No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones.
In hard, cold reality, a person rarely seeks divorce for the well-being of the children. What is distressing about this myth is not so much the fallacy of it as its blatant hypocrisy. If people were really concerned for the well-being of their children, I would think they would move heaven and earth to transcend their false dilemma and move in the direction of responsible parenthood. With the use of this myth as a justification for divorce, humankind exposes its capacity for calling good evil and evil good. Here an act of selfishness is painted or portrayed as a noble act of self-sacrifice for the good of the children.
[Within the Holy Trinity] we see that in principle the notion of subordination does not carry with it the notion of inferiority… Christ willingly submitted to the Father, without a word of protest. It is precisely that willingness that we are called to imitate in submitting ourselves to authority.
It is the chief ministry of God the Holy Spirit to bring people to God the Son and apply His work to them. In a true outpouring of the Holy Spirit people are never led to a unitarianism of the Third Person of the Trinity. A preoccupation with the Holy Spirit without a view of Christ is not the desire of the Holy Spirit Himself.
The modern movement of worship is designed to break down barriers between man and God, to remove the veil, as it were, from the fearsome holiness of God, which might cause us to tremble. It is designed to make us feel comfortable.
Indeed, it’s a misnomer to call [pluralism] a system, because it is the idea of a consistent, coherent view of truth that is unacceptable to the pluralist.
Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.
When the Bible speaks of patience…it speaks of it as a virtue that goes far beyond the mere ability to await some future gain. It involves more than the rest or peace of the soul that trusts in God’s perfect timing. The patience that is in view here focuses more on interpersonal relationships with other people. It is the patience of longsuffering and of forbearing in the midst of personal injury. This is the most difficult patience of all.
The grand paradox or supreme irony of the Christian faith is that we are saved both by God and from God.
In every marriage that ends in disaster, some stupid decisions were made with respect to God’s regulations. If God’s regulations were followed scrupulously, not only would there be no divorces; there would be no unhappy marriages. To violate the regulations of God is not only an exercise in disobedience but also an exercise in foolishness. If you want a happy marriage, the most intelligent thing you can do is to submit to God’s regulations. They are designed to promote and protect your full happiness.
All authority is under Christ. When we disobey lesser authorities, we are guilty of disobeying Christ. You cannot serve the King and honor His authority by rebelling against His appointed governors. To say you honor the kingdom of Christ while you disobey His authority structure is to be guilty not only of hypocrisy but of cosmic treason.
How desperately sad is the fact that the church is known by schism, not unity; ignorance, not knowledge; and indecisiveness rather than maturity. How it must break God’s heart to see us continue in such a poverty stricken condition in light of what He has done, stands ready to do, has the resources to accomplish, and has defined as our calling in Christ.
The invisible church refers to those persons who are truly redeemed, truly regenerate and spiritually united with Christ. The invisible church is distinguished from the visible church because no man can read another person’s heart. We look on the outward appearance, but God alone can read the heart.
The first thing to understand about anger is that it isn’t always a bad thing. Many people, especially Christians, have the mistaken notion that anger is intrinsically evil. As a result, they feel needless guilt. The idea that a Christian is never allowed to be angry is a demonic myth that tends to produce neurotic anxiety. I’ve had to struggle with this myth nearly all my life.
Faith…involves trusting in the future promises of God and waiting for their fulfillment.
Longsuffering, forbearing patience is to be the Christian’s reflection of the character of God. It is part of God’s character to be slow to anger and quick to be merciful. Part of the incomprehensibility of God in terms of my own relationship with Him is this: I cannot fathom how a holy God has been able to put up with me marring His creation to the degree I have for three score and five years. For me to live another day requires a continuation of God’s gracious patience with my sin… It becomes even more difficult to fathom when we see a sinless Being being more patient with sinful beings that sinful beings are with each other.
As the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, so the denial of God is the height of foolishness.
A married person does not live in isolation. He or she has made a promise, a pledge, a vow, to another person. Until that vow is fulfilled and the promise is kept, the individual is in debt to his marriage partner. That is what he owes. “You owe it to yourself” is not a valid excuse for breaking a marriage vow but a creed of selfishness.
In America, we have a long history of valuing the concept of the separation of church and state. This idea historically referred to a division of labors between the church and the civil magistrate. However, initially both the church and the state were seen as entities ordained by God and subject to His governance. In that sense, the state was considered to be an entity that was “under God.” What has happened in the past few decades is the obfuscation of this original distinction between church and state, so that today the language we hear of separation of church and state, when carefully exegeted, communicates the idea of the separation of the state from God. In this sense, it’s not merely that the state declares independence from the church, it also declares independence from God and presumes itself to rule with autonomy.
The Bible calls us to be like children in two specific ways: First, Jesus says that unless we approach the kingdom of God as little children, we will never enter it (Matthew 18:3). That is, we are to approach the kingdom of God with a simple, childlike trust in God. The second way in which the Scripture directs us to be children is, “In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (I Corinthians 14:20).
If indeed Christ provided a propitiation and expiation for all human beings and for all their sins, then, clearly, all persons would be saved. Universal atonement, if it is actual, and not merely potential, means universal salvation. However, the overwhelming majority of Christians who reject limited atonement also reject universal salvation. They are particularists, not universalists.
If you are of the truth, if you have learned the truth, if you see the sanctity of the truth, then speak truth. We are not called to be deceivers or liars. God is a God of truth, and His people are called to have an enormously high standard of truth.
[God] has no malice in His purity, no maliciousness in His actions. God does not “delight” in the death of the wicked – even though He decrees it. His judgments upon evil are rooted in His righteousness, not in some distorted malice in His character. Like an earthly judge weeps when he sends the guilty for punishment, God rejoices in the justness of it but gets no glee from the pain of those justly punished.
So often when we struggle with the doctrine of predestination and election it is because our eyes are always fixed on the difficulty of resolving predestination with human freedom. The Bible, however, links them with salvation, which every Christian should find enormously comforting. Salvation is not an afterthought of God. The redemption of His people, the salvation of His church, my eternal salvation, these actions are not a postscript to the Divine activity. Instead, from the very foundation of the world, God had a sovereign plan to save a significant portion of the human race, and He moves heaven and earth to bring it to pass.
God is not required to seek the sinner’s permission for doing with the sinner what He pleases.
In almost every prayer that Jesus utters in the New Testament, He addresses God as Father… This represents a radical departure from Jewish custom and tradition. Though Jewish people were given a lengthy number of appropriate titles for God in personal prayer, significantly absent from the approved list was the title “Father”… The serious reaction against Jesus by His contemporaries indicated that they heard in His addressing God as Father a blasphemous utterance by which Jesus was presuming, by this term of address, a certain equality that He enjoyed with the Father.
Creedal statements are an attempt to show a coherent and unified understanding of the whole scope of Scripture.
It is possible to have a sound theology without having a sound life. But we cannot have a sound life without having a sound theology.
[People often say], “Christ’s atonement was sufficient for all, but efficient only for some.” What does this mean? The Calvinist would interpret this axiom to mean that the value of Christ’s sacrifice is so high, His merit so extensive, that its worth is equal to cover all the sins of the human race. But the atonement’s benefits are only effective for believer’s, the elect. The non-Calvinistic interprets this axiom in slightly different terms: Christ’s atonement was good enough to save everyone – and was intended to make salvation possible for everyone. But that intent is realized only by believers. The atonement is efficient [or “works”] only for those who receive its benefits by faith.
Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace and God’s grace alone for our salvation. It is difficult for our pride to rest on grace. Grace is for other people – for beggars. We don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there.
God is not obligated to save anybody, to make any special act of grace, to draw anyone to Himself. He could leave the whole world to perish, and such would be a righteous judgment.
The reason for election is not my foreseen righteousness; or my foreseen obedience; or my foreseen response to the gospel…the only reason to be found in Scripture that explains why God elects people for salvation… that God has done this in accordance with His pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5).
It is clear that however we define a miracle we must place the alleged miracles of today in a different class, or category, from those recorded in the Scriptures. No one is bringing something out of nothing these days—unless it is the currency produced by the federal government!
We go back to creation and we see that man is made in the image and in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26, 27), not in the sense that God has a body, but in terms of our nature. You are called to be living images that reflect and communicate the character of God Himself.
The law of God was not designed by a capricious tyrant in order to keep his people miserable.
If God is able to make everything that happens to us work together for our good, then ultimately everything that happens to us is good. We must be careful to use the word ultimately. On the earthly plane things that happen to us may indeed be evil… Yet God in His goodness transcends all these things and works them out to our good. For the Christian, ultimately, there are no tragedies.
For the soul of a person to be inflamed with passion for the living God, that person’s mind must first be informed about the character and will of God. There can be nothing in the heart that is not first in the mind. Though it is possible to have theology on the head without its piercing the soul, it cannot pierce the soul without first being grasped by the mind.
The real issue was the design, or purpose, of God’s plan in laying upon His Son the burden of the Cross. Was it God’s purpose simply to make salvation possible for all but certain for none? Did God have to wait to see if any would respond to Christ to make His atonement efficient? Was it theoretically possible that Jesus would die “for all” yet never see the fruit of His travail and be satisfied? Or was it God’s eternal purpose and design of the Cross to make salvation certain for His elect? Was there a special sense in which Christ died for His own, for the sheep the Father had given Him?
When a person becomes a Christian and has authentic faith, he has a real mystical union with Christ, so that Christ really comes to indwell the believer. When we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, His righteousness is counted towards us and we are justified. At that same moment, Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, comes to dwell inside of us.
The Reformation was not merely a Great Awakening; it was the Greatest Awakening to the true Gospel since the Apostolic Age.
When you feel depressed, it helps to actively change your environment. Go and do something different. Martin Luther conquered his depression by going outside to work in his garden. Surprisingly enough, one of the best ways to handle depression is to go to work immediately on the task you least enjoy. (The chances are your depression is caused by guilt feelings arising out of neglect of those tasks.)
Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy, that the whole earth is full of His glory.
A few years ago at a Christian bookseller’s convention, with several thousand people present, one Christian group did a survey asking people to define the gospel. A hundred people responded. Those who sponsored the survey looked at the responses, and only one out a hundred qualified as an adequate description of the gospel. People think that the gospel is having a warm relationship with Jesus, or asking Christ into your heart. Those things are important, but that is not the gospel. The gospel has a clear content that focuses on the person of Christ, the work of Christ, and how the benefits of Christ are appropriated into the Christian’s life by faith.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). This is a service and an act of worship that the woman gives to the Lord Himself. It is the Lord’s will that the wife be submissive to her husband, and if she want to honor Christ, then one of the concrete ways she does this is by being in submission to her husband. If a woman is contentious and refuses to follow the leadership of her husband, she is in rebellion, not simply against him, but also against Christ.
To solve a marriage problem, you have to talk with each other about it, choosing wisely the time and place. But when accusations and lengthy speeches of defense fill the dialogue, the partners are not talking to each other but past each other. Take care to listen more than you speak. If you still can’t agree on a solution, consider asking a third party, without a vested interest, to mediate.
To announce to people indiscriminately that God loves them “unconditionally” (without carefully distinguishing among the distinctive types of divine love) is to promote a perilous false sense of security in the hearers.
In the Old Testament the idea of ascending was linked to two activities. First, it described drawing near to the presence of God. The Tabernacle was set on a hill and people went up to it. Later, the Temple was built on a mountain in Jerusalem and there is a section in the Book of Psalms, called the Psalms of Ascent (120-134), which describe the worshippers’ approach to the Temple at the festival periods of Israel. So Jesus, when He ascended, entered God’s presence.
Perhaps the reason you feel guilty is because you are guilty. The answer to your guilt problem is not rationalization or self-justification, but forgiveness. The price of forgiveness is repentance. Without it there is no forgiveness and no relief from the reality of guilt.
When the New Testament speaks of the church’s glory, it is speaking of its dignity. By analogy, the husband is called to give himself to the purpose of establishing his wife in the fullness of dignity. When he uses his authority to destroy his wife’s dignity, he becomes the direct antithesis of Christ. He mirrors not Christ but the Antichrist.
Like Muslims we assume that God will judge us “on balance.” If our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we will arrive safely in heaven. But, alas, if our evil deeds outweigh our good ones, we will suffer the wrath of God in hell. We may be “marred” by sin but in no wise devastated by it. We still have the ability to balance our sins with our own righteousness. This is the most monstrous lie of all.
The church is the most important organization in the world. It is the target of every demonic, hostile attack in the universe. Jesus personally guaranteed that the gates of hell will never prevail against the church. He made no guarantee that the gates of hell would not be unleashed against it, however.
Christ told his disciples not to be anxious about tomorrow, but he never said not to consider tomorrow. Intelligent problem solving demands careful consideration of the future effects of present solutions.
To submit to anyone less than Christ is difficult in a marriage. Yet it is Christ who commands women to be submissive to their sinful, fallible husbands. In this sense Christ is the silent partner of the marriage. It is hard for a wife to submit when she disagrees with her husband. But when she knows her submission is an act of obedience to Christ and honors Christ, it is much less difficult.
The first negative judgment we find in Holy Writ is a judgment on loneliness. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
It is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15).
One of the most difficult things to admit or to understand is that there is probably nothing that a man wants more from his wife than her admiration. There is probably nothing that a woman wants more from her husband than his attention, taking her seriously and treating her with the greatest dignity. Here what we are getting at is the question of respect. If I exercise my headship over my wife in a tyrannical way, I am not respecting my wife. If my wife gives slavish obedience to me without any love, she is not respecting me. The whole basis of the relationship is built upon love, cherishing and respecting one another.
The biblical union of two people into one flesh did not involve the annihilation of personal identity. The unity of marriage is not to be monistic but a unity in duality.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the fourteenth question, “What is sin?” by the response, “Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God.” Here we see sin described both in terms of passive and active disobedience. We speak of sins of commission and sins of omission. When we fail to do what God requires, we see this lack of conformity to His will. But not only are we guilty of failing to do what God requires, we also actively do what God prohibits. Thus, sin is a transgression against the law of God.
The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Book that informs us of the identity of the real, historical Jesus. Scripture works hard to set forth the real Christ. The creeds are merely attempts to preserve this biblical portrait and to protect it from distortions. When a person says, “All I need to know is Jesus – doctrine isn’t important,” we should immediately ask in reply, “Who is Jesus?” The moment a person begins to answer that question; the person is inescapably involved with doctrine.
The more I learn about God, the more aware I become of what I don’t know about Him.
The greatest awakening in the history of the church took place when…(preachers) were bold enough to proclaim the Word of God and saw their task to be presenting the unembellished, undiluted, unvarnished Word of God. That is why they pored over the texts of Scripture, being careful of their exegesis before they entered the pulpit. Because that was the center of their task, they were fearless. Their fearlessness, their boldness, their courage came from the conviction that what they were preaching and teaching was the Word of God.
The Christian life requires hard work. Our sanctification is a process wherein we are coworkers with God. We have the promise of God’s assistance in our labor, but His divine help does not annul our responsibility to work (Phil. 2:12-13).
The union of believers is grounded in the mystical union of Christ and His Church. The Bible speaks of a two-way transaction that occurs when a person is regenerated. Every converted person becomes “in Christ” at the same time Christ enters into the believer. If I am in Christ and you are in Christ, and if He is in us, then we experience a profound unity in Christ.
The Father did not strip the Son of His eternal glory but the Son agreed to lay it aside temporarily for the sake of our salvation (Jn. 17:1-5).
Man and woman are one in essence. That is to say, Adam and Eve are equal in dignity, value, and glory. In essential unity there is absolutely no room for inferiority of person. The man and woman are equal in every respect except one – authority. Two different tasks are given to people of equal value and dignity. In the economy of marriage, only the job descriptions are different.
Jim Boice had all the academic credentials a person could ever want to go to the top of the ladder in the academic world, but that was not his call. His call was to be a pastor. For over thirty years he broke open the Word of God in his preaching, in his teaching, and in his writings. Fidelity to Scripture is what drove him, and a more courageous Christian I have never met.
Touching His human nature, Jesus is no longer present with us. Touching his Divine nature, He is never absent from us.
To the Christian, doctrine is unavoidable. Ours is never a choice between doctrine and no doctrine, but between sound doctrine and false doctrine. This is nowhere more urgent than when we are talking about the Christ, who is the object of our faith.
Man’s will is free to follow his inclinations, but fallen man’s inclinations are always and invariably away from God.
Something terrible has happened to us. We have lost all desire for God. The thoughts and desires of our heart are only evil continuously. The freedom of our will is a curse. Because we can still choose according to our desires, we choose sin and this we become accountable to the judgment of God.
The most effective churches that I know are churches where the ministerial staff devote many hours in training and mobilizing their congregations to be mighty armies of saints, as they minister to a dying world.
The visible church may be distressingly and sorely fractured and fragmented into all different kinds of denominations and groups, but the invisible church is the true body of Christ. Everyone who is in Christ, and in whom Christ dwells, is a member of this one universal church.
Claims to special divine revelations are not so much a sign of super-spirituality as they are of evangelical or pietistic megalomania. The days of prophets and apostles, genuine agents of revelation, are past. Such claims today are spurious and exceedingly dangerous.
Rebirth or regeneration is monergistic, not synergistic. It is done by God and by God alone. A dead man cannot cooperate with his resurrection. Lazarus did not cooperate in his resurrection. Regeneration is a sovereign act of God in which man plays no role. After God brings us to life, of course, we certainly are involved in “cooperating” with Him. We are to believe, trust, obey, and work for Him. But unless God acts first, we will never be reborn in the first place. We must also realize it is not as if dead people have faith, and because of their faith God agrees to regenerate them. Rather, it is because God has regenerated us and given us new life that we have faith.
We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to give all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about.
We tend to be far more ungenerous in forgiving others than God is in forgiving us. If God were to be as reluctant to forgive as we are in forgiving those who sin against us, we would be in serious trouble. As Christians we are forgiven people. We are likewise called to be forgiving people. Jesus clearly sets forth an ethic of charity in His teaching and in His behavior with those who wrong us. An unwillingness to forgive clearly has no place in the kingdom, and may in fact signal that such a one has not experienced the initial forgiveness of God in his or her life.
For every truth there is a corresponding falsehood. A Christian is known not only by what he believes or affirms, but also by what he rejects and denies.
Anger is [not] in itself sinful, but…it may be the occasion for sin. The issue of self-control is the question of how we deal with anger. Violence, tantrums, bitterness, resentment, hostility, and even withdrawn silence are all sinful responses to anger.
If the final decision for the salvation of fallen sinners were left in the hands of fallen sinners, we would despair all hope that anyone would be saved.
In his systematic theology, Charles Hodge lists eight promises the Father gives to the Son in (the covenant of redemption) made in eternity. Briefly they are: that God would form a purified church for His Son; that the Son would receive the Spirit without measure; that He would be ever-present to support Him; that He would deliver Him from death and exalt Him to His right hand; that He would have the Holy Spirit to send to whom He willed; that all the Father gave to Him would come to Him and none of these be lost; that multitudes would partake of His redemption and His messianic kingdom; that He would see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
The visible church refers to the institution called ‘the church’ that has visible participants whose names appear on the roll of a local congregation. In most churches anyone who makes an outward profession of faith (and meets other criteria for membership) is admitted to active fellowship in the visible church.
God has made us with a harmony of heart and head, of thought and action… The more we know Him the more we are able to love Him. The more we love Him the more we seek to know Him. To be central in our hearts He must be foremost in our minds. Religious thought is the prerequisite to religious affection and obedient action.
Our natural prejudgment of reality is against God. To receive the truth of God requires that our “anti” bias be changed. The key work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is not giving new knowledge to the brain but changing the disposition of the heart. Before the Spirit turns that heart of stone into a heart of flesh, we have no desire for the things of God. We may desire the blessings that only God can give us, but we have no affection for the things of God. At the moment of regeneration, the eyes of the heart are opened somewhat, but this is just the beginning. The whole Christian life involves an unfolding and enlarging of the heart’s openness to the things of God.
We must keep the law of God before the people so that they may lay hold of the gospel… If all you preach is the “good news,” and you never preach the “bad news,” the “good news” becomes “no news,” and it is not significant to people.
People only have true understanding (wisdom) when they look at everything from God’s perspective. Authentic wisdom begins when we understand that God is to be the object of our devotion, our adoration, and our reverence (Psalm 111:6).
Just as there are no ultimate tragedies for the believer, so for the impenitent unbeliever there are no ultimate blessings. Every good gift God bestows upon the wicked, for which the wicked do not glorify God or acknowledge His goodness with gratitude and worship, becomes a tragedy. The more gifts God gives that are despised by the recipient, the more guilt is incurred, so that, to the wicked, on Judgment Day the gifts of God’s kindness become tragedies.
The idea of sola Scriptura is that there is only one written source of divine revelation, which can never be placed on a parallel status with confessional statements, creeds, or the traditions of the church. Scripture alone has the authority to bind the conscience precisely because only Scripture is the written revelation of almighty God.
[We without God have] wills that choose…the problem is that even though we have the power to choose, we are dead to the things of God, and as a result have no desire for the things of God. Rather, we follow a different course. We follow it willfully; we follow it freely, in the sense of doing what we want to do. But with respect to spiritual things, we are dead.
If God takes our idle words seriously, how much more seriously does He take those words spoken with forethought? And if He takes our normal statements seriously, how much more seriously does He take our promises, especially when those promises are raised to the level of the formal vow?