In seminary, we were taught that a sermon should never be about the man who preaches it. John the Baptist’s creed, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30) is the model by which all ministers are to approach Gospel-ministry. There is, however, one exception to this rule. In “the Sermon on the Mount,” the One preaching the sermon is preaching about Himself. Without knowing the Preacher, the message of the sermon will have little significance for the hearer.
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” These words of the disciples in Mark 4:35 are hauntingly familiar. I think of Job and his questions in response to a life filled with so much pain and trial. I think of David in the Psalms and his being surrounded by enemies and crying out, “How long O Lord.” But mostly, I think about the question that is often upon our lips when bad things happen, "Does God really care?" When we are in the midst of trials this tends to be an all-too-human response.
Cotton Mather - A Life of Suffering
Augustus Montague Toplady and His Defense of the Gospel
Augustus Montague Toplady was one of the many young people who turned to Christ through the ministry of John Wesley. He was also one of the many who called Wesley out on his departure from the teachings of the Reformed confessions.
Effectual Call and Effectual Shock
My first exposures to Protestant-Catholic conversation were more like shouting matches than dialogues. Speakers took a confrontational approach and charges flew on both sides. In my mind, they sound roughly like this
Protestants charge, "You…"
Preach salvation by works
Take Scripture from the people
Create rites, saints, and false means grace
Rob Christ of glory and give it to Mary
On January 1 1519, Ulrich Zwingli became the pastor of the principal church of Zurich, Switzerland. When he preached through the New Testament from the Greek, the Reformation began in that city. Zwingli taught salvation by grace and justification by faith; he also compared what he saw in his church to what he read in Scripture. Four years later, church folk heard Zwingli say fasting during Lent had no biblical basis, and decided to force the issue by publicly eating sausage at the start of Lent.
Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation. In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.
Humans have been fascinated by themselves since the earliest times in the history of our race. From the crude stick figures painted on the walls of caves in prehistoric times through to the sophisticated image of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, or the mathematical musings around the Fibonacci sequence in the beauty and balance of the human form, there has been a never-ending search for the perfect paradigm for humanity.
I heard a comment recently from one of the young men in our church that gave me pause for thought. He said, ‘I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon about assurance.’ My initial reaction was to frantically cast my mind back over the last 40 years trying to remember if I myself had ever addressed the subject (thankfully I have), but then I began to wonder why this vital topic has apparently been neglected both in the pulpit and in Christian literature in more recent times.
This month, the Alliance is pleased to offer a free MP3 download of Discipleship from the Alliance Teaching Series. Curated from years of biblical teaching, Discipleship presents listeners with thirteen encouraging messages on sanctification, the Church, and the Christian life. Download your copy here!
Our featured resource this month is The God of Creation – Truth and Gospel in Genesis 1 by Richard Phillips. We've discounted the price, so get your copy at Reformed Resources today!
“As long as he believes in something, that is what’s important.”
With those words the man in front of me simultaneously dismissed the authority of God and justified a younger relative who had embraced an animistic system of belief. For the older gentlemen, it was the act of believing in something supernatural that mattered, not the object of that belief itself.
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof….neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation” (WCF, 19.5) Obviously, the Westminster Divines were not claiming that one’s obedience merits anything before God. They knew their Bible. The Jews had sought to establish their own righteousness on the basis of their law keeping and failed.
Luther once said, “Whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between the Law and the gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture.” John Newton wrote something similar, “The correct understanding of the harmony between law and grace is to preserve oneself from being entangled by errors on the right hand and on the left.” When the leading soldier of the reformation and one of the wisest pastors of the 19th century speak on the difficulty of understanding the relationship between law and gospel we know that we have a real task ahead.
Theology becomes a dangerous weapon when its terms become rhetorical arrows with which to shoot adversaries instead of tools that are supposed to lend clarity to whatever topic is under discussion. Antinomianism is perhaps one of the most abused terms in theological discourse. It is meant to be a characterization of a theological position, but it often becomes a word employed to call in question one’s ethical or spiritual condition as well.
Richard Webster referred to five widely differing views regarding subscription in the colonial Presbyterian church as: “the Protesters, the excluded, the silent, those who were dissatisfied with both parties, and the absent.” The modern church may find itself in a similar position. The subject of these essays has not always been agreed upon.