Tabletalk Magazine, February 2010
This issue looks at the current controversy surrounding N.T. Wright and the doctrine of justification. Contributors include R.C. Sproul along with D.A. Carson, Sinclair Ferguson, J.V. Fesko, Paul Helm, Michael Horton, Albert Mohler, John Piper, and Cornelis Venema, among others.
F r o m L i g o n i e r m i n i s t r i e s a n d r .C . s P r o U L | FebrUary 2010 | $3.0 0 R.C. SpRoul MiChael hoRton DeRek thoMaS CoRneliS VeneMa John pipeR D.a. CaRSon J.V. FeSko Guy WateRS RoGeR niCole paul helM SinClaiR FeRGuSon thoMaS SChReineR albeRt MohleR What N.T. Wright Really Said c o r a m d e o / / L i v i n g b e f o r e t h e f a c e o f g o d Justification for Everyone B y B u r k P a r s o n s FEB. 2010 | vol.3 4 | no.2 // What n.t. Wright rE ally Said Contents F e a t u r e s or years we have wrestled with the question as to whether we should produce an issue of Tabletalk devoted to the new perspectives on Paul on the doctrine of justification, and for years we concluded that many of our readers would be generally unaware of what has been, until recently, an academic discussion among studied churchmen the world over. However, with the release of N.T. Wright's popular-level book What Saint Paul Really Said, coupled with his international ministry among laity and winsome personality, his popularity and teaching have spread like wildfire from the seminaries to the pulpits to the pews of churches around the world. The first popular-level response to N.T. Wright's teaching came from the pen of Dr. John Piper. With pastoral care, academic integrity, and unrelenting graciousness, Piper gave us The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright, which in turn elicited a response from Wright. In correspondence with Piper's pastoral assistant David Mathis, we agreed it would be appropriate to provide readers with a word of introduction from Dr. Piper to help explain our purpose and to help set the needed tone for this special issue of Tabletalk. I am truly thankful for his words: "Nicholas Thomas Wright is an English scholar and the Anglican Bishop of Durham, England. He is a remarkable blend of weighty academic scholarship, ecclesiastical leadership, popular Christian advocacy, musical talent, and family commitment. As critical as the articles in this magazine are of Wright's understanding of the gospel and justification, the seriousness and scope of the issue is a testimony to the stature of his scholarship and the extent of his influence. I am thankful for his strong commitment to the authority of Scripture; his defense of the virgin birth, deity, and resurrection of Christ; his biblical disapproval of homosexual conduct; and the consistent way he presses us to see the big picture of God's universal purpose for all peoples through the covenant with Abraham -- and more. My conviction concerning Wright is not that he is under the curse of Galatians 1, but that his portrayal of the gospel -- and of justification in particular -- is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize as biblically faithful. In my judgment, what he has written will lead to a kind of preaching that will not announce clearly what makes the lordship of Christ good news for guilty sinners, or show those who are overwhelmed with sin how they may stand righteous in the presence of God." In quoting N.T. Wright directly and providing concise responses from some of the world's most trusted churchmen, it is our sincere prayer that this issue will serve to equip the church to know and defend that precious doctrine upon which each individual stands or falls before the face of God, by faith alone and for His glory alone. Burk Parsons is editor of Tabletalk magazine and associate minister at Saint Andrew's in Sanford, Florida. F 4 Tilting at Scarecrows Rethinking the Gospel? R.AlbertMohlerJr. R.C.Sproul A New Luther? DerekW.H.Thomas 6 10 22 A Future Justification Based upon Works? CornelisP.Venema J.V.Fesko 24 ThomasR.Schreiner Wright Is Wrong on Imputation "Faith" and "Faithfulness" 12 14 "Works of the Law" in Paul What Does Justification Have to do with the Gospel? SinclairB.Ferguson 28 D.A.Carson 30 The "Nonsense" of Justifying the Ungodly JohnPiper,withDavidMathis 16 Justification and Ecumenism MichaelHorton 32 Christ, Our Righteousness RogerNicole 20 GuyPrentissWaters Has the Church Misunderstood Justification? 34 PaulHelm Salvation and the Life After Life ThefeaturearticlesandcolumnsfromthisissueofTabletalkareavailableatwww.ligonier.org/tabletalk. s t u d i e s c o l u m n s 39 inTo The word 45 The new CoVenAnT Iain D. Campbell 52 god speAks ThroUgh his son Ken Jones 61 The ChUrCh As god's propheT Kim Riddlebarger 68 ChrisT, The wisdom of god John P. Sartelle 36 Two Birds, one sTone R.C. Sproul Jr. // Seek Ye First 72 An UnpopUlAr Vision George Grant // Truth & Consequences 76 pilgrims (and Their Hosts) R. Scott Clark // For the Church 78 The missing moTiVe Eric J. Alexander // Generation to Generation 82 on ConTroVersy Keith A. Mathison // Beyond The Wicket Gate P u b l i s h e r Ligonier Ministries e x e c u t i v e e d i t o r R.C. Sproul e d i t o r Burk Parsons s e n i o r A s s o c i At e e d i t o r Chris Donato A s s o c i At e e d i t o r s Keith A. Mathison, Robert Rothwell P r o d u c t i o n m A n A g e r Scott Devor c r e At i v e d i r e c t o r Geoff Stevens A r t d i r e c t o r Monty Morgan m A r k e t i n g m A n A g e r John Cobb c i r c u l At i o n Dawn Sanders tabletalk (usps 009-013) is published monthly by ligonier ministries, inc., 400 technology Park, lake mary, Fl 32746. Annual subscription price (12 issues): $23.00. Periodicals postage paid at lake mary, Fl, and additional mailing offices. the daily bible studies are copyright 2009, ligonier ministries, inc. unless noted, all scripture quotations are from the holy bible, english standard version. copyright 2001 by crossway bibles, a division of good news Publishers. used by permission. All rights reserved. Postmaster: send address changes to Ligonier ministries, 400 technology Park, Lake mary, FL 32746-6229. r i g h t n o w C o u n t s F o r e v e r T i lt i ng at Sca r ecr ow s R.C. Sproul "We are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. We are justified by faith by believing in the gospel itself--in other words, that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead." N .T. W r i g h T, "New Perspectives on Paul," in Justification in Perspective, p. 261 n the past few years, the British bishopandNewTestamentscholar N.T. Wright has emerged as an icon ofbiblicaltheologyaroundtheworld. Hisexcellentworkontheresurrection ofChristhasinfluencedmanypeople including his own country's most famous philosopherandformer atheist Antony Flew, who has converted to deism.Wrightisalsoknown,however, forbeingoneofthechiefarchitectsof theso-callednewperspectiveonPaul, in which he recasts the doctrine of justificationinsuchawayastotranscend the historic dispute between RomanCatholicismandReformation Protestantism.Inasense,Wrightsays, "Apoxonbothyourhouses,"claiming thatbothRomeandtheReformation misunderstoodanddistortedthebiblical view of justification. In his responsetoJohnPiper'scritiqueofhis work, Wright drips patronizing disdainforPiperandforthosewhoembrace the traditional Protestant view ofjustification.Heiscriticaloftheological traditions that he thinks miss thebiblicalpoint. Inthecourseofdebate,oneofthe 4 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 I most effective and fallacious argumentsoftenusediscalledthe"straw man"fallacy.Thevalueofascarecrow isthatitisacounterfeithumanbeing designedtoscareawayafewcrows.It is an effective device, but not nearly aseffectiveasarealfarmerpatrolling hisfieldswithashotgun.Thefarmer madeofstrawisnotnearlyasformidable as the real one. This is usually thecaseinthedifferencebetweenthe authentic and the counterfeit. The straw man fallacy occurs when one createsafalseviewofhisopponent's position in a distorted caricature by which he then easily dismantles that positionintotalrefutation. One of the statements that N.T. Wright employs, using this same stratagem, is thestatement that "we arenotjustifiedbyfaithbybelieving injustificationbyfaith."Tointimate that Protestant orthodoxy believes that we are justified by believing in thedoctrineofjustificationbyfaithis thekingofallstrawmen.ItistheGoliathofscarecrows,theKingKongof strawmanfallacies.Inotherwords,it isawhopper.Iamawareofnotheo- logianinthehistoryoftheReformed traditionwhobelievesorarguesthat a person can be justified by believinginthedoctrineofjustificationby faith. This is a pure and simple distortionoftheReformedtradition. In Wright's statement we see a straw man argument that falls by its own weight. It contains more straw than the stick figure can support.Thedoctrineofjustificationby faith alone not only does not teach that justification is by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith alone,butinfact,teachesthatwhich istotallyantitheticaltotheidea.The phrase "justification by faith alone" is theological shorthand for saying justification is by Christ alone. Anyonewhounderstandsandadvocates the doctrine of justification by faith alone knows that the focal point is thatwhichjustifies--trustinChrist andnottrustinadoctrine. Oneofthekeytermsinthephrase "justificationbyfaith"isthewordby, whichsignalsthatfaithisthemeans ortoolthatlinksustoChristandHis benefits. The concept indicates that faith is the "instrumental" cause of our justification. What is in view in the Protestant formulation is a distinction from the Roman Catholic viewoftheinstrumentalcause.Rome declaresthesacramentofbaptismin thefirstinstanceandpenanceinthe secondinstancetobetheinstrumentalcausesofjustification.Sothedispute of what instrument is the basis bywhichwearejustifiedwasandremainscriticaltotheclassicaldispute between Rome and Protestantism. TheProtestantview,followingPaul's teaching in the New Testament, is that faith is the sole instrument by whichwearelinkedtoChrist. Closelyrelatedtothisisthehotly disputed issue of the grounds of our justification before God. Here is wherethebiblicalconceptofimputationissoimportant.Thosewhodeny imputation as the grounds of our justification declare it to be a legal fiction, a miscarriage of justice, or evenamanifestationofcosmicchild abuse. Yet at the same time, it is the biblicalexplanationforthegroundof ourredemption.Nobiblicaltextmore clearlyteachesthisconceptoftransferorimputationthanthatofIsaiah 53,whichtheNewTestamentchurch singled out as a crucial prophetic explanationofthedramaofredemption. The New Testament declares Christtobeourrighteousness,andit ispreciselyourconfidenceintherighteousnessofChristasthegroundsfor our justification that is the focus of the doctrine of justification by faith. We understand that believing the doctrineofsola fidewillsavenoone. Faith in a doctrine is not enough to save.However,thoughwecannotbe savedbybelievinginthedoctrineof justification, the denial of that same doctrinecanindeedbefatalbecause to deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone as the apostle Paul indicatedinGalatiansistorejectthe gospelandsubstitutesomethingelse forit,whichwouldresultinwhatPaul declarestobeanathema.Thegospelis tooimportanttobedismissedbytiltingatscarecrows. Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, and he is author of the books Getting the Gospel Right and Justification by Faith Alone. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 5 Ret h i n k i ng t he G ospel? R. Albert Mohler Jr. "But the real point is, I believe, that the salvation of human beings, though of course extremely important for those human beings, is part of a larger purpose. God is rescuing us from the shipwreck of the world, not so that we can sit back and put our feet up in his company, but so that we can be part of his plan to remake the world. We are in orbit around God and his purposes, not the other way around." N .T. W r i g h T, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, p. 24 ishopWrightbelievestheChristianchurchhasfundamentally misunderstood the gospel. If he is rightaboutthis,wemusthearhim andaccepthiscorrective.But,ifheis wrong,hewillleadusawayfromthe gospel.Thestakessimplycouldnot behigher. BishopWrightisbrilliant,creative, provocative,andfascinating.Hiswritingisscintillating.Hisarguments, however,areexceedinglyslipperyand oftendangerous.Whatheproposesis nothinglessthanacompletereconceptionofwhatChristiansbelieveabout salvationandthegospelofChrist. Inhisearliestwork,hecalledfor arevolutioninourunderstandingof Jesus,Paul,andthegospel.Heinsisted thatthechurchmustreversecenturies ofunderstandingandabandonwhat Christians,andChristianscommitted totheReformationtraditionsinparticular,haveheldtobetheveryessence ofthegospel. Thegospel,Wrightinsists,"isnot anaccountofhowpeoplegetsaved." TheapostlePaul'smessage,hepro6 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 B poses,wasnot"adoctrineabouthow togetsaved." Thiswillcertainlycomeasashock tomost Christians. The church, in virtuallyallitsmaintraditions,has commonlyunderstoodthegospeltobe exactlywhatBishopWrightproposes thatitisnot--amessageabouthow sinnersaresaved. Inordertomakehispoint,Wright firstproposesthatmostChristians reducethescopeofthegospelbyacceptingtheworldviewofmodernindividualism. For many Christians, thegospelisreducedtonothingmore thantheirpersonalsalvationfromsin, withoutanyunderstandingoftheeternalpurposeofGodtoredeemapeople throughthebloodofthelamb. Onthispoint,BishopWrightdeservestobeheard.Withoutdoubt, contemporaryevangelicalismisparticularlygiventotheerrorofreducing thegospelinthisway.Furthermore, individualismdoesindeedundermine theatonementofChristandthesaving purposeofGod. Nevertheless,atthispointitisim- portanttonotehowWrightsooften framesanargument.Heisabsolutely correctinlamentingtheexcessively individualisticfocusofsomanyChristiansandchurches.Buthethenturns hisargumentontheassumptionthat anyconcernforthesalvationofindividualsinnersmustbesecondaryto somethingelse. Whatelse?Reviewingthemessage oftheNewTestament,Wrightthen turnstocriticizecontemporaryChristianityforlosingsightofthefactthat thecreatedorderisalsopartofGod's redemptiveplanandpurpose.Wright arguesthattheremakingofcreation isatthecenterofthegospel."New creation"istheculminationof"God's project"andthegospelisthedeclarationofthispromise,revealedinthe resurrectionofJesusChristfromthe dead.evangelismistobereconceived astheannouncementofGod'skingdomandthepromiseofnewcreation. Anyclaim"thatthemainorcentral thingthathashappenedisthatthenew Christianhasenteredintoaprivate relationshipwithGodorwithJesus" istobeavoided. Once aga in, there is tr uth in Wright's lament that far too many Christianshavelittleappreciationfor thecosmicsignificanceofthegospel. TheBibledoespointustothepromise ofanewheavenandanewearth,even asweareremindedthatcreationis nowgroaningunderthecurseofsin. Weshouldwholeheartedlyagreewith BishopWrightthatafailuretoappreciatetheeschatologicalpromiseofthe newcreationistoreducethegospelas itisrevealedintheBible. Onceagain,however,Wrightmoves fromalegitimatecriticismtoadeliberatereconstructionofthegospel.While missingorminimizingthemeaningof thegospelforcreationisanerror,the factremainsthattheBiblerevealsthe redemptivepurposeofGodtofocus primarilyandpervasivelyuponthe salvationofsinners. Wemustnotmisswhatisatstake. IfBishopWrightiscorrect,thegospel isnotmainlyaboutthesalvationofindividualsinnersthroughtheredeemingworkofChrist,butaboutGod's projectofnewcreation.Ifthisistrue, evangelismistheactofdeclaringGod's purposesandpointingtoChristasthe divineagentofaccomplishingtheredemptionoftheentirecosmos. Atthispoint,Wright'semphasis uponnewcreationandhisinsistence thatthegospelisnotprimarilyabout "howonegetssaved"canbeseentofit perfectlywithinhislargerproject.His argumentthatjustificationisabout ecclesiologyratherthansoteriology, hisinsistencethatthedoctrineofjustificationbyfaithisnotwhatPaulunderstoodtobethegospel,andhisassertion thatthegospelismoreaboutrightactioninthisworldratherthanhopefor thenext,allfallintoplacetogether. Intheend,N.T.Wright'sproject, nomatterhowbrilliantlypresented, fallsfarshortoftheNewTestament's centralfocusonwhatPauldescribed asthegospel"bywhichyouarebeing saved"(1Cor.15:2).Asissooftenthe casewiththosewhosuggestarecastingofReformationdoctrine,theproblemisnotsomuchwithwhatWright proposestoaddtoourunderstanding, butwhathewantstotakeaway. Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the southern Baptist theological seminary in Louisville, ky. he is author of The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 7 "We are either justified by a righteousness that is in us or by a righteousness that is apart from tandingfirmonthedoctrineofjustification S byfaithalonefor38yearsandcounting. us. There is no third way." � R .C . SpRou l See our library of resources at ligonier.org/Justification A F ut u r e Ju st i f icat ion Ba sed on Work s? C o r n e l i s P. V e n e m a "The whole point about `justification by faith' is that it is something which happens in the present time (Romans 3.26) as a proper anticipation of the eventual judgment which will be announced, on the basis of the whole life led, in the future (Romans 2.1�16)." N .T. W r i g h T, Paul in Fresh Perspective, p. 57 neoftheremarkablefeaturesof N.T.Wright'sreformulationof theProtestantdoctrineofjustificationishisemphasisupona"future justification"onthebasisofworks. AccordingtoWright,theapostlePaul clearlyteachesthatbelieverswillbe subjecttoafinaljudgment"according toworks"(Rom.14:10�12;2Cor.5:10). This future judgmentaccording to worksconstitutes,inWright'sopinion,theeschatologicalcompletionof thebeliever'sjustification. Wrightdefinesjustificationasanact ofGod'scovenantfaithfulnessthatinvolvesaneschatologicalvindicationof thosewhobelongtoHiscovenantfamily.WhenGodjustifiesthosewhoare membersofHiscovenantcommunity, Hedoessoinanticipationoftheir"finaljustification"atthelastjudgment. Accordingly,wemustrecognizethat justificationoccursinthreetensesor stages--past,present,andfuture. InthepasteventofChrist'scrossand resurrection,Godhasalreadyrevealed whatHewilldoattheendofhistory. Jesus,whodiedasthe"representative 10 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 O MessiahofIsrael,"wasvindicatedby GodinHisresurrectionfromthedead. Thisevent,Christ'sresurrection,representsGod'sjustificationofJesusas theSonofGod--theMessiahthrough whomthecovenantpromisetoAbraham("inyouandyouroffspringshall allthefamiliesoftheearthbeblessed," Gen.28:14)willbefulfilled. ThepasteventofChrist'sjustificationbecomesapresentrealitythrough faith.AllthosewhobelieveinJesusas Messiahandlordarejustified,that is,acknowledgedbyGodtobemembersoftheone,greatfamilyoffaith composedofJewandGentilealike. Becausethepresentrealityofjustificationfocusesuponmembershipin thecovenantcommunity,baptisminto Christisthepresenteventthateffects thisjustification. Thoughjustificationhasthesepast andpresentstages,itsprimarystagelies yetinthefuture.Atthefinaljudgment or"justification,"Godwilldeclarein favorofHispeople(thecovenantcommunitypromisedtoAbraham).ThisfinaljustificationorvindicationofGod's peoplewillincludea"justificationby works."CommentingonRomans2:13, Wrightinsiststhat"thosewhowill bevindicated[thatis,justified]onthe lastdayarethoseinwhoseheartsand livesGodwillhavewrittenhislaw,his Torah."The"worksofthelaw"that justificationexcludesareonlythose badgesofJewishidentitythatprevent Gentilesfrombecomingmembersof thecovenantcommunity.Justificationdoesnotexclude,however,those worksofthelawthatarebornofthe obedienceoffaith. SinceWrightidentifiesthefinal judgmentwiththefinalchapterofthe justificationofbelievers,heradically compromisesthescripturalteaching thatjustificationisnotbasedupon worksorhumanperformance(Rom. 3:20,28;Gal.3:10�14).Fromanhistoricalperspective,Wright'spositionis notunlikethatofthemedievalRoman CatholicChurch,whichalsoclaimed thattheReformation'sviewofjustificationbyfaithalonefailedtodojustice tothebiblicalthemeofafinalacquittal beforeGodbaseduponworks.If,as Wrightinsists,thejustificationofbelieversrequiresafinalphaseor"completion,"whichwillbedeterminedby theworksofthejustified,thenitseems evidentthatheteachesadoctrineof justificationbygracethroughfaith plusworks. TheapostlePaul'steachingthat worksarewhollyexcludedasabasis forthejustificationofbelieversisincompatiblewiththeideathat(final) justificationwillultimatelybebased uponworks.Paulregardsjustification asathoroughlyeschatologicalblessing,whichanticipatesdefinitivelyand irrevocablythefinalverdictthatGod declaresregardingbelievers.Thenotionofafinaljustificationonthebasis ofworksinevitablyweakenstheassertionthatthereisnownocondemnation forthosewhoareinChristJesus(Rom. 8:1).Afinaljustificationonthebasisof worksalsounderminesPaul'sbolddeclarationthatnochargecanbebrought, noworinthefuture,againstthosewho areChrist's(Rom.8:33�34). Rather than treating the final judgmentasanotherchapterinthe justificationofbelievers,weshould viewPaul'semphasisupontherole ofworksinthisjudgmentintermsof hisunderstandingofallthatsalvation through unionwithChristentails. Becausebelieversarebeingrenewed byChrist'sSpirit,theiracquittalinthe finaljudgmentwillbeapublicconfirmationofthegenuinenessoftheir faithandnotajustifyingverdictonthe basisofworks.Undoubtedly,because believersalways receiveChrist for bothrighteousnessandsanctification (1Cor.1:30),theyarenotsavedwithout goodworks.Butthesegoodworksare thefruitsoffaith,notthebasisfora futurejustification.Forthisreason, Paulspeaksofajudgment"according to,"not"onthebasisof"works. InsteadofembracingWright'sconfusionofjustificationandafinaljudgmentaccordingtoworks,weshould recognizethebiblicalwisdomofthe puritanThomasManton:"Bytherighteousnessoffaithweareacquitted fromsin[justified],andbytherighteousnessofworksweareacquitted from hypocrisy" [confirmed to be justifiedbyatruefaith]. Dr. Cornelis P. Venema is president and professor at Mid-america reformed seminary and associate pastor of redeemer united reformed Church in Dyer, ind. he is also author of Getting the Gospel Right. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 11 " Work s of t he L aw " i n Pau l J .V. F e s k o "What, then, are the `works of the law,' by which one cannot be `justified' in this sense? ...They are the `living like a Jew' of Galatians 2:14, the separation from `Gentile sinners' of Galatians 2:15. They are not, in other words, the moral `good works' which the Reformation tradition loves to hate. They are the things that divide Jew from Gentile...." N .T. W r i g h T, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, pp. 116�117 he definition of Paul's phrase "worksofthelaw"isoneofthe moresignificantdisagreementsbetweenN.T.WrightandtheReformationunderstandingofjustificationby faithalone.OnwhatbasiscanWright claimthatPauldoesnothaveworksrighteousnessinview? Wright maintains that the chief issueofPaul'sepistletotheGalatians isnotworks-righteousness(legalism) buttablefellowship.Wrightcontends thattheJewishChristiansatGalatia wereperplexedastohowGentiles couldnowsitwiththemandbreak bread.Trueenough,Christhadcome tosavebothJewsandGentiles,but howcouldtheseGentilesbeconsideredpartofAbraham'sfamilyunless theyborethemarksofbeingJewish --circumcision,thefoodlaws,and Sabbathobservance?TheseJewish Christians were prepared to allow Gentiles in their midst but only if theyborethe"worksofthelaw"and submitted to circumcision, ate the 12 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 T properfood,andobservedtheSabbath. Hence, according to Wright, PaulwrotetotheGalatianssothey would understand that Christ had done away with the "works of the law"andthatGentilescouldbeChristianswithouttheseJewishidentity markers.Jesushadloweredtheflagof theworksofthelawandraisedanew oneinitsplace--faithinHim--to identifythepeopleofGod. TheproblemwithWright'sviewis thathetakesmattersthatareinthe backgroundofPaul'sletterandmoves them to the foreground (as Doug Mooputit).Inotherwords,Wright takesPaul'smessageaboutsalvation and how one is declared righteous in God's sight and places it on the backburner.Hethentakesasecondarymatter,thatoftablefellowship, andmovesittothefrontburneralmosttothepointthatheeclipsesthe messageaboutsinandsalvation. Observe some of the following points.First,whywouldPaulbeex- ercisedovertablefellowshiptothe pointthathewouldwarntheGalatiansofdamnationforembracinga falsegospel(Gal.1:8-9)? Second,whenPaulusesthephrase "worksofthelaw"hecertainlyhas inmindcircumcision,foodlaws,and the Sabbath. But he also has many other things in view. The triad of Jewishidentity markersisbutone small sliver of the pie of the law. WhenPaulcondemnsrelianceupon the "works of the law" he quotes fromDeuteronomyinGalatians3:10: "Cursedbeeveryonewhodoesnot abideby all things written in the Book of the Law,anddothem"(emphasis mine;seeDeut.27:26).Paulnotonly condemnedrelyinguponcircumcision,foodlaws,andSabbath,buthe alsoincludedeverythingwrittenin thelaw.Thatis,anyonewhotriesto offerhisownobediencetothelawin theefforttobeapprovedanddeclared as righteous(as obedient)inGod's sight would instead bring a curse uponhimself. Third,whenPaulillustrateswhatit meanstorelyuponworksversusfaith, heappealstoatimebeforeGodinstitutedcircumcision,foodlaws,andthe Sabbath.PaulappealstoAbrahamand Sarah'ssinfuleffortstobringabout thedivinepromisebytheirsinfuleffortsratherthanbyfaithaloneinthe seedwhowastocome--JesusChrist (Gal.3:16;4:21�31). Andfourth,Wrightopposescircumcision, food laws, and Sabbath againstfaithastheidentitymarkers ofOldandNewTestamentrespectively.Wright'sdefinition,however, setstheBibleinoppositiontoitself. Wasfaithnotanidentitymarkerof the Old Testament saints? As the greathalloffaithtellsusinHebrews The proper definition of the works of the law means the difference between justification and condemnation, heaven and hell. 11,faithinChristhasalwaysbeenthe waytoidentifythepeopleofGod. Thechoiceoftheproperdefinition ofthephrase"worksofthelaw"is notonebetweenWrightandtheReformationbutoneultimatelybetween WrightandtheapostlePaul--indeed, betweenWrightandScriptureitself. Paulgoestogreatlengthstorefute theJudaizer'ssinfulrelianceupon theirownobedience(theirworksof thelaw)becauseitwasamatterof theirsalvation,notsimplytablefellowship.Paul'sextendedargumentationinGalatianscanbedistilled intoastatementfromhislettertothe ephesians: "For by grace you have beensavedthroughfaith.Andthis isnotyourowndoing;itisthegift ofGod,notaresultofworks,sothat noonemayboast"(eph.2:8�9).In aword,itisChrist'sworksthatare thelegalgroundofourdeclaration of justification, not our own good works.Theproperdefinitionofthe worksofthelawmeansthedifference betweenjustificationandcondemnation,heavenandhell. Dr. J.V. Fesko is academic dean and associate professor of systematic theology at westminster seminary California. he is author of Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 13 W h at Does Ju st i f icat ion Have to do w it h t he G ospel? Sinclair B. Ferguson "I must stress again that the doctrine of justification by faith is not what Paul means by `the gospel'. It is implied by the gospel; when the gospel is proclaimed, people come to faith and so are regarded by God as members of his people. But `the gospel' is not an account of how people get saved." N .T. W r i g h T, What Saint Paul Really Said, pp. 132�33 T here is a striking plausibility aboutsayingthat"justification byfaithisnotwhatPaulmeansby`the gospel.'"Afterall,asN.T.Wrightelsewhereobserves,wearenotjustified bybelievinginjustificationbyfaith butbybelievinginJesusChrist. Howluther-likethisallsounds. Didhenotaffirmthatthegospelis "entirelyoutsideofus"? Isthisperhapsthelonged-forantidotetoevangelicalindividualism andacureforsubjectivism?Clearly BishopWrightandothersbelieveso. elsewhere,Dr.Wrightconfessesthe greatreliefhefeltindiscoveringthat wearenotjustifiedbybelievingin justificationbyfaith. But this already suggests that theplausibilityofthisperspectiveis scarcelymatchedbythereality.These words seem to describe an escape fromthetheologicalimmaturityof anearlierevangelicalism.Buthaving beenrearedatthesametimeinthat sameevangelicalism,Iseriouslyquestionthatsuchteachingeverexistedin anyseriousform. 14 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 Thisshouldmakeusreconsiderthe apparentplausibilityofwhatisbeing saidhere.Attheendoftheday,itmay turnouttobeasleightofhand--for several reasons. What follows are threeofthem. First, thereis a falsedichotomy suggestedinthenotionthatthegospel isnotjustificationbyfaithbutthelatteris"implied"bythegospel.Butthis "either-or"wayofthinkingexpresses thelogicalfallacytertium non datur(if notA,thennecessarilyB).Thus,the gospelisChristORitisjustification byfaith. ThisisfalselytoabstractjustificationfromChrist,thebenefit(the implicationofwhatJesusdid)from theBenefactor(thepersonofJesus whohasaccomplishedHiswork).But asPaulnotes,ChristHimselfismade righteousnessforus(1Cor.1:30).Justificationcannotbeabstractedfrom Christasifitwerea"thing"apart fromoraddedtoHim.ChristHimself isourjustification.Wecannothave justificationwithoutChrist!Norcan wehaveChristwithoutjustification! Insofarasthisistrue,wecannotsay thatChrist,notjustificationbyfaith, isthegospel. Secondandperhapsmoresurprisingly,givenN.T.Wright'sextensive commentaryonRomans,Paulhimself providesuswithwhathecalls"my gospel"(Rom.2:16).Butthisgospelis savingpower(1:16�17)--thus"being saved"ispartofthegospel.Inaddition itincludesnotonlyRomans1�3but Romans4�16aswell.Morepointedly, itincludesRomans12�16.Intechnical languageitincludesnotonlykerygma (theproclamationofChristandHis work)butalsodidache(theapplication ofthatworkinandtothelifeofthe believerandthecommunity). earlier,Paulbelievedthatthedistortionandfalsifyingofthegospel takingplaceintheGalatianchurchinvolvedtheapplicationofredemption. Justificationbygracealone,inChrist alone,throughfaithalone,isasmuch partofthegospelasChristbecoming acurseforusonthecross(Gal.3:13). Finally,unlesswearefamiliarwith thecontextofWright'swordsquoted above,wemaynotnoticeafurther sleightofhandtakingplace. Inthestatement"whenthegospel isproclaimed,peoplecometofaithand soareregardedbyGodasmembersof his people," "justification" itself is beingradicallyredefined.Hereitno longermeans"countedrighteousin God'ssightalthoughaguiltysinnerin oneself."Itmeans"beingregardedas membersofHispeople."Justification nolongerbelongstothedefinitionof thegospelassuch,topardonandacceptance,butreferstomembershipin thecovenantcommunity. But this faces insurmountable problems. Itis aneccentricunderstandingofPaul'sGreekterms.Were "justification"theantithesisof"alienation,"theargumentmightbemore plausible.But"justification"istheantithesisof"condemnation."Itsprimarythrusthastodowithtransgression, guilt,andpunishment--relatedness toGod'sholinessexpressedinlegal norms,notprimarilyrelationshipto thecommunity. Membership,therefore,isanimplicationofjustification;itisnotwhat justificationmeans.Thatiswhythe gospelconfessionthat"Jesusislord" (1Cor.12:3)mustneverbeunderstood apartfromtheinterpretationgivenit in1Corinthians15:1�3--that"Christ diedforoursins,inaccordancewith theScriptures."ThisPaulspecifically callsthegospel.Itdealsfirstandforemostwithoursin,pollution,andguilt asthereasonsforexclusionfromthe presenceofGod.Yes,justificationis relationallanguage.Butitisnoless forensiclanguageforthatreason-- sinceitdealswithourrelationshipto theholylordandlawgiver! Itisrighttobeconcernedthatthe objectivityofthegospelshouldneverbeswallowedupbysubjectivity, orthechurchcommunitydestroyed byindividuality.Buttheunderstandingofthegospelandofjustification inlutherandCalvin,inHeidelberg and Westminster, provides all the necessarysafeguards.Theoldwine isbest.Itsatisfiesboththerequirements of biblical teaching and the deepesthungeroftheawakenedhumanheart. Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, s.C., and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at westminster seminary. he is author of In Christ Alone. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 15 Ju st i f icat ion a nd Ec u men ism Michael Horton "Once we relocate justification, moving it from the discussion of how people become Christians to the discussion of how we know that someone is a Christian, we have a powerful incentive to work together across denominational barriers." N .T. W r i g h T, "New Perspectives on Paul," in Justification in Perspective, p. 261 neofthegreatconnectionsthat N.T.Wrightemphasizesinhis workistheonebetweensoteriology (how we are saved) and ecclesiology (the church: who are the true people of God?). He properly (and repeatedly) reminds us that Paul sawthesequestionsasinseparable. Interestingly,sodidtheProtestant Reformers,ashistorianshaveoften obser ved. As on so many points, however,WrightdistortstheReformation positions and almost never footnoteshissweepingallegations. Forexample,inhislatestbook,Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision (IVP,2009),Wrightoncemore complainsthattheReformerssimply didnotreadPaulwithhisownconcernsinmind,suchasGod'splan"to uniteallthingsin[Christ],thingsin heaven and things on earth" (eph. 1:10),withthetwopeoples(Jewand Gentile) becoming one family in Christinfulfillmentofthepromise toAbraham(p.43). A cursor y reading of Calvin's ephesianscommentarytellsadiffer16 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 O entstory.Nevertheless,Wrightstates confidently:"And,asIhaveargued beforeandhopetoshowhereonce more,manyofthesupposedlyordinary readings within the Western Protestanttraditionshavesimplynot paidattentiontowhatPaulactually wrote"(p.50).TheReformationtraditionsimplydoesn'tseeany"organic connectionbetweenjustificationby faithontheonehandandtheinclusion of the Gentiles within God's peopleontheother"(p.53). In this, as in his earlier works, Wright practically never offers a singlefootnoteforhismanifoldassertionsconcerningReformationexegesis.However,hehangsmuchon theslenderthreadofseveralquotes from Alister McGrath's expansive yet controversial study of the historyofthedoctrineofjustification, Iustitia Dei.Assumingdiscontinuity morethanrefinement,McGrathargues(asapprovinglycitedbyWright, p.80),"The`doctrineofjustification' hascometobearameaningwithin dogmatic theolog y which is quite independentofitsPaulineorigins" (Iustitia Dei,pp.2�3). A c c o r d i n g t o W r i g h t (a n d McGrath),justification"hasregularlybeenmadetododutyfortheentire pictureofGod'sreconcilingaction toward the human race, covering everythingfromGod'sfreeloveand grace, through the sending of the sontodieandriseagainforsinners, throughthepreachingofthegospel, theworkoftheSpirit,thearousalof faithinhumanheartsandminds,the developmentofChristiancharacter andconduct,theassuranceofultimatesalvation,andthesafepassage throughfinaljudgmenttothatdestination"(Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision,p.86). Thisissimplynottrue.Themain pointoftheReformationwastostress thedistinctionbetweenjustification and the other gifts of salvation. It wasRome'sconfusionofjustification andsanctificationthattheReformerschallenged. ForallofhisconcernaboutecclesiologyinPaul,Wrightdoesnotseem asconcernedabouttheactualpositionsthatProtestantchurcheshave held.Inthismurkiness,heisableto putforwardhisownviewasa"third way" beyond the impasse of Rome and the Reformation. As it turns out, his alternative surrenders the doctrineofjustificationastheimputationofChrist'sactiveandpassive obedience in favor of a concept of justificationastheanticipationofa finaljustificationbasedon"anentire lifelived"--ours,thatis. At the heart of historical criticismsoftheReformationviewhas beenthechargethatitdoesnothave any place for human activity. New Perspectivetrailblazerse.P.Sanders andJamesD.G.DunnapproachPaul fromanArminianperspective(the latterhavingoncebeenaCalvinist). N.T.Wrightclaimstoavoidsuchdebates(asdoSandersandDunn),but everyoneinterpretsScripturefrom aparticulartheologicalperspective. Wrightalsohasaclearagendatoget Christianstotransformtheworldby "livingthegospel"(completewitha veryspecificpoliticalprescription). Hewritesconcerningjustification: "If Christians could only get this right," says Wright, "they would find that not only would they be believingthegospel,theywouldbe practicing it; and that is the best basisforproclaimingit"(What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 159). Faith and holiness belong together, Wright properlyinsists,buttheonlywayto keepthemtogether,heseemstosuggest,istomakethemthesamething. "Indeed,veryoftentheword`faith' itselfcouldproperlybetranslatedas `faithfulness,'whichmakesthepoint justaswell"(p.160). Far from being suspicious, we shouldwelcomeanyecumenicalconsensusthatemergesoutoftheclear biblicaltestimonytoGod'sjustificationoftheungodlybyimputingtheir sinstoChristandChrist'srighteousness to them through faith alone. However,theconsensusthatseems tobeemerginginourday,asinother eras,seemstofinditscoresympathy inamoresynergistic(Arminianand RomanCatholic)framework. Dr. Michael Horton is J. gresham Machen Professor of systematic theology and apologetics at westminster seminary California in escondido, California. he is also author of Christless Christianity. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 17 R e c O m m e n D e D R e s O u R c e s w h a t n .T. wr i g h t R e a l l y s a i d Justification by faith alone by r.c. sprou l faith alone by r.c. sprou l Justification by Francis TurreTin Martin luther said the doctrine of justification is the article upon which the church stands and falls. This series is an overview of the biblical teaching on justification and the historical circumstances that led luther to rediscover this doctrine. Dr. Sproul also explains imputation, the place of good works in salvation, and other important issues. JUS01CC Z 5 CDS Z (ReTail $38) $30.40 JUS01U Z STUDy gUiDe Z $9 Justification by faith alone is a doctrine central to authentic Christianity, and yet it is one of the first to be abandoned in modern calls for Christian unity. Faith alone is an essential overview for anyone who wants to better understand how we can be declared righteous in god's sight based not on our works but on the merit of Christ, which is imputed to us when we trust Him alone. Fai02BP Z PaPeRBaCK, 222 PageS Z (ReTail $17) $13.60 Francis Turretin is one of the most important Reformed theologians who has ever lived, as seen in the fact that his writings have been continuously referenced throughout the centuries. This volume contains Turretin's exposition of the doctrine of justification along with an introduction by R.C. Sproul. JUS04BP Z PRBK, 115 PageS Z (ReTail $10) $8 By faith alone b y G a r y l . W. J o h n s o n a n d G u y p. WaT e r s By Faith alone is a definitive treatment of the recent challenges to the historic Protestant understanding of justification, especially those teachings that have gained a hearing among the Reformed in america. ByF01BP Z PRBK, 219 PageS Z (ReTail $18) $14.40 The future of Justification by John piper getting the gospel Right by r.c. sprou l John Piper's response to N.T. Wright's recasting of the doctrine of justification presents the errors of Wright's position, while exploring some of the things that Wright has gotten correct. Nevertheless, Piper is clear that Wright has made significant mistakes regarding the imputation of Christ's righteousness, and he develops the pastoral implications of these errors FUT03BP Z PaPeRBaCK, 240 PageS Z (ReTail $18) $14.40 We are mistaken to believe true unity can be found with those who deny the biblical gospel. This important work looks at the essentials of the gospel, the only message that can bring authentic unity. R.C. Sproul shows us why we can never compromise the biblical gospel. geT01BP Z PRBK, 208 PageS Z (ReTail $18) $14.40 geT01BH Z HDCVR, 208 PageS Z (ReTail $19) $15.20 T O p l a c e a n O R D e R , p l e a s e c a l l 1 - 8 0 0 - 4 3 5 - 4 3 4 3 f O R a D D i T i O n a l R e s O u R c e s , p l e a s e v i s i T w w w . l i g O n i e R . O R g Has t he Church Misunderstood Just if icat ion? B y G u y P r e n t i s s Wa t e r s "[Justification] was not so much about `getting in', or indeed about `staying in', as about `how you could tell who was in'. In standard Christian theological language, it wasn't so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church." N .T. W r i g h T, What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 119 oralltheirdifferencesconcerningthedoctrineofjustification, ProtestantsandtheRomanCatholic Churchhaveagreedonthis:justificationfundamentallyconcernsthe salvationofthesinner.Todrawthis observationisnot,ofcourse,tominimize the importance of the differencesbetweenRomeandProtestantismconcerningjustification.Itisto stress,however,thattheProtestantRomanCatholicdebatemakeslittle senseunlessonerecognizesthatboth sides understand the Scriptures to teachthatjustificationbelongsprimarilyintherealmofsalvation. Imaginetheshockofaprominent NewTestamentscholarandProtestantchurchmandeclaringthatRomanCatholicsandProtestantsalike haveprofoundlymisunderstoodthe Bible'steachingonjustification.Justificationinthepresent,N.T.Wright claims,isprimarilyabouthowyou cantellwhobelongstothechurch. Itisnotprimarilyaboutthesalvation ofthesinner.Wright,ofcourse,isnot 20 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 F sayingthatjustificationhasnothing todowiththesalvationofthesinner.Itdoes.Heissaying,however, thatthechurchhasmissedwhatthe Biblesaysistheheartofthedoctrine: "howyoucantellwhoisamember ofthecovenantfamily"(What Saint Paul Really Said,p.122).Wrightrecognizestheecumenicalpotentialof hisposition.Heclaimsthat,ifheis right,hehasbridgedawidegapbetweenRomeandProtestantism--on thispointatleast. Wright believes that he has the Bible on his side. He points especially to the epistle of Paul to the Galatians.Thequestionthatdrives Galatians,Wrightargues,ishowyou definethepeopleofGod.Paul'sopponents,theJudaizers,arguedthat faith-plus-worksdefinetheChristian asamemberofGod'speople.Inother words,circumcisionisnecessaryto Christian identity. Paul, however, writes this letter to say that faith issufficientasabadgeofChristian membership. Circumcision is not necessarytoChristianidentity.This debateprovidesthebackgroundfor "justification" in Galatians. When Paulsaysthatapersonis"notjustifiedbyworksofthelawbutthrough faithinJesusChrist"(Gal.2:16),he issayingthatapersonisidentifiedas partofthepeopleofGodbythebadge of faith. He is not so identified by thebadgeofcircumcisionandother worksrequiredbythelawofMoses. Tobesure,Wrightadvancesaplausiblecase.Oncloserinspection,however, significant problems surface. NoticehowPauldefines"worksofthe law"inGalatians3.Theyarethings thatwedo.Inordertobejustifiedby worksofthelaw,onemust"abideby allthingswrittenintheBookofthe law,anddothem"(3:10;seeDeut. 27:26).Becausewefailtokeepthis standard,weallhavecomeunderthe law'scurse(3:10;seealsoGal.5:3).We arejustifiedthroughfaith,however, becauserighteousJesus"redeemed usfromthecurseofthelawbybecomingacurseforus"(3:11,13).Justificationconcernssinnersbeingbrought outfromthelaw'scursebecauseof thecurse-bearingdeathofJesus. Or,observehowPaulspeaksabout justificationtothechurchinRome. Sinners cannot be justified by the "worksofthelaw"(Rom.3:20).The lawrequiresperfection(2:13).Since weare"undersin,"and"noneisrighteous,no,notone,"nosinnercanmeet thelaw'sperfectstandardinorderto bejustified(3:9�10). Godjustifiesthesinneronlybecauseoftheworkoftheonewhois perfectlyrighteous--Jesus."[We]are justifiedbyhisgraceasagift,through theredemptionthatisinChristJesus, whomGodputforwardasapropitiationbyhisblood,tobereceivedby faith"(3:24�25;seealso5:9).Weare declaredrighteous"bytheoneman's obedience" (5:19). We are justified solelyonthebasisoftheperfectobedienceandfullsatisfactionofChrist, imputedtousandreceivedthrough faithalone. ForPaul,then,justificationfundamentallyconcernssalvation.Ittreats peopleassinnersunderthecurseof thelaw.ItpresentsJesusastheone whoperfectlyobeyedthelawand hasbecomeacurseforsinners. Thus,Wrightismistakentosay thatjustificationinthepresentprimarilyconcernsmembershipinthe church.evenso,thereisalessonfor us to learn. The Bible teaches that justificationisapowerfulandcompellingincentiveforbelieverstolive togetherinunity.Paulhadtoaddress amatterthathadoccasionedserious divisioninthechurchatRome(see Rom.14).HowdoesPaulurgeunityin thechurch?"Welcomeoneanotheras Christhaswelcomedyou,forthegloryofGod"(15:7).ThewaythatChrist receivedyou--anundeservingsinner shownthejustifyinggraceofGodin Christ--shouldsetthepatternfor yourlifewithfellowbelieversinthe church,especiallywhenyoufacethe bumpsandchallengesthatinevitably come.Attheendoftheday,respondinggraciouslytoourdifferencesand bearingoffensesinloveisthebest testofhowdeeplytheBible'steachingonjustificationhastakenrootin ourlives. Dr. Guy Prentiss Waters is associate professor of new testament at reformed theological seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. he is author of The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 21 A New Lut her? D e r e k W. H . T h o m a s "What I am doing [with the doctrine of justification], often enough, is exactly parallel, in terms of method, to what Martin Luther did . . . . I for one am proud to carry on that tradition -- if need be, against those who have turned the Reformation itself into a tradition to be set up over scripture itself." he accusation that systematic theology(doctrinalformulations oftheReformationperiodinparticular)overlygoverns(distorts)exegesis isnotnew,andBishopN.T.Wright trotsitoutwithrenewedzealinhis latestbook,Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision(SPCK,2009).Thus, theWestminsterConfessionandthe Thirty-NineArticleswerewrittenin specificcontexts,emerging"fromthe titanicstruggletopreachthegospel,to orderthechurch,andtoletbothhave theirproperimpactonthepolitical andsocialworldoftheday....When peopleinthatsituationareeagerto maketheirpoint,theyarelikelyto overstateit,justaswearetoday.Wise laterreaderswillhonorthem,butnot canonizethem,bythinkingthrough theirstatementsafreshinthelightof scriptureitself"(p.29). Andwhocoulddisagreewiththat? Itallsoundssoterriblyreasonableand obvious.Weallbringourownprejudicesandworldviewstobearonthe literatureweread;indeed,initsmore exaggeratedformitleadstopostmodernity'sskepticismofanexegesisof anytextthatis"trueforall--forevery 22 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 T individualatalltimes."Thisisnot Wright'sposition.Heisnotabandoning thenotionoftruthclaims--farfromit! Hesimplywantstosuggestthatthe truthclaimsofthesixteenthandseventeenthcenturieswereformulated withsystematic/doctrinalconcerns thatshaped(mis-shaped)theexegesis ofScripture.Wright's"critical-realist" approachsuggests that we need to appreciatethe"biblicalworldview"at anygivenpointinScripture.Or,toput itinmoreWright-likelanguage:Can weidentifythe"stories"thatshape andgovern,forexample,Paul'sunderstandingofreality,togetherwiththe "symbols"thatdefineit? Acaseinpointisthedoctrineofimputedrighteousness,whichheandothersclaimisnowhereexplicitlyfoundin PaulbutwhichReformedorthodoxy claimsisvitalinanyformulationof redemptionaccomplishedandapplied. The"bias"forceduponexegesisby social,ecclesiastical,andpoliticalconcernsofthetimeforcesus,Wrightinsists,toask,"Whydidtheyemphasize thatpointinthatway?Whatwerethey anxioustosafeguard,whatwerethey eagertoavoid,andwhy?Whatwere theyafraidoflosing?Whataspectof thechurch'smissionweretheykeen totakeforward,andwhy?And,inparticular:Whichscripturesdidtheyappealto,andwhichonesdidtheyseem toignore?Whichbitsofthejigsawdid theyaccidentally-on-purpose knockontothe N .T. W r i g h T, f loor? In t he "The Shape of passages they Justification," highlighted,did www.thepaulpage. theyintroduce com/Shape.html d i s t o r t i o n s ? Weretheypayingattentionto whatthewriterswereactuallytalking about,andifnotwhatdifferencedid thatmake?"(p.29). Thesamequestionsmustbeasked ofWright'sexegeticalmethod.What pre-considerationsdoesheemploy whengettingatthemeaningofatext? Wrightwillinsistthattounderstand theNewTestament,forexample,we needtoreaditinitsfirst-centurycontext.Yes!Andtodothatweneedto studyfirst-centuryJudaism,archeology,andtheGreco-Romanworldview forstarters.Yes!Suchfindings--for example,theviewthatsecond-templeJudaismwasessentiallyaworksrighteousnessreligion--needstobe provedbycarefulstudy,something thatthefirstvolumeofJustification and Variegated Nomism(ed.D.A.Carson,P.T.O'Brien,andM.A.Seifrid) does,thoughWrightsaysitdoesn't. Andfurther,thatmeansthatlexicographicalstudiesofthemeaningof words--finding,forexample,that substantialconcurrencesexistinthe usage (and meaning) of words and phrasesintheliteratureofthetime mustinsomewayreflectonhowa wordorphraseisemployedintheNew Testament.Yes,butnotnecessarily (thewordagap,forexampleisgiven analmostentirelynewmeaningin theNewTestament),andJohnPiper's stronglywordedinsistencethatthe usageofthewordorphrase"right thereintheBible"mustbegivenpriorityseemssensibleandnecessaryasa controllingprincipleofinterpretation (The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright,p.36,n.5). Ofcourse,itallsoundsasthough BishopWrightisclaimingthatunlikehisopponents,hismethodology is"backtotheBible"and,moresignificantly,"backtoChrist."Unlikethe prejudicialinterpretationoftheReformersandthosewhoadheretothem today,hisviewbeginswithatabula rasa,afair-minded,non-prejudicial viewthatreadsPaulfirmlywithinthe settingofthetimeratherthanthrough the(distorted)lensofsixteenth-and seventeenth-centurysquabbles.That thissoundstooclean,tooinnocent isajudgmentthatwemustmakefor ourselvesandtowhichtherestofthe articlesinthismonth'sTabletalkmust seektoconvince.Thestakesarehigh, forwithinthecrucibleofthesedebates isnotsomeperipheralissueoflittleor noimportancebuttheverydoctrine ofsalvationitself,theanswertothe mostbasicquestionofall:Howcana sinnerbesaved?Wearebeingaskedto believethatthechurchhasmisunderstoodthemostfoundationalissueof all--until,thatis,alongcameabishop whosawthingsclearly. Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas is the John e. richards Professor of systematic and Practical theology at reformed theological seminary and minister of teaching at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 23 Wright Is Wrong on Imputation Thomas R. Schreiner "It is therefore a straightforward category mistake, however venerable within some Reformed traditions including part of my own, to suppose that Jesus `obeyed the law' and so obtained `righteousness' which could be reckoned to those who believe in him. ...It is not the `righteousness' of Jesus Christ which is `reckoned' to the believer. It is his death and resurrection." N .T. W r i g h T, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, p. 232 A Survey of Wright's View IstheimputationofChrist'srighteousness to the believer an artificial construct,anideafromsystematictheologythatdoesnottrulycomefromthe Bible?N.T.Wrightarguesthatthetraditionalviewofimputationveersaway fromthePaulinemeaning.Hedefends his reading by emphasizing that justification language in Paul stems from thelawcourt.Righteousness,then,has todowithone'slegalstatusandshould notbeconfusedwithone'smoralcharacter. When we think of a law court, saysWright,itisclearthattheideaof imputation is ruled out, for in a law courtnooneisvindicatedonthebasis ofthejudge'srighteousness.Thejudge, Wrightinsists,cannotgiveortransfer hisrighteousnesstothedefendant.The issueiswhetherthejudgedeclaresthe personbeingchargedtobeintheright --whetherthejudgefindsinthefavorof theonebeingcharged.Hence,justificationspeakstothestatusofaperson,not to their moral character. Nor is there anyideathattheirbehaviorormisbe24 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 havioristhebasisoftheverdictpassed. Justification means that one has been acquittedorvindicatedbythejudge. A Response to Wright's View Wright's interpretation is wrong and confusingonseverallevels,andsowe need to examine the issues one at a time.First,herightlysaysthatjustificationhastodowiththelawcourtand represents a legal declaration. When wearejustified,Godasthejudgefinds inourfavoranddeclaresustobeinthe right before him. Wright is right on thismatter. Second, however, Wright leads us astray when he says that justification is a legal declaration and hence it is notbasedonone'smoralcharacter.A coupleofthingsneedtobeuntangled here.Inonesense,ofcourse,justificationisnotbasedonourmoralcharacter,forGodjustifiestheungodly(Rom. 4:5). If justification depended on our moralworth,thennoonewouldbejustified.ButWrightfailstostateclearly therolethatmoralcharacterplaysin justification,andbecauseheseparates moral character entirely from the law court he fails to see the role that Christ'srighteousnessplaysinimputation.WhenajudgeinIsraeldeclareda persontobeinnocentorguilty,hedid soonthebasisofthemoralinnocence orguiltofthedefendant.Thebiblical textisquiteclearthatjudgesrendera verdictonthebasisofthemoralbehaviorofthedefendant.Thisisclearfrom Deuteronomy25:1:"Ifthereisadispute betweenmenandtheycomeintocourt and the judges decide between them, acquittingtheinnocentandcondemningtheguilty."ForWrighttosay,then, thatone'smoralbehaviorhasnothing todowiththejudge'sdeclarationflies in the face of the biblical evidence. Indeed,theonlybasisforthelegaldeclaration was one's moral behavior -- whetheronewasinnocentorguilty. Third,whatdoesallofthishaveto dowithimputation?Thefundamental question is how God can declare sinnerstoberighteous.Howcanaverdict of "not guilty" be pronounced over those who are ungodly and sinners? Forajudgetodeclarethatthewicked are righteous is contrary to the way judgesshouldbehave(seeProv.17:15). SohowcanGodberighteousindeclaring the wicked to be righteous? The answerofScriptureisthattheFather, becauseofHisgreatlove,sentHisSon, whowillinglyandgladlygaveHimself forsinners,sothatthewraththatsinnersdeservedwaspouredoutuponthe Son (Rom. 3:24�26). God can declare sinnerstobeintherightbecausethey areforgivenbyChrist'ssacrifice.God vindicatesHismoralrighteousnessin thejustificationofsinnerssinceChrist takes upon Himself the punishment sinners deserve. It is clear, then, that moral character plays a vital role in justification, for God's own holiness mustbesatisfiedinthecrossofChrist forforgivenesstobegranted. Wrightinsiststhatnojudgeinthe courtroom can give his righteousness to the defendant. The mistake Wrightmakeshereisastonishing,for heshouldknowthatthemeaningand the significance of the law court in Scripture cannot be exhausted by its cultural background. In other words, it is true that in human courtrooms thejudgedoesnotandcannotgivehis righteousness to the defendant. But weseethedistinctivenessofthebiblicaltextandthewonderandtheglory ofthegospelpreciselyhere.Godisnot restrictedbytherulesofhumancourtrooms. This is a most unusual courtroomindeed,forthejudgedeliversup HisownSontopaythepenalty.That doesn'thappeninhumancourtrooms! AndthejudgegivesusHisownrighteousness(seePhil.3:9and2Cor.5:21). The biblical text, then, specifically teachesthatGod,asthedivinejudge, gives us His righteousness. When we are united to Christ by faith, all that Christisbelongstous.Hence,westand intherightbeforeGodbecauseweare in Christ. Our righteousness, then, is not in ourselves. We rejoice that we enjoytherighteousnessofGodinJesus Christ. Once again, moral character entersthepicture,contrarytoWright. We stand in the right before God because our sins have been forgiven and because we enjoy the righteousnessofJesusChrist. Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner is James Buchanan harrison Professor of new testament interpretation at the southern Baptist theological seminary. he is author of Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 25 R e c O m m e n D e D R e s O u R c e s The gospel of the christ who Justifies Justification by faith alone b y J o n aT h a n e d Wa r d s Justified by faith alone b y r .c . s p r o u l This treatment by the man considered the finest philosopher and theologian america has ever produced is among the foundational works on the Reformed and biblical understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Jonathan edwards outlines, defends, and applies the doctrine for the benefit of the church and the glory of god. JUS02BH Z HaRDCoVeR, 154 PageS Z (ReTail $19) $15.20 R.C. Sproul has done the church a great service in writing this handy booklet outlining the doctrine of justification by faith alone and the essential elements of the biblical gospel. it can prepare anyone to understand and share the gospel more effectively. JUS09BP Z PRBK, 48 PageS Z (ReTail $5) $4 The gospel of free acceptance in christ b y c o r n e l i s p. V e n e m a Justification b y J .V. F e s k o J.V. Fesko lays out the doctrine of justification by faith alone in terms of its historical and biblical context, demonstrating why we can never negotiate the imputation of Christ's righteousness. JUS06BP Z PRBK, 480 PageS Z (ReTail $30) $24 The gospel of Free acceptance in Christ is Cornelis Venema's more thorough assessment of the Reformation understanding of Paul and the errors of the so-called "new perspective" regarding the apostle's thought. goS09BP Z PRBK, 352 PageS Z (ReTail $28) $15.40 faith: The evidence of Things unseen by r.c. sprou l getting the gospel Right b y c o r n e l i s p. V e n e m a Christians talk about faith all the time, but do we really understand what the word means? This series looks at the biblical teaching on faith, helping us get a clearer picture of what it means to trust god. Fai03CC Z 2 CDS Z (ReTail $17) $13.60 The "new perspective on Paul" is currently calling into question the traditional Protestant interpretation of the apostle's writings. This book is a concise, biblical answer to the "new perspective," demonstrating its weaknesses objectively. it is highly recommended as an introduction to the issues and problems related to the "new perspective on Paul." geT02BP Z PaPeRBaCK, 92 PageS Z (ReTail $6) $4.80 T O p l a c e a n O R D e R , p l e a s e c a l l 1 - 8 0 0 - 4 3 5 - 4 3 4 3 f O R a D D i T i O n a l R e s O u R c e s , p l e a s e v i s i T w w w . l i g O n i e R . O R g "Fa it h" a nd "Fa it h f u l ness" D.A. Carson "Faith and obedience are not antithetical. They belong exactly together. Indeed, very often the word `faith' itself could properly be translated as `faithfulness', which makes the point just as well." N .T. W r i g h T, What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 160 heGreekwordpistiscanmean,in englishtranslation,both"faith" and"faithfulness";noonedisputes that fact (for the latter, see Rom. 3:3).N.T.Wright,however,takestwo stepsthatcannotbefairlyevaluated withoutunderstandinghowtheyare integrated into his broader understandingofhowtheBiblefitstogether.First,inthehandfulofinstances whereourenglishtranslationshave "faith in Jesus Christ" or "faith in Christ" or the like (Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal.2:16;3:22;Phil.3:9),expressions inwhichChrististheobjectofour faith,ineveryinstanceWrighttakes theexpressiontomean"faithfulness ofJesusChrist"oritsequivalent.In otherwords,whatisatissueisthe faithfulnessthatJesusChristexercisedbybeingthefaithfulIsraelite, doing His Father's will and going tothecross,notthefaiththatJews andGentilesalikeexercise,withJesusHimselfasfaith'sobject.Atthe level of mere grammar, the Greek expression(whichdoesnotuseprepositionsakintoenglish"in"or"of") couldbereadeitherway.Second,in 28 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 T someinstancesWrightthinks that when Paul speaks of the "faith" of Christians,heisreallytalkingabout their "faithfulness," more-or-less equivalenttotheirobedience.What shallwemakeofthesesteps? First, in defense of Wright, it is importanttorecognizethathedoes not deny that human beings must placetheirfaithinChrist.Rather,he arguesthatinsomepassageswhatis atissueisnothumanfaithinChrist buteitherhumanfaithfulnessorthe faithfulnessofJesusChristHimself. ThusRomans3:22,asheunderstands it,assertsthattherighteousnessof Godthatcomesby(either)"faithin Christ"or"thefaithfulnessofChrist" isinanycaseforallwhobelieve. Second, although the theme of Jesusbeingfaithfulandobedientto HisheavenlyFatherisquiteastrong oneintheNewTestament(especiallyinJohnandHebrews,butwitness alsoPhil2:5�11;Gethsemaneinthe Synoptics),itisfarfromobviousthat thethemeisfoundinthehalf-dozen "faith/faithfulnessofJesusChrist" passages. The issues, frankly, are complex.AfairreadingoftheconPaulinepassages.Forinstance,contexts of these passages shows that siderAbrahamasdescribedinRowherever the verb "to believe" is mans 4. Many Jewish documents used,theobjectisinvariablyJesus ofthetimearguethatAbrahamreorthegospel;itwouldtakeextraorceived many great gifts from God dinar y evidence to hold that the --hebecamefatherofmanynations, cognatenoun"faith"isusedinsome wascalledthefriendofGod,hadhis different way. Wright thinks that prayers answered -- precisely betheevidenceisextraordinary--escausehewasfoundtobefaithful(for peciallythewayhereadstheBible's example,Sir.44:19�20;1Macc.2:52; storyline.Heunderstandsthehigh Jub.19:8�9).Bycontrast,whenPaul point of salvation to turn on God's in Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:6 "righteousness"(more-or-lessGod's ("AbrahambelievedGod,anditwas "covenant faithfulness") in sendcountedtohimasrighteousness"), ing Jesus to function as the faiththe apostle sees that God justifies ful Israelite who goes to the cross theungodly(Rom.4:5).Indominant and is vindicated by His Father, Jewishunderstanding,God'sjustifysuchthatallwhoareinunionwith ingofAbrahamisentirelyappropriJesus,JewsandGentilesalike,are ate:Abrahamdeservedit,forhewas constitutedGod'scovenantpeople. "faithful."InPaul'sunderstanding, The kindest assessment of this understanding of biblicaltheology--andshouldn't Wright's penchant for finding all of us want to be kind in assessing others? -- is that "faithfulness" instead of "faith" it is not so much wrong as seriously misses the point in g uilty of putting emphasis in the wrong place. Wright many Pauline passages. concedes that Christ on the cross deals at some level or other with sin, righteousness,guilt,condemnation,andholiGod's justifying of Abraham is in ness,butforhimthesearerelatively defianceofAbraham'sungodliness. minor themes compared with the Smallwonder:forPaul,thejustificacontrollingthemesofGod'sfaithfultion of sinners turns absolutely on nesstothecovenantandofChrist's Christcrucified. obedientfaithfulnesstoHisroleas Mistakesofthissortaccumulatein the ideal Israelite. In the insightWright'sreadingofPauluntilonefears ful assessment of Douglas J. Moo, thebishopisleadinghisflockastray. WrightbackgroundswhattheNew Testament foregrounds, and foregrounds what the New Testament Dr. D.A. Carson is research professor of new testament at trinity evangelical Divinity school in Deerbackgrounds. field, illinois. he has been at trinity since 1978, and is Third,Wright'spenchantforfindan editor of Justification and Variegated Nomism. ing"faithfulness"insteadof"faith" seriouslymissesthepointinmany TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | | 29 T he "Non sen se" of Ju st i f y i ng t he Ungod ly John Piper, w i t h Dav id M at h is "If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom." N .T. W r i g h T, What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 98 T hereareatleastthreeproblems withN.T.Wright'sclaimthatimputingGod'srighteousnesstoadefendantisacategorymistakeand"makes nosense." First,Wright'sdefinitionoftherighteousnessofGodistooshallow.Hefails togototheheartofthematterandstays atthelevelofwhatdivinerighteousnessdoesratherthanwhatitis.HedefinesGod'srighteousnessbysayingthat itkeepscovenant,judgesimpartially, dealsproperlywithsin,andadvocates forthehelpless.Butnoneofthoseis whatrighteousnessis;theyareonly someofthethingsrighteousnessdoes. The space we have here is not enoughtofocusindepthontherighteousnessofGod;asummarystatementwillhavetosufficeforwhatI thinkisamorefaithfulreadingofPaul andthewiderScripturesconcerning God'srighteousness:Theessenceof therighteousnessofGodisHisunwaveringfaithfulnesstoupholdtheglory ofHisname.Andhumanrighteousnessisthesame:theunwaveringfaith- fulnesstoupholdthegloryofGod. 30 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 Hereitmustdotosaythatwhen Wrightsaystherighteousnessofthe judgeisHis"tryingthecaseimpartially"andtherighteousnessofthe defendantishis"beingdeclaredinthe right,"hisframeworkfailstogetatthe meaningofrighteousnessbehindthese differentexpressions.Therefore,he forcesaportrayalofhistoricimputationwhich"makesnosenseatall." Thisisnotbecauseimputationitself makesnosensebutbecauseWright hassetthingsupinawaythatmakes itlooknonsensical.Andthisisbecause he treats the righteousness of God merelyintermsoftheactionsofthe judge,notintermsofHisdeeperattributeofrighteousness. ThesecondproblemwithWright's law-courtimageryisthatitdoesnot seemtocometotermswiththefact thatthejudgeisomniscient.Theomniscienceofthejudgeimpliesthatthe defendantmusthaveadifferentrighteousnessthanWrightwouldconcede, thatis,arighteousnessthatismore thanthemerestatusofbeingacquitted,regardlessofinnocenceorguilt. Wrightstressesthatforthedefendant, righteousnessisnotacharacterqualitybutastatus,namely,thatthecourt hasfoundinthedefendant'sfavor.The defendantmayormaynothavecommittedthecrimewithwhichhewas charged.Regardless,ifthecourtfinds inhisfavor,heis"righteous."Hehas thatstatus. Thisdefinitionof"righteous"may workinhumanlawcourtswherejudges are fallible and their judgments muststand,whethertheyarerightor wrong.Butthere'sacatch.InGod's courtroom,thejudgeisomniscient and just. And in such a courtroom therecanneverbeacasewherethere isadiscrepancybetweenthetruthof thechargeandthetruthoftheverdict. Inthiscourt,whatwouldbethebasis ofsaying,"Ibestowonyouthestatus ofrighteous,andIfindyouguiltyas charged"?Howcouldsuchafindingbe intelligible,nottomentionjust? One right answer that I think Wrightwouldagreewithisthatthisis whattheatonementisallabout.Christ diedforoursinstoprovideabasisfor thisfinding,andtherefore,though guilty,thecourtcanexerciseclemency (orinGod'scase,forgiveness)because ofChrist,andsowegofree. God'sclemencyinthecourtroom andHispersonalforgivenessarecertainlytrueandglorious.Wewillsing ofittoalleternity.Butthequestionis whetherPaulhassomethingtoadd-- anevenwiderbasisforourjustification --somethingthatmakesoursalvation evenmorewonderfulandbringsmore glorytoourSavior.Ithinkhedoes.It emergeswhenwerealizethatinthe courtroom,treatingasinnocentadefendantwhoisknowninthecourtto beguilty(lettinghimgofreewithout condemnation)onthebasisofclem- ency(orforgiveness)wouldnothave beendescribedas"justifying"him. Iftheomniscientandjustjudge foundapersonguiltyascharged,the courtwouldnotsaythatclemency(or forgiveness)givesrisetothedeclarationofastatusofrighteous.Forgiveness and clemency can commute a sentence,buttheycannotmeanthe judgefindsinthedefendant'sfavor. Anomniscientandjustjudgealways vindicatestheclaimthatistrue.Ifthe defendantisguilty,theomniscient, justjudgefindsinfavoroftheplaintiff. Thejudgemayshowmercy.Hehasit inhispowertobestowclemency,to forgive,andnottocondemntheguilty. Butnotcondemningtheguiltywould neverhavebeencalled"justification" or"findinginfavor"or"bestowingthe statusofrighteous." ThethirdprobleminWright'sway ofsettingupthelaw-courtimageryis thathecalls"nonsense"whatinfact reallydoeshappen.BecauseofJesus' work,itisnotinfactnonsensetospeak ofthedefendantinsomesensesharingintherighteousnessofthejudge. Itisnotacategorymistaketospeakof thedefendant"receivingthejudge's righteousness."Thisis,infact,what thelanguageofjustificationdemands inalawcourtwherethejudgeisomniscientandjustandthechargeis"none isrighteous"(Rom.3:10).Ofcourse,it willjartheordinaryhumancategories.Thatiswhatthejustificationof theungodlyhasalwaysdone--andis meanttodo. Dr. John Piper is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minn., and author of The Future of Justification. his executive pastoral assistant is David Mathis. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 31 Christ, Our R ighteousness Roger Nicole "To know that one has died and been raised is far, far more pastorally significant than to know that one has, vicariously, fulfilled the Torah." N .T. W r i g h T, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, p. 233 .T. Wright in his advocacy of a "new perspective" on Paul and histeachingmakesaspecialpleathat "justification" should relate to the question"whobelongstoGod'scovenant with the world?" rather than "how can you be saved?" Wright's answer to the question is "Jews and Gentiles alike, who believe in Jesus the Messiah." This position is discussedwidelyinthepresentissueof Tabletalk.Thesubjectofouressayis to consider how the perfect obedienceofChristtotheMosaiclawdoes apply to those who believe in Him. Theanswertothisquestion,according to the Reformed understanding ofScripture,is"theactiveobedience of Christ is imputed to the justified believers as their positive cover in thelastjudgment."TheWestminster Confession of Faith states, "Those whomGod...freelyjustifieth...accepting their persons as righteous...by imputingtheobedienceandsatisfactionofChristuntothem"(11:1). First,thispositionisarticulatedin anemphaticwayinRomans4:3�24. Thepivotofthispassageistheword logizomai, to credit, to include in 32 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 N one's accounting. This word is used tentimesinthiscontextinRomans, and the word is used elsewhere in a similar fashion in Psalm 106:31, Galatians3:6,andJames2:23. Whatiscreditedisnotthebeliever'sgoodworksinobediencetoGod's law (vv. 9�11). Not even his faith is meritorious, but one is justified by grace through the redemption that camebyJesusChrist(3:24). The effect of justification is that noonecanboastofbeingbetterthan others; rather, each one must own that, being no more worthy of the divinechoice,hewassavedbyGod's gracealone(eph.2:5,9). Second,thefactthatsalvationisa blessing apprehended here and now, andnotmerelyahopetoberealized at some point in the future, is made veryclearinScripture(seeJohn5:24; Rom.8:1;eph.2:5,8;1John3:14). This assurance of future salvationcouldnotbehadonthebasisof perfection in people who have not actuallyreachedperfection,butitis freelyappropriatedtothosetowhom theimputationofChrist'sperfection hasbeenapplied. Third,theprophetmadethisclear inZechariah3:1�5.Thetakingaway ofthefilthyclothesisametaphorfor the divine atonement for sins; the puttingonoftherichgarmentsrepresentstheimputationoftheperfect obedienceofChrist.Butiftheimputationofrighteousnesswerenottakingplace,Joshuawouldhavehadto appearnakedbeforeGod.Thesame conceptisfoundintheparableofthe weddingbanquet(Matt.22:11�13). Commonly,therearethreeobjections that are raised against this understandingofimputation: � "If God cancels both the iniquityandtheinsufficientobedienceof His people, this wipes out personal responsibility." Answer. No, for responsibility remains and will be the basis of the ultimate judgment (ezek. 18:4, 25�29;33:17�20),buttherearesome elementsofcorporateresponsibility, particularlyinthecovenantalunity, wheretheheadofthecovenantmay absorbthepunishmentduetosome members (Isa. 53:5�6, 11�12) and cover by His righteousness those whomHerepresents.Thissubstitutionhasadoubleimpact:forgiveness of past sins and the imputation of Christ'srighteousnesstous. � "If Christians are viewed by God as covered with the righteousnessofChrist,itisurged,itdoesnot matterwhatsinstheymaycommit." Answer. This objection, already raised in Paul's time (Rom. 6:1, 15; 1Cor.15:32�33),isatravestyofjustification. A position that would achieve impunity and forget that ourSaviorsufferedanddiedforour sinsistheveryreverseofwhatGod teaches everywhere. If someone asserts that faith in Christ opens thedoortosinning,itisobviousthat thisfaithisnotalivebutisdead! SoPaulandJames(2:14�18)arein agreementontheirviewofjustificationasfollows: Paul: Faith that validates dead worksisitselfdead. James:Faiththatisnotaccompaniedbyarenewalofobedienceto Godisalsodead. Bothteachsalvationisapprehendedbyafaiththatproducesgoodworks. � N.T. Wright asserts that Paul doesnotdealwiththequestion"how canIbesaved?"butsimplywiththe question"maythechurchacceptinto itsmembershippeoplewhohavenot acceptedcircumcisionasnecessary?" Answer.Itistruethatmanypassages from Paul can be quoted in responsetothisquery,butitremains that this answer was established bythechurchatlargeasearlyas50 ADatthemeetinginJerusalemthat gaveadefinitiveanswerlongbefore Paul wrote Galatians or Romans. It is inconceivable that Paul would writesolongatreatiselikeRomans afterthematterwassettledwithout usingthechurch'sresponsethathe hadsolicited(Acts15). The gospel ministry with its proper emphasis on justification and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the repenting and believing sinner does not need a new perspective but a renewal of spirit-filledpreaching. Dr. Roger Nicole is professor emeritus of theology at reformed theological seminary in orlando, Florida, and author of Standing Forth. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 33 Sa lvation and the Life A f ter Life Pau l H el m "People like Saul were not primarily interested in the state of their souls after death; that was no doubt important, but no doubt God would have the matter in hand. They were interested, urgently, in the salvation which, they believed, the one true God had promised to his people Israel." N .T. W r i g h T, What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 118. owdoweestimatewhatapersonisprimarilyinterestedin? Perhaps by seeing how often they returntothesubject,orwhatthey mentiononimportantoccasions.And perhaps,also,bythemannerinwhich peoplewriteaboutthings:isitdetached,orisitimpassioned--"urgent,"asWrightsays? Howdowedecidewhetherapersonthinksthatsomethingisimportantforhimbutisneverthelessamatterthatheisnotprimarilyinterested in?Howdoesoneweighthatkindof thing?That'smoredifficult,Isuggest, becausemanythingsmaybeimportantforapersonthathedoesnotkeep talkingorwritingabout.Hemayonly talk about such things when they arechallengedorwhenheisasked aquestionaboutthem.Suchpeople may be intensely personal, or private.Soit'snotaltogethereasytotest Wright'sclaimaboutPaul,theApostle totheGentiles(asSaulbecame),and whatwasimportantforhim. 34 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 H However,wecansaythismuch: There are numerous occasions in whichPaulwritesaboutthedestiny ofhisselfafterdeathandaboutthe destinyofChristiansmoregenerally. WritingtoTimothy,hereferstothe crownofrighteousnessthatthelord, the righteous Judge, willaward to himonthatfinalday(2Tim.4:8).And moregenerally,hearguesatlength to the Corinthians that the resurrectionofChrististhekeytotheir ownresurrection.ForifChristisnot raised,weareyetinoursins(1Cor. 15:17).Bearinginmindhisteaching inthispassage,whenPaulthinksof "thesoulafterdeath,"heclearlydoes notmean"thesoulinexclusionfrom thebody." Whatabouthisdesiretobewith Christ and so not to remain in the body? (Phil. 1:23). And what about themarvelouspassageinPhilippians 3 expressing his determination to gainChristandtobefoundinhim, nothavingarighteousnessofhisown butthatwhichcomethroughfaithin people,theJews,hedidnotactually Christ;thislooksintenselypersonal, calluponGodtocursehimfortheir doesitnot? sake.TherewascertainlytensionbeButofcourse,theimportancethat tweenPaul'sconcernforhimselfand Paulattachedtothestateofthesoul hisfellowChristians,andhisconcern afterdeath(in2Cor.5:6,forexample) forhis"ownpeople." wasalsoonewayofexpressinghis Theremayalsobesomethingof concern for the salvation of IsraafalseantithesisthatWrightisposel.lookatRomans9:2,wherePaul inginthequotationatthetopofthis writes movingly of his "great sorpiece.Whymustwechooseoneoprowandunceasinganguish"forhis tiontotheexclusionoftheother?In peopletheJews,beingwillingtobe thiscase,onlyifPauldid.Butdidhe? "accursedandcutofffromChristfor Whynotbothtogether,atonce? thesakeofmybrothers,mykinsmen WhymaynotIsrael'ssalvation,howaccordingtotheflesh"(v.3),forafureverthisisunderstood,whetherof therexampleofthis.Theexpression what remained of ethnic Israel or "cut off from Christ" seems pretty ofthe"trueJews"variety,beacorcomprehensive.CharlesHodgesays poratesalvationthatiscomposedof thatthewordaccursed"appliedtoall savedindividualpeople?Isthisnot those who were regardedasdeservedly Why may not Israel's salvation be exposed, or devoted tothecurseofGod." a corporate salvation composed TheplightoftheJews was such that Paul of saved individual people? ha rbored t he w ish thathehimselfmight beaccursedfortheirsake. how,guidedbytheNewTestament, There is another way of underweusuallyunderstandthesethings? standingwhatWrightsays.Perhaps Further, why may not the state heishintingthatthereisnotension ofaperson'ssoulafterdeathbeone inPaulbetweenhisconcernforhis way,perhapsthechiefway,inwhich ownindividual,personaldestinyand thesalvationthattheonetrueGod hisconcernforthedestinyofother had promised to His people Israel people.Heretheevidenceisrather wastobe,oris,realized?Thus,God's mixed, or unclear. This is because "promisedsalvation"andthe"state wemighttake"Israel"torefertothe ofthesoulafterdeath"mayonsome Jewish nation, or we might take it occasionsbetwowaysofsayingthe torefertothosewhomPaulcalled samething. "inward"Jews--thosewhosehearts were circumcised (Rom. 2:29), the "Israel of God." Paul's concern for Paul Helm is professor of theology at highland theological College in scotland and teaching fellow the salvation of such people is unat regent College in vancouver, Canada. he is author bounded,butaswehaveseen,though of The Providence of God and John Calvin's Ideas. he says that he could wish that he himselfwereaccursedforhisown TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | | 35 s e e k Y e F i r s t Two Birds, One Stone R.C. Sproul Jr. W hen error comes into the churchwefaceasetofobligations. First, we must confront the error. The world has embraced a live-and-let-live relativism that will accept any foolishness, but will not accept the wisdom of calling foolishness by its name. Too often the church follows suit. We want to get along, and so pet the wolves in our midst rather than drive them away. Our calling, as faithful soldiers of the kingdom, is to combat error in whatever form it takes. Second, we must not err when confronting the error. If we would have sound and accurate thinking in the church, we mustbesoundandaccurateinwhat wedenounce.Wearenotservingwell the kingdom of God when we fight carnally,usinggossip,innuendo,and aimingourfireatourallies.Consider thealmostcivilwarduringthetime ofJoshua.Thosetribesontheeastern side of the Jordan, you'll remember, built an altar. Their brothers prepared to make war against those who would establish false worship withintheland.Thesebrotherscame to understand, thankfully, that the altar wasn't built for false worship, but as a reminder of the covenantal unionthoseontheeasthadwiththe restofIsrael.Farfromanoccasionfor division,thealtarwasamonumentto 36 TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 unity.Zealwithoutknowledge,inthis instance,couldhaveledtounnecessarydivisionandsenselessslaughter. (SeeJoshua22forthefullstory.) We are given these stories, told of these events that we might learn fromthem.Consider,inourownday, thebattlesinsomeofourinstitutions andontheinternetoverthedoctrines taught by N.T. Wright, as well as those doctrines that collectively go bythemoniker"FederalVision."Itis certainlyfairtosaythattheteaching ofN.T.Wrighthashadanimpacton whathascometobeknownasFederal Vision.Oftenthosewhocelebratethe onecelebratetheother,andthosewho condemntheonecondemntheother. Suchdoesn'tmean,however,thatthe two should be conflated. We ought not, sloppily, accuse all who appreciate Wright of embracing Federal Vision,noraccuseallwhoappreciate FederalVisionofembracingWright. Farless,however,shouldwebeaccusing those who embrace neither of embracingboth,whichhassomehow happenedtome.Ihavebeencharged inthepastwithWright'serrors,and thoughIdonotnow,norhaveIever embraced Federal Vision theology, I havebeenchargedwithitserrorstoo. This difficult-to-define way of thinkinghitmostofourradarsdueto aconferenceheldin2002atAuburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in louisiana. The hosts there, noting theconcerntheyhadraisedtheyear before, invited four critics to come speak to those concerns. As one of thosefour,Itooktheopportunityto argue that Federal Vision's view of apostasy was, as far as I could tell, a denial, however unintentional, of the biblical doctrine of perseverance of the saints. That is a rather serious problem. One cannot deny perseverance, or affirm a system of thought that leaves little room for perseverance, and still claim to be Reformed or confessional. Neither canoneclaimtobelieveinperseveranceifoneaffirmsGodpredestined that some would come to saving faith and then lose that saving faith. The doctrineofperseverancehasnevermerelyaffirmedthat those whom God foreknew would persevere but rather affirmed that all those who trust in the finished work of Christ will persevere, will so trust until their death. In sundry venues, over the years, I have highlighted this same problem and in turn noted a long series of other problemareaswithinthemovement. Theseincludeitssanguineapproach toward Rome and Orthodoxy and the efficacy of their sacraments; FederalVision'softenmuddledlanguage on the relationship between ourworks,perseverance,andfuture justification; and, of course, their oftenrancorousrhetoric.(Tobefair, thatparticularchargeisrightlyleveledallaround.Thispeculiardebate has not exactly been marked by gentlemanlybehavior.) Reformed orthodoxy affirms boththatpeopledochange,andthat peopledostaythesame.Thatis,we become soldiers of the King only afterGodchangesourhearts,blessing us with the gift of faith. Before wearedraftedintothearmyofthe lord we are soldiers in the army of the serpent. We are by nature childrenofwrath.HisSpiritchangesus. ThissupernaturalworkoftheSpirit is, of course, irresistible. Once we have been drafted into God's army, once we have been given a heart of flesh, we can never go back. Our Captain, our King, our lord, has promised that we shall never again serve the lord of darkness. Jesus Jesus has promised that nothing can take us from His hand. has promised that nothing can take usfromHishand.Wearereminded that those who appear to leave us were ultimately never with us (1 John 2:19). One can no more defect from the lord's army than one can bedisownedafterbeingadoptedinto thefamilyofGod. When Jesus commands that we seekfirstthekingdomofGodandHis righteousness,Heleavesnoroomfor notseekingthekingdom.Thosewho seek first the kingdom, by His grace and in His power, will seek always His kingdom. And praise God, He rewardsallthosewhoseekHim. R.C. Sproul Jr. is founder of highlands Ministries and is author of Believing God. | TABleTAlK FeBruary 2010 | 37 R e c O m m e n D e D R e s O u R c e s Romans By R.C. SpRou l I nto the Word daily bible StudieS for february 2010 throughout church history, the study of the book of Romans has been pivotal to understanding Christian life and doctrine. Convinced that "paul's fullest, grandest, most comprehensive statement of the gospel" is just as vital today, R.C. Sproul delivered sixty sermons on Romans from 2005 to 2007 at Saint Andrew's, where he has pastored for more than a decade. Sproul's passage-by-passage expositions will not only enrich any preaching or teaching ministry but any thoughtful study of this weighty epistle. Rom07BH Z HDCvR, 520 pgS Z (REtAil $35) $28 G o d ' s c a p t I va t I n G W o r d W John By R . C . S p Ro u l According to R.C. Sproul, John is the "most theological" of the four gospels, as it spotlights the redemptive-historical activity of Jesus during His earthly ministry. Now, in his first major published exposition of this biblical book, Dr. Sproul takes readers through John's gospel passage by passage, revealing the unique themes that the apostle was so passionate to develop. John is the newest addition to the St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary series. JoH10BH Z HDCvR, 414 pgS Z (REtAil $27) $21.60 e begin this month with a continuation of our study of the biblical covenants using Dr. R.C. Sproul's series The Promise Keeper to unfold the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. These covenants, which administer the kingdom of God, are laid out in the Word of God. Various aspects of Scripture will occupy the remainder of our study as we consider how they are developed in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. After considering the Word of God revealed in nature, we will "My conscience is captive to examine some of the attributes of Holy Writ, which is "living and the Word of God. . . . Here active, sharper than any twoI stand; I can do no other. edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints God help me. amen." and of marrow" (Heb. 4:12). This Martin Luther, FroM his speech beFore Old Testament reveals this Word the diet oF worMs in three major forms -- in the Law, the Prophets, and in the Wisdom Literature -- and we will examine the importance of these genres in establishing the terms of the Lord's covenant. Ultimately, the Word of God finds fulfillment in the incarnate Word of God -- Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1). Our study will seek to demonstrate how He is the goal and end of this sacred Word. A b i d i n g i n t h e w o r d these verses parallel the themes of the studies each week. we encourage you to hide them in your heart so that you may not sin against the lord: O R v i s i T w w w . l i g O n i e R . O R g w eek o f feb r ua ry 1 � � D e u t e r o n o m y 7: 7 �> w eek o f feb r ua ry 8 � � 2 t im o t h y 3: 14 �15 �> w eek o f feb r ua ry 15 � � r o m a n s 13: 10 �> w eek o f feb r ua ry 2 2 � � e c c le s i a s t e s 12: 13�14 �> T O p l a c e a n O R D e R , c a l l 1 - 8 0 0 - 4 3 5 - 4 3 4 3 Abrahamic Covenant, part 2 MON | Feb The Mosaic Covenant Deuteronomy 7:6�8 "it was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples" (v. 7). Tue | Feb 1 U Genesis 15:7�21 "when the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. on that day the Lord made a covenant with abram" (vv. 17�18). 2 nlike the covenant of works made with Adam and all his descendants, God unfolds the covenant of grace through several successive covenants. The Noahic covenant is the first of these, a pact wherein God promised to preserve the stability of nature as an arena in which to fulfill the covenant of grace (Gen. 8:20�22). Following the covenant with Noah and his posterity, the Lord called Abram the patriarch out of paganism and pledged to make from him a great nation (12:1�3). Later, the Abrahamic covenant is further clarified when Abram complains to God that he must make his servant the heir of his estate since he has no natural-born children (15:1�3). The Lord responds with a promise to give Abram a son, and Abram, believing this promise, is justified in God's sight (vv. 4�6). Yet Abram's faith soon begins to waver, just as we often have trouble believing God. entertaining questions about the Creator's ability to give Abram the land of Canaan, Abram asks the Lord for a sign that He will keep His promise (vv. 7�8). Instead of rebuking Abram for his doubt, God tells Abram to kill and cut up some animals and to lay their pieces side by side in two lines in order to form a pathway between them (vv. 9�11). With this command, the Lord shows Abram a vital truth, using an ancient Near eastern practice. During covenant-making ceremonies in Abram's day, the parties to the agreement often slaughtered and then divided the animals, walking between the pieces to signify that they would meet the same fate if they broke their oaths. When Abram kills the animals, he probably expects God to walk with him between the carcasses to seal the covenant. This is not what happens, however, for only a smoking pot and flaming torch, a visible manifestation of the Lord Himself, pass between the animal parts (vv. 12�16). God alone takes upon Himself the covenant curse if He does not keep His promise to Abram. God swears this oath before changing Abram's name to Abraham and before instituting the sign of circumcision (chap. 17). The Lord is pledging to fulfill His promise no matter what His people do. Of course, our obedience is important. But God, knowing our sin will lead us to fail, reveals that He alone will be able to keep covenant. He must take the initiative and do the work to reckon us obedient to His standards. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study oday we begin our examination of the Mosaic covenant, which is one of the most complex covenants found in Scripture. On account of this complexity, it will be helpful for us to keep in mind several things before we look at the details of the covenant that Moses mediated. First, the Mosaic covenant is part of the broader covenant of grace. It may include provisions that remind God's people of the covenant of works, but we must not think that the Israelites who lived under the Mosaic covenant owed their salvation to works and not to grace. Secondly, we must also remember that the Lord's revelation of redemption is progressively unfurled. Later covenants do not supersede previous revelation; rather, they help to reveal and expand the earlier covenants more fully. The Mosaic covenant further unfolds the Abrahamic covenant, both of these are unfolded by the Davidic covenant, and the new covenant displays the intent and purpose of these pacts most clearly of all. Under the Mosaic covenant, God makes huge strides toward realizing the promises He made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1�3). A large number of families are constituted as a nation during the exodus from egypt and brought to Canaan, which begins the first major fulfillment of God's promise to the patriarch. The Lord is present among Israel in the tabernacle as He keeps His word to bless Israel. All the nations of the earth begin to find blessing as the Law is written and later proclaimed to the nations (Jonah 3). There are four main elements of the Mosaic covenant: the exodus, the sealing of the old covenant, the giving of the Law, and the old covenant rituals. In particular, the exodus proves that the Mosaic covenant is rooted in the covenant of grace. For as we see in today's passage, God is clear that nothing in the Israelites themselves moved Him to choose the nation and deliver it from egypt. Instead, the Lord chose Israel simply out of His good pleasure and love, the same pleasure and love by which He swore oaths to the patriarchs (Deut. 7:6�8). Such is God's electing grace at work. Also, the Israelites were not required to obey the Law in order for the Lord to save them. As the story goes, God rescued His people from slavery before revealing the Law (ex. 20:1�17). even under the old covenant, salvation was wholly of the Lord long before any good works could be present. For Further study T COR AM DeO Living before the face of God our salvation is wholly of the Lord. he took the initiative in becoming incarnate to keep the covenant on our behalf and then died a violent death, which God intended to save us from the covenant curse (Gal. 3:10�14). we must respond in faith, and he is the one who gives us the faith (eph. 2:8�9). Let us remember these great truths and, knowing that we have done nothing to earn salvation, live as humble servants of the kingdom. psalms 3:8; 23:3; 44:26 micah 7:18�20 Romans 9:6�18 1 John 2:12 the bible in a year Exodus 15:1�21 isaiah 41:8�10 Ephesians 2:8�10 Revelation 15:2�4 the bible in a year Exodus 27�28 matthew 21:33�46 Exodus 29�30 matthew 22:1�22 the old covenant law testified to the perfect holiness God demands, and it also trained israel to look for a savior. it was not through keeping the Law that the ancient israelites were commanded to seek salvation. as with us, their doing of good works as outlined in scripture was to be the way in which they thanked God for saving them. we are to do good works, and the old covenant law can guide us in the kinds of works that please our Lord. God's Treasured Possession WED | FEb Building David's House 2 samuel 7:1�17 "i will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and i will establish his kingdom. he shall build a house for my name" (vv. 12�13). Thu | Feb 3 exoDus 19:1�15 "if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine" (v. 5). 4 C ovenants between God and mankind are central to Scripture, and so understanding the Bible requires us to understand the covenants found therein. Scripture is clear that the Lord has made two overarching covenants with humanity: the covenant of works between God and all human beings and the covenant of grace between God and His people. The covenant of grace is actually unfolded through several covenants, one of which is the Mosaic covenant, otherwise known as the old covenant. Thus far in our look at this covenant, we have seen how the Lord redeemed His people from egyptian slavery before giving them the Law, depicting the principle that God saves fallen people by grace alone no matter the covenant under which they live. Besides the exodus, there are three other aspects of the Mosaic covenant. First is the enactment of the covenant with Israel as recorded in exodus 19. Moses describes how at that point the nation of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai after being rescued from egypt. The Israelites pledged to follow the Lord (vv. 7�8), but they had to go through a process of cleansing before God would reveal His Law to them (vv. 9b�15). In doing this, the Lord showed that His people must be clean before they will obey Him, which foreshadows the purification that Christ must give us before we will serve God with gladness. The giving of the Law is the second aspect of the Mosaic covenant. exodus 20 reveals the Ten Commandments, which are applied in each of the individual laws in the Pentateuch (Genesis�Deuteronomy). Doing this Law did not justify people, for only those who obey it flawlessly can find life therein (Lev. 18:5), and no one but Christ has kept all the commandments without sin. The ritual of the Law is the last facet of the Mosaic covenant that we will cover. By including sacrifices and other regulations in the law code, God demonstrated that He knew Israel would fail to obey and would need regular atonement for sin. These offerings covered disobedience for a time and pointed to the one who by His full obedience would keep the old covenant perfectly on our behalf (Heb. 10:1�18), thereby sustaining our peace with God forevermore. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study stablishing the Mosaic covenant marked a critical point in the history of redemption and the unfolding of the covenant of grace. Having been redeemed from slavery by grace, the people of Israel were constituted as a nation and received laws to identify them as the Lord's holy people so that they might bear witness to the one, true creator God among the Gentile nations (ex. 19:5). Although the Mosaic covenant is key to redemptive history, it was not the final covenant to unfold the covenant of grace. Instead, the Mosaic covenant pointed beyond itself to a day when the Law would be written on the hearts of God's people and not just on tablets of stone (Deut. 10:12�22). In addition to looking for the Law to be written on the heart, the Mosaic law also gave the people of Israel hope for a righteous ruler. Deuteronomy 17:14�20 looks to the days when an Israelite king will sit over the nation and rule with justice and righteousness according to the Law. Under the Davidic covenant, the next "sub-covenant" in the covenant of grace, this hope begins to find fulfillment as God chooses the family from which this holy king will come. The Davidic covenant was established after David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. At that point, David expressed his desire to build a house for God, but God replied that He would be the one to build a house for David (2 Sam. 7:1�17). The prophet Nathan was His mouthpiece through which the Creator delivered His great promises to David and the Israelite nation. These promises come in the context of a covenant with David, the greatest king of the old covenant. As we would expect, the covenant is based on the Lord's sovereign grace. First, God chooses David without making any reference to the monarch's achievements; rather, He is king simply because God has willed it (v. 8). Second, David is told that Israel will have peace under his reign and the reigns of his descendants, who will likewise be established as rulers over Israel (vv. 9�13). Finally, David and his sons will enjoy having God as their Father. They will receive His discipline, but the Lord's love and mercy will never depart from David's line, ensuring that there will always be a Davidite on the throne in the kingdom of heaven (vv. 14�16). For Further study e COR AM DeO Living before the face of God Jesus shows us in the sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5�7) that true faithfulness to God's commandments involves both outward action and inward attitude. based on those requirements, none of us can claim to have obeyed the Lord flawlessly. nevertheless, by his holy spirit God has changed us so that every true christian wants to please the Lord and do his will. how can you live out the ten commandments in the situations you face this day? Exodus 24 Jeremiah 32:36�44 Romans 13:8�10 Ephesians 5:15�21 the bible in a year genesis 49:8�10 2 Kings 25:27�30 psalm 89 matthew 1:1�17 the bible in a year Exodus 31�32 matthew 22:23�46 Exodus 33�34 matthew 23:1�22 the westminster shorter catechism, Question 26, tells us that christ exercises the office of king "in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies." we do not hope for the lesser kings of the political process to save us in any ultimate sense, for Jesus alone has the might and authority to preserve us. would others say you put your final hope in earthly kings or in King Jesus? The Davidic Covenant FRI | Feb F o r t h e w e e k e n d F E B 6 + 7 5 amos 9:11�15 "in that day i will raise up the booth of david that is fallen and repair its breaches, and will raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old" (v. 11). A new era for the people of God dawned when the Lord established His everlasting covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:16). Gone would be the days of insecurity, corrupt judges, and harassment from enemies. Peace and security would be the new state of affairs as Israel enjoyed the reign of a king who promoted justice and righteousness according to the Law (vv. 4�15). That was the intent of the covenant, anyway. Yet we know from the Old Testament that the sons of David did not live up to this ideal. Corrupt rulers led the people into idolatry, and as the result of their flagrant sin, God sent the people into exile just as He had promised (Deut. 28:58�68; 2 Chron. 36:15�21). exile, however, would not be the final word concerning the line of David. The Lord pledged never to remove His steadfast love from David's line (2 Sam. 7:14�15), so although his descendants would be disciplined, they would never be completely forsaken. Such a truth was hard to believe when the people were in exile and there was no throne in Jerusalem. But those who believed the Word of God realized that along with the chastisement of exile came the promise of restoration. Amos 9:11�15 contains one of the most well-known prophecies of restoration found in the old covenant. The prophet reminded the people that David's booth would be rebuilt after falling -- that Israel would return to the land and a new era of glory would be ushered in under the reign of a new son from David's line. During the hundreds of years of prophetic silence following the death of Malachi, Israel truly began to yearn for the time when the throne would be restored to David. Hope for a Messiah grew strong as the people waited for elijah to come and announce the Day of the Lord on which the final Son of David would be revealed (Mal. 4:5�6). They were waiting for the kingdom of God to come. This kingdom took many Israelites by surprise because it came in a manner many did not expect. elijah came, but not the same elijah who prophesied against King Ahab of Israel. Instead, one went forth in the spirit and power of elijah proclaiming a baptism for the remission of sins (Luke 3:1�6). God's kingdom came first as a spiritual kingdom and will later be consummated as a visible, political realm. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study T he New Covena nt Iain D. Campbell One of the beauties of the letter to the Hebrews is its integration of two important themes: the continuity of God's plan of salvation across the ages and the discontinuities that arise as a result of God's consummate act of redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some things are carried over from the Old Testament into the New and others are left buried in Jesus' grave. Drawing on the evident familiarity of his readers with the Old Testament, the author of Hebrews is at pains to remind us that without the older covenant, replete with complex ceremony, ritual, and officialdom, our understanding of the work of Christ would be greatly impoverished. That is why he couches his presentation of the gospel in the language of Old Testament ceremony: "We have such a high priest . . . a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up" (Heb. 8:1�2). The older covenant made with Israel was the vehicle through which God's saving purpose was advanced. By giving laws to Israel, God revealed the righteous standards He expects from everyone. Time and again, however, Israel broke God's commands -- "they did not continue in my covenant," says God (v. 9). Obedience to God's law is the benchmark of continuing in God's covenant. Yet no Israelite could be saved by law-keeping -- that was the point Paul would argue forcefully in his letter to the Romans, showing that the true Israelite was not the one who gave mere outward regard to the required ceremonies. The true Israelite was the one whose heart was pure before God (Rom. 2:29), and who, like Abraham, was justified on the basis of faith in the covenant promise (4:22). Gloriously and graciously, the same law that spelled condemnation also made provision for sin. The sacrifices, the bloodshed, the priesthood -- all these ceremonial requirements were God's way of dealing with sin. The older covenant was both a national covenant with Israel and an administration of the covenant of grace. As a further elaboration of the covenant of grace, building on God's promises to Noah and Abraham, it made provision for an TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 precisely because God is sovereign over all things, he will always be able to fulfill the promises he has made. Yet he is not obligated to keep them according to how we think they ought to be kept. the Lord is always faithful to his people and he always does what is best for us, but what we think is best is not always what he says is best. Let us learn to trust our creator even when it is difficult and to love his sovereign will that controls all things. Hosea 3:1�5 Zechariah 12:10 the bible in a year Exodus 35�36 matthew 23:23�39 the Weekend Exodus 37�39 matthew 24 | 45 everlasting priesthood (Num. 25:13), for atonement, for redemption, and for salvation. These elements of Israel's religion were "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (Heb. 8:5). The final, glorious stage in the unfolding of God's redemptive purpose was the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Great High Priest, who offered Himself for our redemption on earth, and presents Himself for our final salvation before God in heaven. every element of Old Testament ritual derived its efficacy from Him and pointed forward to Him. Consequently, all true believers in every age have been saved in the same way: through faith in the covenant promise and justified through the covenant Mediator. In Christ, however, old things have passed away. There is now no single ethnic group, for example, whom God favors with the privileges of redemption. Israel, like Adam, broke covenant with God (Hos. 6:7). But the eternal life that Adam forfeited, and to which Israel could not reach, is ours in Christ Jesus. As a result, the covenant is recast -- the new covenant anticipated in Jeremiah 31:31�34 (which is quoted in Heb. 8:8�12) is made with all believers in Christ. Yet this is no brand new gospel -- God's same laws are now written on the hearts of His people (Heb. 8:10), giving a new affection for them and a new inclination to them. The same principle of adoption Israel enjoyed God now extends to all who believe. The scaffolding of the building has collapsed: the ritual and sacrifice that prepared for the appearance of the Savior is now obsolete, and God's purpose of grace is fulfilled. 46 TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 Unlike the ancient Israelite, I can now say that Christ the last priest has done His work, and the last sacrifice for sins has been offered. I need no lamb of my own, for God has provided a lamb for Himself (Gen. 22:8). By faith, I look away from myself to the Great High Priest, thankful that my approach to God is both enabled and emboldened by a sacrifice of eternal significance, efficacy, and worth. Consequently, I can rejoice in the absolute security of my inheritance in Christ. He, unlike both Adam and Israel, has kept the covenant for me. His law-keeping covers my law-breaking. I mourn over my commandment-breaking but rejoice in the strength of the covenant, which in Christ can never be finally broken. There were Old Testament saints who enjoyed that security too, as genuine believers in the covenant promises of salvation. Many Israelites, however, rested on external privileges without fulfilling the conditions that they demanded. Although they were a privileged people in covenant with God, many of them "were unable to enter because of unbelief" (Heb. 3:19). Now, however, I stand before God in Christ and He says to me: "I will be merciful . . . I will remember [your] sins no more" (8:12). That, at last, is the apex of our privilege: in Christ, the last Adam and final Israel, we are God's covenant people forever. The Word of God in Nature Psalm 19:1�6 "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (v. 1). Mon | Feb 8 s we have seen, God's kingdom is administered through the covenants revealed in the Word of God. This concept of the Word of God is central to the biblical revelation -- it can be traced through the Old and New Testaments. The Word of God is contained in two books -- the book of nature and the book of Scripture. Our concern today is with the book of nature or natural revelation, that knowledge about the Lord given in the created order. The Bible is clear that God reveals truth about Himself in the world around us, and today's passage is one of the most important biblical texts on the reality of natural revelation. David focuses on the skies in Psalm 19:1�6, and within the span of these six verses he tells us much about what natural revelation reveals to mankind. Chiefly, the natural world affirms the existence of a creator God who is full of glory (v. 1). Verse one refers to the "heavens" and the "sky," which is translated elsewhere as "firmament" or "expanse." We hear an echo of Genesis 1 wherein we read how God designed the "heavens" (v. 1) and the "expanse" to separate the waters (v. 6). Natural revelation is spoken in a universal language -- "there is no speech" where it goes unheard (Ps. 19:2�3). Therefore, the knowledge of God available in creation is a common ground with nonbelievers to which we can appeal to defend the existence of a Creator. In fact, natural revelation is so plain that it takes conscious suppression to deny it, as is seen in David's use of the bridegroom analogy in verses 4�5. When a bridegroom left his chamber on his wedding day in the ancient world, his entire village would see it, and only liars or people intentionally indifferent could claim ignorance. Similarly, the rising and setting of the sun testifies clearly to the Lord's work. Charles Spurgeon writes, "The witnesses above cannot be slain or silenced; from their elevated seats they constantly preach the knowledge of God, unawed and unbiased by the judgment of men" (comments on Ps. 19 from The Treasury of David). Finally, natural revelation tells us judgment is coming. Old Testament references to the "anger of God" in english Bibles are often idiomatic translations of the literal Hebrew phrase "his nose was hot." That nothing is hid from the sun's heat (v. 6) is a reminder that no sin can escape the fire of our Creator's anger. For Further study A COR AM DeO Living before the face of God Dr. iain D. campbell is minister of point Free church on the isle of Lewis in scotland. he is author of Seven Wonders of the World: The Gospel in the Storyline of the Bible. Job 36:24�33 psalm 97:6 Acts 17:22�34 Romans 1:18�32 the bible in a year | Exodus 40�leviticus 1 matthew 25:1�30 the fact that God has revealed himself in nature gives a meaning and purpose to education that is impossible with non-christian approaches. when we study science, math, photography, business, or any other subject, we are studying laws the Lord has revealed in and through the created order. all truth is God's truth, whether we discover it in the bible or in the natural sciences or liberal arts. The Book of Scripture Tue | Feb Biblical Inerrancy Psalm 12:1�6 "the words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times" (v. 6). 9 Deuteronomy 31:24�26 "Moses commanded the Levites . . . `take this book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God'" (vv. 25�26). 10 WED | FEb atural revelation is useful to give us some basic information about God and His will, but there is a limit to what it can accomplish. even though it testifies to the power, existence, and authority of our Creator (Rom. 1:18�32), it cannot explain how sinful human beings can be preserved through the divine judgment that is coming upon the world for its sin. But the Lord loved His people so much that He graciously chose to reveal the way of salvation, although not through the medium of creation. He has given us what theologians have often called a "special revelation" of Himself. Properly speaking, special revelation refers to any revelation God has given outside of the ordinary workings of the created universe. The dreams the Almighty sent, the audible prophecies He delivered through the prophets, and an historical event like the exodus can all qualify as special revelation. When we talk about special revelation today, however, we are referring specifically to the Scriptures, the sixty-six inspired writings of the Old and New Testaments. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1.1) explains that all other means of special revelation having ceased, God has committed into writing a record of the events of redemptive history and an explanation of their significance to preserve the church and protect us against Satan. In other words, He has given us the Bible as the final authority and surest guide for all matters of faith and practice. John Calvin notes in his commentary on today's passage that due to our idolatrous proclivities, "religion would have been corrupted in a thousand ways, had not its rule been diligently written down for posterity." So we should be grateful to have an infallible, written guide to correct us when we err (see 2 Tim. 3:16�17). Deuteronomy 31:24�26 is one of the earliest passages of Scripture to describe how God's Word was put into written form or inscripturated. All Moses and the Israelites had was the Law and it bore witness against them, convicting them of sin and pointing out their need for salvation (v. 26). Under the new covenant, the Law can serve the same purpose, but we are fortunate to have the whole of the book of Scripture. With the written Law we also have the clearly written gospel, which gives us a confident hope for pardon and grace instead of the Law's sentence (John 1:17). COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study N ne important fact about divine revelation is its veracity in all that it affirms. God's disclosure about Himself and the nature of reality are always inerrant. Inerrancy applies first to natural revelation: whatever the Lord says to us in nature is without error. Our interpretation of this revelation is not always without error, as the continual revision of scientific hypotheses demonstrates; nevertheless, what the created order tells us is true, whether or not we understand it. Although God's revelation in nature is no less true than His inscripturated or written revelation, we are usually thinking of the Bible when we use the term inerrancy. Psalm 12:6 is one of the many biblical texts that affirm inerrancy. The words of the Lord are pure, like silver that has been purified so thoroughly that no impurities remain. Unlike the speech of human beings that is filled with lies (vv. 1�4), the Word of God contains no dross -- no error is mixed with His truth. Biblical inerrancy must be understood rightly, otherwise we run into all kinds of problems. Importantly, inerrancy applies only to what Scripture actually affirms, not to every statement a biblical character makes. Consider Joseph's experience with Potiphar's wife in Genesis 39:11�18. What is inerrant here is the record of what Potiphar's wife said and did. Scripture does not affirm the inerrancy of the statement of Potiphar's wife itself. Though she did say what the text attributes to her, the meaning of her words to the men of the house was false (vv. 16�18). The focus on the veracity of what Scripture actually affirms also allows us to take into account the use of poetic imagery. Isaiah 55:12 speaks of the trees clapping their hands when God redeems the exiles. Were the Bible to actually affirm here that trees have hands, this text would not be inerrant, for trees are clearly handless. But all that Isaiah is affirming is that creation itself will rejoice at the salvation of God's people (Rom. 8:19�23), and he is using metaphor to do so. A full exposition of biblical inerrancy is impossible within the confines of this study, and a good resource on the topic like Scripture Alone by R.C. Sproul is commended for further study. And as Dr. Sproul and other scholars have shown, we can be confident in the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible. For Further study O COR AM DeO Living before the face of God Many people today are looking for the Lord to guide them through a dream, vision, or audible voice. the way God guides his people today, however, is through his written word, which the holy spirit applies to the hearts of all believers and to the life of the church. it is against this word that we must test all things and hold fast to that which is good (1 thess. 5:21). do you submit to the scriptures as the final authority for your life and practice? Exodus 31:18 2 Kings 22 2 timothy 3:14�15 2 peter 3:15�16 the bible in a year Deuteronomy 32:4 psalm 119:160 John 17:17 titus 1:2 the bible in a year leviticus 2�3 matthew 25:31�46 leviticus 4�6 matthew 26:1�35 the health of the church depends upon a firm commitment to the inerrancy of scripture. once the idea that scripture teaches some false things is accepted, what fundamental doctrines of the christian faith will fall next? but inerrancy must be properly understood lest we falsely accuse others of denying it. we must also take care in interpreting the bible, for while the text is inerrant, our interpretations are not necessarily so. The Clarity of God's Word Thu | Feb Revelation Incarnate 2 timothy 3:16�17 "all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 11 T Deuteronomy 6:6�7 "these words that i command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them . . . when you lie down, and when you rise." 12 FRI | Feb he clarity of Scripture is another attribute of the Word of God that is developed throughout the Old Testament. Our Lord has made it plain in His Word that His inscripturated revelation is not to be locked up in libraries and universities and studied only by scholars; rather, it has been designed so that all people can read and understand its basic message. Scripture testifies to its clarity in several ways, the first of these being its understanding of divine accommodation. God did not speak to us in a lofty or strange language but instead accommodated Himself to our weaknesses, speaking to us on our level so that we might understand and obey His commandments. exodus 33:11 says this of Moses, the first great biblical author: "The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." Our Creator did not reveal Himself to Moses in a divine language no one could understand, nor did He give examples or analogies uncommon to human experience. Instead, he spoke as a friend would, in a manner that would be clearly understood by the hearer. God also illustrates the clarity of His Word in commanding everyone in the covenant community to have it on their lips and teach it to their children. Today's passage assumes that every person in Israelite society, from the most educated priest to the most illiterate peasant, would be able to comprehend enough of the Word of God to teach it to others (Deut. 6:6�7). If the Lord had made His revelation so obscure that few could understand it, He never could have commanded His people, saying that there must be "no portion of time unoccupied with meditation on the Law" (John Calvin). Jesus also presumed that the people could understand God's Word. In Luke 24:25�27 He expects the disciples on the road to emmaus to have understood and believed the basic teaching that the Messiah must die and rise again. The problem with their understanding was not Scripture but their unbelief. Not everything in the Bible is equally clear; Scripture implies as much when it appoints teachers for God's people (eph. 4:11�14). Yet as Jesus' encounter on the emmaus road shows, the gospel is plain to anyone who will read the Bible. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study e have been tracing the theme of divine revelation through the Old Testament this week, and it is now time to consider its fulfillment in the New Testament. No study of divine revelation would be complete without a discussion of today's passage, a key text for the doctrine of revelation. Second Timothy 3:16�17 is famous for using the Greek term theopneustos -- "Godbreathed" -- to describe the writings of Israel's prophets and Christ's apostles. With this word, Paul teaches that the Bible, though written by men, has been inspired to the point of being the very Word of God itself. To hear and obey the Scriptures is to hear and obey God Himself. Some adjust verse 16 to read "every God-breathed Scripture," making a distinction within Scripture between those portions of the holy book that are inspired and authoritative and those that are not inspired and thus disposable. The grammatical arguments are complex, but Greek scholars agree that Paul uses "God-breathed" to qualify all of the Scriptures. For the apostles, every word of Scripture is the very Word of God. Setting one portion of Scripture against another is a common way people understand the old covenant revelation as being fulfilled in the new. Some discard the Old Testament entirely and accept only the New Testament. Others think that the teaching of Jesus is somehow more authoritative than other portions of the Old or New Testaments. But Jesus is clear that He did not come to abolish the older revelation of God found in the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17�20) and that to hear His apostles through their writings is to hear the Savior Himself (10:40). This Jesus is the culmination of divine revelation, the Word of God (John 1:1�18) and the clearest picture of the Father. He is the last Word from God, and we hear from Him when we submit to the authority of the entire canon of Scripture. B.B. Warfield writes, "The entirety of the New Testament is but the explanatory word accompanying and giving its effect to the fact of Christ. And when this fact was in all its meaning made the possession of men, revelation was completed and in that sense ceased. Jesus Christ is no less the end of revelation than He is the end of the law" (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, p. 96). For Further study W COR AM DeO Living before the face of God some parents do not spend that much time talking about the scriptures at home because they believe it is too hard to understand. but the bible is clear enough that anyone who is willing to sit down and read can understand its basic message. if you have children at home, are you taking time to instruct them in the things of God? if you do not have children, how are you helping the church to teach children and support parents in their important work? psalm 119:129�130 proverbs 3:1�8 matthew 12:1�8 John 3:1�15 the bible in a year proverbs 8 John 14:6 the bible in a year leviticus 10�12 matthew 26:57�75 the Weekend leviticus 7�9 matthew 26:36�56 leviticus 13�15 matthew 27 Just because Jesus is the incarnate word of God does not mean that we need not study scripture or hold it as supremely authoritative in matters of faith and practice. we learn about and from christ throughout scripture, and when we submit to it we are submitting to christ himself. some people try to set up a conflict between following Jesus and following scripture, but we must never fall into that error. F e b 1 3 + 1 4 F o r t h e w e e k e n d God Speaks Through His Son Ken Jones The book of Hebrews opens with the acknowledgement that "long ago at many times and in many ways God spoke to our fathers by the prophets." What is established here is that God spoke to the saints of old through the prophets, indicating the need for a mediatorial office for revelation from God to sinful creatures. While these prophetic revelations of God's Word to His people were true and accurate, Calvin makes the point in his commentary on this verse: "The diversity of visions and of other dispensations which existed in the Old Testament was evidence that there was not yet a firm and stable order of things such as is proper when everything is perfectly settled . . . . God would have followed the same pattern in perpetuity right to the end if it had been perfect in every way." In short, the old covenant prophetic office was a precursor of the coming messianic prophet. Moses speaks of this coming prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15�18. Hebrews 1:1�4 proclaims that the promised prophet of whom Moses spoke has come in the person of Christ. While the prophets of old 52 TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 were servants of God, Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. The prophets of old were sinners, and although God communicated His Word through them, they were at times frustrated in their task (like in Jer. 20:7�9) or reluctant (like in Jonah 1:1�3). But Jesus, who is "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature" (Heb. 1:3), is without sin, and there is no frustration in His task nor reluctance to declare the words of God. Furthermore, the Old Testament prophets prefaced their message with "thus says the Lord" because the message was not their own. This is in contrast to what Jesus does in, for example, the Sermon on the Mount -- where He not only expounds the very essence of the Law but continuously rebuffs the religious traditions of the Jewish community by saying, "You have heard it was said to those of old . . . but I say to you . . . ." Mark indicates that from the beginning of His public preaching and teaching ministry, Jesus spoke more authoritatively than the scribes (1:22). In John 5:24�25 Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. . . . an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." What is expressed in Hebrews 1:1�4 is illustrated in the gospel accounts of Jesus' public ministry. He is superior to the prophets of old in His position of preeminence, His person, and His prophetic utterances. But the writer of Hebrews is not just making the point that Jesus is qualitatively superior to the prophets of old. There is also an eschatological dimension to be considered. The former days consisted of types, shadows, and promises that pointed to the coming prophet-priest-king of a new covenant. The death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ have brought an end to those elements, practices, and offices that pointed to Him. This includes the prophetic office. Jesus' death on the cross has brought animal sacrifices to a close, and His high priestly functions have abrogated the need for human high priests. Likewise, as the consummate prophet of God, Jesus has brought an end to the need of lesser prophets as the means of divine revelation. The finished work of Christ and the completion of the canon of Scripture have brought an end to the office of prophet in the Old Testament sense of the term. When preachers expound the Scriptures, it is a "forthtelling" of what "thus says the Lord," but they are not the recipients of new revelation from God. It may be commonplace for Christians to use or hear the phrase "the Lord told me . . . ," but perhaps more caution should be exercised. I realize that in many cases what is meant is a strong impression on one's conscience about a particular matter. Or perhaps a specific biblical text or its application is brought to bear on a given situation. This could be what is meant by "God speaking," and I think those examples could be valid. Unfortunately, what is often meant is more akin to God speaking through individuals today in the same way He did with the prophets of old -- that's where the problem lies. This is equivalent to returning to the types and shadows of animal sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood. Those were abolished at the appearing glory of the substance -- Christ, who is God's final and definitive revelation of His Word and will. Christ has spoken in the Scriptures and continues to speak when Scripture is expounded. In short, there is no new revelation apart from Christ. He is the prophet that has come as the fulfillment of the long awaited promise. As the Son of God, Jesus not only declared the Word of God but manifested God to us as the Word of God in the flesh. What more do we need than what God has declared and manifested through His Son? rev. Ken Jones is pastor of Greater union baptist church in compton, california. he is also co-host of The White Horse Inn. | TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 | 53 The Old Covenant Mediator R e c O m m e n D e D R e s O u R c e s 15 Mon | feb exoDus 3 "then the Lord said [to Moses] . . . `come, i will send you to pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of israel, out of egypt'" (vv. 7�10). od's Word was put into writing over many centuries through the efforts of men like Moses, whom the Holy Spirit inspired to give us a supremely authoritative written revelation. The biblical writers devoted much attention to Moses, the one through whom our Creator mediated the old covenant, and to Moses we now turn to see how his mediation is developed and fulfilled throughout the Bible. We all know the story of Moses -- the Levite child whom God providentially rescued from the hand of a wicked pharaoh only to have him grow up in the egyptian court (ex. 1:1�2:10). By the time today's passage begins, Moses has killed an egyptian slavemaster and has fled to Midian, resigning himself to the life of a simple shepherd who tends the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro (2:11�25). As is often the case, however, God's plans for His people are far different than our plans for ourselves. In the wilderness of Horeb, God appears to Moses in a bush that is burning without being consumed (3:1�5). He has heard the cries of His enslaved people and has chosen to send Moses to Pharaoh to gain their freedom (vv. 6�10). The Almighty grounds His redemptive goals in His own nature. He tells Moses that He is "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (v. 6), identifying Himself as the One who always keeps His covenants and who is moving to accomplish His promises to the patriarchs and their progeny (Gen. 12:1�3; 26:1�5; 28:10�15). God underscores this point in revealing to Moses His covenant name -- Yahweh ("i am," ex. 3:14). The Lord is who He is; His character cannot change. He will remain utterly faithful and keep all of His promises. Moses doubts Yahweh's choice, replying, in essence, "Why me? I'm not the man for the job" (v. 11; see also 4:1�17). We too often feel this way when God calls us to hard things, even if they pale in comparison to Moses' task. It is a feeling J.R.R. Tolkein captures in The Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo, chosen to face great evil and destroy the One Ring, says to Gandalf the wizard: "I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?" Yet the God who calls us to service also equips us to serve (2 Peter 1:3). Moses learned this during his life, and believers continue to experience this truth today. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study G The Reformation study Bible E di t E d By R.C. SpRou l & K E i t h A. M At hiSon the study notes, essays, and book introductions found in the Reformation Study Bible have helped many people understand the biblical doctrines recovered and proclaimed in the protestant Reformation. Now with new color maps and the updated ESv text. REf40S Z ESv HARDCovER, 1,948 pAgES Z (REtAil $39.99) $27 REf41S Z ESv BlACK lEAtHER, 1,948 pAgES Z (REtAil $69.99) $42 when God calls us to service, he also gives us what we need to perform that service. sometimes he does this directly through spiritual giftings; at other times he opens up doors for us to get further education or training. what opportunities for christian training are currently open to you? are you taking advantage of them? take advantage of those options you have and, seeking God's help, strive to create opportunities for yourself as well. psalm 18:31�42 Jeremiah 1:1�10 1 thessalonians 5:23�24 Hebrews 13:20�21 the bible in a year leviticus 16�18 matthew 28 T O p l a c e a n O R D e R , c a l l 1 - 8 0 0 - 4 3 5 - 4 3 4 3 O R v i s i T w w w . l i g O n i e R . O R g none Like Moses Get serious We've designed our new certificate program to Guide students deeper into the things of God. Ligonier academy's certificate program is a non-degree distance education curriculum for laypeople, ministers, and educators who desire a structured way to study biblical and theological subjects at their own pace, at their own level of interest, and in their own home. Get serious in your studies as you view lectures, complete study guides, read books, write papers, or even take exams. sign up today, or give someone you know a course as a gift, by calling 1-800-435-4343. For more information, please visit us at LigonierAcademy.org. Deuteronomy 34 "and there has not arisen a prophet since in israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to do" (vv. 10�11). 16 Tue | Feb oses hesitated to accept God's call at first, protesting that the Israelites would not obey him and that he was too "slow of speech and of tongue" to lead Israel out of egypt (ex. 3:1�4:17). Yet the Lord, in His patience and grace, remained with Moses and strengthened his hand. empowered by the Holy Spirit, Moses stared down the mightiest king on the planet (4:18�14:31), led the Israelites against the Midianites (Num. 31), and did many other mighty works. Despite years of serving the Lord, however, Moses never stepped foot in the Promised Land; rather, Joshua led Israel into Canaan (Deut. 31:1�8). Joshua may also have written Deuteronomy 34:1�8, one of the few texts of the Pentateuch (Genesis� Deuteronomy) that Moses did not pen. Certainly, Moses did not record his own death, so Joshua or some other close companion of Moses wrote it. The same person may also have authored verses 9�12, but many scholars believe a later person, perhaps ezra, added this note about Moses' prophetic office after Israel returned from exile. For as is clear from the Old Testament, no other period of old covenant history had the numbers and varieties of miracles as the days of Moses. Other prophets performed miracles (2 Kings 6:1�7), but the flurry of miracles in Moses' lifetime was unsurpassed until the ministry of Christ. even though Moses did not enter the land, God granted him a vision of it, reminding Moses that the promise to the patriarchs (Gen. 15) would come to pass. Moses died on Mount Nebo after seeing Canaan, and God Himself buried him (Deut. 34:1�8), probably to guard against the people later building an idolatrous shrine to Moses. Being buried by the Lord, of course, was also a great honor. Death before entering Canaan was earthly discipline for Moses, who failed to trust God at Meribah-kadesh (32:48�52; see Num. 20:1�13). even the greatest old covenant prophet had to learn his place in the kingdom is through a grace that covers all his failures. No less than all the other saints of God, Moses had to recognize the truth Augustus Toplady so beautifully expresses in the hymn Rock of Ages: "Not the labors of my hands can fulfill the law's demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone." For Further study M COR AM DeO Living before the face of God Deuteronomy 18:15�22 psalm 106 Hebrews 11:23�28 Jude 8�10 the bible in a year leviticus 19�20 mark 1 the grace of God is large enough to cover all of our failures and sins. this great truth ought not be abused by us (growing callous toward sin); rather, it is to comfort us when we have sinned, for it reminds us that past failures and disobedience do not render us unable to serve christ now, if we have repented. consider how God's grace has overcome your sin and how it should move you to serve him today. the son versus the servant the False prophet Deuteronomy 13:1�5 "if a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder . . . and if he says, `Let us go after other gods' . . . you shall not listen" (vv. 1�3). 17 F Wed | Feb hebrews 3:1�6 "now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to things that were to be spoken later, but christ is faithful over God's house as a son" (vv. 5�6a). 18 Thu | Feb or all his greatness as the mediator of the old covenant, Moses, even if he wanted to, could not ultimately do what was necessary to effect salvation for God's people. As a sinner, Moses was unable to render that perfect obedience needed to set men and women right with the Lord (Lev. 18:5; Num. 20:1�13). He was finally able to bring the nation to the edge of Canaan and thus fulfill the promises of God on that front, but he was not able to take them into their full inheritance (Deut. 34). Knowing that he would not be the one under whom Israel would inherit the earth, Moses looked forward to another prophet to lead the people of God (18:15). Today's passage informs us that this prophet is none other than the man Christ Jesus (Heb. 3:1�6). But this Jesus is no ordinary man, the author of Hebrews informs us. While he could point to Moses' faults in order to prove Jesus is superior to him, Hebrews instead looks at the status of Moses as a servant versus the status of Jesus as a son (3:6) -- the Son of God coequal to the Father in power and authority. The author of Hebrews is unafraid to paint Moses as a faithful servant (3:2, 5), for indeed Moses can be accurately described as having lived a life that represented faithfulness to the Lord. Still, Moses was just a servant, and not worthy to receive the honor that a son, as the heir of his father, deserves as leader of the house. Jesus, on the other hand, is the faithful Son, the one who lived a life of utter faithfulness (v. 6; 1 Peter 2:22). As the incarnate God Himself, Jesus directs the church and is worthy to receive worship from the church. Moses, on the other hand, is never more than a member of the church of God. John Calvin comments, "Moses was committed to a doctrine to which he, in common with others, was to submit; but Christ, though he put on the form of a servant, is yet Master and Lord, to whom all ought to be subject." Hence, Moses looked forward to the coming of the one who would surpass him in honor and glory (John 5:46). Jews in the first century, who greatly esteemed Moses for the honor God gave him (Num. 12:5�7), found this teaching hard to accept. But Christ is indeed greater than Moses, the One who as the only begotten Son of God has done what Moses could not do and has purchased eternal salvation for His people. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God H aving examined the theme of the Word of God and the person of Moses, one who received this Word, we are now ready to look at the forms (genres) of the Word of God found in the Old Testament and how they are dealt with in the New. Since Moses is the paradigmatic prophet, we will begin with the concept of prophecy. Anyone whom the Lord inspired to give us revelation is a prophet, including those we normally consider prophets like Jeremiah and men such as David, whom we rarely think of as a prophet. Old covenant prophets reminded Israel of its covenant duties and announced blessings or curses according to the nation's fidelity (Deut. 18:15�22; 28). Theologians often call the prophets "covenant prosecutors," as they stated God's case from the heavenly court against Israel based on His law. Scripture can use the term prophet for anyone in the Old Testament who claims to speak for the Lord, so God told Israel how to distinguish between true and false prophets. First, true prophets had the ability to do signs. A prophet whose "signs" never came to pass was not truly from the Lord (18:21�22). Yet the ability to do miracles was not itself enough to identify a true prophet, for he also had to teach right doctrine. A wonder-working prophet who impenitently led the people after other gods was to be rejected; in fact, he was to be killed (Deut. 13:1�5). As Dr. R.C. Sproul often says, the greatest threat to God's people is the false prophet, and under the new covenant we must guard against those who twist Scripture. This can be hard because few of us like to face conflict or want to be involved in the disciplinary steps outlined to deal with false teachers (Titus 3:1�11). Compounding the problem is that being labeled a heretic is no longer a stigma. Televangelists boast of bucking church tradition and relativists proudly claim to be "orthodox heretics." G.K. Chesterton's words about the early twentieth-century church still apply today: "`Heresy not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clearheaded and courageous. . . . `orthodoxy' not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong." Still, the church's health requires all believers to be absolutely committed to orthodox Christianity as it has been handed down by the apostles even if others might hate us for it. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study For Further study Like Moses, we too are servants of God, and we want the Lord to pronounce us as good and faithful servants on the last day. while our service can by no means earn us a place in the kingdom and while it will always be imperfect, God will look at the pattern of his children's lives and reward them for their deeds. are you faithful to serve the Master of the house -- the Lord Jesus christ? trust in God to give you what you need to be faithful to him. psalm 90 mark 9:1�8 John 1:17 Acts 3:11�26 the bible in a year 1 Kings 18:20�40 Jeremiah 28 matthew 7:15�20 1 John 4:1�6 the bible in a year leviticus 21�23 mark 2 leviticus 24�26 mark 3 False prophets exist in our day insofar as there are many men and women who are claiming to speak for God and yet teach aberrant doctrine. while we must not be contentious over minor matters, we should never be afraid to point out the errors of those who deny or pervert cardinal christian doctrines. in love may we help those who are in bondage to false doctrines see the essential truths of the christian faith as taught in God's word. the spirit of prophecy F o r t h e w e e k e n d F e b 2 0 + 2 1 19 G FRI | Feb numbers 11:16�30 "Moses said to him, `are you jealous for my sake? would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit on them!'" (v. 29). od promised to speak to His people under the old covenant through His true prophets, who were identifiable through their fidelity to the covenant and their ability to do signs and wonders (Deut. 13:1�5; 18:15�22). Yet despite the great privilege it certainly was to hear from prophets, the fact that only select individuals would have the spirit of prophecy was not ideal. In fact, old covenant prophets looked forward to a better day when all the people of God would have the fullness of the Holy Spirit writing God's Word on their hearts, thus rendering their office obsolete. We see this hope in today's passage when Moses rebukes Joshua for not rejoicing over the manifestation of the prophetic gifts in the elders of Israel (Num. 11:16�30). Moses understood that there was a day coming when the church would no longer need individuals to mediate to them new revelation from the Creator. Later prophets like Joel foresaw a day when all believers, from the lowliest servants to the most exalted rulers, would receive the Word of God and speak it to one another with understanding (Joel 2:28�32). As O. Palmer Robertson puts it, the old covenant prophets knew "the ultimate goal of God's covenant [unity between God and His people] cannot be realized so long as a prophetic figure must stand between the Lord and his people" (The Final Word, p. 4). This unity was achieved when God Himself became incarnate and expressed His solidarity with His people by walking among them (John 1:1�18). Following the ministry of Jesus came a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on every believer in fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Acts 2). As such, all of God's people now stand in the line of the prophets with an even greater understanding of the Lord's plan and purpose. Some believers are more gifted in the area of teaching than others (eph. 4:11�14), but there is no longer any need for a prophetic mediator between God and the believer as was true during the old covenant (1 John 2:27). That all believers, in a sense, are God's prophets in the new covenant does not involve new revelation of any kind; otherwise, we return to the days of prophetic mediators. God has spoken fully and finally in His Son (Heb. 1:1�4), and we are prophets insofar as we believe and teach only what the living, inscriptured Word teaches. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study T he Chu rch as God 's P rophet Kim Riddlebarger If there is any subject that makes Christians squirm, it is church discipline. In an age in which people change churches because the pastor wasn't funny enough on Sunday, the mere mention of church discipline forces believers to consider the fact that the New Testament teaches that Christians are to be members of a particular local church, which is not an organization like a club with voluntary membership. It is an organism -- the mystical body of Christ. We are bound to that local church until we die, are excommunicated, relocate to a new community (and join another church), or go through the painful process of withdrawing, and only then when weighty matters of conscience force us to do so. In the apostolic age, to be cast out of the church was a significant punishment. Banishment from the church meant there was nowhere else to go. Christians in the first century had no denominational options as we do, nor did they envision a situation like that in modern America wherein most towns have enough churches that if someone is removed from one church, they simply attend another, with no one the wiser. Granted, church members do not like to think about church discipline because it implies authoritarian church leaders who seek to control someone's personal business or opinions. But trust me when I say that church leaders do not like to think about church discipline either. There is nothing more difficult than to shepherd people who are in sin or who need to repent of certain conduct, yet are unwilling to do so even when they know themselves to be in the wrong. In Matthew 18:15�20, Matthew sets out the way in which members of the church are to deal with one another should a dispute arise between them. In verses 15�17, he records Jesus describing the procedures Christians should follow when one person sins against another: "If your brother sins against you, go and TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 there are views in the church today that say God is giving new revelation through prophets who can mix in some error as they misunderstand his word. such views are to be soundly and fully rejected. God has spoken fully and finally in christ, and we are in no need of extra revelation. instead, standing in line with the prophets, we are to proclaim the canonical revelation we do have to each other. 1 Samuel 10:1�13 Revelation 22:6�21 the bible in a year leviticus 27�Numbers 1 mark 4 the Weekend Numbers 2�7 mark 5:1�20 | 61 tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." The steps are very simple and straightforward. Jesus tells us to speak directly to the person who has offended us. If we get no satisfaction from this meeting, we are to meet again, the next time with one or more witnesses. If the person still refuses to repent, the matter is to be made public (the church is now to be involved), and the church is commanded to discipline such a person, with the provision that if he stubbornly refuses to repent, he is to be treated like a non-Christian. This means that the church must make a careful judgment based upon the person's conduct to the effect that the person's behavior is such that they cannot be considered to be a Christian. It is at this point that Matthew addresses the subject of "binding and loosing." In verses 18�20, Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." In these verses, Jesus gives to the officers of the church the authority to make whatever determinations that must be made regarding 62 TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 the conduct of unrepentant professing Christians that has come to the attention of the church. "Binding and loosing" is connected to both the Law and the gospel. Those who believe the gospel's promises and who repent of their sins are "loosed" from their sins and allowed to fully participate in the life of the church. Those who refuse to believe the gospel's promises or who refuse to obey God's commandments are said to be "bound." The church makes the determination that such people cannot be regarded as Christians unless and until they profess faith in Christ and demonstrate whatever repentance is required. Jesus adds that such discipline requires two or three witnesses. This reflects the requirement in God's law that two or three witnesses are required to convict someone of wrongdoing (Deut. 19:15�19). Matthew's point is that when Christians on earth come to agreement about such matters, this is regarded as reflecting God's will in heaven. In this way, the church participates in Jesus Christ's ongoing prophetic office, as the ascended Lord rules His people through His Word in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. In this case, when God's people make a determination about a matter of discipline based upon what is taught in God's Word, the church is not only disciplining the flock, it is rightly acting as a prophet. the old covenant Law Deuteronomy 31:9�13 "assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God" (v. 12). 22 Mon | Feb C enturies of misunderstanding of the place of God's law in history and in the life of the new covenant believer have caused a lot of confusion over the way the Law relates to us today. As we trace the biblical understanding of the Torah -- the Mosaic law -- through the canon of Scripture, we will endeavor to shine light on the subject and develop a true appreciation for this part of the Bible. Getting a better grasp on the purpose and use of the Law requires us to remember the context in which it was given and read in the old covenant period. Today's passage describes the reading of the Law that was to take place every seven years when all the Israelites assembled to celebrate the Feast of Booths ("tents," Deut. 31:9�13). This was not the only time the people heard or were taught the Law, for it was to be a part of their everyday life (6:4�9). Still, the seventh-year reading of the Law to the whole nation was unique in that the people collectively professed their allegiance to the Lord and their countrymen under His statutes, being reminded of their need to "live in submission to their awe-inspiring God," as Dr. John MacArthur comments (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 238). Commentators suggest that the Law was to be read at the Feast of Booths for several reasons. First, the Feast of Booths was celebrated at the time of the fall grape (wine) harvest (16:13�15), a time of great rejoicing and feasting. Hearing the Law at this time would help Israel associate it with gladness and celebration, encouraging them to develop a great love for the Law (Ps. 119:97). Secondly, the Feast of Booths recalled how the Israelites lived as they made their way from egypt to Israel (Lev. 23:33�43), so having the Law read during the festival would recall the Lord's great salvation in liberating them from egypt. This would also help them remember that they owed their status to God's grace and so should not think they have earned their place in the kingdom through keeping Torah. Remembering the booths, their wilderness dwellings, should also have reminded the Israelites of the disobedience to the Law that forced them to wander in this wilderness (Num. 14:1�38). This was to tell them they needed rescue from the power of sin, a crueler master than egyptian slavery (Gal. 3:15�29). COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study Dr. Kim riddlebarger is senior pastor of christ reformed church (urcna) in anaheim, california. he is also visiting professor of systematic theology at westminster seminary california. Deuteronomy 31:14�22 psalm 119:33�40 matthew 5:17�20 Romans 7:7�12 the bible in a year | Numbers 8�9 mark 5:21�43 seeking the Law as an end in itself leads to legalism. instead, as we study the law of God, we must remember the history of salvation in which it was delivered so that we understand it was given not to earn God's favor but to do in gratitude for what he had done (the exodus). every day we should renounce any efforts to make ourselves right with God by doing the right thing and lean wholly on Jesus -- followed up by doing, in gratitude, good works. Israel's response to the Law Fulfilling the Law romans 13:8�10 "Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (v. 10). 23 Tue | Feb Jeremiah 19 "because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods . . . i will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem" (vv. 4�7). 24 Wed | Feb srael was supposed to do the Law according to God's command and obey it not to secure redemption but as a means to reflect His glory and draw all the nations to worship the one, true God. When used to this end, the Law could make the old covenant saint rejoice (Deut. 31:9�13; Psalm 119). At the same time, the Israelites were to see their inability to do the Law perfectly and hope for God to remove their transgressions (Isa. 53; Gal. 3:15�29), repenting and offering the prescribed sacrifices to cover their sins temporarily until the coming of the Messiah. Of course, this was not how everyone in the nation responded to the Torah. Certainly, there were individuals like Samuel, Ruth, and David who understood the Law and lived in line with its purposes. But many lived impenitently and broke the covenant with abandon. The Lord eventually removed them from the Promised Land and brought great destruction upon them for forsaking His law. As we see in today's passage, it was the repeated, gross, and unrepentant violations of the laws against idolatry and other sins that led to Israel's exile (Jer. 19). Being gracious, God brought the people back to their land and gave them another chance to respond properly to His law. Determined to keep the Law so closely that the Lord would never judge them again, most Israelites devoted themselves to the Law with new zeal. Unfortunately, this zeal soon became misdirected. Many treated the keeping of the Law as an end in itself -- as a fence to keep the nations away from God as opposed to drawing them -- and did not truly return to the Lord (Deut. 30:1�10; Mal. 2:10�16). Some sects added laws and traditions that, if kept, would ensure that the letter of the Mosaic law would not be broken. Over time, the people granted these rules the authority of God's Word, and therefore many of them failed to recognize the Savior to whom the Law points (Rom. 9:30�33). Legalism, says Jerry Bridges, is when "we build fences to keep ourselves from committing certain sins. Soon these fences -- instead of the sins they were designed to guard against -- become the issue. We elevate our rules to the level of God's commandments" (Transforming Grace, p. 122). Though we know the Savior we must take care lest we respond wrongly to the Law and become legalistic. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study I etting a grasp of Paul's view of the Law is critical if we are to understand how the Law is fulfilled in the new covenant. Today's passage, which tells us "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10), is especially relevant to our study. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul says Christians "are not under law but under grace" (6:14), though not being under the Law is not lawlessness (v. 15). In fact, the apostle expects all believers to conform to the ethical demands of the Torah in gratitude to God for our great salvation. This is plain in 13:8�10 where we see how Christian love reflects the portion of the Ten Commandments that emphasizes our treatment of others (see ex. 20:12�17). So fulfilling the Law by love cannot mean that the Christian life endorses behaviors contrary to what we often call the moral law of God. Jesus' own teaching on the Law in Matthew 5:17�20 confirms this truth. The Lord came not to "abolish" the commandments but to "fulfill them." To fulfill means to complete or to bring to full expression the Law's intention, not to cast it aside or abolish it. Thus, even the commands we think of as abrogated have not been cancelled entirely. For example, the Law's intent was to constitute the nation of Israel as a holy people (Deut. 28:9), which ultimately requires full atonement, not the temporary, imperfect atonement available through the blood of bulls and goats. Jesus fulfills the intent of the Law's sacrifices with His once-for-all death (Heb. 10:1�10), so we no longer offer up animals. But today we do offer to God the sacrifice of praise as we approach him through the shed blood of our Savior (13:15). God also gave the Law to lead His people to keep it inwardly, from the heart (Deut. 10:12�22; 30:6). Christ also fulfills this intent as the only one who has ever loved the Father perfectly; in doing this He ushers in through His resurrection and the sending of His Holy Spirit the state wherein we too will love God perfectly (1 Cor. 15:45). Since this time has yet to come fully, we participate in the ongoing fulfillment of the Law's intent as we love one another, using the Law to help us define true love. When Jesus returns we will no longer need the Law, for then we will be able to do naught but love Him and our neighbor perfectly (1 John 3:2). For Further study G COR AM DeO Living before the face of God we are free to set standards for ourselves as long as we do not impose them on others. if i choose not to drink for fear of becoming an alcoholic, i am not a legalist until i project upon others my faults and fears. all of us are tempted to judge others based not on what scripture says but on customs that we have elevated to the status of the word of God. where is legalism surfacing in your heart? Mortify it by God's holy spirit today. Judges 2:11�23 2 Kings 17:7�23 luke 18:9�14 galatians 5:2�6 the bible in a year leviticus 19:17�18 proverbs 25:21�22 luke 10:25�37 galatians 5:13�14 the bible in a year Numbers 10�12 mark 6:1�29 Numbers 13�15 mark 6:30�56 Matthew henry comments on love, saying "more is implied than is expressed; it not only does no harm, but it does all the good that may be." the kind of love that fulfills the Law is active and not just reactive; it looks for ways to do good to people before they have need. take a moment today to consider your coworkers or other friends and family members. what can you do to show love to them in a concrete way this day (for example, 1 John 3:17)? solomon's Wise request the Fear of the Lord Proverbs 1:1�7 "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (v. 7). 25 THU | Feb 1 KinGs 3:1�15 "Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that i may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" (v. 9). 26 FRI | Feb isdom is an important theme that is developed throughout Scripture, and it also represents a genre of literature found in the Old Testament, especially in the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. There is no better place to begin an examination of this idea than with the man named as the wisest king of the old covenant -- Solomon. Today's passage records that well-known occasion on which Solomon asked the Lord for special wisdom to rule his kingdom. On the whole, 1 Kings 3 casts Solomon in a very positive light, although verses 1�3 contain some ominous signs for the future of Solomon's kingdom. We read of how he made an alliance with the king of egypt by marrying his daughter, which goes against the warning in Deuteronomy 17:16 that the Israelites not return to egypt. eventually, Solomon married hundreds of other foreign wives, and their pagan ways led him astray from the one, true God (1 Kings 11:1�8). This teaches us that any wisdom we receive from the Lord does us no good if we do not continue in it. Solomon's heart was divided in its loyalty toward God early in his reign as evidenced in his marriage to the egyptian princess, but he still knew that he would not have a successful reign over Israel without special wisdom from on high. When the Lord gave him the opportunity to ask for whatever he wanted (1 Kings 3:4�5), Solomon could have asked selfishly for his own riches or fame but instead he humbled himself and selflessly asked for wisdom by which he could discern good from evil (vv. 6�8). As some commentators have noted, Solomon recognized that having the Law would not be enough to create the righteous kingdom God desired; rather, he needed the Lord to do a special work in his heart for this kingdom to come about. Pleased with Solomon, God gave him not only that for which he asked but also riches and many other blessings besides (vv. 9�15). The whole incident is reminiscent of Matthew 6:33 wherein we are told to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" and thus all of what we need will be added unto us. If we ask the Father for wisdom, that is, Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:24), we seek the kingdom and can be assured of His loving care. COR AM DeO Living before the face of God For Further study W od used Solomon at various points in his life while he was fixed on pleasing Him to give His people much of the Old Testament wisdom literature. He wrote most of the book of Proverbs and is traditionally regarded as the author of ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. The passage selected for today's study is the core truth expressed in all the wisdom literature and, indeed, is found expressed in various ways throughout the Bible. Fundamental to salvation is the truth that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7). The kind of fear that Solomon is talking about is not the same thing as the fear of harm from an enemy or other dangers. To be sure, all unregenerate people should have that kind of fear of the Creator, for His holiness will bring judgment upon all impenitent people (Rev. 21:6�8). Yet the fear of the Lord described in Proverbs 1:7 is the fear of a converted person, a reverent love that understands God's grace toward the sinner who trusts Christ and who wants to do what is pleasing to the Lord. This kind of fear recognizes the Lord's character and His holy love. C.S. Lewis' illustration of this love in The Problem of Pain helps us understand the kind of fear we should have toward our God. His love is not "a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, nor the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests." Instead, it is "the consuming Fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes." This description of God's love is thoroughly biblical and moves us to see ourselves for who we are, to look for cleansing, and to worship Him in His purity and grace (see Isa. 6:1�5; John 20:24�28). To those who have such fear, God gives saving knowledge of His kingdom (Matt. 13:10�17). Those who forsake this knowledge are fools who despise wisdom and understanding (Prov. 1:1�7). Such persons are unable to recognize the fullest expression of the Creator's Wisdom in our Savior (1 Cor. 1:24) who is revealed to us in the foolishness of the cross, which is, paradoxically, the wisdom of God unto salvation. For Further study G COR AM DeO Living before the face of God solomon's life illustrates the need to persevere in the wisdom of God. of course, all those who have truly put their faith in his promises through christ will not die bereft of this wisdom and thus, salvation; but the way in which we are assured that we have faith is to persevere in seeking his wisdom. seek God's wisdom in his word both preached and read, and you will certainly find it. 1 Kings 4 proverbs 2:6�8 Colossians 2:1�5 James 1:5�8 the bible in a year Ecclesiastes 12:13�14 James 3:13�18 the bible in a year Numbers 19�21 mark 7:14�37 the Weekend Numbers 16�18 mark 7:1�13 Numbers 22�25 mark 8:1�9:29 in our casual culture we must take care that we always have a reverent fear of the Lord. while Jesus has made us his friends (John 15:15), we need to remember that his friendship is like none other, for he is worthy of our worship and praise. Meditating on the holiness and grace of God can help us maintain a reverent fear of him, and we should take care in our speech how we speak of him. as we reverence him, he will give us wisdom. F e b 2 7 + 2 8 F o r t h e w e e k e n d Ch r ist, t he Wisdom of God J o h n P. S a r t e l l e As I entered my first year of graduate school, Dr. Philip edgcumbe Hughes, a brilliant intellect of the twentieth century, said to me, "John, your academic education has been based on the premise that you cannot be educated or be a true intellectual if you are a Christian who believes the Bible." Most of us have felt the intimidation of that premise at every level of our educational process. We are tempted to think that the world's assessment of Christians as ignorant and undereducated is a modern phenomenon. We are led to believe that the world has come of age and the enlightened elite have moved passed the archaic superstition of the ancients. As we continued our conversation, Dr. Hughes went on to demonstrate that the world in every age has claimed to be too "modern" to believe the gospel and God's Word. Paul, a first-century genius and scholar, observed, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing . . . we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Cor. 1:18, 23). The gospel was folly to the "wise" of Paul's day. The modern world that is too erudite for Christianity today is the same 68 TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 "modern" world that laughed at Paul on Mars Hill in Athens. It is also the same "modern" world that scorned Noah as he built the ark and preached to his contemporaries. But in every generation there have been great minds and scholars who were believers holding tenaciously to the truths set forth by God in His Word. So why does the world deem the gospel foolish? The problem lies right at the nucleus of man's being. Paul said in Romans 3:11: "No one understands; no one seeks for God." Many Christians only stress the legal problem sinful mankind has before God. We are guilty in God's cosmic courtroom and thus need a Savior to take away our transgressions and guilt. However, Paul also stressed the biblical truth that we have a spiritual debilitation in our souls. every part of our being has been deadened to the will of God by this killing infection. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be "born again" (John 3:3). He needed to be changed at the very core of his existence. There are two major characteristics of this God-rejecting nature. First, the sons of Adam desire autonomy. We want to throw off the will and ways of God. David wrote of this in Psalm 2 (and it was noted by the early Christians in Acts 4): "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, `Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us'" (vv. 2�3). Man prefers selfgovernance over God-governance. He wants to throw off the chains of God's law. Second, man desires to create his own gods -- gods made in his image. John Calvin graphically depicted this when he wrote, "The human heart is a factory of idols....every one of us is, from his mother's womb, expert in inventing idols." Thus, my non-Christian friend with his spiritually impaired sight and hearing cannot see and hear his dependence upon and responsibility to God. He sees himself as an "unlost" soul who has no need of salvation. The whole mission of Jesus is therefore foolishness to him. Very early in my ministry I was accosted by a music director who was also the wife of a deacon in the church where I was preaching. As we had come to the Lord's Table I had spoken of the blood of Jesus given for the salvation of sinners, and she was livid. She thought such a concept and language were primitive. She was a religious moralist who had no respect or love for the cross. The biblical gospel was foolishness to her. Imagine the scorn that Noah endured all the years he was building his ship. He warned his culture that judgment was coming, but they dismissed his warnings and went on with their lives. These were a self-ruled people who manufactured gods indulgent of their lifestyles. The "gospel" according to Noah was foolishness. Was Noah really the fool? Was his theology primitive? When the rain began to fall, Noah's preaching and boat proved to be profound wisdom. That ark became the wisdom of God. So it is with the cross. Like the ark, the crucified Christ is the shelter of salvation and the wisdom of God. It is important we grasp this, for too many of us think of Christianity as an irrational leap of faith. As a student I frequented a small Christian bookstore. The owner loved to speak using clich�s. One of his favorites was "I may be a nut, but, praise the Lord, I am attached to the right bolt." Many Christians think like that man. They have felt ostracized by the world so long that they see themselves as fools. The book of Proverbs teaches us that the one who is truly godly is full of wisdom. Jesus said that it was the wise man who built his house on the rock. Dear Christian, remember this: In every age, the gospel has been considered foolish by the world. But God has said that it is the wise of every age who seek salvation in His grace. Christ on the cross is not only a demonstration of the love of God, it is a demonstration of the wisdom of God. rev. John sartelle is senior minister of tates creek presbyterian church in Lexington, Kentucky. he is also author of What Christian Parents Should Know About Infant Baptism. | TABLeTALK FebruarY 2010 | 69 R e c O m m e n D e D R e s O u R c e s understanding Justification Justification by faith alone by D on K i s t l e r , e D i t o r essential Truths of the christian faith 1997 national conference by Va r io us au t h or s after Darkness, light by r .c . s p ro u l J r , e D i t or foundations by r .c . s p ro u l This collection of essays explores the doctrine of justification by faith alone and answers some of the objections that are most commonly leveled against it. The succinct chapters by scholars and pastors like Joel Beeke, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul allow the reader to get a good grasp of the subject after reading just a few pages. JuS03Bp Z pRBk, 163 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $12) $9.60 The Doctrine of Justification by Ja m e s b uc h a n a n Alistair Begg, James Boice, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, R.C. Sproul Jr., and others address the authority of Scripture, election, justification by faith alone, perseverance of the saints, heaven, hell, the Holy Spirit, god's covenants with man, and many other topics in this informative collection of lectures from Ligonier Ministries' 1997 National Conference. oRL97CC Z 12 CDS Z (ReTAIL $65) $52 This collection of essays in honor of R.C. Sproul features Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul Jr., and other contributors writing on the five solas of the Reformation and the five points of Calvinism. AFT01BH Z HDCvR, 214 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $18) $14.40 AFT01Bp Z pRBk, 214 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $14) $11.20 Justification by faith alone is but one of many essential Christian doctrines that are covered in this overview of systematic theology by R.C. Sproul. With his distinctive clarity, R.C. expounds the basics of the faith and demonstrates how they apply to our lives. Fou01DC Z 8 DvDS Z (ReTAIL $150) $120 Fou01CC Z 20 CDS Z (ReTAIL $122) $97.60 Fou01u Z STuDy guIDe Z Themes from James by r .c . s p ro u l $20 In the nineteenth century, James Buchanan wrote what is perhaps the finest one-volume treatment of the doctrine of justification ever published. Buchanan covers the biblical and historical background to the doctrine and addresses Roman Catholic misunderstandings of justification by faith alone while answering common critiques. Dr. R.C. Sproul regards this as one of the best works on justification and assigns it as a primary text in his courses on the doctrine of justification. DoC08Bp Z pRBk, 514 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $33) The Doctrine of Justification by faith by Joh n ow e n John owen ranks among the greatest of all the puritan theologians, and this volume contains his explanation and defense of the doctrine of justification by faith. It is a fine resource for anyone who wants to see how this essential doctrine has been asserted and defended throughout Christian history. DoC06Bp Z pRBk, 448 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $26) This series covers the major themes in the epistle of James, explaining how his teaching on faith and works fits with the doctrine of justification by faith alone and exhorting us to bear the fruit of service to others. THe06CC Z 5 CDS Z (ReTAIL $38) $30.40 essential Truths of the christian faith by r .c . s p ro u l understanding the gospel by r.c. sproul Few today have an accurate understanding of the gospel. This series is an excellent overview of the biblical teaching on salvation. uND02CC Z 4 CDS Z (ReTAIL $31) $24.80 essential Truths of the Christian Faith is an excellent resource that is intended as a go-to guide for students of systematic theology. Dr. R.C. Sproul provides succinct, two-to-four page summaries of over one-hundred doctrines of the Christian faith including the Trinity, creation, justification, sanctification, the millennium, and more. A bibliography suggests resources by Dr. Sproul and others for deeper study. eSS01Bp Z pRBk, 303 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $15) $12 $26.40 $20.80 T O p l a c e a n O R D e R , p l e a s e c a l l 1 - 8 0 0 - 4 3 5 - 4 3 4 3 f O R a D D i T i O n a l R e s O u R c e s , p l e a s e v i s i T w w w . l i g O n i e R . O R g t r u t h & c o n s e q u e n c e s An Unpopular Vision George Grant enry Cabot Lodge once asserted, "Nearly all the historical work worth doing at the present moment in the English language is the work of shoveling off heaps of rubbish inherited from the immediate past." What we need, in other words, is not so much "a new perspective" as a very old one. What we need is to recover a memory of those great men and movements obscured by the fashions and fancies of the moment. Some men's greatness may be seen in how largely they loom over the movements they launched. But greater men are they whose movements loom large over them -- even to the point of obscuring them from view. Gerhard Groote was just such a man. It would be difficult to find a single page of modern history written about him. But it would be even more difficult to find a single page of modern history that has not been profoundly affected by him. He lived in the tumultuous days of the fourteenth century. A contemporary of John Wycliffe, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Jan Hus, he saw the scourge of the Black Death sweep a quarter of the population of the world away in a wave of pestilence; he saw France and England locked in the intractable conflagration of the Hundred Years War; he saw the Western church sundered by the Great 72 TableTalk February 2010 H Schism that produced two, sometimes three, sometimes even four, popes; and he saw the rise of the universities and the smothering influence of humanistic scholasticism. Churches were riven by corruption, kingdoms were shaken by instability, families were splintered by adversity, and the very foundations of Christian civilization in the West seemed to be crumbling. They were dire days indeed. The problems facing men and nations seemed all but insurmountable. Doomsayers had a heyday. Sound familiar? Groote was raised in the home of a prosperous merchant and received the finest education available. Alas, he found it difficult to take the claims of his academic masters, his ecclesiastical mentors, and his church peers seriously. Like so many of his contemporaries, he concluded that the overt wickedness of the church and the blatant debauchery of the university mitigated against any serious belief in the gospel. As a result, he ran from conviction and spent his youth and his wealth on reckless and heedless dissipation. He moved progressively from spoiled brat to party animal to insufferable boor. When he was finally arrested by grace and converted, he had tasted all the pleasures the medieval world had to offer -- and still he yearned for more. As an ardent new convert in the was to disseminate the Scriptures and midst of a church awash in promiscubuild schools. His covenantal theolous impiety, he lifted up an urgent ogy had led him to have a generational prophetic voice against the evils of his vision, one that enabled him to invest day. He began to model a life of radical in a future he would likely never see on discipleship. And he attracted a strong this earth. following in his native Dutch lowlands. It was a wise strategy. Amazingly, Eventually, Groote's movement in less than a century and a half the came to be known as the Brethren of strategy began to bear abundant fruit: the Common Life. He and his followit was in those scattered and seemingly ers were committed to the authority of insignificant Brethren of Common Life the Scriptures first and foremost. They schools that nearly every one of the promoted biblical preaching that was magisterial reformers would ultimatepractical and accessible to the ordinary ly be educated: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Christian. They pioneered vernacular Melancthon, Bucer, and Beza. translations of the Bible. And they An obscure man changed the course founded schools to educate young men of history -- albeit generations later -- and women to be wise and discerning believers as well An obscure man changed as effective and successful citizens. history by living out the The revival wrought by the movement was genuine, implications of radical grace. vibrant, and even widely admired. Even so, it could hardly have been expected to put a dent by simply living out the implications of in the overwhelming problems of the radical grace and covenantal faithfulday. Indeed, the litany of fourteenthness right where he was. He faced the century woes continued, seemingly impossible odds of a culture gone terunabated. When Groote died, some ribly awry. He implemented a generaasserted that his efforts at renewal tional vision that laid new foundations were ultimately stymied by the fierce for freedom and prosperity simply by reality of the circumstances of the day; equipping and enabling future leaders. he was by all such accounts, a failure. Perhaps by looking back at Groote But throughout his life and minand his reforming work, we will be able istry, Groote was laying foundations to see our way forward for our own. for something that might endure well After all, his was a distinctly biblical beyond his own life and ministry. vision, a sound vision, and thus a rather He had a multigenerational plan. He unpopular vision. And it still is. understood that it had taken a very long time for Western civilization to Dr. George Grant is pastor of Parish Presbyterian get into the mess that it was in and that Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He is also chancellor no man or movement, no matter how of New College Franklin and president of King's potent or effective, would be able to Meadow Study Center. turn things around overnight. That was why the heart and soul of his plan TableTalk February 2010 | | 73 R e c O m m e n D e D R e s O u R c e s from Our contributor s This month children at the lord's Table? b y c o r n e l i s p. V e n e m a counted Righteous in christ by John piper Should baptized children be accepted at the Lord's Table before making a credible profession of faith? This book examines paedocommunion and explains the rationale for holding back the elements of the Lord Supper until the child confesses Jesus publicly. CHI02BH Z HARDCoveR, 200 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $25) $20 N.T. Wright and others are questioning the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer, and in this book, John piper defends biblically the imputation of the Lord's perfect obedience in our justification. Cou01Bp Z pApeRBACk, 141 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $13) $10.40 Our sovereign saviour The gagging of god by D.a. carson by ro g e r n i c o l e postmodern pluralism has shaped much of our culture, influencing many to believe that there is no ultimate truth. Faced with this problem, the church must stand firm for the authority of Christ, and this award-winning book critically examines postmodernism, encouraging believers to interpret the culture through the gospel -- not vice versa. gAg01Bp Z pApeRBACk, 640 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $30) $15.60 Roger Nicole is regarded as one of the most influential evangelical theologians in the united States. This book collects several of his essays on the sovereignty of Christ. ouR03Bp Z pApeRBACk, 184 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $13) $8.84 christless christianity by m i c h a e l h o rto n Without knowing it, many American Christians hold beliefs that are more American than Christian. This work calls American Christians to turn from "moralistic, therapeutic deism" to Christ as the Lord of all. CHR41BH Z HARDCoveR, 270 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $20) $16 in christ alone by sinclair b. Ferguson This recently published collection of Sinclair Ferguson's columns from eternity Magazine and Tabletalk covers the doctrine of Christ in succinct and memorable essays. Learn from one of the most respected Reformed theologians in our day as he unfolds the magnificent riches of the biblical testimony to our Savior's person and work. INC01BH Z HARDCoveR, 256 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $18) $14.40 what is Biblical preaching? by eric alexanDer This handy and concise guide to biblical preaching can help readers know what to look for in expository preaching and assist them in better understanding why biblical preaching is so important to the church's life and health. WHA18Bp Z pApeRBACk, 32 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $4) $3.20 He is not silent by r . a l b e rt m o h l e r This book on the power, purpose, and practice of expository preaching is designed to help god's people understand what it means to preach the Word in a postmodern world. It is recommended for any person who is trying to comprehend the enormity of the preacher's task. HeI02BH Z HARDCoveR, 174 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $23) $18.40 let's study galatians by DereK thomas galatians contains what is probably paul's most passionate defense of justification by faith alone. This guide to the epistle of galatians helps readers to understand the apostle's teaching in this famous letter. LeT06Bp Z pApeRBACk, 185 pAgeS Z (ReTAIL $15) $12 T O p l a c e a n O R D e R , p l e a s e c a l l 1 - 8 0 0 - 4 3 5 - 4 3 4 3 f O R a D D i T i O n a l R e s O u R c e s , p l e a s e v i s i T w w w . l i g O n i e R . O R g F o r t h e c h u r c h P i lg r ims (a nd T hei r Hosts) R. Scott Clark A wise traveler adapts to the customs and languages of the host country. When we lived abroad, people never asked us about our health. It is considered rude. The day we left England, however, we were peppered with questions by an American woman who was being polite. What was rude in England was polite in Dallas. Changing theological traditions is like traveling abroad. Upon arrival, the visitor is likely to find new language and culture, that is, a new theology, piety, and practice. This cross-cultural encounter creates opportunities and obligations for hosts and pilgrims alike. There are about sixty-million evangelicals in North America. By contrast, the confessional Reformed communions number fewer than one million members. One effect of these disproportionate numbers is that the theology, piety, and practice of American evangelicals shape the expectations of many Christians. That ethos is the product of a series of religious revivals that began in the eighteenth century and continued through the nineteenth century. These two episodes were different in significant ways but they were similar in important ways too. They were both organized around various kinds of religious experience. They differed on how to arrive at that experience and even on what the experience means. Nevertheless, the com76 TableTalk February 2010 mon thread of religious experience, whether it be a sort of direct encounter with the risen Christ or a conversion experience at the anxious bench, ties them together. Since the early eighteenth century, all American evangelicals have been shaped by a desire to have an intense, personal religious experience. By contrast, the theology, piety, and practice of confessional Reformed congregations has been shaped not so much by religious experience but rather by a certain kind of confession of faith, worship, and approach to the Christian life. These confessional churches believe strongly in Christ's work in us, by His Spirit, through His gospel, but it all begins with what Christ did for sinners in history. For the revivalist traditions, the present work of the Spirit in us often displaces the objective work of Christ for us. American Protestant denominations trace their roots to the Protestant Reformation, and many invoke memories of that heritage. Most of those denominations and churches, however, came to agree with the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century critics of Christianity and thus rejected the old Reformation tradition. Like the revivalists, they too turned to religious experience. They replaced the Jesus of history with the "Jesus of faith," or the Jesus of personal experience. There remain, however, churches a moment to get oriented. Enjoy the that not only trace their roots to the destination. Reformation but who also continue Now, a word to those congregations to believe the same faith confessed (such as mine) who find themselves by Calvin and his successors. Those host to such pilgrims. Please remember churches confess the same worship that our new friends are probably disand the same approach to the Christian oriented. The language, customs, and life that marked Calvin's church. food are strange to them. They bring These Reformed churches have a vital with them expectations not shaped theology, piety, and practice, but it is by the Reformation. Our emphasis of a different sort than that shaped upon the gospel, sacraments, and the by American revivalism. It is more visible church may strike them as interested in nurture than in crisis. It is overly formal. We have two choices. more interested in what the Reformed We can pretend that we really belong call the means of grace (Word, sacrato their tradition or we can gently, ments, prayer) than it is in the anxious gradually welcome them to ours. I bench or the sinner's prayer. recommend the latter. It may take time Because many parts of the for Americans raised on religious fastAmerican revivalist traditions retained a memory It may take time for of their Reformation roots, the confessional and revivAmericans raised on alist wings of American Protestantism coexisted religious fast-food to learn and cooperated temporarily. Eventually, however, the to enjoy a new diet. underlying tensions surfaced and the relationship failed. Now the confessional churches food to learn to enjoy a new diet, lanare isolated from both the old liberal guage, and culture. If we try to become mainline and the revivalist traditions. what the pilgrim has left behind, what Despite these shifts, pilgrims from use are we to the pilgrim? (Matt. 5:13). the revivalist and mainline traditions Let us welcome our brothers and sisoften find their way into confessional ters with open arms, open Bibles, and Reformed churches. If you are one of warm smiles. As we do so we will be those, I hope this map helps you underimitating our great-grand father John stand a little better why your first time Calvin who both welcomed pilgrims in a confessional Reformed congregaand maintained a faithful witness to tion felt so strange: It was. You crossed the Reformation faith. a border, an international dateline, and did not know it. If you found yourself in an intentionally historic, confessional Dr. R. Scott Clark is professor of church history and historical theology at Westminster Seminary Reformed congregation, you may have California and associate pastor of Oceanside urC. He even done a little time traveling to the is author of Recovering the Reformed Confession. seventeenth or even the sixteenth century. Be a wise traveler. Give yourself TableTalk February 2010 | | 77 g e n e r a t i o n t o g e n e r a t i o n T he Missing Mot ive Eric J. Alexander Zeal for the glory of God as the controlling motive of our thinking and working will deeply affect at least four areas of our life in the evangelical church. They are worship, evangelism, unity, and church growth. I am notoriously bad at remembering anniversaries, and last year it was quite a surprise to discover that 2008 marked the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. Not that the occasion was other than memorable. Indeed it was a very special day for many reasons. But I am bound to say that the truly unforgettable part of a moving service was one of the statutory questions put to me by the presbytery: "Are not zeal for the glory of God, and a desire for the salvation of men, so far as you know your own heart, your great motives and chief inducements in seeking this ministry?" I had to answer, "They are." For the past fifty years that question has haunted me, especially as I have climbed the steps of various pulpits to preach, or attended the ordination service of others, or as I have reviewed the year each 31st of December. Abraham Kuyper, that extraordinary Dutch theologian who became the prime minister of his country, points out that the Reformation slogan is not just Deo gloria, but soli Deo gloria. It is a passion for the glory of God as the sole motive of everything. Now in recent years I have been troubled by the tendency in the evangelical church to be more taken up with methods rather than motives. So I frequently hear of conferences 78 TableTalk February 2010 where brethren meet to share insights into new and better methods by which we may fulfill our ministry. I'm sure they are very valuable, and I hope I am not so na�ve as to think that methods are unimportant in God's work. But I have almost never heard of a conference where brethren have met together before God to ask each other: "In all honesty, what are the compelling motives that determine the direction of my ministry?" Yet Jesus laid great stress on motives: "I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me" (John 5:30). Looking back over His ministry He says, "I have glorified you by finishing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4). The glory of the Father was the terminus of everything for Jesus. There was nothing beyond this. And He means it to be so for us. That is why it is such a serious thing to rob God of His glory. He will not share that glory with another just because He cherishes His own glory above everything else and is jealous of it; it is the motive of everything He does (Isa. 48:11). Paul tells us that the Father's motive in exalting Christ to the highest place and giving Him a name that is above every name is "the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:11). If we have any other end in view, then quite simply we will labor without the blessing of God. Worship What makes worship in heaven so remarkable and so different is that there is only one desire among God's people there, and that is to bring glory to God and to the Lamb (see Rev. 4:11; 5:11�14). Our worship here on earth is intended to be a preparation for that Church Growth pure and perfect worship in the glory. How is God most glorified in the Yet, I suspect that in our concern growth of the church? Not primarily to make our worship acceptable to by growth in numbers but by growth those who come to our churches, we are more interested in their acceptance than God's pleasure. The one quality that It is a serious thing to rob equips us to worship God in spirit and in truth is a hunGod of His glory. He will not ger for His glory. Evangelism If you ask members of an evangelical church what the motives for evangelism are, they will almost certainly respond with two accurate and acceptable answers. One would be the Great Commission, and the other would be the condition of the lost who are without Christ. But neither of these is the ultimate motive. The ultimate motive is that throughout the world there are places where God is being robbed of His glory: in our own street, at our place of work, in professions and governments -- wherever we turn it is true that men and women have "worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (Rom. 1:18�32). Unity The reason Jesus brings together in John 17 the glory of the Father and the Son and the unity of the disciples in the church is that the motive deriving from the former is the only effective way of securing the latter. Unless our entire motivation is set on fire by an overwhelming desire for the glory of God -- all wills bowing in the same direction, all hearts burning with the same flame, all minds united by the same obedience -- we shall never know the unity for which Jesus prays. share that glory with another. in depth and in quality -- growth in the knowledge of God. So we really do need to allow that question to haunt us: "Are not zeal for the glory of God and a desire for the salvation of men, so far as we know our own hearts, our great motives and chief inducements in seeking this ministry?" God help us in the last day to reply, "They were." Rev. Eric J. Alexander is former senior pastor of St. George's-Tron parish church in Glasgow, Scotland. He is author of What Is Biblical Preaching? in the basics of the reformed Faith series from P&r. For further resources from rev. alexander, go to www.ericalexander.co.uk. | TableTalk February 2010 | 79 m i n i s t r y f o c u s r e f o r m A t i o n t r u s t By Grace Alone an inTeRview wiTH sincl aiR feRgusOn we are pleased to introduce the newest Reformation Trust publishing title, By Grace Alone, written by our friend and best-selling author, sinclair B. ferguson. Why do you think Christians fail to find God's grace amazing? There are many reasons, but usually they involve three things. first, we have such a low sense of the holiness of god and we are insensitive to the sheer intensity of it. To whatever extent our sense of god's holiness is diminished, to that extent our sense of amazement at god's grace will be diminished. second, we adopt superficial views of our sinfulness and too often guard against the ministry of the word and spirit exposing it. Jesus said that it is those who are much forgiven who love much. The reason is that those who are most conscious of their sin become most conscious of their need of grace, and therefore most aware of the wonders of grace. Third, we think too little of the costliness of grace. it comes freely to us because it was so expensive to christ to satisfy the justice of god on our behalf. sadly, in our contemporary "christianesque" subculture, we are weak in reflection and meditation on christ and the meaning of the cross. You refer to Christians as "the living dead," stating, "Only when I see that I am among the living dead will I begin to see that God's grace is surprising and amazing." How does this condition highlight the surprising beauty of grace? Only sinners need grace. if i do not see myself as a sinner then i will (however foolishly) expect "fairness" from god. if i believe i have behaved "decently" toward Him (after all, i never did Him any harm!), i will expect Him to behave "decently" toward me. That is probably the world's most popular creed. But it is not the christian's creed, nor is it the gospel. Only when i see my sin do i seek grace from god. That is true at the beginning of the christian life. it remains true right to the end. In the preface of the book, you write that grace is not a "thing." What do you mean by this statement? it is legitimate to speak of "receiving grace," and sometimes (although i am somewhat cautious about the possibility of misusing this language) we speak of the preaching of the word, prayer, baptism, and the lord's supper as "means of grace." That is fine, so long as we remember that there isn't a thing, a substance, or a "quasi-substance" called "grace." all there is is the person of the lord Jesus -- "christ clothed in the gospel," as John calvin loved to put it. grace is the grace of Jesus. if i can highlight the thought here: there is no "thing" that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself. grasping that thought can make a significant difference to a christian's life. so while some people might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. it is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. it was the person of the lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy spirit. For information on Reformation Trust titles visit www. reformationtrust.com. new books true to the historic christian faith. Sinclair B. Ferguson is recognized as one of today's leading Reformed theologians. He is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C., has also taught at several seminaries and conferences, and has served as an associate editor for the Banner of Truth Trust since 1976. Among Dr. Ferguson's many books are The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, The Holy Spirit, and In Christ Alone. B e y o n d t h e W i c k e t g a t e On Cont rovers y Keith A. Mathison ohn Newton is best known as the writer of the hymn "Amazing Grace". Were that all he bequeathed to the church, it would be an incredible legacy. There is another small work by Newton, however, that I believe could be of great benefit to the church if it was more widely read. The work to which I refer is a brief letter written by Newton to a fellow minister who was preparing to write an article criticizing another minister for his lack of orthodoxy. In the published collection of Newton's letters, the editor has titled this one "On Controversy." I first read this letter a little over a decade ago, and since I often write on controversial topics, I was profoundly affected by it. Newton begins by recognizing that his friend has truth on his side, and states that he is not concerned about his friend's ability to win the argument. He is concerned that his friend conquers not only his opponent's arguments but also that he conquers his own passions as well. Otherwise, he may win the battle but be seriously wounded in the process. He proceeds to offer him advice about his opponent, the reading public, and his own heart. Regarding his opponent, Newton commends him to prayer. If we pray for those against whom we write, this will affect the way we write. Newton 82 TableTalk February 2010 J adds that if we consider our opponent to be a fellow believer, albeit a mistaken one, we must remember that the Lord loves him and bears with him as He bears with us. "In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever." If, on the other hand, we think our opponent is an unbeliever, we must remember that were it not for the grace of God, we could be the one outside of the kingdom. Regarding the reading public, Newton notes that there are three types of readers. For those who differ with us, the same principles stated in connection with our opponent apply here. A second type of reader is one who is undecided on the issue. Although he may not have the ability to judge a theological argument, he probably is able to judge a writer's tone. He will recognize meekness, humility, and love, or the lack thereof. This type of reader will often use our lack of love as a justification for his contempt of our arguments. "If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the dangerous. What will it profit a man cause of truth, when in reality we if he gains his cause and silences his shall only bring it into discredit." adversary, if at the same time he loses A third type of reader is one who that humble, tender frame of spirit agrees with us. We may edify them in which the Lord delights, and to if both truth and kindness guide our which the promise of his presence pen. Otherwise, we may cause them is made?" Newton concludes this harm. Newton explains: "There is a extraordinary letter with the followprinciple of self, which disposes us ing warning: "If we act in a wrong to despise those who differ from us; spirit, we shall bring little glory to and we are often under its influence, God, do little good to our fellow creawhen we think we are only showtures, and procure neither honor nor ing a becoming zeal in the cause of comfort to ourselves. If you can be God." He argues that our Calvinism content with showing your wit, and should produce humility, but we gaining the laugh on your side, you often allow it to produce pride. "Selfhave an easy task; but I hope you have righteousness can feed upon doca far nobler aim, and that, sensible trines as well as upon works; and a of the solemn importance of gospel man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head If we contend with believers, is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiwe must remember that God ness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I loves them and bears with would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this them as He bears with us. leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our advertruths, and the compassion due to saries to ridicule, and by consequence the souls of men, you would rather flatter our own superior judgments." be a means of removing prejudices Rega rding our own hea r ts, in a single instance, than obtain the Newton observes that we must empty applause of thousands. Go contend for the faith, but he also forth, therefore, in the name and observes that very few writers of strength of the Lord of hosts, speakcontroversy have not been hurt by it. ing the truth in love; and may he give "Either they grow in a sense of their you a witness in many hearts that you own importance, or imbibe an angry, are taught of God, and favored with contentious spirit, or they insensithe unction of his Holy Spirit." bly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and Dr. Keith A. Mathison is an associate editor of immediate support of the life of faith, Tabletalk magazine and academic dean of Ligonier and spend their time and strength academy of biblical and Theological Studies. His upon matters which are at most but newest book is From Age to Age: The Unfolding of of a secondary value. This shows, Biblical Eschatology. that if the service is honorable, it is TableTalk February 2010 | | 83 Clarification on Justification | 800-435-4343 or www.ligonier.org | next Month: acts of the apostles see page 38 fOR mORe DeTails from Ligonier Ministries and Dr. R.C. Sproul