Category Archives: Theology

The Claims Both of Justice & Mercy Satisfied

I’m putting the finishing touches on a sermon about the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22) for tomorrow morning and wanted to share this tremendous quote. It’s a meditation on how only Yahweh could bring together the conflicting demands of mercy and justice perfectly:

The teaching of the ark in this respect was, primarily, that of David in the eighty-fifth psalm: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Mercy without justice is a weak sentimentality, subversive of moral order. Justice without mercy is a moral severity—theoretically without a flaw, but revolting to man’s instinctive feelings. The synthesis of the two is required. The law, enshrined in the holiest place of the sanctuary, vindicated the awful purity and perfection of God. The mercy seat, extended above the law, assigned to mercy its superior directive position. The cherubic figures showed the gaze of angels riveted in astonishment and admiration on God’s mode of uniting mercy with justice, by means of vicarious suffering, which he can accept as atonement. Finally, the Divine presence, promised as a permanent thing, gave God’s sanction to the expiatory scheme, whereby alone man can be reconciled to him, and the claims both of justice and of mercy satisfied.

H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Exodus, vol. 2, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 251.

In the Ark of the Covenant justice (the tablets of the law) and mercy (the mercy seat) come together. They point forward to the day when God the Son would bear the wrath of justice due us so we could receive the mercy he lovingly bestows.

Are You Reformed?

“Are you reformed?”

I get that question quite a bit as a Baptist attending a Presbyterian seminary (Westminster). It’s a tough question to answer. My answer depends on the context: What does “reformed” mean to the person asking the question?

What “Reformed” Used to Mean

“Reformed” properly refers to:

  • The theological heritage of John Calvin, the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Confession
  • A commitment to covenant theology, including pedobaptism
  • Belief in predestination and reprobation (i.e. TULIP, commonly called Calvinism)
  • A preoccupation with the glory of God
  • A preoccupation with the sovereignty of God
  • A commitment to redemptive-historical hermeneutics (The whole focus of this website.)

As a credobaptist I can’t say that I’m in that heritage. However… that doesn’t mean I’m not reformed. It depends on the situation.

What “Reformed” Means Today

Like the term “evangelical” the meaning of “reformed” is changing. In the west today “reformed” theology has lost the implications of covenant theology, pedobaptism, and its credal heritage.

Today “reformed” has typically dropped the first two criteria and simply means: Continue reading

The Gospel In Real Life

I am enjoying the current issue of Themelios. The article Do The Work of an Evangelist by D.A. Carson is truly excellent. It ties closely to the main theme of Armchair Theology so here is an excerpt with my commentary.

For some Christians, “the gospel” (equivalently, “the evangel”) is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: “Biblical Leadership,” “Learning to Pray,” “What to Do with Your Money,” “Christian Marriage,” and so forth—none of which falls under “gospel,” but only under post-gospel discipleship.

One of my main goals is to see the gospel applied to all life – especially growth in holiness:

In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that “gospel”/“evangel” is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news about what God is doing in and through King Jesus, especially in and through his cross and resurrection. A careful reading of Scripture shows how often Christian conduct is grounded in the gospel itself.

This was a game-changer for me a few years ago. Every time we see a command in the Bible it is prefaced with the gospel message. This isn’t limited to just the New Testament. Read Ex 20:2 and see how the ten commandments are prefaced with a message of God’s saving work for his people.

For instance, the gospel is to be obeyed (e.g., 2 Thess 1:8); certain behavior conforms to the gospel, while other behavior does not (1 Tim 1:10–11). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)—transparently, this is a gospel appeal. In short, in the NT the gospel is preached both to unbelievers and to believers. It calls unbelievers to repentance and faith; it calls believers to ongoing faith and conformity to Jesus.

Gospel ministry is ministry that is faithful to the gospel, that announces the gospel and applies the gospel and encourages people to believe the gospel and thus live out the gospel.


Further Reading:

You’re Doing Holiness Wrong

“You’re doing holiness wrong.”

That’s the debate going on right now at The Gospel Coalition. In the center of the discussion is pastor Tullian Tchividjian, who has increasingly made comments that seem to border on antinomianism.

Antinomianism? That’s the idea that you the gospel frees us entirely (anti) from the law (nomos) and, once we are saved by Christ, we no longer have to obey it.

If that sounds familiar to you it’s probably because the apostle Paul had some strong words about it:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:1–4

So, what’s the debate? Continue reading

Why I Believe the Resurrection

A look back on the most important event in history:

Why are you a Christian? Why is the building you attend church standing there? Why do we have centuries’ worth of hymns and books? Why is the Bible the best-selling book of all time?

Because we believe that in Jerusalem in the first century a man walked out of his grave.

But how can we prove that the resurrection happened? There was no video surveillance. There were no autopsy reports. All of the involved witnesses were biased.

Why do we believe Jesus rose from the dead?

Continue Reading

The Impossibility of “Fire Insurance” Faith

You take out fire insurance so that if, in the unlikely event that your house burns down, you’ll get your house back. You don’t really believe your house will burn down but you admit the possibility and prepare for the worse.

Sometimes you’ll hear Christians argue for “fire insurance” faith. What does it look like? You might try persuading your neighbor to become a Christian just in case there is a God. “What harm could it do,” you ask, “just to be safe?”

This is the modern-day outworking of Pascal’s wager: Continue reading

We Desperately Need A Messiah: The Christo-Yearning Hermeneutic

The title of this article may have thrown you for a loop. That’s okay, I’ll explain as we go.

I think this is a necessary evolution of gospel-centered preaching:

Where we’ve seen symbols in the Bible pointing to Jesus, and themes which find their resolution in Jesus, we should also find a desperate yearning for a Redeemer.

The Primary Methods of Christ-Centered Interpretation

If you’re following the gospel-centered Bible study movement you’ve probably heard these two terms applied to interpreting a passage: Continue reading