Racism and Riots: A Lament for Our Nation

Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

Our nation is divided. We are hostile and we are fearful. We are confused and we are broken. We are hurting.

We lament the fact that the sin of racism is far more prevalent than we would like to believe. The lack of righteousness and justice in our world is appalling. We acknowledge “all lives matter” with our lips, yet our hearts remain far from those who differ from us in any number of ways. Father, you are a just God who shows no partiality; yet even we, your children, are often guilty of the evils of discrimination. We are prone to look only to our own interests and not those of others. We fail to put on the compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience of Christ our Savior.

We lament the fact that bitterness, slander, quarreling, and hatred are among the hallmarks of this age. It grieves us that these sins show up even among those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord! While we understand the anger and frustration over such horrifying acts of injustice, we lament the fact that these tragedies often only lead to more chaos and wrongdoing. How quick we are to take matters into our own vindictive hands. Heavenly Father, we confess that our anger has given great opportunity to the devil. We are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger—an anger that has not produced the righteousness of God.

Lord, you tell us in your Word that because man does not see fit to acknowledge God, you have given us up to worthless desires. As a result, we are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, and deceit. We are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. By nature, our feet are swift to shed blood; in our paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace we have not known. Why? Because there is no fear of God before our eyes.

O God, have mercy on us; forgive us for our sins. Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Grant the gift of repentance and faith to even the vilest offenders. Forgive us for our failure to treat others as fellow image-bearers, and for our lack of concern to seek justice and uphold righteousness. Bring healing and rest to the black community. Revive us, we pray.

Apart from you, O Lord, we will never know peace. Apart from your grace, sin only reigns in chaos and death. And so, unless the power of sin that enslaves hearts is broken and the reign of death is ended, we will never know the blessing of true and lasting reconciliation. The only way there will ever be peace between neighbors and enemies, communities and nations, is if there is first peace with you. But this is exactly what you came to do for us when, in love, you gave us your only Son!

We thank you, Jesus, that you humbled yourself, took on flesh, and entered our divided, hostile, fearful, confused, broken, and hurting world. You showed compassion on all those who were sinful, hurting, and oppressed. We praise you that you laid down your sinless life to bear the penalty for our sin, and rose victorious from the dead for our justification. Now, through faith in your mighty name, we can be forgiven and reconciled to God in one body through your cross. Truly, you are the Prince of Peace. And it is only as proud, selfish sinners, such as ourselves, are reconciled to God through faith in Christ that the nations will be glad.

Spirit of the Living God, help us to remember your marvelous mercies that we might show our world a better Way. Help us to listen to, to learn from, and to love our neighbors in the humility of Christ—regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic class, or political party. Help us to search our hearts and put to death the sin of partiality and racism that rears its ugly head in both obvious and subtle ways. Help us to keep your commandments by seeking to protect and preserve the lives of others. Help us to not only proclaim the glories of the gospel we believe, but to adorn this gospel by living lives worthy of Christ our King.

Give strength and comfort to our black brothers and sisters, especially those who belong to our local church family. Fill us with the loving compassion of Jesus so that we might learn to mourn with those who mourn. Give us the wisdom to know how we can seek the peace and welfare of the city in which you have planted us as exiles. Grant us both the desire and ability to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you.

May your kingdom come, and your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Amen.

The Cross, Our Value, and the Danger of Heresy

“And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies’ plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger.”[1]

If heresy is to ever successfully infiltrate the church, then it must not only appeal to the desires of our sinful nature but also have a ring of truth to it. False doctrines that are absurd or obviously unbiblical never gain traction among the majority of Bible-believing Christians. On the contrary, Peter says that false teachers bring in their destructive heresies secretly, with the result that “many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Pet. 2:1-3). Paul writes that the Devil himself disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14); and let’s not forget that he can quote Scripture too (see Matt. 4:5-6)!

In other words, the most convincing false doctrines will always include biblical truth. They will sound good and make us feel good. With just the right amount of Scripture, a hint of Christian concepts mixed with the desires of the flesh, and a dash of rhetorical flair, you have all the ingredients you need to create a fresh batch of ear-tickling muffins. Nevertheless, “a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.”[2] We need to be on guard against false teachers and their subtle attempts to reject and redefine God’s Word.

What the Cross is “Really” About: Our Value

While we could look at many popular heresies in the church today to confirm this, one recent teaching serves as a prime example. The reason for its popularity is because it seeks to shed new light on God’s love, Christ’s redeeming work, and especially our value in God’s eyes. Todd White, a popular proponent of this view, put it this way in an interview on TBN:

The value [that] was placed on my life was determined by the cost that was paid for me. See the cross isn’t just the revelation of my sin; it’s the revealing of my value. Something underneath of that sin must have been of great value for heaven to go bankrupt to get me back. So, Jesus paid such a high price for me on that tree, and when I see that, I see my value.[3]

As you can see, this ticks all the boxes. It affirms several biblical truths: The cross of Christ reveals both our sin and our value to God; the eternal Son of God left the glories of heaven to seek and save the lost; the price of our redemption was the blood of Jesus. It also makes sense to us on a practical level: The price you are willing to pay for something reveals its value to you. So, on the surface, it sounds good and it definitely makes us feel good; it appeals to our desire for significance and worth.

But when we look at the cross of Christ and behold the price of our redemption, should our focus ultimately be on our value to God? Specifically, was there something underneath our sin that made heaven go “bankrupt” just to get us back? Is the reason that Jesus shed his blood for us because we were worth it? The answer to these questions, from the consistent teaching of Scripture and the consensus of church history, is a resounding “No.” While it comes very close to being sound, biblical teaching, this is a false doctrine that only serves to undermine the good news it attempts to proclaim.

A Note on Our Value to God

Before we look at a few objections to this teaching, it’s important to briefly clarify this concept of our value or worth. First, having been made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), all humanity has intrinsic value and special dignity. Human life is of inestimable worth in all its dimensions, despite the fall of man and our enslavement to sin. God has crowned man with “glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5), and Jesus himself affirms we are of great value to our Maker (Matt. 6:26).

Second, for all who have received adoption as sons through faith in Christ, we are now loved and treasured as God’s very own children! We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9; see also Ex. 19:5; Titus 2:14). If God in Christ gave himself for us to redeem us and make us his own, how could we not have value in God’s eyes?! So, in this second sense, the cross indeed is a revealing of our value to God, since he obtained us with his own blood (Acts 20:28); how deep the Father’s love for us indeed!

Objection #1: This Teaching Contradicts the Meaning of Grace

However, our value to God is not the reason why God sent his Son into the world! No worth of ours, buried beneath the dirt and corruption of our sin, compelled the Son of God to come to earth and redeem a sinful people for his possession. Neither our inherent value as image-bearers, nor our “potential” value as new creations in Christ, caused heaven to go bankrupt (which is itself a reckless phrase to use) so God could get us back. No; our salvation is totally unmerited and completely undeserved—that is, it is by grace alone. To say that Jesus shed his blood on the cross to ransom us because we were so valuable to God is to contradict the very meaning of grace!

The Bible makes it very clear why God set his love on an unworthy, sinful, and rebellious people, and it has absolutely nothing to do with any inherent worth that we possess:

The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deut. 7:6-8).

The eternal God, who is perfectly blessed in himself and in need of nothing, loves us because he loves us! Jesus laid down his life for us not because we were valuable or worth it but quite simply because he loved us. In fact, when Scripture speaks of the death of Christ, it never uses this language of “our value.” Instead, what you will repeatedly find are references to the greatness of our sin and the greatness of God’s love (see Rom. 3:9-26; 5:6-10; Gal. 3:10-14; Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Tim. 1:12-17; Titus 3:3-8). The focus is always God’s unmerited favor towards unworthy sinners. Yet this teaching subtly draws our gaze away from God’s grace to behold our worth.[4]

So, while the cross is the revelation of our value to God—in that he gave “his only Son to make a wretch his treasure”—we only have this value because of the cross! The cross is supremely the demonstration of “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). In Christ, we are no longer glory-stealing sinners and God-hating rebels but new creations, God’s treasured possession. Why? Because our salvation is a gift of God’s grace, due to nothing good in us whatsoever.

Objection #2: This Teaching Confuses Our Value with Our Debt

Another problem with this teaching’s emphasis on our value is that it misunderstands the price that Jesus paid for us on the cross. While it is true that the price of something shows its value, in our case, the price of our redemption isn’t so much a revealing of our worth but of the debt that we owe. It’s a reflection, so to speak, of the “damage” we have caused—as if the servant of a high-ranking government official had stolen one his exotic cars and crashed it into his multi-million dollar estate, which then exploded and set his whole property on fire, destroying billions of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures from his private art collection and killing the official’s son.

You see, God in Christ paid such a high price for us not because we were valuable to him and deserved to be redeemed, but because we had rebelled against him and incurred the wages of sin and eternal death! We, who were made in his God’s own image to glorify him like nothing else in all creation, “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” but “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:21-25). We have committed cosmic treason and robbed the infinitely glorious God of the honor which he is due. Paul says that, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless” (Rom. 3:12), that, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). And as the author of Hebrews reminds us: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).

So again, while the cross does in one sense reveal our worth (because those justified by grace through faith in Jesus have received adoptions as sons and become God’s treasured possession), it is ultimately a reflection of God’s abundant grace and generosity and not any value on our part—inherent or potential. The cross of Christ is the revelation that unworthy sinners are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness [notice Paul doesn’t mention our value here!] . . . so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-26). The cross primarily reveals the righteousness of God in perfect justice and mercy, “having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14). This is why we sing:

He paid a debt he did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away
And now I sing a brand new song, “Amazing grace!”
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

Objection #3: This Teaching Changes the Grounds for Loving God

This final objection is a bit more subtle than the others but is absolutely critical. Here we see even more clearly why this teaching is such a dangerous false doctrine. Drawing on the writing of Jonathan Edwards, John Piper makes the following observation, worth quoting at length:

Perhaps you have heard people say how thankful we should be for the death of Christ because it shows how much value God puts upon us. In other words, they are thankful for the cross as an echo of our worth. What is the foundation of this gratitude?

Jonathan Edwards calls it the gratitude of hypocrites. Why? Because “they first rejoice, and are elevated with the fact that they are made much of by God; and then on that ground, [God] seems in a sort, lovely to them. . . . They are pleased in the highest degree, in hearing how much God and Christ make of them. So that their joy is really a joy in themselves, and not in God.” It is a shocking thing to learn that one of today’s most common descriptions of the cross—namely, how much of our value it celebrates—may well be a description of natural self-love with no spiritual value.[5]

In other words, this teaching only serves to make us love and worship God because of how much he makes of us! In the end, it’s simply another form of self-love and pride—and it doesn’t take a supernatural act of sovereign grace to make a sinner love himself more.

We simply can’t afford to miss this point. This is a gospel that our world would have no trouble hearing and even accepting, since it completely downplays both our sin and the righteousness of God just to reaffirm our worth and increase our self-esteem. It only validates how awesome we are—after all, God bankrupted himself to get us, right?! Piper goes on to explain:

We have absorbed a definition of love that makes us the center. That is, we feel loved when someone makes much of us. Thus the natural, human definition of love is making much of someone. The main reason this feels like love is that it feels so good to be made much of. The problem is that this feels good on wholly natural grounds. There is nothing spiritual about it. No change in us is needed at all to experience this kind of “love.” This love is wholly natural. It operates on the principles that are already present in our fallen, sinful, and spiritually dead souls. We love the praise of man. It feels good.[6]

But the true gospel is preeminently, unequivocally, exclusively, unquestionably God-centered. Even with all of the blessings with which we have been blessed in Christ, it is ultimately “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6).

God did not send his only Son into the world so that we would be amazed with how much he makes of us. God in Christ did not lay down his life to forgive us, redeem us, and make us his treasured possession so that we would be enamored with how valuable we are. No, God sent his only Son into the world to the end that we would forever enjoy beholding his glory, seeing his worth, and making much of him. This is what we were created to do. This is the good news our world so desperately needs.

Conclusion

It is sadly the case that many Christians fail to live in light of our union with Christ and adoption as sons. Many believers continue to live beneath a burden of guilt and condemnation due to either the temptation of the devil or a misunderstanding of the gospel. And we know that all humanity is longing for acceptance, significance, meaning, and a sense of worth. But the solution is not found by simply increasing our self-esteem or making ourselves the center of God’s universe! The answer is found in beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and rejoicing in his great love for us.

Yes, the cross is the revelation of our sin and our value to God. Yes, God obtained a people for his own treasured possession with his own blood. Yes, those who are in Christ are loved by God with the very love that he has for his Son. But our worth does not come from any worthiness on our part; our worth is entirely owing to the love of God in Christ. The glory of the cross is not seen in the revealing of our value to God, but the revealing of his glorious grace.

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.


Endnotes
  1. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, The Chronicles of Narnia, book 7 (New York, NY: Harper Trophy, 1994), 116.
  2. J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990) 126.
  3. “Todd White | How Much Are You Worth?” posted on December 2, 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_KKwLTeMjQ&feature=youtu.be).
  4. For a further look at the emergence of this kind of false teaching in the 21st century, see David Powlison’s excellent article: The Therapeutic Gospel (February, 25, 2010), https://www.9marks.org/article/therapeutic-gospel/.
  5. Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, ed. John Smith (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959), 250-51 in John Piper, God is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 137.
  6. Piper, God is the Gospel, 149.

He Could Not Save Himself

This sermon, “He Cannot Save Himself,” was preached on Good Friday, April 14, 2017 by Matt Bedzyk

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. (Mark 15:29-32)

Jesus has been arrested, put on trial, brought before Pilate, Herod, then Pilate again. He has been beaten, spit upon, mocked, whipped, crowned with thorns, and now is nailed to a cross to die.

The story is a familiar one to most of us, and to most of the world at large. However, tonight I want to look at one particular event that took place during the crucifixion of Jesus. Here, we are given a clear picture of what the world demands of Jesus, the terrible cost of their demands, and ultimately a better understanding of the faithful work of Christ.

The Demands of this World

In this passage we have three groups of people reacting to the crucifixion of Christ: those passing by deride him; the religious elite mock him; and the two criminals insult him.

First, those who were passing by and saw Jesus hanging on the cross used the opportunity to ridicule and blaspheme him. “If you’re so powerful that you’d be able to destroy the entire temple and rebuild it in three days, prove it to us now by coming down from the cross!”

John’s gospel tells us that Jesus, having been asked for a sign, said: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” speaking of his death and resurrection, the temple of his body (Jn. 2:18-22). But here, as well as at his trial, his words were being twisted. The crowds had come to believe that Jesus was going to destroy their temple, which fueled their hatred of him. So, in hardened unbelief and hatred towards Jesus, they mock him and call for him to come down in order that he may get to work destroying their temple. “Save yourself, if you can!” (cf. Ps 22:7-8)

Second, the religious elite, the teachers of the law, those of all people who should have been first to recognize the Messiah and champion Jesus’ life and ministry, here mock him amongst themselves: “He saved others, but look—he can’t even save himself!”

Notice how they even admit here that Jesus did perform miracles, heal, and save many. They witnessed his ministry for three years yet still rejected him and his claims. Adding to the ridicule of the crowds passing by, they mock him further: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down that we may see and believe. You claimed to be the Christ, so now just prove it by saving yourself; come down from the cross, and we will see and believe!” Fully convinced that Jesus was simply a Messianic pretender, a false prophet, a failed revolutionary, they mock his inability to save himself. They know he’s done for, that he’s doomed to die a slow, painful death, so they ridicule and mock him with sarcasm.

And third, adding insult to injury, even the criminals begin to insult and curse him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Then prove it by saving yourself and us! The Messiah is supposed to be a national hero, a conquering king; if you’re really the promised Christ, then prove it!”

Each of these responses are essentially the exact same: In their minds, the real Messiah was coming to liberate Israel from her Roman occupiers and see the nation reestablished as God’s glorious people. He was coming as a king to conquer his enemies! Besides, he wouldn’t have confronted and called out the Pharisees, chief priests, and teachers of the Law; he would have applauded them! If Jesus was truly the Messiah, then he wouldn’t be here stripped, helpless, beaten, scourged, bleeding, and nailed to a cross, cursed and forsaken by God. But here was this so-called Christ, the Son of God, being crucified like a common criminal, dying as any blasphemer should. So, in their mockery, they call for him to come down, knowing that this carpenter’s son, this troublemaker from Nazareth, was unable to do so and was obviously a Messianic imposter.

Did you notice the words of the religious crowd: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe”? Even though they were completely insincere, it’s important to understand that even if Jesus did exactly what they wanted, they still wouldn’t see and believe! Why? Because they were blind; they had suppressed the truth. The religious Jews were always asking for signs, and though Jesus was working miracles in their midst, they still would find problems and bring other accusations against him; Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and the Jews went and made plans to kill him!

Remember the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus? In hell, the Rich Man tells Abraham to have Lazarus go and warn his brothers. But he replied: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Even after Jesus rose from the dead, and he gave the “evil and adulterous generation” a sign they were looking for, they still didn’t believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Aren’t these demands similar to the demands of the world today? The unbelieving world says: “If your God was really God, then he wouldn’t have let such and such happen.” Or, “Your God is a God of hate; my God is a God of love and acceptance.” Or, “I would believe in Jesus if I just had some more proof; if he would just give me a sign.” Yet when confronted with powerful evidence, logical arguments, the very created world around them, or when it seems as if their prayers are answered, they don’t believe in God but just find more excuses not to believe! They’ll hear of Jesus life and death and say “No thanks.”

Ultimately, what the world wants is a god made in their image; one that suits them, their beliefs, and their desires. When the world hears the gospel, when unbelievers are confronted with Jesus, they suppress the truth about God in unrighteousness. They don’t want to be told that they are selfish, proud, evil sinners. They don’t want to submit to the Lordship of Christ and fall on their knees in obedience to God; we want to be our own gods! They don’t want to listen and submit to what he says; they want Jesus to do what they want.

So we have Jesus crucified, being blasphemed, mocked, and insulted, with the chief priests and teachers of the law saying to one another, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself.” But church, could Christ have come down from the cross and saved himself? Of course he could have! He could have put an end to it all in the garden! “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). He truly was the Son of God, who walked on water and raised the dead to life—he could have miraculously come down from the cross, putting an end to their mockery. Besides, he was sinless! He was the one human being born in the entire history of the world who was totally undeserving of death, since he lived a life of perfect obedience to the demands of the Law of God. He shouldn’t be subjected to death, let alone a shameful death by crucifixion!

In fact, wouldn’t it be extremely satisfying if Jesus did come down?! After reading of how beautiful, tender, compassionate, powerful, loving, and awesome Jesus was to a broken humanity, and then to see how he was being treated here—being rejected, beaten, humiliated, crucified, and now ruthlessly mocked—wouldn’t it just be so satisfying to see Jesus actually come down from the cross and just destroy all his enemies? To hear Jesus say, “You want me to prove my power? You want me to prove I’m God?! Then so be it!”  (e.g. Count of Monte Cristo)

Church, he could have and they would have been totally deserving of his just wrath. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t save himself. He doesn’t give in to their demands. He instead chooses to remain nailed to that cross—bleeding, gasping, broken, crushed, and dying.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:3-4).

Why? Why does he stay there? Why doesn’t the sinless Son of God come down and judge his enemies? Why doesn’t he give into the demands of the world? Because they come with a cost…

The Cost of Their Demands

These people were calling for him to prove his Messiahship, his claims of deity, by saving himself; if he would just come down, then they’d know and believe that he was truly the Christ, God’s promised anointed one, the rescuer of Israel. But what these men failed to understand was that if Jesus was to come down from the cross, he would have proven himself to not be the Messiah, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10) and “give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).

The crowds wanted him to prove to be the Son of Man by ceasing to be the Son of Man! He had clothed himself with human flesh, and came into the world, so that, by his sacrificial death, he might reconcile men to God the Father. So, in order for him to prove himself to be the Son of Man, it was necessary that he should hang upon the cross. If he had come down, he would have failed to fully obey the command of his Father, and having failed to make atonement for the sins of his people, he would have deprived himself of the office assigned to him by his Father (cf. Jn 10:17-18).

Because of this, their demands would come at an even great and more devastating cost: If Jesus came down from the cross, we would have no forgiveness for sin. Scripture is clear: the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). Even under the law, animal sacrifices in and of themselves were insufficient, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins(Heb. 10:4). No animal can atone for man’s sin. Only man can atone for man’s sin.

Jesus came that he might be the atoning sacrifice for sin, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. God sent his Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins. As Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, he came to be crushed under the wrath of God, to bear our iniquities, to pour out his soul to death, to be counted among sinners and intercede for them. If Jesus had come down from the cross and saved himself from death, he would have failed to carry out his divine mission of redemption.

If Jesus came down from the cross, we would still be under the curse and Law, enslaved to sin, held by the power of death, and separated from God, deserving wrath for our sin against him.

But it gets worse. If Jesus came down from the cross, God would have proven to be unrighteous! Romans 3:25 says that Christ’s death was to demonstrate God’s righteousness, to demonstrate God’s moral excellencies and perfect justice. How? Because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. All of the many times forgiveness was extended to Israel in the OT was not because of their sacrifices but because of God’s ultimate provision of Christ, his Son.

If Jesus had come down and not died on the cross that day, under the divine judgment of God for the sins man, then God’s holiness and righteousness would have been compromised. All sin that God had mercifully passed over in anticipation of his Son’s sacrificial death would not have been fully and finally atoned for! God would be guilty of excusing sin—cosmic injustice!

And if Jesus came down from the cross, God would have also proven himself to be a liar. All his promises made to his people throughout the ages—from the very beginning in Genesis 3:15 where the Seed of Woman was promised to one day crush the serpent’s head—would have fallen through.

Church, do not miss what’s really going on in this passage here: these demands given to Jesus to come down from the cross are ultimately Satan’s last ditch effort to tempt Jesus into abandoning his God-given mission of redemption. This was Satan’s attempt to destroy our hope for forgiveness, to keep humanity enslaved to sin and death, to prove God to be an unrighteous liar, to steal his glory. Just as Satan had tempted Jesus in the wilderness to abandon his mission as the Son of God, here—when Jesus is at his weakest, experiencing the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual suffering of his crucifixion—Satan entices him to end it all. But Jesus refuses to give in.

Though he was certainly powerful enough to come down from the cross, Jesus refuses to give in to the demands of the world and the temptations of Satan. He had come to die.

He Cannot Save Himself

But do you see what this means? While it is true that Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, the God-Man, was in some sense capable of saving himself, in a very real and profound sense he could not save himself. In an ironic twist, the words of the Pharisees were actually true— it was precisely because he came to save others that he could not save himself!

Jesus came into this world to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10); he came to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8); he came to be made sin, who himself knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God ((2 Cor. 5:21); he came to be the propitiation for our sins by his blood (Rom 3:25). Isaiah tells us that “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5)

“To descend from the cross was not indeed a physical impossibility, but it was a moral and spiritual impossibility for the Messiah. If he did so, he would cease to be God’s Christ, treading God’s path of Messiahship; instead, he would become a mere human Christ, and such a Christ could never save the world. The only path by which to save others was to refuse to save himself” (Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC, 325).

Scripture is abundantly clear that it was necessary, and even predetermined before the foundation of the world that God, in Jesus, would die for sinners (cf. Mk. 8:31; Lk. 24:26-27; Acts 2:22-23; 1 Pet. 1:18-20; Rev 13:8).

He Did Not Save Himself so He Could Save You

“He saved others; he cannot save himself.” As we cast our minds this evening to Calvary, and behold our Savior—suffering, bleeding, gasping, and dying on the tree—we see the eternal, steadfast, covenant love of God on glorious display. The cross is the greatest proof of the love of God. (1 Jn 4:9-10)

It is on the cross that we behold the justice of God as the sins of man are punished and crushed under the weight of his burning wrath. Yet it is there on the cross that we also behold the mercy of God, that he would provide a substitute for all who would believe upon him in faith.

If you do not know this Christ, you must understand that you need a Savior! You need someone who can take the punishment that you rightfully deserve for your sins against God, and you need someone who can cleanse you and make you righteous before God. The good news is that by believing in the person and work of Christ, you can be saved. You can be forgiven and counted righteous. Don’t trust in your efforts or your good deeds, but confess your sinfulness before God and place your faith in the finished work of Christ. Don’t call for Jesus to come down from the cross, making yourself to be god; believe in God and the One whom he has sent.

Christian, it is only by beholding the glory of Christ that we are transformed into his same image. This glory, the beauty and majesty of Christ, is most clearly seen in the gospel of grace. It is only by believing, understanding, and remembering the gospel that you will find the ability to serve God with joy, obey him with gladness, share in his sufferings, and hold fast to our confession of faith (Gal. 2:20)

When Darkness Will Be No More (Revelation 22)

The night when Jesus was born, the sun of righteousness began to rise on our dark world. Jesus came into our world “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” God’s only Son was born to deliver us from sin’s dark night and bring us into the light of God’s glorious day.

You see, Jesus lived the life of obedience that we could have never lived. He never chose the darkness of sin and pride, but obeyed the Law fully, loving God and neighbor from a true heart. Yet this Jesus, as truly God and yet truly man, took our sins upon himself when he laid down his life on the cross. He not only entered our dark world but also experienced the dreadful darkness of God’s judgment in our place—on behalf of all those who would believe in his name. Now, by believing in his name, his light can be our light. By receiving him as the gift of God’s grace, his life can be our life. Friends, only Jesus can deliver us from the darkness.

But though Jesus conquered death by his own death and resurrection, and though he ascended to his Father as the King and Savior of the world, his kingdom still hasn’t come in all its fullness. Today, we find ourselves still waiting in a world of darkness. It’s the darkness of sin, of evil, of injustice, of uncertainty, of pain, of suffering—and it has yet to be fully dispelled.

While God’s grace has appeared in Christ, from his cradle to his cross, we now wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). One day, the risen Lord Jesus will return to rid this world of death’s dark shadow forever. He will make all things new. And until he comes, we walk by faith in the dark before the Dawn. I want to briefly focus our attention on the coming Dawn. I want us to consider the blessed hope that all who trust in Christ possess now. To do this, I want to read from the final chapter of the Bible: Revelation 22. It’s a passage full of imagery used throughout Scripture

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5).

Just as the Bible begins with God and man, dwelling together in perfect fellowship in a garden full of beauty, life, and joy, here we see the same Eden-like imagery. This is a vivid picture of the new heavens and the new earth; the city of God; the people of God in a restored creation. Here, God and his redeemed people are together, face to face. The two images we find here—a river of living water, streaming from the throne of God and the Lamb; and “the tree of life” with its abundant supply of fruit and healing leaves—depict the results of Christ’s saving work.

Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, because he triumphed over sin and death, the effects of sin are completely overcome here. The eternal life which God gives to his people will be constantly available to nourish us, and will heal the effects of every former sin. All of this is a picture of eternal life. This is not simply everlasting life; it’s more so everlasting communion with God. It’s the experience of unending fellowship with God—knowing him, loving him, obeying him, and enjoying him forever. It’s rest, satisfaction, peace, and joy.

But notice the depiction of the new heavens and new earth found in verse 5: “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:5). The focus here is not so much on what this will look or be like literally. We’re not supposed to read this and ask “Will there be sun or moon in the new creation? Will we need to sleep? How can there be months (v.2) if there’s no day/night cycle to distinguish days and months?” No! John is describing eternal life with God in the restored creation with beautiful language that we can understand. Think about what this phrase is saying: “night will be no more

The darkness of sin and evil will be no more. No longer will God’s creation be corrupted by sin, ruined by the curse of the Fall. No longer will this world be a place of danger, violence, uncertainty, and ruin. No longer will there be any evil! No longer will our hearts be plagued with sin, rebellion, or the powers of darkness. We will be glorified, saved to sin no more!

The darkness of suffering and death will be no more. No longer will we experience any kind of pain, sickness, or even death. Moreover, no longer will we experience any kind of worry, depression, anxiety, or fear about pain and death. No longer will be weak, tired, worn out, restless, insecure, confused, lost, unsure, or dismayed. We will only know life and joy.

So, when we read that “night will be no more”, this means that the curse of physical and spiritual death that entered world through Adam’s sin will be permanently removed by King Jesus. At the Dawn of the new creation, when Jesus comes back renew the world, we will experience total peace and security and relief from all suffering that characterized the old creation.

But the beauty of this passage—the most wonderful blessing of this passage in Revelation—is not simply that night will be no more, that darkness will be no more. No; it’s that we will see the Light of Day forever and ever. It’s that the Lord God will be our light! God will dwell us, his people, forever in perfect peace, rest, and joy. This is our hope as we wait in the dark before the Dawn.

Friends, we all know the present darkness of this broken world. Yet at the same time, everyone would like to believe that there’s a happy ending to this story; everyone wants to believe all will be well one day. We want to believe that the darkness of sin and death will be dispelled forever. But the truth of the matter is that, for those who fail to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was for sinners slain, the coming Day of the Lord will only be a day of eternal darkness. Those who belong to the darkness will be dispelled with it.

If you are tired of the darkness of this world—and more importantly, the darkness of your own heart, with all of its sin and guilt and worry and depression and fear—then hear the words of Jesus Christ from John 8:12:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Behold the Son of God! Repent of your sins, trust in his finished work, and believe in his name. United to Christ by faith, the coming Day of the Lord will be the Day of your full and eternal salvation. Our God is merciful and patient and wants all to come to the light of Christ. While the offer of salvation stands, before Jesus returns, receive his light by faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we await the coming of our Lord and Savior, let us endure this present darkness with joy, with gratitude, and with a confident expectation that our God will fulfill every one of his promises. He will dispel the darkness and bring us into his light forever. Let us be encouraged that one day, sin’s dark night will be no more. One day, the Lamb who was for sinners slain will make all things new, and the Lord our God will be our steadfast light.

Great Music for a New Year.

Over the past several years, the Christian church has been blessed with an abundance of good music; some might even say an overabundance. New songs are being written and recorded for corporate worship just about daily, and there are Christian artists covering almost every musical genre out there—not to mention the fact that music is more accessible today than it ever has been throughout all history. As a result, it can often feel overwhelming trying to keep up with the latest artists or discovering new albums to enjoy with your family that are both theologically sound and musically satisfying.

Here are a few albums that my wife and I recommend for both personal edification and family worship. We enjoy listening (as well as singing and dancing ) to a wide variety of music in our home, but these are the songs that have been on rotation when it comes to corporate worship and general Christian music. We hope this list helps provide you with direction and good alternatives to some of the other religious music options out there.

Corporate Worship Music

CityAlight, Yet Not I.

CityAlight sets biblically-rich lyrics and memorable melodies to beautiful music with excellence. Their compositions include both original hymns and modern worship songs with a contemporary arrangement, all of which are perfectly suited for congregational singing. The title track of this album, “Yet Not I, But Through Christ In Me,” might just be your new favorite worship song. Check out their other albums as well: Yours Alone and Only a Holy God.


His Mercy Is More: The Hymns of Matt Boswell and Matt Papa

Matt Boswell and Matt Papa have written many beloved hymns such as “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery,” “How Rich a Treasure We Possess,” and “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor.” Their songs have been a tremendous blessing to our church over the past few years, and this album is a compilation of some of their best. In particular, the creative choices and musical arrangements of each song on this album are simply wonderful. I highly recommend the other albums released by these guys individually, as well as the books and blogs they each have written.


Sovereign Grace Music, 30: Three Decades of Songs for the Church 

Sovereign Grace Music serves local churches with songs that are theologically-driven and gospel-rich. This album includes some of their greatest hits, including “All I Have is Christ,” “Behold Our God,” and “Now Why This Fear.” Each song was recorded by a different artist and the production quality is excellent. Check out their Christmas album, “Prepare Him Room,” and their great kids albums: “Listen Up!” and “The Ology.” For those of a more church-choir and gospel-music persuasion, check out their collaboration with The Shiloh Church Choir, “Behold Our God.”


Keith and Kristyn Getty, Sing! Psalms Ancient and Modern

The Getty’s are arguably the most successful modern hymn writers of the twenty-first century. Their songs teach Christian doctrine across the genres of traditional, classical, folk and contemporary composition, and are sung all over the world. Recorded live at the Sing! 2018 National Conference in Nashville, TN with several special guests, this album contains a variety of new and old hymns inspired by the Psalms.


General Christian Music

Andrew Peterson, Resurrection Letters

Peterson is an accomplished recording artist, folk singer/songwriter, producer, filmmaker, publisher, and award-winning author. His lyrics are saturated with biblical themes and imagery, and his music is soul-stirring. Resurrection Letters is a three-album concept, beginning with a prologue that contemplates Christ’s death, and moves into Volumes 1 and 2 which explore Christ’s exaltation and the implications of the resurrection for our lives, respectively.


Timothy Brindle, The Unfolding

While the Christian hip-hop genre has been growing in popularity in recent years, few artists exalt the Lord Jesus Christ lyrically like Timothy Brindle. This album provides a survey of redemptive history in order to see how the various themes of the Bible connect to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is biblical theology at its finest (Note: Brindle, as a Presbyterian, is convinced of infant baptism and alludes to the practice in one line of this album. However, the other 99.99% of this 100 minute masterpiece is simply brilliant!)


Psallos, Hebrews

Psallos is a team of Christian artists and singers, ministers and musicians, thinkers and theologians, led by composer Cody Curtis. What they have achieved on this album is a systematic musical adaptation of an entire New Testament epistle. In other words, this is not simply the text of Hebrews with nice music behind it; this is the use of music to “exegete” the text in an imaginative way. Psallos uses the musical tools of melody, tempo, rhythm, style, and lyrics to convey the truths of the book of Hebrews. The result is breathtaking, symphonic, and theological masterpiece.


The Rizers, Rise Up!

The Rizers (short for “memorizers”) is a band that sings Scripture verses in the form of upbeat, kid-friendly music. Scripture memory is a vital spiritual discipline for all believers, and music is one of the most powerful tools to use to that end. However, whereas most memory-verse songs for children are rather corny and unimaginative, these songs are well-written, catchy, and incredibly fun to sing. Several music videos are available online as well.

A Portrait of a Spirit-Filled Church

The phrase “Spirit-filled” is tossed around a lot today in evangelicalism. Most often, this label is used to describe a Christian or a church that emphasizes spiritual gifts, experiences authentic and emotional worship ‘encounters,’ and seeks to avoid “putting God in a box” when it comes to the expression of faith.

However, the phrase “Spirit-filled Christian” or “Spirit-filled church” is actually quite misleading (and often used in a divisive way, suggesting that someone or some church isn’t Spirit-filled). It’s like using the phrase “born-again Christian.” How are these phrases misleading? Because every true Christian is born again; there’s no such thing as a Christian who is not born again. Similarly, every true Christian has received the Holy Spirit, and thus every true Christian church is Spirit-filled. The church of Jesus Christ is the assembly of those called by God the Father into the fellowship of his Son by his Spirit (1 Cor. 1:9; see also 3:16-17; 12:13; Eph. 2:18-22).

Now of course, there are all kinds of ‘churches’ in all kinds of ‘Christian’ denominations today that are not true churches of the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore not Spirit-filled. However, the true church of Christ is the Spirit-filled, indwelt, baptized, empowered, illuminated, sanctified, and sealed assembly of the restored people of God under the saving rule of the risen Lord Jesus.

But, what does a true “Spirit-filled” church look like? There is no better place to answer this question than to look at the results of when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the new covenant church in fullness on the day of Pentecost.

The Restored People of God

In Acts 2:41, we read that those who received Peter’s word—who believed the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus—were baptized and were added to the church. Some 3,000 Jews in Jerusalem received the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s atoning death. They received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit from the ascended Christ. And then immediately, we are given a comprehensive portrait of the life of the early church.

In fact, the description of the church in Acts 2:42-47 is one of the clearest proofs that the Spirit of Jesus had indeed been poured out upon the restored people of God. This passage reveals that a true, “Spirit-filled” church will be one that is joyfully devoted to doctrine, to fellowship, and to prayer. Those who, by grace through faith, receive the gift salvation and the very Spirit of Jesus (i.e., Christians) are those who obey the word of their King, who love the people of their King, and who rely on the power of their King.

But before we look at each of these areas in more detail, it’s important to notice the way Luke describes how they did all of these activities: “they devoted themselves.” They continued steadfastly, passionately; they were persistently committed to the Christian faith. If Luke is painting a portrait of the church, he is painting with the boldest and most vibrant of colors. The life of the church was one of radical devotion to their risen Lord. These Christians began to live as though Jesus really was the king of the world, all because they had received the Holy Spirit.

A Spirit-Filled Church is Joyfully Devoted to Doctrine

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42).

The first thing Luke mentions is the church’s radical commitment to the teaching—the doctrine or message—of the apostles. And what was this teaching? It was what Peter had just preached in Acts 2: the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus. Their message was the good news of the kingdom of God under the saving rule of Christ! They taught that the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the fulfillment of all of God’s covenant promises. He is the second Adam, the prophet like Moses, the Passover Lamb, the true Israel, the perfect redeemer, the greater Son of David. This Jesus offered up his own life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe in him and was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father for our justification.

Their doctrine included everything revealed in the Old Testament, everything spoken by Jesus during his earthly ministry, and the significance of his death and resurrection—all of which they would go on to explain in letters and sermons in what has become the New Testament. And the church was radically devoted to this gospel, the word of God. They not only heard it and studied it but proclaimed it and bore witness to Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

“With Signs and Wonders Confirming”

How did the people in Jerusalem know that the doctrine of the apostles was the truth? Luke tells us in verse 43: “Awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles” Just as God performed miracles through Jesus to validate his identity as the Son of God (Acts 2:22), the teaching of the apostles was also confirmed by signs and wonders! Jesus empowered his official representatives to lay the foundation of the church as the new leaders of the restored people of God.

But the church wasn’t devoted to these signs and wonders; they were devoted to doctrine! This is not to say that the early church didn’t believe God for miracles (as we’ll see in just a moment), but they weren’t seeking to perform signs; their focus was on the Person to which the signs of the apostles were pointing: King Jesus! Throughout the book of Acts, it is repeatedly stated that miracles, signs and wonders, were performed by the apostles and their associates. Why? Because the apostles were chosen and entrusted by the risen Lord Jesus to lay the foundation of the church; it was their word about Jesus was to be received and believed (2:41). Thus we read that “all who believed were together” (2:44).

Centered on the Word of the Risen Lord Jesus

Today, the doctrine of the apostles is found in what we know as the New Testament, along with the revelation of God that is the Old Testament. Being devoted to joyfully doctrine to doctrine means being joyfully devoted to Scripture—hearing, believing, obeying, and continuing steadfastly in the Bible! Simply put, a Spirit-filled church is centered on the Word of the risen Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth who guides the people of God into all truth (John 16:13). He bears witness about Jesus (15:25). We are sanctified in the truth, and God’s Word is truth (17:17). So, to receive the gift of the Spirit is to receive a passionate desire to be centered on the Word.

God’s Word is the instrument of our salvation: It is how we come to faith in Christ (Rom. 10:17); it is how we are born again (1 Pet. 1:23). But God’s Word is also sufficient for our sanctification: It is how we are trained in righteousness and grow in godliness, becoming complete and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We need gospel doctrine! A true church is a community of believers where God’s Word is loved, read, studied, and obeyed in its entirety. Bobby Jamieson writes: “Sound doctrine is the lifeblood of the church. It shapes and guides the church’s teaching. It nourishes holiness. It fosters love. It grounds an repairs unity. It calls forth worship. And it informs and motivates our witness to the gospel.”

So, for those who claim to be “Spirit-filled”: Are you devoted to doctrine? Do you consume God’s Word? Do you meditate upon it day and night, rehearsing the gospel to yourselves daily? Do you teach this doctrine to your children? Do you believe and obey it? Is your entire life centered on and nourished by the Word of Christ?

However, being devoted to doctrine does not stop at centering our lives on God’s Word. No, being devoted to the teaching of the apostles leads to transformation; doctrine leads to devotion.

A Spirit-Filled Church is Joyfully Devoted to Fellowship

And they devoted themselves to . . .  the fellowship, to the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42).

There’s not just a body of doctrine that must be believed and obeyed; there is a body of believers that must be loved and encouraged. Sound doctrine teaches us that not only have we been saved from the King’s judgment, but that we have been saved to his kingdom and his people.

The word ‘fellowship’ is a beautiful and significant word that, all too often, gets thrown about carelessly. When we hear ‘fellowship,’ we usually think handshakes, hellos, and howdy-dos; we think fellowship halls, church lobbies, and potlucks; we think socializing and mingling. But this is not what Luke is describing. This is the Greek word koinonia, and it means “a close association involving mutual interests and sharing.” It’s translated as fellowship, communion, participation. (Outside the New Testament, it was used to express the marriage relationship.)

This is the word used to describe our union with Christ by faith! Listen to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul later explains that this fellowship with Christ is from the Holy Spirit we have all received (2 Cor. 13:14; Php. 2:1) John writes that “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Because we have fellowship with God in Christ by the Spirit—because we have been united to Christ by faith and are now members of his body—we also have fellowship with one another in Christ by the Spirit. By the Spirit of adoption, we have become the new creation family of God!

Bearing Burdens in Love

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45).

Describing the togetherness of the early church, Matthew Henry writes: “Wherever you saw one disciple, you would see more.” Their communion with Christ and one another completely changed their priorities. They were family. And their newfound devotion to fellowship was seen in two ways. First, being devoted to fellowship meant bearing burdens in love. Every member of the church held his possessions at the disposal of others. Their shared fellowship with Christ, and the forgiveness they had all received led them to share even their possessions with each other.

Verses 44-45 are often misunderstood. This doesn’t mean everyone got rid of everything they owned; rather, the believers were ready and willing to help those in need. If this meant sharing or selling their possessions, they would do so eagerly, joyfully, and generously. This also doesn’t mean the church didn’t care about unbelievers or those outside the church. Luke is showing us just how radically devoted the church was to the fellowship of the saints.

Breaking Bread with Joy

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:46-47).

Second, being devoted to fellowship also meant breaking bread with joy. Not only were the believers meeting together daily in the temple courts to hear the apostles teach and have fellowship with one another, they were also gathering often for meals with one another.

In v.42, Luke wrote that they devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread.” This phrase refers both to the ordinary meals the believers shared as well as the Lord’s Supper, which they would commemorate at their regular meals, remembering their Lord and his sacrifice. It was while breaking bread that the believers would begin to get to know one another, learn about their needs, yet also pray and worship their Lord and Savior together. Just as Jesus came eating and drinking, and revealed himself to his followers “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35), the early church celebrated gospel fellowship the same way.

The main force of this sentence is the statement at the end of verse 46: “They received their food with glad and generous hearts.” ‘Glad’ here literally means extremely joyful, full of exaltation; and ‘generous’ means simple—they ate with humble, honest, and sincere hearts. The church was characterized by a spirit of rejoicing and generosity. Even their meals were occasions for praising God with great joy, with hearts full of thanksgiving. This was the joy of salvation—a true sense of gratitude, contentment, and delight given by the Holy Spirit.

Transformed by the Love of the Risen Lord Jesus

Beloved, the reason the early church was devoted to such deep, intimate fellowship was because they had received forgiveness of their sins and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. This community wasn’t simply inspired by the love, forgiveness, patience, and generosity of the risen Lord Jesus; they had received the very Spirit and power of the risen Lord Jesus to actually walk in forgiveness, love, patience, and generosity!

In other words, a Spirit-filled church is transformed by the love of the risen Lord Jesus. Those who have had the love of God poured into their hearts by the promised Holy Spirit; those who have become new creations in Christ by the life-giving, regenerating power of the Spirit; those who have been called by grace into the fellowship of the blessed Trinity will be devoted to fellowship—both bearing burdens and breaking bread.

John pulls no punches when he writes: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. . . . By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:14, 16-18).

This is profound: John is saying “Do you want to know if you are a believer? Do you want to know if you have been born again, saved from death and given new life? Then answer me this: Do you love the church? Are you devoted to fellowship?” Say all you want that you are a Christian, that you love Bible doctrine, that you give, that you shovel your neighbor’s driveway. But if you can go about your whole life, day to day, week to week, completely separated from and uninvolved in the life of the church, your failure to show love and concern for the believers testifies against you.

This is why membership in a local church is of the utmost importance for living the Christian life. Membership gives definition and direction to the commands given to Christians. How can you bear the burdens of every Christian? How can you pray for every Christian? How can you show hospitality to every Christian? You can’t. But by joining a local church, you have a defined community of believers with whom you can be devoted to fellowship in these ways.

But what explains the growth of the church? What explains the awe, the reverence, and the favor of the unbelievers towards the church? This brings us to the final aspect of our portrait…

A Spirit-Filled Church is Joyfully Devoted to Prayer

And they devoted themselves to . . . the prayers (Acts 2:42).

The church in Acts was a praying church. The rest of the New Testament shows that the church is to be a praying church (Eph. 6:18-19; 1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:1). And just like Jesus, who spent much of his ministry praying to his heavenly Father, the church will be devoted to prayer because it has received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15). These believers knew that in their own strength, they were helpless. They knew that on their own, they would fall into temptation and sin. They knew that if the world hated their King, it would surely hate them. But they also knew that they had been reconciled to God and brought into fellowship with him, and this fellowship was expressed in prayer.

The results? “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). What a powerful and beautiful and assuring truth! The church bore witness to the risen Lord Jesus in the power of the Spirt, prayerfully preaching the word of God, and God brought about the miracle of salvation (talk about doing greater things!). It is the risen Lord Jesus alone who builds his church, but he has graciously given us the opportunity to participate with him through prayer. And a church that that truly depends upon God to change hearts of stone, to raise the dead to life, and to build up his church will pray. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and praise God he is still saving today!

We saw before that the early church wasn’t devoted to signs and wonders. Yet in one sense they were, because they were devoted to prayer. They knew that greatest miracle of all was the raising of a dead sinner to life by the resurrection power of God, and so they prayed. They knew that faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, and so the prayed for boldness (leaving the demonstration of the miraculous up to God).

For example, in the face of persecution, they would later pray: “‘Grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29-31).

Dependent Upon the Power of the Risen Lord Jesus

In a true “Spirit-filled” church, devotion to doctrine is central; we must aim to be centered fully on the word of God. In a true “Spirit-filled” church, devotion to fellowship is a nonnegotiable; we must seek to be transformed continually by the love of Jesus. But the church will only grow when the power of God is acknowledged, sought after, and depended upon in passionate prayer; we must be devoted to prayer.

You can substitute doctrine for entertainment and your church might see numerical growth. You can substitute online services for fellowship and your church might see a form of growth. But authentic numerical growth due to the salvation of sinners is the result of prayer.

Conclusion

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on a cross, raised from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of God not only to provide forgiveness of sins and the gift of his Spirit by faith in his name, but to create a people for himself: the Spirit-filled, new-creation, born-again, restored people of God. And the true Spirit-filled church is a church joyfully devoted to doctrine, to fellowship, and to prayer.

Does such devotion characterize you? Can you say that you are centered on the word of the risen Lord Jesus, seen in a devotion to doctrine? Have you been transformed by the love of the risen Lord Jesus, seen in a devotion to fellowship? Are you dependent upon the power of the risen Lord Jesus, seen in a devotion to prayer? To profess to believe in the risen Lord Jesus and yet fail to be devoted to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship of the saints and to prayer shows that you may never have received the forgiveness of sins and the promised Holy Spirit. Only the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus will fuel such devotion.

So whatever else the phrase “Spirit-filled” may mean today, let this portrait of a true, Spirit-filled church be true of our local churches today. May we all live as though Jesus really is the King of the world.

Why Pray If God Is Sovereign?

Why pray if God is sovereign? Does prayer change anything? Doesn’t God already know what I’m going to say (Ps. 139:4)? And isn’t it true that God declared the end from the beginning, saying “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isa. 46:9-11)? If so, then why pray?

Many of us have wrestled with these difficult questions at some point in our lives. If we’re not asking them ourselves, someone is usually asking us! Any time the issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility comes up—anytime the finite approaches the infinite—we find ourselves only able to look up at the pavement under God’s feet; like Isaiah, we can only look at the hem of his robe.

Nevertheless, here are five simple reasons for why we should pray fervently, “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:18), knowing that God is absolutely sovereign:

1. Prayer is commanded in God’s Word

Jesus taught his disciples that “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:10). In the garden of Gethsemane, he told them to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26:41). Paul makes it simple: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17); “be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). The issue isn’t whether we think prayer does anything or not; the issue is one of our obedience. God commands us to pray; case closed.

2. Prayer is a mark of a true child of God

Those who are counted righteous by faith in God’s promises and belong to the family of God, “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15). This means that true Christians will be characterized by prayer. I love how J. C. Ryle explains this: “Just as the first sign of life in an infant when born into the world is the act of breathing, so the first act of men and women when they are born again is praying.” How can we not talk to our heavenly Father?

3. Prayer changes us more than it “changes” God

God does not change; he is immutable! Yet prayer is how we admit and confess our need for grace. Prayer is how we can praise God and glorify him for his attributes. It’s how we learn to daily align and recalibrate ourselves with God’s will and ask for what he has promised us. It’s how we experience and nourish the fellowship we have with God in Christ. He speaks to us in his Word; we reply in prayer. John Calvin puts it this way: Those who argue that prayer is useless because God is sovereign “do not observe to what end the Lord instructed his people to pray, for he ordained it not so much for his own sake as for ours.”

4. Prayer is a means

Prayer is one of the foreordained means by which God brings his sovereign will to pass. From all eternity, God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass by the infinitely wise and holy counsel of his will. However, God not only ordains the ends but the means to those ends. Simply put, God has determined to act in response to the prayers of his saints just like he has determined to act in response to the preaching of the gospel. In this sense, while prayer doesn’t change God, our prayers most assuredly work to change things!

5. Prayer is an amazing privilege

God, in his mercy, has invited us to participate in his plans and share in the blessings of his saving purposes. While God alone receives the glory, we receive the benefits! Listen to R. C. Sproul on this: “Prayer, like everything else in the Christian life, is for God’s glory and for our benefit, in that order. Everything that God does, everything that God allows and ordains, is in the supreme sense for His glory. It is also true that while God seeks His own glory supremely, man benefits when God is glorified. We pray to glorify God, but we also pray in order to receive the benefits of prayer from His hand.”

Reframing the Question

In his remarkable chapter on prayer in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin explains the necessity of prayer for the Christian life:

Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how many ways the exercise of prayer is profitable… By so doing we invoke the presence both of his providence, through which he watches over and guards our affairs, and of his power, through which he sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of his goodness, through which he receives us, miserably burdened with sins, unto grace; and, in short, it is by prayer that we call him to reveal himself as wholly present to us. Hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences. For having disclosed to the Lord the necessity that was pressing upon us, we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills is hid from him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take the best care of us (3.20.2)

Since our Heavenly Father is sovereign, powerful, good, and faithful, the question needs to be reframed accordingly. The question is not, “Why pray if God is sovereign?” Instead, we should be asking:

Why not pray if God is sovereign?!

The Roles of Elders, Deacons, and Members

In order for the church to be more faithful to Scripture and obedient to our Lord in the area of polity (i.e., church government) we must ultimately be an elder-led congregational church—a church that is ruled by Christ, governed by the congregation, led by elders, and served by deacons. This means we must be well-informed and understand the roles and responsibilities of elders, deacons, and members.

The Role of Elders

When we come to the New Testament, the evidence indicates that every church had a plurality of elders. Merkle writes, “There is no example in the New Testament of one elder or pastor leading a congregation as the sole or primary leader”i (see Acts 11:30; 20:17; Php. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5). But what do elders do?

First, elders pray (Acts 6:4; Jas. 5:14). Elders plead for the flock of God under their care. They pray for the souls over whom they keep watch and for whom they will have to give an account. We see this commitment to pray in the decision of the Apostles in the early church, who appointed others to serve the needs of the growing church so that they might devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (see Acts 6:1-7). For them, prayer was a time-consuming labor that inevitably caused other duties to be set aside.ii In order for a pastor to be effective in his ministry, he must be faithful to pray. He must be fully reliant upon the power of God, who alone “gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). “Intercessory prayer is perhaps the most basic ministry of the elder. In order to speak to men for God, elders must speak to God for men. They must be away of the futility of all their actions apart from the life-giving work of God’s Spirit.”iii

Second, elders preach and teach (Acts 6:4; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). Elders serve the word to the sheep under their care. Since God rules his people by his Word, elders must be faithful to proclaim the Word to God’s people. As the Apostles devoted themselves to prayer, they also devoted themselves to the ministry of the word (6:4). Because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17), because we are born again through the word of God (1 Pet. 1:23), because all Scripture is profitable to make the man of God “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17), this is an indispensable component of pastoral ministry.

Elders are called to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) and declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27); therefore, they must be devoted to knowing God’s Word. Pastors proclaim Christ, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom” in order that they may present the sheep under their care “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). It’s crucial to remember that “the Bible alone is absolutely authoritative in a church’s life. . . . Elders bear authority over Jesus’s church only to the extent that they teach, obey, and enforce Jesus’s word.”iv Elders lead by standing before their congregation on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaiming his rule, his truth, and his commands.

Third, elders shepherd (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Elders are intimately involved with their sheep in order to see them grow in Christian maturity. They should, as one pastor puts it, smell like sheep. Peter exhorts elders: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2-3). The Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesians elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Elders shepherd God’s flock! Shepherding involves such responsibilities as providing godly counsel and biblical instruction, helping resolve conflicts peacefully, protecting the flock from wolves, caring for struggling sheep, and providing oversight of the spiritual well-being of the flock. (This is also why church membership matters: Elders need to know who their flock is!)

Fourth, elders lead by example (Heb. 13:7; Titus 2:7). Elders not only lead by teaching the Word but by obeying Christ and modeling Christian maturity. They are to not only keep a close watch on their doctrine but also on themselves and their families (1 Tim. 3:2-7; 4:12, 16; Titus 1:6-9). As elders teach the congregation to trust God and grow in godliness, loving and persuading them to obey Christ, Hebrews 13:17 calls believers to “obey your leaders an submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your soul.” (Again, membership matters!). But earlier, in Hebrews 13:7, believers are commanded: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Elders lead not only by teaching sound doctrine but by imitating Christ! Jeremy Rinne writes:

God has called elders to be men worth imitating. . . . When a church appoints a man to be an overseer, it is formally saying, ‘Here is an official, church-recognized example of a mature follower of Jesus.’ He is not the only example, not a perfect example, and not necessarily the best example in that congregation for every single Christian virtue. But an elder is a duly designated model nonetheless.v

Fifth, elders raise up elders (2 Tim. 1:14; 2:2). Elders disciple and train specific individuals to carry on the work of gospel ministry. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:2: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” As God’s stewards (Titus 1:7), pastors are entrusted with oversight of both the household and the truth of God. Not only must they seek to preserve the truths of the gospel for their own generation, but they must see to it that the faith once for all delivered to the saints be carried into the next generation of sheep.

The Role of Deacons

When it comes to the role of deacons in the local church, the Scriptures are surprisingly quiet. In fact, “We have no description in the New Testament of deacons acting as deacons, with the single exception of Acts 6, which, while controverted, is still widely used as a model for the ministry of deacons. Aside from that episode, we have no example of deacons at work.”vi Writing to the Philippians, Paul addresses “all the saints in Christ Jesus . . . with the overseers and deacons” (Php. 1:1). We find the qualifications of deacons following those of elders in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. In these passages, the Greek word diakonos refers to an office. But the word is often used in a more general sense to mean simply ‘servant’ or ‘minister.’ Even in Romans 16:1, when Paul commends “Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,” who was “a patron of man and of [Paul] as well,” it’s debated whether she was an official deacon of that church or simply a faithful servant of the church. All Christians are diakonoi!

However, the Bible is clear that the office of deacon is indeed one of the two scriptural offices to be found in a local church, and it is an indispensable office for gospel ministry. Deacons care for the physical, logistical, and practical needs of the church in order to support the ministry of the elders and to maintain unity in the body (Acts 6:1-7). “They are not the spiritual leaders of the church. Instead, based on the pattern established in Acts 6 with the apostles and the Seven, it seems best to view the deacons as servants who do whatever is necessary to allow the elders to accomplish their God-given calling of shepherding and teaching the church.”vii

Deacons support the elders’ ministry of the Word by being responsible for tasks not related to shepherding and teaching. Under the oversight of the elders, deacons may be responsible for the practical details of church life: facilities, finances, benevolence, meals, guest services (such as ushers and greeters) security, media and technology, the Lord’s Supper, and so on. “Perhaps one reason why, in the providence of God, we are not given an explicit job description for deacons is to allow them the flexibility to serve in a variety of roles.”viii As for the number of deacons needed in a church, there should not be a set number or limit. (Acts 6 is narrative more than normative). Rather, the number of deacons should be determined by (1) the needs of that particular church and (2) the number of qualified deacon candidates.

The Role of Members

While the Christian church recognizes the offices of elders and deacons, it is also appropriate (and biblically warranted) to understand church membership as an office as well. Members, possessing the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:13-19; 18:15-20), are obligated to perform certain duties. Jonathan Leeman, who has written extensively about church membership, provides a helpful list of job responsibilities for church members: (1) Attend church regularly; (2) Help preserve the gospel; (3) Help affirm gospel citizens; (4) Attend members’ meetings; (5) Disciple other church members; (6) Share the gospel with outsiders; (7) Follow your leaders.ix

The Bible makes the role of members undeniable, unmistakable, and unavoidable: discipleship. Discipleship is simply God’s people helping God’s people to do all that Jesus commands. We have been given the task of preaching the gospel, making disciples, and being ambassadors of reconciliation (Matt. 28:18–20; 2 Cor. 5:18–20). We are called to protect the gospel (1 Tim 5:19-20; 2 Thess. 3:6; cf. Gal 1:6) and put the gospel on display by living a life of holiness, love, and grace. Leeman writes, ” Our work is to share and protect the gospel, and it’s to affirm and oversee gospel professors—church members. . . . The job here is bigger than showing up at members’ meetings and voting on new members. The church member’s job lasts all seven days. Ours is the work of representing Jesus and protecting his gospel in each other’s lives every day.”x

Church’s practicing meaningful membership tend to have a church covenant. This covenant summarizes the commands of the Lord Jesus given to those who belong to him and his church. Obedience to these commands proves our profession of faith and baptism to be genuine. In fact, church membership is what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus; a disciple is a healthy church member.

Conclusion

Church polity is inevitable. Every church has a particular understanding of and implementation of church government. The question is whether or not your understanding and practice of church government is biblical and pleasing to God. While church polity can seem like a trivial matter, understanding the offices in the church is vital for being faithful to what God commands in Scripture and for having a healthy church.

So, to sum it all up: Elders equip the saints to do the work of ministry. Deacons serve the church by supporting the work of the elders. And members of the body of Christ make disciples by being key-wielding citizens of heaven through membership in a local church.


  1. Benjamin L. Merkle, “The Biblical Role of Elders,” in Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 285.
  2. John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 76.
  3. Mark Dever, Understanding Church Leadership, Church Basics series (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016), 24.
  4. Jeramie Rinne, Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus, Building Healthy Churches series (Wheaton, IL; Crossway, 2014), 81.
  5. Rinne, Church Elders, 101.
  6. John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2005), 193.
  7. Benjamin L. Merkle, “The Office of Deacon,” in Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 319-20.
  8. Hammett, Biblical Foundations, 195.
  9. Jonathan Leeman, “Your 7 Job Responsibilities as a Church Member
  10. Jonathan Leeman, “Church Membership Is an Office and a Job”

True Complementarianism

When it comes to the roles of men and women in the home and in the church, there are two broad positions: egalitarian and complementarian.

Egalitarians hold that male and female are equal both as persons made in God’s image and in function or role. The idea that men are to lead in the home and the church, and that women are to submit to their leadership, is actually the result of the Fall. In Christ, “full male/female equality is restored, dignity is given back to women, and servant attitudes are called for in men and women alike.”1

Complementarians hold that male and female are equal as persons who bear God’s image, but have complementary roles designed by God. The different functions to which men and women have been called are part of God’s good created order, though the Fall has introduced strife in our relationships in the home and the church. In Christ, these roles are not abolished but restored.

What follows is a brief overview and defense of the complementarian position. Misconceptions and stereotypes concerning gender roles abound in the church at large today. Many Christians are challenging what the Bible teaches regarding biblical manhood and womanhood, while others aren’t even sure what to think at all. I am convinced by Scripture that the distinction between masculine and feminine roles is God’s gift to mankind, and that they are to be preserved and practiced for his glory and our joy.

Made in the Image of God

From the very outset of Scripture, we read that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Mankind was created by God with dual sexuality: we are male and female (see Gen. 2:7-25). Because we have been made in God’s image, bearing his likeness and able to reflect his righteous character, men and women are therefore equal in essence, value, and dignity, and worthy of mutual respect. Men and women stand equal before God as persons, yet are distinct in their manhood and womanhood.2

Moreover, not only are men and women equal before God creation, but they are also “fellow-heirs in the Christian life, equal in their spiritual standing before God.”3 The apostle Paul explains that in Christ Jesus, we are all “sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).

Distinctions between ethnicity, social standing, and gender have no bearing on our standing before God, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Through faith, we are all sinners saved by grace. Both male and female are sons of God, united to Christ by the Spirit, clothed with Christ, and belong to Christ. As we’ve said before, the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Complementarianism begins here, with the affirmation of male-female equality as regards creation and redemption. But why did God make man as male and female? Why these two genders? Ray Ortlund helps point us in the right direction when he writes: “The very fact that God created human beings in the dual modality of male and female cautions us against an unqualified equation of the two sexes. This profound and beautiful distinction, which some belittle as ‘a matter of mere anatomy,’ is not a biological triviality or accident. It is God who wants men to be men and women to be women; and He can teach us the meaning of each, if we want to be taught.”4

Roles in the Home

As part of God’s good created order, men and women have been called to different yet equally important and complementary roles in both the home and the church in order that we may fulfill the creation mandate given to us by God—to be fruitful and rule the earth for his glory. In the home, husbands are to lead their wives, and their headship is to be loving, gentle, and considerate. Wives are to submit to that leadership in a willing, gentle, and respectful way (Eph. 5:21-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).5Biblical headship for the husband is the divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike servant-leadership, protection and provision in the home. And biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”6

For the Husband is the Head of the Wife

Genesis 2-3 unfolds these roles in a number of ways. First, Adam was created first—an important fact which Paul refers two twice when affirming male headship in the church (1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13). Second, Eve was created from man as his equal, but for the man as his ‘helper’ (Gen. 2:18, 22)—a term used for God throughout the Old Testament! Third, Adam names his wife twice, both before and after the Fall (Gen. 2:23; 3:20). And fourth, God approaches Adam for their sin (Gen. 3:9), which is why Paul can say that though Eve sinned first (1 Tim. 2:14), Adam is the representative head of fallen humanity (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22).

But the clearest explanation of these distinct yet complementary roles is found in the New Testament, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:22-25ff.).

Ruined by Sin, Restored by Christ

It’s important to note, however, that headship and submission in the marriage relationship was not the result of the Fall and the curse of sin (which is claimed by egalitarians). Genesis 1-3 makes it clear that these roles were ordained by God before the Fall for our good and his glory. Yet, the entrance of sin into the world disrupted the beautiful relationship between man and woman. In Genesis 3:16, the Lord tells the woman: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” This means that instead of joyfully submitting to her husband’s headship, the woman would be tempted to master him (cf. Gen. 4:7 where sin’s “desire is contrary” to Cain). And instead of leading his wife in a loving and caring way, the man will be tempted to rule her harshly and selfishly. In other words, both the roles of submission and authority can easily become twisted and perverted so as to not reflect God’s good design.

This is why husbands are repeatedly commanded to love their wives (Eph. 5:25, 29, 33), to not be harsh with them (Col. 3:19), and to honor them (1 Pet. 3:7). This is why wives are repeatedly commanded to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22, 24, 33; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-2) and do so “with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (3:4). Though corrupted by the Fall, the gospel of Jesus Christ redeems and restores our manhood and womanhood.

Of course, this understanding of roles will play out differently depending on your current station in life. For example, single moms have to fill both roles. Those who aren’t married have no husband to whom they must submit. The Bible doesn’t say women must submit to men; it says wives must submit to their own husbands. But God’s Word is clear that “both male-female equality and male headship, properly defined, were instituted by God at creation and remain permanent, beneficent aspects of human existence.”7 Our relationships will flourish as we embrace biblical manhood and womanhood not only in the home but also in the church.

Roles in the Church

As we already saw, the distinction between genders has no bearing on our standing before God, for through faith we are all one in Christ Jesus and equally share in the blessings of salvation (Gal. 3:26-29). Redeemed men and women have become a kingdom and priests to our God and Savior by the blood of Lamb (Rev. 5:9-10). We are all called to follow Jesus by doing the disciple-making work of gospel ministry (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:12-16).

But in the church, which Paul calls “the household of God” (1 Tim. 3:15), our spiritual “equality coexists with divinely mandated leadership and submission.”8 Scripture is clear that God has ordained the existence of officers, some of whom are called to the leadership of the church under Christ’s headship. This in no way diminishes or destroys our equality in Christ. Just as headship and submission exist within the home according to God’s design, likewise headship and submission exist within God’s home, the church, according to his design. Specifically, the office of elder—a term used interchangeably with both ‘pastor’ and ‘overseer/bishop’—may only be held by biblically qualified men (1 Tim. 3:1-7).

For Adam Was Formed First

The apostle Paul writes about this in his first letter to Timothy: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim. 2:11-14; see also 1 Cor. 11:2-16). Having said this, Paul then proceeds to list the qualifications for elders in the local church in chapter 3.

The word ‘authority’ here, John Piper explains, refers to “the divine calling of spiritual, gifted men to take primary responsibility as elders for Christlike, servant-leadership and teaching in the church. And ‘submission’ refers to the divine calling of the rest of the church, both men and women, to honor and affirm the leadership and teaching of the elders and to be equipped by them for the hundreds and hundreds of various ministries available to men and women in the service of Christ.” 9

Simply put, when it comes to the public teaching and leadership of the congregation performed by the elders, in a local assembly with men present, women are not allowed to assume that role. This is not a question of ability or giftedness; this prohibition is grounded in the divinely designed role-relations between male and female in creation!

Notice the “for” in verse 13; this is an extremely important word. This shows that Paul is not making an argument from competence (what women are capable of doing) or culture (how women were viewed in the first century throughout the Roman empire) but from creation (that God made Adam first, then Eve). The reason women are not to serve as elders in the church is based on God’s design for manhood and womanhood and his purposes for marriage and the family. Remember, the church is the household of God! Therefore, in God’s family (where Christ is our head), women are not to have authority over men as pastor-teachers.

Gospel Ministry in the Local Church

What does this mean, then, for women in the local church? Quite simply, that “women are to use their gifts in every way that Christians in general are to do, except for those areas explicitly prohibited by Scripture [namely, teaching and exercising authority over men]. . . . One must not draw the false conclusion that the Scriptures are opposed to women teaching or exercising any kind of leadership.”10

For example, at ECC where I pastor, while men lead the congregational singing of the church, women participate as well; they teach and lead our children’s classes; they lead women’s bible studies and fellowship groups. Women may also read Scripture and pray publicly in the church (see 1 Cor. 11:5).11 And when the biblical office of deacon is rightly understood and established in the local church—when deacons are not charged with the leadership and oversight of the church, when they do not function as a board of directors but as servants in charge of specific ministries—many complementarians agree that women are able to serve as deacons (1 Timothy 3:11 can be used to support both sides).

Yet some women, who hold to the complementarian position, still feel like they don’t have a role to play in the church—or at least any significant role. They think, “Since only men can be pastors, what can I do?” However, this is like saying, “I don’t sing or play an instrument, so what can I do in this church?” If pastors are the only ones called to the work of gospel ministry, then you’re right—women have no place. But the Bible is abundantly clear that pastors are absolutely not the only ones called to do the work of gospel ministry. In fact, men and women both are called to submit to the leadership of the elders who have been charged with the oversight of the church, so that they might be equipped for the work of ministry.

And what is that exactly? Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:12-13, when he says that the saints are to be equipped “for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, men and women are called to make disciples of Christ! Writing to Titus, Paul explains further that women are to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior by discipling other women (Titus 2:3-5). This is accomplished by centering your lives around the women in your local church and helping them to obey God in all of life.

But even beyond ministry in the local church, a complementarian understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood is far from restrictive or oppressive. “With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world (1 Cor 12:7-21).”12

Conclusion

In his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, William Mounce observes that one of the reasons this discussion often becomes heated is that there is an underlying assumption that a limited role necessarily means diminished personal worth. However, Mounce reminds us that,”the equating of worth and role is a nonbiblical, secular view of reality. Nowhere in Scripture are role and ultimate worth ever equated.” In fact, he continues, “we constantly find the opposite.” The idea of the last being first, the Suffering Servant, and Paul’s analogy of the church as Christ’s body all help us see that role and worth are unrelated.13

While men and women are absolutely equal in essence, dignity, and value as they together bear the image of God, they are nevertheless beautifully different by divine design. As part of God’s good created order, men and women are to have different, important, strategic, yet complementary roles in the home and in the church. These role distinctions are God’s gracious gift to man and woman and are to be protected, preserved and practiced for His glory and our joy.


  1. Bruce Ware, “Summaries of the Egalitarian and Complementarian Positions,” CBMW, June 26, 2007, https://cbmw.org/uncategorized/summaries-of-the-egalitarian-and-complementarian-positions/
  2. The Danvers Statement, Affirmation #1, https://cbmw.org/about/danvers-statement/
  3. George W. Knight III, “The Family and the Church: How Should Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Work Out in Practice?” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 353.
  4. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship: Genesis 1-3” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 89.
  5. Knight, “The Family and the Church,” 353.
  6. John Piper, “God Created Man Male and Female: What Does it mean to Be Complementarian?” Desiring God, November 24, 2012, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/god-created-man-male-and-female.
  7. Ortlund, “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship,” 86.
  8. S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., “Role Distinctions in the Church: Galatians 3:28” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 153.
  9. John Piper, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 44, emphasis mine.
  10. Knight, “The Family and the Church,” 358.
  11. When Paul writes that “the women should keep silent in the churches” in 1 Corinthians 14:34, the immediate context reveals that he is speaking specifically about the evaluation of prophecies in the church, not that women cannot pray or read Scripture.
  12. The Danvers Statement, Affirmation #9
  13. William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary 46 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 148.

Keeping Children in the Worship Service

Our church has experienced a wonderful revitalization over the past few years. By God’s grace, we have endeavored to become a more Word-centered, gospel-driven, and Christ-exalting church, seeking to always be reformed according to Scripture. One of the more recent subjects we addressed was concerning our Lord’s Day worship and children’s ministry programming. Formerly, children were dismissed part way through the service for Kids Church. Now, rather than being dismissed along with the toddlers (ages 2-3) and preschoolers (ages 4-5), our elementary students (grades 1-5) continue to participate in the worship service with the rest of the congregation.

There is obviously a tremendous benefit in age-specific education. In fact, our toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary students currently use The Gospel Project curriculum either during the Sunday Classes hour or during the Kids Church portion of our Sunday morning service. We want them to be working through the Scriptures, seeing Jesus on every page, and becoming fluent in the gospel. However, there are several reasons that compelled us to keep our elementary students in the worship gathering for its entirety.

The Pattern and Power of Scripture

First, the pattern of Scripture supports keeping kids in the service. In the Old Testament, it appears that children were included in the corporate worship of the covenant community to hear the word of the Lord (Ex. 12:24-27; Deut. 31:9-13; Josh. 8:30-35; Neh. 8:1-8ff.; 12:43). The reason? Deuteronomy 31:12: “…that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law.”

Second, in the letters written to the Ephesian and Colossian churches, Paul directly addresses wives and husbands, parents and children, bondservants and masters (Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-4:2). This suggests that children were present in the congregations where these letters were being read (cf. Col. 4:16)!

Third, if we truly believe that God’s Word is living and active, that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, that the Holy Spirit works through the Word to bring illumination, conviction, and repentance, then we must pray that the Word of God will reach the hearts of our children in ways that they may not even recognize. In Acts 2:39 Peter proclaims that the promise of forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. Yes, they may be thinking, reasoning, speaking, and acting like children; but as Albert Mohler reminds us, “the Word of God can reach where we cannot go.”

The Formative Power of the Worship Service

Parents are to be the primary disciple-makers of their children (Deut. 6:4-9; Ps. 78:5-7; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4). The corporate worship service—where God’s word is publicly read, sung, prayed, preached, and seen in the sacraments—is a powerful and formative tool for discipling our children. Part of how kids learn is through observation and imitation. Sitting through a worship service teaches them how to worship by listening to God’s Word read and preached. The content of the prayers, songs, sermon also gives parents an opportunity to teach their children; they can help them follow along, and afterwards ask questions and explain things to them.

 Parents have the great responsibility (and opportunity!) to teach to their children, by their own example, the meaning and value of worship—not just personal but corporate. If we don’t value and prioritize the local church, we shouldn’t be surprised if our kids don’t either.

John Piper explains: “The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is parents who don’t cherish doing that worship, [who] don’t love it. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. They know if dad [or mom or grandma] loves being here. The aim is that the children catch the passion for worshiping God by watching mom and dad enjoy God week after week.”

Our kids should want to be in church in part because they see that their parents want to be there. Imagine the cumulative effect on a child who sees his parents praying fervently, confessing their sins, singing joyfully, reading the Word reverently, listening to the sermon intently, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper week after week, year after year!

Raising Generations Today

Children also benefit from being in the presence of Christians of various ages because they are able to see that the faith of their parents is not a faith that they own alone; they see a faith that is important to all of these people who are gathered around them on Sunday morning. Keeping kids in the worship service helps cultivate inter-generational discipleship. When our children see this incredible gathering of people reading the Word, praying, confessing, and singing together it reinforces what mom and dad are modeling and teaching at home. It gives them a taste of the eternal—God’s saints celebrating him together.

One pastor writes: “[They] must see, know, and learn that the singing of the great hymns of the faith, the preaching of the Word, reading of confessions, corporate prayers, etc. is anything but boring. It is the gathered life of the community of faith. It is our weekly rhythm—appointed by God, designed by Him, established for the ages—this is what we want them to know, because we want them to know and worship Him.”

If our children grow up totally separated from the church of their parents and grandparents, in their own “church” which constantly caters to their age, desires, and interests, it shouldn’t surprise us to see these children grow up feeling disconnected from church, bored with church, and ill-equipped to become active members of a church when they are on their own. We want our kids to know that church is for them as well.

Parents, Prepare Your Children for Worship

Much of the success of this change depends on the parents. Despite common objections, there are several things a parent can do to help prepare their children for corporate worship on Sunday Morning. Noël Piper and Jeremy Walker have both written excellent practical suggestions for helping your kids sit through “big church.” These include:

  1. Worship with your family throughout the week. Set aside time during the week to sing, pray, read the Scriptures. Family worship not only helps you disciple your children, but it also helps Sunday morning corporate worship to not be such a shock to their systems.
  2. Start preparing Saturday night. Ensure that your family gets plenty of rest the night before in order to have enough time Sunday morning to prepare and arrive on time for church.
  3. Arrive early enough to get drinks, use the bathroom, and accomplish other tasks before the service. This can help to limit the amount of trips in and out of the sanctuary.
  4. Worship with your children. Encourage them to read along, sing along, take notes, listen carefully. Helping them learn at a young age to listen well, sit still, and pay attention will serve them far beyond two hours on a Sunday morning.
  5. If necessary, provide them with “quiet” activities, such as crayons or pencils for drawing or coloring. Our church makes these items available for parents to borrow, along with a kid-friendly paper designed for taking notes throughout the service.

Let the Children Come

The most common objection, of course, is: “They won’t understand the sermon! It’ll be over their heads!” But listen to how Piper excellently responds to this sentiment: “Of course, it is over their head. It is supposed to be over their head! They are beginners. The English language is over their head as soon as they come out of the womb. But we don’t say: Well, let’s put them with other children in their own situations and limitations so they can understand a word or two. No. We immerse them in the English language every day—that they don’t understand 90% of—in the hope and expectation that they grow up into joyful use of the English language. Long before children understand fully what is going on in worship and what is sung and what is said, they are absorbing tremendous amounts of what is valuable.”

This transition hasn’t been an easy one for our families. It has taken much work and patience. But we strongly believe that the long-term benefits outweigh the additional noise and fidgeting. Children are a blessing from God and a gift to the church. Yes, it’s a noisy gift; it’s a squirming and fidgeting gift; it’s a messy gift; but it is a beautiful gift. Children are serve as a visual reminder of those to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. Our Lord welcomed them with open arms, and we should do likewise.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Altar Calls

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher, and medical doctor who pastored at Westminster Chapel in London for almost 30 years. Considered by many to be one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century, Lloyd-Jones was devoted to fervent prayer and faithful ministry of the word. His passion for Spirit-empowered preaching, which he defined as “logic on fire,” made a profound and lasting impact on the church on both sides of the Atlantic.

Preaching and Calling for Decisions

In 1969, he delivered a series of lectures on the essence of powerful preaching to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary. These essays were later compiled and published as the book Preaching & Preachers,which has become a definitive text on biblical exposition. One of the many topics he addresses is that of ‘altar calls’: the issue of whether or not a gospel minister should call for decisions at the conclusion of his sermon by inviting people to come forward to be saved.

Personally, Lloyd-Jones did not subscribe to this practice and offered several compelling reasons why preachers should likewise avoid such invitations. But he also makes an important and charitable point regarding his position: “I am in no way querying the motives or the sincerity of those who use this method, or the fact that there have been genuine converts” (Preaching & Preachers, 295). God has surely used altar calls or other forms of invitations as a means of conversion for many. However, that does not mean that the practice is biblically sound.

While much more could be said about the history and the confusion that results from altar calls, below is simply a summary of the arguments against the practice which Lloyd-Jones gives in his lecture. Whether his reasons are compelling to you or not, you decide.

The Argument from History

Far from being a New Testament practice or a pattern throughout the entire history of the church, altar calls only came into the life of the church during the nineteenth century. In particular, the focus on calling for decisions was a result of the ministry of Charles G. Finney (1792-1875). As the father of American revivalism, Finney promoted several “new measures” in an attempt to produce spiritual conversions at his evangelistic meetings. One of these strategies was the so-called ‘anxious bench’ where people were invited to make decisions on the spot, and served as a precursor to the altar calls of today.

However, if one examines the teaching of Charles Finney, it becomes clear that his theology was radically different from the evangelical faith. Lloyd-Jones explains that “it is not an accident that it came in with Finney, because ultimately this is a matter of theology” (285). If the goal is to preach Christ in the power of the Spirit, then the results are left up to God. But if the goal is conversion—a result that only God can bring about— then ends will justify the means. Lloyd-Jones also adds that, at the same time, “we must never forget that an Arminian like John Wesley and others did not use this method” (285).

Pressuring the Will

Calling for decisions at the conclusion of a sermon applies direct pressure to the will of the hearer. However, Lloyd-Jones argues that it is dangerous, even wrong, to address the will in this manner.  Such an approach can produce results, but those results “may have no real relationship to the Truth” (288). His reasoning comes from Paul’s words to the Romans: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom. 6:17). Notice the order: their choice to obey came from the heart, and the heart had been moved by the truth of the gospel which they had first been taught.

Lloyd-Jones explains that the will is to be approached through the mind and then the affections. “As the mind grasps [the Truth], and understands it, the affections are kindled and moved, and so in turn the will is persuaded and obedience is the outcome. In other words, the obedience is not the result of direct pressure on the will, it is the result of an enlightened mind and a softened heart” (286). Yes, we want sinners to obey the gospel and choose to follow Jesus, but the preacher must be first concerned with proclaiming the word of Christ and praying that his hearers may “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; see also Rom. 10:17).

In reality, pressuring the will “may produce a condition in which what has determined the response of the man who ‘comes forward’ is not so much the Truth itself as, perhaps, the personality of the evangelist, or some vague general fear, or some other kind of psychological influence” (286-87). A person might choose to come forward to escape the torments of hell or to receive promised blessing from God—but you don’t have to be born again to want blessings or escape from suffering. (A similar argument can be made regarding applying pressure to the emotions, especially through the use of music. Have you ever heard of an altar call without music playing in the background?)

A Sinner’s Inability

Related to this idea of focusing on the will, Lloyd-Jones explains that this method “carries in it the implication that sinners have an inherent power of decision and of self-conversion” (289). An unbeliever can be led to think that if they answer the invitation to raise their hand, walk the aisle, and say a prayer, then they will be saved. The danger with this thinking is that coming forward to an ‘altar’ is not always indicative of true repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus. “This method tends to produce a superficial conviction of sin, if any at all” (289). It can lead a person to believe that conversion is the work of man rather than the work of God.

While salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, available to all who repent and believe the gospel, sinners will never obey the gospel unless the Holy Spirit first does the work of regeneration (more on this below). The Apostle Paul makes this abundantly clear: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Unless God makes us alive together with Christ by grace his grace, we will remain spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins; salvation is the gift of God, “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:1-10).

Again, God may very well use a sermon to convict people of their sin and grant them the gift of repentance and faith so that, when a call is given, they respond wholeheartedly. But the bottom line is that God alone gives the growth; God alone gives life to the dead and calls nonexistent faith into existence (Rom. 4:17). To insist that an altar call is necessary for people to “make a decision for Christ”—that a sinner simply needs to be given a chance to choose and respond to an invitation in order to be saved—is an unbiblical notion.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

This leads Lloyd-Jones to emphasize what he considers the most serious issue: a misunderstanding of the doctrine of regeneration. “This work is the work of the Holy Spirit, and His work alone, no one else can do it. The true work of conviction of sin, and regeneration, and the giving of the gift of faith and new life is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. And as it is His work it is always a thorough work; and it is always a work that will show itself” (291). As an illustration of this, Lloyd-Jones refers to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, and how his hearers cried out under conviction, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They didn’t wait for an invitation to respond, and no music was needed to set the mood; the Spirit did the work.

Paul again explains this in unmistakable terms: “It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Those who receive Christ and believe in his name are those who are have been born “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). In short, regeneration precedes faith. Even Jesus himself said that a sinner is unable to come to him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44)!

Advocates of altar calls insist that such invitations allow room for the Holy Spirit to work. But Scripture is abundantly clear the Holy Spirit of God works through the word of God! This isn’t to say that a preacher doesn’t need to instruct his hearers on what repentance looks like, or how to begin living life as a disciple of Jesus; even Peter told his hearers to repent and be baptized! (In fact, baptism—not responding to an altar call—is the biblical way we are to publicly identify ourselves with the church of Christ.) This also doesn’t mean that a pastor doesn’t need to be available after a sermon to speak and pray with those under conviction. Lloyd-Jones was insistent that a preacher must make himself available. But the work of conviction and regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit, and far be it from us to use means that imply (whether we think it does or not) that we can manipulate his work.

What Then Shall We Do?

Ministers of the gospel must boldly proclaim the words of our Lord to a lost and dying world: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)! “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25)! Yet preaching the word and calling for decisions should not be separated in our thinking. A separate altar call is not necessary for the Spirit to do his work. “The appeal is a part of the message; it should be so inevitably. The sermon should lead men to see that this is the only thing to do” (296).

As the truth of the gospel is declared, as we prayerful preach the word in full reliance upon the sovereign power of the Spirit, the hearts of our hearers will either be hardened or softened. The word of God will be either the aroma of death or the aroma of life (2 Cor. 2:14-17). Our concern should not be with decisions or immediate visible results, but the Spirit’s work of regeneration and his fruit of repentance, faith, and love towards God and the brothers. In sum, as Lloyd-Jones reminds us, “We must learn to trust the Spirit and to rely upon His infallible work” (296).


For Further Reading:

Preaching and Preachers, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Ian H. Murray

The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Steven J. Lawson

Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858, by Ian H. Murray

Who Is the Savior?

One of the most glorious truths we learn about God from the Old Testament is that he is the Savior. Not only is he the sovereign Creator (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:9-11) and righteous Judge of all the earth (Ps. 7:11; Ps. 50:6), but he is also the gracious Savior, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:-57; Ps. 68:20; 86:5-15). The Old Testament in its entirety is, in one sense, the history of God’s saving and redemptive acts.

In Isaiah, the Lord declares to his covenant people: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa. 43:1-3). This truth is then restated and affirmed in the most exclusive of terms: “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior” (43:11; see also Isa. 45:21; Hos. 13:4).

However, centuries later, we come upon a band of lowly shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night near Bethlehem, surrounded by the shining brilliance of the glory of the Lord, and hearing the angelic proclamation: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11; cf. 1:47). This child, born of the virgin Mary, was given the name Jesus, for he had come to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21-23). And this indeed is what he accomplished by his sinless life, his obedience unto death, his resurrection, and his ascension to the right hand of the Father. Jesus Christ is the “Savior of the world” (John 4:42; Acts 5:31; Phil. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:10).

Are THere Two Saviors or One?

Is there a contradiction here? If there is no savior besides the Lord, and if salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8), can there be another savior? The only way our answer can be “yes” is if this other savior is actually not another but God himself. And this indeed is the clear-yet-mysterious answer revealed to us in Scripture. The good news of great joy proclaimed to the shepherds that night long ago was that the Lord their God, the Holy One of Israel, their Savior, had come to dwell among them in the person of Jesus: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Therefore, throughout the New Testament, it is not just God the Father but the Lord Jesus Christ—the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God— who is declared to be the Savior. And one of the clearest places we discover this doctrine is in Paul’s letter to Titus.

Our Great God and Savior

Compared to its length, the book of Titus refers to the truth of God as Savior more than any other book in the New Testament. Paul speaks of God the Father as being our Savior (Titus 1:3; 2:10; 3:4) as well as Jesus Christ, God the Son (Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6). These references to “our Savior” are found coupled together in each chapter, with God mentioned first each time and Jesus shortly after, and serve as a powerful testimony to the deity of Christ.[1]

But one verse in particular stands out above the rest. It is found in Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul declares that the one who has given himself for us to redeem us is none other than “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13). There are several features of this verse that are important to consider. First, grammatically, “Jesus Christ” is said to be in apposition to the preceding phrase. This means that it essentially serves as an alternate name for “our great God and Savior.”[2]
Second, the way this verse is laid out in the original language makes it clear that the terms “God and Savior” both refer to Jesus.[3] (A similar construction is found in 2 Peter 1:1: “…by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”)

Third, the adjective “great” is never used to describe God in the New Testament. God’s greatness was assumed, but to apply this term to Christ would be rather significant. Fourth, we know that Paul is clearly referring to Jesus by this phrase since it is the Son, not the Father, who will be revealed at the second coming (Matt. 16:27; 1 Tim. 6:14; 1 Thess. 4:15-16; 2 Thess. 2:8).

Finally, this future appearance of Jesus is described as “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior.” Jesus is the glory of God the Father (see also Luke 9:28-35; 2 Cor. 4:4, 6; Heb. 1:3)! But in this letter, Paul also refers to the first coming of Jesus—his past appearance—by saying that the grace of God has appeared (Titus 2:11), and that the goodness and loving kindness of God has appeared (3:4). In other words, Jesus is the grace of God made manifest. He is the goodness and loving kindness personified. He is the glory of God incarnate.

So, who is the Savior? Is God the Savior or is Jesus the Savior? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Our Triune God is the Savior. The message of both the Old and New Testaments is that salvation belongs to our God. It is purposed by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit. As Fred Sanders writes, “Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brings us home to the Trinity.”[4]

Why Does ANY OF This Matter?

This of eternal significance because, as Jesus himself taught, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). The Apostle John also makes this teaching abundantly clear in his epistles when he writes: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; 2 John 9). To profess to worship the one true God, and yet deny the teaching of his only-begotten Son—as well as his apostles and prophets—that he indeed is God the Son, is to fail to worship God rightly.

If the Jesus you claim to believe in for salvation is not your “great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13), the eternal Word (John 1:1-3, 14, 18), “God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5), and the one in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col 1:19; 2:9), then you are believing in a false Christ and are still in your sins. If your confession is not, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28), you have not believed or obeyed the Son, and the wrath of God remains upon you (John 3:36). This is the truth that Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religious groups need to hear.

But the good news of great joy remains that salvation belongs to our Triune God, and he is mighty to save (Zeph. 3:17).

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).

 


[1] M. J. Harris, “Salvation,” ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 763. See the discussion in Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008) 173-185.

[2] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016), 103-04.

[3] The notes from the NET Bible provide a helpful explanation: “The construction in Greek is known as the Granville Sharp rule, named after the English philanthropist-linguist who first clearly articulated the rule in 1798. Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-καί-noun (where καί [kai] = “and”), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent” (https://net.bible.org/#!bible/Titus+2).

[4] Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 10.

Jerusalem and the Sin of Presumption

The city of Jerusalem is a central feature of Luke’s Gospel. His entire narrative is set against the background of godly Jews longing to see the “consolation of Israel” and eagerly waiting for the “redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25, 38). As the capital of the nation and the site of the temple, this unique city was associated with the presence of the divine Name and the place of true sacrifice; it was central to Israel’s life and hope (Deut. 12:10-11; Ps. 48; Isa. 52:7-10). It comes as no surprise, then, that Jerusalem plays an important part in the life and ministry of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The majority of Luke’s gospel is spent describing Jesus’ long journey towards Jerusalem, having “set his face” to go there (Luke 9:51) in order to accomplish everything that written about the Son of Man by the prophets. But what the prophets had foretold was that the promised Messiah would come to Jerusalem to suffer and die, having been ultimately rejected by his own people (Luke 18:31-33). Therefore, Luke’s overall description of Jerusalem is by no means optimistic.

The City that Rejected her Messiah

Jesus, in his lament over the city, identifies Jerusalem as “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it” (Luke 13:33-34; 20:9-18). Jesus, the Great Prophet, would soon suffer and die outside of her walls like all those who had come before and prefigured him. As he approaches and sees the city, amidst shouts of praise and acclamation from his many disciples, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and pronounces its impending judgment and destruction (Luke 19:41-44). Why? Because the city of God had failed to recognize its visitation by the Son of God. The city that was anxiously awaiting her promised Messiah—David’s greater son and anointed king—did not receive him.

He then proceeds to cleanse the temple and later foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple again (Luke 19:45-46; 21:5-36). This tragic portrayal of Jerusalem is made complete when Jesus, the very salvation of God and redemption of Jerusalem, is condemned by his own and handed over to be crucified. God’s very own people, hardened by unbelief, were blind to the fulfillment of God’s promises right in their midst.

The City that Received his Mercy

Yet Luke’s Gospel does not conclude with a totally negative portrait of Jerusalem. It is presented in his final chapter as somewhat of a city of new beginnings. Not only do the resurrection appearances happen in and around the city, but Jesus declares to his disciples that the good news of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47)! And just as Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna blessed God in the temple at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, he concludes with a description of the disciples returning to Jerusalem “with great joy” and being “continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:52-53).

This then sets the stage for the book of Acts and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus and the Scriptures had foretold, the gospel of repentance and forgiveness was first proclaimed in all of its glory in Jerusalem, where 3,000 souls were added to the church (Acts 2:37-41). This number only continued to grow as the word was preached, the Spirit was received, and the church was edified (Acts 4:4; 6:7).  And as the church was scattered by persecution from the temple leadership and also began to send missionaries, the gospel spread like wildfire from Jerusalem unto the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; 28:30-31).

No longer was Jerusalem needed as the dwelling place of God’s presence on the earth or as the place of sacrifice and worship; Christ, by his indwelling Spirit, was present with his church throughout the world. The hour had come when God would no longer be worshiped in the temple in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth among the nations (John 4:21-24)!

The Danger of Presumption

This portrait of Jerusalem—the city that rejected her Messiah yet also received his mercy—serves as a warning against the subtle but serious sin of presumption. Paul writes extensively on this in Romans 2:1-11, 17-29, and 11:17-24. The self-righteous Jews and hypocritical temple leadership presumed that just because they were Abraham’s physical offspring, they were in God’s good graces (John 8:39). Since they were committed to the Law and upheld their religious traditions, since they had their temple and had as their capital “the city of our God”, they presumed that God was pleased with them. They presumed upon the riches of God’s kindness and patience, not knowing that his kindness was meant to lead them to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Their hard and impenitent hearts led them to neglect the weightier matters of the law, to boast in their own righteousness, to base their worship upon trite ritual rather than true repentance, and even to reject their very own Messiah. As a result, they incurred the judgment of God (Rom. 2:5)

Paul, speaking to the Gentiles included in the people of God, uses the metaphor of an olive tree to make his point clear: “So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches [i.e., Israel], neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (11:20-22). All, both Jews and Gentiles, can be guilty of this sin of presumption.

So how do we not become proud? The answer is to remember that there is a world of difference between saving faith and presumption. Saving faith wholly trusts in the kindness of God. It leads us daily to confess our sins and bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). Presumption, on the other hand, takes God’s kindness for granted and blinds us to our need for continual repentance. True, saving faith is persevering faith—a faith that boasts in the work of Christ and God’s preserving grace. Presumption hardens our hearts to the mercy, grace, and holiness of God, and leads us to hypocrisy. Therefore, let us behold the riches of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, abide in him, and continue in his kindness!

Read the Bible as the Author Intended

As Christians, we love the Bible. Many of us even have quite the collection—from that old King James Bible we used as a kid, to that new ESV Journaling Bible we received as a gift. One of the first apps we download on a new mobile device (whether out of devotion or guilt) is usually a Bible app. We love posting Bible verses on social media, sharing typography that moves us or a landscape that captures the beauty of a psalm. And while we know that some of the Old Testament and Revelation can be hard to grasp, for the most part we believe that all Scripture is profitable for our spiritual growth. So, we make it a point to read our Bible(s) often.

Superstition Ain’t the Way

Yet when we actually sit down to read the Bible, we often do so in a way that is all wrong, and even dangerous. We might say that Scripture is “God’s Word,” but we easily forget that behind the sixty-six books and forty-or-so different authors who wrote across a period of over 1500 years stands one divine Author telling one glorious story.  J. I. Packer explains:

“When you read a book, you treat it as a unit. You look for the plot or the main thread of the argument and follow it through to the end. You let the author’s mind lead yours. . . . You know that you will not have understood it till you have read it from start to finish. If it is a book you want to master, you set aside time for a careful, unhurried journey through it.

“But when we come to Holy Scripture, our behavior is different. To start with, we are in the habit of not treating it as a book—a unit—at all; we approach it simply as a collection of separate stories and sayings. We take it for granted that these items represent either moral advice or comfort for those in trouble. So we read the Bible in small doses, a few verses at a time. We do not go through individual books, let alone the two Testaments, as a single whole. We browse through the rich old Jacobean periods of the King James Version or the informalities of the New Living Translation, waiting for something to strike us. When the words bring a soothing thought or a pleasant picture, we believe the Bible has done its job. We have come to view the Bible not as a book, but as a collection of beautiful and suggestive snippets, and it is as such that we use it. The result is that, in the ordinary sense of ‘read,’ we never read the Bible at all. We take it for granted that we are handling Holy Writ in the truly religious way, but this use of it is in fact merely superstitious.”[i]

The Bible Tells a Story

The Bible is not simply a collection of motivational sayings or unrelated stories. God did not give us a box of inspired fortune cookies to dig through and crack open, ignoring what seemingly doesn’t apply to us and acknowledging only what makes us feel good inside. He gave us a book to read—a book that tells a story.

The Bible is the story of God’s saving acts in history to redeem sinners and restore all things for his glory. It is the story of a King and his kingdom. It is a story that begins at the very beginning of history, ends at the very end of history, and explains everything in between. “It is a single, coherent story, planned and executed and recorded by a single omnipotent, omniscient God.”[ii] And it is a story of grace that is ultimately centered on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, there are several different literary styles that make up the story of Scripture, but it is still telling one story of redemption. Yes, it is a collection of books composed by many human authors, but it is still the inspired word and the self-revelation of one divine Author. Once we begin to approach the Bible with this understanding—and with the eyes of our hearts enlightened by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:18; Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:6)—we will begin to read the Bible as it ought to be read.

Take Up and Read!

So, how do we put this understanding into action? First, it means actually reading the Bible through from cover to cover. Begin to familiarize yourself with God’s story of redemption. When you’ve finished, do what you do when you come to the end of your favorite television show or your favorite record album: go through it again! Sometimes it’s good to go slowly through the Bible, mining all of the riches we can out of each and every verse. But “binge-reading” the Bible can be just as fruitful.

Second, remember that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the main theme that unites the whole of Scripture together. Don’t get discouraged when reading about the borders of the twelve tribes in Joshua or the bizarre imagery in Ezekiel. Instead, keep your eyes on Jesus and the primary themes that run throughout the Bible: promise and fulfillment, creation and new creation, faith and obedience, sin and sacrifice, offspring and kingdom, and so on. You may not understand how every part of Scripture relates to the whole the first time through, but as you prayerfully keep your focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ, you will slowly but surely grow in your understanding and appreciation of God’s holy word.

Third, take advantage of your church’s teaching ministries (assuming you attend a Bible-preaching, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting church). Attend Sunday School classes; sit under the preaching of the word every week; join a small group Bible study. Additionally, go to your pastor(s) with your questions and concerns! Instead of doing a Google search, ask your pastor about any books or Bible reading plans that he recommends. He is a devoted student of Scripture and spends every day familiarizing himself with the story of redemption for your benefit. He prays for you and knows you better than some other guy’s blog ever will.

And fourth, rinse and repeat as necessary. Take up and read!


[i] J. I. Packer, “The Plan of God,” in God’s Plan for You (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 18–19.

[ii] Michael Lawrence, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry, 9Marks (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 30.

Paul in Ephesus: A Biblical Model of Pastoral Ministry

Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-38) takes place at the end of his third missionary journey. On his way back to Jerusalem, Paul summons them while at Miletus in order that he might encourage them in the faith and charge them to continue the work of caring for the church of God. As Alexander Strauch has noted, this speech is a virtual pastoral manual. Paul begins by first reminding the elders of his time spent among them, how he ministered the gospel to them. Yet before he begins his actual commands to the elders in verse 28, his opening remarks provide us with a model of ministry worthy of emulation. Here, we learn that the pastoral ministry consists of both demonstration and declaration of the gospel.

Pastoral Ministry as Demonstration

And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:18-19).

First, Paul’s practice was public. Before Paul mentions the message which he taught them, he reminds them of the message that he lived before them. Here, Paul calls them to remember his practice—his character, his conduct, his work, his way of life. The Ephesian church could all testify to how Paul lived because they all knew him intimately! He had lived among them, in the same environment as the church. He was their brother, their friend, their pastor, and their fellow worker in the gospel. He didn’t live in isolation and wasn’t unapproachable. Like a good shepherd, he smelled like his sheep; he had dirt on his coat and fleece on his sleeves.

Second, Paul’s practice was above approach. He was confident that they could reflect on any portion of the three years that he had spent with them, from the very moment he stepped foot onto Asian soil, and his life would hold up to their scrutiny. They had witnessed firsthand his pastoral ministry, his godly character, and his courage in the face of persecution. But how exactly had Paul lived and ministered among them? This he goes on to clarify in verse 19.

Third, Paul ministered as a slave of Christ.  The word “serving” here means to act or conduct oneself as a slave, as one who is in total service to another. It is to be characterized by undivided allegiance to one’s master. Paul was controlled by the love of Christ and gratefully labored in the service of his good and gracious King. Paul also ministered with all humility. This is the same word found in Philippians 2:3-4, where Paul calls the church, based on the gospel of Jesus Christ, to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is humility which takes the form of unselfishness and self-forgetfulness; it’s not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less! Finally, Paul ministered with tears and trials. Paul was personally and emotionally invested in the Ephesians. He not only cared for them deeply but continued to serve his Lord despite the profound anguish he felt because of Jewish opposition.

These verses serve to highlight a crucial aspect of pastoral ministry: shepherding is deeply relational and inescapably personal. It’s not simply preaching a sermon or teaching a Sunday School lesson; it’s imparting a way of life, investing in and setting an example before the flock. We are to lay down our lives for the sheep in humble, grateful, and joyful service to our Lord and Savior. We are to walk worthy of our calling and model the gospel before them in joy and in sorrow, in peace and in trial.

Pastoral Ministry as Declaration

“…how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21).

As Paul continues, he reminds them not only of the godly life which he demonstrated before them, but of the gospel message which he faithfully declared to them. He calls them to remember his preaching—his words, his message, his teaching, his witness. First, Paul’s preaching was bold. This phrase, to “shrink back,” means to avoid doing something out of fear. It’s same word in Galatians 2:12, where Peter “drew back” and separated himself from eating with Gentiles, fearing the Jews. Here, Paul reminds them that he did not keep silent during his time with them, but boldly declared the message of the gospel.

Second, Paul’s preaching was comprehensive. Notice the terms he uses to describe his gospel declaration. He proclaimed to them everything that was profitable; in verse 27, Paul will explain this as being the whole counsel of God, since it is Scripture alone that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He taught them doctrine, which means that he provided a structured explanation of the gospel for the purposes of retention and better understanding its content. And Paul testified to the truth of the gospel. He “bore witness,” which means he was eager to make a solemn declaration about the truth of the message he proclaimed.

Third, Paul’s preaching was both public and private. He was not only involved in public gatherings and preaching sermons before large crowds, but he was personally invested in teaching sound doctrine to individuals and families! In other words, Paul was devoted to the work of Christian discipleship. This is an often-neglected component of pastoral ministry. We fail to realize that while Sunday sermons are necessary, they are not sufficient (for more on this topic, I highly recommend The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne). Simply put, individual instruction is complementary to public proclamation. We are to apply the whole counsel of God in specific, Spirit-directed ways to the needs of our sheep.

Fourth, Paul’s preaching was for all people. The good news of Jesus Christ is to be preached to all without distinction; the ground is level at the foot of the cross. As Paul told Titus, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (2:11; cf. 1 Timothy 2:4-6). What’s profound about this statement is not just that Gentiles are indeed included in the people of God (the “mystery of Christ” in Ephesians 3:1-12), but that Paul continued to preach to the Jews who persecuted him and rejected him! Paul showed no partiality in his pastoral ministry and gospel declaration.

And fifth, Paul’s preaching was all about repentance toward God and faith in Jesus. This is a beautiful summary of the gospel that all elders are called by God to declare. Repentance is necessary because all, both Jews and Greeks, have sinned and face God’s judgment (Rom. 1:18-3:23). However, by grace through faith in the risen Lord Jesus, everyone who trusts in him will be saved from God’s righteous judgment (Rom. 3:24-8:39). This phrase portrays repentance as an integral component of saving faith; both must be boldly declared if we are to be faithful ministers of God’s gospel.

Watch Yourself and the Teaching

Paul’s model of pastoral ministry as both demonstration and declaration is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. In fact, this model of ministry also applies to the sheep as well. However, Paul’s emphasis is particularly found in the instruction given to pastors and leaders of the church. Paul commands Timothy: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:12-16). Pastors must pay careful attention to both their practice and their preaching to “care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). This is our calling as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastor, what kind of farewell could you deliver to your church?