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coram deo Living before the face of God

G ood Old Ca lv i n ism B y

B u r k

Tab l e talk

contents

P a r s o n s

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ohn Calvin was a churchman for all ages. He was a reformer par excellence. He was a godly pastor who equipped his people for ministry. He was a humble revolutionary. He was a loyal husband, father, and friend. But above all Calvin was a man whose mind was humbled and whose heart was mastered by the Lord God Almighty. His life’s prayer — “I offer my heart to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely” — was an unwavering declaration of surrender to the Lord, whom he sought to love with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. While many Christians throughout the world may be familiar with some of Calvin’s doctrines, most are unfamiliar with the Calvin’s greatness man who was so devoted to prayer and the ministry of God’s Word (Acts 6:4). Given all that the Lord was not in service accomplished in him and through him, his legacy to us is one of biblical, doctrinal, and ecclesiastito himself but cal integrity. As such, we would do well to heed the words of Calvin’s friend Theodore Beza, who wrote, in his…constant “Since it has pleased God that Calvin should consurrender to God. tinue to speak to us through his writings, which are so scholarly and full of godliness, it is up to future generations to go on listening to him until the end of the world, so that they might see our God as he truly is and live and reign with him for all eternity.” Calvin’s greatness was not in his service to himself but in his surrender to God, as B. B. Warfield recognized: “Here we have the secret of Calvin’s greatness and the source of his strength unveiled to us. No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction.” This is Calvin’s greatness — his constant surrender to God. For those of us who desire not simply to wear the five-pointed badge of Calvinism, but who desire to clothe ourselves with the fullness of the old Calvinism, let us follow Calvin’s example as we fall to our knees in constant surrender to God, living each day before the face of God, enjoying and glorifying God forever. This was Calvin’s chief desire for himself, for his congregation, and for us. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion he wrote, “As the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads.” Burk Parsons is editor of Tabletalk magazine and associate minister at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, Florida, and is editor of the book John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

in this issue

{The

legacy of John Calvin}

F e a t u r e s

4

The Theologian Right Now Counts Forever

By R.C. Sproul

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.

Da i ly S t u d i e s 23 Into the Word

27 Some Will Apostatize By Tom Ascol 36 The Public Reading By Terry L. Johnson 47 No Little People By John P. Sartelle

Living for God Calvin on the Spiritual Life

By Iain H. Murray The Great Exchange Calvin on the Gospel

By Rick Gamble The Bond of Love Calvin on the Lord’s Supper

By Keith A. Mathison The Key to Paradise Calvin: Theologian of the Holy Spirit

By Thabiti Anyabwile The School of Jesus Christ Calvin: A Shepherd of Souls

By David Powlison 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 RT D i r e c t o r Monty Morgan Ma 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

J u l y 2009 vo lu m e 33 | n u m ber 7

The Theater of God’s Glory Calvin on God’s Providence and Glory

By David W. Hall

10 12 14 16

54 Open and Shut By Kim Riddlebarger

C o l u m n s 64 Pastor’s Perspective By Philip Graham Ryken 68 For the Church By Derek Thomas 70 Generation to Generation By Gordon K. Reed 74 Tolle Lege: Take Up and Read By Keith A. Mathison 80 Seek Ye First By R.C. Sproul Jr.

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82 Truth and Consequences By Gene Edward Veith

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ON THE COVER John Calvin (Jean Cauvin), Reformer (1509–1564) France (1555) Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam akg-images


The Theolog ia n

R i g h t N ow C o u n t s F o r e v e r

by R.C. Sproul

Thinkers in the ancient world sought to plumb the depths

on epistemology (the science of knowing). Still others stressed

of ultimate reality. With that quest for ultimate reality came

in their investigation the basic principles and elements of

the birth of the discipline of philosophy. Some philosophers

ethics (the study of the good and the right). And others focused on

focused on one particular aspect of philosophy called

the ultimate foundations for aesthetics (the study of the beautiful).

metaphysics (ultimate being). Others focused their attention

One philosopher stood out as being deeply involved in the study of

C alvin and professors in Gene va 1559 by Ferdinand Hodler(18 83)

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H e l d , M u s É e d’ A r t e t d’ H i s t o i r e , G e n e v a / a k g - i m a g e s


all of these matters as well as others. His name was Aristotle. Because Aristotle’s philosophical investigation was so comprehensive that it encompassed all of the above concerns of philosophy, he earned for himself the supreme epithet, namely, “the Philosopher.” Among students of philosophy, if passing mention is made of the title “the Philosopher,” everybody understands that that title can be a reference to only one person — Aristotle.

truth. But Luther was not a systematician by nature, and so he could not be the theologian of theologians. He never developed a full-orbed systematic theology for the instruction of the church. That task in the sixteenth century was left to the genius of the Genevan theologian John Calvin. Calvin brought to the study of theology a passion for biblical truth and a coherent understanding of the Word of God. Of all of the thinkers of the sixteenth century, Calvin was

Above all things, Calvin sought to be true to the Word of God. He was the biblical theologian par excellence. In a similar manner, the study of theology historically has brought to the surface outstanding thinkers and scholars. Some are known for their specific ability to create a synthesis between theology and secular philosophy. Augustine, for example, was known for his ability to take precepts from the philosophy of Plato and blend them with biblical theology. Much of Augustine’s theology was therefore of a philosophical kind. The same could be said to a certain degree of Thomas Aquinas, who gave us a similar synthesis between Aristotelian philosophy and Christian thought. Among the sixteenth-century magisterial Reformers, we notice that Luther, being a brilliant student of language, brought to the theological table an uncanny ability to provide vignettes of insight into particular questions of 6

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most noted for his ability to provide a systematic theological understanding of Christian truth. His magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion, remains to this day a titanic work in the field of systematic theology. Luther did not live long enough to recognize the full impact of Calvin’s work, though he did see that Calvin would become a towering figure. It was left to one who knew Calvin and his work more extensively, namely, Philip Melancthon, Luther’s assistant and an impressive scholar in his own right, to give Calvin the sobriquet “the Theologian.” Thus, if one mentions “the Philosopher,” we understand that to mean a reference to Aristotle. On the other hand, if one mentions “the Theologian,” the heirs of the Reformation think exclusively of John Calvin.

In our day there seems to be an ongoing battle between advocates of systematic theology and advocates of biblical theology. We are living in a time of unprecedented antipathy toward rationality and logic. Where systematic theology used to reign supreme in theological seminaries, it has all but vanished, exiled to the perimeter of academic studies. This antipathy toward rationality and logic finds its nadir in the modern allergy against systematic theology, with nothing to fill its place except the expansion of biblical theology. A possible tendency exists in biblical theology to interpret the Bible atomistically without a concern for coherency and unity. This dichotomy between biblical theology and systematic theology is a classic example of the fallacy of the false dilemma, sometimes called the either-or fallacy. If we look to John Calvin, we see a scholar whose mastery of the content of Scripture was unparalleled. Calvin had a passion for the Bible, as well as a monumental knowledge of the Bible, and yet he is known as a systematic theologian. He was not a systematic theologian in the sense that he took some extra-biblical philosophical system and forced it upon the Bible. For him, a system was not a preconceived Procrustean bed to which the Bible was forced to conform. On the contrary, Calvin’s system of doctrine was the result of his attempt to find the coherent substance of the Bible itself. That is, Calvin worked out the system that is within Scripture, not a system that is imposed upon Scripture. Calvin was convinced that the Word of God is coherent and that God does not speak in contradictions or in illogi-

cal statements. It has been said a multitude of times that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. If that is in fact true, then one would have to come to the conclusion that the smallest mind in the universe is the mind of God, because God in His thinking is altogether consistent and altogether coherent. It is in that appreciation of the nature of God that Calvin sought passionately to set forth the unity of the Word of God. In that regard, he has done a masterful service to the history of Christian thought. Some people see Calvinism, bearing the name of John Calvin, as an odious distortion of the Word of God. Those who appreciate Calvin’s commitment to biblical truth see Calvinism as “a nickname for biblical Christianity,” as Spurgeon said. Calvin in debate could draw on his encyclopedic knowledge of biblical passages, as well as the ability to quote at length from ancient thinkers such as Augustine and Cicero. But above all things, Calvin sought to be true to the Word of God. He was the biblical theologian par excellence who was at the same time a singularly gifted systematic theologian. We owe a great debt to this man. He is God’s gift to the church, not only for the sixteenth century but for all time. We therefore join the multitudes who are celebrating the 500th birthday of John Calvin in the year 2009. Dr. R.C. Sproul is senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, Florida, and he is author of the book What Is Reformed Theology?

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Li v ing for G od

Does belief in divine sovereignty weaken evangelistic passion? Calvinists must admit that despite notable exceptions to the

Calvin on the Spiritual Life

contrary, there is some justification for this perception. Are we free

b y I a i n H . M u r r ay

of blame in this regard?

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e are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal [Rom. 14:8; cf. I Cor. 6:19]. O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! ” (Institutes, 3.7.1)

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Yet there are dangers for those who revere the memory of Calvin, and I will mention two that present themselves to me. First, in our circles, piety and godliness are not the characteristics of Calvinistic belief to the extent that they ought to be. We believe that divine revelation has come to us in words and in propositions, and for these we must contend. But truth is only rightly believed to the extent that it is embodied in life. The gospel spread across Europe in the sixteenth century primarily through the witness of transformed people. Too often in our time, beliefs associated with the name of Calvin have been identified with the lecture hall and the academy. I once had the misfortune to hear addresses on “the five points of Calvinism” delivered as though we

J o h n C a l v i n R e t u rn i n g t o g e n e v a

On the opening page of every edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion stand the words that were the unifying motif of his life: “True and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” So he first wrote in 1536, and through all the years that followed, the emphasis remained the same. Calvin saw himself as a sinner who owed all that he was to God. It was God who subdued his mind to the knowledge of Christ. The piety that was recovered at the Reformation has sometimes been caricatured as a life of cold, austere obedience to God. But the caricature rests on ignorance of the connection between the love of God and the gratitude of believing hearts. To glorify this gracious God and not to displease Him are necessarily the desires of those whom He redeems.

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were attending a chemistry lecture. It is not by argument or teaching alone that the current scene can be reversed. “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20), for the Holy Spirit alone is the source of witness that is not in talk only. Second, our example needs to be the best argument that belief in divine sovereignty does not weaken evangelistic preaching. There are prominent exceptions to the contrary, but in surveying the Christian scene at large, there is some justification for the idea that Calvinistic belief hinders evangelistic passion. Facing this perception, we would be mistaken to suppose we are free of blame. We have found it easier to be “teachers” and “defenders” of the truth than to be evangelists who are willing to die that men might be converted. Sometimes the impression can be given to other Christians that we regard “Calvinism” as coterminous with Christianity and that we think all gospel preaching can be fitted into the five points. The five points are not to be depreciated, but God is incomprehensibly greater than our understanding, and there are other

truths to be preached far beyond our capacity to harmonize. Calvin cautions us here. In speaking of the indiscriminate invitations of Christ in John 5, he observes, “He is ready to give himself, provided that they are only willing to believe.” He can say that “nothing of all that God wishes to be saved shall perish” and yet warn his hearers lest the opportunity of salvation “pass away from us” (Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 1:261, 407). Where Calvinistic truth is presented as though there is no love in God to sinners as sinners — that His only regard is for the elect — it is no wonder that evangelistic preaching falters. The preacher has to be possessed with a love for all or he will not represent the Savior in whose name he speaks. The men of Calvinistic belief who have stood out as evangelists and missionaries have always been examples of this. Rev. Iain H. Murray is a co-founder of Banner of Truth Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is minister emeritus of the Australian Presbyterian Church.

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John, the beloved disciple, loved to emphasize Christ’s glory

The Great Excha nge

and mentioned it over and over in his gospel. Calvin connected that glory not only to the incarnation, or even

Calvin on the Gospel

to Christ’s beautiful teaching on the mount, but to the bloody cross

b y Ri c k G a m b l e

itself. What the world considers a scandalous shame, God glorifies.

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Over the centuries, painters have portrayed the scene of Christ on the cross. The colors chosen from the pallet are dark. The shame and agony are everywhere apparent. Christ’s brutal execution, performed by the hands of pagan idol-worshipers, should be depicted in that way. It was a time of true and real suffering. Yet, instead of underlining only the shame and suffering, Calvin pre12

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sented Christ’s cross in a different fashion. He mentioned that the scene was as in a “splendid theatre.” In his Philippians commentary, Calvin described the crucifixion in a similar fashion: “No throne [was] so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated” as the cross on which Christ hung. That stage presented the fullness of God’s goodness. John, the beloved disciple, loved

J o h n C a l v i n at t h e C o u nc i l o f G e n e v a , 1 5 4 9

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n the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theater, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures on high and below, but never more brightly than in the cross, in which there was a wonderful change of things — the condemnation of all men was manifested, sin blotted out, salvation restored to men; in short, the whole world was renewed and all things restored to order. …The cross was accursed, not only in human opinion but by decree of God’s law [Deut. 21:23]. Hence, when Christ is hanged upon the cross, he makes himself subject to the curse. It had to happen in this way in order that the whole curse — which on account of our sins awaited us, or rather lay upon us — might be lifted from us, while it was transferred to him.” (Commentary on the Gospel According to John, II, 73; Institutes, 2.16.6)

H u l t o n A rc h i v e / Str i n g e r / G e tty I m a g e s

to emphasize Christ’s glory and mentioned it over and over in his gospel. Calvin connected that glory not only to the incarnation, or even to Christ’s beautiful teaching on the mount, but to the bloody cross itself. Calvin also paid attention to the “wonderful change” for the world as a result of the gruesome cross. First, he focused on the issue of human sin and the resulting curse, and then he moved to the resulting light and glory. Calvin knew himself. He knew that his own heart — and the human heart in general — was a “factory of idols.” After Adam’s fall, the world stood condemned for both original and actual sins. In Christ’s cross, this condemnation was lifted from our weak shoulders and placed upon Christ’s massive, divine strength. Christ could bear the weight of the guilt of sin in a way that no other human was able. Having borne sin’s burden, Christ then liberated believers from the curse.

From that foundation of forensic justification, still in imitation of the work of Christ’s cross, Calvin set about to “restore order” to the world of Geneva. On the basis of Christ’s saving work a political system could now be established in a godly fashion, and education could be made available to all citizens, including girls. Also, wicked occupations like prostitution could be eliminated and replaced with well-cared for, godly citizens. In conclusion, Calvin was rightly convinced that “our salvation consists in the doctrine of the cross” (Commentary on the Harmony of the Evangelists, 3:274–75). Dr. Rick Gamble is professor of systematic theology at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary and is senior pastor of College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaver Falls, Penn. He has also authored numerous articles on the life and thought of John Calvin.

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The bread in the Supper provides an

The Bon d of Lov e

illustration of the unity we are to have. We are to be joined together, without division, just as the many grains in

Calvin on the Lord’s Supper

the bread are joined together to form a single loaf. The Lord’s

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Supper impresses this truth upon our hearts.

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e shall benefit very much from the Sacrament if this thought is impressed and engraved upon our minds: that none of the brethren can be injured, despised, rejected, abused, or in any way offended by us, without at the same time, injuring, despising, and abusing Christ by the wrongs we do; that we cannot disagree with our brethren without at the same time disagreeing with Christ; that we cannot love Christ without loving him in the brethren; that we ought to take the same care of our brethren’s bodies as we take of our own; for they are members of our body; and that, as no part of our body is touched by any feeling of pain which is not spread among all the rest, so we ought not to allow a brother to be affected by any evil, without being touched with compassion for him. Accordingly, Augustine with good reason frequently calls this Sacrament ‘the bond of love.’” (Institutes, 4.17.38)

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has only one body of which He makes us all partakers; therefore, we are all one body (1 Cor. 10:17). According to Calvin, the bread in the Supper provides an illustration of the unity we are to have. We are to be joined together, without division, just as the many grains in the bread are joined together to form a single loaf. But what does this mean? Calvin reminds us that when we come together as Christian believers to partake

J o h n C a l v i n In St . P e t e r ’ s C at h e dra l , G e n e v a

For John Calvin, the primary benefit of the Lord’s Supper is that it strengthens our faith and our union with Christ. Communion with Christ, however, cannot be separated from the communion of the saints. Following Augustine, Calvin spoke of this “horizontal” aspect of the Lord’s Supper as “the bond of love.” The Supper is something that is to unite believers and encourage them to love one another. Paul tells us that Christ

B e tt m ann C o l l e ct i o n / C o r b i s

of the Lord’s Supper, not only should we remember Christ’s death, but we should also remember those for whom Christ died, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Does Jesus love us? He loves them too. Did He die for us? He died for them too. Are we part of the one body of Christ? So are they. Are we adopted children of God? So are they. How then can we fail to love and care for those who are also part of the body of Christ? The Lord’s Supper impresses this truth upon our hearts and minds. Calvin’s exhortation is especially needful in a culture whose motto is “Look out for number one.” Ours is a culture in which the corporate ladder mentality has infiltrated everything. Men and women in our culture have no qualms about stepping on others in a mad quest to get to the top. Even though Paul tells us to “count others more significant than ourselves” (Phil. 2:3), self-aggrandizement and self-promotion remain common even among Christians. It doesn’t matter who we hurt or push aside as long as

we come out ahead. This is not as it should be among Christians. Even worse, perhaps, is the widespread apathy to those among us who are suffering. When we come together to worship, we worship with hurting people. Some are sick. Some are grieving. Some are struggling to support their families. Some have no family. But too often, we take no notice of these things. We are too worried about our own problems to concern ourselves with the problems of others. Calvin reminds us, however, that when one member of the body is in pain, it affects the whole body. When we come together for the Lord’s Supper, it should remind us of the oneness of the body and spur us to compassion that we might do what we can to share the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Dr. Keith A. Mathison is associate editor of Tabletalk magazine and is author of Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.

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If we neglect to

The K ey of Para dise

proclaim the work of Christ or to beseech the work of the Spirit, all preaching is lifeless and impotent. But Calvin reminds us

Calvin: Theologian of the Holy Spirit

also that the Spirit is necessary for

b y Th a b i t i M . A n y a b w i l e

producing the unity

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and ages. Some had walked with the Lord for forty or fifty years. Of the group of about forty people, maybe four or five raised their hands in the affirmative. It is really no wonder, then, that evangelism and gospel preaching appear to be largely non-existent and ineffective in some quarters today. Instead, outreach and preaching seem to be designed around the persuasiveness of the preacher and emotional appeal rather than the sovereign and secret working of the Holy Spirit. We desperately need to recover a biblical view of conversion and the Holy Spirit’s sovereign working in saving sinners so that we might free ourselves from the tyranny of methodological pragmatism and faddish trends. Calvin lived and ministered dur-

© ary

One is left to wonder whether this solid biblical truth is believed at all anymore. What we seem to be missing, which Calvin comprehended, is a firm commitment to the necessity of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners as well as a deep dependence upon the ongoing work of the Spirit in the Christian life and the church. Concerning these things, Calvin reminds us of our desperate need to rely on the third person of the Trinity. The Lord once granted me the privilege of leading a Bible study on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I began by asking, “How many of you have ever heard any substantial teaching about the Holy Spirit or have been involved in a church where this doctrine was explained?” In the room were adult Christians of many nationalities, denominational backgrounds,

P o rtra i t o f J o h n C a l v i n

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y these words he explains that, in order that the shedding of his sacred blood may not be nullified, our souls are cleansed by the secret watering of the Spirit. For the same reason, also, Paul, in speaking of cleansing and justification, says that we come to possess both, ‘in the name of…Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ [I Cor. 6:11]. To sum up, the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.” (Institutes, 3.1.1)

Sc h e ff e r ( 1 7 9 5 – 1 8 5 8 ) , M u s e o d e l C a s t e l l o Sf o r z e s c o , m i l an , Ita l y / Br i d g e m an A rt L i b rary

fitting for renewed life.

ing a time of significant social, political, and religious upheaval and strife. Almost overnight, entire provinces switched their allegiances to either the Roman Catholic or Protestant causes. Struggles were intense and sometimes severe. Calvin himself evaded capture and certain death on occasion. Chief among the Christian’s enemies are the world, the flesh, and the Devil — the principal forces against which Christ’s army is arrayed. Calvin clearly perceived that the Christian faces an ongoing battle with indwelling sin. He knew this conflict would remain with us, but he was no defeatist. He knew also that the Holy Spirit accompanies us, and that the Christian must live by the Spirit in order to conquer sin. Christian sanctification was central to Calvin’s thinking, and he believed that our holiness is bound together with Christ’s completed work by the Holy Spirit. Finally, we may learn a tremendous amount from Calvin when it comes to the necessity of the Holy Spirit in living out the Christian faith corporately as the church. He understood what some habitu-

ally forget: Effective gospel preaching depends wholly on the power of the Spirit as Christ offers Himself in the gospel. If we neglect to proclaim the work of Christ or to beseech the work of the Spirit, all preaching is lifeless and impotent. But Calvin reminds us also that the Spirit is necessary for producing the unity fitting for renewed life. The twenty-first century church needs a number of things, including a deeper understanding of saving faith and conversion, a greater desire for sanctification and deliverance from worldliness, a resurgence of powerful gospel preaching, and an unwavering commitment to unity in the church. Five hundred years after his life and ministry, Calvin teaches us that essential to meeting all of these needs is daily reliance on God the Holy Spirit, “the chief key by which the gate of paradise is opened to us” (Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, p. 207). Rev. Thabiti M. Anyabwile is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. He is author of The Decline of African American Theology.

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Calvin was a pastor

The School of Jesus Christ

deeply occupied in the care of souls. He was touched with the feeling of their infirmities. He dealt gently with the

Calvin: A Shepherd of Souls

ignorant and wayward, since he knew himself to be beset with weakness.

b y D a v id P o w l i s o n

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hen I first received the intelligence of the death…of your son Louis, I was so utterly overpowered that for many days I was fit for nothing but to grieve; and albeit I was somehow upheld before the Lord by those aids wherewith he sustains our souls in affliction, among men, however, I was almost a nonentity. …It is difficult, notwithstanding, you will say, so to shake off or suppress the love of a father, as not to experience grief on occasion of the loss of a son. Neither do I insist upon your laying aside all grief. Nor, in the school of Christ, do we learn any such philosophy as requires us to put off that common humanity with which God has endowed us, that, being men, we should be turned into stones. These considerations reach only so far as this, that you do set bounds, and, as it were, temper even your most reasonable sadness.”

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death of death in the resurrected life of Christ. We grieve our sins, certain of mercy triumphant. We are truly forgiven and we will be made like the Man of Love. “It is finished” — once for all. It has been decided. Mercy, life, and glory get the last say. John Calvin lived out “that common humanity…in the school of Christ” amid his own sins and sorrows and amid the sins and sorrows of others, keeping the piercing light of Christ in view. So his counsel was drawn from the Psalms, expressing candidly how human need reaches

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We are humankind, not stones, as Calvin pointedly states. Stones are unfeeling, unthinking, unchoosing. But people feel, think, and choose. We who believe in Jesus are being remade in the image of the Man of Sorrows and Man of Joy. The sorrowing psalmist of the human condition bears our griefs. The sweet psalmist of God’s redemption communicates His joy. We do grieve honestly. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve within an all-encompassing, unfathomable, exalted hope. We grieve our losses, certain of the

J o h n C a l v i n E x p o u nd i n g t h e B i b l e t o a fa m i l y at B o u r g e s

(Letter to Monsieur de Richebourg on the Death of His Son, April 1541, Letters of John Calvin, vol. 1, p. 229)

B e tt m ann C o l l e ct i o n / C o r b i s

for bright divine hope. Some parts of pastoral counseling are casuistic, bringing wise advice to vexed decisions and uncertain opinions. But much of pastoral counseling addresses the human experiences expressed in “the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated” (Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1, xxxvii). This excerpt from Calvin’s letter exhibits a wise shepherd’s touch. He enters fully into his friend’s grief as if it were his very own. He validates his friend’s grief. Only then does he indicate the “bounds” of truth and righteousness, bidding to temper his friend’s grief with conscious hope, bidding to shape his future choices. This is not the image of Calvin as an abstract logician, the [mis]portrayal that distorts so many secondary and tertiary sources. This letter portrays the man himself. It shows a pastor of souls deeply occupied in the cura animarum (“care of souls”). He cared. He touched people. He was touched with the feeling of their infirmities.

He dealt gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he knew himself to be beset with weakness. Here is one contemporary application. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy dominates contemporary psychotherapy (whether secular or semiChristian). Calvin would have had no truck with these modern stoics. Their analytic of human emotion is experientially impoverished. Their counseling method is impoverished by substituting technique for pastoral love. And their goal is impoverished, because self-management through cognitive rehearsal is faithless, loveless, hopeless, and joyless. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy never makes anyone capable of being “utterly overpowered” for many days with the grief of another. In his letter, Calvin opposes “any such philosophy,” thinking that it perverts Christian faith and mocks the psalmic richness of Jesus’ experience. Dr. David Powlison is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, Pennsylvania. He is author of Seeing with New Eyes.

T a b l e ta l k J u l y 2 0 0 9

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Calvin described this world, moved by

The Theater of God’s Glory

God’s providence, as

theatrum gloriae. Every aspect of life from work to worship and from art to technology bears the

Calvin on God’s Providence and Glory

potential to glorify God. Creation is depicted as a platform for God’s

b y D a v id W . H a l l

glory or a “dazzling theater,” displaying God’s glorious works.

E

ver since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze. …And since the glory of his power and wisdom shine more brightly above, heaven is often called his palace. Yet…wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory.” (Institutes, 1.5.1)

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T a b l e ta l k J u l y 2 0 0 9

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At the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth, not only is Calvinism’s essence tied to “passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God,” but at his 400th anniversary Princeton giant Benjamin Warfield summarized, “No man ever had a profounder sense of God than [Calvin].” Whether it is “this relentless orientation on the glory of God” (Piper), or the “all-embracing slogan of the Reformed faith: the work of grace in the sinner as a mirror for the glory of God” (Vos), or Calvin’s own words, the glory of God distills the meaning of Calvin’s message. Calvin described this world, moved by God’s providence, as theatrum

J o h n C a l v i n P r e ac h i n g H i s F ar e w e l l S e r m o n

From the Institutes’ preface, John Calvin portrayed the human condition as “naked of all virtue,” enslaved, blind, and weak. The purpose of this depiction was to preclude all occasion for self-glorying and give all glory to God. Human beings, thought Calvin, should be stripped of “vainglory” to “learn to glory in the Lord.” Five centuries after Calvin’s birth, John Piper suggests that a fitting symbolic banner over Calvin’s work could be: “Zeal to illustrate the glory of God.” Whether in life or on his deathbed, Calvin professed to propound only “what I esteemed to be for the glory of God.”

B e tt m ann C o l l e ct i o n / C o r b i s

gloriae. For him, every aspect of life from work to worship and from art to technology bears the potential to glorify God (Institutes, 1.11.12). Creation is depicted as a platform for God’s glory (1.14.20) or a “dazzling theater” (1.5.8; 2.6.1), displaying God’s glorious works. Calvin viewed the first commandment as making it unlawful to steal “even a particle from this glory” (2.8.16). Such comments support Lloyd-Jones’ later claim that for Calvin “the great central and all-important truth was the sovereignty of God and God’s glory.” James Packer concurs that Calvin’s Christianity rested on a vision of God enthroned and reigning majestically: “How often Calvin used the words ‘majesty’ and ‘glory’! How often he dilates on the greatness of God! The passion corresponded to the vision. It was the passion expressed in that great phrase which has become the slogan of Calvinism — soli Deo gloria!” While once urging political pru-

dence, Calvin commended to “think carefully and to take God as our president and governor in our elections, and to make our choice with a pure conscience without regard to anything except the honor and glory of God in the security and defense of this republic.” Warfield well summarized: “The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand, with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner, and on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.” Calvin still shines truth’s floodlight onto God’s theater of glory. Dr. David W. Hall is senior pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, Georgia. He also serves as the executive director of Calvin500, as well as the general editor for the Calvin500 book series.

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R e c o m m e n d e d

r e s o u r c e s

The L egac y of Joh n Ca lv i n

J u l y 20 09 I n t o t h e W ord d a i l y

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology b y B u r k Pa r s o n s , e d i t o r

This new book edited by Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk magazine, celebrates the 500th birthday of John Calvin with a look at the Reformer’s importance for the church’s life and thought. Contributors include Thabiti Anyabwile, Jerry Bridges, D.G. Hart, Michael Horton, John MacArthur, Harry Reeder, Philip Ryken, Derek Thomas, and many others. JOH08BH Z Hdcvr, 246 Pages Z  (REG. $19) $15.20

B y S t e v e n J . L aw s o n

The power of John Calvin’s preaching ministry in Geneva is the subject of this book in which Steven J. Lawson looks at Calvin’s method of expositing the Word of God and draws practical application for today’s pastors and teachers. EXP03BH  Z  HardcoveR, 142 pages  Z  (REG. $15) $12

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“Practical godliness is absolutely necessary to a true Christian character — and a man is not righteous unless he does that which is righteous.” C h a r l e s H a d d o n S p u r g e o n , F r o m H i s S e r m o n N o. 2 9 59

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he presence of sin means that none of us will be perfectly holy until the day of our glorification (1 John 3:2–3), and grace covers all our sins when we repent and turn to Christ (1:5–10). But it does not follow that godliness is impossible in this life. Though we will fall at times, the pursuit of personal holiness is one of the marks of all true believers, especially those who shepherd the people of God. Having confronted the error of the false teachers in Ephesus, laying down the qualifications for church officers (1 Tim. 1–3), Paul continues his first letter to Timothy with an emphasis on both the elder’s need for godliness and the requirement for widows and their relatives to live in holiness. As we examine 1 Timothy 4:1–5:16 this month, we will see the call unto godliness repeated again and again, and we will see what we are to be like as the children of our heavenly Father. Paul also reminds the elders of their calling to proclaim God’s Word (4:13). Preachers and Preaching, a teaching series by Dr. R.C. Sproul, will help us understand our pastors’ chief duty.

The Expository Genius of John Calvin

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Abiding in the

WOR 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: wee k o f J u l y 6 Luke 2:52 wee k o f J u l y 1 3 Jeremiah 23:32 wee k o f J u l y 2 0 1 Timothy 5:8 wee k o f J u l y 2 7 H eb re ws 13:2

Tabletalk July 2009

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Wednesday J u l y

1

The Teaching of Demons

The Goodness of Creation

1 Timothy 4:1–3 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later

times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (v. 1).

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eresy has plagued the church since its beginning, as evidenced in letters like 1 John and Jude, which were written to combat this very thing. Because those who teach falsehood invariably mix some truth with their departures from orthodoxy, it can be hard to recognize them as heretical when they first emerge on the scene. Yet a person’s or group’s practices often forewarn us of their teachings even before we have the chance to hear them. After all, a person’s life is indicative of whether he knows the truth (James 2:14–26). Interestingly, some of the most notorious cults in history have practiced forms of abstinence and have attempted to justify this theologically. For example, the Shakers did not permit sex even among married couples, and Mormons will not partake of alcohol or caffeine. In the first century, the false teachers Timothy dealt with at Ephesus forbade marriage and the consumption of certain foods (1 Tim. 4:1–3) — probably meat according to most commentators. Paul pulls no punches in calling the commands to abstain from certain foods and marriage for theological reasons “the teachings of demons” (v. 1). But why does he use such harsh language? Well, if indeed the false teachers forbade the eating of meat, they likely did so because they were attempting to promote the idea that true holiness comes through avoiding marriage and certain foods. But this kind of holiness is not that which is required of those who would see the Lord (Heb. 12:14); purity of heart, however, is (Ps. 24:3–4). The disciples of these heretics, therefore, were thinking themselves holy while the Enemy was leading them straight to hell. Like circumcision (Gal. 6:15), food and marriage are neither essential to salvation nor contrary to it. To present them as such is to place people under burdens they were never meant to carry. In commenting on these verses, John Calvin writes that it is inexusable to “lay a religious obligation [not expressly warranted in Scripture] on the consciences, and command men to worship God by observing those things; for the prohibition of things that are indifferent, whether it be general or special, is always a diabolical tyranny.”

C o ram de o

Tabletalk July 2009

Leviticus 19:1–2 Malachi 3:3 Matthew 5:8 Colossians 2:16–23 The bible in a year :

Job 24–25 Acts 11

2

e do not know if the prophecy Paul reports in 1 Timothy 4:1–3 was given to him directly or if he is reporting words from another prophet. It is certain, however, that “the later times” (v. 1) the apostle speaks of means the entire period between Jesus’ ministry and the consummation of all things. Otherwise known as the “last days” (Acts 2:14–21), this era began with Christ, in whose life, death, and resurrection God has confirmed His promise to bring about a new heavens and earth (Isa. 65:17). During this time, our Creator is beginning to restore His world as the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to all nations and people submit to His call to turn from sin and steward creation wisely. This restoration will be completed at the return of our Savior. And while the remnants of sin will trouble the created order until then, the curse has been canceled on the cross (Gal. 3:13), meaning that when Jesus literally took upon Himself the weight of God’s curse, He opened the door for God’s blessings now and in the future. All foods and other things created by God have therefore also been cleansed and restored (Mark 7:19), which is why Christians are no longer bound by the Old Testament kosher laws and why Paul can call everything that God has made good (1 Tim. 4:4). On account of all this, any teaching that would forbid the eating of certain foods as a prerequisite for salvation is to be rejected. Yet even though everything our Father has created is good, we do not automatically partake of His gifts in holiness when we sit down to eat. An object becomes holy when it is set apart for God and His purposes, and something can be good without being holy. This is what Paul is talking about when he tells us that food and other gifts are to be enjoyed gladly when sanctified by the “word of God and prayer.” As far as the “word of God,” the apostle is likely referring to Genesis 1:31 wherein our Creator calls everything that He made “very good.” Prayer would be the blessings the people of God commonly said before meals in that day (Mark 6:41; 1 Cor. 10:30). When we recall the goodness of God’s creation while we thankfully and prayerfully receive His gifts, we can be sure that even common things are made holy or set apart as fit for use in His kingdom. Living before the face of God

For further study:

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Living before the face of God

John Calvin also points out that it has been common throughout history for heretics to shun true holiness and offer in its place a substitute to conceal their own wickedness. We are prone as human beings to make God’s standards much lower and prohibit those things He has not prohibited, for it is far easier to refrain from things outwardly in lieu of developing the pure heart He requires. Where have you added to or taken away from God’s Word? 24

“Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

1 timothy 4:4–5

Thursday

For further study:

Psalm 146:5–7 Proverbs 13:25 Luke 24:30–31 Romans 14:6 The bible in a year :

Job 26–27 Acts 12

C o ram de o

John Calvin writes that our partaking of food is not done in holiness “unless it be accompanied by true knowledge and calling on the name of God.” We are no better than animals, he says, if we do not give thanks to the Lord for His provision. As Christians, we need to be doing all we can to develop an attitude of gratefulness to God for all that we have. Regular prayer, before meals and otherwise, is one of the best ways to cultivate a thankful heart. Tabletalk July 2009

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Friday J u l y

3

Training in Faith

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4 – 5

1 Timothy 4:6–7a “If you put these things before the brothers, you

will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (v. 6).

F

irst and Second Timothy and Titus are called the Pastoral Epistles because of the guidance they give to ministers, and in today’s passage Paul once again lays upon Timothy, the young pastor sent to Ephesus, some instructions that pertain specifically to his task. But again, the principles given in this letter apply to all of us, because while not all of us may be ordained preachers or teachers, we all have the opportunity to give instruction through teaching our children, counseling our friends, and so on. Paul has thus far reminded Timothy of the right use of the Law (1 Tim. 1:8– 11), the necessity to stand for truth (vv. 18–20), the proper way to pray (2:1–7), the role of women in the church (vv. 8–15), the qualifications of church officers (3:1–13), the summary of the gospel (vv. 14–16), and the goodness of food and marriage (4:1–5). These are the things that the apostle wants Timothy to pass on to the brothers in today’s passage (v. 6). Note how Paul links the quality of Timothy’s service to his teaching: “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus.” We rightfully deduce from this statement that if Timothy does not pass these truths on to others, he will not be a good servant. Pastors, elders, and teachers do not receive instruction only for their own knowledge and use; rather, they are instructed that they might train up others in the faith. The light of truth we have in Jesus cannot be put under a basket but must be held high for all to see (Matt. 5:14–16). No one is a good servant of Jesus who does not pass on what he knows about Him to others. In putting the teachings of Christ and His apostles before others we are “being trained in the words of faith and of the good doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). Matthew Henry comments that “the best way for ministers to grow in knowledge and faith is to remind the brothers; while we teach others, we teach ourselves.” Conveying the truth of Jesus to others does not only build them up; it builds us up as well. It is a well known maxim that you do not begin to deeply grasp something until you teach it, and teaching others, formally or informally, is an excellent way to become well-established in the truths of Scripture. C o ram de o

Living before the face of God

What do you talk about when you are with other believers? Catching them up on the current events of your life is important, but you can be sure that you are being a good servant of Jesus when you discuss with them the things you are learning from Scripture. What about your conversations with non-Christians? Do you look for ways to proclaim the good news, even if only briefly? Let us pray that we would take advantage of any such opportunities the Lord gives us. 26

t h e

Tabletalk July 2009

For furTher study:

Deut. 33:8–11 Matthew 28:18–20 The bible in a year :

Job 28–30 Acts 13

For the weekend :

Job 31–36 Acts 14

Some Will Apostatize B Y

To m

A sco l

The Bible never sugarcoats the painful realities of living in a fallen world. Sin is portrayed in all of its dark hues, and the best of men are acknowledged to be at best, mere men. Similarly, the church is portrayed as in a constant state of conflict until the Lord Jesus returns. The church in the world is the church militant — always engaged in warfare, under attack, and advancing doggedly onward through enemy territory. As is true with any army, the church is not immune to the loss of some of her members. In fact, the skill and tenacity of our enemies are intent on destroying as many as they can. Paul warns Timothy of such loss in the opening verses of 1 Timothy 4. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (v. 1). Those “later times” are here. They have been present since Christ’s first coming and will continue until His return. Paul intends to encourage Timothy by informing him of the

inevitability that some will apostatize. Timothy is pastoring the church in Ephesus — a church that Paul himself planted. Yet among the members of that church, among those who professed to be followers of Jesus, some would depart from the faith. From Judas onward the church has been confronted with the painful reality of apostasy. When those who have once been bright, shining lights among the people of God later turn away from the paths of discipleship and abandon the teachings of God’s Word, it brings great sorrow to fellow church members. Perhaps none feel such sorrows as deeply as those pastors whose responsibility it is to shepherd the flock. How are we to understand those who fall away? Are our Arminian friends right in their teaching that genuine Christians can lose their Tabletalk July 2009

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salvation? No. Salvation conveys eternal life, and Jesus promised that His people are secure because “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Paul assures us that the one who began a good work in us “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). John gives us insight into what is going on in the lives of those who profess to follow Jesus but then turn away from Him, depart from His Word, and reject His people. “They went out from us,” the apostle writes, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). When someone departs from the faith never to be recovered, it is not that he has lost the salvation that was once possessed; rather, such a person demonstrates by his departure that, no matter how loudly he professed to belong to the Lord’s redeemed, he did not genuinely possess the salvation that comes through faith in Christ. Though such people might be among us, they are not “of us.” Paul explains how this happens. How a person lives is determined by what he believes. Those who fall away do so because they become devoted to the “teachings of demons.” This does not mean that they get caught up in the occult. Rather, they come to believe notions that originate in hell and are consequently led away from the faith. This is what causes people to make up rules that God’s Word does not teach and to become convinced that by following them they are spiritually safe. In reality, they have fallen prey 28

Tabletalk July 2009

to “deceitful spirits” who use liars with seared consciences to spread their spiritual poison (1 Tim. 4:2). Apostates are people who have been deceived. They have been duped into believing lies rather than the truth and, as a result, are not standing firm but are falling away. The antidote to apostasy, then, is a rigorous devotion to the truth of God’s Word. It is in the Word that the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ is revealed. Becoming increasingly grounded in the gospel is what gives stability to a believer. As Psalm 1 says, the blessed and stable man is the one who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in it day and night (vv. 2–3). Pastors must be radically committed to teaching the Word of God in all of its fullness and simplicity. This is why Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine in his letters to Timothy and Titus on pastoral ministry (1 Tim. 1:3, 10, 4:6, 16, 6:3; 2 Tim. 3:16, 4:3; Titus 1:9, 2:1). This is also why no Christian should settle for anything less. There is a battle going on in the minds of all those who know the Lord. It is a battle between truth and falsehood — between the teaching of God’s Word and the teachings of demons. What you believe will inevitability determine how you live. Make sure that the ideas and convictions to which you become devoted are derived from Scripture alone. There is no other way to stand firm in the faith. Dr. Tom Ascol is pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla. He is also executive director of Founders Ministries and editor of the Founders Journal.

The Value of Godliness

Monday

“While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (v. 8).

6

1 Timothy 4:7b–9

J u l y

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he problems Timothy confronted in Ephesus were such that many of the Christians there no longer paid close attention to the biblical gospel. Instead, they had become focused on speculative matters such as the lives of those many individuals whom Scripture names in its genealogies without telling us anything else about them (1 Tim. 1:3–4). Correcting this error meant that the leaders in Ephesus had to abandon their speculations and get back to the foundations of the faith. This charge Paul gave to Timothy so that he could convey it to the elders and teachers who were entertaining errors. The apostle did not hold back in calling these conjectures “irreverent, silly myths” (4:7a), or as may be translated literally, “old wives’ tales,” for he wanted to make sure that everyone would see their futility. Yet fixing the problem of false teaching, then as now, involves more than leaving falsehood behind. Diligent pursuit of truth and godliness is also required. The Greek word translated “train” in verse 7b is a form of the verb gymnazō, from which we get the English terms gymnasium and gymnastics. Paul is using an athletic metaphor, telling us that training in godliness requires persistent effort. Gymnasts and other athletes have to train for months and years to hone their skills; similarly, we must realize that godliness and holiness are not developed overnight. Regular prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, and the like are necessary if we would subdue our flesh and walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16–26). Matthew Henry says, “Those who would be godly must train themselves to be godly; it requires a constant exercise.” Godliness, Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:8, brings eternal benefits. We have been given everything that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and as we make an effort to supplement our faith with virtue, love, self-control, and a host of other virtues, we will grow in our full assurance of salvation and even find ourselves with a greater reward in the life to come (vv. 4–11; see also Matt. 25:14–30). All of this is possible only through the grace of God who is the one who granted us the ability to have faith in the first place (Eph. 2:8–9). Living before the face of God For further study:

Psalm 104:33–34 Ephesians 5:1–14 2 Peter 3:11–13 1 John 3:19–24 The bible in a year :

Job 37–38 Acts 15

C o ram de o

Godliness and holiness, mature saints will tell you, are virtues that reinforce themselves. As we grow in holiness we become more aware of our own sin and, consequently, our own need for His empowering to defeat sin and become even more holy. Where does the development of a life that pleases God rank in your scale of priorities? What can you do this very day to expand your knowledge and practice of that which pleases God? Tabletalk July 2009

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R e c o m m e n d e d

The Legac y of John Calvin

r e s o u r c e s

John Calvin: His Life and Influence

What Is Reformed Theology? by R . C . S p ro u l

by Ro b e rt L . R e y m o n d

R.C. Sproul explores and defends the five points of Calvinism, the five solas of the Reformation, and other aspects of Reformed theology.

This readable biography of John Calvin shows why Calvin remains an influential figure in the church today. JOH02Bp  Z  PRBk, 152 Pages  Z  (REG. $13) $10.40

Heroes of the Christian Faith by R . C . S p ro u l

WHA01DC  Z  3 DVDs  Z  (REG. $60) $48 WHA01CC  Z  4 CDs  Z  (REG. $31) $24.80 WHA01BP  Z  Paperback, 236 Pages  Z  (REG. $15) $12 WHA01U  Z  Study Guide  Z  $8

The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism by C r a i g R . B row n

The lives and thought of Polycarp, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards are the subject of this survey of church history.

Craig R. Brown’s biblical answers to five of the most frequent objections to Calvinism has been useful to many people as they share the doctrines of grace with their friends and family.

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Fiv04BP  Z  PRBk, 127 Pages  Z  (REG. $9) $7.20

Introducing Covenant Theology

The Five Points of Calvinism

by M i c h a e l H o rto n

b y Va r i o u s A u t h o r s

The Five Points of Calvinism is a classic presentation of the doctrines of grace and their biblical basis.

Understanding the covenants God has made with humanity at large and with His people specifically is key to our understanding of Scripture, as Michael Horton demonstrates in this volume.

Fiv03BP  Z  PRBk, 247 Pages  Z  (REG. $13) $10.40

Int09BP  Z  PRBk, 208 Pages  Z  (REG. $16) $12.80

The Promise Keeper

John Calvin

by R . C . S p ro u l

b y S i m o n e t ta C a r r

God’s covenant of works and His multifaceted covenant of grace are the subjects of this teaching series.

Focusing on the significant details of Calvin’s life and filled with colorful illustrations, this work is a great resource for teaching children about John Calvin.

PRO05DC  Z  4 DVDs  Z  (REG. $70) $56 PRO05CC  Z  5 CDs  Z  (REG. $38) $30.40 PRO05U  Z  Study Guide  Z  $8

JOH09BH  Z  HDCVR, 64 Pages  Z  (REG. $14) $11.20

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Tuesday J u l y

7

The Christian’s Toil

Timothy’s High Calling

1 Timothy 4:10 “To this end we toil and strive, because we have

our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

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ven though Paul charges Timothy, and all Christians by extension, to train himself for godliness, the apostle is clearly not exempting himself from the standard given to his young disciple. For as we see in 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul is toiling and striving to the same end of godliness — conformity to the divine will that is possible only for those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation. Coupled with the athletic metaphors of verses 7b–9, we have a vivid picture in today’s passage of the hard work of sanctification. The language of toiling and striving is used elsewhere in the New Testament to speak of manual labor (Luke 5:1–5), so Paul is making no bones about the fact that mortifying the flesh and growing in the knowledge of God is exhausting. Progress in godliness is wearying for Christians in general, not least for those who serve the church everyday. This is not easy work (Col. 2:1). Having to be examples to their flocks (1 Tim. 4:12), pastors must be especially wary of their conduct, for many can stumble on account of how they see their pastor live. Moreover, long hours are required of the preacher as he seeks to understand and proclaim the Word to the people and as he makes himself available to them. Faithful ministers do not serve God and men only on Sundays; they labor daily unto godliness to provide a model for others to follow. Left to our own devices we would quickly give up striving after holiness, being discouraged with our progress. But we hope in the living God who empowers our feeble efforts to conform us to Jesus (1 Tim. 4:10). By grace alone we have been declared righteous before the Lord, and grace alone guarantees our final reward; thus, we obey Him now, confident that our godliness today is not in vain. Matthew Henry writes, “The salvation he has in store for those who believe is sufficient to recompense them for all their services and sufferings.” The God who bestows such grace is the “Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10). If redemption is to come to anyone, let alone “all people,” it must come from our covenant Lord, and He is the Savior of all because all people are commanded to trust in Him alone for salvation. This is God’s good gift to a fallen world, in particular to those who trust in Christ. C o ram de o

Tabletalk July 2009

Proverbs 13:13 Jeremiah 31:16 Matthew 19:16–30 Philippians 4:13 The bible in a year :

Job 39–40 Acts 16:1–15

8

ne theme that runs through the Pastoral Epistles is the need for Timothy and Titus both to put into practice the commands Paul is giving them and to teach them to others (1 Timothy 5:7; 6:2b; Titus 2:1; 3:8). But this is often easier said than done, and there seems to be some hesitancy on the part of the disciple in following the apostle’s orders, at least in Timothy’s case. At the same time that Timothy is told to teach the truths entrusted to him, Paul also encourages him not to let anyone “despise” him on account of his youth (1 Tim. 4:12). Timothy apparently faces opponents who refuse to take him seriously because of his youth or he is himself afraid that his age will make his ministry ineffective. Ephesus is not the only place where this issue has arisen; Corinth is another place where Timothy has apparently felt uneasy in his work (1 Cor. 16:10–11). Timothy’s first-century contemporaries generally consider anyone under forty to be youthful, and so it is likely that he had to lead the Ephesian church while in his late twenties or early thirties. We can all identify with his fears. Here is a man who has to correct leaders who are probably a good deal older than he (1 Tim. 1:3) — quite the daunting task. Moreover, it is common for older people to question just about everything a young pastor does simply because of his youth. Of course, young pastors may have much to learn, but their God-given authority must be respected no matter their age. In any case, Timothy seems to feel inadequate for his task despite his being appointed by the apostle. Yet Paul is sure that Timothy can succeed, encouraging him to set an example for others that he might win their confidence. All Christians must live out their profession (James 2:14–26), especially church leaders. Basil the Great, whose fourth-century work was key in formulating Trinitarian doctrine, writes, “If…the goal of Christianity is the imitation of Christ according to the measure of his incarnation, insofar as is conformable with the vocation of each individual, they who are entrusted with the guidance of many others are obliged to animate those still weaker than themselves, by their assistance (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, vol. 9, p. 182; hereafter ACCNT). Living before the face of God

For further study:

J u l y

O

Living before the face of God

Scripture never depicts our pursuit of salvation as something that is without a reward. While we should never serve God simply for a reward, it is not wrong to expect many blessings as a result of our service. If you are discouraged in your striving after the Lord, know that there is a great reward being laid up in heaven for your service and sacrifice in the kingdom of God. Make sure to encourage other believers to press on for the prize that lies ahead. 32

“Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:11–12

Wednesday

For further study:

1 Samuel 17 2 Chronicles 34:1–2 Ecclesiastes 12:1 Luke 2:41–52 The bible in a year :

Job 41–Psalm 1 Acts 16:16–40

C o ram de o

Besides the many difficulties of ministry that young pastors must learn to deal with, they have the extra hurdle of youth, which can unfairly render them suspect in the eyes of many congregants. We should treat young leaders with understanding and do all we can to support them in order that they might be encouraged to continue in ministry for the long haul. Let us all do what we can to respect and encourage those who are shepherds of God’s people, no matter their age. Tabletalk July 2009

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Thursday J u l y

9

The Pastor’s Priorities

The Pastor’s Progress

1 Timothy 4:13 “Until I come, devote yourself to the public

reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”

I

n our day, there are a host of roles Christians expect their pastors to fill. Many people think the pastor should be an entertainer. Others ask their pastor to be the pragmatist extraordinaire who only delivers “relevant” messages. Some want a life coach to help them attain their best life now, while others seek the corporate magnate who can quickly increase the church’s membership and campus size. There are even those who want their pastor to ignore biblical teaching the culture finds objectionable so that he can join whatever cause is currently in vogue. God’s Word, however, gives pastors a far different calling, as we see in 1 Timothy 4:13. Paul, the “senior pastor” of the Ephesian church, has appointed Timothy to stand in for him in his absence and do the work for which he would otherwise be responsible. So, what he tells Timothy to do while he is away serves as a good description of a pastor’s calling — indeed, the calling of all elders — which is the public reading of Scripture, exhortation, and teaching. Feeding the Lord’s people a steady diet of truth through the faithful proclamation of His Word is the pastor’s chief job. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for the Christian’s spiritual health (2 Tim. 3:14–17), and so the pastor is to make sure his flock learns to hear the Word rightly and apply it practically. This involves the public reading of Scripture in worship as well as exhortation (1 Tim. 4:13), which is the process of explaining the sense of the text and drawing practical applications for the people. Customarily, this is done through the preaching of expository sermons, a practice with a biblical precedent (Neh. 8:8). Finally, pastors are to engage in teaching how the diverse portions of Scripture fit together into one stream of unified doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13). We will be headed for disaster if we ever think biblical teaching is insufficient for our sanctification. Let us never tire of the meat of God’s Word, and let our pastors never think that they are able to plumb fully the depths of the Scriptures. John Chrysostom says, “It is not possible…ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom” (ACCNT, vol. 9, p. 193). C o ram de o

Tabletalk July 2009

For further study:

For furTher study:

Ezra 7:10 Isaiah 55:10–11 Acts 6:1–7 Romans 16:25–27

Numbers 8:5–22 Acts 16:1–5

Psalms 2–3 Acts 17:1–15

10

irst Corinthians 12 is but one of several passages that tell us God has given at least one spiritual gift to every single person whom He calls, which gift is to be used to build up the body of Christ. Whether the gift is encouragement, teaching, hospitality, discernment, or any of the host of other talents granted to the Lord’s people, there is no such thing as a believer who has no spiritual gift. This means that we are in sin if we do not use our gifts, for loving one another involves using our gifts to benefit others (1 John 3:16–18). In today’s passage, Paul has this theme in mind when he tells Timothy not to neglect his gift (1 Tim. 4:14). The apostle does not specifically name the gift he has in mind here, but it is safe to say that at least one of Timothy’s gifts is teaching, for that is the office to which he has been called (v. 13). Also, we should not think that Timothy’s gift has fallen into disuse at the time he reads the letter. In fact, it may be that Paul also encourages Timothy not to neglect his gift to remind the leaders in Ephesus of the younger elder’s authority. Remember that Timothy has been sent to Ephesus to clean up the spiritual mess there (1:3–4), and the leaders who will undoubtedly also read this epistle will find in 4:14 a reassertion of Timothy’s calling and, therefore, their need to listen to him. Timothy was given this gift through the prophetic laying on of hands of the elders. He did not necessarily lack his gift before this event, but on that occasion the people of God formally recognized the young man’s call. Throughout history the church has laid hands on people in recognition of their call to service (Deut. 34:9; Acts 13:1–3). Such is the practice for any work in the church, but especially when it comes to ordained ministers. Men are never to be chosen for the pastorate based solely on their own personal sense of the Lord’s call; rather, the church is to confirm that God has indeed chosen the candidate for ministry. Matthew Henry comments that “the gifts of God will wither if they are neglected.” Empowered by the Spirit, all believers, pastors or otherwise, must serve one another with their gifts so that the church may recognize our callings and see us mature in our individual ministries (1 Tim. 4:15). Living before the face of God

The bible in a year :

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Living before the face of God

Without even knowing it, our expectations can be part of the problem in the church’s lack of focus on teaching in our day. When we choose churches based simply on the extent of their youth activities or the style of music, we are implicitly saying that the quality of the teaching and the faithfulness of the pastor to biblical preaching are not all that important. Whatever we expect of our preacher, let us expect him first of all to feed us the Word of God. 34

“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given…when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things…so that all may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:14–15

Friday

The bible in a year :

Psalms 4–6 Acts 17:16–34

For the weekend :

Psalms 7–12 Acts 18

C o ram de o

John Calvin writes, “To neglect a gift is carelessly to keep it unemployed through slothfulness, so that, having contracted rust, it is worn away without yielding any profit.” Some of us know what our gifts are but are not using them. This slothfulness should cease immediately. Some of us do not know our gifts. Talking to one’s pastor, mentor, or teacher can help us learn where God has equipped us for service. Exercising our gifts is non-negotiable. Tabletalk July 2009

35


F o r

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1 1 – 1 2

The Public Reading B Y

T e rry

L . J oh n so n

“Until I come,” says the apostle Paul, knowing that his death is imminent, seizing, perhaps, the opportunity to give direction to the church for the centuries ahead, “give attention” (NASB), or “devote yourself” (NIV), “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” It’s clear enough what the apostle Paul wants done in the public assembly of the church. He wants Scripture read. The practice of the synagogue was to unroll the scrolls of Scripture, read a portion, mark where they stopped, and then the next Sabbath pick up again where they left off. The reading was lectio continua, consecutive, sequential readings, not, by the way, “lectio selecta,” readings selected from here or there. Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16–19) and the apostle Paul at Pisidian Antioch and elsewhere (Acts 13:15; 17:2–4, 11; 18:4, 19; 19:8) provide examples of this public discipline in action. We have as well the apostle James’ explanation of the practice of the synagogue: “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city 36

Tabletalk July 2009

those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21, NASB and hereafter). “Moses,” he says, “is read in the synagogue every Sabbath.” It is to this practice that the apostle Paul refers and that the early church had adopted. Liturgical scholars agree that lectio continua reading was the practice of the early church from the time of the apostles through the patristic period. Following Gregory the Great (540–604 AD), the medieval church adopted a lectio selecta approach to the readings. But selected readings were unsatisfactory to the Reformers, who almost without exception required in their liturgical reforms that extensive lectio continua readings be restored to the public services of the church. Lectio continua readings of Scripture were the

practice of Reformed orthodoxy until well into the nineteenth century. All of my life I have belonged to churches that believed in the inerrant accuracy and infallible authority of Scripture. I have belonged to evangelical Baptist, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches. I have visited scores of independent evangelical and charismatic churches. Yet not one of them paid any attention to 1 Timothy 4:13. Curious, isn’t it? What is a proper sermon? It is an explanation of the reading. When Jesus concluded the reading from the prophet Isaiah at the synagogue at Nazareth, “the eyes of all…were fixed upon him” in anticipation of His comments. “And he began to say to them,” Luke tells us next. Jesus, by providing expository comments, followed the pattern expected in the synagogue service (Luke 4:16–21). The expectation of exhortation based upon the reading can be seen in the synagogues in Acts also. The Law and the Prophets were read, as can be seen in Acts 13:15a. Then the synagogue officials asked of the apostle Paul: “If you have exhortation for the people, say it.” Scripture reading led directly to interpretative comments and exhortations. Moses is preached in every city, James maintained, because “he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (15:21). Reading and preaching are not synonymous, but they may be juxtaposed in the manner James does because they are seen as inseparably linked, the preaching arising out of and dependent upon the reading. This would seem to be the natural context of the apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture,” and the “exhortation and

teaching” that arises out of reading (1 Tim. 4:13). The practice of the synagogue became that of the apostolic church, and then of the patristic church. The sermons of Clement of Alexandria (150–215 AD), Origen (185–254), Chrysostom (347–407), and Augustine (354–430) provide abundant testimony to the practice of sequential expository or lectio continua preaching in the early centuries of the church. Medieval preachers abandoned the patristic practice and preached largely topical sermons. But the Reformers, on the basis of their study of Scripture and the church fathers, restored the earlier practice of lectio continua preaching. Zwingli, Bucer, Capito, and Calvin, among many others, were all lectio continua preachers. They preached verse-by-verse through the books of the Bible. Extended readings are virtually non-existent in today’s marketdriven church environment. Topical sermons, only slightly related to a text of Scripture and addressing felt needs, have become the norm. But if we are convinced that we are born again by the living and abiding word (1 Peter 1:23), that we are sanctified by the truth (John 17:17), and that our souls, as the apostle Paul says here, are “nourished on the words of the faith and of sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6), we will require a prominent role in the public assembly for the Word of God, whether for our personal benefit or for the sake of the health and wellbeing of the whole church. Rev. Terry L. Johnson is senior minister of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia, and is author of When Grace Transforms.

Tabletalk July 2009

37


Monday J u l y

13

The Pastor’s Perseverance 1 Timothy 4:16 “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the

teaching. Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

N

owhere in 1 Timothy are the consequences of whether Timothy heeds Paul’s instructions more clear than in 4:16. The very salvation of Timothy and the Ephesian Christians hinges upon his willingness to watch closely himself and his teaching. To one degree or another this is true of us all — our salvation and that of others depends on how we guard our lives and our doctrine. Paul is not abandoning salvation by grace alone and embracing worksrighteousness in today’s passage. But he is asserting an important biblical truth, namely that while salvation is of the Lord, He has decided to redeem people through the use of secondary means such as the preaching of the gospel by His servants. How can those who do not know Jesus call on Him unless someone tells them the good news, and how can someone proclaim the gospel unless he is sent by the Spirit through the call of the church (Rom. 10:14–15)? Surely, John MacArthur writes, “though salvation is God’s work, it is His pleasure to do it through human instruments” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1,792). Our Creator does not need us to accomplish His purposes, but He has graciously chosen the foolishness of preaching to bring about the salvation of the world. When we pay heed to such preaching, God corrects and refines our understanding of His truth, making us able to avoid the errors that have prevented millions from believing the gospel. In so doing, we also persevere in the faith, being used of the Lord to keep us in salvation and to redeem others from spiritual darkness (1 Tim. 4:16). Moreover, guarding our lives through the diligent pursuit of holiness is one of the means by which we and others are saved. Christ is blasphemed when professing Christians follow the way of sensuality (2 Peter 2:2) because their blatant sin can lead unbelievers to falsely assume that Jesus has no power to change things. John Calvin says, “Doctrine will be of little avail, if there be not a corresponding goodness and holiness of life.” We have no control over the false opinions the world may form of us. But let us never give them fuel for their blasphemous fires. Instead, may we teach and live out the gospel that we might be living examples of its grace and truth. C o ram de o

“Peter…said to him,‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him,‘Feed my sheep’” (v. 17). John 21:15–19

Tabletalk July 2009

For further study:

For further study:

Psalm 67 John 17:20–21 Acts 1:8 Romans 2:17–24

Deuteronomy 4:1–14 Proverbs 3:1–18 Acts 2:42–47 Hebrews 5:11–14

The bible in a year :

14 J u l y

he section of 1 Timothy 4 that we have studied over the past few days (vv. 6–16) defines the pastor’s responsibility as teaching the church. Of course, this passage is not the only place that focuses on the pastor’s task of preaching and teaching. Scripture has much more to say about preaching, and we will now take a break from 1 Timothy to look at the biblical view of the preacher’s task using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s series Preachers and Preaching as our guide. As we look at church history, it is evident that the greatest periods of reformation and renewal the people of God have experienced are always sparked by a renewed focus on biblical preaching. This is particularly clear when we study the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other magisterial Reformers were all men who devoted their time to the preaching of God’s Word both on Sundays and throughout the week. Luther’s description of the preacher’s task will be particularly helpful to us in the days ahead. Typically, we make a distinction between preaching and teaching. The latter has more to do with the transfer of content or information, while preaching is generally characterized by exhortation and practical application. In practice, however, there is considerable overlap between the two. Good preaching must include teaching in which the application is grounded, and good teaching always carries with it an impetus toward holy living. In any case, both preaching and teaching feed the people of God. Today’s passage is the well-known restoration of Peter on the shores of Galilee after he denied the Messiah. Jesus calls Peter to nourish His flock (John 20:17), and such nourishment comes through the proclamation of biblical doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16– 17). This is a basic truth, but it must be heard anew in our day since there are too many professing Christians who seem to want their pastor to be anything but a man competent in doctrine and thoroughly grounded in Scripture. Good preachers, Luther says, must “teach systematically” (Table Talk no. 397). They must know the content of the Bible and present it in a way that shows its unified portrayal of God’s plan of redemption. Living before the face of God

Psalms 13–15 Acts 19

Tuesday

T

Living before the face of God

Calvin also writes, “True, it is God alone that saves; and not even the smallest portion of his glory can lawfully be bestowed on men. But God parts with no portion of his glory when he employs the agency of men for bestowing salvation.” The orthodoxy and holiness of all Christians, and pastors especially, can be used of God to attract His elect to His gospel. Let us always live in a manner that is consistent with our holy and gracious Lord. 38

The Teaching Preacher

The bible in a year :

Psalms 16–18 Acts 20:1–16

C o ram de o

God’s Word is a source of nourishment for believers, the food by which we grow up into spiritual maturity. All of us, therefore, should seek out opportunities to hear Scripture taught and preached, including, but not limited to, Lord’s Day worship (primarily) and, secondarily, Bible studies, whether individually or in a group, and so on. Are you chasing after the Word of God, or are you content to attend to it merely every once in a while? Tabletalk July 2009

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Wednesday J u l y

15

Confident in the Truth

R e c o m m e n d e d

2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold

to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”

The L egac y of Joh n Ca lv i n

B

esides the changes in worship and church government that the Reformation brought about, there was also a marked change in church architecture. During the medieval era, the altar was placed at the center of the chancel area in most churches because of the central place the celebration of the Eucharist held in the liturgy. But beginning with the Reformation, many Protestant churches moved the pulpit to the center, at times even elevating it to symbolize the fact that God’s people sit under the authority of His Word. It is the power and authority of Scripture that the preacher is to stand firmly upon as he proclaims the gospel from the pulpit. He is not afraid to be certain of those things about which the Word of God is clear, a radical position in a postmodern age that loves uncertainty. The confidence and certainty with which the pastor sets forth the teaching of Scripture is not based in an arrogant trust in his own abilities but in the knowledge that the Bible is the very truth of the Lord. Such certainty enables the preacher to stand firm for the gospel and to equip his people to do the same in a hostile world. Martin Luther says that a preacher should never be afraid to “be sure of his doctrine” (Table Talk no. 397). The greatest threat to the security of Israel under the old covenant was the false prophet who gave the people only what they wanted to hear (Jer. 28). The opposition that the clear proclamation of the gospel always produces can make it difficult to stand on the certainty of Scripture. To avoid suffering, a pastor (and lay people as well) can waffle on the core doctrines of the Christian faith, choosing to preach sermons that make people feel good rather than drive them to repentance and faith. But faithful preachers do not tickle the ears of their flock. They do not ride their own personal hobby-horses or make entertainment the goal of their ministries. Instead, they preach the truth, no matter how unpopular this may be in our relativistic culture. Uncertainty in matters about which Scripture is clear is a poison that can affect people for eternity. May our preachers always stand firmly on God’s inerrant Word. And may we be encouraged to do the same. C o ram de o

40

Living for God’s Glory by Joel R. Beeke

This comprehensive survey of Reformed theology collects essays by Joel R. Beeke, Sinclair B. Ferguson, and others. Besides an exploration of Calvinism’s key doctrinal tenets, authors also discuss the influence of Reformed thought on the church and the wider world, and they show how Calvinism promotes the living of life in wholehearted devotion to God. LIV03BH  Z  HardcoveR, 416 pages  Z  (REG. $24) $19.20

The Institutes of Christian Religion b y J o h n C a lv i n

John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is one of the most important and influential works on theology ever produced. This volume is a helpful introduction to the Institutes through its selection of key passages central to Calvin’s thought.

Living before the face of God

It is hard to be a Christian in a culture that says the only certainty is that there is no certainty. We have a universal gospel that demands allegiance from all people without exception, and we must be clear on this as the relativism around us tries desperately to make us uncertain about the exclusivity of Christ. Pray that you will stand firm for the certainty that salvation is available only in Jesus (John 14:6), and flee any “church” that would try to tell you otherwise. Tabletalk July 2009

r e s o u r c e s

For further study:

INS02BP  Z  Paperback, 271 Pages  Z  (REG. $17) $13.60

Psalm 11 Jeremiah 23:23–40 Matthew 21:23–27 Luke 1:1–4 The bible in a year :

Psalms 19–22 Acts 20:17–38 T O

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R e c o m m e n d e d

E n h a n c e Yo u r B i b l e S t u d y

r e s o u r c e s

The Reformed Pastor

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R . C . S p ro u l

by Richard Baxter

This classic work is a must-read on pastoral care. Richard Baxter, one of the most beloved of all the puritans, examines the pastor’s relationship to his flock and the personal, one-on-one attention elders must pay to congregants.

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith is a handy reference tool because it provides succinct, two to three page summaries of over one hundred of the most important doctrines of Christianity. A bibliography suggests resources for those who want to explore these topics more deeply. Ess01BP  Z  Paperback, 302 Pages  Z  (REG. $15) $12

REF04BP  Z  PRBk, 256 Pages  Z  (REG. $9) $7.20

Preachers and Preaching by R . C . S p ro u l

The call of the preacher is indeed a high one, and this series looks at the biblical principles for preaching rediscovered in the Protestant Reformation. It is an excellent gift for ministers and ministers in training.

Tough Questions Christians Face 2008 West Coast Conference

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A great aid f o r Ta b l e t a l k readers

Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul provide biblical answers for six of the hardest questions asked of Christians. FAL08DC  Z  2 DVDs  Z  (REG. $55) $44 FAL08CC  Z  8 CDs  Z  (REG. $45) $36

The Reformation Study Bible E d i t e d by R . C . S p ro u l & K e i t h A . M at h i s o n

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  (REG. $39.99) $27 Ref41S  Z  ESV Black LeaTHER, 1,948 pages  Z  (REG. $69.99) $42

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Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms by donald k. mckim

Our study of Scripture and theology is enhanced when we understand the specialized vocabulary often used by the church. This dictionary provides succinct definitions of the most common terms found in theological and biblical studies. WES08BP Z PRBk, 310 Pages Z (REG. $30) $21

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Law and Gospel

r e s o u r c e s

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (vv. 21–22). Romans 3:21–31

Ne w t o L igon ier ? St a r t Her e.

The Holiness of God by R . C . S p ro u l

R.C. Sproul’s classic work on the holiness of God has helped many people understand the centrality of this attribute and the unfortunate consequences that come with neglecting our Creator’s holiness in our preaching and witness. HOL01DC  Z  2 DVDs  Z  (REG. $30) $24 HOL01CC  Z  3 CDs  Z  (REG. $24) $19.20 HOL01U  Z  Study Guide  Z  $8 HOL08BA  Z Audio Book  Z  (REG. $25) $20 HOL12BPp  Z  Pocket-size PRBk, 265 PaGeS  Z  (Reg. $5) $4 Holo1BPS  Z  Spanish PRBk, 168 Pages  Z  (REG. $10) $8 HOL01BP  Z  Paperback, 226 PaGeS  Z  (Reg. $14) $11.20

Chosen by God by R . C . S p ro u l

Chosen by God is R.C. Sproul’s classic work on the doctrine of election, demonstrating that God, by His sovereign grace, is the author of salvation.

Living before the face of God For further study:

Deut. 30:1–10 Zechariah 12:10–13:1 Matthew 4:17 Galatians 2:11–21

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Psalms 23–24 Acts 21:1–16 T O

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16

utheran theology is well-known for the sharp antithesis it draws between law and gospel. This finds its root to some degree in the teaching of Luther who emphasized what is often called the “pedagogical” use of the Mosaic law, its use as a schoolmaster to accuse us of sin that we might look to Jesus to save us. Christians in the Reformed tradition typically see more continuity between the covenants, but this use of the Law is biblical and a major part of the Reformed heritage. Often this use is based on Galatians 3:19–29. This use of the Law can certainly be derived from this passage, although it is more of a secondary application when it comes to the Law’s use among Gentiles, since the apostle is talking chiefly about Israel’s experience with the oracles of God. Perhaps a better place to go are the first few chapters of Romans wherein Paul discusses the role of natural law in condemning Gentiles alongside Jews who face the same condemnation at the hands of the Mosaic law (1:18–3:20). In any case, the Lord’s commandments serve both to make the non-Christian aware of his sin that he might trust in Jesus and to convict the Christian of his remaining sin that he might return to the cross repeatedly for cleansing, reaffirming his utter inability to save himself. That such a use of the old covenant law is defensible is found in Paul’s statement in Romans 3:21–31 that the only way the sinner convicted by God’s law can be justified is through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the proclamation of God’s law should be a regular part of the preaching, for by hearing the Law the believer will be reminded of his need for the gospel, and any non-Christian present for the sermon will learn that he is under the righteous judgment of the Creator and must therefore trust in Jesus. But God’s law must never be preached apart from the gospel. If this is done, we end up reducing Christianity to moralism, giving the message that people can by their own efforts do the right thing. We must never forget that the grace of God sets us free to love and serve him (Gal. 5:1), and so this grace must always be preached as well. Without the gospel, the Law is an impossible burden.

CHO02DC  Z  2 DVDs  Z  (REG. $30) $24 CHO02U  Z  Study Guide  Z  $6

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Thursday

C o ram de o

Our relativistic age does not like to hear that there is an eternal, unchangeable law that convicts all people. But the central message of the gospel is that we have broken this law and need to be reconciled to God, the great Lawgiver. If we do not know His law, however, we cannot tell people the bad news that they are estranged from God, and if we cannot preach the bad news, how can we preach the good news of salvation? Tabletalk July 2009

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Friday J u l y

17

The Highest Calling

F o r

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1 8 – 1 9

Romans 1:1 “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

set apart for the gospel of God.”

I

f the church must recover anything in our day, it is confidence in the power of the Word of God. Our Lord did not choose to save His people through innovative programs; rather, He gave His Word to the church and appointed pastors and teachers to proclaim it to the people (Eph. 4:11–14). God could have written the message of salvation in the sky if He had so desired, but instead He has graciously ordained that His people will be a part of the outworking of His redemptive plan through their preaching of His Word. It has “pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). We can be confident in the power of the preached Word of God because it is in this Word that our Creator has placed His might. The gospel belongs to God, as we read in Romans 1:1. It is something that He has devised and invested with the authority and power to call His elect to repentance and faith. A preacher does not have to trust in his own abilities, all he must do is exposit the Scriptures faithfully, knowing that all of His hearers who have been appointed for eternal life will receive from God the gift of faith and believe in His promises through Christ (Eph. 2:8–9). Practically speaking, this takes a lot of pressure off of the pastor. Salvation in the final analysis is not up to him but is up to the Lord. However, the preacher is not allowed to be a merely passive actor in all of this, as if he can just walk into the pulpit on Sunday morning without having prepared himself. God expects ministers to study and work on improving their preaching in order that they may better handle the Bible and convey its meaning to their congregations (2 Tim. 2:15). The Lord works through our efforts, and we must strive to serve him with our very best, all the while remembering that any success the preacher may have is on account of God’s blessing. Luther had a high view of preaching, and he argued that even average preachers should be well-taken care of. Especially gifted orators are rare, and, besides, the Lord works mostly through men who never achieve, much less seek, fame. Consistency — motivated by a heart filled with love for God and His people — and clarity is what He values, so let us also prize these things. C o ram de o

Living before the face of God

The celebrity mentality that pervades our culture often causes many believers to wish they had polished, talented communicators as their preachers. But this is not how we should evaluate our ministers, and we should be grateful that we have pastors who accurately and faithfully preach God’s Word even if they are not all equally gifted. Take some time this week to thank God for His faithful under-shepherds and encourage them whenever you have the opportunity. 46

t h e

Tabletalk July 2009

For further study:

Acts 13:44–48 1 Corinthians 3 The bible in a year :

Psalms 25–27 Acts 21:17–36

For the weekend : Psalms 28–32 Acts 21:37–23:11

No L it t le Pe ople B Y

J oh n

P . S ar t e l l e

“With God there are no little people.” So wrote Francis Schaeffer echoing the meaning of Paul’s words in the first three verses of 1 Timothy 5: “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are truly widows.” What do the older men, younger men, older women, younger women, and widows have in common? Sometimes older men and women are regarded as passé. Sometimes young men and women are regarded as people without gravitas. Sometimes widows are regarded as people with no voice. We need to hear these words today. Who among us has not regarded as irrelevant the older man or woman to the modern world? Have we not at times disregarded younger women and men whom we thought were too inexperienced to make serious contributions to the plans being laid down? And don’t we sometimes inwardly relegate widows to the sidelines?

I am thankful that Tabletalk assigned this passage to me. Paul’s words bring me back to the truth that everyone is made in the image of God, no matter how old and no matter how young. The orphan and the widow are made in His image. Paul reminds me of the reality that all Christians with whom I rub shoulders have the same Father and are indwelled by the same Spirit. We must be vigilant to guard these truths and to live them. We are in a culture that is moving away from God’s desires that the baby in the womb and the gray-headed lady in the wheelchair be respected. I have a friend who tries to put his observations through a sieve until he has the essence. He teaches that when anthropologists analyze the collapse of our culture they will trace our demise to the generation Tabletalk July 2009

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that failed to teach its children to say “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, Ma’am.” It is easy to forget that respect expressed verbally is a biblical mandate, not a cultural habit. In our esteem for the widow we are to respect the powerful ministry to which she may be called. In our text (v. 5) Paul refers to the widow who fills her life with prayer. My mother’s original home was Dallas, Texas, so we would often travel west from Virginia to see her family. On one visit my father was asked to preach in a nearby church. God blessed his preaching and time spent with that congregation in an amazing way. After we returned home, a widow in the church he served asked my father to come see her. During his visit she asked my father if anything peculiar had happened on his trip. Dad told her about the spiritual blessings that God wrought while he was preaching in that small church. She then told him that she awakened one morning with an urge to pray for him. She was compelled to pray for him throughout that day and the next, the very same days he was preaching in that Texas church. The widow was in her eighties, frail, living alone, and homebound, unable to attend church services. She spent most of her days sitting in a chair or in bed. The majority of us in a similar situation would say, “My useful days are past. There is nothing important that I can do. I can’t even go to church or get out and walk around the block.” God has used the prayers of such “useless” people to expand His kingdom and change the course of history. We must remember that in our weaknesses God proves His power. When we are in our beds, 48

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aged and infirm, we are still priests who have power with God. Paul concludes this section on “no little people” by admonishing the church to be sure widows receive physical care. The strong words he used in verse 8 — “if anyone does not provide for his relatives…he has denied the faith” — can be applied to the church that fails to provide for her own destitute. Many of us desire to deal with the “soul” (spiritual) and ignore the hard and mundane work of relieving the physical needs of the impoverished saints around us. We want to evangelize and keep our hands clean from the dirt and grime. Amy Carmichael, the well known missionary to India, received a donation to her work with the stipulation that it be used toward “soul work.” She responded, “One cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven. There are times I heartily wish we could. But souls, in India at least, are more or less securely fastened to bodies. Bodies can’t be left to lie about in the open and as you can’t get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together” (Converting Women by Eliza Kent). Biblical evangelism and benevolence properly practiced is compassion expressed to the whole person. In Psalm 68:5 God gives Himself a wonderful title: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” May we learn to be godly in our lives and in our churches.

Encouraging Young and Old 1 Timothy 5:1

20 J u l y

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aving finished our study of biblical preaching, we resume our devotions on 1 Timothy 5. To this point Paul has been laying the theological foundation of healthy church leadership, exhorting Timothy to devote himself to the gospel, the only message that saves (1:1–2:7; 3:14–16). This groundwork includes the requirements for elders and deacons and the reasons for limiting eldership, if not also the diaconate, to men (2:8–3:13). Paul has also explained the goodness of the created order against those who deny it (4:1–5). Building on this framework, the apostle has also begun to give specific instructions for the conduct of ministry (vv. 6–16), and in today’s passage he continues to do so in directing young Timothy in how to deal with the older men in his congregation. Paul’s earlier letter to the Ephesians insists that believers obey the commandment to honor one’s parents (Eph. 6:1–3; see Ex. 20:12). He likely has this rule in mind as he guides Timothy in dealing with the senior men as Ephesus’ current pastor. Timothy needs to correct many of the elders (1 Tim. 1:3–4), but he must take into account their age as he addresses them (5:1). Paul is not absolutely forbidding hard words for older men if needed. “He does not wish old men to be spared or indulged in such a manner as to sin with impunity and without correction; he only wishes that some respect should be paid to their age, that they may more patiently bear to be admonished” (John Calvin). Young men are tempted to think that their generation has all the answers and thereby deal inappropriately with older people. But the point here is that the younger pastor, if he is in the right, must not forget the deference and respect he owes his elders in such situations (Lev. 19:32). Unless the problems of character or doctrine are especially grievous, Timothy’s approach is to be one of gentle persuasion. Timothy must love older men as fathers, seeking their restoration, not humiliation. Leo the Great, the fifth-century Roman bishop whose letter to the Council of Chalcedon helped to define orthodox Christology, wisely notes that “correction should be applied so as not to destroy charity” (ACCNT, vol. 9, p. 196). Living before the face of God

For further study:

Rev. John P. Sartelle is senior minister of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and is author of What Christian Parents Should Know About Infant Baptism.

“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers.”

Monday

1 Samuel 26 Job 32:4 Proverbs 4:1–4 1 Timothy 5:19 The bible in a year :

Psalms 33–35 Acts 23:12–35

C o ram de o

John Calvin says that today’s passage teaches us that pastors “must not only take into account their office, but must also see particularly what is due to the age of individuals.” Pastors especially must be sensitive to the age of the person with whom they are dealing, but all of God’s people must do the same. Older people should be patient with younger people. Younger people should respect their elders. All should treat one another with generous love. Tabletalk July 2009

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Exhorting Women Properly

Tuesday J u l y

21

1 Timothy 5:2 “Older women as mothers, younger women as

“Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household.”

1 Timothy 5:3–4

sisters, in all purity.”

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amily language dominates Paul’s instructions on how to relate to the different ages and sexes in the Christian community, but this is no surprise given our Lord’s teaching. Jesus Himself sets the stage for the apostle’s words in 1 Timothy 5:1–2 as He refers to those who do His will as His true family (Mark 3:31–35). If Christ regards His followers as His mother and brothers, how much more should we look at our fellow believers as our parents and siblings? As he discusses relationships within the church family, Paul also guides the covenant community in its treatment of younger men. The apostle tells pastors, and by extension all Christians, to regard younger men as brothers (1 Tim. 5:1). Much can be said about what this involves, but surely the brotherly examples in Scripture give us both negative and positive patterns to follow. From Joseph’s life, for example, we can see that to treat men as brothers means that we not envy those who appear to be more gifted than we are (Gen. 37:4, 12–36). Joseph himself also shows us that to treat men as brothers entails us forgiving them when they repent and seeking their welfare even if they have hurt us (chap. 45). Older women in the church, the apostle informs us, are to be regarded as mothers (1 Tim. 5:2). Certainly this means that we esteem them and submit to them when appropriate in accordance with the commandment to honor our mothers (Deut. 5:16). Avoiding foolishness lest we shame the older women in our congregation is also important (Prov. 10:1). Ruth’s example shows us that we must care for our mothers in the faith when no one else will (Ruth 1:15–18), as Paul highlights in his treatment of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3–16. Finally, all men are to regard the younger Christian women as sisters “in all purity” (v. 2). What the apostle demands here, John Calvin says, is “a chaste gravity, which shall shine throughout all their [interactions] and conversations; so that he may more freely converse with young persons, without any unfavorable reports.” Paul wisely counsels young Timothy to take care in how he relates to young women lest he open himself up to sexual temptation, whether from the women or his own lusts. C o ram de o

Tabletalk July 2009

Exodus 2:1–10 Ezekiel 22 John 19:25–27 1 Thess. 4:1–12 The bible in a year :

Psalms 36–38 Acts 24

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euteronomy 24:19–21 is one of several passages to which we can turn to discover how the old covenant people of God were to care for the most vulnerable persons in society. Widows, orphans (the fatherless), and sojourners in ancient times were often in danger of going hungry because they lacked resources such as land that male heads of household alone could usually provide. Knowing that such impoverished people were in their midst, the Israelites were not to pick their olive trees, wheat fields, and vineyards clean but leave some of their grain and fruit behind for those who had nothing. The poor could go into the fields and work after the harvest, collecting food to feed themselves. As we will see over the next week, the Lord orders the new covenant church to act much the same way in its relation to widows. Paul in today’s passage moves on to the treatment of widows after discussing how Timothy and other church leaders are to deal with the varying ages and sexes represented in the Christian community (1 Tim. 5:1–2). His focus on widows in 1 Timothy 5:3–16 is likely due in part to some of the problems the Ephesian church faces with respect to its younger widows, and the biblical concern for widows and orphans (James 1:27) certainly moves him to lay down this instruction as well. The apostle begins his discussion in 1 Timothy 5:3–4 by calling the church to make sure that it cares for women truly in need of help. When Paul tells Timothy to “honor widows who are truly widows,” he is not speaking primarily of an attitude but of an action. That is to say, to honor widows is to support them financially just as honoring elders means paying them a stipend or salary for their work (vv. 17–18). But the church is not to expend its limited resources on every woman who has lost her husband; rather, the Christian community is to help only those who are both alone and destitute, having no family members such as children and grandchildren upon whom to rely. Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Not all widows are truly alone and without resources. Financial support from the church is mandatory only for widows who have no means to provide for their daily needs” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1,792). Living before the face of God

For further study:

Wednesday

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Living before the face of God

Sexual immorality is a sin that causes the church to be slandered, so men and women alike should take care never to get into a situation where the propriety of a relationship can be legitimately questioned. Let us do what we can to promote chastity within the church. We are to be the light of the world, whose love for one another is a beacon of hope to our fallen culture. Mutual respect between all ages and sexes in the church is essential to fulfilling this task. 50

The Family’s Debt to Widows

For further study:

Leviticus 23:22 Zechariah 7:8–10 Luke 20:45–47 Galatians 2:10 The bible in a year :

Psalms 39–41 Acts 25

C o ram de o

Only those with no other recourse are to receive financial assistance from the church, not those who cannot afford food because they refuse to give up cable television, Internet service, lavish living, and other discretionary expenses. If you need the church’s financial assistance, make sure that you have exhausted all other possible avenues of support before you ask for aid. If you are not in need, endeavor to support the poor with wisdom. Tabletalk July 2009

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Thursday J u l y

23

Hope Set on God

The Family’s Duty to Its Own

1 Timothy 5:5–7 “She who is truly a widow…has set her hope on

God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives” (vv. 5–6).

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ecause the Christian community still struggles with sin, there will always be those who seek help from the church even if they are not truly in need. Paul would have known how carefully the synagogues of his day had to guard their community purse lest first-century swindlers take away resources from those who truly had nothing. This reality colors Paul’s outlook and helps to explain why he says some of the things that he does in 1 Timothy 5:3–16. Widows whom the church should support, the apostle explains in verse 5, are characterized by loneliness and prayer. First, they are “left all alone.” This merely reiterates the principle that a widow with children who can support her should rely on those children (v. 4), and it also looks forward to Paul’s rebuke of professing Christians who do not support their impoverished relatives (v. 8). That the true widow is one with no family on which to depend is reinforced by the statement that she sets her hope in God and “continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (v. 5). A true widow is so desperate that her supplications or heartfelt pleas for rescue never cease. She is perpetually on the verge of destitution, and without relatives she has no reason to expect any lasting relief. But the widow whom the believing community must support is not only impoverished, she is also godly — a woman who intercedes for others and hopes in the Lord to provide for her. Such a lady models the piety of the Psalms (Pss. 7:1; 20:7). In contrast to the godly woman who is focused on loving God and others is the dead, self-indulgent woman (1 Tim. 5:6). Paul is likely talking about some widows in Ephesus who never should have been supported in the first place and who have only spent aid from the church wastefully. Their “self-indulgent” ways may have included both sexual immorality and the gratuitous pursuit of luxury, both condemned in Scripture (1 Cor. 6:9–10; James 5:1–6). Here we see depicted the “new Roman woman,” whose ungodly feminism the church can never support. John Calvin says that Paul “censures those who abuse their widowhood for this purpose, that, being loosed from the marriage yoke, and freed from every annoyance, they may lead a life of pleasant idleness.” C o ram de o

Tabletalk July 2009

For further study:

For further study:

1 Kings 21 Ecclesiastes 2:1–11 Luke 2:36–38 2 Timothy 1:3

Jeremiah 3:11 1 Corinthians 5

Psalms 42–43 Acts 26

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undamental to biblical ethics is the truth that there remains knowledge of God’s character and demands within even the darkest of hearts. Nonbelievers may try to deny it, but God’s “eternal power and divine nature” have been perceived since the dawn of creation (Rom. 1:18–20). Everyone apart from Christ twists this knowledge to fashion idols (vv. 21–32), but the sense of a universal right and wrong cannot be erased from our consciences. That is why all peoples write laws to thwart actions against the common good. That is also why even the most wicked people sometimes conform outwardly to “the work of the law [that] is written on their hearts” (2:14–15). The law of God is reflected to some degree in every culture, and while some standards differ from nation to nation, all peoples have crimes that even the lowest of the low find abhorrent. This principle is behind Paul’s final words to those families who count helpless widows among their number and yet refuse to come to their rescue. The willingness to support must extend to even one’s larger clan, but especially and first of all to the immediate members of a person’s home. Paul has in mind here three generations — grandparents, parents, and children. If someone is able to help any of these individuals related to him by blood and yet refuses, he is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). Even the reprobate have enough evidence from creation to tell them that they are obligated to care for those who have cared for them. It takes no special revelation to convince us that it is our duty to feed our mothers and grandmothers if we are able and if they cannot provide for themselves. Christians must be at least as “moral” as the pagans around them, otherwise they have clearly not escaped paganism. John Calvin writes, “If, by the mere guidance of nature, infidels are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling?” Moreover, capable believers who will not help out needy relatives have “denied the faith” (v. 8). Our Lord and Savior became incarnate to save us, His brothers, from eternal death (Heb. 2:10–18). How can we possibly belong to Him if we do not try to meet the physical needs of our parents and siblings? Living before the face of God

The bible in a year :

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Living before the face of God

One of the good and necessary consequences that we can draw from 1 Timothy 5:3–16 is that the church is not required to support financially those widows who are able for whatever reason to support themselves. However, the church is called to remember these women, especially if they have no relatives, and show them the love of Christ through friendship. Is there a lonely widow or widower in your church that you can visit this week? 52

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8

Friday

The bible in a year :

Psalms 44–46 Acts 27:1–26

For the weekend :

Psalms 47–52 Acts 27:27–28:10

C o ram de o

We do not possess the faith that we profess if there is no evidence of its fruit in our lives (Luke 6:43–45). Few of us would probably let our relatives go hungry if we are able to meet their needs, but if anyone has not been supporting a needy relative when he is able, let him attend to it immediately. Even if we do help a needy relative out financially, do we call and visit like we should? Have we therefore allowed the seeds of bitterness to take root? Tabletalk July 2009

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F o r

t h e

w e e k e n d

o f

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2 5 – 2 6

Open and Shut B Y

K i m

R idd l e barg e r

Q. What is the Office of the Keys? A. The preaching of the Holy Gospel and Christian discipline; by these two the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and shut against unbelievers. (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 83)

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hurch discipline is one of those topics no one really wants to talk about. Not only do people fear that such discipline entails church officers snooping around in their private business and then outing their private sins to others in the church, church members also don’t want to be perceived as being judgmental toward others. If snooping is what biblical church discipline entails, then people would be right to be worried. Fortunately, this is not the case. One example where church discipline is applied in the New Testament is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul describes a situation in which a member of the church (presumably a prominent member) has taken “his father’s wife.” Paul seems completely perplexed that someone could do such a thing. “It is actually reported that 54

Tabletalk July 2009

there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans” (1 Cor. 5:1). Not only was this man’s behavior a violation of biblical commandments, but such an act was considered scandalous among pagans outside the church. Paul’s remedy for this was to excommunicate this man: “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (v. 5). In this case, this man was to be disciplined because his sin was public, scandalous, and ruining the reputation of the church. The exercise of church discipline is like cancer surgery. The disease must be removed before it sickens the whole body. Notice that Paul doesn’t mention the man’s name (or the woman’s for that matter). The apostle is not

about shaming people or embarrassing them in public. Indeed, Paul holds out the hope that this action on the part of the church will lead to this man’s restoration and salvation on the day of the Lord. This action (removing the man from the church) was taken so that he might consider his sin and repent of it. This action was also taken to protect the reputation of the church. In Matthew 18:15–17, Jesus gives very specific instructions about what to do when disputes arise with members of the church. Christians who feel they have been wronged by another are to approach that person directly. If they get no satisfaction, they are to bring a witness. If the matter remains unresolved, only then are the leaders of the church to get involved, and only after a persistent pattern of failure to repent and listen to biblical counsel is the matter to be made public and the party treated like “a tax collector.” Taking note of the importance of maintaining the peace and doctrinal purity of the church, the Heidelberg Catechism question and answer 83 rightly connects the practice and necessity of church discipline to Jesus’ instruction to the disciples about the keys of the kingdom. According to Jesus: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18–19). Christians in the Reformed tradition take Jesus to be speaking of the church’s mission to preach the gospel to the ends of the

earth. As the Heidelberg Catechism points out, the preaching of Christ and Him crucified is the divinelyappointed means through which the kingdom of heaven is opened to all those who respond to that message with faith and repentance. But the church’s “binding” function — through which the entrance to the kingdom is closed — is connected to those who reject the message of the gospel when it is preached to them, for they remain bound in sin. This function of binding (shutting) is also connected to church discipline. Those who profess faith in Christ, but who do as the unnamed man in Corinth was doing, have the door to the kingdom of heaven closed to them through the means of church discipline. In those tragic cases where the church must make the determination that someone’s conduct and refusal to repent raises serious questions about his commitment to Christ, the church must shut the door of the kingdom to him, with the goal of that person’s eventual repentance and restoration. As tough as it is, church discipline is commanded by Paul, and the procedure to be used is given us by Jesus. Through the preaching of the gospel, the church opens the kingdom to all who believe. But for those who reject the gospel, and who insist upon behaving in such a way as to bring scandal to Christ’s church, the door to the kingdom is closed. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger is senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church (URCNA) in Anaheim, Calif. He is also co-host of The White Horse Inn and visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California.

Tabletalk July 2009

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Monday J u l y

27

Enrolling Widows

On Younger Widows

1 Timothy 5:9–10 “Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than

sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works.”

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bviously, Paul is not giving precise instructions for every single possible interaction the church might have with widows in 1 Timothy 5:3–16. As is common in Scripture, he offers principles to be applied wisely in circumstances the apostle does not address directly. For example, Paul lays the primary responsibility for widow care upon the woman’s relatives if they have the means to help her (vv. 3–8). Yet some widows will have family members who are able to help them but are not willing to do so. Would it be right for the church to do nothing in these situations? Of course not, for the spirit of Paul’s teaching is to make sure that the truly needy receive aid. The poor widow who has family able but unwilling to help is truly needy, and the church must assist her. Likewise, the age of enrollment Paul gives in verse 9 is not to be read too woodenly. Sixty was the age at which most ancient peoples considered a person to be elderly and likely unable to do manual labor. Surely Paul would not forbid us from enrolling disabled fifty-five-year-old widows or even younger women who are legitimately unable to support themselves or get remarried (see v. 14). But even though widows permanently supported by the church were unable to do certain kinds of labor, Paul clearly does not expect them to be idle. The host of characteristics we read in verse 10 describe women who are known for their hospitality and generosity, and implies that widows who are to be perpetually supported by the church are those that might be called upon to serve others in these capacities even in their old age. This is exactly how the earliest Christians read this passage, and for the first few centuries there were orders of widows who in exchange for support from the church taught new female converts, cared for the sick and orphaned, and fasted and prayed regularly. Whether the apostle has a formal organization in mind, the principle that the person unwilling to work should not eat must be applicable in some way to the church’s support of widows (2 Thess. 3:10). John Calvin says that widows may have their poverty alleviated if they serve the poor inasmuch as their health and abilities will allow.

C o ram de o

Tabletalk July 2009

Genesis 18:1–8 1 Samuel 25:1b–44 Romans 12:13 Hebrews 13:2 The bible in a year :

Psalms 53–55 Acts 28:11–31

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ot all widows in the Christian community are older women. Some are left without their husbands at a young age; apparently, many such widows existed in the first-century Ephesian congregations. And as we see in today’s passage, Paul’s guidance for how the church is to respond to the plight of these women is far different than how we are to deal with older widows. The apostle tells Timothy to “refuse to enroll younger widows” (1 Tim. 5:11), which conceivably includes any woman under the age of sixty (v. 9). Instead, as we will see in a few days, these ladies are to remarry if possible (v. 14). The specific problems with the younger women at Ephesus likely conditions much of Paul’s advice here, and we need to take that into account as we read these verses. In settings where there is not so much trouble, Paul may not intend his directives to be followed to the letter. Nevertheless, his counsel is still going to be applicable in most situations. Having been married once, the young widow has demonstrated that singleness is probably not her gift; thus, it is wise for her to marry and increase her family if she has many years left to live (1 Cor. 7:6–9). Before the apostle encourages young widows to remarry, he seems to say their desire to remarry is what draws them away from Christ if the church has been supporting them (1 Tim. 5:11–12). This is no contradiction when we consider what was going on in the congregation. Apparently, some young widows pledged to serve the church as widows in exchange for a stipend, thinking themselves to have the gift of singleness. Many of these, it seems, actually suppressed a true desire to be married but, lacking the gift of singleness, were finally overcome and wed the first man who came along. Any available Christian men would have been loathe to cause a widow to break her pledge of service to the church in singleness, and so many of these new husbands were likely pagans. Since the wife usually adopted the religion of her husband in that culture, many of these “formerly Christian” women probably became pagans, turning their back on Christ. Paul’s exhortation for these women to look for husbands right away was a way to keep all this from happening. Living before the face of God

For further study:

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N

Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry writes, “Those who would find mercy when they are in distress must show mercy when they are in prosperity.” The widows whom the church should be most ready to support are those who in their lifetimes have been quick to help and to pray for others. Are you well known for your hospitality and generosity? May we all be the kind of people who are quick to serve when others are in need. 56

“Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they…incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.”

1 Timothy 5:11–12

Tuesday

For further study:

Genesis 26:34–35 Ruth 3 Matthew 19:11–12 James 4:13–15 The bible in a year :

Psalms 56–58 Romans 1

C o ram de o

It is no sin to desire remarriage. The problem comes only if we become unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14) or break a vow made to the Lord. But being that God nowhere commands us to vow to serve him in singleness, that kind of pledge should not be taken as normative in the first place. If you are seeking marriage or remarriage, make sure it is to a Christian spouse. Whether married or single, vow to serve the Lord under all conditions. Tabletalk July 2009

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Wednesday J u l y

29

Gossips and Busybodies

Our Witness to the World

1 Timothy 5:13 “Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about

from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.”

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vidently, Timothy had his hands full when it came to the young widows in the Ephesian church. We saw yesterday how many of them had signed on for permanent financial support from the church without knowing what they were doing and then abandoned Christ, probably a reference to their marrying pagan men when no Christian husbands were available. Yet even for those who did not end up leaving the church, there were still some problems that were caused when these young women had their expenses funded by the church. Paul lists some of these issues in 1 Timothy 5:13. With no family to care for and having their needs met, many of the young widows had become “idlers,” not following through on their commitments to the church. Scripture has always condemned such behavior (Prov. 19:15; 2 Thess. 3:10–12), and it is no wonder that Paul encourages the young widows to remarry so that these problems would not continue. Apparently, the young widows had too much time on their hands. Taking advantage of being on church support and not having to work, they went from house to house acting as busybodies, spreading all kinds of gossip (1 Tim. 5:13). This is probably a reference to their perverting the task of visitation to which they had been assigned. Instead of ministering comfort to needy souls from the wisdom of Scripture and Christian teaching, they poked around in matters that were none of their concern, spreading rumors and so on. They may have even been spreading some of the false teaching that was causing such trouble in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3–4; 2:12–15), for most commentators believe that is what Paul means when he refers to the young widows “saying what they should not” (5:13). We may not face the same exact problems today, but it is still the case that trouble often finds those who have a lot of free time. This is particularly true for the spiritually immature, which is likely why the young widows were stirring up such trouble. Then as now, when we as the body of Christ do not redeem the time in these evil days by filling our schedules with good works (Eph. 5:15–16), we run the risk of serving sin when we have nothing else to do. C o ram de o

nfortunately, many professing Christians in our day seem to go out of the way to make the faith “cool” to the non-Christian world. This can involve anything from making a worship service seem like a concert venue or other form of entertainment to denying cardinal doctrines that are offensive to the world around us. In many places the church has failed to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13–16), letting the world take it over instead of it retaining its distinctiveness. Such persons have clearly erred in their attempt to reach the lost; however, it does not follow that we should be completely unconcerned with how the watching world sees us. In many places, the Bible encourages us to remember that the world is watching and to conduct ourselves appropriately (1 Thess. 4:9–12; 1 Peter 2:12). We are never to compromise the truth, but we are to live knowing that unbelievers do judge us and our religion by our deeds. Paul has this principle in mind when he counsels Timothy to have the young Ephesian widows remarry. You may recall that in days past we spoke about the “new Roman woman,” the lady who embraced a worldview that was akin to modern, radical feminism. The larger pagan society frowned upon the “sexual freedom” and disrespect for traditional authority evidenced in the lives of these women, and it appears that many of the young widows in Ephesus were using their singleness in similar ways. When Paul encourages these young women to remarry, bear children, and manage their households (1 Tim. 5:14–15), he is not only reminding us of some of the tasks given to women elsewhere in Scripture (Prov. 31:10–31), he is also encouraging them to live in a way that the wider world would have appreciated. This kind of life would have commended the teachings of Jesus to the wider culture. On account of the young widows’ scandalous behavior, the Ephesian church was being slandered (1 Tim. 5:14–15), and insofar as it would not require them to compromise the truth, the apostle called the Ephesians to correct this problem through living in a way the wider culture might esteem. God calls us to live this way today, although never in a way that would compromise the gospel. Living before the face of God

Tabletalk July 2009

For further study:

For further study:

Ecclesiastes 9:10 Luke 19:11–27 2 Cor. 12:20–21 2 Thess. 3:6–14

Ruth 4 Psalm 127 1 Cor. 9:19–23 1 Timothy 2:1–2

The bible in a year :

The bible in a year :

Psalms 59–61 Romans 2

30 J u l y

U

Living before the face of God

The life God has given each of us is short, and it will be measured in the heavenly rewards He has promised us. We should therefore make the most of it that He might find us to be good and faithful servants. Our goal is not to make ourselves busy with programs just for the sake of programs but to allocate our time wisely that we might serve our families and the people of God, and thus the Lord. Do you manage your time well in service to our Father? 58

“I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (v. 14). 1 Timothy 5:14–15

Thursday

Psalms 62–64 Romans 3

C o ram de o

When missionaries enter a new culture, they have to adapt to their audiences in order to preach the gospel intelligibly to those in need of salvation. We must do the same, but we must be ever cautious that we do not compromise the unchanging truth of God’s Word, the holiness of God, or the other basic teachings of Scripture in doing so. Ask the Lord to show you how to live out His truth in this present evil age. Tabletalk July 2009

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Lifting the Church’s Burden 1 timothy 5:16 “If any believing woman has relatives who are

widows, let her care for them. Let the church be not burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.”

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s we come to Paul’s final statement about how the church is to care for its widows in today’s passage, note that much of what he has said is the result of looking at the church with biblical wisdom. Such wisdom recognizes that all persons and organizations must at some point deal with the reality of the limitation of resources. No single congregation is able to meet every single need that its people might have, for churches, just like anybody else, cannot spend funds that are nonexistant. Therefore, Paul contends that the church support only those who are in need, those who have no other place to go. We see this, for example, in the direction to enroll widows who are only above age sixty (1 Tim. 5:9). Few people in that day lived past that age, so the direction had the practical effect of making sure the church never took on more than it could handle. Scripture’s many admonitions to look out for the destitute (Deut. 15:7–11; James 1:27) mean that this age was never meant to be taken absolutely. Also significant for this point is the recurring theme in 1 Timothy 5 that the church should not take care of those who have relatives willing and able to help them. Obviously, the qualifiers “willing” and “able” are important, otherwise they would not be a part of Paul’s discussion at all. This implies that the church must help any widow who has nowhere else to go, regardless of her age. Still, the widow’s first recourse is her relatives, and those who profess Christ cannot follow Him and neglect the needy widows in their own families (v. 8). This is true even in those cases when the relative who has the means to help the widow is a woman, an unlikely event in Paul’s day (v. 16). But the history of the first-century church had several women who did indeed step up and help the widows they knew, whether in their families or not. Tabitha was known for helping widows through sewing (Acts 9:36–43), indicating that individuals can help people in need without necessarily having much money themselves. We are called to help the needy in our families first, but let us never forget the others who are not related to us. May we help in whatever way we can, especially if we are tied to the poor widow by blood.

C o ram de o

Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry aptly comments, “Rich people should be ashamed to burden the church with their poor relatives.” It is easy to think that helping the impoverished is someone else’s responsibility, even if they are related to us. But each of us should be doing what we can to provide for those in need, especially if they are members of our own family. What resources and skills can you offer to help those who cannot help themselves? 60

Tabletalk July 2009

For further study:

Leviticus 19:9–10 Luke 16:19–31 The bible in a year :

Psalms 65–67 Romans 4

90% of Pastors are unprepared

M a n y pa s t o r s s a i d t h e i r t r a i n i n g d i d a p o o r j o b p r e pa r i n g t h e m f o r m i n i s t r y .

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For the weekend :

Psalms 68–72 Romans 5

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s far as John Calvin was concerned, almost nothing was more urgent for the church than the reformation of pastoral ministry. For centuries, most ministers had been shockingly ignorant of the Scriptures and thus ill-equipped to preach the gospel. As Calvin said in one debate with a Catholic cardinal (pretending to defend the Protestant cause before God): “Those who were regarded as the leaders of faith neither understood Thy Word, nor greatly cared for it. They drove unhappy people to and fro with strange doctrines, and deluded them with I know not what follies.” Calvin was determined to be different and thus to do everything he could to promote the ideal of the pastorscholar — a minister who had a deep knowledge of the Scriptures and able to preach its doctrines to his people. This commitment to scholarship came naturally, since Calvin had been trained as a legal scholar before he gave his life to Christ and entered the ministry. It was also his calling. Based on his reading of Ephesians 4:11, Calvin made a clear distinction between “shepherds” (who served as shepherds of a local church) and “teachers” (who served the wider church by interpreting God’s Word, defending true doctrine, and training other men for ministry, much like seminary professors today). But 64

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since Calvin held both of these offices, he set an example as a pastor-scholar that Reformation churches have followed ever since. Calvin held a high view of the gospel ministry. Ministers are “God’s hands,” he said, to do his saving and sanctifying work in the world. When the church has “good and faithful teachers and others that labor to show us the way of salvation, it is a sign that our Lord Jesus Christ has not left us, nor forgotten us, but that he is present with us, and watches for our salvation.” Evidently, God had not forgotten his people in Geneva, for the church there was blessed by Calvin’s preaching ministry for nearly thirty years. The Reformer’s work load was heavy. He preached almost daily, and twice on Sunday — roughly four thousand sermons in all, carefully transcribed and collected in forty-eight bound volumes. In addition to his preaching, Calvin was a prolific writer, producing personal letters, essays on the reformation of the church, theological treatises, commentaries on almost the entire Bible, and of course his famous Institutes. Calvin’s goal in all his preaching and writing was to teach the Word of God faithfully so that the Holy Spirit could use his words to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ and to help them grow in godliness. He knew that only

God could do the real work of the ministry. Preaching accomplishes nothing, he said, “unless the Spirit of God does inwardly touch the hearts of men.” Yet Calvin also believed that the Spirit’s work included his own best efforts to teach the Bible: “Through [the Spirit’s] inward operation [preaching] produces the most powerful effects.” In order for his ministry to have this effect, the minister had to be faithful in interpreting and applying the Scriptures. This, in turn, required careful study. Although his preaching was not for a scholarly audience, Calvin took a scholarly approach to his preparation. Typically, he preached through whole books of the New Testament (or the Psalms) on Sundays and from the Old Testament the rest of the week. In both cases he preached directly from the Bible in its original languages. Although Calvin usually preached for more than an hour, he spoke extemporaneously, without text or notes. He was not speaking “off the cuff,” however, because whatever he said was the product of his own careful, first-hand exegesis and wide reading in the early church fathers and other Bible commentators. As Calvin once remarked to his congregation: “If I should enter a pulpit without deigning to glance at a book, and frivolously imagine to myself, ‘Oh well, when I preach, God will give me enough to say’ — and come here without troubling to read, or thinking what I ought to declare, and do not carefully consider how I must apply Holy Scripture to the edification of the people — then I should be an arrogant upstart.” Needless to say, Calvin was no such arrogant upstart, but a humble and rigorous expositor of the Word of God.

If faith in Christ is a sure and certain knowledge of God’s grace in the gospel, and if that knowledge comes through the preaching of God’s Word, then every minister is called to be a diligent student of that Word. “The teaching of a minister,” Calvin once said, “should be approved on the sole ground of his being able to show that what he says comes from God.” Calvin’s example as a pastor-scholar is instructive today. For pastors, his life serves as a call to work hard in ministry, giving our best efforts to understanding the Scriptures. For parishioners, Calvin’s ministry can help us understand the God-given calling of our pastors. In devoting their time to prepare

The calling to study God’s Word is for all of us, all through life. for preaching, they are not serving themselves but Christ and His church. But of course, the calling to study God’s Word is for all of us, all through life. Here Calvin should have the last word: “God will not have us trained in the gospel for two or three years only, but he will have us go through with it, so that if we lived a hundred years or more in this world yet we must remain scholars, and know that we have not yet approached our perfection, but have need to go forward still.” Dr. Philip Graham Ryken is senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is a contributor to the book John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

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R e c o m m e n d e d

Resources Available from Ligonier:

Letters of John Calvin

Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Advice

John Calvin reveals the heart of a pastor in these letters to friends, kings, laypeople, and others. Let08BP  Z  Prbk, 261 Pages  Z  (REG. $11) $8.80

This volume collects forty-six letters and writings of John Calvin addressing practical issues such as politics, economics, marriage, graven images, and more. CAL05BP  Z  Prbk, 184 Pages  Z  (REG. $30) $24

Wisdom from John Calvin

r e s o u r c e s

Resources Available from Other Publishers:

The Bondage and Liberation of the Will John Calvin responds to the Roman Catholic view of the will in this work. From Baker Books

Sermons on the Beatitudes Learn how to understand and apply the Beatitudes with this collection of sermons by John Calvin. SER04BH  Z  HdcvR, 128 Pages  Z  (REG. $20) $16

Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life This devotional classic is a compilation of sections from Calvin’s Institutes on the doctrine of the Christian life. GOL02BP  Z  Prbk, 96 Pages  Z  (REG. $9) $7.20

Thine Is My Heart This devotional work collects a year’s worth of meditations on Scripture from Calvin’s writings. THI02BP  Z  Prbk, 344 Pages  Z  (REG. $14) $11.20

Grace and Its Fruits Drawn from John Calvin’s work on the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), this book demonstrates the practical outworkings of grace in the Christian life. GRA02BH  Z  HdcvR, 318 Pages  Z  (REG. $17) $13.60

Heart Aflame Heart Aflame is a devotional containing a year’s worth of daily readings from Calvin’s commentary on the Psalms. HEA06BP  Z  Prbk, 366 Pages  Z  (REG. $15) $12

Tracts and Treatises

Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God John Calvin is popularly known for his view of predestination. This is his exposition of this doctrine. From John Knox Press

Writings by John Calvin on apologetics and other theological topics. From John Knox Press

Genesis Generations of believers have benefited from Calvin’s practical, expository commentary on Genesis. From Crossway

Treatises on the Sacraments

John Calvin: Selections from His Writings

Institutes of the Christian Religion (2-volume set)

Tre06BH  Z  HdcvR, 592 pages  Z  (REG. $30) $24

John Calvin’s most significant contribution to theological study is a treasure trove of biblical truth on God, man, sin, the Law, and other topics. INS04BH  Z  HdcvR, 1,734 Pages  Z  (REG. $80) $64

Truth for All Time John Calvin concisely defines the Christian faith in this work. It is an excellent work for both new believers and those well-trained in Reformed doctrine. TRU12BP  Z  Prbk, 77 Pages  Z  (REG. $6) $4.80

Sermons on Job The problem of suffering and other topics are addressed by John Calvin in this collection of his sermons on Job. From Banner of Truth

Songs on the Nativity: Selected Sermons on Luke 1&2 John Calvin preaches on Luke’s account of the birth of Christ. From Banner of Truth

Theological Treatises

This three-volume set contains Calvin’s writings on soul sleep, relics, and other topics as well as his biography by Theodore Beza. TRA04BP  Z  Prbk  Z  (REG. $108) $86.40

This collection of writings focuses on the sacraments and is an excellent source for John Calvin’s teaching on these means of grace.

Sermons on 2 Samuel John Calvin’s expository sermons on 2 Samuel. From Banner of Truth

This work is an excellent introduction to Calvin’s faith, pastoral ministry, and theological vision. From HarperCollins

On Prayer Calvin’s teaching on prayer from his Institutes of the Christian Religion. From John Knox Press

Sermons on Micah This prophet’s book is covered passage by passage by John Calvin in his sermons on Micah. From P&R Publishing

Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles: Chapters 1 – 7 The early days of the Christian church are the focus of these sermons on Acts 1–7 by John Calvin. From Banner of Truth

Sermons on Galatians God’s grace, the work of the Spirit, the doctrine of justification, and more are covered in Calvin’s sermons on Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. From Banner of Truth

Sermons on Ephesians A Reformation Debate

John Calvin and a Roman Catholic cardinal debate justification. From Baker Books

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is analyzed in depth in these sermons by John Calvin. From Banner of Truth

Note: The items on this page are not available from Ligonier. T O

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must have said it a thousand times: “Who would want a call to be the minister of the church at Corinth?” Among other things, it suffered from “the worship wars.” Read 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 and you quickly become grateful that this is not what you currently experience on Sundays. Worship at Corinth was a chaotic clamor. When the Corinthian Christians gathered for public worship, each one had “a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation” (1 Cor. 14:26). No staid formality here! No predictable ritual! There was enthusiasm in excess. And though it is possible to read sarcasm into Paul’s voice when he writes to Corinth, it seems he meant it when he said to them: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge…you are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1:4–5, 7). What we see in Corinth would be better than the apathy and indifference that so often mars our public worship. The next time someone looks at their watch at 11:55 a.m. on a Sunday morning in a “I want to be seen doing this” gesture, I’m going to scream! Give me enthusiasm rather than ennui (apathetic boredom) any day! 68

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Truth is, for all the seeming chaos, Paul feels the need to rein in by saying, “All things should be done decently and in order” (14:40). Corinthian worship did have a sense of authenticity about it, and nowhere does Paul attempt to criticize the enthusiasm, only the misdirection and disorderliness of it. Writing in the seventeenth century and commenting on the work of revival that had characterized the 1640s, John Owen could say, “By some, I confess, they have been abused: some have presumed on them beyond the line and measure which they have received; some have been puffed up with them; some have used them disorderly in churches and to their hurt; some have boasted of what they have not received; — all which miscarriages also befell the primitive churches. And I had rather have the order, rule, spirit, and practice of those churches that were planted by the apostles, with all their troubles and disadvantages, than the carnal peace of others in their open degeneracy from all those things” (“A Discourse of Spiritual Gifts,” The Works of John Owen, 4:518). An old British television sitcom about two businessmen involved in the clothes-designing trade contained the frequently repeated catch-

phrase: “Never mind the quality, feel the width.” Sadly, this is sometimes true of what we refer to as church growth — a term we currently associate with increase in numbers rather than an improvement in the church’s health and vitality. But what is church growth — biblical church growth? Surely, one element must be a growth in the quality of its corporate fellowship. The church too often reflects the dimensions of the world in which it is set, broken by divisions of race, economy, and education. The church was meant to be an alternative society, reflective of the unity of God. In a much neglected section of the Westminster Confession, following the chapter outlining the nature of the church, there is a marvelous (if short) chapter on “The Communion of Saints” in which we find the following: “Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities” (26.2). Such fellowship — seen dramatically in the enthusiastic self-giving of the early church following Pentecost when believers held all things in common for the sake of each other (Acts 2:45; 4:34–37) — is a reflection of spiritual liveliness worked out in daily life. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). We may want to qualify the enthusiasm of the early church in Acts, being careful to say that this wasn’t a form of Christian Marxism

denying the right of private ownership; the sharing was voluntary. We may also want to point out that the enthusiasm of the Corinthians was more “me-centered” than a concern for the well-being of their brothers and sisters. Making such reservations might encourage us to find a safe place to rest passively and unenthusiastically in the center, reinforcing a stoic lament that we need to avoid extremes at all costs. But this would be wrong; instead, we need to see the work that God requires of us in cultivating a genuine, Spirit-led enthusiasm for corporate life and vitality in the church. After all, there is one body. Over and over Paul says it like

God requires that we cultivate a genuine, Spirit-led enthusiasm for corporate life and vitality in the church. a tolling bell — some twenty times in 1 Corinthians 12. Only as we appreciate our essential unity can we ever hope to make any impact on the disordered world around us as it sees a community that is different and worth noticing. It will require crucifying personal ambition and power-plays and exercising relational, compassionate ministry — all for the sake of the body of Christ. Let us be enthusiastic about this! Dr. Derek Thomas is the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also minister of teaching at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss.

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any years ago I was privileged to know several great men of faith in the generation just preceding my own. I regarded these men with deep respect and even held them in awe because of their great knowledge and even greater piety. Looking back, I realize that one of the many things they all held in common was a passionate love for the basics of biblical, Reformed doctrine. Because of this, they were dedicated students and teachers of that often neglected document known as the Westminster Shorter Catechism. But beyond mere reference to it and frequent quotes from it, the doctrines contained in the Shorter Catechism saturated their minds and their ministries. Two of them stand out in particular. Dr. Henry B. Dendy was my boyhood pastor of the First (and only) Presbyterian Church of Weaverville, North Carolina. He was a man with unlimited talent and abounding in energy. He was a quintessential pastor and preacher, the kind every church needs and wants. Dr. Dendy was also cofounder of the Presbyterian Journal and its editor for twenty-some years. This magazine was the forerunner of World magazine. Dr. Dendy loved Scripture and he loved, lived, and breathed the Shorter Catechism. He encouraged parents to teach the catechism to their 70

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children, and he helped them do this. Another spiritual giant of his day was the late Dr. Darby Fulton, who for many years was the general secretary for foreign missions in the Presbyterian Church. Once, when Dr. Fulton was lecturing at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, a student asked him how he could be such a well read and brilliant theologian given his unending labors with the world missions efforts of the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Fulton’s reply surprised us all when he said, “I learned all my theology before I was twelve; my mother taught me to memorize the Shorter Catechism.” “But Dr. Fulton,” the student asked, “what did you learn of theology in seminary and graduate school?” His reply was classic. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “I learned how to say it so no one could understand it.” He was truly a brilliant scholar, but never did he preach over the head of the man in the pew. His skillful use of the catechism enabled him to preach the great truths of our faith in a lively and understandable way, even to little children. The point of all this is to say that if young men in the ministry want to remain true to “the faith once delivered” (Jude 3), keep their ordination vows, and pass on this heritage to another generation, one of the best means of doing this is to mould their

teaching and preaching around the Shorter Catechism. In this way they will preach the whole counsel of God. They will be beacons of truth and hope to their own and succeeding generations. Let me offer some sound reasons why the use of the catechism as the foundation for your preaching and teaching is one of the best ways to be faithful to your vows and to your people, and how it may assist you in getting beyond shallowness and the latest fads that dominate most preaching — even in evangelical and Reformed churches. The Shorter Catechism is biblical. As might be expected, there are Scripture references given for each question and answer as proof texts, but it is biblical in a far deeper sense. It is an apt summary of all the doctrines of the Bible, and the use of it as a guide in preaching will enable the preacher to ground his people in the truths of God’s Word. I have heard people say that we need to revise the catechism to include references to the poor and disadvantaged, and even to include statements on our environmental duties. Utter nonsense! I spent the first several years of ministry in one of the deepest pockets of poverty in this country. I was called upon to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, transport the wheel-less, educate the ignorant, and shepherd the children and teach them how to play. In one week I rushed five mountain women to the hospital to have their babies (the last one was my own Miriam, but I was sure getting some strange looks from the nurses on the floor). I buried old folks, babies, and all ages in between, conducting the services and digging the graves. I did all this and more and did not need a revision of the catechism to tell me my

duty. As for environmental concerns, being an avid outdoorsman helped me to understand the need for good stewardship of God’s creation and creatures, but again this does not require a revision of the catechism. The catechism is intensely practical and deals with real issues of life and death. Often I hear fervent sermons about things that are only of contrived urgency based on what book the preacher is reading or what program on television he has been watching. But what is more practical than to discover and declare what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man? Preaching and teaching from the catechism keeps us linked to the gen-

Moulding your teaching around the Shorter Catechism will enable you to preach the whole counsel of God. erations who have gone before us and passes on their wisdom and godliness to succeeding generations. There is a tendency in each generation to think we are the beginning and end of all things. We tend to think that wisdom and godliness will perish with us. They won’t, and the wise and wide use of the catechism will enable us to take our part in the flow of truth, faith, and life from generation to generation. After fifty years in pastoral ministry, Dr. Gordon K. Reed has “retired” into a supply pastorate at Longtown Presbyterian Church in Ridgeway, South Carolina.

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From Our Contributor s This Month

r e s o u r c e s

What Is a Healthy Church Member? b y T h a b i t i M . A n ya b w i l e

A seasoned pastor considers the biblical responsibilities of church members and Scripture’s definition of the believing community in this book.

Given for You b y K e i t h A . M at h i s o n

Given for You looks at how the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper has been understood in the Reformed tradition and presents a biblical defense for the true presence of Jesus when we eat the bread and drink the cup in proclamation of His death.

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Feed My Sheep b y Va r i o u s A u t h o r s

Eric Alexander, James Boice, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and others explain and defend the practice of expository preaching.

Art for God’s Sake by P h i l i p G r a h a m Ry k e n

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All of life falls under the lordship of Christ, including the arts. This book examines a biblical view of arts and artists concisely, showing us how we may create art that is glorifying to God.

Seeing with New Eyes

Calvin’s Teaching on Job

b y D av i d P o w l i s o n

by Derek Thomas

Job is perhaps the most important text on suffering and evil found in sacred Scripture. In this book, Derek Thomas, a noted expert on Calvin’s interpretation of Job, uses the sermons of Calvin to unlock the meaning and application of Job for us today. CAL02BH Z HARDCOVER, 416 Pages Z (REG. $26)

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he year 2009 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. A number of publishers are celebrating this “Calvin Quincentennial” by releasing new books on the life, work, and teaching of Calvin. Among these are a new book titled Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel R. Beeke. Dr. Beeke is well qualified to edit and co-author such a volume. He is the president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written, co-authored, or edited over fifty books, and he has also written fifteen

winsome, and practical nature of Calvinism, and would clearly convey how Calvinism earnestly seeks to meet the purpose for which we were created, namely, to live to the glory of God. By doing so, it would serve as a corrective to the many caricatures of Calvinism that still exist in North America and beyond.” Unable to find a single book that fit the bill, Dr. Beeke has written it himself, with the help of several co-authors. Living for God’s Glory is divided into six parts with a total of twentyeight chapters. Of these twenty-eight chapters, Beeke himself has contributed eighteen. The remaining ten chapters consist of contributions by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. James M. Grier, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin, Dr.

chapter, Beeke provides some basic information about some of the more important Reformed confessions and catechisms, including the Belgic Confession, the Westminster S t a n d a r d s , t h e He ide l b e r g Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. These chapters provide a helpful context for the discussions in the remainder of the book. In Part Two, “Calvinism in the Mind,” Beeke introduces some of the doctrinal distinctives of Calvinism. In chapter three, he discusses the debate over the central or core doctrine of Calvinism, concluding ultimately that it is the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. In chapters

Living for God’s Glory tolle lege

take up and read

The Glor y of God B y

K e i t h A . Ma t h i s o n

by Joel R. Beeke Joel Beeke and several other authors look at Calvinism from a variety of perspectives. Available at Store.ligonier.org

hundred articles for various publications, including Tabletalk. Beeke explains the reason for this book in his Introduction. He writes, “For many years, I have searched for a book that would cover the intellectual and spiritual emphases of Calvinism, the way it influences the church and everyday living, and its ethical and cultural implications. The book I had in mind would explain for today’s reader the biblical, God-centered, heartfelt, 74

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Nelson D. Kloosterman, Rev. Ray B. Lanning, Dr. Robert W. Oliver, Ray Pennings, and Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas. All of these men are gifted authors, and their chapters are consistently well-written. Part One is titled “Calvinism in History” and contains two chapters. The first outlines briefly the historical origins of Calvinism in the Protestant Reformation and distinguishes it from other branches of the Reformation. In the second

four through nine, Beeke introduces readers to the so-called Five Points of Calvinism. These chapters helpfully clear away misconceptions about these doctrines and show how they are grounded in the teaching of the Bible. Chapter ten provides a brief explanation of the five solas of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola gratia (grace

alone), sola fide (faith alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), and soli Deo Gloria (the glory of God alone). Part two concludes with a chapter by Dr. Grier explaining Calvin’s philosophical views. Part Three is titled “Calvinism in the Heart.” In chapter 12, Michael Haykin discusses and explains the Calvinistic view of the means of grace. Beeke then looks at the theological, ecclesiastical, and practical dimensions of Calvin’s understanding of piety in chapter 13. In the final two chapters of Part Three, he looks at the puritan understanding of sanctification and how it was worked out in daily living. The six chapters in Part Four, “Calvinism in the Church” are devoted to an explanation of Reformed church polity, worship, preaching, and evangelism. I would recommend these chapters to all pastors. Chapters 18 and 19 on Reformed preaching are particularly important in this day and age. “Calvinism in Practice” is the subject of the six chapters in Part Five. Here the authors explain the Reformed view of marriage, family, work, and the state. This section concludes with a helpful explanation of the theocentric view of ethics espoused by Calvinists. The book concludes with a chapter by Sinclair Ferguson on Calvinism’s goal entitled “Doxology.” When a man properly understands Reformed theology, he cannot help but give all glory and praise to our triune God. Dr. Keith A. Mathison is an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine and academic dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies. For more reviews go to www.ligonier.org/bookreviews

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R e c o m m e n d e d

A Taste of Heaven book

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The doctrines of grace, this book reveals, are not the invention of John Calvin; rather, they are taught in every book of the Bible. FOU04BH  Z  HDCVR, 577 pages  Z  (REG. $28) $22.40

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Rev. Phillips unfolds the great doctrines of grace and illustrates their practical benefit to Christian living and service.

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by Burk Parsons, Ed i t o r

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The Prayer of the Lord a n i n t e r v i e w w i th R . C . S p ro u l What is the Lord’s Prayer? Is it an actual prayer that Jesus dictated so that His disciples might recite it? Or is it a blueprint He gave as a guide for His followers’ prayers? Christ gave us this prayer to teach His disciples about prayer, and Dr. Sproul, in his trademark fashion, brings out many of the truths Christ intended for His followers to learn in his latest book, The Prayer of the Lord.

There the central focus is on adoration, confession, and other elements of prayer that we use. Instead, Jesus opted to give them a model prayer. He didn’t say, “Pray this prayer”; He said, “Pray like this.” When we look carefully at the Lord’s Prayer, we see what He considered the priorities of prayer. He was trying to teach the disciples that they should be praying that His Father’s

Jesu s begins with the f ir s t petition that the name of God will be regarded with reverence bec ause the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all godlines s. How we regard the name of God reveals more clearly than any thing else how we regard God Himself.

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, why did He give them a model prayer instead of teaching them about prayer? I obviously can’t read our Lord’s mind. I would have thought that Jesus would have answered their question by telling them to immerse themselves in Psalms because it is basically a book of prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit.

name be regarded with reverence, and that His will be done here in this world just like it is every day in heaven. Since the Lord’s Prayer is intended to be a model prayer that teaches transferable principles, is it wrong to recite the Lord’s Prayer? No. It isn’t a recitation but rather a prayer. It isn’t wrong to pray it. The

Lord’s Prayer acts as a model, almost like a confession of faith, similar to the Apostles’ Creed. By the repeating of the model prayer, we get into our mind, if not into our subconsciousness, the elements of prayer we should have. Is there a logical progression to the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer? I think so. Jesus begins with the first petition that the name of God will be regarded with reverence because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all godliness. How we regard the name of God reveals more clearly than anything else how we regard God Himself. Until we have a holy fear of God, we’re not going to see the will of God done in this world. People who don’t revere God don’t care about His kingdom. The logic to the Lord’s Prayer is that the focus of our prayer should first be on the majesty of God, on adoration, and on praying for the earthly manifestation of the kingdom of God. Then we can move on to our daily needs and concerns about daily bread, the forgiveness of sins, and those sorts of things. Which petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are most often misunderstood? I think the first one. Many people think that “hallowed be thy name” is part of the formal address. They regard it as if the prayer says “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed is thy name”

rather than asking that His name be revered by all people. Does it surprise you that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them about prayer when they could have asked for teaching about so many other topics? No, it doesn’t surprise me, because the link between the disciples’ interest and their question is that they plainly saw the relationship between Jesus’ prayer life and His power. He would withdraw from them, sometimes praying all night. They were witnesses of the most intense man of prayer who ever walked the face of the earth. It could be that Jesus’ proficiency in prayer revealed to the disciples their own lack.


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s birthdays go, it’s a big one. It is fitting and appropriate that we would mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. Trouble is, that occasion is being marked in at least two different ways. First, those who do not find Calvin to their liking will seek to paint the man as a sour-faced, powermad, fundamentalist and extremist. The ghost of Servetus will be forced to dance for us once more, and those of us who are grateful for Calvin will be encouraged to repent for our stubborn ways. On our side of the aisle we will celebrate. We will convene Calvin conferences, we will sponsor symposia, we will publish magazines all designed to honor the man. We will, as we ought, remember his accomplishments. We will, as we ought, take the time to map out the ripples from his life. Some, for instance, have rightly called Calvin the father of our country. Scholars on both sides of the aisle are willing, some even eager to affirm, that much of what makes America distinctively America can be traced back to this pastor of Geneva. That is influence. That is impact. If these scholars are correct — and they are — that means one man, one very frail man, shaped what would become the most prosperous, powerful, faith80

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ful nation in the history of the world. It’s enough to make one want to shout oneself hoarse. We, of course, because we are Calvinists, will remember at least one caveat. We will remember that it was God who was at work in and through Calvin. Calvin was a vessel for the grace of God, first in the lives of those committed to Reformation in Switzerland, and later in Scotland, the Netherlands, England, and beyond. God, after all, not Calvin, is the sovereign one. Our celebration ought to be for the grace of God in this man’s life, more than merely for the man. Getting that right, however, still leaves us with a fundamental problem in how we look at the phenomenon that was John Calvin. It’s good and right to see these ripples for what they actually were, great thundering tsunamis. It is in turn fitting that we should remember in the end that it is the Lord whom the wind and the waves obey, that what we are celebrating is what He has wrought. Let us not miss, however, how God brought this to pass in and through John Calvin. Calvin was a man focused on a single goal. Though his life shaped our theology, our understanding of liberty, our conception of the state, our grasp of vocation, of the arts, of

every “slice” of our lives, his goal was simple, uncluttered, alone. Calvin did not set out to reform our conceptions of this meta-theme or that. No, Calvin’s single concern was that God’s people would learn aright to worship the living and true God. Worship was what shaped him. Worship was what drove him. Worship was what formed Geneva and all that followed after. Please don’t misunderstand. Calvin didn’t believe that in order to remake the world, we must remake worship. Instead, Calvin understood that we must remake worship. Everything else is icing. To put it another way, Calvin understood that we must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, not so that we might have all these things added to us, but so that we might have the one needful thing — the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We, the heirs of Calvin, have forgotten this lesson. We, if we think about worship at all, see it as a means to the end. The end we have in mind is the power and the glory. We want to build political coalitions that we might change the world. We want to overcome the powers of the Hollywood elite that we might change the world. We want to remake the economic landscape that we might change the world. What God wants is that we would bow down in repentance and give glory to His name. What God wants is what Calvin did. When Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He wasn’t telling us: “Now when you go about your life, when you pursue your goals, don’t forget the big picture. Don’t lose sight of

why you do what you do.” Instead Jesus was telling us: “Seek this. Seek this alone. Forget about everything else. Have a single-minded passion and leave the rest alone. It is in my hands anyway.” We, on the other hand, have it all upside down and backwards. We will, especially this year, look at the glory that once was Geneva because of the ministry of Calvin. We will, especially this year, look out at all the nations that felt the ripples of Calvin, moving from Geneva, to England, to these United States, then back out across the globe through the modern missionary movement. We will, espe-

Calvin understood that we must remake worship. Everything else is icing. cially this year, remember the great economic power that was unleashed with the spread of liberty that likewise redounds to Calvin. What we will miss is the true glory, the real story. What we will miss is the unvarnished beauty of a single congregation in one neighborhood of Geneva, bowing in prayer to the living God, lifting up their voices, singing the Psalms of God, receiving the Word preached, and receiving the Word as bread and wine. There is where the glory is found. Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. is founder of Highlands Ministries in Mendota, Virginia, and is author of Believing God: 12 Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept.

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Calvin & Culture, Reconsidered b y

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ne of the greatest social scientists credits John Calvin for the rise of capitalism and, by extension, modern Western culture itself. That is quite an influence and quite a tribute to Calvin. Nevertheless, though there is some truth to the claim, the specific scholarship behind it demonstrates a profound misunderstanding, not only of Calvin but of the Reformation. In 1904, the German scholar Max Weber published The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber was exploring the observation that industrialism began mainly in countries that were Protestant rather than Roman Catholic or non-Christian. In doing so, he made a name for himself as the father of modern social science. Weber argued that Christianity used to be otherworldly. The higher spiritual ideal, according to monasticism, was found in poverty rather than wealth, a life of prayer rather than a life in the world. The Reformation, though, taught the doctrine of vocation, in which the Christian life was to be lived out in the world, and, specifically, in productive labor. In effect, said Weber, this meant displacing the monastic-style discipline, self-denial, and ascetics into secular life. Calvinist Christians expressed their religious zeal by working hard, which, in turn, meant 82

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accumulating wealth. But they still considered luxurious displays and lavish spending to be worldly and thus morally problematic. So instead of spending all of their hard-earned wealth, the Calvinists tended to save it. Calvinist businessmen plowed their profits back into their businesses or, through banks or stock arrangements, invested their money in other businesses. Thus was invented “capital” and thus “capitalism” became possible. Followers of Calvin, according to Weber, had a particular incentive to work hard and be successful. Because of Calvin’s doctrine of election, Weber argued that Christians could not be certain whether or not they were saved. Christians could find assurance by finding evidence of their salvation in the fruits of their faith, that is, in their good works and in God’s blessings. Factoring in Calvin’s doctrine of providence, this meant that success in business was considered a sign of salvation. Weber envisioned seventeenthcentury Calvinists busily working hard, making money, and accumulating wealth so as to prove to themselves, and, importantly, their neighbors, that they were going to heaven. Notice, however, what this “Weber Thesis” amounts to: Salvation turns out to be by works after all. Weber’s

interpretation leaves out grace, Christ, and the gospel. Followers of Calvin were not, as a whole, tormented with the worry that they might not be numbered with the elect. Rather, they treasured more than most other Christians the assurance of salvation. In fact, they understood the doctrine of election to ensure that assurance. If God has chosen me, my salvation is utterly secure. Moreover, salvation is in Christ. Faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross and the conviction that “He died for me” is the foundation of the Christian life. As Calvin taught and as his followers knew, but that Weber missed, we are justified by faith, not by speculations about election or by working hard on the job. This faith, in turn, is to be lived out in vocation. But this does not primarily mean ‘job,’ as in our modern definition; rather, it has more to do with the relationships into which God calls us. We have vocations in the church, the state, and the family. In all vocations, including the workplace, the Reformers emphasized that their purpose is not to practice spiritually edifying discipline for one’s own sake but to love and serve one’s neighbor. The Reformation did profoundly impact the culture but not for the reasons Weber gave. I do think the doctrine of vocation contributed to the “Protestant work ethic” and thus, eventually, to free-market economics. But also factor in the social mobility made possible by education, newly made possible for all social classes due to the Reformation teaching that all Christians should read the Bible. A peasant who learns how to read the Bible can also read

just about anything, giving him access to information that empowers him to leave the farm and, possibly, to make his fortune. That the “puritans” Weber speaks of tended to be morally-upright and self-denying was not because they felt under pressure to prove how Christian they were. Puritans were the people who most denied that their works had anything to do with their salvation. And yet, they became so notorious for their moral rectitude that the word puritan has become a byword. But isn’t this evidence for what Calvin taught, that good works are the natural outgrowth of faith? Some of Weber’s followers today

Calvinists treasured more than most the assurance of salvation. think that Calvin started the shift, so the story goes, from a concentration on the spiritual realm to a concentration on the material realm, from the other world to this world. The mistake is continuing to think in terms of the old monastic dichotomies. The cultural influence of the Reformation was not to swing away from the spiritual estates to the secular arena. Rather, it was overcoming the separation. Not laws and works but faith in Christ was brought out of the cloister into everyday life. Dr. Gene Edward Veith is academic dean of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri.

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The Money Issue

| 800-435-4343 or www.Ligonier.org | Next Month: “I’m grateful to God that a whole new generation of believers can now be introduced to one of the greatest theologians of all time.” —Joni Eareckson Tada “If you have neglected Calvin’s writings for fear they are too difficult or too dreary, this book will change your mind.”—Alistair Begg “. . . it is utterly fitting that a book of essays should appear that is designed for ordinary Christians, not scholars.” —D. A. Carson “Surely this book will help introduce one of history’s most gospel-centered men, John Calvin, to a generation that wants to relegate him to dusty antiquity and dry orthodoxy.” —Scotty Smith see pg 22 for more information

from Ligonier Ministries and Dr. R.C. Sproul

“To my knowledge there never has been a collection of authors of any edited volume under whose ministry I would rather sit than these.” —John Piper

Tabletalk Magazine, July 2009  

This issue celebrates the 500th birthday of John Calvin by looking at his legacy. Contributors include R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile, Richa...

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