascal Denault, author of the book The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology.

I highly recommend this blog to all Reformed and Reformed-interested believers, but especially to fellow Reformed Baptists.

Radical Consequences and a Radical Transformation

In his book Better Than The Beginning (2013, Reformed Baptist Academic Press), Richard Barcellos writes:

Man was created to reflect who God is and what He does more than any other aspect of God’s creation.  Man, and man alone, was created in the image of God.  That is why Adam’s sin, Adam’s failure to be a good image of God, has such radical consequences.

What are the “radical consequences” that Barcellos mentions?  In Romans 5:12 we read:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned —

Before Adam sinned death was something that the human race had never experienced.  It remained a promised consequence if sin were to enter the world.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”

Adam disobeyed God’s command.  God, being true to His word, pronounced judgment – not just on Adam, but on the all of Adam’s posterity.

Genesis 3:17-19 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

Adam was a unique creation.  He is the only human being never to be born of a woman.  He was never an infant or child.  He was created with a fully developed intellectual capacity.  Because his mind was free from sin at his creation, Adam was not saddled with the war that is constantly waging in our members – the struggle between obedience and sin.  It can be said that Adam was the most perfect of God’s creation.  Adam was made Imago Dei, in the image of God.  No other aspect of God’s creation was made in His image.  In a real sense Adam was our fair and just representative.  He was acting on behalf of the human race; either through his obedience or disobedience.  When Adam sinned he corrupted the Imago Dei, not just for himself, but for all of future humanity (c.f. Rom. 5:12).  Radical consequences indeed.

Thankfully, God provided the means by which the radical consequences of Adam’s sin could be reversed.

1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.”  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

The last Adam is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus was born sinless, He was able to keep God’s commandments – His law – perfectly.  Whereas the first Adam simply became a living soul (God gave Adam physical life), the last Adam, Jesus, became a life-giving spirit.  That “life-giving” is nothing less than the gift of eternal life, given to all who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ.

No matter what type of mess your life has become because of sin, it is not beyond the transforming power of Jesus Christ.  Jesus can forgive you sins and bring you into a right relationship with God by repenting (turning from) of your sins and placing your faith wholly in Him.  Instead of radical consequences, the message of the Gospel offers radical forgiveness and transformation.