Book Giveaway: “Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views”

I received a second copy of Evangelical Theological Method on my birthday yesterday. It is a required book for one of my Ph.D. classes, and my lovely wife suggested I give it away!

Here are the rules for this giveaway:

  • Giveaway will be announced on 1 October
  • Book will only be shipped in continental US (sorry!)
  • To be counted in giveaway, you must: 1) Follow The Library Musings 2) Like this post and 3) receive an additional entry for sharing on social media

If you have any questions, just comment and I will do my best to answer. Happy drawing!

Book Review: NIV Beautiful Word Bible (Updated Edition)

The NIV Beautiful Word Bible, Updated Edition is a leathersoft over board, red letter, comfort print edition. It is a work of art, designed for note-taking and Bible journaling.

Here are some pictures of the Bible.

The dimensions of this Bible are 7 x 1.99 x 8.63 inches.

Here is another shot of the Bible.

The pictures of flowers in multiple colors graces the binding. “Beautiful Word,” “New International Version,” “NIV,” and “Zondervan” are all printed on the side.

Several items deserve attention. First, the Bible utilizes “comfort print” which is incredibly easy for reading. Second, there is minimal bleed through. Third, there are verses printed in a variety of ways in the margins (see pictures below). This version is Red Letter Edition, meaning the words of Christ are printed with red ink.

Here the words of Christ can be seen. It is also to be observed that the text does not bleed through. The side-margin art, however, tends to be seeable.

The Bible is designed for note-taking and art journaling. It meets the expectations of such a Bible. The paper is think enough to hold most inks (archival and ball-point would probably be best). With ample room in the side margins, this Bible will serve its user well for many years. It lays flat easily, though it will more like require “breaking in” to lay flat at Genesis 1 without any assistance.

The Bible features a wide-arrange of art in the margins. Pictured here is a full-colored verse found on this page. Other art in the margins may include the verse written in simple letters and colors. The variety makes this Bible visually appealing.

Additional features include a single ribbon and peel and stick Bible tabs. Ribbon is long enough to be useful, supple enough to be un-distracting, and colorful enough to stick out (both from the pages and the color of the binding). The Bible tabs are also colorful (see picture below).

The Bible tabs are included to be used at the owner’s discretion. They vary in color (matching the binding and color of the margin art).

The Bible’s size and beauty makes it worthy of purchase. Particularly for the artistic in mind, this Bible will prove to be a long-lasting treasure. Its price is even more welcoming.

This Bible can be purchased from Amazon, Christianbook, and other retailers. In addition to this binding, there are also two additional bindings for sale.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

NIV, Beautiful Word Bible, Updated Edition, Peel/Stick Bible Tabs, Leathersoft over Board, Gold, Red Letter, Comfort Print: 600+ Full-Color Illustrated Verses

Depression & Sin

In previous posts, we have been addressing depression. It is a monumental bane to human flourishing. The contributors to depression can be, and are often, physical. A failure to get enough sleep, poor nutrition, and a lack of exercising can all contribute to depression. We also noted, though, that depression can also be related to spiritual issues, namely, sin.

Sin is an unpopular word today. Sin is a judgment, a wrongful view of someone or some action (or, thought) in which someone engages. For example, our vocabulary has changed in order to accommodate a different perspective from sin. Not too long ago, when someone consumed too much alcohol, they were drunkards. Now they struggle with alcoholism (or, disorder).[1] What was once referred to as gluttons are not described as “eating disorders.”[2] Notice the lack of sin and of personal responsibility.

We must acknowledge at this point that we are approaching this serious discussion of depression from a Christian perspective. And even that must be elaborated upon, for the phrase Christian perspective includes a wide-range, and often contradictory, viewpoints. We are approaching this topic from a biblical viewpoint. That is, we take God’s Word and navigate life with it as the authority.

Since we have already laid a foundation for depression, we will not reiterate that here. Instead, we will discuss:

  1. What is sin?
  2. How do we address it?
  3. How does sin contribute to depression?

What is sin

Sin, as described by the Baptist Catechism, is “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”[3] There are two ways of defining sin. First, it is a lack (the word want is used in an older sense) of conformity to the Law of God. That is, it is a failure to think, speak, and/or act in a biblical way. For example, God’s Law requires the observing of the Sabbath. For Christians, this is Sunday, the Lord’s Day. When we engage in work on the Sabbath, we are not conforming to God’s Law.[4]

Sin is also a transgression of the Law of God. Adultery violates God’s Law for marriage between one man and one woman for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4). Thus, to engage in sexual activity with any one but one’s spouse of the opposite sex is to transgress God’s Law. Beeke and Smalley bring this word to modern understanding when they write, “The picture is of stepping over a boundary that should not be crossed.”[5]

We will see how this understanding of sin relates to depression momentarily. Next, we will see how we address sin.

How do we address siN

By asking this question, we are acknowledging that sin is a problem, namely, it goes against God’s Law. God, our good and gracious Creator, made us with specific needs and provided the details on how we should live. Take eating, for example. God instructed Adam as to what he should eat (cf. Gen. 1:29; 2:16). If Adam ate the vegetables and fruit that God instructed him to, Adam would thrive. It was only when Adam ate something God had forbidden that the problem arose (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:6,-7, 17-19).

Sin, remember, is a lack of conformity to and/or transgression of God’s Word. Addressing it, then, assumes both the validity of God’s Word and our responsibility to it. It also assumes that it can be addressed. That is, there is an option available. Without getting into an intense theological debate, we are working within the understanding that humanity is infected by sin. The theological term, built upon Scripture’s teaching as a whole, is depravity. By this, we understand “Total depravity means that corruption infects the whole person and stains every act he performs.”[6] It permeates humanity so thoroughly that, left to our own, we would always reject God (cf. Rom. 3:11).

Were this the whole story, we would have reason to be depressed. However, it is not the whole story. This is where God steps in to act on behalf of His people. While they were dead in their trespasses and sins, God made them alive (Eph. 2:1, 5). When we could not address sin, He paid for our sins (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Where our sins violated the Law, demanding God’s just punishment, Christ did what we could not, receiving God’s punishment for our sins and giving us His righteousness (cf. Rom. 3:21-26).

In other words, we cannot address sin, only God can. And God did. In Christ, He has addressed sin. Where we come in, besides our sins being placed on His precious Son, is we are the receivers of that grace. We are, after all, saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). And it is only God’s working through His Spirit in us that we continually address sin in our lives (cf. Gal. 5:16-26).

Summarizing our addressing of sin, we can state:

  • We rely on God’s grace to save and transform us from sin
  • We only grow in holiness (i.e., moving away from sin to righteousness) through God’s Spirit (more will be said on this later)
  • Without God’s help, we would never overcome sin

This leads us to our third and final thought, how does sin contribute to depression?

How does sin contribute to depression

We answered this briefly in the previous post. What I would like to do with the remainder of our time is to branch out our thoughts, including what we have just learned, as it relates to depression.

Sin can directly cause depression, as we observed in the life of David. Drunkards, for example, will be depressed as they dive further into alcohol while simultaneously driving their family away.

Those direct issues related to sin are, for the most part, clear. What is not as evident, and one that we must understand, is that all sin can contribute to depression. This includes a lack of conformity to God’s Word as well as a direct transgression of it.

What does this mean? Think about a marital relationship. We will assume both are followers of Christ. The husband and wife, when practicing open and honest communication, will inevitably end up at some conflict. How do they handle it? How do they respond?


Let us assume that the wife is at fault. The husband, though in the right, responds with condescension. He sins against his wife in his response. The wife, in turn, responds with further hostility toward her husband. The husband snaps back at his wife, which causes the wife to reevaluate her actions. She asks for forgiveness from her husband. Her husband does not give it, nor does he ask for it. Both have sinned. Both need to address their own responses. Only one does (the wife).

The husband is still left with the choice to respond with repentance toward his wife. Yet, in his pride, he refuses. Now, up to this point, the husband has not struggled with depression. However, a few weeks pass, and the husband continues to treat his wife harshly. He refuses to reconcile with her. His initial response to the wife’s sin started him on a downward spiral.[7] This continual plummet into sin leads to a hopelessness that he will never reconcile with his wife. His work and home life suffer. Those things he once enjoyed becoming shells of the past. Yet, he continues headlong into pride. He refuses to admit he has wronged his wife. Several more weeks have passed, and the man begins feeling depressed. He has lost all joy in his home, his work, and his other activities. His relationship with God has been abysmal.

This hypothetical account provides us with an example of what happens when we sin as it relates to depression. The man did not initially struggle with depression. It was his constant choice to sin rather than to repent which led him further downward. Each interaction with his wife provided him an opportunity to repent. Each spurned opportunity led further down in the pit of depression.

Sins, both the lack of conformity to and transgression of God’s Law, causes and contributes to depression. This underscores the detrimental aspects of sin. It is truly heinous. However, as we have already discussed, there is hope in Jesus Christ. He stands, arms wide open, to those who are “weary and are carrying heavy burdens” (Matt. 11:28, NRSV). Regardless of where you may be at on this downward spiral, He stands with everlasting strength and infinite compassion to give you hope and restoration (Heb. 4:14-16).


[1] The Mayo Clinic, not at all a fringe organization, refers to it as a “disorder.” See May Clinic, “Alcohol use disorder,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243, accessed 30 August 2021.

[2] American Psychological Association, “Eating disorders,” https://www.apa.org/topics/eating-disorders, accessed 30 August 2021.

[3] Baptist Catechism, Question 17.

[4] I realize that not everyone will agree with this example. The Scriptures teach that Christians keep the Sabbath. For a thorough defense of this,  I encourage you to read

[5] Joel R. Beeke and Paul. M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 331.

[6] Beeke and Smalley, Man and Christ, 404.

[7] Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 135.

Should I use Greek in preaching?

Introduction

I am reading through the Greek New Testament with my daily Bible reading. I recently entered 1 John, a wonderful book for many reasons, but especially dear to students beginning Greek (I fondly remember parsing and exegeting the entire book in my first year of Greek).

As I read through chapter 2, something stood out to me. It was John’s use of the word κοσμος (world) in 2:2. John writes, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

1 John 2:2, NA27

I have preached through this book, exegeted it, and recently wrote a paper on John’s use of κοσμος. It was a fascinating and enlightening study. Why do I bring this up, and why did it stand out? Because, as a preacher who listens to preaching, I have found that some pastors should rethink their current usage of Greek in the pulpit.

Preachers have, and probably will, struggle with the question, “How should I use Greek (or, Hebrew/Aramaic) in my preaching?” It is a good question, and the answer will depend on several factors.

  • To whom are you preaching?
  • What is your current knowledge of Greek grammar and syntax?
  • How familiar are you with the author and his writings in the New Testament?
  • Is the word, phrase, or passage debated?

I am sure I could come up with many more questions, but these will at least help us understand the framework for answering the question, “How should I use Greek in my preaching?” I mentioned pastors who should probably reconsider their use of Greek in preaching. And perhaps this verse in John will help serve as an example for why this is important. Our questions will form the outline to this discussion.

To whom are you preaching?

Pastors should tailor their preaching to the people in the pews. If the pews are filled with academically minded individuals, using Greek here and there may be beneficial. If, however, the pews are filled with farmers and blue collar works, Greek will probably prove more a hinderance than a help.

What is your current knowledge of Greek grammar and syntax?

This is probably the largest factor to consider. We all have room to grow. I do not doubt that. But, if you are a first year Greek student, you probably want to shy away from saying “in the Greek this means…” or “this Greek word is…” Why? Because Greek is more than simple definitions.

In our example from 1 John 2:2, John uses κοσμος. That word has at least eight potential meanings (according to Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, 447). I have repeatedly heard preachers refer to every possible definition of a word in their preaching, as if the author intended all of those definitions when using that word. Why is this problematic?


For starters, John uses the word κοσμος in different ways. At times he is referring to the system of the world (i.e., that which opposes God, cf. 1 John 2:15). At other times, he refers to humanity in general (cf. 1 John 4:14). In 1 John 2:2, he refers to God’s chosen people. Listing out every definition in the lexicon, while it may make you sound intelligent to your audience, is harmful because it can mar the right interpretation of the passage. John is not referring to the world system in 1 John 2:2. Nor is John referring to humanity in 1 John 2:15. Context and grammar matter.

Another potential issue is knowing how the syntax of the language works. Words function differently, according to their cases and attachments to other words. A pastor with little knowledge of Greek syntax can misinterpret the passage because he simply does not know what a nominative of simple apposition is. Preachers can make connections that are simply not there because they fail to understand the syntax. Likewise, preachers can misinterpret a passage because they fail to see the connection that the author intended.

Of course, there are other issues as well, but these at least give us some food for thought.

How familiar are you with the author and his writings in the New Testament?

We need to be careful here as well. For one, we all know that there is room for growth. Even experts in a particular author’s work still have room to learn. This is not what I mean by this. What I mean is have you compared the author’s use of a word with his other books in the New Testament? At times this is impossible. Jude, for example, only penned one letter. We cannot compare his use of the word κλητος with another book he wrote. But there are many authors who have penned several works in the New Testament. John has written one Gospel account, three epistles, and one prophetic work. (Even within this range, one must consider the genre, but that is a topic for another day!) Thus, with John we can compare his varied use of κοσμος, and usually be able to discern his intended definition with the help of the surrounding context.

Comparing what he wrote with other writings helps us understand the author’s words. We can also compare the word within the New Testament, and even compare it with words found in the Septuagint. One will quickly see that the majority of usages are the same, though an author may use the word for a different shade of meaning.

Why does this matter? Because we can simply spout off words that an author uses and, without giving consideration to his other materials, interpret it wrongly. Our example again provides us with sample material. In 1 John 2:2, one can infer from the context that John is referring to people for whom Christ died. However, if we kept that definition on to verse 15, we would miss his point as well as misinterpret the passage. “Do not love the world,” John writes (1 John 2:15, NKJV). But if we assumed his one definition from 2:2 was consistent in the rest of this letter, we would contradict his later command to love one another (3:10-16).

Is the word, phrase, or passage debated?

The final point a pastor should consider before using Greek in his preaching concerns the differences of opinion. Greek scholars debate on a variety of issues with the Greek New Testament. These range from textual criticism to lexical forms, from syntax to discourse analysis. One scholar may interpret a word one way, while another interprets it differently. How do we navigate these?

We will limit our discussion to preaching, since that is the present focus. In preaching, we aim to present the text of Scripture as it was written to the original audience with present day applications. It is important, then, that we understand what they meant when they wrote their letters. In our exegesis, we must consider the differences in opinions. The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament is an excellent resource to consider the variety of opinions. The authors of each volume will typically present the major views with the defenses represented by each other. They will conclude with their suggestions, which at times is an acknowledgement that it could be one of many views.

None of this will make it into the sermon, nor should it. While presenting different views is not wrong (I think it is helpful, in fact), it should not resolve around the Greek text. It should revolve around the ideas.

It also helps keep us humble. We realize that there are men and women far more capable of working in Greek than we are. Avoiding a dogmatic position where one does not exist is not a failure to stand for Truth, but a willingness to listen to others.

We began our post with this question, “How should I use Greek in my preaching?” I say, it depends. And it depends on the above issues.

A. Alexander on “The Pastoral Office”

One of the articles in the Banner of Truth‘s new release, The Pastor: His Call, Character, And Work, has been a tremendous blessing and excellent challenge to my own spiritual health and work as a pastor. It was delivered by Archibald Alexander, and the title was “The Pastoral Office,” found in chapter 5.

One paragraph in particular was such a blessing I wanted to share it with you. I encourage you to purchase your own copy in the link above. Without further ado, here is the quote.

“The love of Christ ought so to predominate, so to possess his mind, and to bear him along, that every interfering, or opposing principle, should be neutralized or extinguished. This should suggest all his plans, guide all his operations, give energy to all his efforts, and to afford him comfort under all his trials. Constrained by the love of Christ, he should cheerfully forego all the comforts of ease, affluence, and worldly honour to serve his Master in places far remote; or far removed from public observation.This holy affection should impel him to undertake the most arduous duties, and encounter the most formidable dangers; this should enkindle the ardour of his eloquence, and supply the pathos of his most tender addresses.” (page 93)

What a comfort, and what a challenge!

How did God create man?

This post was originally published at warriorcreek.org, used with permission.

QUESTION

Q. 13: How did God create man?

A. 13: God created man, male and female, after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

(Genesis 1:26-28; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24)

EXPLANATION

In this question of the Baptist Catechism, we address the creation of humanity. The previous question asked, “What is the work of creation?” The answer provides specific insight into what God made, the time in which God made it, and the goodness of it. Question 13 seeks to add more information, specifically with regards to the most special of God’s creation: His image-bearers. Let’s look at the answer in more detail.

Humanity: Man and Woman

The first part of the answer is rather countercultural, but the Scriptures do not conform to culture, they transform it. God made, according to Genesis 1:26, “man.” Though this term can be used of only males, it can also be used in a collective sense (i.e., man means humanity). This new group, different from the rest of the creatures, is further divided into male and female. There are two genders, and these genders have different roles and functions. God created males and females to work together to bear children through their union (Gen. 1:28).

After His Image

The next phrase in Genesis 1:26 is “in our image, after our likeness” (ESV). Scholars and theologians have debated this point. Though this post will not address that in detail, we will satisfy ourselves with Bavinck’s summary of the matter, “The human soul, all the human faculties, the virtues of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and even the human body images God.”[1] If you caught what Bavinck just said, he included the following that we find in the Baptist Catechism, “in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.” In other words, God’s image is displayed in humanity through knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. This takes place before the Fall, which will be dealt with in Questions 16-23. At this point in creation, sin has not entered (hence the description in the answer to question 12 that it was “all very good”).

With Dominion Over the Creatures

The final description of the creation of humanity covers their role over the other creatures. In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (ESV). This verse encompasses the entirety of creation. There is nothing that falls outside of humanity’s dominion in the physical creation. He holds “dominion” over it all. It basically means to rule. Humanity is to cultivate creation for the glory of God. He is to use knowledge, righteousness, and holiness to further God’s glory in this creation.

APPLICATION

There are three main points that I want to draw applicational thoughts.

1. According to God’s Word, there are two genders: male and female.

This is extremely counterculture, and I am sure will be labeled as hate speech. Please understand that as Christians we do not hate anyone. We are submitting to the highest authority, God. As Creator, He made human beings in two genders. This, in turn, affects our relationships with one another in the various fields and situations in which we find ourselves. One example is the leadership of the church. The Scriptures teach that qualified men are the shepherds/teachers in the church. A lady, though gifted and talented, cannot serve in this capacity. God created us differently, but equally. A man is not worth more in the eyes of God than a woman. Likewise, a woman is not of higher value to God than a man. Rather than fight against the creative purposes of God, we should embrace and celebrate our differences, glorify God for His wisdom, and look to Him for fulfillment.

2. As image-bearers of God, every human being is of unequaled value.

The application of this thought is tremendous for a multitude of reasons. As Christians, we believe the Scriptures teach that humanity is made in God’s image. Thus, to destroy an image bearer is called murder (cf. Gen. 9:5-6). However, honoring the image-bearers of God extends well past murder. James ties how we speak to the value of image-bearers. He writes, “with it [the tongue] we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9, ESV). In other words, valuing human life is more than simply not ending it without lawful justification. This is the teaching of Scripture in providing for those in need as well. As Christians, we must value the image of God in others.

3. We must take care and cultivate creation.

This is the final application, and it is drawn from the command to have dominion over creation. We are to rule it. However, this in no way implies a dictatorship that cares for nothing. In fact, it implies the opposite. We are to take care of God’s creation. Though I do not agree with all of her thoughts, Kathryn Tanner is absolutely correct when she writes, “The earth’s geological features and animal and plant life are routinely sacrificed before the altars of corporate profit and a moneyed public’s ever-expanding hunger for consumable goods.”[2] In other words, we will dominate creation without giving it a second thought. This is not the way for Christians. We are to have dominion over creation. We should care for it, and work with it rather than against it.
The Baptist Catechism offers us much in question 13. We would do well to follow God’s Word as His image-bearers for His glory and our good.

[1] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume Two: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 530. [2] Kathryn Tanner, “Creation, Environmental Crisis, and Ecological Justice,” in Rebecca S. Chopp and Mark Lewis Taylor, eds., Reconstructing Christian Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 99.


For more from this series, see the following.

Question 12

Question 11

Question 10

Question 9

Question 8

Question 7

Question 6

Question 5

Question 4

Question 3

Question 2

Question 1

Cultivating Gentleness

The apostle Paul, seeking to help his son in the faith, wrote to Timothy, “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves…” (2 Tim. 2:24-25, KJV). In his encouragement and instruction, Paul was certainly not afraid to stand boldly for the truth. After all, he withstood Peter to the face (Gal. 2:11). He endured stoning (Acts 14:19-20). He even went so far as to say, “I would that they were even cut off which trouble you” (Gal. 5:12, KJV).

But Paul was also a gentle man. Humility, patience, kindness, grace, all of these find themselves frequently in Paul’s manner of life and in Paul’s written instructions (both to churches and to individuals). So, how does one reconcile Paul the humble with Paul the bold? He was a servant of Jesus, a man “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, KJV). Though not perfect like his Lord, Paul sought to be like Jesus in every way (just look at Phil. 3:7-12). In his pastoral advice, Paul yearned to teach young Timothy how to balance grace and truth. I pray that we see this balance in our pastors and theologians today.

I have been saddened at how some pastors and theologians conduct themselves. With the advent of the internet and social media, we are connected in unique ways. While this has been wonderful in most cases, it has also provided a unique window into the depraved, human heart. One evidence of that depravity is our harshness with one another, particularly as it relates to our views of theology and practice.

We have, sinfully I might add, neglected Paul’s instructions to Timothy. Rather than gentleness, patience, and meekness, we see harshness, rudeness, and prideful arrogance. As I have pondered this instruction, the Lord has revealed my own nasty attitude toward others. I have been guilty of searching for that “mic drop moment.” I am gracious for the Lord’s working in my own heart, for His patience toward me in instructing me when I opposed myself.

All of this is to say I want to pass on what the Lord has written in His Word to help my brother pastors and fellow theologians. Because, as we grow deeper in our understanding of God’s Word and theology, it should result in more humility, more patience, and more charity with other believers. I say should because, along with the additional knowledge accrued through long and instance study comes the dangerous dragon of pride. That is why, as our Savior did, we must balance grace and truth. We grow in our patience, love, and kindness as we grow in our knowledge of theology. Here are three suggestions that should help us from the text.

Remember that we are the Lord’s servant


Paul plainly states, “the servant of the Lord,” a reminder of who we are (2 Tim. 2:24, KJV). We are, by our natures, slaves to God. We were dead in sins (Eph. 2:1-2) and God has made us alive (Eph. 2:5). We were once without hope (Eph. 2:12) but now we have the God of hope (Eph. 2:18, cf. Rom. 15:13). In other words, we were in a terrible plight, more than any human being can imagine, when God saved us and changed us. We are His, and as such we remember our terrible estates prior to salvation. This alone should lead us to humility, knowing how blind and foolish we were without Christ. We are also reminded that we are the Lord’s slaves. We do His bidding, in His way, for His glory. We should never seek to “own” our opponents, we should see to instruct those who oppose God.


Actively avoid fighting



The servant of the Lord “must not strive,” Paul writes to young Timothy. In other words, he should not be a fighter. There are those who walk around with the proverbial
chips on their shoulders,” waiting for someone to miss quote a passage of Scripture or to unknowingly miss a fine theological point. Once this happens, they, like the Thing, yell “It’s clobbering time!” and take the individual to task. The servant of the Lord must not be this way. Paul offers a counter to this mindset in the following phrase.

Be Spirit-filled

The counter to a fighting spirit is to be filled (i.e., controlled) by the Spirit. To be so in tune with God’s Word and Spirit that His fruit is evident in your interactions. Be gentle, Paul says. Be patient. Meekly work to help those who are not in tune with God’s Word. These are the antidotes to ugly divisiveness.

While this is not exhaustive, it does provide us with some helps. Let us be gentle with our interactions with those who oppose us. Let us meekly teach them, when God provides opportunities, the gloriously good news. Let them see “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27, KJV).

What is the work of creation?

(This blog was originally posted on warriorcreek.org, used with permission)

QUESTION

Q. 12: What is the work of creation?

A. 12: The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

(Genesis 1 throughout; Hebrews 11:3)

EXPLANATION

In the last post, the question was asked, “How doth God execute His decrees?” In other words, God exercises His will on everything, but how? The brief answer was God utilizes the works of creation and providence. We will focus on creation in this follow-up question.

The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing…

The Scriptures teach that, before God spoke all things into existence, there was nothing. God has no beginning nor ending. Creation, what we see (physical) and what we do not see (spiritual), came into existence at the express command of God. These astounding words begin the entire Bible with bluntness and plainness, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, ESV).

Genesis chapter one details the creation of everything. This does not mean that it details every type of fox or bat or insect. However, it does mean that God created everything from nothing. God’s power, creativity, and wisdom are depicted throughout the known universe. The wonders of this planet upon which we live baffle the mind. The precision and balance of earth is astounding. The beauty of the leaves, the variety of the clouds, and the millions of insects crawling all over the earth, all point to the infinite wisdom, power, and creativity of God.

…by the word of His power…

In Genesis chapter 1, we see the repeated phrase “And God said…” and in Hebrews 11:3 the author states that we know “the universe was created by the word of God.” It was His word, not a natural process, by which all things came into existence. Sure, adaptation and microevolution occurs. No one with any sense of the wonders of creation should doubt this. This acknowledgement, however, does not mean that Christians believe in naturalistic evolution. Contrary to what Richard Dawkins claims, evolution (i.e., biological, naturalistic evolution) is not a fact.[1] God created everything by His Word. Since this post is not addressing evolution, we will simply leave it at this.

…in the space of six days…

The Scriptures teach that God created the heavens and earth in six days (cf. Gen. 1, Ex. 20:11). While there is debate on this (at least in the scholarly world), the Scriptures indicate six days. The lengths of the days may have been different (in other words, the first days of earth’s existence may not have been 24 hours, they may have been 23 hours). This mention of six days is important, because it sets the pattern for a normal human work week. We are, as Scripture describes, to work six days and to rest on the seventh (or, Sabbath). In addition, it will also be important when we get to the section of the Baptist Catechism that addresses the 10 Commandments generally and the Sabbath specifically (questions 62-67).

…and all very good.

That is God’s estimation of His glorious work of creation. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31, ESV). In other words, it was right. Everything was set. It was without flaw. It was, at least at this point, free from sin (that will be addressed in question 16).

APPLICATION

There is nothing that this teaching leaves untouched. Literally, everything depends upon one’s views on the origin and operation of the universe. For example, one glimpse into humanistic thinking (which is devoid of anything supernatural) provides the outworking of a view in which everything came into being on its own. This has enormous applications on one’s view of the value of life. Again, it affects one’s understanding of and application of morality.

If, on the other hand, you believe the Scriptures, then God is the ultimate authority. He created everything and has complete rule over it. Issues such as the value of life take on a different role. Helping others does, too. It matters what you believe.

On a similar note, it also matters for our acceptance of Scripture. For example, if we debate on the phrase “six days,” found in Genesis and Exodus, we undermine the Scriptures. If six days does not mean six days, does sin mean sin? Does salvation by grace through faith really mean salvation by grace through faith? Now, I am reasoning to ad absurdum, but I do so to make the point. If we question the directness of Scripture at this point, where does it end? We need to study the Scriptures, no doubt. And there are issues that are not clear.[2] However, when Scripture speaks with clarity and then confirms this clarity, we are left with no room to doubt.

A final note of application (though there are many more) involves our view of creation. While there are animals we do not like, and for good reason should seek to avoid and exterminate some creatures (rats, for example). However, this is not a blanket statement to destroy God’s creation indiscriminately. His creation is good. We should, therefore, take care of His good creation


[1] Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (New York, NY: Free Press, 2009), 8.

[2] The London Baptist Confession of Faith acknowledges this in 1:7, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all…”

How does God rule?

QUESTION

Q. 11: How doth God execute His decrees?

A. 11: God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.

EXPLANATION

The previous begins a discussion on God’s decrees that will subsist of questions 11-15. We already laid the foundation for this question, and if you have not read it I encourage you to do so.

This question involves how God executes His decrees. In other words, we are focusing on the manner. It is similar to fixing a car. There are multiple ways an individual can approach this task. He can fix it himself. He can take it to a friend, or a shade-tree mechanic. Or, he can take it to the dealer. Those three options are how he can fix his vehicle.

What are God’s ways to execute His eternal purpose? (See question 10) The Catechism states, “God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.” There are two ways, then, that God fulfills His eternal purpose.

Creation

Creation will be addressed in the next question, so we will only highlight this point. By the work of creation the Catechism means God’s work in and through creation. His eternal purpose includes creation. Genesis 1:1 provides the summary teachings of Scripture, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (ESV) He created everything, all things seen and unseen, spiritual and fleshly, all varieties. He created everything. It is His creation, and He executes His eternal purpose with and in the work of creation.

Providence

The work of creation deals with the matter of God’s decrees. In other words, like clay in the potter’s hands, so creation is the clay in the Potter’s hands (cf. Rom. 9:19-24). He exercises His eternal purpose with creation through the works of providence (elaborated further in questions 14-15).

The works of providence are God’s governing and preserving His will. I encourage you to take time to read through the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, chapter 5. The framers of that Confession elaborate on the brief teachings found here in questions 11 and 14-15.

What we learn in this brief answer is that God directs His creation for His eternal purposes.

APPLICATION

We will have more meat for application when we get to questions 12-15. However, there is one application that I think we can draw: encouragement.

We can and should be encouraged by God’s execution of His decrees through creation and providence. Why? It means that everything that happens comes from His sovereign, fatherly hand. Read this remarkable words from the Confession, “God the good Creator of all things, in His infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, to the end  for the which  they were created according unto His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.” (2LCF 5:1)

Are you going through a difficult time? God is executing His eternal purpose. Are you discouraged with how your life has turned out? God is executing His eternal purpose. Are you in the throes of discouragement and depression? God is executing His eternal purpose.

Now, go back and read that excerpt from the Confession. Notice how many times the word good, goodness, mercy, and wise appear. It is not blind faith, it is the guiding and good hand of God. Couple that with the wonderful truth of Romans 8:28, and what we have is the antidote to the discouragements and ailments of this life. We have the cure to the disease of discontentment. We have the treatment for the cancer of doubt. We have the remedy to sinful thoughts, words, and actions. God executes His decrees through the works of creation and providence.


Question 10

Question 9

Question 8

Question 7

Question 6

Question 5

Question 4

Question 3

Question 2

Question 1

Is God in charge?

That is an important question with enormous ramifications. Depending upon your answer, you will either live a life of immense peace and joy or you will endure a life of constant anxiety and worry.Question 10 of the Baptist Catechism is important, practically and theologically.

QUESTION TEn

Q. 10: What are the decrees of God?A. 10: The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His will, whereby for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
(Ephesians 1:4, 11; Romans 9:22-23; Isaiah 46:10; Lamentations 3:37)

EXPLANATION

We return to our initial question, “Is God in charge?” The Baptist Catechism, building upon the teachings of Scripture, answers in the unequivocal affirmative. God is in charge. God reigns. He rules. The answer, of course, is more elaborate, and we would benefit greatly from taking our time.
First, the question focuses on decrees. This refers to God’s rule of His world. The Catechism answers that the decrees of God have four aspects (for lack of a better word): timing (eternal), object (his will), purpose (His own glory), sovereignty (He hath foreordained).

Timing of God’s Decrees–eternal

God is eternal, having neither beginning nor end. His purposes, according to Scripture (see Eph. 1:4 and 11), were present before any spec of creation was spoken into existence. Nothing, then, will take God by surprise, because nothing happens without His movement.

Object of God’s Decrees–according to the counsel of His will

The object of God’s decrees is according to the counsel of His will. Or, to put it another way, what God wanted God accomplished. Listen to Isaiah’s words, “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” (Isa. 46:10, ESV) What God wants, God does.

Purpose of God’s Decrees–for His own glory

God rules and reigns in everything so that He would be glorified. He is, as we have already established, the first and chiefest Being. It is right, then, that He be glorified. No one thinks it is wrong to remark on the beauty of the bride on her wedding day. No one blinks when the children thank their father for a perfectly grilled steak. Why do we have a problem that God seeks His own glory?
John Piper writes, “So, the deepest problem we have in dealing with God’s self-exaltation is not that we don’t like some kinds of self-exalting authority but that fallen human nature does not like any kind of divine authority over our lives.” (Piper, Providence, 41) That, I believe, is absolutely correct. We hate God, therefore His self-exaltation is despicable in our eyes. But God decrees all for His own glory.

Sovereignty of God’s Decree–He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass

Nothing, absolutely nothing that occurs happens without God’s foreordination. Now, this may come as a shock, particularly if you do not come from a confessional background (e.g., London Baptist Confession or Westminster Confession of Faith). However, it is biblical. The framers of the London Baptist Confession provide some additional light that is worth our attention.

God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears His wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing His decree.

2LCF 3:1

A perfect example of this teaching is found in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. In Acts 2:23, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Did you see how God moved in such a way that the death of His precious Son was definite, but the individuals were responsible for their sin? It is incredible, and God is glorious in His decrees.

APPLICATION

Now, I relish these theological truths. I love contemplating the divine sovereignty and providential rule God exercises over His creation. But how does this affect our daily lives?

Not surprisingly, it is incredibly valuable for our lives. Van Mastricht, a Dutch theologian from years ago, offers this practical blessing of God’s decrees, “…a devout reflection upon the divine authority and power builds a solid confidence in which we securely commit ourselves, our goods, all our fortune, efforts and undertakings, to God.” (van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology, Vol. 2: Faith in the Triune God, 450)

In other words, God is in control. While this does not absolve us from personal responsibility, it does mean that God is accomplishing His plans. Have you lost something dear to you? God has a reason for it. Do you ever wonder why so much evil abounds? God has a reason for it. Are you frustrated with your current circumstances? God has a reason for it.

Is God in charge? Yes, He absolutely is in complete charge. I close this section with words from John Piper.

“The providence of God–his purposeful sovereignty–is all-embracing, all-pervasive, and invincible. Therefore, God will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe.”

John Piper, Providence, 691

Question 9

Question 8

Question 7

Question 6

Question 5

Question 4

Question 3

Question 2

Question 1

To purchase a copy of Petrus van Mastricht’s volume II Faith in the Triune God, click here.

To purchase a copy of John Piper’s Providence, click here.