Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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The blows of a brother are the best kind. I thought of that proverb when I read Benjamin B. Warfield's assessment of Charles Hodge as a teacher of exegesis. [1] Five years after graduating from Princeton, A. A. Hodge, the son of Charles, had written Warfield a request. Warfield summarized the...
Let me begin with a question. When you think of politics, watch campaign news, or read the latest pollsters - does your heart race? Do you get excited? Do you have that "I've got to do something!" feeling? Okay, if you answered "yes," then, at the very least, you are an emotionally invested citizen...
What is a pastor/scholar? That is no mean question. Descriptions range. Some have quipped that the pastor/scholar is an ecclesiastical unicorn! Others grant a rare sighting. Still others think the problem is one of misclassification. The Pastor/scholar is in reality the more common pastor/...
I'll start with a confession; I love John Bunyan's, The Pilgrim's Progress . I have read it frequently since the late 90s. But I'm afraid that not everyone shares my love. For some, the allegory is a turnoff. Bunyan does justify his method in his apologetic poem at the beginning - but who reads the...
Have you ever wondered why Matthew quotes Isaiah in the opening chapter of his Gospel? [1] Perhaps you would say, "Of course not! We already know why. The quote substantiates the virgin conception and birth of Christ!" Yes, but is that the only reason? Again, you may claim, "Isn't that reason...
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...
I love old sea stories. I especially enjoy reading them when the book gives a tidbit of inconsequential information that provides a window into the world at the time of the tale. In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick's true account of the old Moby Dick yarn is an excellent example. A first...
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 salient portion of the Obergefell v . Hodges ruling reads, “The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them” (22-23). [1] In other words, and as you by now know, same sex marriage has become a civil right in the...
My first experience at church planting was not easy. It was trying times to keep a small group meeting in a nursing home, a YWCA hall, and even an occasional hotel room! For a while, it seemed like we were vagabonds carrying boxes of Bibles and song books in and out of doors from one Sunday to the...
By now, Obergefell v . Hodges is household parlance. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States reads, “The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.” Same-sex marriage is now a civil right...
A wise Puritan once said, “Providence is the Christian’s diary not his Bible.” Let me illustrate. Imagine the boy who is trying to decide which college to attend. He simply can’t make up his mind and so he decides that he will go to that college which his parents or friends mention first in their...
What is the difference between the providence of God and fate? For some the difference is not easily discerned. In fact, it may have been your unfortunate experience to have learned about fatalism while listening to someone lecture on God’s providence! So, what is the real difference between two?...
Have you ever been in a discussion when someone asked, “But what is faith?” And then there was that long pause because you were all waiting for someone to quote Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now, whether we call what we find in...
In the fifteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul identifies Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of those who are asleep. Now, we might wonder at his choice of words. What does he mean by “first fruits?” Well, some might say, “Paul is wanting us to think about Christ’s...
A theological earthquake shook my life over twenty years ago. I can still see the classroom lit by the afternoon sun. It was mostly quiet and peaceful that day with one exception. A classmate was standing in front of me trying for all he was worth to persuade me of definite or limited atonement. If...
Cardinal Bellarmine (1542-1621) was a well-known figure of the Counter-Reformation and was no mean theologian. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and in 1930 he was canonized and consequently named a Doctor of the Church. Protestants often reflect on the Reformation as the time in which...
The first three chapters of Mark’s gospel are a literary tsunami. The kingdom of God embodied in Christ came like a wave. The Spirit descended upon Christ at His baptism and drove Him into the wilderness where he overcame the temptation of Satan. And from that point on the Spirit empowered Christ...
It’s Sunday morning. The alarm buzzes. After convincing yourself that getting vertical is a good thing you slide out of bed and prepare for church. Now, let me ask you a question. What are you expecting to hear when you get there? No, sorry, let me rephrase the question. Who are you expecting to...
Matthew 6:19-24 is undoubtedly a difficult text to interpret. Why, you ask? Well, the verses are usually interpreted as if Jesus simply pasted them together. In other words, there is no context for verses 19-21 and the same goes for verses 22-23 and verse 24. They are treated as apothegmatic...
I was sinking fast. It was my third year of church planting and I was having one of those “seminary didn’t prepare me for this!” moments. If memory serves me, I was taking what felt like my last gulp of air when I came into contact with Gregory of Nazianzus. For some that will be a familiar name...
We all know Martin Luther. Correction – We all know something about Luther. Perhaps we know the story about the ninety-five thesis, or his great “here I stand” speech, or the perhaps apocryphal knife incident at the colloquy of Marburg. But there are some lesser known things about Luther’s life...
I am preaching through Matthew’s gospel these days and glad to have the Alliance Column from David Hall, First Truths from the First Gospel for the journey. I am currently in the Sermon on the Mount. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve laid eyes on this well-known and well-loved text and it...
Hebrews 1:3b-6 reads, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten...
Take a minute to grab your Bible and read Matthew 5:17-20. As you can see, these verses have to do with the law. And you remember what John Newton said about the law don’t you? He wrote, “Ignorance of the nature and design of the law is at the bottom of most of our religious mistakes.” Wise words...
Have you ever wondered about the topical and logical order of the Westminster Confession of Faith? Not all of it; just the ordo salutis . After chapter nine lays out man’s fourfold state chapter ten begins with what we might think of as a typical ordering of those blessings which accompany a Spirit...
Brace yourself. I’m about to make quite a claim. Are you ready? What would you say if I told you that the doctrine of immutability, which Francis Turretin says is a proof for the doctrine of simplicity, helps us to understand the nature of God, which it most certainly does, but at least one New...
We love lessons. As parents we wait for and even seek out teaching moments. But even more specifically, we love distilled instruction. We want the ideas boiled down. Give us three easy points and we are happy. You want proof for this mindset? Check out the endless series of books for Dummies and...
Several years ago I was doing some street evangelism. Cruising around the park and hanging out in the empty lots in the small city where the church was situated was a weekend ritual for the young. So, for several years I made it a practice of engaging these weekend warriors in conversations about...
In Isaiah 41:5-13 God was teaching Israel about their spiritual security by contrasting it with the insecurity of the idolater. Let me put it another way, idolaters are like orphans. They are fatherless and helpless. But the people of God having been adopted into the family of God enjoy a loving...
In his first epistle, Peter has been talking about believers living in a world hostile to the faith. In chapter 3 of verse 13, we read this question, “ Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good ?” You can imagine the looks that must have floated around the room when this was...
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...
PlaceForTruth.org has started a new podcast ! This week's podcast features an interview with Dr. Nick Needham about the Fall. This article is also geared toward the theme of the Fall. Keep an eye out for more material related to the podcast, and make sure to follow along with the conversation !...