Have you ever thought of how every Lord’s Day is like a wedding rehearsal?
For the church knows where our faith as the bride of Christ is leading us. We are headed toward the great wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). As such, we are to “make ourselves ready” (Rev. 19:7) and be “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). As we worship as His bride on the Lord’s Day, we should view this as readying ourselves for the wondrous wedding that will take place on that glorious day.
As we come to worship our God, the Spirit of God is using the means of grace to prepare us for that experience. Thus, an actual duty of the pastor is to get his people heaven-ready to spend eternity with the Triune God. In the words of the church father Gregory of Nazianzus, the minister of the gospel is to “to provide the soul with wings” to fly in a sense toward heaven. He said that the pastor should seek to “bestow heavenly bliss upon the one who belongs to the heavenly host.” Each Lord’s Day is preparation for the coming Day of the Lord, the consummation of our relationship with Him.
I attended two weddings this past summer. One was the marriage of my son, Spencer, and the other wedding was that of a good friend and RPTS student, Martin.
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By Ben Stahl — 1 week ago
Will our lives be remembered at all? As we think on the closing of Elisha’s life in the few remaining verses in our study, let us set our own minds towards serving our King for all the years the Lord gives us so that He may be well known and that we may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of for us (Philippians 3:12).
And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said to him, “Get yourself ready, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Remoth Gilead. Now when you arrive at that place, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, and go in and make him rise up from among his associates, and take him to an inner room. Then take the flask of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I have anointed you king over Israel.”’ (9:1-3)
So Jehu rested with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. Then Jehoahaz his son reigned in his place. And the period that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years (10:35-36).
Jehoahaz the son of Jehu became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD (13:1).
So Jehoahaz rested with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. Then Joash his son reigned in his place. In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash* the son of Jehoahaz became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD (13:9).
So Joash rested with his fathers. Then Jeroboam sat on his throne. And Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel (13:13).
Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!” (13:14).
Excerpts from: II Kings 9 – 13:14 NKJV
Who was the longest serving prophet in the Bible? Moses served the Lord as a prophet for about 40 years. Samuel served about the same amount of time. Hosea served during the reigns of seven different kings, perhaps as long as 60 years. Isaiah served the Lord during the reigns of five kings of Judah during a ministry that may have exceeded that of Hosea’s in length. But Elisha served the Lord beginning with Elijah in the days of King Ahab and continuing through the reigns of Ahaziah (1 year), Joram, (9 years), Jehu (28 years), Jehoahaz (17 years), and a portion of the reign of King Joash* of Israel (16 years). Conservatively, it seems Elisha’s ministry stretched more than 65 years in length!
By Ron Henzel — 1 month ago
Our culture is telling us that it’s “okay to be gay,” and that virtually every kind of “sexual orientation” should be affirmed. It’s telling us that “gayness” is unalterable, except perhaps when it’s not because of “gender fluidity,” and it’s increasingly hostile to “heteronormativity.” By now, it should be clear to anyone who takes the Bible and Christianity seriously, the real issue is, to flip the terms in Niebuhr’s first category, “Culture Against Christ.”
[Note: This article is Part 1 of a projected series.]
Currently, a battle is being waged for the soul of my home denomination. In the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the question is being asked: What did Paul mean when he wrote, “such were some of you,” and how should we apply it in the life of the church?”
On one side are those who say, “This truth must govern how we both think and speak about ourselves. We are no longer ‘sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers.’ True, those were things that dominated the cores of our beings before we came to Christ. They were even things that people called us. So, they became de facto names for us—i.e., how people identified us. But they are no longer who we are. It was who we were but is not who we are, and we should no longer identify ourselves by any of those terms.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10 ESV)
On the other side are those who say, “Wait a minute! We still struggle with these things. The temptations have not gone away. We doubt they ever will. So, we think we should speak as if we still are those things—as if they identify us. And besides, we want to communicate the Gospel to our culture in a winsome and welcoming way. We want to be like Jesus, and didn’t He identify with sinners? So, why can’t Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction while remaining celibate refer to themselves as ‘gay Christians?’”
These are the two sides in the battle or at least the two most vocal ones. I hope I’ve represented them accurately. If not, I’m sure someone will let me know.
Perhaps at one time, this was a cordial debate or even a minor fraternal squabble. It seems those days are now past us. I will spare you the details, but on various fields, the calls have gone out, the troops have been marshaled, and the battle has been joined.
“Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words?”1
One of the first objections many conservative believers raise in response to the idea of anyone identifying as a “gay Christian” is, “We don’t allow people to identify as ‘adulterous Christians,’2 so why in the world would we let them identify as ‘gay Christians?’ Why would believers think they can make sin part of their Christian identity?”
Those who raise this objection would say 1 Cor. 6:9-10 teaches that all Christians who came to Christ out of homosexuality are fundamentally “ex-gay,” just as all who came to Christ out of a pattern of adulterous behavior are “ex-adulterers.” As Al Mohler put it, “The larger problem is the idea that any believer can claim identity with a pattern of sexual attraction that is itself sinful.”3 Regardless of how much we continue to struggle with temptation, our union with Christ is what identifies us now and that union entails a decisive break with sin—a past-tense crucifixion of it, in fact: “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24, ESV, italics added, cf. Rom. 6:6.) Those things no longer represent us.
As we might have expected, comparing “gay Christian” to “adulterous Christian” has generated pushback from the other side. One “LGBTQ Christian leader,” wrote, “Please, please, please don’t use this analogy. I know what you mean, but this one really ticks gay people off, and it gets you nowhere.”4
“Us and Them,” song by Richard Wright and Roger Waters, from Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd, 1973.
Examples could be multiplied here: “promiscuous Christians,” “pedophile Christians,” “drunkard Christians,” “thieving Christian,” “murderous Christian,” and so on.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., “Torn Between Two Cultures? Revoice, LGBT Identity, and Biblical Christianity,” August 2, 2018, https://albertmohler.com/2018/08/02/torn-two-cultures-revoice-lgbt-identity-biblical-christianity.
Justin Lee, “Questions from Christians #5: ‘Isn’t calling yourself a gay Christian like calling yourself an adulterous Christian?’” August 5, 2013, Geeky Justin, https://geekyjustin.com/questions-from-christians-5-isnt-calling-yourself-a-gay-christian-like-calling-yourself-an-adulterous-christian/.
By David Schrock — 2 months ago
In his mercy, God raises sinners to life and gives them the faith they will need to respond to his gospel. Such is the grace of God. God’s grace is not waiting for sinners to change their minds and believe on him.
Continuing the theme of monergism in salvation, we come to the debate regarding faith and regeneration. Does regeneration empower faith? Or does faith produce regeneration? Both are necessary for salvation, but what is their relationship? And how do we know?
Historically, Reformed theologians have understood faith as a divine gift to God’s elect, a gift that was planned in eternity, purchased at the cross, and personally granted in regeneration. By contrast, Arminians, Wesleyans, and other advocates of free will aver that faith is possible for all men and hence is not a special gift of grace to God’s elect, but a gift of grace to all who would freely receive it.
As one who gladly affirms a Reformed view of salvation, I believe this latter position minimizes the work of God in salvation. Instead of putting man’s final destiny squarely in the hands of God, an Arminian view conjoins the work of God and man. Theologically, this undermines grace. Pastorally, this contribution of faith produces (or leaves unchanged) man’s inveterate thirst for self-determination and creates communities that lack a spirit of humility. In God’s grace, other doctrines may ameliorate these realities or produce humility. But, by and large, a church that teaches—explicitly or implicitly—that you are capable of making such a decision for Christ impedes the humility which the gospel is meant to foster (see Rom. 3:27–30).
So, how we understand God’s work of salvation matters immensely for our sanctification, discipleship, and Christian fellowship. Still, it must be a doctrine derived from Scripture and not from tradition alone. To that point, we might ask: Where do we find teaching that says regeneration precedes faith and/or that faith is a gift of God? Good question. And in Paul’s Epistles, we find at least five passages that teach us that faith is a gift. Let’s consider each below.
Faith as a Gift
The locus classicus of the doctrine of faith as a gift of grace is Ephesians 2:8–9.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This passage not only says that salvation is a gift, received by faith. It also says that faith is a gift. How do we know? Well, this takes a little digging, but in the original language, grace (charis) and faith (pistos) are both feminine nouns. Accordingly, any latter reference to them should also be feminine. But importantly, “gift” in the phrase “it is the gift of God,” which refers back to the earlier part of the verse, is neuter. This means that the gift of God is not pointing back to salvation, or grace, or faith alone, but to all the above. Everything in salvation, including faith is a gift from God.
Ephesians 2:8–9 is arguably the most clear statement that Paul makes about faith as a gift, but it is not the only one. For instance, in Philippians 1:29, we find this statement. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Though focusing on the gift of suffering, Paul assumes that suffering for Christ is a gift like faith is a gift.
Similarly, Paul assigns the gift of faith to the Holy Spirit. This is seen in both 1 Corinthians 12:8–11 and Galatians 5:22–23.
For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:8–11)