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November 2012

Vol. 01. No. 2

Pulpit Magazine
Welcome!

What is Pulpit and why have we created it?


By Dave Jordan, Managing Editor Advancing the gospel, one Church at a time is our mission. It is our desire to provide
pastors and church leaders with consistent encouragement and insight from the word of God. We want to help you think critically with a Biblical worldview, through engaging, theologically practical articles. It is our hope that Pulpit Magazine will become just such a resource. We have assembled a wonderful team of authors to serve you. Here are just a few: Pastor John MacArthur, who has written over 50 books and is on the radio 24/7 worldwide, will provide articles from his 40+ years of ministry to engage the pastor at the very heart of the Christian life. Phil Johnson, whose blogging career typically had over 250,000 visitors per month, will shed light on current topics with the truth of scripture. Pastor Lance Quinn, who has been reviewing books for top publishers for many years, will now provide that same insight for pastors and lay people who are looking for great resources to challenge and stimulate their walk with Christ.

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Subscription Benefits! When you purchase a one year subscription for 12 Issues, you will receive discounts at GBI Books worth more than your subscription. *We also have made the text of the articles available in a free .pdf file which can be downloaded at: www.graceadvance.org/pulpit

The Church vs. The World


By John MacArthur "Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you" (1 John 3:13). Why do evangelicals try so desperately to court the world's favor? Churches plan their worship services to cater to the "unchurched." Christian performers ape every worldly fad in music and entertainment. Preachers are terrified that the offense of the gospel might turn someone against them, so they deliberately omit the parts of the message the world might not approve of. Evangelicalism seems to have been hijacked by legions of carnal spin-doctors, who are trying their best to convince the world that the church can be just as inclusive, pluralistic, and broad-minded as the most politically-correct worldling. The quest for the world's approval is nothing less than spiritual harlotry. In fact, that is precisely the imagery the apostle James used to describe it. He wrote: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). There is and always has been a fundamental, irreconcilable incompatibility between the church and the world. Christian thought is out of harmony with all the world's philosophies. Genuine faith in Christ entails a denial of every worldly value. Biblical truth contradicts all the world's religions. Christianity itself is therefore antithetical to virtually everything this world admires. Jesus told His disciples, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). Notice that our Lord considered it a given that the world would despise the church. Far from teaching His disciples to try to win the world's favor by reinventing the gospel to suit worldly preferences, Jesus expressly warned that the quest for worldly accolades is a characteristic of false prophets: "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Luke 6:26). He further explained: "The world . . . hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil" (John 7:7). In other words, the world's contempt for Christianity stems from moral, not intellectual, motives: "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:19-20). That is why no matter how dramatically worldly opinion might vary, Christian truth will never be popular with the world. Yet in virtually every era of church history there have been people in the church who are convinced that the best way to win the world is by catering to worldly tastes. Such an approach has always been to the detriment of the gospel message. The only times the church has made any 2

significant impact on the world are when the people of God have stood firm, refused to compromise, and boldly proclaimed the truth despite the world's hostility. When Christians have shrunk away from the task of confronting popular worldly delusions with unpopular biblical truths, the church has invariably lost influence and impotently blended into the world. Both Scripture and history attest to that fact. And the Christian message simply cannot be twisted to conform to the vicissitudes of worldly opinion. Biblical truth is fixed and constant, not subject to change or adaptation. Worldly opinion, on the other hand, is in constant flux. The various fads and philosophies that dominate the world change radically and regularly from generation to generation. The only thing that remains constant is the world's hatred of Christ and His gospel. In all likelihood, the world will not long embrace whatever ideology is in vogue this year. If the pattern of history is any indicator, by the time our great grandchildren become adults, worldly opinion will be dominated by a completely new system of belief and a whole different set of values. Tomorrow's generation will renounce all of today's fads and philosophies. But one thing will remain unchanged: until the Lord Himself returns and establishes His kingdom on earth, whatever ideology gains popularity in the world will be as hostile to biblical truth as all its predecessors have been. MODERNISM Consider the record of the past century, for example. A hundred years ago, the church was beset by modernism. Modernism was a world-view based on the notion that only science could explain reality. The modernist in effect began with the presupposition that nothing supernatural is real. It ought to have been instantly obvious that modernism and Christianity were incompatible at the most fundamental level. If nothing supernatural is real, then much of the Bible is untrue and has no authority; the incarnation of Christ is a myth (nullifying Christ's authority as well); and all the supernatural elements of Christianity--including God Himself-must be utterly redefined in naturalistic terms. Modernism was anti-Christian at its core. Nonetheless, the visible church at the beginning of the twentieth century was filled with people who were convinced modernism and Christianity could and should be reconciled. They insisted that if the church did not keep in step with the times by embracing modernism, Christianity would not survive the twentieth century. The church would become increasingly irrelevant to modern people, they said, and soon it would die. So they devised a "social gospel" void of the true gospel of salvation. Of course, biblical Christianity survived the twentieth century just fine. Wherever Christians remained committed to the truthfulness and authority of Scripture, the church flourished. But ironically, those churches and denominations that embraced modernism were the ones that became increasingly irrelevant and all but died out before the century was over. Many grandiose but nearly empty stone buildings offer mute testimony to the deadliness of compromise with modernism. 3

POST-MODERNISM Modernism is now regarded as yesterday's way of thinking. The dominant world-view in secular and academic circles today is called post-modernism. Post-modernists have repudiated modernism's absolute confidence in science as the only pathway to the truth. In fact, post-modernism has completely lost interest in "the truth," insisting that there is no such thing as absolute, objective, or universal truth. Modernism was indeed folly and needed to be abandoned. But post-modernism is a tragic step in the wrong direction. Unlike modernism, which was still concerned with whether basic convictions, beliefs, and ideologies are objectively true or false, post-modernism simply denies that any truth can be objectively known. To the post-modernist, reality is whatever the individual imagines it to be. That means what is "true" is determined subjectively by each person, and there is no such thing as objective, authoritative truth that governs or applies to all humanity universally. The post-modernist naturally believes it is pointless to argue whether opinion A is superior to opinion B. After all, if reality is merely a construct of the human mind, one person's perspective of truth is ultimately just as good as another's. Having given up on knowing objective truth, the post-modernist occupies himself instead with the quest for "understanding" the other person's point of view. So the words truth and understanding take on radical new meanings. Ironically, "understanding" requires that we first of all disavow the possibility of knowing any truth at all. And "truth" becomes nothing more than a personal opinion, usually best kept to oneself. That is the one essential, non-negotiable demand post-modernism makes of everyone: we are not supposed to think we know any objective truth. Post-modernists often suggest that every opinion should be shown equal respect. And therefore on the surface, post-modernism seems driven by a broad-minded concern for harmony and tolerance. It all sounds very charitable and altruistic. But what really underlies the post-modernist belief system is an utter intolerance for every world-view that makes any universal truth-claims--particularly biblical Christianity. In other words, post-modernism begins with a presupposition that is irreconcilable with the objective, divinely-revealed truth of Scripture. Like modernism, post-modernism is fundamentally and diametrically opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. POST-MODERNISM AND THE CHURCH Nonetheless, the church today is filled with people who are advocating post-modern ideas. Some of them do it self-consciously and deliberately, but most do it unwittingly. (Having imbibed too much of the spirit of the age, they are simply regurgitating worldly opinion.) The evangelical movement as a whole, still recovering from its long battle with modernism, is not prepared for a new and different adversary. Many Christians have therefore not yet recognized the extreme danger posed by post-modernist thought.

Post-modernism's influence has clearly infected the church already. Evangelicals are toning down their message so that the gospel's stark truth-claims don't sound so jarring to the post-modern ear. Many shy away from stating unequivocally that the Bible is true and all other religious systems and world-views are false. Some who call themselves Christians have gone even further, purposefully denying the exclusivity of Christ and openly questioning His claim that He is the only way to God. The biblical message is clear. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). The apostle Peter proclaimed to a hostile audience, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." The apostle John wrote, "He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). Again and again, Scripture stresses that Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation for the world. "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). Only Christ can atone for sin, and therefore only Christ can provide salvation. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12). Those truths are antithetical to the central tenet of post-modernism. They make exclusive, universal truth-claims declaring Christ the only true way to heaven and all other belief-systems erroneous. That is what Scripture teaches. It is what the true church has proclaimed throughout her history. It is the message of Christianity. And it simply cannot be adjusted to accommodate post-modern sensitivities. Instead, many Christians simply pass over the exclusive claims of Christ in embarrassed silence. Even worse, some in the church--including a few of evangelicalism's best-known leaders--have begin to suggest that perhaps people can be saved apart from knowing Christ. Christians cannot capitulate to post-modernism without sacrificing the very essence of our faith. The Bible's claim that Christ is the only way of salvation is certainly out of harmony with the post-modern notion of "tolerance." But it is, after all, just what the Bible plainly teaches. And the Bible--not post-modern opinion--is the supreme authority for the Christian. The Bible alone should determine what we believe and proclaim to the world. We cannot waver on this, no matter how much this post-modern world complains that our beliefs make us "intolerant." TOLERANT INTOLERANCE Post-modernism's veneration of tolerance is its most obvious feature. But the version of "tolerance" peddled by post-modernists is actually a twisted and dangerous corruption of true virtue. Incidentally, tolerance is never mentioned in the Bible as a virtue, except in the sense of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering (cf. Ephesians 4:2.) In fact, the contemporary notion of tolerance is a pathetically feeble concept compared to the love Scripture commands Christians to show even to their enemies. Jesus said, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you" (Luke 6:27-28; cf. vv. 2936). When our grandparents spoke of tolerance as a virtue, they had something like that in mind. The word used to mean respecting people and treating them kindly even when we believe they are wrong. But the post-modern notion of tolerance means we must never regard anyone else's opinions as "wrong." Biblical tolerance is for people; post-modern tolerance is for ideas. Accepting every belief as equally valid is hardly a real virtue, but it is about the kind of only "virtue" post-modernism knows anything about. Traditional virtues (including humility, self-control, and chastity) are openly scorned--and even regarded as transgressions--in the world of post-modernism. Predictably, the beatification of post-modern tolerance has had a disastrous effect on real virtue in our society. In this age of tolerance, what was once forbidden is now encouraged. What was once universally deemed immoral is now celebrated. Marital infidelity and divorce have been normalized. Profanity is commonplace. Abortion, homosexuality, and moral perversions of all kinds are championed by large advocacy groups and enthusiastically promoted by the popular media. The post-modern notion of "tolerance" is systematically turning genuine virtue on its head. Just about the only remaining taboo is the naive and politically incorrect notion that another person's "alternative lifestyle," religion, or different perspective is wrong. One major exception to that rule stands out starkly: it is OK for post-modernists to be intolerant of those who claim they know the truth--particularly biblical Christians. In fact, those who fancy themselves the leading advocates of tolerance today are often the most outspoken opponents of evangelical Christianity. Look on the World Wide Web, for example, and see what is being said by the self-styled champions of "religious tolerance." What you'll find is a great deal of intolerance for Bible-based Christianity. In fact, some of the most bitterly anti-Christian material on the World Wide Web can be found at sites supposedly promoting religious tolerance. Why is that? Why does authentic biblical Christianity find such ferocious opposition from people who think they are paragons of tolerance? It is because the truth-claims of Scripture--and particularly Jesus' claim to be the only way to God--are diametrically opposed to the fundamental presuppositions of the post-modern mind. The Christian message represents a death blow to the post-modernist world-view. But as long as Christians are being duped or intimidated into softening the bold claims of Christ and widening the narrow road, the church will make no headway against post-modernism. We need to recover the distinctiveness of the gospel. We need to regain our confidence in the power of God's truth. And we need to proclaim boldly that Christ is the only true hope for the people of this world. That may not be what people want to hear in this pseudo-tolerant age of post-modernism. But it is true nonetheless. And precisely because it is true and the gospel of Christ is the only hope for a lost world, it is all the more urgent that we rise above all the voices of confusion in the world and say so. 6

Counseling the Hard Cases


By John MacArthur The biblical counseling movement has long been caricatured by its various critics as shallow, superficial, and largely ineffective for the greater challenges men and women face in this life. Those critics might cite instances of people giving bad or even hurtful advice while claiming to be doing biblical counseling. But authentic biblical counseling is simply biblical wisdom, properly applied by spiritually mature counselors. How could that be hurtful? When godly people, armed with the confidence that Gods Word is entirely sufficient, prayerfully and skillfully, gently but firmly come alongside those who are confused, lost, hurting, or otherwise struggling with some personal or spiritual dilemma, the Lord is sovereignly disposed to use His Word through such counsel in ways that please Him. His Word is the one thing never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). This is why I am happy to commend to you this book: Counseling the Hard Cases: The Sufficiency of Scripture in the Most Difficult Counseling Problems. Its contributors are unified in their commitment to Scripture as the sufficient mode and method of counseling. That is the very commitment I have sought to maintain for all my years as Pastor-Teacher here at Grace Community Church. It is likewise the shared commitment of our faculty in training our students at The Masters College and Seminary. Each one of us would say with settled conviction: Your testimonies are also my delight; they are my counselors (Psalm 119:24). If you want to read firsthand examples of caring, wise, and biblically sound counsel being applied to those who are struggling with the perplexities of living in a fallen world, then read on. The approach to counseling modeled here comes from experienced men and women who believe that Gods Word is totally adequate to handle anything and everything the world, the flesh and the devil may throw at the believer. These seasoned counselors areas I amthoroughly convinced that no manmade method of counseling is equal to the 66 books of the Bible in depth, power, or enduring efficacy. The sufficiency and authority of Scripture has been the central theme of my ministry for more than half a century, and I am profoundly grateful that one of the fundamental principles on which the biblical counseling movement is based is a commitment to that same principle. In the words of Psalm 19:7-11: The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 7

May you profit from this book as you read from competent counselors who take Gods Word seriously. Allow the insights theyve gained from Scripture to shape your own approach to helping people who are hurting. John MacArthur

Review by Lance Quinn Counseling the Hard Cases is an excellent example of how to do biblical counseling that is both true to God's Word and practically relevant to the complex issues behind the fallen human heart. I commend all these competent counselors for giving us tremendous insight into helping people gain much hope and help for their spiritual lives. I especially appreciated the contributor's singular commitment to the sufficiency and superiority of Scripture in counseling. May this book be greatly used by counselors, for their counselees, and in the teaching of counseling.

Living by Faith, Not Feelings


By Phil Johnson

By God's own testimony, Job was a righteous man, "blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil" (1:1)"none like him on the earth" (v.8). But in this cursed world even the most righteous people sometimes feel God is obscured by the darkness of grief and suffering. Job in particular suffered the loss of all his children and all his earthly possessions in a single day, after which his entire body was reduced to a festering mass of sores, and he was left without any earthly comfort whatsoeverwhile being besieged with bad counsel and false accusations. In the wake of so many unimaginable, crushing, life-destroying tragedies and plagues, Job felt abandoned by God. He felt overwhelmed by grief and personal loss. Few if any of us have ever suffered so much and to such a degree. Still, its not hard to understand how Job felt. We cringe at the thought of how much it hurt. And we can imagine how bitter the whole experience tasted. There are no words to describe such anguish, and no mere words can comfort a soul in the throes of such agony. Job 2:13 says his friends "sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great." Heres something to consider: Jobs suffering was no easier for him emotionally than it would be for you and me, no matter how righteous he was. He still felt the same kind of intense anguish and pain that you and I would feel if we suffered under such trials. Just as human words fail to describe or to relieve such deep despair, human emotions don't help us make sense of our miseries. If you want to sort through the problem of evil, you have to think sensibly, and theologically, and biblically, and not let your emotions rule your mind. Job was a wise enough man than to know better than to respond by reflex on the basis of his feelings. If he had listened to his own heart and given vent to his passions (as the typical counselor today would advise him) he could easily been consumed with bitterness, self-pity, anger, and frustration. He might even have been tempted to take his wife's advice: "Curse God and die!" But Job's very first reaction was the response of someone who knows something about God: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). Job filtered his feelings through his theology. It still did not make sense to him why he had to suffer like this. (That is why Job is 42 chapters long; it records the dialogue Job had with his friends as he tried to sort this out.) Still in the wake of so much tragedy, even though he had no answers and was overwhelmed with painful feelings, his immediate response made no mention of those feelings. He didn't voice any of the doubt or confusion he might have been

struggling with. Instead, his very first statement was a bold affirmation of what he knew to be true about God. Faced with the darkness of pain and loss, he didn't go chasing his emotions or wallowing in his uncertainty; he stood firm and clung to what he knew for sure. He anchored his soul on theological truths he was certain of, rather than setting himself adrift on a sea of confusion and doubt. This cannot be stressed too much: It was sound theology, not his feelings, that enabled Job to weather the immediate shock of the news that his children and everything he owned were gone forever. Here is a reminder of why sound theology is so importantand so intensely practical. Notice what truths Job clung to and rehearsed in that simple affirmation of faith: the sovereignty, righteousness, and goodness of God. Those were the central certainties in his theology, and they were the very truths that anchored him all the way through his trials. From start to finish in the book of Job, amid all Jobs complaints and pleading, he never once let go of these simple, foundational principles. 1. God is Sovereign Job was a staunch Calvinist. He knew and confessed instantly that God was sovereignly in control of his life, even though Job had every reason to feel like his life was spinning out of control. As the book of Job unfolds, he raises all the same questions anyone would ask in a situation like this. He wanted to know why. He wondered if he had done something to deserve judgment. He wondered if God was angry with him for something. He had lots of questions. But in that amazing, initial response, he simply affirmed what he knew beyond doubt: that God is sovereign and He therefore must have decreed what happened to Job: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away." He knew the hand of God was in it. He didn't rebuke Satan or even mention him. Job's focus was on God, and he knew this bitter providence could not have come to him apart from God's knowledge and express permission. But even so, Job didn't try to explain away God's sovereignty by dismissing it as bare permission. He knew God had a purpose in these afflictions. God wasn't a mere bystander, uninvolved and unconcerned. It is significant that Job used active verbs: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away." Job didn't blame God for the evil in the act, but he did not for a moment imagine that God was a helpless bystander when tragedy struck. That is a healthy view of the sovereignty of God. Job knew that God controls providence. He is still in control even when it seems like evil has taken over. In other words, when God gave Satan permission to afflict Job, it was a willing permission, not an involuntary concession that Satan tricked or goaded God to allow against His better judgment. God Himself had a purpose and a plan in this. It was His planordained by Gods decreebefore the evil plot was ever hatched in Satans mind. We know something of what went on behind the scenes in heaven because Job 1:6-12 describes it for us. Job didnt have the benefit of knowing what Satan was up to and why God 10

permitted it. Nevertheless, he trusted from the start that God was still firmly in control. Satan could touch nothing of Job's without God's permission. So if Job suffered, it could only be because God was allowing him to suffer. And that being the case, Job knew God had a good purpose in it. Job understood all those things even without seeing the scene in heaven, because he already had a right view of God's sovereignty. Furthermore, Job understood that God has a right to do with His creatures whatever He chooses. If He decides to allow us to suffer, He has every right to do so. In Job 2:10, Job tells his wife, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" The same sentiment would be expressed centuries later in Lamentations 3:38-41, where the prophet Jeremiah wrote, Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That woe and well-being proceed? Why should a living man complain, A man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord; Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven. Even Jesus said to Peter on the night of his betrayal, "Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" (John 18:11). So Jobs first reply was remarkably Christlike. Where did Job gain such a clear perspective? It was not something that arose from the grief and pain he was suffering at that moment, of course. But it was the perspective his theology had taught him. What he knew about God, not what he felt with his emotions, enabled him to endure this trial. 2. God is Just "In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong." (Job 1:22). What a remarkable statement! People often respond to disaster and loss by charging God with wrong. Job knew that God is just. So while acknowledging that God was sovereignly in control of all the tragedies that had befallen him, Job was careful not to blame God in any way. That is a difficult balance to achieve. There are even some CalvinistsI'd call them hyperCalvinistswho fall into the trap of blaming God for evil, blithely describing His sovereignty over evil in such a careless, ill-thought-through way that they make Him the efficient cause and instigator of evil. That is simply bad theology. Don't fall into the trap of wanting your doctrine of divine sovereignty to be so exclusive that you portray God as the author or agent of evil. He is not. Don't ever imagine that God exercises his sovereignty over evil in the same active way he exercises sovereignty over good. Don't ever suggest that God is the source or immediate cause of evil in the same way He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He is not the "creator" of evil in the same way He is the Creator of good. 11

In fact, evil is not a created thing. Evil is a defect in something God created to be good. When God finished His creative work, He pronounced everything "very good" (Genesis 1:31), so evil cannot be something God created. Evil is not a substance or a created thing. It represents the marring of what God created good. The agents of evil are Satan, the demons, and fallen humanity. We are the ones responsible for damaging what God made to be good. God's sovereignty does not change that fact. Now, God certainly permitted evil. It isn't something that caught Him off guard or took Him by surprise. He is not the helpless victim of evildoers. Evil was part of His plan from before the foundation of the world. He ordained it by decree. But He is not to blame for it. He is not the agent or author responsible for who deserves the blame for wickedness. He uses evil for His own wise and holy ends, but He doesn't sanction it, condone it, or otherwise approve it. Remember, according to Job 1:11, Satan challenged God to afflict Job. He said, "Stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" But God did not stretch out His hand and afflict Job. That was left for Satan to do. All God did was remove the restraints from Satan, and Satan was the agent of the evil. It is quite true that Job suffered according to the plan and providence of Godbut God was not the source of the evil; Satan was. Job fully understood that, and that is why although he knew God is sovereign, he did not blame God for the evil that befell him. We're not for a moment to imagine that God's sovereignty makes Him blameworthy for the evil that occurs in a fallen universe. To entertain such a thought would be to curse God in our heartsthe very thing Job was determined never to do. 3. God is Good Once more, note Job 1:21: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." In the midst of his trials, Job was blessing Godconfessing that God is good. That is the very opposite of what Satan claimed Job would do: "He will surely curse You to Your face!" (v. 11). Instead, Job emphatically blessed God's name! He knew that even in the midst of this horrible calamity, despite all the evil that had befallen him, God was good. Remember that Job did not yet understand God's purpose. He did not know about Satan's challenge. But he knew the character of God. That is why he was so tormented trying to figure it all out. But you can read all his complaints and protests, and you will see that he never once impugns the goodness of God. In fact, in Job 13:15, Job says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." He trusted that God was good. This is the very lesson the book of Job is designed to teach us: "My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord; that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful" (James 5:10-11). Even this horrible trial was a token of the Lord's mercy and compassion to Job. That is hard to grasp because of our human prejudices, but I am certain that when we get to heaven, we will 12

hear testimony from the lips of Job himself about the great goodness and compassion of God that came to him because of his trial. Dont misunderstand; although Scripture says Job was a righteous man, that doesn't mean he wasn't a sinner. It means he was a justified sinner. Job was not sinless. He acknowledged his need for a Redeemer in Job 19:25. And at the end of the book, when He gets an even better picture of God's greatness and sovereignty, Job's response in Job 42:6 is, "I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes." Some have suggested that there was an element of overconfidence or self-righteousness in Job. But remember that even Satan had nothing to accuse him for in chapter 1. Job was a faithful man. He was forgiven. He was justified. He had devoted his life to the pursuit of holiness, and there was no gross or life-destroying sin in his life. His conscience was clear of any unrepented sin, and he outlines that argument in chapter 31. So it ought to be clear that God did not afflict Job in order to punish him for his sin. God was testing him, proving him, and strengthening his faith. God's ultimate purpose for Job was good, even though the immediate effect was calamity. This was not punishment for his sin. Still, as a sinful creature, Job had no claim on any blessing of any kind. God could justly afflict him, because Job needed to be refined and strengthened. And the humility of Jobs first response to the trial proves that he understood those things, and he trusted the goodness of God. Consider this: Job's loss was temporary. All his afflictions were transient, passing afflictions that would eventually give way to an even greater weight of eternal glory. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Suffering is the price and prelude of glory. But while the suffering is temporary, the glory is eternal, and infinitely greater. That is our hope in the midst of suffering. God eventually gave Job back more than he had lost. Here's Job 42:12-17: Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days. When I first read that years ago, I couldn't help feeling that new sons and daughters would hardly make up for the children Job had lost. As a father, I cannot imagine the pain that would be caused by the death of one of my sons. A new child wouldn't ease the sorrow of loss or make up for the pain of it. So my first reaction to this passage, years ago, was to think this was scant comfort for Job. But remember, Job's children were righteous, too. So when he died, old and full of age, he was instantly reunited when them for all eternity. Even now, they are together in the Lord's 13

presence. Job, from heaven's perspective, can look back on that trial and say it was truly a light and passing affliction, and the Lord restored to him everything he ever lost, and more. That is our joy and our confidence in the midst of disaster. It may be contrary to the feelings we experience when we suffer loss, but from an eternal perspective, it is a far more solid rock on which to anchor our hope than the way we feel in the midst of calamity. That's why theology is so important. It teaches us that despite what we may feel, God is still in control; he is just and righteous; and above all, He is good. That is just what the promise of Romans 8:28 says, isn't it? "We know that all things work together for good." How do we know that? Because we know that God is good, and so no matter what He doesno matter how painful or hard to understand it may be for the moment we know He will use it for good. It is the very definition of faith to be able to cling to that promise, no matter what.

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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO CHURCH HISTORY (PART 2)


By Nathan Busenitz

Many people think of the Reformation as something that started with Luther in 1517. But the reality is that the Reformation was a movement that had begun to gain momentum much earlier than the sixteenth century. Back in the 1100s, 350 years before Luther posted his 95 Theses, a group known as the Waldensians began to teach that the Bible alone is the authority for the church. They defied papal authority, committed themselves to preaching the gospel, and even translated the Word of God into the common language of the people. They were severely persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church, and as a result often found themselves hiding in the Alps. In the sixteenth century, during the lifetime of Calvin and Knox, the Waldensians officially joined the Reformed Movement; because they recognized that the sixteenth-century Reformers valued the same truths that they had been committed to all along. In the 1300s, still two centuries before Luther, an English scholar named John Wycliffe began teaching that the church was in desperate need of reform. Wycliffe has been nicknamed the Morning Star of the Reformation because he affirmed essential Reformation doctrines like sola Scriptura and sola fide; he was also the first to translate the Bible into English. The Oxford scholar opposed the papacy, calling the pope the antichrist. Instead, he taught, Christ alone is the Head of the church. Wycliffe denied baptismal regeneration, opposed the mass, criticized indulgences, and taught that the clergy should be able to marry. The Roman Catholic church became so angry at John Wycliffe that, after he died, they dug up his bones and burned them in effigy. A generation later, in the early 1400s, a Bohemian preacher named John Huss thundered onto the scene. He was influenced by both the Waldensians and the teachings of John Wycliffe. And he was very popular in the city of Prague, where he lectured at the University of Prague and also preached powerfully to nearly 3,000 people every week innot in Latin, but in their own language. Like Wycliffe, Huss opposed the papacy and taught that Christ alone is the Head of the Church. And if Christ is the Head of the church, than His Word is the only authority in the church. And if His Word is the only authority, then the gospel must be defined from Scripture alone. In 1415, after being promised safe passage to the Council of Constance, John Huss was arrested, falsely accused, put on trial, condemned as a heretic, and burned at the stake. One hundred years later, Martin Luther would discover the writings of John Huss. He found them convincing and compelling, and they influenced him greatly. So much so, in fact, that in his own reform efforts, Luther would be nicknamed, The Saxon Huss. From the Waldensians in the twelfth century, to John Wycliffe in the fourteenth century, to John Huss in the fifteenth century, and finally, to Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox, Thomas Cranmer, and other Reformers in the sixteenth centuryas one can see, the 15

Reformation was a movement that began long before 1517. It cannot be limited to just one date, one year, or even one century. It was a tidal wave of momentum that engulfed over four centuries of history as the power of Gods Word burst forth and shattered the layers of false tradition that had petrified the church. In spite of some Roman Catholic claims, Martin Luther did not invent anything. He did not regard himself as a pioneer. Rather, he understood that he was building on a foundation that had been laid in the centuries before him. But this still leaves open the question of the early church. Were the Waldensians, or the followers of Wycliffe and Huss the first in church history to teach an evangelical gospel of grace alone through faith alone? The Gospel of Grace in the New Testament Before answering that question from church history, we first have to answer it from the Word of God. As evangelical Christians, Scripture alone is our ultimate authority. And while history provides us with wonderful affirmation of our evangelical convictions, it is not our final authority. Our understanding of the gospel must be established and grounded in the clear teaching of the Word of God. And it is in the pages of Scripture that we find the doctrine of justification by faith clearly presented. Here is a brief sampling of the many passages that could be cited in this regard. In Luke 18:1314, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus emphasized the fact that sinners are not justified through their own self-righteousness. Rather, God justifies those, like the unworthy tax collector, who cry out in faith and depend on Him for mercy. Romans 3:28 states that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Romans 4 presents Abraham as an example of that reality. And Romans 5:1 reiterates that since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. In Galatians 3:8, Paul again emphasizes that God would justify the Gentiles by faith. Ephesians 2:89 repeats that same truth For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. In Philippians 3:89, the apostle reiterated the fact that good works are worthless when it comes to being made righteous in the sight of God. He explained that he did not have a righteousness of [his] own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. Titus 3:57 says this: [God] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. As the above sampling demonstrates, the New Testament repeatedly establishes the fact that the believers righteous standing before God is not based on the good works that he or she has done; but only on the finished work of Christ on the cross. We are justified by His grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. 16

The Gospel of Grace in New Testament History But what about church history? How did the earliest Christians understand the biblical teaching on justification by faith alone? Perhaps the best place to start in answering such questions is New Testament history. After all, there is a place where both biblical truth and the historical record meetnamely, the book of Acts. The record found in Acts is both Scripture and church history. As I like to tell the students in my historical theology classes, church history is so important that God included a book of it in the New Testament. The book of Acts was written by Luke around A.D. 60, and it includes the first 30 years of the history of the church starting at the Day of Pentecost and ending with Pauls first imprisonment in Rome. Acts begins where the Gospel of Luke ends, immediately following the Resurrection. The first chapter centers on the Great Commission, which really serves as the outline of the book; Christs followers were to go and make disciples in Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. We see that mission unfold in Acts. In chapters 17, the gospel spreads throughout Jerusalem and Judea. In chapter 8, the good news is taken to Samaria. And in chapter 9, Saul is convertedhe is the one who will take the gospel to the Gentiles. In chapter 10, we meet the first Gentile convert, Cornelius. In chapter 11, we have the establishment of the first Gentile church in Syrian Antioch. From there, to the end of the book, we read about how Saul (whose Roman name is Paul) takes the gospel to the Gentile world on several missionary journeys. The book of Acts celebrates the advancement of the gospel. Yet, in the middle of Lukes historical record, a serious controversy arises over the very nature of the gospel itself. The issue was so important that the apostles met together in Jerusalem to settle the controversy. That meeting of the apostles is known as the Jerusalem Councilthe first council of church history. It met around AD 49 or 50 nearly twenty years after the church was established on the Day of Pentecost; and 275 years before the next major church council, the council of Nicaea. The Jerusalem Council convened to address one essential question: What is the essence of the gospel? Is it a message of grace alone? Or was it a message of grace plus works? The advancement of the gospel could not continue unless the right message was being proclaimed. In Part 3 of this series we will seek to answer those questions, before drawing parallels between what took place at the Jerusalem Council and what was happening during the Protestant Reformation.

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Preaching Behind Enemy Lines


By Rich Gregory The forum of ancient Corinth lies 1,800 feet below the towering acropolis of the city. It was upon that large chunk of rock where the ancient temple of Aphrodite was situated, spewing an immoral system of worship that seeped throughout the busy city far below. Within the forum of that city, literally in the shadow of that corrupt mountain, was the location where Paul stood before the judgment seat to give account of his preaching. The account in Acts 18 tells us that his ministry in Corinth had lasted for a year and a half, and had been tremendously fruitful. The Jewish sect within the city was finally so exercised by the success of the gospel that they rose up against him, hauling him in front of the governor. Archaeologists have unearthed this scene for the modern reader. They have uncovered the relatively intact bhma (pronounced Bema) seat within the forum where Gallio would have sat above the other local magistrates, who would have ringed the base of the judgment platform seated upon marble benches. They have also unearthed the marble post to which the great apostle would have been chained while being judged. These discoveries paint a scene that would have required a gutsy defense. A visit to the site of Corinth will reveal that Paul was literally surrounded by his enemies. The infamous meat markets and massive temple of Apollo would have been to his back. The pagan Roman praetorium with its imperial seal would have stood before him, directly behind the judgment seat. The Jews who had hauled him into the forum before the judgment seat would have flanked him, and the corrupt temple of Aphrodite would have risen over him. As he prepared to defend his faith upon that day, he was preaching far behind enemy lines cut off from the rest of the apostles, separated from the comforts of a cohesive congregation, endangered by the enemies of the gospel who surrounded him. This is the scene where the reader expects a lengthy Pauline treatise like the ones recorded from Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17), or from the judgment hall in Caesarea (Acts 24-25). And indeed, the text tells us, Paul was ready to give just such a defense. Scripture says that Paul was about to open his mouth (18:14) to begin a defense, when he was cut off and exonerated. Beyond the simple fascination over the pronouncement of his innocence is Pauls remarkable preparedness to square off in the hostile public forum. If given the chance, his defense would surely have been vigorous. The verb that Luke uses to describe the moment is the Greek word mellw, which is a very active, vibrant word. The emphasis specifically relates to the subjects intention. The same word is used in John 18:32 where the reader is informed that Jesus made certain statements in order to show what kind of death he was going (mellw) to die. He spoke of the kind of death he intended to die; His death 18

was imminent, active and intentional. The word reflects activity mixed with intentionality. Within this text, Pauls mind would have been racing as he took a breath and opened his mouth. He intended to give a full, vigorous, active defense of the gospel he had been preaching. And yet, he was cut off. Gallios more famous brother Seneca described the governor by saying that no mortal was ever so mild to any one as he was to all. Gallio had no interest in punishing Paul over what he deemed to be an internal dispute between the Jews. This was a critical moment in early Christian history. A judgment against Paul here would have distinguished Christianity from Judaism, effectively removing an umbrella of protection. If Paul had given a lengthy oral defense, it is possible that the perceptive Gallio would have recognized that the two were entirely distinct. In the providence of God, Paul was prevented from speaking, and the Roman world continued to identify Christianity as a sect of Judaism. Years later, when a distinction was made between the two systems, the church had already been well established. Here, on the second missionary journey, the time had not yet come. Despite the working of God through Gallio, Paul fully intended to preach in that hostile environment. In this, there are lessons for the twenty first century preacher. While the setting and the players may have changed, the pressures and the forces at work in our own day have not. If anything, the strains upon the preacher to cave have only intensified. Paul himself promised that in the last days, difficult times will comefor the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Tim 3-4). In a very real sense, many preachers today are still faced with the challenge of preaching behind enemy lines. With a postmodern mindset to their backs, a secular government before them, and an immoral culture looming above them, the pressures are ever present. Yet worst of all, often the hostile pressures are not just from without, but also from within. Many men labor in their preaching ministry, knowing that members of their flock are hostile to their message. How does a man face such internal and external strain, without losing the joy that must accompany his preaching? How does he unwaveringly proclaim when everything and everyone around him calls for compromise? The answer lies within the perspective of the mans heart. Pauls actions reveal the contents of his heart. He didnt wait for Gallio to ask for his defense. He didnt hesitate, wondering about the best course of action. He didnt vacillate from the full message. He did not shirk away from his duty as a gospel preacher. He immediately sought to open his mouth and speak. It was reflexive for him. When given the shot, he was compelled to pull the trigger regardless of the circumstances there in the Corinthian forum. This reflexive impulse to respond to threats with the gospel unveils a heart that is properly oriented.

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When Paul stood before Gallio, he was well aware that he did not serve the proconsul of Achaia. There was a higher judge upon a greater judgment throne who held ultimate governance over Pauls heart. All the pomp and the prestige represented by the Jews, pagans, and Romans who were present that day paled in comparison to the power of Pauls king. With homiletical tunnel vision, Paul didnt hesitate to execute his requirements as ambassador for that king. When given the opportunity, his heart was prepared, and his vision was filled by the king of heaven sitting upon His throne. As he would later write to the believers in that very same city of Corinth (2 Cor 5:20), it was his sole objective to execute his duty and privilege to act as an ambassador for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through him. What was his message? We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God! This is the very same job description for preachers today regardless of the audience, or the pressures in play. We are ambassadors with a message that must be proclaimed. Our hearts must be so overawed with the glory of grace, and our vision so filled by the holiness of God that when given the opportunity, faithful proclamation is reflexive, regardless of the cost. Like Paul, it must be our intention to preach at every turn. We must be described as men who are intentionally about to open our mouths. What God does with that message is according to His own sovereign plan, just as it was for Paul. As Paul wrote to the residents of Corinth regarding the duties of an ambassador, his mind must have recalled that day before Gallio. In the same chapter he stated that we must all appear before the judgment (bhma) seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10). Paul was aware that he would one day stand before the throne of Christ to give an account for his faithfulness in preaching the gospel. With that view in mind, he forgot about Apollo and Aphrodite. He forgot about the hypocritical Jews and the pagan Romans. He sought to preach for Christ. This must be the heartbeat of every preacher. Forgetting the distractions around us, our impulse must be to preach, and do it faithfully in full knowledge that like Paul, we will one day stand before the seat of judgment. In that day, the mindset and culture of our world will fade, and the number of friends and foes will cease to matter. The only factor will be, was I faithful with His message? Are you about to open your mouth with full intention to speak the truth?

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Love or Die: Revelation 2:4


Christs Commendation and Complaint By Alexander Strauch It wasnt easy being Christs lamp stand in a dark, pagan city like Ephesus. Expositor R. H. Charles comments that Ephesus wasa hotbed of every kind of cult and superstition.2The pagan temple of Artemis (Roman Diana) dominated the city and was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Emperor worship (the imperial cult) thrived in Ephesus and was a required duty of every citizen. Moreover, the city was a prosperous trade center and an immoral port city. Knowing all this, the Lord graciously acknowledges their toil and patient endurance. He praises this church because it had no tolerance for those who profess the Christian faith but justify an immoral lifestyle: I know. You can-not bear with those who are evil. Jesus also praises them for testing those who call themselves apostles and are not. Like the Berean believers, the Ephesians examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts17:11). When self-proclaimed apostles came to teach, the church tested their claims of apostolic authority and found them to be false. Consequently, the church found the teachers to be self-deceived agents of Satannot representatives of Christand rejected them and their teaching. You can be sure this took courage and determination. We know, then, that the church at Ephesus was a doctrinally discerning church. It loved truth and hated, as did Jesus, the works of the Nicolaitans, an immoral, heretical Christian sect (Rev. 2:6). Please take note: Jesus com-mends them for hating the corrupt teachings and practices of this false sect. Their hatred of the works of darkness was a demonstration of their love for Christ and Gods Word. Churches today need to understand that hatred of evil and falsehood is not a contradiction of love, but an essential part of genuine Christian love (1 Cor. 13:6). Love abhors what is evil and clings to what is good (Rom. 12:9). The Ephesian believers, then, were role models of theological vigilance. They were defenders of the truth and lovers of the gospel. They were uncompromising in their stand for biblical principles, and for this our Lord highly praises them. We also know that the Ephesians had faced great conflict. They had resisted the agents of Satan and patiently endured many other trying circumstances. So the Lord praises them, saying, You are enduring patiently and bearing up for my names sake and you have not grown weary. What a display of their loyalty and dedication! There was much to commend the church in Ephesus, and we should prize all of its exemplary qualities. The church could have written a best-selling manual on successful church ministry. However, all was not well. Something was fundamentally wrong, and Jesus Christ puts his finger right on the problem: Loss of love. In light of all the commendable qualities of this church, we might think of Christs complaint as trivial, but in his eyes, the church had fallen. It had abandoned the love it once had. To the one who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (Rev. 1:5), this is no small matter. Thus our Lord says, I have this against you. 21

A Failure of Love Our Lords complaint against the church at Ephesus is you have abandoned the love you had at first. Literally translated, the text reads: You have abandoned your love, the first. Emphasis is placed on the adjective first, so the love they abandoned refers to their love as it was first expressed at the beginning of their life together as a church body. Jesus doesnt say, You have no love. He says, You have abandoned the love you had at first. Their love was not what it used to be. While they still had some measure of love because they were, for the most part, true Christians and enduring hardship for his names sake (Rev. 2:3), they no longer possessed the kind of love they had in their early years as a church. They still loved the Lord, but not like they did at first. They still loved one another, but not like before. Their love for Christ and for one another had once motivated all they did. It brought joy, creativity, freshness, spontaneity, and energy to their life and work. But now their energy source was depleted. Their work had become mundane, mechanical, and routine, and their lives the picture of self-satisfaction. Instead of their love abounding, it had been lacking. Instead of being motivated by love from the heart, their works had become perfunctory. Even certain works, which sprang from their former love, vanished. For this, Jesus rebukes them and calls them to do those works again (Rev. 2:5). The object of their lost love is not stated. The text does not say love for Christ or love for fellow believers. It is best, then, to understand Jesus to mean Christian love in general, which would include love for God, love for one another in the church, and love for the lost. According to our Lord, love for God and neighbor are inseparable companions (Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27).It is impossible to love God and not love his people or to love his people and not love God (1 John 4:7-5:3). Jesus uses strong words in his complaint against the Ephesians. Jesus squarely places the responsibility at their feet when he says, you have abandoned or given up3the love they once had. They cant blame anyone else for this loss. They have had every advantage provided by years of good teaching, access to almost all of the New Testament Scriptures, and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. No wonder Christ expresses extreme displeasure with the situation in Ephesus. Their loss of love is their fault. They have failed to keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 21). They must now face this fact and respond to Christs criticism and counsel.

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