Learning About and Letting Go of Keswick Theology

jonathan-hoxmark-6VWTC9sWu8M-unsplash.jpgKeswick theology. The name may be unknown, but it views are ubiquitous—and most unhelpful!

In yesterday’s Sunday School lesson I mentioned the half-truth contained in Keswick theology—namely, that Christians need to submit themselves to God. However, the other side to Keswick’s equation, which is the untruth, is that this view of the Christian life devalues justification by faith, and it makes sanctification a singular and solely passive experience.

To appreciate the history, influence, and trouble of Keswick theology, let me cite a couple pages from David Calhoun’s history of Princeton Seminary. In a section on Princeton during the 1910s, he cites the mixed reception Keswick theology received at Princeton. In short space, Calhoun gives a brief history of the movement, as well as a constructive critique marshalled by B. B. Warfield. He writes (Princeton Seminary: 1869–1929, 305–06): Continue reading

How Does Jesus Fulfill the Law? Christ, His Teaching, and the New Covenant

jon-tyson-195064-unsplashIn Matthew 5:17 Jesus says that he has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. And as D. A. Carson has observed about these verses, “The theological and canonical ramifications of one’s exegetical conclusions . . . are so numerous that discussion becomes freighted with the intricacies of biblical theology” (“Matthew,” 141).

In other words, it is really easy to import one’s biblical framework into Jesus’s words. For how one understands the law and its use in the New Testament and how the New Testament relates to the Old Testament, will in large measure impact the way one understands Jesus’s words, which in turn reinforces, or reforms, our biblical-theological framework.

Therefore, the question before is, “How do we stay on the line of Scripture when we interpret Matthew 5:17”? By comparison with Matthew 10:34 (“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”) and Matthew 5:9 (“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”), we learn that Jesus “non-abolishment clause” in Matthew 5:17 may not be absolute. Sharing the same structure as Matthew 5:17, Matthew 10:34 does not mean Jesus has forsaken his peace-making ways. Rather, his peace-making will include the restructuring (and severing) of family relations in order to make a new family of  peace.

From this analogy, we learn there are some things in the Law that have come to an end—e.g., Hebrews indicates that Christ’s sacrifice ends the old covenant system of animal sacrifice. Therefore, we should go back to Jesus’s words to learn how to apply the Law. And thankfully, because of Matthew’s repeated and technical usage of the word “fulfill”/”fulfillment” (pleroō), we can get a good idea of how to understand the relationship of the Law to Christ and from Christ to us.  Continue reading

The Blessed Christ: How Jesus Exemplifies All His Beatitudes

bruno-martins-442303-unsplash.jpgAll the beatitudes that Jesus uttered in the Gospel,
he confirms by his example, exemplifying what he taught.
— Origen

If we want to understand what the Beatitudes look like in action, we should look to Christ. And if we want to embody the Beatitudes, it will require a long and loving gaze at our Lord. Why? Because as we see him, we gain wisdom to know how to walk as he walks, and more importantly, when we look with faith at Christ our hearts grow in affection for his way of life. This is how the Lord sanctifies us and transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What follows, therefore, is the slimmest confirmation of Origen’s assertion (cited by Davies and Allison, Matthew: A Shorter Catechism, 69)—namely, that in the Gospels and Epistles we find evidence that all that Jesus commends in the Beatitudes are displayed in his life.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Luke 23:46

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last

Acts 10:37–38

You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Matthew 12:28

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 17:20–21

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Isaiah 53:1–3

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

John 11:34­–36

And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”[1]

 

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 11:28–30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 21:5, citing Zechariah 9:9

5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

  

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 3:13–15

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

John 4:31–32

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  

 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 9:27

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

Matthew 15:22

22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

Matthew 17:15

“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

Matthew 20:30–31

30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Luke 7:47–48

47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

 

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Psalm 24 (cf. Psalm 15)

A Psalm of David.

1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah

John 1:18

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 6:45–46

45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

 

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 

Ephesians 2:14–17

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Hebrews 2:10

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

 

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 27:15–23

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

 

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

Six Marks of True Repentance

repent

For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
— 2 Corinthians 7:8–9 —

Repentance is a eminently biblical word and a necessary (if graciously-given) prerequisite for salvation (see Acts 5:31; 11:18). But often when some sheds tears over sin, it is difficult to know if this repentance in its biblical form, or a counterfeit sorrow for the bitterness of sin. Indeed, as Paul indicates in 2 Corinthians 7:8–9, there is a sorrow that leads to godliness, but as Pharaoh (Exodus 9:27; 10:16) and other false professors reveal, there is a sorrow for sin devoid of any spiritual grace.

For that matter, wise counselors, pastors, parents, and Christian encourager need to know the signs of genuine repentance. In short, because repentance means turning from sin; genuine repentance is seen in the abiding desire and effort to continually flee from sin by the power of the Spirit. As John the Baptist puts it, true believers “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

In this way, a simple principle for repentance is that time not tears is the mark of genuine repentance. But beyond time, what marks genuine, God-given repentance?

In answer to that question, Thomas Watson in his classic little book, The Doctrine of Repentance, suggests six things that accompany true repentance. In these six marks, which I summarize and expand below, Watson helps us see how sorrow for sin leads to abiding repentance. Continue reading

The Future Orientation of Salvation in the New Testament

samuel-zeller-358865When you think of “salvation” is it a past, present, or future reality?

If we let Scripture shape our thinking and the answer we give, it is surely all three. The elect of God have been saved (past tense) when they received and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:8). At the same time, those who have been saved are also being saved (see 2 Corinthians 2:15) and one day will be saved (Romans 13:11).

This way of thinking is not uncommon in biblical Christianity. As it is often framed, Christians are saved from the penalty of sin (past), the power of sin (presence), and will be saved from presence of sin (future). Each temporal aspect is true and cannot be divided from the other, but are they of equal stress in the Bible? Does Scripture place greater prominence on one aspect of salvation above the others? I believe so.

In seminary I read the book The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance by Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday. In their book, they show how the New Testament emphasizes a future orientation for salvation. That is to say, while salvation is a past, present, and future reality, it is the future aspect that is most often described and discussed.

This revelation surprised me, and I bet I’m not alone. Protestants are people who like to hear testimonies of someone “got saved.” We say things like: “At youth camp, 15 teens were saved.” And we like to ask questions like: “When you were saved?” All in all, while we may know that salvation has a future orientation, that is not the emphasis most evangelistic Christians seem to put on it. And that, I believe, is a problem. Continue reading

Let the Reader Understand: Interpretation That Sanctifies (1 Corinthians 10:1–13)

sermon photoTypology. Intertexuality. Biblical interpretation. Sanctification.

Those are esoteric subjects for a nerdy few, right? Well, I don’t think so. At least, according to 1 Corinthians 10, we see how the Apostle Paul cites ten different events in Israel’s history, which he says were written down for the church, as a means of instruction and sanctification.

In a section of 1 Corinthians where Paul continues to confront idolatry, Paul teaches us how to read the Bible and what ongoing purpose the Old Testament Scripture has for New Testament churches. You can listen to or read this week’s sermon. Below are discussion questions and resources for further study.  Continue reading

How the Spirit and the Word Prepare You for the Lord’s Supper

bibleWho can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
— Psalm 19:12–14 —

How do you approach the Lord’s table when your heart is uncertain of it’s spiritual condition? If you question the errors of our heart, as David did in Psalm 19 (“Who can discern his errors?”), what will compel you to confidently take the Lord’s Supper? Will you withdraw from the bread and the cup when sin plague’s your soul? Or might the Lord’s Supper be an appointed means of reconciliation via remembrance?

These are not hypothetical questions, but realities Christians face as we commune with a holy God. Paul warned that anyone who takes the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner “drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Therefore, he calls us to “examine” ourselves and “then . . . eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (v. 28).

But how do we do that? If our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and lead us to evil and idolatry (see Jeremiah 3:17; 13:10; 18:12) how shall we be able to examine ourselves? Thankfully, as with all aspects of salvation, God provides what he demands, and the answer comes in the working of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

By means of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit enables God’s children to rightly examine themselves and to come to the Table with fresh faith and repentance. Indeed, consider three ways the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to prepare you for the Lord’s Table. Or to put it the other way, here are three ways you should, by the Spirit, prepare your heart for communion with the Word of God. Continue reading

Made Alive By the Spirit: The Pneumatology of Galatians (pt. 1)

windIn Galatians Paul spends a great amount of time explaining justification. That is to say, he argues that people are declared “right with God” as they place their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In this way, Paul lays the ground work for the Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide: By Faith Alone are we saved.

In Galatians 2:16, he writes,

A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and no by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

And again in Galatians 3:10–14,

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse…but the law is not of faith, rather…’Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’–so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

However, this leads to the question, for those justified by faith, what does Paul say about sanctification? If salvation (in this case, righteousness) has nothing to do with personal holiness or obedience, how does Paul’s gospel restrain anyone from gross immorality or ethical indifference? His answer is the Holy Spirit. And in systematic fashion he unfolds in Galatians a powerful description of what the Spirit does in the life of the believer. While Paul does not undertake the task of providing a comprehensive pneumatology, he does provide a rough outline of the Spirit’s work from conversion to consummation, with the absence of the gifts of the Spirit.

In what follows, I will outline a brief pneumatology from the book of Galatians. Here is the outline. I will tackle three of these today and three in the next week or so.

  1. Born of the Spirit (4:29)
  2. Received the Spirit (3:2–3, 14)
  3. Alive in the Spirit (5:5, 25)
  4. Walk in the Spirit (5:16)
  5. Desires of… Led by… Fruit of the Spirit (5:17, 18, 22–23)
  6. Walk in the Spirit (5:25)

Continue reading

Preparing Your Heart for the Lord’s Supper

10In the crush of modern living (i.e., busy, scattered, fatigued, etc.), adequate preparation for the Lord’s Table is often overlooked. Combined with hearts that naturally pull away from grace and truth, growing Christians must take time to prepare for the Lord’s Supper. Time is needed to reflect on who God is, what Christ did, what you need to confess, and how you need to put to death sin in your life.

Still, even if time is made, some may wonder: How should I prepare my heart?

I was thinking about that as I preached on this subject on Sunday, and this is what I shared with our congregation. I pray it might help you as you prepare for the Lord’s Supper—this Sunday or the next time your church takes communion. 

How do you prepare for the Lord’s Supper?

When God descended on Mt. Sinai, he told the Israelites to take three days to prepare themselves for his arrival (Exod 19:10). Likewise, when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, they took three days to prepare for their entrance (Josh 3:5). So it is that the people of God, whenever they entered God’s holy presence, must purify themselves (cf. Leviticus 8–9).

In the New Testament Jesus picked up the same idea. When he celebrated the Passover, he went to each of his disciples and washed their feet (John 13). Though Peter objected at first, he learned the Master must wash him in order for him to abide with Jesus. Just the same, when Paul spoke of taking the Lord’s Supper, he addressed the need to consecrate ourselves for communion (1 Cor 11:17–34). Continue reading

Aesthetics Is Not Optional

Why aesthetics?

Aesthetics is kind of a funny word.  Using it in casual conversation could easily gain the charge of being esoteric (another funny word), but indeed, the word and its employment are essential for the Christian.

Even those who have never dabbled in the academic discipline of aesthetics are being shaped by someone to think about beauty, art, and culture.  It may come from the paintbrush of Thomas Kinkade or the pen of Wendell Berry.  The source does not make someone an aesthete.  We all assign beauty to certain things, and thus we should learn what the Bible thinks about beauty and how it plays a formative role in the believers salvation and sanctification. Consider four reasons why aesthetics is so vital for the Christian.

Continue reading