The world rests on revelation

holding-bible-lr

The world itself rests on revelation; revelation is the presupposition, the foundation, the secret of all that exists in all its forms. The deeper science pushes its investigations, the more clearly will it discover that revelation underlies all created being. In every moment of time beats the pulse of eternity; every point in space is filled with the omnipresence of God; the finite is supported by the infinite, all becoming is rooted in being. Together with all created things, that special revelation which comes to us in the Person of Christ is built on these presuppositions.

The foundations of creation and redemption are the same. The Logos who became flesh is the same by whom all things were made. The first-born from the dead is also the first-born of every creature. The Son, whom the Father made heir of all things, is the same by whom he also made the worlds. Notwithstanding the separation wrought by sin, there is a progressive approach of God to his creatures. The transcendence does not cease to exist, but becomes an ever deeper immanence. But as a disclosure of the greatness of God’s heart, special revelation far surpasses general revelation, which makes known to us the power of his mind. General revelation leads to special, special revelation points back to general.

The one calls for the other, and without it remains imperfect and unintelligible. Together they proclaim the manifold wisdom which God has displayed in creation and redemption.

Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation, pp. 27-28

Links I like

Why Do So Many People Hate Optimists?

David Murray:

Reuters blogger Zachary Karabell has never had so much hate mail in his life. His offense? Highlighting some good news here and there which may indicate the US and World economy is turning the corner.

His “pen-pals” don’t just disagree with him. They hate him. He says he wouldn’t mind people saying he’s wrong, or even ridiculing him, but it’s the rage he was unprepared for. He tries to explain this inexplicable hostility…

Your Systematic Theology is Showing

Barnabas Piper:

Systematic Theology is math, a skeleton. It is a system of organizing thoughts so that finite minds can begin to understand an infinite God (in a distinctly western way, mind you). Systematic theology is a support system for the reality of relationship with God. Too often, though, it is put forth as the face of faith instead of being the framework of it. All the “ologies” (soteriology, eschatology, pneumatology, Christology, etc.) you know are not your relationship with God. They are not the true story of God. They support those things for you. They need muscles and veins and organs and skin to make them alive, to adorn them in beauty.

Get The Holy Spirit teaching series in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Holy Spirit teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Why We Trust the Bible teaching series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards by various authors (ePub)
  • Believing God by R.C. Sproul Jr. (ePub)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

14 Resolutions for Writers

Nicholas McDonald:

Okay, it’s a new year, and aspiring writers world-wide are mentally gearing up for finally taking the plunge into Wonderland – being published. Here are some motivational ideas to jot down before you move ahead.

The Promise of Place

Lore Ferguson:

The truth is I feel misplaced these days. Misplaced by God, misplaced by men, misplaced, mostly, by myself. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin, but these past months I have felt a foreigner even to myself.

God cannot be manipulated

Paul preaching at Athens by Raphael

Paul preaching at Athens by Raphael

Paul was a first-century preacher who appeared on the scene shortly after Jesus was crucified and came back to life again. He wrote about one quarter of the New Testament. He was especially gifted when it came to announcing the God of the Bible to the polytheists who dominated the culture of the Roman imperial world. So we find him, for example, in the great city of Athens, carefully explaining what a difference it makes to see that there is but one God and that he cannot be manipulated. At the time Athens had the reputation of being the most learned city in the Roman world, followed by Alexandria in Egypt.

When Paul gives his address to some philosophers and teachers in Athens, he explains what he holds to be the truth. Theirs is a world of gods, and the very nature of their religion is “you scratch my back, I scratch your back.” But Paul says, “The God who made the world and everything in it [thus you find him articulating the Bible’s teaching about creation from Genesis 1–2] is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands” (Acts 17:24). Paul does not mean that God may not disclose himself in a temple if he chooses to do so. What he means is that God cannot be reduced to the temple where he is manipulated and domesticated by a priestly class. You cannot get him into a position where you can manipulate him to do your will by providing cash to a certain class of priests, connected with a temple, who are allegedly experts in figuring out what the gods want. The God of the Bible is too big for that; he made everything, he is sovereign over the whole lot, and he cannot be manipulated.

D.A. Carson, The God Who is There, (46)

Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament?

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34)

In the above video, Mark Driscoll does a really good job introducing six general categories explaining what Jesus meant when He said in numerous places like Luke 18:31-34 about how the Scriptures testify to Him (the full message has his full explanation).

1. Christophanies. These are the appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament before His incarnation. In these Jesus frequently appears as “The Angel of the Lord” (which is different than “AN angel of the Lord”). Passages to study include: Judges 2:1-5; Joshua 5:13-15; Isa. 6:1-13.

2. Types. Old Testament representative figures and institutions that foreshadowed Jesus. These include the tabernacle, the sacrificial system (now you’ve got a reason to go read Leviticus!), the prophets, priests and kings (esp. David & Solomon). Key prophetic ministries to study are Elijah and Elisha.

3. Analogous service. These are people who do things that ultimately Jesus does perfectly and completely. TIm Keller & Sinclair Ferguson do a brilliant job explaining these here.

4. Events that prophesy the coming of Jesus.This would include the Exodus—particularly the Passover—where the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. The entire book of Exodus gives us a glimpse of what Christ came to do. As the people crossed the Red Sea, they were crossing from death to life. Death awaiting them at the hands of Pharaoh’s army to life in the land God had promised. In Christ, we cross from death in our sins to eternal life with Him.

5. Titles that refer to Jesus. These are titles for God in the Old Testament that refer to Jesus. Redeemer, Savior, Lord of Glory, Husband/Bridegroom, Light, Rock, Shepherd and Son of Man are among those titles.

6. Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Different from category 4 which are events that point to Him, these are prophecies about Jesus directly. These include Isa. 7:14-15, 52:13-53:12; Psalm 110; Deut. 18:14-22 among others.

I hope having a sense of these broad categories will help you to see Jesus as you read the Old Testament.

Sanctification: Progressive and Imperfect

Sanctification is always a progressive work. Some men’s graces are in the blade, some in the ear, and some are like full corn in the ear. All must have a beginning. We must never despise “the day of small things.” And sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a “but,” and “howbeit,” and “notwithstanding,” before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross—the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem. The sun himself has spots on his face. The holiest men have many a blemish and defect when weighted in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome. The flesh is ever lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and “in many things they offend all” (Gal. 5:17; James 3:2).

But still, for all this, I am sure that to have such a character as I have faintly drawn [of holiness], is the heart’s desire and prayer of all true Christians. They press towards it, if they do not reach it. They may not attain to it, but they always aim at it. It is what they strive and labour to be, if it is not what they are.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, as published in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 144

The Sincerity of Our Profession and the State of Our Hearts

The sincerity of our profession much depends upon the care we exercise in keeping our hearts. Most certainly, that man who is careless of the frame of his heart, is but a hypocrite in his profession, however eminent he be in the externals of religion. . . . It is true, there is great difference between Christians themselves in their diligence and dexterity about heart work; some are more conversant with, and more successful in it than others: but he that takes no heed to his heart, that is not careful to order it aright before God, is but a hypocrite. “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetous.” Here was a company of formal hypocrites, as is evident from that expression, as my people; like them, but not of them. And what made them so? Their outside was fair; here were reverent postures, high professions, much seeming delight in ordinances;” thou art to them as a lovely song:” yea; but for all that they kept not their hearts with God in those duties; their hearts were commanded by their lusts, they went after their covetousness. Had they kept their hearts with God, all had been well: but not regarding which way their hearts went in duty, there lay the essence of their hypocrisy.

If any upright soul should hence infer, ‘I am a hypocrite too, for many times my heart departs from God in duty; do what I can, yet I cannot hold it close with God: ‘I answer, the very objection carries in it its own solution. Thou sayest, ‘Do what I can, yet I cannot keep my heart with God.’ Soul, if thou doest what thou canst, thou hast the blessing of an upright, though God sees good to exercise thee under the affliction of a discomposed heart.

There still remains some wildness in the thoughts and fancies of the best to humble them; but if you find a care before to prevent them, and opposition against them when they come, and grief and sorrow afterward, you find enough to clear you from the charge of reigning hypocrisy. This precaution is seen partly in laying up the word in thy heart to prevent them. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Partly in your endeavors to engage your heart to God; and partly in begging preventing grace from God in your commencement of duty. It is a good sign to exercise such precaution. And it is an evidence of uprightness, to oppose these sins in their first rise. “I hate vain thoughts.” “The spirit lusteth against the flesh.” Thy grief also discovers the uprightness of thy heart. If with Hezekiah thou art humbled for the evils of thy heart, thou hast no reason, from those disorders, to question the integrity of it; but to suffer sin to lodge quietly in the heart, to let thy heart habitually and without control wander from God, is a sad, a dangerous symptom indeed.

John Flavel, On Keeping the Heart (Kindle Edition, location 179)

Book Review: But God by Casey Lute

“But God…”

You wouldn’t think that two little words would carry so much weight, would you? Yet, it’s on these two words that so much of the Bible—even the gospel itself—hinges. Casey Lute gets this, and in “But God…”: The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel, he walks readers through the Scriptures to show us just how important these words are.

And important they are. Over and over again, we see in Scripture how “But God” serves as a turning point in God’s saving work among fallen humanity. Indeed, Lute writes, “It is the perfect phrase for highlighting the grace of God against the dark backdrop of human sin” (p. 5).

From the flood account of Genesis 6-8, to the Exodus and God’s preservation of His stiff-necked people, the promise of a better sacrifice in Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead, to His saving for Himself a people from among all the nations and his preservation of them until the end, “But God” lies at the heart of all God’s work in history. These words show us how God saves, the salvation He offers and how He applies that salvation to His people.

In a word, it’s grace.

Lute does an exceptional job of illustrating this reality, particularly in the earliest chapters of the book as he delves into the flood account. Often, we hear or read the story of Noah as little more than “Noah was a good man among a sea of bad men, so God used him to build the ark.” Lute is quick to observe that this is not the case. He writes:

[T]he flood story is about God’s grace. Even the first significant statement made about Noah tells us more about God’s grace than about Noah himself: “So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:7–8). The word “favor” might not seem especially meaningful to us, but the Hebrew word translated here as “favor” can also be translated as “grace.” In fact, the King James Version translators used that very word, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (p. 15)

I’ve heard a number of preachers make this point—that “favor” can be translated as “grace.” That understanding helps bring a greater understanding of the story’s place in the scope of redemptive history. It’s not that Noah was a good guy among a bunch of bad guys, it’s that he was a bad guy to whom God showed grace—and through him, God saved for Himself a remnant. It’s an amazing illustration of God’s grace that is too easy to overlook.

At this point, I’ve read or reviewed nearly every title that’s been released from Cruciform Press. In doing so, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern that is perhaps best evidenced in “But God…”.

That is the strength of brevity.

Because “But God…” and all of the publisher’s titles are held to a strict word count, their authors are not afforded room to meander. They have to get to the point, which (I know from experience) can prove difficult. But in this book’s case, the result is a refreshingly concise, yet comprehensive biblical theology of grace that left this reader more in awe of the grace of God. I’d highly encourage any reader to get a copy of this book and discover for yourselves the importance of the words “But God.”


Title: “But God…”: The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel
Author: Casey Lute
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2011)

An advanced electronic copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

Who Are The Saducees?

We talk a lot about Pharasaicalism within Christianity. We don’t want to seem cold and legalistic in our faith. We don’t want to be judgmental… but what ever happened to the Sadducees?

Does they (or their ethic) still exist—and if so, what do they look like?

J.C. Ryle offers this insight:

We have . . . a school of men who, wittingly or unwittingly, appear to pave the way to Socianism*—a school which holds strange views about the plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture—strange views about the doctrine of sacrifice, and the Atonement of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—strange views about the eternity of punishment, and God’s love to man—a school strong in negatives but very weak in positives—skilful in raising doubts, but impotent in laying them—clever in unsettling and unscrewing men’s faith, but powerless to offer any firm rest for the sole of our foot . . . on them has fallen the mantle of the Sadducees…

I consider the most dangerous champion of the Sadducee school is not the man who tells you openly that he wants you . . . to become a free-thinker and a skeptic. It is the man who begins with quietly insinuating doubts . . . whether we ought to be so positive in saying “This is the truth, and that falsehood,” doubts whether we ought to think men wrong who differ from us on religious opinions, since they may after all be as much right as we are. . . . It is the man who always begins talking in a vague way about God being a God of love, and hints that we ought to believe perhaps that all men, whatever doctrine they profess, will be saved.

J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied, as quoted in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, pp. 38-39

*Socianism was a form of unitarian teaching that denied original sin, the immortality of man, the divinity of Jesus and the significance of his death as a penal sacrifice for sin.

Around the Interweb

Fearful Might, Majestic Love

My first article for The Gospel Coalition Voices blog:

When a natural disaster strikes, whether last week’s tornadoes or last month’s earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan, we are confronted by a terrible truth: Despite our best efforts, this idea that we have mastered creation is just an illusion.

We cannot tame the weather any more than we can make the sun shine in Seattle or make it stop snowing in Canada. And when the illusion is shattered, we are left horrified.

Then there’s this awe that comes from witnessing the power of the whirlwind as I am forced to stop and consider the unfathomable power of God. And I fear that many of us, myself included, have taken for granted the Lord’s might.

Read the rest at TGC

Also Worth Reading

Ministry: Matt Chandler asks “Is Church Membership Biblical?”

Life: My friend Amber shares the woes of prenatal consumption

Technology: The Christian Email Signoffs Debate

Books: Have you heard about Crossway Impact yet? Check out the video:

In Case You Missed It

The Promise of Change and the False Hope of Politics

John Flavel: Self is the Poise of the Unrenewed Heart

My Memory Moleskine: Wash, Rinse, Repeat…

Tim Keller: The Death of the Mushy Middle (video)

Book Reviews:

  1. The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms
  2. Voices of the True Woman Movement

Matt Chandler: Following God May End Badly (video)

D.A. Carson: Genuine Love is Odd

Self is the Poise of the Unrenewed Heart

To keep the heart, necessarily supposes a previous work of regeneration, which has set the heart right, by giving it a new spiritual inclination, for as long as the heart it not set right by grace as to in habitual frame, no means can keep it right with God. Self is the poise of the unrenewed heart, which biases and moves it in all its designs and actions; and as long as it is so, it is impossible that any external means should keep it with God.

Man, originally, was of one constant, uniform frame of spirit, held one straight and even course; not one thought or faculty was disordered: his mind had a perfect knowledge of the requirements of God, his will a perfect compliance therewith; all his appetites and powers stood in a most obedient subordination.

Man, by the apostasy, is become a most disordered and rebellious creature, opposing his Maker, as the First Cause, by self-dependence; as the Chief Good, by self-love; as the Highest Lord, by self-will; and as the Last End, by self-seeking. Thus he is quite disordered, and all his actions are irregular. But by regeneration the disordered soul is set right; this great change being, as the Scripture expresses it, the renovation of the soul after the image of God, in which self-dependence is removed by faith; self-love, by the love of God; self-will, by subjection and obedience to the will of God; and self-seeking by self-denial. The darkened understanding is illuminated, the refractory will sweetly subdued, the rebellious appetite gradually conquered. Thus the soul which sin had universally depraved, is by grace restored. This being pre-supposed, it will not be difficult to apprehend what it is to keep the heart, which is nothing but the constant care and diligence of such a renewed man to preserve his soul in that holy frame to which grace has raised it. For though grace has, in a great measure, rectified the soul, and given it an habitual heavenly temper; yet sin often actually discomposes it again; so that even a gracious heart is like a musical instrument, which though it be exactly tuned, a small matter brings it out of tune again; yea, hang it aside but a little, and it will need setting again before another lesson can be played upon it. If gracious hearts are in a desirable frame in one duty, yet how dull, dead, and disordered when they come to another! Therefore every duty needs a particular preparation of the heart. ” If thou prepare thine heart and stretch out thine hands toward him,” To keep the heart then, is carefully to preserve it from sin, which disorders it; and maintain that spiritual frame which fits it for a life of communion with God.

John Flavel, On Keeping the Heart (Kindle Edition, location 75)

Genuine Love is Odd

When I refer to “Enemies, Big and Small,” obviously I am not thinking of their physical dimensions—bantam-weight enemies perhaps as opposed to three-hundred-pound enemies—but of the scale of their enmity. Not all Christians face persecuting enemies, but all Christians face little enemies. We encounter people whose personality we intensely dislike. . . . They are offensive, sometimes repulsive, especially when they belong to the same church. It often seems safest to leave by different doors, to cross the street when you see them approaching, or to find eminently sound reasons not to invite them to any of your social gatherings. And if, heaven forbid, you accidentally bump into such an enemy, the best defense is a spectacularly English civility, coupled with a retreat as hasty as elementary decency permits. After all, isn’t “niceness” what is demanded?

If we find our “friends” only among those we like and who like us, we are indifferentiable from first-century tax collectors and pagans. Both our neighborhood and the church will inevitably include their shares of imperfect, difficult people like you and me. In fact, the church will often collect more than its proportionate share of difficult folk, especially emotionally or intellectually needy folk, precisely because despite all its faults it is still the most caring and patient large institution around. There is a sense in which we should see in our awkward brothers and sisters a badge of honor. The dangers, however, become much greater (as do the rewards) when the church is richly multicultural, because the potential for misunderstandings rises significantly…

Some offenses are of the sort that Christians should follow the procedures set out in Matthew 18; in some cases, there should be excommunication. . . . But in many instances, what is required is simply forbearance driven by love. . . . To bear with one another and to forgive grievances presupposes that relationships will not always be smooth. Most of the time, what is required is not the confrontation of Matthew 18, but forbearance, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience [of Col. 3:12-14]. Christians are to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15).

This action goes way beyond niceness. One thinks of Flannery O’Connor’s biting and hilarious stories with their “nice” Christian ladies who have a domesticated Jesus who approves all they do and all they hold dear. They are spectacularly “nice”; they are also whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27). . . . Forbearance and genuine tenderheartedness are much tougher than niceness, and sometimes (as we shall see in a later lecture) tough love is confrontational. Christian love, McEntyre writes, “may even demand that we be downright eccentric, at least if we are to believe O’Connor’s word on the subject: ‘You shall know the truth,’ she warned, ‘and the truth shall make you odd.’” That, of course, is implicitly recognized by Jesus himself. If genuine love among his followers is their characteristic mark (John 13:34-35), then Jesus himself is saying that such love is not normal. It is odd.

D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places, pp. 52-54 (Also available in PDF format)

The Children of the Law and The Children of the Gospel

The children of the Law will always persecute the children of the Gospel. This is our daily experience. Our opponents tell us that everything was at peace before the Gospel was revived by us. Since then the whole world has been upset. People blame us and the Gospel for everything, for the disobedience of subjects to their rulers, for wars, plagues, and famines, for revolutions, and every other evil that can be imagined. No wonder our opponents think they are doing God a favor by hating and persecuting us. Ishmael will persecute Isaac.

We invite our opponents to tell us what good things attended the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles. Did not the destruction of Jerusalem follow on the heels of the Gospel? And how about the overthrow of the Roman Empire? Did not the whole world seethe with unrest as the Gospel was preached in the whole world? We do not say that the Gospel instigated these upheavals. The iniquity of man did it.

Our opponents blame our doctrine for the present turmoil. But ours is a doctrine of grace and peace. It does not stir up trouble. Trouble starts when the people, the nations and their rulers of the earth rage and take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed. (Psalm 2.) But all their counsels shall be brought to naught. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2:4.) Let them cry out against us as much as they like. We know that they are the cause of all their own troubles.

As long as we preach Christ and confess Him to be our Savior, we must be content to be called vicious trouble makers. These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, so said the Jews of Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:6, 7.) Of Paul they said: We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The Gentiles uttered similar complaints: These men do exceedingly trouble our city.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 2586)

Only If A Substitute is Provided

Can the penalty of sin resting upon all mankind be remitted? Plainly not, if God is to remain God. That penalty of sin was ordained in the law of God, and the law of God was no mere arbitrary and changeable arrangement but an expression of the nature of God Himself. If the penalty of sin were remitted, God would become unrighteous, and that God will not become unrighteous is the most certain thing that can possibly be conceived.

How then can sinful men be saved? In one way only. Only if a substitute is provided who shall pay for them the just penalty of God’s law.

The Bible teaches that such a substitute has a matter of fact been provided. The substitute is Jesus Christ. The law’s demands of penalty must be satisfied. There is no escaping that. But Jesus Christ satisfied those demands for us when He died instead of us on the cross.

J Gresham Machen, The Doctrine of the Atonement: Three Lectures (Kindle Edition)