Posts by Stephen Unthank

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The Christian world is thinking and talking a lot about sanctification; how to grow in godliness and live holy lives. Amen! O that we would do so more and more! But I want to contend that in thinking through a believer’s sanctification we cannot do so rightly without first thinking through our...
There was a moment, early in my Christian walk, where in hindsight I can now see what was the beginnings of a slide into Hyper-Calvinism. This slide looked like me taking more interest in the doctrines of grace rather than in offering the Gospel of grace. I was increasingly contented in not calling...
Considering what I would preach if I could only preach one sermon is an interesting and probing question, and yet, I think it would be fair to say that many pastors often do preach just one sermon. You know who they are, the pastor whose particular hobby horse always and inevitably arises in any...
I have found that one of the most pernicious dangers to the Christian life is a cold-hearted complacency. These are Christian believers who were once enlivened by the vivifying effects of the Gospel but have now, over time, been cooled into a stone-cold stoicism; living statues no different than...
The Psalmist certainly professes a great truth when he remarks “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” But if we’re honest, this passage can often sound like an unattainable rhetorical ideal; not a commonly celebrated experience. Perfect unity within the body of Christ has got...
Walking up to his pulpit before preaching, Charles Spurgeon would often repeat to himself that great line of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” For Spurgeon this was no doubt a reminder that any fruit which would come from his preaching would be fruit attributed only to the...
For English Reformed Orthodoxy, the doctrine of a believer’s union with Christ was paramount. John Owen, enunciating the centrality of a believer’s union, exclaimed that our union with Christ is the “principle and measure of all spiritual enjoyments and expectations.” Likewise Thomas Goodwin...
I don’t know if I have an absolute favorite commentary on Romans...at least not yet. I remember when serving as a youth pastor I spent about two years working through the book of Romans with all the high school students in our church. During that time I read through a large portion of Martyn Lloyd-...
All that the church is can be found in her union with Christ. As John Calvin has so memorably put it, “we must remember that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value...
What does it mean to be a reader? What’s actually happening when someone reads a text? Ever since the rise of post-modernism these kinds of questions have been in vogue. And though many of the popular answers today are new, the questions themselves are not. In fact, he Bible itself as well as many...
Reading through Sinclair Ferguson’s book Some Pastors and Teachers feels akin, or so I imagine, to sitting down with the author and getting to hear first hand what it was that sharpened and formed him into the pastor, preacher, and theologian he is today. Each chapter excels at informing the reader...
In Francis Bacon’s essay entitled “Of Studies” he gives the now well known dictum that “Reading makes a full man; Conference a ready man; and Writing an exact man.” The axiom is a good. Clear writing not only testifies to clear thinking, but precise writing creates precise thinking. I’ve found this...
At the end of this week’s outstanding podcast on the Historical Adam and Crucifying the Old Man, the question was asked about which books should be considered essential reading when it comes to the doctrines of our union with Christ, Federal headship, and Imputation. Each book suggested I too would...
I have the pleasure of meeting with some very bright high school students twice a week to think through worldviews and the history of ideas. A large part of our time is spent discussing some of the great books of Western Civilization and this fall we’ve been reading through and discussing Dante’s...
Five hundred years ago the Protestant Reformation changed the theological and ecclesiastical landscape forever. And yet, was that something that only made sense in their historical context? Is the Reformation over, a quirk of history, only brought up in Church History classes? Perhaps we should we...
Throughout Genesis chapters 1 and 2, the reader understands that it is God alone who gets to determine and pronounce what is good (each of His created days - 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31) as well as what is not good (that man should be alone - 2:18). It is for this reason that God put a reminder, a...
It could be argued that the very concept of primary and secondary doctrines is a very Protestant problem, precisely because it comes down to an understanding of interpretive authority. Older writers referred to primary doctrines as dogma, those doctrines which have a definite and decidedly fixed...
Wilhelmus á Brakel (1635-1711) wrote that “the modulation of our voices at a suitable rhythm is capable of unlocking our hearts and stirring our emotions, God thus willing that we lift up our hearts to Him in singing... However, our voice and the melody in and of themselves are not pleasing to God...
Not too long ago at a small party, I was chatting with a young lady who had just switched churches. She had left a rather large, seeker-sensitive type of church in the Washington D.C. area, a church which put a lot of emphasis on the worship experience. And she had now joined a much smaller,...
It is in that well worn and wonderful passage of John chapter 3 where the apostle tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. But previously in that very same chapter Jesus tells us that God must also...
To rightly read and understand Scripture takes a fair share of mental energy. One should not and can not check his mind at the door while engaging with God’s revealed word. And thankfully there has been a resurgence within evangelicalism for thinking deeply about God’s word. This is essential and...
In 1650 amidst the rise of Socinianism in England, Francis Cheynell, a prominent Westminster Divine, wrote an apologetic of orthodox Trinitarianism, entitled The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This work stood out as clear exposition of both biblical and historically orthodox...
The Westminster Confession of Faith begins with what many have deemed some of the most well articulated statements concerning the doctrine of Scripture. And incorporated right into the confession’s understanding of Scripture is a brief, little clause on how one might do theology. The clause, which...
As an earlier post from Jeff Stivason made clear, this current installment of “Theology for Everyone” was inspired by Martin Luther’s fantastic little book on prayer entitled A Simple Way to Pray. In the spirit of truly offering theology to everyone, let me also recommend R.C. Sproul’s magnificent...
Private Prayer is the life source for every true believer. And yet, while we would acknowledge the truth that praying is to the Christian as breathing is to any living creature, we would also admit along with Martin Luther that prayer is “the hardest work of all...a labor above all labors, since he...
On any given Sunday there are, sitting in the pews of church, myriad kinds of different people. There are, of course, the faithful who have battled well against unbelief throughout the previous week and are hungering and thirsting for the nourishment that comes from hearing God’s word preached...
The Puritan movement was known firstly as a resurgence of biblical of preaching; its focus was upon the right preaching of God’s word which would transform and revive not only the Church but also the nation, and if the Lord so willed, also the world! As Dr. Irvonwy Morgan understood it, “the...
One of the more visible repercussions of the Protestant Reformation was a reconfiguration of the furniture found within local churches. Throughout the Medieval period it was the Table of the Eucharist that sat center-stage, the literal and liturgical focal point of the Roman Catholic Mass. It was...
For John Calvin, worship was central to life - it is why man exists. Worship was also central to his understanding of the Reformation, for he believed that the church’s return to true worship was the flowering fruit of all that was being done in his time. Other than the preaching of God’s word, it...
One of the more contentious issues in the history bibliology has been over the relationship between the human and divine in Scripture, an issue to which B.B. Warfield devoted so much of his attention. Jeff Stivason has served us well in recapturing Warfield’s emphasis on concursus, an idea perhaps...
Beware the church that is always trying to make Christianity cool again; far more often than not, their hearts are preoccupied with what the world wants than what God wants. Of course it could be argued that Christianity has never been cool. That’s fine. St. John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ...
In thinking through the pastoral implications of the Marrow Controversy, you could probably not do better than reading through Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ. I can not emphasize that enough. It is an outstanding exposition of the cultural, theological, and pastoral issues that faced not only...
The name evangelical was early on attributed to the Reformers and to Luther himself, and it was of course a fitting title as it not only grasped their recovery of the gospel, but also their emphasis upon it and the good news it declared. For Luther that good news only made sense in light of the bad...
In God’s wisdom, ministry in a local church is to be led by faithful men, a plurality of godly elders who through the ministry of the word lead every member to partake in and do the work of ministry. It has frequently been noted that the requirements for elders are requirements common to all...
When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden his angle of attack was to bring into question the sufficiency of God’s word. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” Not only did Satan, like a good legalist, subtly add on to God’s word by adding the command “any tree in...
The Lord through the prophet Jeremiah prophesied of a day when He would establish a new covenant for His people, a covenant unlike the old one enacted under Moses. It was under the Old Covenant where Israel was called to be a nation of priests to a watching world, a mediatorial son who would make...
“Post-Christian” is just one of the many titles being used these days to describe our brave new world, a world where absolute truth and the Truth have been pushed to our societal margins. And of course, this should come as no surprise to the alert and watchful Christian who has been following our...
In the treasure chest of the Gospel, many have argued that our adoption really is the brightest and most beautiful of gems contained in all that Christ accomplished for us. But even taking a closer look at that particular gem we see that adoption itself has many different facets which, when...
Our extraordinary God loves the ordinary. And it seems that in his extraordinary salvation of sinners he loves to use ordinary means. This is true even in the extraordinarily gracious preservation of his children; ordinary means mark the road all the way home to our final rest in Christ. Indeed,...
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ given to mankind in the Gospel is of course resistible. We noted this very truth a few weeks back when Place for Truth covered man’s Total Depravity. In our fallen nature, men and women are entirely incapable of obeying the Gospel command to repent and believe in...
The word depravity implies the absence of something that used to be abundant. In considering the doctrine of man’s total depravity it’s good to see first that man, Adam, was totally good, righteous, and upright. This is what Solomon taught when he declared that “God made man upright” (Ecclesiastes...
I mean it when I say that I would love my church to be filled Sunday after Sunday with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning) individuals. And I mean it when I say that I would love to have those very same individuals over for lunch after church, and then invite them back...
In today’s America it’s pretty much an accepted dictum that true freedom is being able to choose whatever it is we desire. And when it comes to sexuality and gay rights, this is especially the case. If a man desires to be with another man, true freedom is being able to do so without any restraints...
The human conscience is one of those metaphysical entities that we all love and yet, being a metaphysical idea, we’re not always clear about it. The Puritans were master theologians of the conscience, precisely because they were strong in God’s word. Sadly, I’m not sure that can be said for us...
Genesis gives a fascinating account of fallen man’s collective attempt to define their own name themselves; a name that is very different from what God had already decreed. That uncompleted project was known as the Tower of Babel, a monument to mankind’s own self-exulted will and autonomous ability...
Why does my church - the mourning widow, the lustful high-school jock, the overworked dad, or the tired homeschooling mom - need to relish in the doctrine of God’s Simplicity? Why do I as a pastor have a duty to ground my people in this seemingly obscure doctrine? Before I answer I want to briefly...
If there really has been a trend (resurgence? revival?) recently toward recovering the truths of reformed theology then it is most likely and not hard to miss that there has been a millennial flavor to that trend. Of course, all believers in every age have their own cultural moorings which they...
The Westminster Confession of Faith begins with one of the most well articulated statements concerning the doctrine of Scripture. And incorporated right into the Confession is an ever so brief clause on how one might do theology. The clause was placed there to be an expression defending the...
Samuel Miller (1769-1850) was a noted pastor-theologian remembered for his wise council concerning revivals as well as his fervent commitment to praying for authentic revival (as opposed to the pelagian-styled revivalism of Charles Finney). His keen theological mind was used by God in training up...
John Bunyan is no doubt best known for his Pilgrim’s Progress, a beautiful allegory of the Christian life, a book which has lasted the test of time. And in his own day Bunyan was well known as an excellent preacher. He often preached at John Owen’s church in London, where Charles Doe remarked that...