The Christian Hope

Posted by R. Fowler White

Salvation from sin and death is a sovereign work of God by which He graciously saves His people from the judgment they deserve as sinners and adopts them as His children with all the blessings of eternal life. To make known the way of salvation, God has given us the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, as His Word (2 Timothy 3:15-16). The Scriptures teach the following truths concerning the way of salvation.

1. The living and true God is one God in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4; John 1:1-4, 14, 18; Hebrews 1:2-3). He is the sovereign King over His creation, and He rules it with all the perfections of His character (Isaiah 48:12-13; Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36).

2. God created man male and female with the duty to obey His commandments and imitate His character perfectly (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-17). But through the sin of the first man, Adam, all human beings, except our Lord Jesus Christ, were made sinners who are entirely unfaithful to their duty to God and are therefore justly condemned by God to suffer eternal punishment (Romans 3:23; 5:18-19).

3. To save sinners from the punishment due them, God the Father sent Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who is fully God and fully man, into the world (1 Timothy 1:15; John 3:16). As sinless man, Jesus Christ was qualified to represent sinners as the One who perfectly obeyed God’s commandments and imitated His character. As eternal God, He was qualified to substitute for sinners as the One who fully satisfied God’s just punishment of sinners. In His life Christ was entirely faithful where sinners are entirely unfaithful. In His death He bore the punishment sinners justly deserve (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:24-26).

4. God the Father raised Christ Jesus from the dead and thereby furnished proof that He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through that same Christ Jesus (Acts 17:31). God the Father also enthroned the resurrected Christ in heaven, and from there Christ now reigns as King of the nations, commanding sinners everywhere to repent and believe in Him as their only hope of salvation from the wrath to come (Acts 4:12; 16:31; 17:30).

5. All those to whom God gives repentance and faith will wait in hope for Christ’s return on the day of resurrection and judgment. In that day, God will cast those who remain in their sins into the lake of fire to suffer eternal punishment, but He will usher His people into the new heavens and the new earth to enjoy everlasting glory (Acts 13:48; 2 Timothy 2:25; Romans 9:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 2 Peter 3:7, 13).

If God has brought you to the knowledge that you’re a sinner who justly deserves His everlasting displeasure and who is without hope except in His sovereign mercy, we urge you: believe in our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of sinners. Receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered to you in the gospel documented in the Scriptures.

What Makes the Great Commission So Great: The Assistance Christ Gives

Posted by R. Fowler White

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

According to Matthew 28, the third of the truths that makes the Great Commission so great is the assistance Christ gives, the presence He provides. Look again at 28:20b, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew tells us that Christ the King, as He executes His office and pursues His agenda, is God with us. He is our Immanuel. He is the ever-present help of His followers. Our King is also our Priest.

Knowing Christ as Immanuel is evidently vital to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In Matthew 24-25 Jesus had taught that the spread of the gospel to the nations will bring the spread of tribulation and persecution to the nations. From His first coming to His second coming, there will be intensifying pressure on His church to apostatize as “the days of Noah” and “the days of Lot” return to the earth. Tribulation and persecution will bear the fruit of apostasy and betrayal. False prophecy will multiply in deception. Lawlessness will increase. Culture will suffer corruption. All of these developments are enough to instill fear in those to whom Christ has entrusted the fulfillment of the Great Commission. But He tells us, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you always, to the end of the age.

These words remind us of God’s words to Joshua before the conquest of the nations in the Promised Land. You remember the story. Moses was now dead. It was understandable that Joshua and the people would tremble, be afraid, be dismayed. But what were the Lord’s words to Joshua? Arise, go over this Jordan … No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. … Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Josh 1:2, 5, 9). Notice what the Lord does here. As He commands Joshua and the nation to obey His commission to take possession of the Promised Land, He recognizes that they may tremble, be afraid, be dismayed. But they are to recognize that He who had given them His commission is He who makes them a promise: He promises them His presence and His assistance to fulfill His commission. They could recall how, at the end of his life, a dying Moses had communicated this same commission to go into the land of foreign nations, to bring those nations under dominion of their God, and to observe all the commandments in the Law, with the promise of His presence and assistance. Even so, as we reflect on the end of His earthly ministry, we find that the living and resurrected Jesus, the one who is greater than Moses and Joshua, gave His commission to His apostles and His church to go into all the earth to bring all nations under His lordship, and to teach them to observe all His commandments, with the promise of His presence.

Jesus, the new Joshua, who commands our obedience to His Great Commission is at the same time the ever-gracious God who provides us His presence and assistance to fulfill it. He is the Commander of the hosts of heaven who defends us and restrains all of His and our enemies. He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls who preserves and supports us under all our temptations and sufferings. And at the end of this age He is the Judge who will deal with those who refuse to yield to Him and to obey His gospel.

What is it that makes the Great Commission so great? Not only the authority Christ exercises and the agenda Christ has set, but also the assistance Christ gives us. As we spread the gospel to the nations and tribulation and persecution spread with it, the Lord Jesus who has given us His commission has promised us His presence and His assistance to fulfill His commission. Echoing the gist of God’s words to Joshua and Israel, He says to us, Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

What Makes the Great Commission So Great: The Agenda Christ Has Set

Posted by R. Fowler White

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

According to Matthew 28, the second of three truths that make the Great Commission so great is the agenda Christ has set, the program He has undertaken. Notice 28:19-20a, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. The point here is to tell us that Christ the King, as He executes His office, has a mission of outreach for ingathering. He is going to build His church. He is going to call out a people from the world to Himself. He will give them His laws, by which He will govern them, reward their obedience, and correct them for their sins. This mission, set by Christ our King, is a disciple-making agenda for all nations, and it has two parts.

The first part of Christ’s agenda is to make disciples by baptizing. Through baptism, those among the nations who repent and believe the gospel are admitted into Christ’s visible church, together with their children. Uniting us with His church under the name of the triune God, baptism marks the end of our life outside His assembly of disciples and the beginning of our life inside of it. The second part of Christ’s agenda is to make disciples by teaching. Every congregation of Christ’s church is supposed to be an extension campus of His ministry of education. Assembled as His disciples, we learn and teach all that Jesus taught about His own person and work and about the privileges and duties of discipleship. In the ministry of His word, we hear His gospel of grace and His law of love, His promises of salvation and His warnings of judgment. All this because Christ is not only the King on the mountain of the Great Commission; He is also the true Prophet who brings the word of the Lord from the mountain of God above.

As we said, this two-part program that Christ has undertaken is for all nations. His universal kingship means worldwide mission. Through Jesus the Son of Abraham, blessing goes to all the families of the earth from the Lord God. Through Jesus the Son of David, obedience comes from all the peoples of the earth to the Lord God. It was this transnational, transgeographical, transgenerational agenda that united and motivated the apostles of Christ in the years immediately after His resurrection and ascension. His Commission was an agenda so grand that the apostles could pursue it only by the power of His Spirit and according to His Word through prayer and preaching. So it is now, until the end of the age.

What is it that makes the Great Commission so great? In addition to the authority Christ exercises, it’s the agenda Christ has set for His church. There are no substitutes, no alternatives. The apostles, from Peter to Paul, took the agenda that He had set, the program that He had understaken, as their own. Those who would be His church today will do the same.

What Makes the Great Commission So Great: The Authority Christ Exercises

Posted by R. Fowler White

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

In what follows, take a look at the first of three truths that make the Great Commission so great. The first truth before us is the authority Christ exercises, the position He fills. Look at 28:18, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Jesus tells His disciples that He now occupies and executes the office of king. As a reward for His obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus is now King of kings and Lord of lords. He is in control of all things in heaven and on earth, including—notice—Satan, the world, sin, and death. He is Lord of all. He now has and now wields all authority over the entire order of creation, both heaven and earth. All creatures, visible and invisible, be they nature, angels, and man, are at His disposal. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Other writers in the NT testify to the great truth of the authority that Christ now exercises. In Ephesians 1 Paul speaks of how in Christ God exerted the immeasurable greatness of His power and the working of His great might when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. The apostle John refers to the same truth in Revelation 1 where he speaks of Jesus Christ as the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Still further in Hebrews 1-2 we hear that Jesus is the Son of God, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. Jesus, says Hebrews 1, after making purification for sins, has taken His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high. As a result, according to Hebrew 2, we do see Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.

Too many in the church today believe and teach that Christ does not here and now occupy and execute the office of king. At best, this false view gives us a Great Commission without a King to issue it, while it deprives us of the motivating vision of the present glory and majesty of Christ. We dare not forget that Jesus is truly now His Royal Highness from whom we have the edict to lead others to a saving knowledge of Him. In fact, let’s recall that Christ’s present kingship is one of the truths that caused doubters on the mountain of commissioning (Matt 28:17) to become witnesses of mighty faith.

Through Matthew the Evangelist, God would teach us and have us believe that Christ now occupies and executes the office of king. As such, He restrains and conquers all His and our enemies and powerfully orders all things for His own glory and our good. This truth is the first of three in Matthew 28 that make the Great Commission so great. Confessing the authority Christ now exercises, the position He now fills, let’s go and make disciples.

A Change in Strategy

Satan has changed his strategy with regard to his warfare against the church in the West. For the period of the 1960’s up through most of this current decade, his strategy has been to entertain Christians into an oblivion of forgetfulness and numbness. It has worked to a spectacular degree until recently. The signs are that the church in the West is not quite so much in decline as secularists and many Christians believe. This means that Satan must change his strategy. The carrot is no longer working. The stick must replace it.

It has already begun with some opening salvos, the baker in Colorado and similar stories. If the Equality Act passes, however, the stick will begin in earnest. Of course, Satan doesn’t ever seem to learn from the past. Neither the carrot nor the stick can override God’s purposes in the world. The best he can hope for is to hinder the church. Will Christians stand firm? You see, the most insidious thing about the transition from carrot to stick is that the carrot leaves many Christians soft and unwilling to stand up for what they believe. Then when the stick comes, they cave in, rotten from within. Now is the time for Christians to pray that the Lord will restore our marrow, our backbone, our moral fiber.

How will the Lord God do this? The same way He has always done: through the regular means of grace. It is God’s grace that turns invertebrates into vertebrates. It is a steady diet of the Word of God, the Lord’s Supper, remembrance of and meditation on the meaning of baptism, prayer, and fellowship with other like-minded Christian vertebrates that will instill strength into us so that we will stand in the face of hatred masquerading as tolerance.

The only remaining question is this: are we willing to pay the price? The price will be necessary. Churches need to plan on losing their luxurious tax-exempt status. Pastors need to plan on doing jail time, for they will not typically be able to afford the fees. Will we see these things as opportunities to witness to the world about how Christians suffer for the cause of Christ, or will we do nothing but bellyache about it all?

As Western Christians finally realize that persecution is coming their way, maybe the most salutary effect it will have on us is that we will be far more conscious of our brothers and sisters around the globe who are suffering far more. Their lives are in danger, and they are being taken, especially right now in Nigeria. The worship of God is being hampered in China. All too often, Christian reaction to these things has been almost complete indifference, followed by a quick return to our mind-numbing entertainments. That possibility is coming to an end.

If Necessary, Use Words?

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the proverb “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” I think I know what most people mean by this. Most people mean that the gospel has to be embodied in our lives, and that if unbelievers cannot see that, then the ethos of the gospel will not match the evangelist’s life. Integrity is the ultimate thing at issue here. To this extent, the quotation has a useful place.

However, some people take it too far, as if evangelism doesn’t need to use words. Just evangelize by means of your lifestyle. People don’t need to hear the Word. Preaching is over-rated. We don’t need to study apologetics, or have an answer ready for the person who asks us for the reason of the hope that lies within us. Readers can probably guess where I’m going with this one. The quotation can lead to a despising of preaching, of the Word, and of evangelism by means of talking with people.

I hate to break it to the lifestyle-evangelist folks, but the ethos of our lives is not enough. Sooner or later (if our lifestyles are Christian ones), the unbeliever is going to ask us why we’re different. When that happens, we should have an answer ready.

Some people use the Assisi quotation in order to avoid speaking with people, and thus lose many opportunities. Still others use it to ridicule the role of preaching, and thus promote other forms of worship that God has not commanded.

The fact of the matter is that words are necessary. That doesn’t mean that conversion is dependent on us, as the Finneyites would have us believe. The Holy Spirit is the one Who converts. So, we should not get ourselves into a sweat about whether we have the right words or not. Our best arguments, if not accompanied by the Holy Spirit, are useless to convert. By the same token, the Holy Spirit can use our most imperfect efforts to convert. Faith comes by hearing, which implies words. Therefore, I think that even Assisi went too far in the comment, and his zealous followers certainly have.

On How to Treat Islam and Muslim People

From some of the recent stories that have been circulating about how some pastors have treated the Islamic faith, the Koran, and Muslim people, you would think that these people rejoice in the idea of Muslims going to Hell. The Crusades are apparently not so dead as we had hoped. Any story of a Muslim converting to the Christian faith that I have heard of involves two things: 1. the sharing of the gospel; 2. an outpouring of love. Perhaps the one single thing that speaks to Muslims most powerfully of all is the love of Jesus Christ in action two thousand years ago. One thing is certain: we will not see any conversions of Muslims to Christianity through making fun of their religion, burning the Koran, or flaunting our Western prosperity in their faces. Understandably, these actions make them very upset (though I do not mean to imply that the Muslim attack in Paris was justified: if there is one thing that I have learned about the Muslim faith, it is that Muslims are DEADLY serious about their faith, and they cannot laugh about it). They are the incredibly stupid actions of people who apparently think that they do not have enough attention, and want to become martyrs. I suggest a different approach. Build relationships with Muslims, and show them love and kindness. Show them hospitality (this speaks volumes to someone from the Middle East).

Although I don’t tend to get political on this blog very much, I will say that Ron Paul’s stance on the sovereignty of other nations makes a lot of sense to me. He argues that one of the main reasons that Muslims hate the West so much is because we interfere all the time in their political affairs. We would never tolerate the kind of interference from someone else that we regularly dish out to all the world. What makes us think that Muslim countries are rejoicing when we offer to “help?” Ron Paul argues that our interference with Middle Eastern politics is one reason why 9/11 happened. It is difficult to gainsay Paul’s conclusion on this point. Protect ourselves? Sure. Interfere with other nations? I would prefer not.

Some Thoughts on General Assembly

These thoughts are not in any particular order. But I did want to address some of the issues, and try to explain them in such a way that the average ruling elder in particular would be able to understand and follow the important things that are going on.

First up is the evening of confessional concern and prayer being held on Monday night. One thing I had not noticed about it the first time I read it was that it is an RSVP event. So please remember that and RSVP if you are planning to attend. The second thing I want to say about this (a thing which isn’t entirely clear in the Aquila Report) is that this evening of confessional concern and prayer is a shot across the bow of “wake-up call” for the PCA. EDIT: I have changed this language at the request of people I respect, as it is liable to misunderstanding: what I mean by it is simply that we are concerned about the direction the denomination is going, and we are going public with that concern. This is not merely a discussion of the major issues facing the denomination at the General Assembly. This is a group of people who are seriously concerned about the direction the PCA is headed. This is the beginning of action being taken about that direction. CWAGA folk (“Can’t We All Get Along?”) and liberal progressives take note. Now, this might not be the intention of everyone who will be there, or even everyone who will be presenting. I cannot speak for them. However, the design and original intention of this meeting is as I have outlined.

The second issue I want to talk about is the Insider Movement report. The Insider Movement (IM) is a missiological trend whereby people are being encouraged to identify themselves as both Christian and Muslim. Closely associated with this is a trend in Bible translation that removes references to the sonship of Jesus to the Father in favor of other terms like “Messiah” or “highly favored one.” The intended or unintended (not to prejudge!) consequence of this action is seriously to jeopardize the Scripture’s witness to the eternal sonship of Jesus to the Father. The report exposes these errors. This is not a peripheral issue of doctrine, but one that is absolutely central to the Christian faith, as the doctrine is present in every single creed in Christendom that Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of the eternal Father. If Jesus is not the eternal Son of the Father, then He cannot bear the infinite guilt of our sins on His shoulders. Why did this trend get started, you might ask? The alleged reason, according to the report, is that translators were discovering that Muslim people tend to think of biological sex being involved when they hear the phrase “Son of God.” They find that offensive, and so the move to eliminate references to Jesus’ sonship in the Bible.

The third issue is the request by Philadelphia Presbytery to have a study committee report on women’s ordination. Now, the request is specific. It is asking about whether a person can believe in women’s ordination if he is not willing to practice it in order to conform to our BCO. I should note that one of the “whereas’s” reads as follows: “Whereas, our constitution does not clearly delineate or define ‘the general principles of biblical polity or their relation to male only eldership.” I had to scratch my head on that one. I thought our BCO clearly said that the offices of elder and deacon are open to men only. The BCO is part of our constitution. So I’m not quite sure how they came up with this statement, which seems on the face of it to be completely false. To be perfectly blunt about this, if we open this question we are denying everything the PCA has stood for since its inception. This denomination was founded in part because of liberalism on women’s issues (the other major piece being the doctrine of Scripture itself; the two are intimately related, of course, because of how one has to twist and distort 1 Timothy 2 or deny its authority in order to achieve women’s ordination). So, if we open the question of women’s ordination, then we also need to open the question of Scripture’s authority, since the only way you can get women’s ordination is to deny that Scripture has the authority to prevent it.

The fourth issue I wish to talk about is theistic evolution, being brought up to the GA by means of Overture 32. There are some in the PCA who deny that theistic evolution is being taught by anyone in the PCA. I would say that such people have their head in the sand. According to a Christianity Today article, Tim Keller believes that it is the job of pastors to promote a narrative for Biologos:

Few Christian colleges or seminaries teach young earth creationism (YEC), participants noted during discussion groups. But less formal, grassroots educational initiatives, often centered on homeschooling, have won over the majority of evangelicals. “We have arguments, but they have a narrative,” noted Tim Keller. Both young earth creationists and atheistic evolutionists tell a story tapping into an existing cultural narrative of decline. To develop a Biologos narrative is “the job of pastors,” Keller said.

Unofficially connected with Redeemer Church (as in, he has no official connection, but has done many Sunday School seminars and the like) is Dr. Ron Choong, a man who clearly espouses theistic evolution, and opines that no one at Redeemer has had any problems with his teaching.

Fifthly and lastly, there is the issue of the Standing Judicial Commission and the lack of oversight of that commission that currently exists. No doubt many will want to point out that the SJC is often dealing with cases that are extremely complex. No doubt that is true. However, no organization or group of people in the PCA should be without oversight and accountability. Reports of Presbytery commissions have to be approved. Therefore, what the SJC does needs to be approved or rejected by the body as a whole. This is true even if there is a difference between judicial commissions and other commissions.

Whatever Happened to the Church

Reed DePace

Question I’d ask any to comment upon: is God in the process of judging the Church in America? Scripture to contemplate: Jh 6:28; Mt 5:13; 1Ti 3:4-5; Eph 5:13; 2Ti3:1-5; Jh 15:6

The background to my question comes from this FB status I posted:

Whatever Happened … To the Church?

That is what your grandchildren may ask one day. If things keep going the way they are, God is going to remove the Church from this land. America may become a post-post-Christian nation with barely a remembrance of Christ.

What ever happened to a man not being qualified to shepherd God’s family if he cannot shepherd his own family (1Ti 3:4-5)? Preachers’ Daughters (check out the family bios.)

We are awash in pastors who promote godliness but deny the only One who is its power (2Ti 3:5). Christianity IS NOT about us keeping the rules, and pastors who teach that are doing the same thing the ones Jesus condemned did.

(Don’t read between the lines. Holiness is essential. We don’t get it in any manner that is based on our effort. Our problem with sin is worse than we imagine. We neither believe nor live in what Jesus said is necessary for true holiness. Jh 6:28)

The shame of the Church continues to be paraded and laughed at by the unbelieving culture. What in the world are we thinking supporting that by parading our own sinfulness – and celebrating it – before those who mock Jesus Christ? (Eph 5:12; 1Pe 4:3)

When salt is worthless, what do you do with it? According to Jesus, you throw it into the mud where at least it can add some traction for the feet of those who walk on it. (Mt 5:13) The Church is washing away her saltiness in shallow love for God and heated love for the world. Our children are leaving us in the mud and jumping into the manure-pile of the debauchery of this world.

God have mercy, Christ have mercy, Holy Spirit have mercy. If He doesn’t our grandchildren will be wondering whatever happened to the Church in America.

Reed DePace

God on Ghosts

(Posted by Paige)

‘Tis the season for those perennial conversations about ghosties. Reed and I wrote this article, A God’s Eye View of Ghosts, a couple of years ago to be a resource that he could share with people in his church and community. Perhaps it will come in handy for you in your ministry setting as well.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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