Can you explain the gospel? Should an unbeliever ask, could you tell them the gospel in just a couple of minutes? Here is an example on how to do just that from John Piper.
Each week we will be highlighting important resources. Check back each Friday to see what we have dug up for you. From this week’s cache:
1. Thinking About Thinking about Rap – Unexpected Thoughts over Thanksgiving: By Albert Mohler – Mohler notes: “The good, the beautiful, and the true are to be combined to the greatest extent possible in every Christian endeavor, rap included. I have no idea how to evaluate any given rap musical expression, but rappers know. I do know how to evaluate the words, and when the words are saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth that is a wonderful thing.”
2. Seven Thoughts on Pastors Writing Books: By Kevin DeYoung – DeYoung notes: “And one last thought for my fellow authors: let’s err on the side of under-promotion. I get it. I know we want our message to get out there. I know a certain amount of promotion is unavoidable (hey, I made two videos for my last book). But don’t pressure your friends to do you favors.”
3. 5 Reasons to Open Your Blinds: By Andrew Lisi – Lisi notes: “Who’d have thought having our blinds and windows open would have such an impact? This is just a small way we as the family of God can start to be missional in our own communities. This is a seemingly insignificant way for you to open up your life to your neighbors so that you can build friendships and share the gospel with them.”
4. Prepare Now for Your Pain: By Bryan DeWire – DeWire says: “Suffering has a way of pressing us to go deeper with God. It’s sadly not the case for all, but many have testified that their embrace of God’s sovereignty and goodness was catalyzed during a season of profound suffering.”
5. What Will You Say to Jesus?: By Jonathan Parnell – Parnell notes: “One day we will stand before Jesus. If we could see through the clutter of our lives now, if we could envision that day when everything is said and done, it’s clear that the enduring mission in and under and beyond every detail of our lives should be about pleasing him. What does he think? What will he say?”
Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion at Reformed Theological Seminary and a Masters of Arts in Christian and Classical Studies from Knox Theological Seminary. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net.
[Editor's note: To read previous articles in this series on the gospel of Mark, click here.]
Mark 1.1-8, we might say, is the trailer to Mark’s Gospel. It tantalizes us with coming attractions. The text now under consideration, Mk. 1.9-15, is more akin to the opening credits introducing us to the main characters and the back story, much like the opening sequence in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. In the prologue to FOTR, we are introduced to larger-than-life events and characters—immortal elves, Dark lords, rings of power, ancient battles that decide the fate of the world, etc. After this prologue with all its grand and sweeping back story, the movie settles down into the very hum-drum and very normal life of the Shire. That’s exactly what we have here as Mark holds back the curtain to give us a glimpse of a cosmic vision before we enter the main story in vv. 16ff with all its normal, day-to-day people who encounter a mysterious and extraordinary man named Jesus. Before we enter that everyday world, Mark makes sure we understand that the arrival of Jesus is tied into an epic story spanning the ages. In particular, within these verses Mark, chorus like, introduces us to the main characters and the back story of this great epic.
If we just zero in on these few verses, three astonishing facts emerge about the protagonists of Mark’s Gospel. First, those taking center stage are not “merely” human actors—this scene is for heaven’s eyes only. Although Mark says that John baptized Jesus (and it’s clear from the other Gospels that John witnessed what happened here), Mark’s baptismal scene focuses entirely on what Jesus experiences. In v. 10, Mark is careful to note that it is Jesus alone who sees the heavens open, sees the dove descending, and hears the voice of the Father.
The rest of the characters in the text are all “supernatural”—the Voice from heaven, the Spirit descending, Satan, and the ministering angels. A cosmic world is breaking into normal history. Mark is pulling back the curtain on “normal life” and revealing the supernatural forces, powers, and interactions going on behind the scenes.
The second shocking fact about the protagonists here is Jesus himself. If we were reading Mk. 1.1-8 carefully, the last thing we would have expected is a lowly carpenter’s son from Nazareth appearing on stage. Indeed, everything about vv. 1-8 leads us to believe that it is God himself who will appear with the full panoply of his glory and power in a fashion similar to his appearance during the Exodus events. The OT quotations heading the Gospel speak of the Lord’s coming, the same Lord who appeared in the burning bush declaring his name, “I am that I am,” whose form and image could not be seen or reproduced. When John speaks of one coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, we know from the many OT prophecies about the outpouring of the Spirit that it would be Yahweh himself who would do this (Ezek. 36.23ff; Joel 2.28). Clearly, part and parcel of the New Exodus prophecy is the belief that the majestic covenant God would appear and save in a similar fashion. Consider these words from Isa. 64.1-4:
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence -as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
And yet, it is the man Jesus who walks onto the stage. It is this man for whom John has been preparing the way. The conclusion is irresistible: The Lord has come to save, but not in a burning bush nor pillar of cloud and flame, but in the flesh of a man.
The third fact about the actors presented here is perhaps the most shocking of all. We do not see only one divine actor here, but three working together in an indissoluble unity. The Son undergoes baptism, the Spirit descends, the Father speaks from heaven a benediction. We have here what we have come to describe as the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit. This revelation is indeed remarkable and suggestive of the importance of this episode in Mark’s account.
This is the only time during Christ’s ministry (indeed, in the entire Bible) when all three divine actors are visibly seen working together (of course the Father is only heard, but his distinctive presence is certainly felt). Though foreshadowed in previous “scenes” of the OT, this is the revelation of a whole new dimension of God. There are a few things particularly important to consider right up front. First, three distinct persons are working together here, not one person donning different masks or performing three different functions. The Father speaks and approves from heaven, the Spirit descends and alights on Christ; Jesus sees the heavens opened, receives the Spirit as he comes out of the waters, and hears the voice of his Father. Each Person is performing different actions. However, second, these distinct works are all happening at the same time in a wonderful, powerful harmony. There is a unity of the divine essence demonstrated in this harmony, a unity demonstrated not least by the fact that the “Son” has already been fully identified with Yahweh himself.
This all begs the question, why is the “Trinity” revealed here of all places? What is the meaning of all this? To answer that question, we will need to consider in more depth what the actors are doing on the stage.
Matthew Claridge is an editor for Credo Magazine and is Senior Pastor of Mt. Idaho Baptist Church in Grangeville, ID. He has earned degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Cassandra and has two children, Alec and Nora.
Matthew Barrett, founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine, has contributed a new book to the P&R series, Basics of the Faith, called What Is Regeneration?
Many people believe they can initiate their salvation, either through choosing to believe or on their own merits. Yet the Bible is clear that we can’t take even the first step toward reconciliation with God on our own—we are spiritually dead and can do nothing unless we are given new life.
Matthew Barrett explores the doctrine of regeneration to show us what truly happens to us when we are saved. He compares the gospel call with the effectual call and shows us how God’s gift of a new heart and new birth—not anything we have done—initiates our salvation.
“The doctrine of effectual calling is at the heart of what it means to confess that Jesus Christ is the sole and sufficient Savior of spiritually dead sinners. Matthew Barrett does a great job of condensing this doctrine into a readable form that all can understand.”
—Timothy George is Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and an Executive Editor of Christianity Today.
If you are looking to dive deeper on this doctrine, also see Barrett’s book Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration.
Being sick this past month and attending ETS has put me behind when it comes to staying up with articles on the web. But I noticed that this past November Justin Taylor wrote a blog post announcing that his family is now going through the process of their fourth adoption.Wow! How amazing!
If you would like to help financially please go to this page that facilitates this. I cannot encourage you enough to do so. Adoption is such a gift, both to the adopting parents and family, as well as the child in need of being adopted.
God has graciously used the gift of adoption to build our family and to remind us of the beauty of our spiritual adoption in him. We are eager to receive more blessing by welcoming another baby into our home.
Many thanks for your kind consideration.
And if you are wondering why adoption is such a big deal for Christians, it’s because of the foundation of our faith.
After all, the church is an organic collection of individual orphans turned adopted children, brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them as orphans (John 14:8).
The reason Jesus was born, according to Galatians 4:4-8, is so that Jesus could redeem us (v. 4); and the reason he came to redeem us is so that God could adopt us as sons (v. 5).
The result is that the Father sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts so that we can cry “Abba, Father!” (v. 6).
Now that we are adopted sons instead of slaves in bondage, we have an eternal inheritance through God. It’s because of teaching like this that J. I. Packer writes:
“Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption. . . . If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”
Because God is a Father to the fatherless and a protector of widows (Ps. 68:5), he commands his adopted children—the bride of Christ—”to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). Adopting, assisting with adoption, and foster care are some (though not the only) means of fulfilling this biblical vision and command.
Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author and editor of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.
In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “What the Big Story? Why Biblical Theology Should Matter to Every Bible-Reading Christian,” Edward W. Klink III wrote an article called, “What is Biblical Theology? Origins and Contemporary Types.”
Edward W. Klink III (Ph.D., University of St. Andrews) is Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University, Talbot Seminary. Klink and Darian R. Lockett recently co-authored the book, Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice. He is currently writing a commentary on John for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.
Here is the introduction to Klink’s article:
To the average person in the church “biblical theology” might sound like a tautology: no different than saying “round circle.” How can theology be anything other than “biblical?” And how can the Bible, the Word of God, not also be immediately theological? While such intuitions are correct, every Christian can understand that all forms of Christian theology and practice can rightly be called “biblical,” for this sense of “biblical” simply means that one considers the Bible to be authoritative and directive for Christian faith and life. But biblical theology as it is currently used is the title of a more precise practice or discipline of the study of the Bible and its theology.
Read the rest of Klink’s article today!
What’s the Big Idea Story?
Why Biblical Theology Should Matter to Every Bible-Believing Christian
When the sixteenth-century Reformation erupted, one of the alarming dangers that became blatantly obvious to reformers like Martin Luther was the pervasiveness of biblical illiteracy among the laity. It may be tempting to think that this problem has been solved almost five hundred years later. However, in our own day biblical illiteracy in the pew continues to present a challenge. Many Christians in our post-Christian context simply are not acquainted with the storyline of the Bible and God’s actions in redemptive history from Adam to the second Adam.
With this concern in mind, the current issue of Credo Magazine strives to take a step forward, in the right direction, by emphasizing the importance of “biblical theology.” Therefore, we have brought together some of the best and brightest minds to explain what biblical theology is, why it is so important, and how each and every Christian can become a biblical theologian. Our hope in doing so is that every Christian will return to the text of Scripture with an unquenchable appetite to not only read the Bible, but comprehend God’s unfolding plan of salvation.
Contributors include: Justin Taylor, Darian Lockett, Edwards Klink III, David Murray, Stephen Dempster, James Hamilton, T. Desmond Alexander, Stephen Wellum, Peter Gentry, G. K. Beale, Graham Cole, and many others.
The gentlemen at Gentle Reformation podcast recently interviewed Credo Magazine contributor and blogger Ardel Caneday on his 2001 book with Thomas Schreiner, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance.
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Colossians 1:21-23
We are quite comfortable with the above verse, until, of course, we come to that little word “if.” It jumps out at us like a bugbear, startling us, even disturbing us. Why say that, Paul? Why toss in an “if.” It sounds like you’re positing a condition to salvation? Isn’t our salvation secure?
Even more forceful passages could be gathered from the apostolic letters, exhortations warning us of the dire consequences of committing apostasy. The book of Hebrews certainly comes to mind.
So what are we to do with such statements? Brush them under the rug? Explain them away? Perhaps we should just flip the page quickly?
In today’s interview with Dr. Ardel Caneday, co-author of the insightful book The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance, we’ll explore the biblical relationship between promise and warning, assurance and perseverance.
Listen to this interview with Ardel at Gentle Reformation.
Today only, on Amazon, the Kindle Fire HD is for sale for $119 and the Kindle Fire HDX for $179! And here a a handful of books by Credo Magazine contributors and bloggers to get your Kindle experience off to a good start:
King in His Beauty, The: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, by Thomas Schreiner
Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration, by Matthew Barrett
Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), ed. by Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday
Each of the contributors presented on their chapters at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore on November 19th and the audios are now available for sale (click here) for $12.99.
About the book:
As a part of the Counterpoints series, Four Views on the Historical Adam clearly outlines four primary views on Adam held by evangelicals, featuring top-notch proponents of each view presenting their positions in their own words and critiquing the positions with which they disagree. You will come away with a better understanding of the key biblical and theological issues at stake and of the implications of Adam for contemporary Christian witness and church life.
Introduction: Adam, to be or not to be? Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday
No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View, by Denis O. Lamoureux
A Historical Adam: Archetypal Creation View, by John H. Walton
A Historical Adam: Old-Earth Creation View, by C. John Collins
A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View, by William D. Barrick
Pastoral Reflection 1: Whether or Not There was a Historical Adam, Our Faith is Secure, by Gregory A. Boyd
Pastoral Reflection 2: We Cannot Understand the World or Our Faith Without a Real, Historical Adam, by Philip G. Ryken
Each focuses his essay on answering the following questions:
What is the biblical case for your viewpoint, and how do you reconcile it both with modern science and with passages and potential interpretations that seem to counter it?
In what ways is your view more theologically consistent and coherent than other views?
What are the implications of your view for the spiritual life and public witness of the church and individual believers, and how is your view a healthier alternative for both?
Purchase a copy of Four Views on the Historical Adam today!
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
The quotation-marks around “Calvinism” in the title are not accidental. We are here primarily concerned with the issue between Alice and Humpty Dumpty. The issue is about the words, not things, and in particular the fact that various people have various things to say about the word “Calvinism” at present – its legitimacy, and what it refers to and may refer to. Words can be fought over. Whoever captures the word, captures the thing. But frequently the words resist capture. I shall argue, the word “Calvinism” wriggles freely, for good or ill. I shall sketch two such attempts at capture, one scholarly, the other rougher, to capture the meaning of “Calvinism.” Each fails, as it must. The rougher attempt first.
There are those who are disquieted over the fact that many are claiming the name “Calvinism” for themselves who are Baptists, and many who are charismatics do the same. Shock-horror! Charismatic Baptists? Where will it end? Such people tut-tut like the Dame in a Pantomime. But it is nothing new for people to adopt the name “Calvinist” or “Calvinism” for something narrower than was produced by the copious theological mind of John Calvin. I remember that in my youth, in the damp cellar of a Preston second-hand bookshop, I came across some books in the series called “Doctrinal Calvinism,” published in the nineteenth century. I think that of the two or three titles I retrieved – I have them no longer, alas – one contained a selection of the writings of Bishop Ezekiel Hopkins, another of John Bunyan, and maybe one of John Howe, one-time Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. An Anglican and a Baptist and a Congregationalist, I believe, each “doctrinal Calvinists.” To be sure, that title was not a self-description, but one given to them. But it was not an unreasonable title. I remember also for a time possessing the Works of Hopkins, which Thornton’s bookshop in Oxford sold me, which contained an exposition of the covenants worthy of Witsius. He was Bishop of Londonderry, I believe.
What on earth, then, was doctrinal Calvinism? It was, and is, I think, the soteriology that is to be found in first 20 or so Chapters of the Westminster Confession and which was adopted by the Savoy Confession (or Declaration) of 1658, and the Baptist Confession of 1689 almost verbatim. (You can see the 3 confessions compared here.)
The publishers of the books I mentioned no doubt hoped to tap into this “Calvinism” that was common to people in the C of E and among Dissenters. (And now, perhaps, “charismatic” is a word that also currently receives the Humpty Dumpty treatment.) A smart marketing ploy, in my view. There is a lot more to these chapters of the Confession than the famous Five Points, of course. The adopting of these parts of Westminster was carried out in the conviction that there is a logically contingent connection between the theological material expressed in these chapters, and ecclesiology, as there is.
Those who raise their eyebrows at such behavior have the idea that Calvinism is not only a theology but an ecclesiology. Certainly Calvin’s theology comprises not only Book I-III of the Institutes but Book IV as well, the longest book of the four, and it could be argued, the climax of the whole production. But there is a problem for those who make this claim these days, for embedded within Book IV is an account of the duty of the civil magistrate to uphold the true or Reformed religion from anything in the civil realm that would tend to undermine it, beginning with the outlawing of untrammelled proclamations of other religious teachings, such as those of Rome, or of Faustus Socinus, or of the Jews or Turks. And I don’t think that those who believe that Presbyterian church-government is an intrinsic part of Calvin’s theology nowadays routinely think that intolerance of other religions is or ought to be an intrinsic part of the civil magistrate’s duties. They could say that it is a part of Calvinism, but that they disagree with it. Not the sort of precedent they want to set, I assume
“Calvinist” or “Reformed”?
Besides this rather shrill opposition to “doctrinal Calvinism,” as a bona fide expression of Calvinism at a more scholarly level, it is increasingly being pointed out that “Calvinism” is misleading as the name for the theological trajectory of Reformed Orthodoxy. Calvin was a member of a theological team, not a one-man team, nor its captain. What developed after his death in the Reformed Church is no more “Calvinism” than it is “Bucerism” or “Zanchism,” even though Calvin achieved a greater prominence than these, for a variety of reasons, not least the prestige of Geneva as a center of the Reformation.
It is also pointed out that what is misleadingly called “Calvinism” can mean less than the “Five Points,” and also more than them in that as Reformed theology developed there were various emphases given to Christian doctrine by different individuals and theological schools. An account of some of these differences in respect of the work of Christ can be seen worked out by Richard Muller with his usual care and erudition in Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On The Work Of Christ And The Order Of Salvation. So within the parameters set not by Calvin but by the various Reformed Confessions there was a considerable difference in emphasis. Confessions of faith are, after all, political documents.
These claims about the relatively narrow scope of “Calvinism” in Reformed theology are based on a historiography which pays some attention to lines of sameness as well as of divergence in the teaching of the Reformer. But it recognises that much of the legacy of John Calvin was underdetermined by comparison with the theology that was developed later, theology that even so was indebted to Calvin. Areas of such development are, for example, the decrees of God, and the covenants, and the work of Christ. Calvin cannot be held responsible for theological constructions of his legacy, occurring after his death, any more than, say, Andrew Fuller, who defended the propriety of general invitations of the gospel, can be held responsible for every preaching extravagance that people since Fuller have thought was an “offer of Christ.” Those who wish to dissent from these scholarly claims will have their work cut out to do so. They will have to present a much more detailed Calvinism than they are used to doing.
Which is yours?
But note that this restriction of “Calvinism” to Calvin’s own theology, and resistance to its extension to the theology that engendered the Confessions, and to which they in turn gave rise, begins with the earlier view of “Calvinism,” the “Calvinism” of the Five Points and of doctrinal Calvinism. (Not the same thing, but each has a solely soteriological emphasis.)
The scholarly critique recognises or legitimises that “doctrinal Calvinism” we noted earlier, legitimises it by taking it seriously. Its critique is more scholarly than that of the whingers were noted earlier, but it is a criticism which legitimises what it is a criticism of. Not even scholarship is capable of copyrighting “Calvinism.”
So which is yours to be, the “Calvinism” of the 5 points, a “doctrinal Calvinism,” a “Calvinism” which identifies it with Calvin’s children, who went their own way when the discussion went beyond Calvin himself, or the “full package Calvinism,” which is not a full package at all, since Calvin’s view of the magistrate’s role in upholding the Reformed faith has been excised from it? (And in this roll-call “Neo-Calvinism” in its various guises has not even been mentioned.)
Whichever it is, no-one can stop you calling your choice “Calvinism.” You see, unlike “Cadbury’s” or “Chevrolet” or “Calvin Klein” there is no copyright or trademark that covers the use of the word “Calvinism,” any more than with “inerrancy” or “justification” or any other central theological term.
Irritating, isn’t it?