Thursday, November 15, 2007

What to Look for in a Pastor

A survey conducted in Scotland revealed that the following are the qualities considered to be of prime importance in a pastor:

1. Leadership skills
2. Developing Abilities
3. Recognising Abilities
4. Knowledge of denominational principles
5. Good communicator
6. People focused
7. Knowledge of church structure
8. Practical work experience
9. Management skills
10. Active participant in the community

I do not suppose an American list would be much different.  But what kind of requirements does God have for men who would serve the church as a bishop/elder/pastor (in my understanding and study, different terms that refer to the same office, highlighting different aspects of it)?  One thing that strikes me as odd in this list is that one can be and do all the things in it and have a rotten character.

Thabiti Anyabwile has completed a study of this question in a series called "Finding Reliable Men."  It is based on 1 Timothy 3:1-7 – an inspired list of qualifications – and can be accessed by the links below.   It is time that churches started looking for and training up men who meet God's standards, rather than looking for CEOs and civic leaders.  I highly recommend this series: 1) for pastors - keep fighting the good fight and stay pure; 2) for aspiring pastors - this is a high calling; and 3) for church members - God calls us all to cultivate the same qualities with the exception of "able to teach" and we should not lower the standard for those who we call as pastors.  These are the qualities we ought to focus on seeing in future elders and candidates for pastoral positions.

Introduction: Finding Reliable Men
Above Reproach
One-Woman Man
Temperate, Self-Controlled, Respectable
Able to Teach
Sober, Gentle, Peacemaking
Not Lovers of Money
Leaders at Home
Mature and Humble
Finding Reliable Men: Well Thought of by Outsiders

(HT:  Mike Gilbart-Smith)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism: Related Resources

Said at Southern has posted my review of Mark Dever's recent book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.
Thanks to Crossway for providing a review copy.
Endorsements for the book are here.
Free sample: Foreword, Introduction, and Chapter 1 (free .pdf) Another excerpt: "What Evangelism Isn't"
Below are some resources for further study.
Books & Resources Dever refers to in The Gospel and Personal Evangelism:
Especially for pastors:
Related resources by Dever:
In February 2006 Dever delivered a number of messages on evangelism at Sovereign Grace Ministries' Pastors' College Evangelism Conference. These four talks are available as free MP3 downloads.

Free download of the message that the book is based on: The Gospel and Evangelism.

Evangelism: What It Is and What It Isn't (Noah Braymen's summary of Dever's talk from the 2007 Gospel Growth Conference) - there is a chapter quite similar in the book.

In this Adrian Warnock interview with Dever, they talk about his book on evangelism.

The book is also referenced briefly in this interview with Gary Shavey. "Election, the Gospel and Evangelism" Founders Breakfast 2006 (CD: $3 plus $1.50 S&H; Download: $1.50 - and worth it!) - Dever points to Romans 9 and 10 of proof that God's sovereignty motivated Paul to evangelize and it should move us as well.

Update (1/30/08):

Al Mohler’s review of the book

Al Mohler interviews Dever on personal evangelism

(HT: Justin Taylor, Said at Southern)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book Review-Give Praise to God

Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, eds., Give Praise to God: a Vision for Reforming Worship (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R, 2003), 516pp. Indices: Scripture, and Subject and Names.
reviewed by Doug Smith
Give Praise to God celebrates the legacy of James Montgomery Boice, late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. While not a book about Boice, this book honors his commitment to the glory of God by considering various dimensions of worship. The editors present a foreword, introduction, eighteen chapters, and an afterword from eighteen respected church leaders primarily from Presbyterian and Baptist backgrounds. In addition to the editors themselves, R. C. Sproul, Edmund P. Clowney, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Mark Dever, Terry L. Johnson, D. Marion Clark, Richard D. Phillips, Paul S. Jones, Donald S. Whitney, William Edgar, W. Robert Godfrey, Nick R. Needham, Hughes Oliphant Old, and Michael S. Horton contribute to this tome. Most chapters are so helpful as to deserve their own review, but space will only permit a brief survey in comparison to what this work deserves.
This book is the fruit of much research, experience, and zeal to help Christians think more biblically about how we are to worship God. It is divided into four sections.
Part one, "The Bible and Worship," begins with a helpful consideration by Ligon Duncan of what God says about how we ought to worship. Derek Thomas defends the regulative principle of worship, concluding that it frees us from the whims of men to worship God according to the Bible. Edmund Clowney writes on "Corporate Worship As a Means of Grace," but seems to skate over the surface and not really explore exactly what he means by "means of grace."
Part two covers the "Elements of Biblical Worship" in detail. Al Mohler makes a compelling case for expository preaching and Mark Dever shows how it ought to proclaim the Gospel, no matter what text the preacher is covering. Duncan and Terry Johnson urge the public reading and praying of the Bible, something that many "Bible-believing" Christians have sadly neglected. Marion Clark's chapter on the meaning and practice of baptism is helpful and thought-provoking even to those of us who reject infant baptism. Richard Phillips thinks deeply about the Lord's Supper and the practical considerations that attend it. Paul Jones persuasively defends the use of "hymnody in a post-hymnody world," while Terry Johnson invites us to the riches of Psalm-singing, arguing for inclusive psalmody (as opposed to exclusive psalmody, which permits no hymns of human composition).
Part three focuses on "Preparing for Biblical Worship." Don Whitney calls us to worship God daily in private, while Duncan and Johnson cry for a return to family worship, both chapters providing practical suggestions for including Scripture, prayer, and song in those times. William Edgar reminds us that we are to renew our minds in order to worship God in all of life. Robert Godfrey looks at the role of the emotions in worship, briefly critiquing Jonathan Edwards while upholding the legitimacy and necessity of emotions that issue from faith in Christ.
"Worship, History, and Culture" is the fourth and final part of the book. Nick Needham gives a very helpful and fascinating overview of "Worship Through the Ages" that covers a wide spectrum of time periods and church traditions. Hughes Oliphant Old explores "Calvin's Theology of Worship." Michael Horton proposes that the answer to the "Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today" is a countercultural faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is so contrary and offensive to this present evil age.
This book is a refreshing and relevant contribution to the literature of the church and worship. It is refreshing and relevant for the same reason: it prescribes faithfulness to the Bible, not a desire to cater to the whims of culture and marketing gurus, as the driving force in defining our philosophy and practices. It reminds us that worship is centered on God, not man, and that this God has spoken and made matters very clear about how He is and is not to be worshiped. Expositional preaching, substantive Scripture readings and prayers, biblically based songs, and obedient observance of baptism and the Lord's Supper should characterize our local churches. We should be regularly engaged in worshiping God as individuals and families. We need to apply His Word to all of life, loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Attention to the issues discussed in this book should deepen our sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of God. It serves to instruct our minds with truth so glorious that reverence, joy, and praise should be the inevitable results.
This book certainly belongs in the hands of church leaders, particularly pastors and music ministers. Church members would also profit from considering the material in many of these chapters, because this book calls us all to think rightly about how we approach and interact with God. It reminds to look to God's Word for instruction on worshiping Him, helping us to avoid the idolatry we are so prone to. A welcome antidote to the man-centered, market-driven ideas that masquerade as wisdom on worship, this book shows us why and how we should Give Praise to God.
This review has been submitted to RELATED RESOURCES: Robert G. Spinney wrote a booklet (free .pdf) to "highlight the key points" of Give Praise to God: “Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: an Appeal for Word-Based Corporate Worship.” Hartsville, TN: Tulip Books, 2006. An adaptation of the chapter by Ligon Duncan and Terry Johnson, "A Call to Family Worship" (free .pdf download accessible from the link) A lesson from Don Whitney: "How to Pray Through Scripture"

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Pragmatism of Party Politics

Lately, there has been a bit of hullabaloo about the endorsement of presidential candidates by major Christian leaders. Related to this is a meeting of Mitt Romney with various faculty, staff, and alumni of Bob Jones University . My point here is not to criticize one particular decision but to think out loud about the mindset that we're locked into a two-party system where we seemingly always have to choose between the lesser of two evils. It seems to me that this is symptomatic of an overly pragmatic mindset.

Pragmatism is nothing new. From Machiavelli to much of the modern church growth movement, people have defended questionable choices by "the end justifies the means" or "never criticize what God is blessing." Of course, doing what works is not bad in and of itself. The problem is when we do "what works" to accomplish our goals in a way that violates biblical principles. To adapt one illustration I've heard, of course it's right to feed your family, but if you kill a man to rob him of his money so you can go buy food, you've obviously crossed a line.

Certainly, when we survey the landscape of the candidates, there is not much that appeals to those of us who are Christians. For many, a worst case scenario would be if we were left with Rudy and Hillary as the final candidates for the two major parties. If this happens, will many of the Christians who have assumed or defended voting either Republican or Democrat still do so? Will they still cast a vote for someone who supports abortion just because that candidate is considered the lesser of two evils?

Pragmatism may often utilize questionable methods to obtain a good goal. But I must wonder if many of us have the right goal. For many, the goal is to "beat Hillary" [unspoken implication, at least for some: at any cost]. But, why not vote with principle for a good reason? Why should we even consider compromise on a basic issue like abortion? Why not see the goal of our voting not as to beat Hillary but to honor the Lord? I have not done enough research to tentatively know who I will likely vote for in 2008. But one way I have tried to vote with principle is by voting for a third party in the last two presidential elections. I was not sufficiently satisfied with certain stands taken by the candidate many Christians voted for, but I was satisfied with the platform advanced by the Constitution Party (their website details some serious concerns about this upcoming election's major candidates). Did I think this would result in a win for them? No. Did I realize this might increase Al Gore's chances? Yes. But I could not cast my vote on those considerations alone. I had to ask myself if I could go to sleep with a clear conscience, believing I had pleased God with my vote. I had to be willing to lose to make the decision I thought would best honor Christ, who God has set up as the true King of all (Psalm 2:6).

While many of us have no desire to see Hillary in office, we must remember, that even if this happens, Christ still reigns. I do not pretend to have all these things figured out in how everyone should cast their vote. But, I think this much is clear: in our thinking about who holds the executive office of this country, let us submit in all things to the One God has set up as Lawgiver, Judge, and King. And that submission may mean forsaking pragmatism and being willing to lose an election in 2008 for the sake of acting as citizens of a heavenly kingdom.

HT: Ben Wright

Friday, November 09, 2007

Book Review-What Is a Healthy Church?

Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2007), 126pp.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

This book is new, but it's not really new. What Is a Healthy Church? first appeared in public as a series of articles in a church newsletter. It then became a booklet ("9 Marks of a Healthy Church" – free .pdf), and later a full-size book ( Nine Marks of a Healthy Church). Now it is a small book. And it seems to get better each time. So, what is a healthy church?


Mark Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C., and founder of 9Marks Ministries. His prescription for a healthy church is provided here in a very useful format. The book is divided into three sections: 1) What Is a Healthy Church?; 2) Essential Marks of a Healthy Church; and 3) Important Marks of a Healthy Church. In part 1, he explains how Christians are to relate to a church and how the church's purpose is to display the glory of God. Parts 2 and 3 give the nine marks, with the first three considered essential (expositional preaching, biblical theology, and a biblical understanding of the good news) and the last six designated as important (a biblical understanding of conversion, evangelism, and church membership; biblical church discipline, discipleship and growth, and church leadership). One should probably not be a part of a church that is defective in the essential marks, whereas more patience, love, and instruction may be what are needed to develop the other six marks.

The book challenges us to think seriously about the church, and not consider it an "option" for Christians, but part of who we are. It reminds us that the diet of a healthy church is faithful expositional preaching, where God's Word is exposed constantly, so that hearers are not limited by a proclamation of what the preacher already knows. Biblical theology helps us in knowing the full counsel of God and not avoiding controversial yet important teachings such as election, man's depravity, and the nature of the atonement. The Gospel message is clear, as is the nature of true conversion and faithful evangelism, which proclaims the good news and calls for repentance and faith in the Savior. Church membership is a serious matter, as it entails commitment and responsibility on the part of members and an affirmation of their salvation by the church to which they belong. Church discipline is important to protect the purity of the church and its testimony. While discipline "is fraught with problems of wisdom and pastoral application," that is no excuse for its neglect, as the message sent by a lack of discipline is that the unrepentant church member is okay, when, in reality, the church should not be able to honestly affirm their salvation. Discipleship and growth lead to increasing self-denial and personal holiness in believers. Church leadership should be modeled after the plurality of elders seen in the New Testament, while the final authority lies in the congregation. Church leaders are to be mature men who have the ability to teach God's Word.

Dever gives caveats to church members and pastors encouraged by this material: don't try to see change happen too fast; pray, wait, set a good example, and love the people of your church. Extras include tips for those thinking of leaving a church, how to find a good church, and what a typical church covenant of a healthy church could look like.


What Is a Healthy Church? is an easy, fast read that challenges much modern thinking about the church (even among conservative Christians). It is simple, helpfully provocative, and to the point. Church members as well as pastors and seminarians would profit from this resource, which has fertile soil for further reflection. Whether you have Dever's materials already or have never read him, this little book is well worth picking up (only $5 from 9Marks). It is recast in such a way that I find it helpful to have along with the more detailed Nine Marks of a Healthy Church book.

While substantive, the book is an introduction to these ideas, and not a handbook for fleshing them out in great detail (Paul Alexander and Dever wrote The Deliberate Church for that purpose). By no means a full ecclesiology, this book deals briefly with matters such as baptism and the Lord's Supper as they relate to the nine marks set forth. It is written with the understanding that a healthy church will celebrate the ordinances, and live out other normal practices of the church, such as praying together.

The book reminds us of the importance of the church as God's vehicle for displaying His glory to the nations. His Word is central from creation to consummation, and ought to be preached faithfully, not neglecting any part of the Bible. Therefore, preachers ought to, in some way, preach systematically and regularly through the Bible. It is a necessity for a healthy church.

It is important for the health of the church to understand what a true Christian is. Therefore, we should not idolize numbers. Regularly having attendance far below a church's membership should be a scandal and shame to us. We should not simply see the praying of a prayer as the evidence of "successful evangelism." Rather, we should proclaim the Gospel and its demands clearly and pray that the lost will come to Christ in faith and follow Him. We certainly need to be obedient in evangelism, but we also need to trust God for the results as we share the good news as He has revealed it in His Word. We should make the true nature and value of membership known, both in taking in new members and disciplining those who refuse to repent of known sin. We ought not to give testimony, even implicit affirmation, that people are Christians when their lives loudly and consistently proclaim otherwise.

The view of biblical eldership set forth in the book may be hard to swallow for some. But Dever makes a convincing case by the usage of the word in the Scriptures. He also shares personal benefits he has derived from being one of a group of elders. A plurality of qualified, godly leaders would do much toward improving and maintaining a healthy church, particularly in circles where churches often center around a strong personality. It can be a protection for the preaching pastor as well as for his people. Dever writes of biblical eldership, "If implemented in our churches, it could help pastors immensely by removing weight from their shoulders and even removing their own petty tyrannies from their churches."

This book presents old truths in a fresh way. These are foundations that are easily assumed or neglected. What Is a Healthy Church? confronts us lovingly and clearly with the meat and potatoes of what it takes to begin displaying God's glory to the world as His church.

Read the Table of Contents, the Introduction, and Chapter 1 (.pdf files) online for free.

For more on discipline and church government, see Polity, edited by Mark Dever, and available as a free download here.

Here is another review (Trevin Wax).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Defining Key Words in the Lordship Debate: Discipleship and Conclusion (Part 7 of 7)


by Doug Smith


A disciple is a student – one who is a learner.  This learner is a follower of a teacher.   Inherent in the concept of a disciple is that the student is in a position of subjection to a higher authority, the teacher.   The student is to learn from that teacher, and such learning involves listening and obedience.   Failure to fulfill one's duties as a student rightly results in discipline.  Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31). There could hardly be any controversy that a true disciple is a follower of Jesus.


The controversy lies in the identity of a disciple.  Are all believers disciples?   Or is discipleship a second-stage, advanced level for those who want to go deeper in their relationship with Christ?


To be sure, being called a disciple does not ensure salvation.   But, on the other hand, to be saved is to a disciple, contrary to assertions by teachers who deny the necessity of trusting Christ as Savior and Lord.


Jesus recognized the fact that some [so-called] disciples were not true believers.   Notice his words in John 6:64-66 and how some of these disciples reacted:


But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.   And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.    From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.


Although Jesus recognized that some who were called disciples were not true believers, other statements of His indicate that true believers will truly be disciples.   In commenting on John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow

me," D. L. Moody observed:  

Christ's sheep have two marks: –

(1.)   In their ears,            "They hear my voice;"

(2.)   In their feet,             "They follow me."


When Jesus invited people to come to Him, it was not first to believe and at some later time become disciples, but to believe and become disciples:


Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.   (Matthew 11:28-30)


Notice also the Great Commission:


And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.   Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:   Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)


Here Jesus says that discipleship is an integral part of evangelism.   In the English Standard Version, the rendering of the KJV "teach all nations" in Matthew 28:10 is given this way:   " make disciples of all nations."  Christ could have said, "Make believers," but said, "make disciples."   These disciples are to be taught by the followers of Him who has all power (authority) to keep all His commandments.   Is discipleship an option for advanced Christians?  Is it an extra credit track?   No.   Discipleship is part and parcel of what it means to be a true believer in Jesus Christ.




The issue of what role faith and works play in salvation is a matter of eternal consequence.   It is not a game of words in Wonderland.   What we mean by these important terms and how we interpret the Bible will inform our understanding of salvation, how we live our own lives, and how we communicate the Gospel to others.   It is about the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ.   We need to know its meaning.  That meaning is not determined by teachers who act like theological Humpty Dumpties from the fantasy land of Alice.  We gain understanding by a thorough reading of the Scriptures, whose source is the God of the Word.   This God has the right to determine meaning, and has spoken clearly and revealed that meaning in regard to the role of faith and works in salvation.   He is not playing word games with us.


[1] D. L. Moody, Moody's Notes From My Bible (Chicago:   The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1895), 139.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Defining Key Words in the Lordship Debate: the Package Deal of Justification and Sanctification (Part 6 of 7)

by Doug Smith

Justification and sanctification are two important terms concerning salvation. The two should not be confused, as they are not identical, but neither should they be divorced, according to the Bible’s teaching. They are distinct, but inseparable.

Justification is a declaration of righteousness, or conformity to the law of God. Proverbs 17:15 says, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” A contrast is given here; justification and condemnation have opposite meanings, but share the fact that they both are pronouncements. These pronouncements do not make the person wicked or just, but simply state (whether truly or not) something about the person. It is possible for a wicked person to be declared righteous and possibly for a just person to be condemned (declared wicked). Saying that an innocent person is guilty by no means makes a person guilty. Nor does merely saying that a guilty person is innocent legitimately remove that person’s guilt.

So, justification is the declaration of God that someone is righteous. But the Scriptures give more information concerning exactly who God justifies. He justifies people through faith apart from their works, or through faith alone: “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). Romans 4:5 says, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness”.

When one compares these Scriptures, particularly Romans 4:5 (which tells us that God “justifieth the ungodly”) to Proverbs 17:15, it sounds like God is one who “justifieth the wicked” and would therefore be an abomination to Himself. Has God violated His own standard in justifying guilty sinners?

This same question may legitimately be raised by a reading of Exodus 34:6-7:

And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God,

merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping

mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no

means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon

the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

The Scripture says that God forgives sin, and that He will by no means clear the guilty. How can both things be true?

This apparent “riddle” of how God can legitimately justify sinners is solved by the substitionary and penal nature of Christ’s death on the cross for sinners and the double imputation [1] secured by that death. Romans 3:24-25 speaks of “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” In other words, until Christ died on the cross, it may have looked like God was merely winking at past sins. But on the cross, He publicly poured out His judgment on sin on Jesus Christ and publicly showed His mercy for sinners in the same act. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” On the cross, Christ was punished for the sins of others. These sins were imputed to Him, or put to His account. Therefore, forgiveness of sin may be rightly secured. Furthermore, the positive imputation of Christ’s righteous life is credited to the account of those who believe in Him, so that, although they are wicked and not righteous in themselves, God can legitimately declare them righteous because of what the perfect Son of God has done on their behalf. So, in the cross, and nowhere else, God justifies the wicked and condemns the just – but only rightly because Christ became a substitute for sinners. This is how God can be “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, emphasis mine).

This justification is a once-for-all declaration that secures peace with God and a life with Him forever. Notice the completed past action spoken of in Romans 5:1 (ESV): “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:30 says that those “whom he justified, them he also glorified,” giving hope to believing sinners that their eternal destiny to be with God in heaven was secured.

There is a justification of works spoken of in Scripture, but it should not be understood as a contradiction of the clear teaching of the Bible that we are justified through faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone, concerning our standing before Him. But the Scripture also makes clear that faith is accompanied by works.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?

can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one

of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give

them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith,

if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I

have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my

works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and

tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not

Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And

the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto

him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by

works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot

justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out

another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14-26)

Good works corroborate true faith by making it public to others, and so declare us righteous in the sight of others, who cannot see that naked faith through which alone a person is justified in the sight of the God who saves sinners for the purpose of doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Whereas justification is the one-time declaration of a sinner as righteous, sanctification is the process of making that person righteous, holy, and godly. 2 Corinthians 3:18 describes sanctification this way: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” “From glory to glory” is translated this way in the ESV: “from one degree of glory to another.” In other words, sanctification does not happen all at once, but takes time. One makes progress to the proportion he beholds God’s glory in His Word. The goal of God saving sinners is to make them like Christ, to conform them “to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).

Whereas justification is by faith apart from works, sanctification includes faith and works. To the unbelieving sinner, God gives the commandment to repent and trust Christ. To the believer, God commands the pursuit of holiness. “But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” How then can obedience and growth in the Christian life be considered optional by some?

Justification and sanctification are two distinct things, but they are both necessary components of the package in salvation.

[1] Imputation is an integral part of the Scripture’s teaching on justification. We are declared righteous before God because our sin was imputed to (credited, reckoned, put to the account of) Him and His righteousness is imputed to us. This great exchange has been illustrated in Zechariah 3:4, where these words are spoken concerning Joshua the high priest: “Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” So, filthy rags (our sin) is exchanged for a pure robe (the righteousness of God). A similar illustration would be if someone went millions of dollars into debt and was unable to repay it, but someone then not only paid their debt, but put to their account billions in the positive. This idea of imputation is at odds with the Roman Catholic teaching that justification is based on the infused righteousness of Christ, the idea that God declares people righteous because God has actually made them righteous in themselves. If this were true, then it would be true that God actually judged Christ for sin that was in Himself, but this is not the case; He only treated Christ as if He were a sinner since He was dying as our substitute. The Roman Catholic understanding confuses justification and sanctification.

NEXT TIME: Discipleship and Conclusion

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Defining Key Words in the Lordship Debate: Regeneration (Part 5 of 7)

by Doug Smith

Following Christ as Lord and doing good works are not ultimately a result of human effort (although they involve human choices and activity), but are the product of God's work in the hearts of people. This work is called regeneration, and it gives a new nature to the one who is born "again" or "from above."

The new birth is essential for salvation, even for the most religious person. Jesus said to Nicodemus (who was a highly regarded religious leader and teacher) what may have been shocking words, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

The new birth is a gift from God. It comes from the Spirit of God, not from human efforts: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). The new birth is a mystery beyond human control: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). The apostle Paul makes the point that regeneration comes from the mercy of God, not man's effort: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

The Bible not only speaks of the need and source of regeneration, but of its results. Regeneration results in faith and good works. A person regenerated by the will of God has faith in Christ: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). A regenerated person is a person with a new nature: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the same chapter, this is written: "he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:15). "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). A new person should live a new life.

[1] Phillip Johnson, executive director of John MacArthur's Grace to You radio ministry and an elder at Grace Community Church, has said that a comprehensive study on what "no-lordship" teachers have taught about regeneration would be a vital contribution to the understanding of the debate about the role of faith and works in salvation in "The Lordship Salvation Controversy" a 2006 message downloaded from (click to download: GL-064-000-PJ).

NEXT TIME: Justification and Sanctification

Monday, November 05, 2007

Defining Key Words in the Lordship Debate: Lord (Part 4 of 7)


by Doug Smith


When one speaks of salvation through trusting Christ, the concept that Jesus is a Savior is clear.   What, for some, is not so clear is whether saving faith takes as its object Christ as Savior or Christ as Savior and Lord.  In other words, can one trust Christ as Savior but not as Lord?   To discern the truth about this matter, one should examine the idea of Lord in the Bible and search out whether there is a connection between the lordship of Christ and salvation.


There are two words translated as Lord in the New Testament:   kurios and despotes .  Kurios is the most common word for Lord, appearing 747 times, while despotes appears 10 times.   Five times despotes is translated as Lord while it appears the other five times as master or master's.  Six times the word refers to God, while the remaining four occurrences refer to slave masters.   Kurios is translated 720 times as Lord, lords , or Lord's, while it appears 13 times as master, masters' or masters, or master.   A form of Kurios is also rendered as sir or sirs (12 times), God (1 time), and owners (1 time).  Kurios usually refers to God.  When Jesus is specifically spoken of as Lord or directly addressed as Lord, the word kurios is always used, so it should be the focal point of study for this issue.


What do the terms Lord , sir, master , God, and owner have in common?  They all denote someone of position and rank.   Furthermore, the idea of authority and therefore the right to give commands is inherent in each term.  Even the word sir, which may seem tame because of its identification as a common term of respect, probably had a meaning of a person who was the father or originator of another or one who had authority and dominion over others.  


Some try to explain away the idea of authority inherent in the word Lord, trying to convince others that submission to the "Lord Jesus" is an optional, second-level of Christianity for those who want a deeper commitment.   But can this idea be sustained?


Charles Ryrie argues that the title of Lord does not indicate that Jesus is automatically the Christian's master, but only that Jesus is received as God [1].   Certainly, Ryrie's assertion that Lord can mean God is a valid one.  In addition to its translation as God in Acts 19:20, kurios is the word used to translate the Old Testament JEHOVAH (the same name as YAHWEH/YHWH, and sometimes shortened into JAH/YAH) into Greek.   This is the name of God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3, and is a name that refers only to the true God of Israel.    In the English Old Testament, this name is usually represented by an all-uppercase LORD.  In most editions of English New Testaments, it is represented as the standard word Lord.  Compare the following Scriptures (my notes in [brackets]):


Old Testament

New Testament quotation/translation

The LORD [JEHOVAH] said unto my Lord [adonai], Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1)

The LORD [kurios] said unto my Lord [kurios], Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? (Matthew 22:44)

And thou shalt love the LORD [JEHOVAH] thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)


And thou shalt love the Lord [kurios] thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)


These Scriptures clearly refer to God.   Notice that the same word is used to translate the Hebrew JEHOVAH and the Hebrew adonai.  JEHOVAH is related to the words God used to speak of Himself as "I am that I am," denoting His self-existence (an attribute no other being can share), and is the name that evoked memories of His covenant relationship to His people, and faithfulness to keep His Word.   The word JEHOVAH was traditionally replaced with adonai out of reverence for this sacred name of God; the vowel markings in the Hebrew manuscripts give the vowels (added later) for adonai , and the original pronunciation may actually be lost.  Adonai means sovereign master or lord.  The concepts in both of these words are fundamental to the Biblical teaching about God. 


That this same word kurios, which translates JEHOVAH and adonai, is used for Jesus, certainly bolsters the claim that its meaning is God.   This is further reinforced when one surveys the teaching about Jesus' identity in the Gospels, and the way religious leaders responded to His claims (attempting to stone Him on more than one occasion because they perceived His words to be a claim to deity).


The claim that Lord = God in the New Testament, when referring to Jesus, is certainly credible.   But the idea that defining Lord as God in relation to Jesus eliminates the idea of submission to His lordship is in credible.  It makes no sense to say that Lord = God, therefore obedience to Jesus is optional, when God, as the true Supreme Being, and Author, Originator, and Creator of all, has unlimited rights over His creation, including the authority to tell everyone what to do.   Lordship is part of God's very essence.  In trusting Him to save us from our sin (not only its consequences, but the love of it and commission of it), we also trust Him to guide us with His Word to keep us from sin.   We are seeking to move from a life of disobedience to a life of obedience.  Constant refusal to submit to Christ's lordship is evidence that one has no desire to be saved from sin.   The Christian will not render a life of perfect obedience; only Christ could do that.  But part of what it means to be a Christian is that self and sin are no longer one's lord, but that Jesus Christ now calls the shots.


The one who is offered to sinners as a Savior does not leave His lordship as an optional part of the package.   Jesus' lordship was presented as part of his identity as Savior:   "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).  When we are called to trust Christ for salvation, part of that call is to trust Him as our Lord:   "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10:9).   As God, He certainly has authority.  Every knee will one day bow to this Lord (Philippians 2:10 -11), who asks this question of those who claim Him as Lord:   "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Luke 6:46)?  One may conclude that a salvation without Christ's lordship is a salvation that is defective and ineffective.


Some may respond in this way:  if Christ must be Lord and Savior to every believer, then every believer must obey perfectly, or else Christ is not actually their Lord.   As the Scripture says, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Romans 6:16)?   They may say that this text proves that if one is sinning, Christ is not his lord, but if one is obedient Christ is his Lord.  But notice verses 17-18, written to Christians:   "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.   Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."   Believers were the servants of sin, but obeyed, became free from sin, and became the servants of righteousness .  Yet we also know that Christians still sin ("If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," 1 John 1:8).   How can these truths be reconciled?   I believe it has to do with one's position before the Lord.  The non-Christian who sins is acting according to his natural state of being a sinner.   The Christian who sins is acting according to his natural state as a sinner but against his state as a child of God.   Lordship for the Christian does not mean perfect obedience anymore than being an employee means you will always please your boss, to whom you are subordinate and to whose authority you submit.   Likewise, the child of God may not render perfect obedience, but he recognizes God's authority in his life as his Lord.


[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago, IL:   Moody, 1969, 1994), 182.


NEXT TIME:  Regeneration