Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

Posts by

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...
One afternoon a group of bored boys decided to bother an old man working in his yard. After causing the man a little trouble they moved on. However, the town wherein they lived was a small one and so having recognized one of the boys the old man called on the father of that particular boy. When the...
For Christians, there are proverbial perennial questions that are, well, perennial. Every May graduating Christians seek the will of God for where they will take further education. Every college student wonders who God has for them on campus. And after boy meets girl and both graduate they labor to...
The opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is, for some, like watching paint dry on a wall! Genealogies are not everyone’s thing. But this genealogy ought to be. It’s obviously the genealogy of Jesus. Yet, not so obvious is the Davidic background of the genealogy. David alone is mentioned five times!...
He surely saw him from the boat. The Lord watched the erratic and unstable demoniac who was as unruly as the storm he had recently silenced. The man’s appearance alone made him an imposing figure against the otherwise peaceful shores of the Garasenes. One can’t help but wonder if the disciples...
I was once asked what I considered the best theology text. I took a breath and as I did the person reiterated, “ The best.” Their emphasis on the definite article reminded me that they wanted one and only one. It brought me up short as does the question before me. What one book has made a singular...
The story of the man born blind in John 9 is well known. It’s one of those stories that take work to read because we have to disabuse ourselves of contemporary concern for those with disabilities. For example, there were no Seeing Eye dogs, Braille books or reading machines. This man was a beggar...
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own a time machine? Who wouldn’t want to return as a spectator to the most significant moments in history? To witness bishop Leo face off with Attila the Hun outside the gates of Rome or Farel beseech Calvin to stay in Geneva or the Westminster Assembly debate...
I love to see families walking through the doors of the auditorium on Lord's Day morning. I see each of them as a living stone coming together to form a living temple in order to worship the living God. They were once like the dry bones of Ezekiel's vision scattered about in the valley of the...
A few weeks ago the session on which I serve was interviewing some young teenage girls for communicant membership in the church. When a child in the congregation I serve approaches me about making their profession of faith before the session I ask them two questions. First, I ask to hear their...
You have been so inquisitive. Your questions demonstrate your great desire to learn more of the faith. However, allow me in this last letter to speak to you about one of the greatest dangers facing the church today. You have been so zealous and sincere in your pursuit of the truth that you may feel...
I find that the greatest danger facing the church today is Christ-less Christianity. I realize that this expression will raise your eyebrows and well it should for what is Christianity if not Christ? But if I leave it undefined you will ask what it means in your next letter! So, let me describe the...
Several weeks ago I sent my cadre of writers a question. I asked them, “If you could identify and warn your fellow believers about the greatest spiritual danger that they may face in life what would it be?” I was a little shocked at how fast they responded. The response was immediate, which told me...
I could tell the young man standing in front of me was deeply concerned. It didn’t take long to find out why. A friend of his from another church was having a difficult time with the church’s leadership. He felt his friend had experienced an injustice. He wanted to help but didn’t know how and he...
I once read a book about how to read good literature. The author made a clear assertion. He said a meal is never just a meal. Now, I am not a lit scholar. I don’t want to argue for the veracity or falsity of his claim. But I would say that the Lord’s Supper is never just a meal. The Lord’s Supper...
On Monday, March 25, 2019, Rep. Stephanie Borowicz prayed at the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It was not the most eloquent prayer I have ever heard. In fact, Rep. Borowicz sounded a bit nervous and even looked it. Sometimes she had her eyes opened and sometimes closed. She used Jesus as a...
It is never easy to watch someone walk away from their profession of faith in Christ. It is never easy to go through the disciplinary process which may culminate in excommunication. It’s never easy and it is always painful. And when one and likely both of these things happen you can’t help but...
C. S. Lewis has been a helpful guide to many Christians and rightfully so. He has led countless weary travelers through the world’s wasteland in order to introduce them to the Christ of Christianity. And though his defense of the faith is well known and respected through works like Mere...
Tertullian and Irenaeus are the earliest witnesses to the Creed now known as the Apostle’s Creed. During their pastorates it was likely in its earliest form and known as the Roman Symbol. This early form of the Apostle’s Creed most likely appeared in or around 150 AD in Rome and was a response to...
The phrase in the Apostle’s Creed, “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” is packed with theological importance. Early on we learned that this creed was written to combat the theological deviance of Gnosticism. Everywhere the Creed indicates that the...
As we approach the Lord’s Day on any given Sunday, let alone one on which many of us will lose an hour of restful preparation due to the resetting of our clocks, how shall we listen to the sermon? Added to the question’s difficulty is the author of this article. Some will say, “Wait, don’t you...
But what does Paul mean that we were made the righteousness of God? According to Calvin, “Righteousness, here, is not taken to denote a quality of habit, but by way of imputation, on the ground of Christ’s righteousness being reckoned to have been received by us.”
In 1996 I attended a reformed conference in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. That year was my first as a seminarian and my second as a Calvinist. If I remember correctly it was the first reformed conference I’d ever attended. Although it has been over twenty years ago, I still remember the opening night...
Everybody loves the Joseph story. Chapters thirty-seven through fifty with the minor exception of chapter thirty-eight seem to be all about Joseph. And that is exactly why we have to remind ourselves that the story is not Joseph’s but Jacob’s story. Genesis 37:2 reminds us that these are the...
As a pastor, more often than not I sit with people who tell me that the gospel of grace is not enough. It’s not enough to restrain their anger, subdue their addiction and comfort their loneliness to name just a few of the things that the gospel is apparently impotent to cure. Some might even take...
I just finished preaching through Romans. So, what was my favorite commentary? Which one would I take to a desert island? Well, let me throw up a disclaimer or two. First, I never use a commentary that is, shall we say, more devotional in character, or better, readymade to preach. I did say never...
While rereading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol I recently read something I had forgotten. When Jacob Marley appeared to Scrooge his body was transparent, so that Scrooge could see not only the front of his long deceased partner’s waistcoat but the back of it too! But then this line appears, “...
The New Year is a time for lists. Top ten lists of this and top one hundred lists of that! So, at Place for Truth we decided to make our own list of tops. The first is a list of the ten most clicked (and hopefully read!) articles of 2018. The second is a list of the top five podcasts of 2018. Enjoy...
Several years ago I worked for a funeral director. On one occasion I travelled with him to another city in order to recover a body. The person, a younger person, had traveled and died while out of town. On the way to the city morgue my boss and I talked together. I found out later that he was...
Have you ever wondered why Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14? Perhaps the ready answer is that the quote substantiates the virgin conception and birth of Christ, which is true enough. However, the text raises a number of questions. For instance, why did God promise a virgin conceived and virgin born...
Panel discussions are great. I love the unscripted “off the cuff” format because it is in those moments that you often get the best help from a speaker. I remember listening to one such discussion and the speakers were asked what three or four books in addition to their Bible they would take to a...
For me, as for so many others, Sinclair Ferguson has been and continues to be one of my heroes in the faith. While a Ph.D. student at Westminster Theological Seminary he was one of my professors. What is more, while he was pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, I would...
Days are difficult but holidays can be even worse. For example, holidays like Thanksgiving encourage us to reflect on our blessings, count them one by one. But for some, the exercise is a discouragement and the first utterance brings only tears.
It is fitting that Christians should love the springtime of the soul, the bodily resurrection that will come in God’s time. But how much do we really know about the resurrection? Children often ask, “Will I know my mommy and daddy in heaven?” Wives want to know what kind of relationship, if any,...
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). I am captivated by this beatitude. All of them are deeply searching and logical. There is precision in every statement and in every promise. But I am not alone in saying that this particular beatitude holds sway over them all,...
Many Americans are still marrying but an increasing number are not. So, why aren’t people getting married these days? Recently, I was reading an article by a secular psychologist who offered several reasons for what he called the decline of marriage. First, new economic realities for women have...
I teach a small weekly Bible study that is attended by a couple of Roman Catholics one of which is practicing and the other is not. A third member has embraced the Gospel and broken ties with Rome. Recently, in one of these studies, I mentioned purgatory and received an instant, “Oh, we don’t...
“Why can’t you get past the objections of Luther and his progeny?” That was the question that came plaintively from the man who sat opposite the pastor in the coffee house. The Pastor, whose name was Peter, looked at him as if to say, “Haven’t I already explained?” I could see his frustration as I...
I will officiate at a wedding ceremony today. My wedding sermons aren’t really sermons but meditations. They are short but calculated. I view the wedding meditation as the last effort on the heels of pre-marital counseling to sink the arrow into the target. The target, of course, is the couple. The...
Perhaps the phrase that gets stuck in the throat when reciting the Apostle’s Creed is “He (Christ) descended into hell.” And if it does, it wouldn’t surprise me. It was difficult for John Calvin to utter the phrase despite having used the Apostle’s Creed to formulate his Institutes of the Christian...
Quite a while ago, I met a woman with whom I had attended a particular church several years earlier. At the time of our meeting we were both worshiping in different congregations. In the midst of the conversation, having discovered that I was reformed in my theology, she informed me that she too...
Many have known the Apostle’s Creed from youth. Likely, it is the most popular creed in Christendom. The Anglican Prayer Book simply calls it, The Creed, like Thomas simply called Aristotle, the Philosopher. It has primacy of place.
I recently read of one man’s experience as a student in the classroom of a famous professor. One student asked the professor, “What one trait separates the great scholar from all the rest?” The students sat in anticipation. Would it be pedigree, proclivity for languages, resilience, intelligence,...
While attending an academic conference this past year I went to a dinner with some friends and other conference attendees. The conversation around the table was spirited, wide ranging and a lot of fun. At one point, the conversation turned to the eternal generation of the Son. In the midst of the...
Recently, I was reading John Murray’s commentary on the book of Romans. I was struck by what I read. In Romans 4:3 we read, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now, we know that our faith is not the ground of our justification but this is what Murray said,
Benjamin B. Warfield wrote a little article for the Homiletic Review in 1897 titled, "The Indispensableness of Systematic Theology to the Preacher." As anything written by Warfield, it is a thoughtful and edifying piece with a clear aim. According to the Lion of Old Princeton, it is through Gospel...
The morning air was still cold when Martin Luther entered the shop of Peter the barber. Peter was not only the local barber but a surgeon able to perform minor surgeries like bloodletting and tooth extraction. Likely his specialty cut as a barber prior to the Reformation was the tonsure or the...
Over the last several years, some in the church have argued that a person may be oriented toward homosexuality but not act on the inclination or tendency. That may or may not be the case. However, the burden of this article is not that. In this article, I will demonstrate that to claim that...
Today, at Place for Truth, we are launching another endeavor in the hope that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ will be served by our efforts. We realize the truth of what R C Sproul once captured in a book title – everyone is a theologian! Therefore, the question is not whether you are a...
On December 22, 1898 the New York Observer wished its readers a “Merry Merry Christmas to All.” Following that wish was a wonderful gift. On every page of the Observer was something to direct the reader’s thoughts to the reason for the season. And on page 818 there is a poem called, “Young Luther’s...