Applying God’s Word


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In the first volume of his helpful trilogy Building A Godly Home Puritan pastor William Gouge (1575-1653) wrote the following:

The life and power of God’s Word consists in this particular application to ourselves. This is to mix faith with hearing; faith, I say, by which we do not only believe the truth of God’s Word in general, but also believe it to be a truth concerning ourselves in particular. Thus every precept of it will be a good instruction and direction to us to guide us in the way of righteousness, every promise in it will be a great encouragement and consolation to us to uphold us and to make us hold on, and every judgment it threatens will be a curb and bridle to hold us back and to keep us from those sins against which the judgments are threatened.

But otherwise, if we do not bring the Word home into our own souls, it will be as a word spoken into the air (1 Cor. 14:9), vanishing away without any profit to us. Nothing makes the Word less profitable than putting it off from ourselves to others, thinking that it concerns others more than ourselves. (1:157)

God’s Goal


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“Here, then, is the final and eternal consummation of the goal and unifying center of God’s activities. God’s ultimate purpose of receiving exclusive self-glory throughout the entire universe will be realized. Everything and everyone will be in absolute visible conformity to God’s will and design, and all opposition will be incarcerated forever in God’s eternal penitentiary, thereby forcing even from these an everlasting confession that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father‘ (Phil 2:11).” (McCune, Systematic Theology, 1:153-154)

What’s In Your Briefcase?



Tommy Nelson, in his commentary on the OT book of Ecclesiastes, entitled A Life Well Lived, shares the following.

There’s a story about a pastor who was at the airport. At the metal detector, a security guard asked him, “What do you have in that briefcase?”

The minister reply, “In my briefcase I have a plumb line, a measuring rod, a hammer, bread, water, a crystal ball, a compass, a mirror, a sword, and my birth certificate.”

The security guard scoffed. “There’s no way you could get all that into that briefcase.”

The pastor said, “Check for yourself,” and opened the briefcase.

The man looked inside. The only object in there was the pastor’s Bible. (192)

Still More Thoughts on “Christ and Him Crucified”


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Some time ago I posted concerning those who argue that we as pastors should only and always preach the gospel at every service. This mistaken notion is based on a faulty understanding of 1st Corinthians 2:2.

I recently came across these words by John Frame and his teacher Cornelius Van Til in Frame’s Systematic Theology. (878-879)

So we should not take “Christ and him crucified” in a reductive sense, as if our preaching and teaching must be confined to the person of Christ and the atonement. Indeed, Paul in 1 Corinthians and his other writings, as well as his sermons in Acts, discusses many other subjects: factionalism (1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-23), wisdom (1:18-26), the nature of the apostleship (4:1-21), sexual immorality (5:1-13; 6:12-20), lawsuits (6:1-11), marriage (7:1-29), food offered to idols (8:1-11:1), worship (11:1-34; 14:1-40), spiritual gifts (12:1-31), love (13:1-13), our own resurrection (15:1-58), collections for the saints (16:1-4, Paul’s personal plans (16:5-21).  “Christ and him crucified” is not a boundary, but a center. Though Paul speaks of many things, in the end it all traces back to Christ.

For that is the way God has made the world. In Christ “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Without Christ, nothing could be the way it is. But as the world really is, all its affairs, all its objects and forces, trace back to Christ their Creator and Governor. Although Christ entered history at a particular time and place, he governs all times and places. His person and his work apply to every circumstance in nature and history. The story of Christ is a distinct set of events that has limitless applications.

So to be “Christ-centered” is not to speak only of Christ, ignoring all the effects and applications of his work. Christ-centered preaching is not preaching that limits itself to the events of the history of redemption and eschews the applications of his work to marriage, suffering, anxiety, wealth, and poverty. Neither Jesus nor Paul restricted the gospel in that way, and we should not do so either. Christ is a great light that shines into every corner of human life, because he is Lord of all.

And it is possible to look at our message even more broadly. Cornelius Van Til wrote:

Again, there is much in the Scriptures about Christ. After the entrance of sin into the world, Christ is the only way through who God can be known. He is not only the one through whom we can more fully then otherwise known the Father; it is through him alone that we can come to the Father. Furthermore, Christ is God, so that when we know him we know God. In spite of all this it should always be remembered that Christ’s work is a means to an end. Even if we think of the fact that Christ is the second person of the Trinity, we ought still to remember that it is the full Godhead with whom we ultimately have to do and about whom, in the last analysis, we wish to know. Hence, theology is primarily God centered rather than Christ centered. (Van Til, Introduction to Systematic Theology, 1-2, as quoted in Frame)

Changes in Jesus’ Ministry Following His Rejection


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Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his helpful book Israelology, reminds us that Jesus’ ministry changed significantly following His rejection by the Jewish leadership in Matthew 12. Fruchtenbaum highlights four changes. (625-626)

  1. The first change was the purpose of His miracles in that they were no longer for the purpose of serving as signs of His Messiahship to Israel, but were for the purpose of training the apostles for their ministry in the Book of Acts (Matt. 16:1-4).
  2. The second change concerned the people for whom He performed these miracles. Until the events of Matthew 12, Jesus performed miracles for the benefit of the masses without requiring them to have faith first. After Matthew 12, he performed miracles only in response to needs of individuals and began requiring them to have faith first. Furthermore, before Matthew 12, those He healed were free to proclaim what had been done for them; but after Matthew 12, Jesus initiated a policy of silence and forbade those He healed to tell anyone about it (Mark 7:36; Luke 8:56; et al.)
  3. The third change concerned the message that Jesus and the apostles would now proclaim. Until Matthew 12 both He and they went throughout the land of Israel proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah. ... After Matthew 12, the apostles were also ordered to follow the new policy of silence, and they were forbidden to tell anyone that Jesus was the Messiah. In Matthew 16, after Peter made his famous confession, Thou art the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God, Jesus ordered Peter to tell no one that He was the Messiah (Matt. 16:20). They were to follow the policy of silence (Matthew 17:9) until it was rescinded with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
  4. The fourth change concerned His teaching method. Until Matthew 12, whenever Jesus taught the masses, He did so in terms that they could and did understand. ... In Matthew 13, Jesus began teaching with a new method, the parabolic method, the purpose of which was to hide the truth from the masses. The very act of teaching in parables was a sign of judgment against them.

I am grateful for Fruchtenbaum’s book.

People Are Distinct From Animals


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I have been finding Daniel Block’s book For the Glory of God helpful so far. Tucked in the footnotes (that’s correct, there are not those ridiculous endnotes), I found his helpful comparisons of people and animals. He gives two lists: things we share, and distinctions unique to people. (pp. 56-57)

Things people have in common with animals

  1. we were created on day six (Gen. 1:24-31);
  2. we share the divine blessing, and the mandate to multiply and fill the earth (1:22, 28);
  3. we share vegetation as food (1:29-30);
  4. we trace our origin to the earth itself (2:5-7; cf. 1:24); and
  5. we share the generic classification “living creatures” (nepes hayya, 2:7; cf. 1:20, 21, 24)

Things that make people distinct from animals

  1. We humans were created last;
  2. we alone are presented as the product of divine deliberation (Gen. 1:26);
  3. the description of our creation is more intensive and extensive than that of any other element of creation (vv. 26-30);
  4. our creation is described with bara, a word that always involves a special creative act of God (cf. 1, 27 [3x]);
  5. our status is defined as “the image of God” (selem elohim, 1:26-28);
  6. God blessed us and authorized us to govern the created world (v. 28);
  7. after we were created, YHWH pronounced the world extremely good (tob me’od, v. 31); and
  8. God did not celebrate by sanctifying the seventh day until we were created.

This has been a helpful book so far, and I look forward to working my way through it as I find time.

Are We Inherently Lovable?


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I am thankful I picked up the trilogy by pastor William Gouge (1575-1653) on Building a Godly Home. Gouge served at St. Ann Blackfriars in London for 45 years and was a member of the Westminster Assembly (hence the shadows of covenant theology on the pages). The recently updated version by Reformation Heritage Books is a helpful resource for pastors, people who do premarital counseling, and church members who want to strengthen their marriages and families.

This morning I read the following in the first volume, A Holy Vision for Family Life:

However, we shall find the ground of God’s love rests altogether in Himself and in His own good pleasure. That Christ might sanctify the church being noted as the end of His love, it further shows that it was not any foresight of holiness in the church that moved Him to love it. First He loved it, and then sought how to make it lovely and worthy to be loved.

Here Christ’s love differs from the love of all men toward their spouses, for they must see something in them to move them to love. … But Christ first loves His spouse, and then sanctifies her. Before He loved her, He saw nothing in her why He should choose her above all the world.

Seeing that “of him, and through him, and to him” is all the beauty and dignity of the church, “the glory be to him forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36) (1:63)

This is entirely consistent with God’s love for the nation of Israel described in Deuteronomy 7:7-8. What grace is this!

Top 5 Posts for 2015


According to the stats page in WordPress, the following 5 posts were the most read in 2015.

  1. Dealing with Scoffers and Scoffing
  2. When You Don’t Feel Connected at Church
  3. God Estranged From God
  4. Disillusioned With Your Minister or Disillusioned in Ministry?
  5. God is Revealed by the Absence of God

Thanks for stopping by to read what are intended to be Godward posts that encourage you in the work of God.

What City is God’s City?


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From time to time we hear folks say something like, “This is God’s country,” referring to a particular state in the US or perhaps a particular portion of that state. I have found it curious that those who make such a pronouncement usually have a special affection for that same location. Funny how that works.

But can we, as Bible-believing people, say that a particular place on this planet is God’s? The answer to that is a resounding, Yes! Let me hasten to add that not everyone on planet Earth will appreciate the Biblical answer to that question. I can live with that.

Renald Showers, in his helpful book The Coming Apocalypse, addresses the harmful theological position known as Replacement Theology or Supersessionism. In chapter 4, Showers writes the following:

Without a doubt, Jerusalem has greater significance to God than any other city in the world.

God declared, “This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her” (Ezek. 5:5). In other words, God is the One who determined where Jerusalem was to be located.

Jerusalem is the city where God chose “to put His name” (1 Ki. 14:21). He did not choose to put His name in any other city.

God desired and chose Jerusalem to be the city where He would dwell forever (Ps.132:13-14). He never desires or chose to dwell in any other city forever.

God’s Shekinah Glory dwelt in the Temple at Jerusalem (2 Chr. 7:1-3). So God was dwelling there in a unique sense at Jerusalem.

God called Jerusalem “My city” (Isa. 45:13). Notice the possessive pronoun My. He indicated that Jerusalem belonged uniquely to Him.

Jerusalem was called “the city of our God” (Ps. 48:1). This was the psalmist’s way of acknowledging that Jerusalem belonged uniquely to God.

The Bible calls Jerusalem “the holy city” (Isa. 52:1; Mt. 4:5). The word translated “holy” means “divided.” To be holy is to be divided from other persons and things–divided in the sense of being different, distinct, or unique. Thus, when the Bible calls Jerusalem “the holy city,” it means God divided that city from all other cities of the world. He divided, or set it apart, to be different, distinct, or unique in contrast with all other cities.

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified outside the ancient city of Jerusalem (Heb. 13:12).

God’s Son was resurrected bodily from the dead outside Jerusalem (Jn. 19:41).

God’s Son ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem (Acts 1:4, 9, 12).

The church was born in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-5).

These biblical facts indicate that the city of Jerusalem has overwhelming significance to God. It is uniquely related to Him in ways that are not true of any other city in the world. (76-77)


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