Since 2013, I have taught the doctrine of humanity a half a dozen times. And in each class, I have put this question on the final exam: What is the most important doctrine for the twenty-first century?
I ask the question because in every era of the church there are unique theological challenges. For instance,
- In the second and third centuries, the church had to grapple with the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, as well as the errors of Gnosticism.
- In the fourth and fifth centuries, the church had to defend the deity and humanity of Christ, the proper understanding of the Trinity, and the divinity of Holy Spirit.
- During the Reformation, the church recovered the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the person and work of Christ alone.
- And nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the doctrine of Scripture had to be clarified, because scientific claims and critical methods of interpretation sought to make the Bible a book like any other.
These are but a few doctrinal disputes that have arisen in church history. By identifying doctrines with decades (or centuries), I am not denying the perpetual need to declare and defend all doctrines, but there are certain pressures in culture that cause the church to reassert or reinforce biblical doctrines. And when it comes to the twenty-first century, there is no more important doctrine than the doctrine of humanity.
That’s why I ask that question on my theology exam, and here is the reason. Continue reading →
“It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” Those infamous words, uttered by Bill Clinton under oath in 1998, should have told us that the world and everything in it was already succumbing to the deconstructive forces of postmodernism. Postmodernism claims that meaning is no longer found in what a human author intends or what the Author of life declares. Rather, meaning is decided by individuals or groups interpreting, or in most cases reinterpreting, the words others.
In college after college, postmodern ideas have sprung to life since the 1960s, and by 1998 such epistemic redefinitions and verbal deconstructions were emerging in the public square. Bill Clinton’s elusive response to a question about his relations with Monica Lewinsky was not abnormal for a culture celebrating transgression (think: the Hippies of the 1960s), raised on MTV (think: the teens of the 1980s), or enslaved to self-expression instead of submission to the truth (every generation since WWII).
Fast forward 25 years, add two decades of social media, a handful of contested elections, one global pandemic, and endless woke crusades in public schools and city streets, and it is not just language that has come under assault, it is everything that God upholds by the word of his power. To be certain, Christ the Lord reigns in heaven. But on earth, all is not well. And in our day, our cultural elites can’t even figure out what a man is, why women’s sports should only include women, or why children should not be exposed to drag queens at the public library.
In a word, the world has gone mad. And its insanity began when words could mean anything, or nothing, or something at one time and not another. Continue reading →
A few years ago I wrote this article on David Prince’s website. As I go to teach Systematic Theology 1 this week, I am reminded of it, and the need for theologians to be preachers.
In theology, we are not just called to study and store up knowledge of truth. We are called to study to show ourselves approved so that we may preach—or teach, or write, or counsel, or anything else that qualifies as heralding the good news—sound doctrine. To that point, I repost this article, in hopes that God may continue to raise up men sound in doctrine who will preach the Word.
When I came to seminary, I wanted to study the Bible and theology. Having never “preached” a Sunday morning message, I was uncertain as to the role preaching would have in my life. Ten years later, through a combination of providential opportunities and willingness to preach whenever I was asked, I have finished my theological education (Yes, it took a decade!) and have preached more Sundays than not.
For nearly five years I have filled the pulpit at my current church—first as a supply preacher, then an interim pastor, and last as the senior pastor. In the lustrum before serving at our church, I like so many of my seminary peers preached in nursing homes, urban missions, country parishes. It was a wonderfully painful time, one where precious little flocks like Corn Creek Baptist Church endured my preaching and helped me learn how to preach.
During that time, preaching was a priority, but so was theology. By training, I am a systematic theologian, or at least, that’s what my degree says. Therefore, as a pastor and a theologian, I feel a measure of familiarity with both vocations. And I feel a fraternal affection and responsibility to exhort aspiring theologians with what Paul commanded Timothy: Preach the Word! Continue reading →
Any time you read Revelation, it is like stepping out of reality and into a carnival of mirrors. Only those mirrors do not, or should not, reflect our own faces, so much as they reflect the prophets of the Old Testament, whose faces were reflected the glory of God’s Son.
While Revelation is a book that is filled with signs, those signs have a registered trademark—a trademark found in the Old Testament. And anytime we read Revelation we should labor to understand the book in its canonical context. To that end, let me offer three words of how to interpret and apply this chapter.
These three exhortations come from my last sermon on Revelation 12. But they would apply to any passage in this glorious and mystifying book. Continue reading →
True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.
— Jonathan Edwards —
In his classic treatise on nature of the Christian experience, Jonathan Edwards begins Religious Affections with a brief and fruitful examination of 1 Peter 1:8. As this verse stands in the middle of this Sunday’s sermon, I share the opening pages from the abridged and updated version. As many have experienced, Edwards writing is challenging, but his vision of God is glorious. Thus, it is always worth wrestling with words. Here, however, we find in language more accessible to modern readers an explanation of the way trials purify believers and enlarge our love for Christ and our joy in Christ. The section is not long and I share it as an introduction to Edwards, Religious Affections, and some of the themes we will see on Sunday.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him,
you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
— 1 Peter 1:8 —
With these words the apostle demonstrates the state of mind of the Christians to whom he wrote. In the two preceding verses, he speaks of their trials: *the trial of their faith*, their *being in heaviness through manifold temptations*. These trials benefit true faith in three ways.
First, above all else, trials like this have a tendency to distinguish between true faith and false, causing the difference between them to be evident. That is why in the verse immediately preceding the text, and in innumerable other places, they are called trials because they try the faith of people who profess to be Christians, just as apparent gold is tried in the fire to see whether it is true gold or not. When faith is tried this way and proved to be true, it is “found unto praise and honour and glory” (1 Pet. 1:7). Continue reading →
On Sunday, we started a new series in the book of Joel. Why? Because Joel speaks to a people who had seen God close the temple.
As churches across the country and around the world are currently “closed,” there is much to learn from Joel. Here’s the video of the first message in the series: Look, Listen, and Pray (Joel 1:1–14).
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
— Isaiah 5:20 —
This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday and with it, we remember the lethal decision of the Supreme Court in 1973 to legalize abortion in our country. In the 47 years since Roe v Wade, and its accompanying case (Doe v Bolton), more than 61 million babies have been aborted in our country.
Put into perspective, this means that 61 million babies created by God, made in the image of God, and created for the glory of God, have been killed in the place where God brings life into the world. A mother’s womb should be the safest place on earth, yet in our day it has become one of the most dangerous.
At the same time, countless lies have been used to deceive women to pursue abortions. Uncertain or unaware of other options, institutions like Planned Parenthood have preyed on women, presenting abortion as their only hope. In other instances, men (fathers, boyfriends, and husbands) have pressured women to have abortions. And still other women vulnerable to lies, have aborted their babies because they believed it was the best way out of their situation. Continue reading →
As we approach the first Sunday in January and the first Sunday in Via Emmaus Bible reading plan, here are 50+ sermons on Isaiah, ordered in three ways.
- The first section includes sermon overviews by Mark Dever (1 message) and Trent Hunter (5 messages). They will help you get the big picture of the book.
- The second section is composed of selected sermons by various preachers. I will continue to add to this list. If you know of any exemplary sermons on particular passages in Isaiah, please add them in the comments.
- The third section is dedicated to the series sermons preached by Ray Ortlund. I can’t wait to listen to many of these sermons and I encourage you to do the same.
Listening to good expositional sermons is an excellent way to learn the book of Isaiah and to love the God who gave us this book. Take time to listen to some of these sermons and be sure to respond in prayer to them, even if you hear them on the go. Again, if there are other good sermons to add to this list, please let me know (email@example.com).
Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading →
From the pattern of Moses and the Old Testament priests to the teaching ministry of Jesus, biblical exposition has a long track record in redemptive history. In the New Testament, the citation and explanation of Scripture (i.e., biblical exposition) continued. And this is most evident in Acts and Hebrews, the two books we will focus on here.
The Expositional Acts of the Apostles
In Acts, Luke gives a selection of exemplary sermons by Peter (Acts 3-4), Stephen (Acts 7), and Paul (Acts 13-14, 17). In each, the Spirit-filled preachers appeal to the Old Testament, retell the history of Israel, and explain how Jesus Christ fulfills God’s patterns, promises, and prophecies.
For instance, in Acts 13:15 Paul and Barnabas are invited to give a word of exhortation (a sermon?) “after reading from the Law and the Prophets.” It is easy to see the pattern of exposition here: read the word, preach about the same word. Paul paid attention to his audience, but he faithfully proclaimed God’s Word according to the pattern of sound words that was found in the Old Testament.
Of course, from the terse details in Acts, we cannot replicate the form of the apostle’s exposition, but we can see their commitment to explaining the Old Testament Scriptures: They showed how the Old Testament related to Jesus, and called their audiences to repent and believe. Continue reading →
In preparation for Sunday’s sermon on worship, here are ten observations from Deuteronomy 4:9–31.
1. The middle section of Deuteronomy 4 can be divided into three time-plotted windows.
The first window looks back to the gathering of Israel at Horeb (4:9–14). The second window looks at the people present before Moses. It warns Israel to remember their covenant and not worship idols (4:15–24). Then, te third window looks to the future, to a day when Israel will be scattered because of sin; it also offers hope and the promise of Israel’s restoration because of God’s mercy (4:25–31). From this chronological presentation, Moses shows how the covenant with Israel extends from past to present and from his present to future.
2. The main point of each section is related: Guard your heart!
In verses 9–14 Moses says (twice!), Guard your heart by remembering the covenant made at Mount Horeb. The double command of guarding is seen in verse 9, when Moses says, “Only take care (šmr), and keep (šmr) your soul diligently, . . . ”
Next, verses 15–24 repeat the focus on guarding as Moses exhorts, “Therefore watch (šmr) yourselves very carefully.” In this section, the warning moves to the present, as he urges Israel to guard their hearts from idolatry by remembering who they are—a people redeemed by Yahweh (v. 20).
Last, verses 25–31 foretells a time when Israel will forget God and break their covenant. In other words, they will fail to guard their hearts. Nevertheless, in their failure, God will remain faithful. And Moses promises Yahweh will guard Israel’s future by remembering “his covenant” (v. 13) . As verse 31 states, “For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.”
From this reading, we can see how “guarding” is a theme that runs throughout Deuteronomy 4. Continue reading →