Resources On The Controversy Over “Final Salvation Through Works”

For the last several years at least two (and probably more) writers identified with the broader Reformed movement have proposed that Christians are saved initially by grace alone, through faith alone but finally through faith and works. There are two claims here: . . . Continue reading →

A Simple Plan for Time Alone with Jesus

A Simple Plan for Time Alone with Jesus

Over the long run, our time alone with Jesus will go better if we have a plan — something that can guide us whether we have five minutes or an hour.

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Letters to the Editor (Pastors, Church, Baptism, The ‘Ol Ball and Chain, Jesus Calling, Diversity and Boy Scouts)

As you know, I get letters—lots and lots of letters. From time to time I like to collect and share some of the best (and occasionally the worst) of them. Here, then, is another collection of letters to the editor. Letters on 10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling  You sound like a pompous Christian who picks apart others seeking to outsmart readers with your intellect. God Calling is a special book to me and has made God attainable and loving …

With Chris Gordon On What It Means To Be Born Again (Part 1)

“I was saved in…” or “I was born again in…” are both sentiments regularly expressed by well-meaning evangelicals. They mean to testify to the power of the Lord to save and to the reality of salvation in our time. We should affirm . . . Continue reading →

The Champion of the Kirk: John Knox (c. 1513–1572)

The Champion of the Kirk

In the early 1500s, Scotland had one thing in common with the rest of Europe: a deeply corrupt and spiritually impoverished church, with morally moribund leadership. To cite one notorious example, David Beaton, cardinal and archbishop, illegitimately fathered at least fourteen children as his own. So much for celibacy in action. The spiritual ignorance was such that George Buchanan could claim that some priests thought the New Testament was a book recently published by Martin Luther.

The Champion of the Kirk aaqwygoe

Enter John Knox, and the Reformation was underway.

Born in Haddington, East Lothian, sometime between 1513 and 1515, Knox received his schooling locally and then at the University of St. Andrews. He became a priest and returned to his home region as notary and tutor. We know as little about his conversion as we do about Calvin’s.

Capture and Release

After the Protestant George Wishart’s martyrdom in St. Andrews, Knox came to the town with some of his young students and, in 1547, joined the group of Reformers living in the castle there. When Knox was appointed to preach, he refused, but he was virtually manhandled into accepting a call from the castle congregation to become their minister. Within a matter of months, however, the castle was under siege from French ships in St. Andrews Bay. Knox and others were captured, and he became a galley slave for the next year and a half.

In 1549, Knox was released and made his way to England. He pastored a congregation at Berwick, but soon he moved to Newcastle. He then became a royal chaplain during the days of the young King Edward VI. The death of Edward in 1553 was a body blow to the reforming party in England, leading as it did to the enthronement of Mary Tudor (“that idolatrous Jezebel” were Knox’s carefully chosen words to describe her). Knox sought refuge on the Continent.

Life on the Continent

Between 1553 and 1559, Knox lived a somewhat nomadic existence. He spent some time with Calvin in Geneva, calling it “the most perfect school of Christ . . . since the days of the apostles.” Thereafter, he accepted a call to pastor the English-speaking congregation at Frankfurt am Main.

Knox married Englishwoman Marjorie Bowes and, in 1556, returned to Geneva, where he pastored a congregation of some two hundred refugees. The following year, he received an urgent invitation to come back to Scotland — 1558 was the scheduled time for the marriage of the young Mary, Queen of Scots, to the dauphin of France, an event that seemed to destine Scotland for permanent Roman Catholic rule.

A taste of Knox’s vigor can be savored in a letter he wrote that same year to the people of Scotland, urging them not to compromise the gospel. He reminded them that they must answer for their actions before the judgment seat of God:

[Some make excuses:] “We were but simple subjects, we would not redress the faults and crimes of our rulers, bishops, and clergy; we called for reformation, and wished for the same, but . . . we were compelled to give obedience to all that they demanded.” These vain excuses, I say, will nothing avail you in the presence of God.

Return to Scotland

In 1559, Knox finally returned home to begin his most important phase of public ministry as the champion of the kirk (the Scottish term for church). Despite his lengthy absences from his native land, several things equipped Knox to lead the Reformation there: his name was associated with the heroes of the recent past, his sufferings authenticated his commitment, his broad experience had prepared him for leadership, and his sense of call made him “fear the face of no man.” So, for the next thirteen years, Knox gave himself to the reformation of Scotland.

By the summer of 1572, Knox was a shadow of his former self, and by November, it was clear he was not long for this world. On the morning of November 24, he asked his second wife, Margaret, to read 1 Corinthians 15 to him, and around five o’clock came his final request: “Read where I cast my first anchor” (presumably in faith). She read John 17. By the end of the evening, he was gone.

Many explanations have been forthcoming for Knox’s influence and that of the Scottish Reformation. No doubt there were many factors at work in the providence of God that brought about such spiritual renewal. But Knox’s own conviction was this: “God gave His Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.” Therein lies the greatest lesson of his life.

Meal Above All Meals: Five Reasons We Enjoy Eating with Jesus

Meal Above All Meals

Has the Lord’s Supper become humdrum for you, something you do mindlessly, something you’ve simply done for years? Is it something that you do as you travel down the path of least resistance, something that is routinely passed to you so you figure you might as well?

Luke tells us that it is so much more. His account of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:7–30) provides us five magnificent reasons why this meal is above all others.

1. It Is Rooted in Redemption

Are you in need of forgiveness, of deliverance, of grace? This meal is for you.

Its roots extend deep into the history of God’s people and the riches of God’s character. Luke’s account makes clear that Jesus celebrates a Passover meal (Luke 22:8, 11, 13, 15), recalling God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. We’re reminded that God is eager to save his people (Psalm 86:5). And even as Jesus observes the Passover meal, he elevates it, claiming that it’s ultimately about his own imminent death.

Jesus himself is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Son whom God does not spare (unlike the firstborn sons of Israel at the first Passover) so that we may be spared. We receive this meal because we have been delivered from death and hell, and because we know we’re in desperate need of daily grace.

2. It Is Planned by Jesus Himself

Do you relish being at the table of a host who rejoices at your presence? This meal is for you.

Jesus provides elaborate instructions for Peter and John about how and where to prepare the Passover (Luke 22:8–13). It’s clear that this meal is Jesus’s idea. It occurs at his initiative, under his leadership, and according to his plan. When I proposed marriage to my wife Emma in October 2005, I left nothing to chance. I meticulously prepared a plan — plus two backup plans (depending on weather conditions).

In the years since, we’ve laughed about my over-preparation. But it clearly communicated to her my strong desire to marry her. Jesus carefully plans the meal, then says to his disciples: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He longs for us to join him at his Table. It’s good to ask ourselves, do we long to share this meal with him?

Do we anticipate the Lord’s Supper, or is it an afterthought? Jesus’s earnest desire invites us to desire the meal more, preparing ourselves beforehand through confession of sin, reconciliation with others, and joyfully expectant prayer.

3. It Anticipates the Future

Do you want a foretaste of the new creation? This meal is for you.

The reason Jesus is eager to share the meal with his disciples is that he won’t eat it again until “it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16). The “kingdom of God” here refers to the new creation (Luke 22:18). Therefore, the implication of Jesus’s words is that the Lord’s Supper anticipates and begins the glorious future feast of the Messiah, a meal described in the Old and New Testaments.

The fragment of bread and taste of the cup we receive at the Lord’s Supper is the first course of a splendid eternal feast. It will be “fulfilled” later, but it starts now. At its source in northern Minnesota, the Mississippi River is an unimpressive little stream you can easily wade. But even at that point, it’s the real thing, the actual Mississippi. At the Lord’s Table, in the midst of a sin-sick world, the perfect future for which we long comes rushing into the present.

We hold in our hands a foretaste of the future. The apostle Paul was looking forward when he said, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The present meal heightens our desire for the full and final feast.

4. It Recalls Jesus’s Substitutionary Death

Do you desire a deeper understanding of Jesus’s death? This meal is for you.

Jesus says it refers mainly to himself and his redemptive work: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). And we’re to remember not just the external events of his death — the soldiers, the scourging, the thorns, the nails — but their redemptive significance: “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). We remember that Jesus dies as our substitute. We remember that by shedding his blood for us, he inaugurates a new covenant (Luke 22:20). God’s judgment is fully poured out upon Jesus. Our sin is fully forgiven. As we share this meal with Jesus, we remember his unique, once-for-all, fully sufficient, substitutionary death.

5. It Forms a New Community

Do you long for life in true community? This meal is for you.

Immediately after eating, Jesus’s disciples dispute “as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). They’ve clearly missed the meal’s meaning and transforming power. We may miss it, too, though perhaps in subtler ways.

As we leave the Communion gathering, are we annoyed that someone is talking in the parking lot, momentarily blocking our exit? Do we complain about missing the Sunday afternoon football game because a spouse or child needs our help? Later in the week, having been so powerfully reminded of God’s forgiveness, do we refuse to forgive someone who has sinned against us?

The reason Luke moves immediately from the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14–23) to Jesus’s teaching about humble service (Luke 22:24–27) is that he wants us to see that Jesus’s death in our place is meant to form a new community, creating in us servant hearts, propelling us to love one another in humble ways.

Long ago, J.C. Ryle wrote, “He that eats the bread and drinks the wine in a right spirit will find himself drawn into closer communion with Christ, and will feel to know him more and understand him better.” This is still true. This promise is for us when we feast at Jesus’s Table.

Meal Above All Meals: Five Reasons We Enjoy Eating with Jesus

Meal Above All Meals

Has the Lord’s Supper become humdrum for you, something you do mindlessly, something you’ve simply done for years? Is it something that you do as you travel down the path of least resistance, something that is routinely passed to you so you figure you might as well?

Luke tells us that it is so much more. His account of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:7–30) provides us five magnificent reasons why this meal is above all others.

1. It Is Rooted in Redemption

Are you in need of forgiveness, of deliverance, of grace? This meal is for you.

Its roots extend deep into the history of God’s people and the riches of God’s character. Luke’s account makes clear that Jesus celebrates a Passover meal (Luke 22:8, 11, 13, 15), recalling God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. We’re reminded that God is eager to save his people (Psalm 86:5). And even as Jesus observes the Passover meal, he elevates it, claiming that it’s ultimately about his own imminent death.

Jesus himself is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Son whom God does not spare (unlike the firstborn sons of Israel at the first Passover) so that we may be spared. We receive this meal because we have been delivered from death and hell, and because we know we’re in desperate need of daily grace.

2. It Is Planned by Jesus Himself

Do you relish being at the table of a host who rejoices at your presence? This meal is for you.

Jesus provides elaborate instructions for Peter and John about how and where to prepare the Passover (Luke 22:8–13). It’s clear that this meal is Jesus’s idea. It occurs at his initiative, under his leadership, and according to his plan. When I proposed marriage to my wife Emma in October 2005, I left nothing to chance. I meticulously prepared a plan — plus two backup plans (depending on weather conditions).

In the years since, we’ve laughed about my over-preparation. But it clearly communicated to her my strong desire to marry her. Jesus carefully plans the meal, then says to his disciples: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He longs for us to join him at his Table. It’s good to ask ourselves, do we long to share this meal with him?

Do we anticipate the Lord’s Supper, or is it an afterthought? Jesus’s earnest desire invites us to desire the meal more, preparing ourselves beforehand through confession of sin, reconciliation with others, and joyfully expectant prayer.

3. It Anticipates the Future

Do you want a foretaste of the new creation? This meal is for you.

The reason Jesus is eager to share the meal with his disciples is that he won’t eat it again until “it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16). The “kingdom of God” here refers to the new creation (Luke 22:18). Therefore, the implication of Jesus’s words is that the Lord’s Supper anticipates and begins the glorious future feast of the Messiah, a meal described in the Old and New Testaments.

The fragment of bread and taste of the cup we receive at the Lord’s Supper is the first course of a splendid eternal feast. It will be “fulfilled” later, but it starts now. At its source in northern Minnesota, the Mississippi River is an unimpressive little stream you can easily wade. But even at that point, it’s the real thing, the actual Mississippi. At the Lord’s Table, in the midst of a sin-sick world, the perfect future for which we long comes rushing into the present.

We hold in our hands a foretaste of the future. The apostle Paul was looking forward when he said, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The present meal heightens our desire for the full and final feast.

4. It Recalls Jesus’s Substitutionary Death

Do you desire a deeper understanding of Jesus’s death? This meal is for you.

Jesus says it refers mainly to himself and his redemptive work: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). And we’re to remember not just the external events of his death — the soldiers, the scourging, the thorns, the nails — but their redemptive significance: “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). We remember that Jesus dies as our substitute. We remember that by shedding his blood for us, he inaugurates a new covenant (Luke 22:20). God’s judgment is fully poured out upon Jesus. Our sin is fully forgiven. As we share this meal with Jesus, we remember his unique, once-for-all, fully sufficient, substitutionary death.

5. It Forms a New Community

Do you long for life in true community? This meal is for you.

Immediately after eating, Jesus’s disciples dispute “as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). They’ve clearly missed the meal’s meaning and transforming power. We may miss it, too, though perhaps in subtler ways.

As we leave the Communion gathering, are we annoyed that someone is talking in the parking lot, momentarily blocking our exit? Do we complain about missing the Sunday afternoon football game because a spouse or child needs our help? Later in the week, having been so powerfully reminded of God’s forgiveness, do we refuse to forgive someone who has sinned against us?

The reason Luke moves immediately from the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14–23) to Jesus’s teaching about humble service (Luke 22:24–27) is that he wants us to see that Jesus’s death in our place is meant to form a new community, creating in us servant hearts, propelling us to love one another in humble ways.

Long ago, J.C. Ryle wrote, “He that eats the bread and drinks the wine in a right spirit will find himself drawn into closer communion with Christ, and will feel to know him more and understand him better.” This is still true. This promise is for us when we feast at Jesus’s Table.

Academic Jobs in Biblical Studies and Theology: Oct 16-21

This week includes jobs from across the globe in OT, NT, Jewish Studies, and Historical Theology, from Western Oz to China, Germany to San Diego.  Chair, Theology and Religious Studies, The College of St. Scholastica, MN Beirne Director of the Center for Catholic Studies, St. Mary’s University, TX Associate or Full Professor in Old Testament, Princeton Seminary, NJ […]

History of the Reformation (7 Free eBooks)

Below are several free eBook on the ReformationThe Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (eBook)by William CunninghamHistorical Theology (eBook)by William CunninghamHistory of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (eBook)by J. H. Merle D’Aub…

Decision paralysis and searching for paradise

Monday morning. A day off for some pastors; certainly for this one.* And a good opportunity to grab coffee or lunch with my wife. The conversation goes like this:

Lovely wife: “Where d’you wanna go?”

Me: “I dunno, where do you wanna go?”

Lovely wife: “How about McGovern’s, we’ve got a discount voucher for there.”**

Me: “Dunno never eaten there, let me check what people say.” Gets out phone… “Reviews don’t say a lot, is there anywhere else”

Lovely wife: “What about Puddleglum’s?”

Me: “Nah, doesn’t inspire me”

Lovely wife: “What do you feel like?”

Me: “I feel like something tasty, but not spicy—not expensive either, but not fast food.”

20 minutes pass while I poke around on Facebook and Tripadvisor .

Meanwhile, lovely wife is losing the will to live, never mind the will to go out for lunch.

Lovely wife: “Are you finding anything there?”

Me: “Nah, nothing grabs me.”

Lovely wife: “Why don’t we get in the car and just head down town?” (Slipping McGovern’s voucher in her bag, just in case)

Another 5 minutes pass as I scroll through reviews, muttering, “Where, where, where?”

Then came the grand denouement, the moment of blinding revelation:

Lovely wife: “Look, It doesn’t have to be perfection. I’m not looking for a place that gives me […]