Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

Sound Doctrine & the Expository Pulpit (Part 6)

Similarity No. 5:

the Purity of Doctrine

Fifth, Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur have been keenly aware they must exposit doctrinal truths. This focus has yielded a depth lacking in other expositors.  Murray observes there is “a growing difference between the older, [G. Campbell] Morgan tradition of exposition and MacArthur’s. In his case, as with Lloyd-Jones, the devotional thought is grounded on the bringing out of clear doctrinal principles. Exposition needs to lead hearers to doctrinal certainties.”  Lloyd-Jones
and MacArthur have been committed to preaching biblical and systematic theology from each text.

 Theology on Fire

Lloyd-Jones was adamant that true preaching must be doctrinal preaching: “What is preaching? It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.”  Each sermon, he maintained, must set forth doctrinal truths. To this point, Lloyd-Jones reiterates: “Preaching must always be theological, always based on a theological foundation…There is no type of preaching that should be non-theological.” With deep conviction, he states: “You cannot deal properly with repentance without dealing with the doctrine of man, the doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of sin and the wrath of God against sin.”  In other words, preaching must be aimed at teaching “doctrinal certainties.”

Consequently, Lloyd-Jones believed that strong preaching demands that the preacher have a strategic grasp of systematic theology: “To me there is nothing more important in a preacher than that he should know it and be well grounded in it. This systematic theology, this body of truth which is derived from the Scripture, should always be present as a background and as a controlling influence in his preaching.”  For Lloyd-Jones, sound doctrine was the very backbone of his preaching. Each passage must be tested by the analogy of Scripture and show its perfect consistency with the rest of Scripture.

Murray explains that for Lloyd-Jones, preaching expositionally is “not simply to give the correct grammatical sense of a verse or passage. It is rather to set out the principles or doctrines which the words are intended to convey. True expository preaching is, therefore, doctrinal preaching, it is preaching which addresses specific truths from God to man.”  Without teaching the doctrine of a passage, a sermon is devoid of power. Thus, Lloyd-Jones asserted, “The purpose of studying the Scripture is to arrive at doctrine.”  Setting forth the doctrine of the passage, he believed, is essential to the sermon.

The Faith Once For All Delivered

This same focus upon sound doctrine is found in MacArthur’s preaching. This noted preacher writes: “The pastor’s purpose is not to make Scripture relevant to his people but to enable them to understand doctrine, which becomes the foundation of their spiritual living.”  No matter what people want, MacArthur states, solid theology must be put forth. He writes: “People’s ears may be itching for anything but sound doctrine, but the faithful pastor will defy the spirit of the age, confront his own fear, and boldly preach the truth anyway.”  Accordingly, he states: “In his preaching and teaching, it should be the pastor’s sole objective to enlighten his congregation in doctrine that protects and preserves their spiritual health.”  In other words, right living results from right doctrine.

In MacArthur’s preaching, Murray notes: “The necessity for doctrinal content—the making clear of biblical principles—became an increasingly important part of MacArthur’s preaching.” To this end, MacArthur states: “Authentic Christianity is concerned first and foremost with truth. The Christian faith is not primarily about feelings although deep feelings will surely result from the impact of truth on our hearts. It is not about human relationships, even though relationships are the main focus in many of today’s evangelical pulpits…Biblical Christianity is all about truth.”  Consequently, MacArthur stresses that the absolute nature of truth necessitates that every pastor teach sound doctrine. He writes: “An excellent minister is to disseminate sound teaching to all people at all times through all means. That is the heart and soul of the ministry.”

Regarding current trends, MacArthur notes: “There is much relational preaching today that attempts to make people feel better about themselves and about how God might feel about them, but there is little forceful defense of the full truth. As in most periods of church history, strong and effective defenders of the faith are at a premium.” Expositors of sound doctrine is the dire need in this present hour, he believes, those who uphold the standard of sound words. Such a commitment to preaching “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” galvanizes the pulpit.


Article by Dr. Steve Lawson (used with permission)

Jack of all trades, master of none

He’s the “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  I am referring of course to the role of Senior Pastor.  As the ‘leader among leaders’ I am responsible for providing overall oversight to all the ministries that make up the First Baptist Church of Freeport.  That does not mean however that my hand is equally deep in every pot.  I certainly embrace the plural leadership model but now I digress.

I am going on year four as the lead pastor/elder at FBC, Freeport.  My main task is to “feed Jesus’ sheep” (John 21:17).  To “devote myself to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).  To “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2).  I am also responsible to shepherd the flock of God  (1 Peter 5:1-4) with my fellow undershepherds; and to provide pastoral oversight (1 Thessalonians 5:12, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:17).

When I graduated from seminary I sort of thought that I would finally be able to read what I wanted to read rather than simply digest what my professors asked me/us to take in.  That assumption is partially right.  For example I am currently reading Rick Holland’s, Uneclipsing the Son, Earl Blackburn’s, Jesus Loves the Church and So Should You, Douglas Bond’s, The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, and Carl Trueman’s, Reformation; Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow for my soul’s sake.  Those books or authors peaked my interest and so upon purchasing them I evidentially got around to reading them.

This might surprise you but most ordinary pastors are not seminary professors.  Very few of us are subject matter experts on anything.  I love to study church history but I am certainly no Iain Murray or Nate Busenitz.   I love systematic theology but I am no Ph D.  I enjoy studying the original languages but I am most definitely not a Bill Barrick, a Bill Mounce, or an Abner Chou.

Part of this comes back to my opening sentence.  We local church pastors are the “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  For example, over the past few years I have read Singing and Making Music, Worship Matters, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, and parts of Christ-Centered Worship.  Why?  If I am going to provide helpful biblical oversight to a local church ministry in need of some TLC then I need to educate myself accordingly.

The same thing is true with my expository pulpit ministry.  I am currently preaching through Colossians 3:17-4:1 (the Lordship of Christ in Relationships).   When I finished my exegesis of verses 18-19 I then turned my attention to commentaries and to helpful books on marriage.  That meant over the past few weeks I’ve read or reread Feminine Appeal, Biblical Womanhood in the Home, and parts of Radical Womanhood and the Exemplary Husband.

I am also involved each year in a leadership training and development ministry at our church.   This particular ministry is exclusively geared towards our men (leaders and future leaders, per 2 Timothy 2:2).  Guess what?  That means that I need to reread the books that Pastor Steve and I are asking our guys to read.  So I am enjoying (again) books like When Good Kids Make Bad Choices, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Stop Dating the Church, Blame it on the Brain, He Is Not Silent, The New Testament Deacon, Grudem’s Systematic Theology etc, etc.

As the Senior Pastor I am also involved in various counseling relationships.  This means my wife and I may be enjoying for the eighth time the wonderful teaching of The Excellent Wife or the Exemplary Husband .  Or I may be reading with a counselee At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry or Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

At the end of the day what I thought six years ago when I graduated from seminary was only partially true.  I not only get to read what I want to read but I also read and study what I need to read and study.  That is one of the reasons why most of us pastors are indeed “the Jack of all trades, masters of none.”

Are You a Dispensationalist?

Here is my attempt to answer this question in an article posted at I wrote this about eight years ago—so it’s not as nuanced as something I might write today (i.e., I’m so much smarter now, blah blah blah)—but it’s a good representation of where I’m at on the question. In addition, here is a response to my article by non-dispensationalist Nathan Pitchford. The editor of invited me to write a rejoinder to Pitchford’s response, but my schedule would not allow. If you’re looking for the best available explanation of the core elements of dispensationalism, see Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths by Dr. Michael J. Vlach (Theological Studies Press, 2008), which I reviewed here. It will help you answer the question of whether you yourself are a dispensationalist.

The problem with deaf falcons

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anaarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

(from William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919)

Evangelicals have lost the “theological center,” and this theological center is the Bible’s center. With no center, of course things fall apart. The problem, however, is not that the gravitational center of the Bible’s theology cannot hold. The problem is more along the lines of what Yeats described as the falcon not hearing the Falconer. That is to say, if we will listen carefully to the Bible, it will proclaim to us the glory of God. If we do not hear this, the problem is with us, not the Bible (James M. Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgement, 40).

The significance of Bell on Time Magazine

I have a free subscription to Time Magazine (thanks to unused air miles, bargain?). Mine usually comes on Saturday, so as of today I have not seen the new cover for myself. As you have probably heard, Rob Bell’s vision or lack there of, of eternal punishment is all the rage and it is the feature for this week’s Time. In my current edition of Wall Street (yes, also free) it tells me that Mr. Bell’s book is # 3 in non-fiction, the irony of the “non-fiction” label is not lost on me either. That does not mean that it is #3 in all the books on the subject but it is #3 in all books! That is what folks in the publishing world might call a “good day.” No actually, they are probably foaming at the mouth to sign Bell, if they haven’t already, to his next work of non-fiction.

When I watch phenomenons like this I immediately begin to think of the angles that no one is talking about, not even when the great minds get together. Being imbedded into the current culture does not always afford us the opportunity to see the big picture. So here is something to ponder when, say, fifty years from now folks look back at this week’s cover of Time.  In 1959, Paul Tillich made the cover of Time and some in evangelicalism blew a gasket. Then again in 1962, Karl Barth made the cover and some began to sell their livestock and move to the mountains. So, yes, Rob Bell’s teaching is damaging and it is error of the first order. However, in the big scheme of things, and I do mean big, it is nothing more than a pimple on history’s tan line. Is there any church, worthy of the NT designation of “church” that is growing and flourishing today because of Barth or Tillich? Are either of these heavy weights a threat to the Lord’s work in the world through His church? So what is the significance of Rob Bell today? If you live in the moment then there is probably nothing bigger, save who gets voted off Dancing with the Stars. However long-term, I don’t see anyone caring fifty years from now, just ask Mr. Tillich.

A Five-Year-Old’s Refutation of Open Theism

One morning several years ago, I was perusing an article about Open Theism, and my five-year-old daughter walked up and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was reading an article about the Bible. Then I asked her, “Jessica, do you think God knows for sure what will happen tomorrow?” She chuckled at the silliness of the question—as if to say “of course”—and said, “Yeah, He knows everything.” Then, after a brief pause, she added, “And He knows everything right now.”

Biblical Growth (Sanctification)

Biblical Growth (Sanctification as presented in Colossians 2:18-19)

is totally dependant on Christ (the Head).

is always stimulated by God the Father (the Source)

is according to the sovereign means He alone designs including but not limited to active body life. (the Plan)


Is the Sabbath required for Christians?

I have touched on the issue of Sabbath a few time here at ET with a few comments and quotes (See Is the Sabbath for everyone?, Is Sunday the Sabbath?, Is the Sabbath abolished?, Remember the Sabbath?). To date, the best book I’ve read on this is the classic From Sabbath to Lord’s Day edited by D.A. Carson.

Justin Taylor has recently posted excerpts from Tom Schreiner’s upcoming book with an edgy, postmodern title, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law. I found his answer to the question, “Is the Sabbath Still Required?” one of the most succinct answers I have ever read on this difficult subject. Read the whole thing here. Here is the conclusion of the matter:

Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16–17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord’s Day fulfilled or replaced the Sabbath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which believers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day.

“Word to your mother” ~V. Ice

Who’s building the kingdom? (a few quotes)

Our survey of Jesus’ teaching concerning the kingdom reveals that it was announced as “near” at the opening of his ministry. In the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom and the supernatural power displayed in miraculous signs, the kingdom actually invaded human history. The salvation blessings prophesied of the kingdom age were now present. But the idea of a present “reign” of Christ over His kingdom on earth, whether seen in the church or in the total world, is never taught. Nor did Jesus teach that we are to be building the kingdom during this time (Robert Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, 101).

The actualisation of the rule of God is future. And this future determines man in his present. The call for conversion comes to the man who is set before God and His rule. Where man responds to this call in faith, i.e., in obedience, he is in touch with the kingdom of God which comes without his co-operation, and the Gospel is glad tidings for him (Karl Ludwig Schmidt, TDNT, 1:586-87).

The fact is that we as human beings are not going to be able to bring about the establishment and consummation of God’s kingdom. Despite all our best–and genuinely good–efforts to make the world a better place, the kingdom promised in the Bible will only come about when King Jesus himself returns to make it happen (Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?, 92).

Are You a True Calvinist?

Disagreements abound on the question of what exactly makes someone a true Calvinist, and that’s why I’m here—to set the record straight. Put simply, being a Calvinist has little to do with affirming the teachings of a 16th-century theologian and much to do with following the antics of a six-year-old boy. More specifically, you are only worthy of the label “Calvinist” if you are able to demonstrate a working knowledge of Bill Waterson’s cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes.

I know this sounds a bit elitist, but I have found myself greatly offended on many occasions by people who run on at the mouth, saying things like, “Oh, wow, am I ever a great big Calvinist!”, but who don’t even know the name of Calvin’s schoolteacher. (It’s Miss Wormwood, for all you Arminians.)

This leads me to what I think is a reasonable test for determining whether or not you are true Calvinist. Put simply, if you can’t answer at least 10 of the following 12 questions about Waterson’s Calvin, please keep your so-called “Calvinism” to yourself and leave the rest of us purists in peace. It’s hard enough out here.

  1. What is Calvin’s favorite breakfast cereal?
  2. What is the name of Calvin’s favorite bedtime storybook?
  3. What is the name of the bully at Calvin’s school?
  4. What is the name of the superhero that Calvin becomes?
  5. What is the name of Calvin’s babysitter?
  6. What is the name of the invention that Calvin uses to reproduce himself?
  7. What is the last name of Susie, Calvin’s “friend” at school?
  8. What is the name of Calvin’s club (it met in his tree house)?
  9. What is the name of Calvin’s uncle (his dad’s brother)?
  10. What did Calvin’s dad like to do with the family while on vacation?
  11. What is Calvin’s favorite sport?
  12. What is the first thing that Hobbes would often do when Calvin arrived home from school?

So, other than Rich Ryan, any true Calvinists out there?

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