The Blessings of God’s Effectual Call

By | March 21, 2023

The following loosely organizes many verses using at least one of three related words in the New Testament: “calling” (klēsis), “to call” (kaleō), and “called” (klētos). The calling in each of these verses involves God’s effectual call in which He brings the sinner to Himself for salvation.

When and How

God’s calling comes to a sinner at some point during the life that the Lord assigned him (1 Cor 7:17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24). Thanks to the grace of God and His Son (Gal 1:6, 15), God calls the sinner through His gospel (2 Thess 2:14) and enables him to see Christ as the power and wisdom of God in salvation (1 Cor 1:24).

From Eternity to Eternity

This call is predicated on God’s purpose of election (Rom 9:11) that the sinner would become a vessel of mercy, having been prepared beforehand for eternal glory (Rom 9:24). This call stems from God’s foreknowledge and predestination of the sinner in eternity past, leads to his justification (when he believes), and results in his conformity to the image of the Son and eventually his glorification (Rom 8:28–30). One so called is among the eternally beloved and kept by the Son to be God’s forever (Jude 1).

A Change of Spiritual Realm and Status

God calls the sinner out of spiritual darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). He is called to God’s own glory and excellence (2 Pet 1:3). He becomes a saint (Rom 1:7), together with all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:2). He thus enjoys the fellowship of His Son (1 Cor 1:9) and belongs to Him (Rom 1:6).

A Spiritual Transformation

Now a Christian, he enjoys freedom from sin (Gal 5:13) and lives in obedience to the truth (Gal 5:7–8). He is called in holiness (1 Thess 4:7), to a holy calling (2 Tim 1:9), and thus to be holy, as God is holy (1 Pet 1:15). This calling knows the peace of Christ among the saints (Col 3:15), and among one’s enemies, to suffer (1 Pet 2:21) and yet bless those who revile him (1 Pet 3:9). In every way, the Christian must walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which he has been called (Eph 4:1), a manner worthy of Him who calls him into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thess 2:12), and as he does, he will never fall but one day enter the eternal kingdom of Christ (2 Pet 1:10).

A Future of Blessing with God

All who are called to eternal life (1 Tim 6:12) will join Christ at His return when He conquers all (Rev 17:14). Then, every Christian will fully know God’s eternal glory in His Son Jesus Christ (2 Thess 2:14; 1 Pet 5:10). God will bless them (1 Pet 3:9) and give them their eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15). Their hope now realized (Eph 4:4), they see that God truly worked all things together for their good (Rom 8:28). They will look back at the faithfulness of God as they enjoy perfect sanctification and blamelessness forever (1 Thess 5:23–24).

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Straying While Staying at Home

By | March 20, 2023

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives the qualifications for widows who were to be enrolled in the church care program. In 1 Timothy 5:11–12 Paul commands that the church refuse to enroll younger widows, because they will eventually want to remarry (which Paul encourages in 1 Timothy 5:14) and may abandon “their former faith,” perhaps by breaking a vow to remain widows and/or by marrying an unbeliever.

What I want to focus on, however, is Paul’s further reasons for the refusal of young widows in 1 Timothy 5:13–14. Paul lists some character traits that these women learn:

  • “They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house” (1 Timothy 5:13, emphasis added). Idle is the Greek word argos, meaning lazy, useless, and worthless. This idleness was apparently a learned trait; with too much time on their hands, they went from house to house accomplishing nothing. This characteristic evokes the description of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 7:11–12, who has “feet that do not stay at home, now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner.”
  • While idly going about from house to house, they also learn to be “gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Timothy 5:14, emphasis added). Gossip = “one who talks nonsense, gossipy.”1 Busybodies = “paying attention to matters that do not concern one, of persons, meddlesome, officious, curious.”2 Being a busybody is contrasted to being busy at work in 2 Thessalonians 3:11.

Paul then positively directs his focus in 1 Timothy 5:14 to what the young widow should do instead:

  • Marry. Titus 2:4–5 instructs older women to teach younger women to love and submit to their husbands.
  • Bear Children. Titus 2:4 likewise instructs older women to teach the younger women to love their children.
  • Manage their households. The Greek uses the verb oikodespoteō, a combination of “house” (oikia) and “master” (despotēs), which translates to being the despot/master/lord of the home. “Being mistress of one’s own household . . . is the antidote to ‘meddling in other people’s’ households (5:13). The Greco-Roman household was of a size that required good administrative skills on the part of the mistress. If a woman took good care of her household, the enemy would not be able to say anything against them.”3

Paul concludes his reasoning in 1 Timothy 5:14–15 by describing the spiritual ramifications of women who marry, have children, and manage their household instead of going from house to house, being gossipy, meddlesome, idlers:

  • They give the adversary no occasion to slander (by straying after Satan).
  • Straying after Satan can be avoided. Some of the Ephesian women had strayed after Satan in this way. “Having forsaken their true calling to have children and manage the home, they had given themselves to various sins (cf. 2 Tim. 3:6). Some were no doubt following false teachers, and even helping to spread false doctrine themselves [cf. 2 Tim 3:6–7]. Some may have married unbelievers, and thus brought shame to the church. They were no longer serving Christ, but Satan. For that reason, Paul’s command that the younger widows remarry was all the more urgent.”4

While most of us are probably not young widows, I think there are some valid principles of application that can be applied to both the stay-at-home-mom/wife as well as the women who also work outside of the home.

In her book Glory in the Ordinary, Courtney Reissig describes how at-home work has changed over the years. Before the Industrial Revolution almost everyone worked at home. As the Industrial Revolution took place, men went to work outside of the home in factories, while the women stayed home. As time went on and modern appliances became more common, “the work of the home was suddenly simplified in ways never seen before. . . . With children at school during the day, women had a lot of extra time on their hands.”5 The changes continued as feminism grew in popularity, developing into the “Mommy Wars” and arguments for and against women staying at home or working outside of the home.

My point here is that our work at home (though difficult, challenging, and often time-consuming) has become easier than it used to be due to the many modern appliances and conveniences at our disposal. Is it possible that we—even with husbands and children at home—can be tempted to idleness and gossip because less time-consuming work leaves us with more time on our hands?

Is it even possible that while staying at home we virtually go “house to house” through various social media and internet sites? Although the people we “like” and “follow” have willingly “opened their doors” to us by posting what they think and do, do we spend unnecessary time paying attention to matters that do not concern us, meddling in other people’s lives as busybodies?

Do we soak up all the juicy little details that taste so good (cf. Proverbs 26:22)? Do we spread the news that really isn’t ours to share, like a gossip? Do we say things we ought not to say, simply because we get riled up by someone else’s foolishness that they display for all to see?

In virtually moving from house to house, we can inadvertently learn to be lazy idlers. We do not love our husbands and children well nor manage our households when we waste time following useless pursuits—even while we stay at home.

More importantly, rather than just an exercise in good time management, we care well for our souls when we focus on our families and homes. We give Satan no cause to slander us. We keep the door to false teaching from the internet and social media (prevalent and sometimes deceptively legitimate) closed.

“Our work. . . is telling the world about the God we worship. It’s telling what we value most. It’s telling what we hope in even when it is hard. Christians work differently, in every kind of work, because we work for the Lord.”6 Women, whether we are at home full-time or also work outside the home; whether we have young children, older children, or no children at home, let us avoid the pitfalls of idly wandering (literally or virtually) in other peoples’ lives, becoming meddlesome gossips and time-wasters. Let us mind our own households, managing our own families and homes in a way that brings glory to the Lord.

  1. Johannes P.Louw and Eugene Albert Nida,Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (2nd ed.; New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), vol. 1, p. 431. []
  2. WalterBauer, Frederick W. Danker, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich,A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 800. []
  3. Linda Belleville, “Commentary on 1 Timothy,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), p. 101. []
  4. John F. MacArthur, Jr.,1 Timothy(Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 213–14. []
  5. CourtneyReissig, Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (Wheaton,IL: Crossway, 2017), p. 19. []
  6. Ibid., p. 141. []

The Glories of Our Common Salvation in Jude

By | March 17, 2023

Jude’s purpose in his letter for his readers is clear: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

It’s funny that, even though Jude clarified that he wanted to write about our common salvation but wrote about something else (contending for the faith against false teachers), he ended up saying a bit about this salvation along the way. There is actually much of the ordo salutis to be found in this short letter.

First, we see ourselves described as “beloved in God the Father” (Jude 1). This love in the Father goes back to eternity past, a love that moved Him in His sovereign grace to choose us unto salvation and all of its blessings (Eph 1:4–5). Here we see our election.

Because of His electing love, God effectually called us to Himself through the gospel (Jude 1, “those who were called”). In doing so, He imparted His very life to us (regeneration), enabling us to exercise our repentance and “most holy faith” (Jude 20; cf. Acts 11:18; Heb 6:1). Whereas we had been stained by the flesh and could only expect the Lord to execute His judgment on us one day (Jude 14–15, 23), we were shown mercy, saved, and snatched from the fire (Jude 22).

Though Jude does not mention it, we know that this faith brings about our union with Christ (Col 2:11–12), justification (Rom 3:28), and adoption as sons into the family of God (Gal 3:26). (At the same time, Jude 3 calls us “saints,” implying our justification by labeling us according to our holy status before God.)

Knowing such a salvation, we make progress in our sanctification by “building… up” our faith and “praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). We persevere as we “keep” ourselves “in the love of God” (Jude 21). God likewise preserves us as He is “able to keep” us “from stumbling” (Jude 24), by and “for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1, 24; cf. John 6:37; 10:28–30).

Assured of this salvation through our faith and obedience and these promises, we are “waiting for the” fullest expression of “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 21). This mercy comes at our glorification when God will “present” us “blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). Then, what was His “before all time and now,” we shall ascribe to Him “forever,” “through Jesus Christ our Lord”—“glory, majesty, dominion, and authority…. Amen” (Jude 25).

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The Spoken and Written Word of God in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 5:27  

By | February 2, 2023

1 Thessalonians provides us with two verses (2:13 and 5:27) that help us explore the word of God, whether spoken or written. 

The Spoken Word of God

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess 2:13 ESV).

In this verse, Paul twice calls the content of his verbal witness to the Thessalonians “the word of God.” Though Paul spoke verbally, he spoke the word of God—this word’s origin was divine.

As to the verbal and unwritten nature of his witness to “the word of God,” it was “heard” by the Thessalonians. Luke variously describes Paul’s verbal witness to the Thessalonians as reasoning (dialegomai), explaining (dianoigō), proving (paratithēmi), proclaiming (katangellō), and saying (legō; Acts 17:2–3, 7). In hearing the word of God, the Thessalonians did not merely receive (paralambanō) it into their ears, but they also savingly accepted (dechomai) it for what it was—the very word of God.

So what exactly were these words that Paul called the word of God?

Looking again at Acts 17, the word of God included several truths: Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah; the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead, events that perfectly matched the life of Jesus; the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied these events in detail; and Jesus is a King who is alive today (Acts 17:2–3, 7). And Paul certainly said much more in his first three weeks and time to come (cf. Acts 17:2). He gives us more details in 1 Thessalonians when he recounts what his readers believed: that idols are dead and false; that God is living and true; that God raised Jesus from the dead; that Jesus is God’s Son; and that Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:9–10). More than just merely acknowledging the content of truth, the Thessalonians embraced it in spite of persecution and knew the saving joy of the Holy Spirit, living by His power (1 Thess 1:6–7). They wholeheartedly rejected their former beliefs and way of life to turn to God and live for Him.

But still, should Paul definitively call his own verbal words the word of God?

As an apostle, Paul revealed part of the foundational truth necessary for the establishment of the church (Eph 2:20). In fact, Jesus revealed all of the truth necessary for this age through Paul and the other apostles (Eph 3:5; cf. John 16:13). The apostles verbally spoke these things at first, but as the church grew beyond their reach, they wrote letters, some of which were Scripture (more on this below). But until these letters were written, Paul and the other apostles could apparently say by the Spirit that their verbal witness was the very word of God. Apostles were not perfect and could even sin from time to time (e.g., Gal 2:14), but, based on Paul’s statement in 1 Thess 2:13, we could say that Paul perfectly spoke the very word of God in the exercise of his apostolic office. Much as the prophets of old could claim, “Thus saith the Lord,” so also the apostles spoke the word of God in their verbal, apostolic witness.

The Written Word of God

“I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers” (1 Thess 5:27 ESV).

Paul put the Thessalonians under an oath before the Lord Jesus Christ to read his letter before the assembly. Paul likely addressed the elders of the church and commanded them to read his letter before their brothers.

Paul’s command to publicly read this letter implied that this letter was Scripture (cf. 1 Tim 4:13). By binding his readers with an oath before the Lord Jesus indicated that Paul spoke on behalf of Christ. Thus, Jesus Himself commanded them to read this letter in the assembly. Though written by Paul, this was Christ’s word to the Thessalonians and is still His word to us today.

Paul certainly wrote other letters to edify the churches, letters that were not Scripture (e.g., 1 Cor 5:9; Col 4:16b). What makes 1 Thessalonians (or any other book of the Bible) Scripture is that the Spirit carried the author along in the writing process (2 Pet 1:20–21), producing Scripture, the written and inspired word of God, that which makes one wise to salvation and is profitable to equip him for every good work (2 Tim 3:15–17). Like other Scripture, God has providentially preserved the truth of 1 Thessalonians over time because of its necessary instruction (2 Tim 4:2; cf. 1 Tim 3:15), ongoing authority (John 10:35), and promised permanence (Matt 24:35). Paul consciously knew what words were from the Spirit through him to others, and thus he could forcefully bind his readers to an oath before the Lord to read his letter. Others recognized his letters as Scripture as well (2 Pet 3:15–16).

While we may not have the originals for this letter or the other biblical books, the promise of preservation implies that we have the written word of God today in the totality of its extant manuscripts. The best translations of Scripture are formally equivalent to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, providing a dynamic translation only when the meaning of the original text would be otherwise obscured.

Can We Speak or Write the Word of God Today?

As we have seen, in the exercise of their apostolic office, Paul and the other apostles could perfectly verbalize the word of God to others as Christ revealed foundational truth through them for the establishment of His church. Something foundational happens but once, and given the historically-conditioned requirements for apostles (cf. Acts 1:22–26; e.g., seeing Christ during the ministry of John the Baptist), we have no more foundational figures today (either apostles or prophets; Eph 2:20; 3:5). We can verbally preach and teach the written word of God, even accurately so (cf. 2 Tim 2:15), but this is different from perfectly orating the very word of God as the apostles did long ago.

As to writing the word of God, again, the apostles (and others) gave us the foundation and tradition in the Bible that we teach today. And as their role was qualified by history, so also was the New Testament era of writing God’s word. We can reflect something of God’s written words in writing (e.g., a biblical commentary), but this is infinitely different from revealing new words from God in written form today. Ever since the apostle John penned the “Amen” of Rev 22:21, no one has written new words from God for us today.

Is Man One, Two, or Three?

By | January 26, 2023

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23 ESV).

Paul prays in 1 Thess 5:23 that God would “sanctify” his readers “completely,” including their “whole spirit and soul and body.” Does this verse indicate that man consists of three separate components—spirit, soul, and body?1 And if so, what is the spirit in distinction from the soul?

Paul uses these three terms to stress the wholeness of sanctification, one that reaches every part of man. Paul prays, first, that God would sanctify all of them “completely” and, second, that the “whole” of each part (spirit, soul, and body) would “be kept blameless.” Even Paul’s word order brings this wholeness out. Translated somewhat literally, Paul writes, “Now may the God of peace sanctify you wholly, and the whole of your spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Wholeness is his point, not whether or not the spirit is distinct from the soul. If nothing else, we at least see here that man is one, a unity of body, soul, and spirit.2

We could approach Heb 4:12 similarly. The author’s intent is not to teach us that soul and spirit can indeed be divided from one another but that the Word acts to judge and expose whether or not the readers were truly committed to God, searching their inmost parts.

The poetic parallelism in the words of Mary brings out a similar point. Her soul magnified the Lord, just as her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior (Luke 1:46–47). It is not that the immaterial part of her person had multiple entities engaging in similar activities. Her one being glorified God for His favor.3

It is more difficult to explain how Paul speaks of our earthly and glorified bodies in 1 Cor 15:44. Our present, earthly bodies are “natural” or “soulish,” but our future, heavenly bodies are “spiritual.” By using the terms “natural” and “spiritual,” Paul distinguishes the earthly body from the heavenly body, not the soul from the spirit. By calling our earthly bodies “natural,” Paul emphasizes that they are perishable and mortal (1 Cor 15:53). Likewise, by calling our heavenly bodies “spiritual,” Paul emphasizes that they are imperishable and immortal (1 Cor 15:53).

In another sense, the Bible speaks of man as two, a unity of the material (body) and immaterial (spirit/soul). At creation, God created man’s body and breathed life into him, making him a living soul (Gen 2:7). At death, man’s spirit and soul leave the body (Gen 35:18; Ps 31:5), and the dead, separated from their bodies, may be called either souls or spirits (Hebs 12:23; Rev 6:9). After death, man continues in some sort of embodied state (e.g., 1 Sam 28:14; Matt 17:3) until he is reunited with his earthly body and glorified at the resurrection (Phil 3:20–21; 2 Cor 5:1-5). However we understand the soul in distinction from the spirit (if it is possible or necessary to do so), they together make up the immaterial part of man who God intends to be a unity of material and immaterial forever.4

That man is three is hard to say. As we have seen, Scripture does not neatly separate the spirit from the soul in describing the inner workings of a person, what occurs at death, or how to identify an individual. As seen above, in keeping with the greater tradition of the church, it is easier to describe man as being a unity of two (material and immaterial, body and spirit/soul) rather than three (body, spirit, and soul).

Whether we divide the unseen part of man or not, disagreement on this matter should not divide Christians from one another as they maintain the unity of the Spirit in the body of Christ.

  1. For a recent representative of this view, see Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity: The Doctrines of Man, Sin, Christ, and the Holy Spirit (Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009), 11–23. []
  2. Most use the terminology of monist, dichotomist, or trichotomist to indicate whether man’s nature should be understood as being one or having two or three components. For an overview of each position, see Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 18–24. []
  3. Charles Hodges, Systematic Theology (New York: Charles Scribner, 1872), 2:50. []
  4. For two other helpful sources (both upholding the dichotomist view), see a summary of historical views in Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1938), 191–92, and a discussion of the resurrection body that correlates several passages above in W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003), 869–73. []

Job: An Example of Moral Integrity (Job 31:1–12)

By | January 4, 2023

“The Book of Job” by Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897)

“The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best.”1

This quote by Charles Spurgeon reflected upon Psalm 51:1, David’s cry for mercy after his sin with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Sam 11).

Job was a godly man who avoided this kind of sin. He was the godliest man of his time (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; cf. Ezek 14:14, 20). He was conscious of what Spurgeon implied—even the godliest of men can fall into sexual sin and need to take heed to themselves (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 4:16). Job tells us how he lived a life of moral integrity in Job 31:1–12. We can learn from his example.

A Bit of Context

Job suffered greatly (Job 1–2), and his friends repeatedly suggested sin as the cause for his woes (Job 3–37). God contrasted their wrong explanation with no explanation at all (Job 38–41). Even in suffering, Job needed only to trust the wisdom of his sovereign God, patiently and without question. Job did, and he saw God’s blessing, compassion, and mercy (Job 42; cf. Jas 5:11).

In his last reply to his friends (Job 26–31; cf. 31:40b), Job defended his moral integrity. We will consider just Job 31:1–12 in order to focus on sexual purity, dividing the passage into three sections.

First, do not lust (Job 31:1–4).

Job had made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon what would provoke his lusts (Job 31:1; in this case, “a virgin”—an unmarried, younger woman). A life of unrighteous lust would forfeit his portion from God who would give him calamity and disaster instead (Job 31:2–3). God sees our every way and numbers our every step (Job 31:4). He will judge our evil and our good, whether seen by men or only Him (Ps 139:3; Prov 5:21; 15:3; 1 Tim 5:24).

Job lived as Isaiah would later describe: “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly… shuts his eyes from looking on evil” (Isa 33:15). He knew the truth of what Christ would say: “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). He is an example of Paul’s command for us today: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). 

Second, do not lie in order to act upon your lust (Job 31:5–8).

These verses refer to falsehood and deceit in general, sins stemming from an inordinate desire in the heart to take wrongfully from another what can be seen with the eyes (Job 31:5, 7; cf. Prov 27:20b; 1 John 2:16). Job repeats the notion that God knew his integrity and would judge him for this matter as well (Job 31:6, 8).

Applying Job 31:5–8 to sexual sin, we must remember that what the eyes can see may lead to sinful desire in the heart. Then, in order to act upon this desire, we could lie and deceive to feed our sinful flesh. A life of lust and lies can only lead to spiritual ruin. It seems Job knew the process that James would articulate in time—unchecked temptation gives way to sinful desire, sinful desire gives way to sin, sin gives way to habitual sin, and the end thereof is death (Jas 1:14–15). Do not lust, and do not lie in order to carry out your lustful desires. Be honest and righteous instead.

Third, do not commit adultery (Job 31:9–12).

As in the previous verses, Job again pictures how a lustful heart can lead to sinful action. He supposes himself seduced and stealthily waiting at his neighbor’s door in order to sneak in and sleep with his neighbor’s wife (Job 31:9). Perhaps the woman waits for her husband to leave as well, just as the adulteress in Proverbs 7 (cf. Prov 7:12, 19–20), but Job does not say.

Whatever the case, Job feared that God would judge such adultery in multiple ways. His wife could become a slave to do other men’s work and fulfill their immoral desires (Job 31:10; cf. Exod 11:5; Isa 47:2–3). Judges would punish him for his crime (Job 31:11). The consequences would swallow his wealth and haunt him to the grave and beyond (Job 31:12; cf. Prov 6:20–35; Rev 21:8). Job knew neither lust nor adultery but was an example of moral integrity. Like him, we must flee all lust and pursue righteousness from a pure heart (2 Tim 2:22). Lay aside this sin, look to Christ, and let your joy be in Him and heaven above (Heb 12:1–2).


In every section of Job 31:1–12, Job appealed to his righteous actions and the all-seeing eyes of God. He did nothing wrong in this area of his life, God knew it, and he was an example of moral integrity. If Job was the most righteous man on earth in his time, how much more should we take care to live lives of moral integrity?

Don’t give way to lust. Don’t deceive to carry out your sin. Don’t give in to adultery. Put on Christ, and live a life that looks like Him.

  1. Charles Spurgeon. Morning and Evening (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), “August 29.” []

Three Ministries of Pastors and the Obligations of the Church

By | December 28, 2022

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13, Paul identifies pastors not with a title but according to three of their primary functions.

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (ESV)

Pastors work among God’s people.

First, they “labor among you.” The verb “labor” can refer to fishing, walking, farming, tent-making, or any type of honest work with one’s hands (Luke 5:5; John 4:6, 38; Acts 20:35; 1 Cor 4:12; 2 Tim 2:6; Eph 4:28; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8). Paul uses it elsewhere to describe the ministry of Christians (Rom 16:6, 12; 1 Cor 16:16). Functioning much as a pastor, he uses it of himself as well (Gal 4:11; Phil 2:16; Col 1:29; 1 Tim 4:10). This spiritual, pastoral labor involves the people of the church (“among you”), as well as studying, preaching, and teaching (cf. 1 Tim 5:17).

Pastors lead God’s people in the Lord.

Second, they “are over you in the Lord.” Paul uses the verb “are over” in other passages to refer to those who “lead” (Rom 12:8) and “rule” the church (1 Tim 5:17). Paul requires pastors to “manage” their households well, indicating how they will care for the church of God (1 Tim 3:4–5). This leadership, rule, and management extend only “in the Lord.” Authority is not inherent to a pastor but comes from God as granted by His people and guided by His Word.

Pastors admonish God’s people.

Third, they “admonish you.” Any Christian can admonish another (Rom 15:14; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 5:14; 2 Thess 3:15), and, like Paul who gave pastoral admonition (cf. 1 Cor 4:14; Col 1:28), these pastors admonished the church as well.

From the above, we could make three related statements about a church and its obligations to its pastors.

You are your pastor’s work.

Your pastor works “among you.” Whether he preaches to you from the pulpit or visits you in your home, his work is specifically you. He will account for your soul, and he labors to help you to heaven.

You must follow your pastor in the Lord.

Your pastor does not lead you in minor matters. He leads you “in the Lord.” He gives instruction from the Word and teaches what God has said. As your pastor applies the Word to the church as a whole, it should gladly follow him. The Chief Shepherd guides His sheep through his under-shepherd, and the Lord leads you through him.

You will be admonished.

Your pastor will “admonish you” to provoke progress and Christian growth. Until you see the face of Jesus, sin lies close at hand. Sometimes you will let it rear its ugly head. When it does, your pastor may give you a rebuke. Perhaps he will address the sin of many in a way for all to hear.

May we as pastors do our best in the ministry that God has given, and may we as the church receive this ministry well.

Thoughts from Christmas: The Coming Righteous King

By | December 21, 2022

“To us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). This promise was fulfilled when Mary gave birth to Jesus, fully God and fully man. He came and conquered sin and death, and we look for Him to come again. When He does, He will fulfill the rest of Isaiah’s promise: “The government shall be upon his shoulder… [He will] uphold [His kingdom] with justice and righteous from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6–7). Lest we wonder if Christ will really come again to do just this, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7).

Jeremiah promised this coming King and kingdom as well: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:5–6).

Both of these passages speak of Christ’s coming rule as righteous. In fact, Jeremiah prophesies that our coming King is “a righteous Branch,” “He… shall execute… righteousness,” and His name is “The Lord is our righteousness.” Righteousness is His description, action, and name. Righteousness pervades, and so much so that Jeremiah repeats these verses in Jeremiah 33:15–16.

Though the righteousness of Jesus will be on display throughout His kingdom, we have seen His righteousness already. Speaking of Adam’s sin and the perfect obedience of Christ, Paul compares the two and their results: “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Romans 5:18). Jesus lived a perfectly righteous live. In doing so, He fulfilled the Law of Moses for us: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). This righteousness is His and not our own and given to us through faith—we hope to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). “For our sake He [the Father] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Son of God became human for a purpose—to provide forgiveness from sins by dying on the cross and to provide a righteousness from His perfect life that we as sinners could never merit for ourselves. This righteousness is ours by faith and ours forevermore. May we trust in Him for that righteousness now, and may God give us hope to see His righteous Son one day when righteousness reigns throughout the world.

Discouragement and Encouragement in Ministry – A Personal Testimony

By | December 6, 2022

My first year as a lead pastor was a rough year. I was told by many that the church would grow, and people left instead. (The Lord gave many to our church in the next two years, thankfully.) We felt the strain on finances, and, with the small crew we had for our large property, life was busy and often tiring (especially while trying to write a dissertation).

We’ve always maintained our average attendance over the years in spite of people moving, marrying, and going on to glory, which is saying something for a small church in Rockford, Illinois. God has done abundantly more than we could think to ask.

Almost a decade into my ministry now, I was recently digging through my files and found what you’ll read below. I apparently read this to our congregation before my first year was over. I’m glad they didn’t throw me out for being so transparent! If anything, I suppose everyone already knew the things I said, and then I happened to say them. So, thank you First Baptist Church for your patience and mercy with a young and growing pastor. (And the thanks continues!)

The funny thing is, though the kids are older and the nursery is not so much an issue (#9 below), the rest of these matters are somewhat timeless. I though it would be helpful to pass this testimony along. But just before you read it…

Pastors, I haven’t arrived. It was good to preach this to myself all over again. I’m not speaking from a higher plane of sanctification. I was encouraged to read this again, and I hope you find it encouraging as well.

Church members, these things are the kinds of discouragements your pastor faces from time to time. Perhaps this is a little window into their sometimes-discouraged souls so that you can pray for them and encourage them to persevere, especially from the truths at the end.

Ten Things That Discourage Me Most as Your Pastor
and How God’s Word Encourages Me to Be Faithful
May 9, 2014

In all I say below, I believe I say these things as led by the Spirit “of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). In no apparent order, here are ten things that discourage me most as your pastor:

  1. When my own vices such as ambition, anger, or apathy are the cause of problems in our church.
  2. When people have criticisms about me and refuse to talk to me personally about the matter but feel free to discuss the matter with anyone and everyone else.
  3. When people intentionally schedule something else of little to no eternal value in the place of our times of worship, Bible fellowship, prayer, or occasional church activities.
  4. When people intentionally choose without good reason to be absent for our times worship, Bible fellowship, and pray.
  5. When people are upset that their preference is not met in some way, and I know that there are others whose preference is for the just the opposite, which leaves no one happy in the end.
  6. When laziness or careless planning leads people to abandon the regular ministries they said they would do and then further fail to show consideration to others by notifying them
    ahead of time that they will have step in to fill the void.
  7. Having responsibilities that keep me from spending time with the people in my church, particularly my Ph. D. program (now complete!) and our annual pastors’ conference.
  8. When little things in our church are blown out of proportion simply because everyone knows about them because word travels quickly in a small church.
  9. When my wife has to work in the nursery so much and hardly gets to sing or hear any preaching or teaching at all.
  10. When my discouragement provokes my wife to be discouraged, something which discourages me even further.

In all of these matters, as a pastor, I must be “the one who leads, with zeal” (Rom 12:8). I am commanded to “shepherd the flock of God” that is among me “not under compulsion, but willingly” (1 Pet 5:2). Though there are occasions when people forsake God’s Word and pastoral counsel and provoke me to serve “with groaning” which is “of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17), there are several truths that rekindle my zeal and will to carry on:

  1. The church will always have conflict and trial, and my suffering through as much is inevitable because, just like any other Christian, I, too, must have my faith refined like gold so that it “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7; cf. 2 Tim 1:8).
  2. God saved me and called me according to His own purpose and grace in order to carry out a holy calling that He gave me in Christ Jesus before the ages began (cf. 2 Tim 1:9–10).
  3. This purpose is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ who gives life and immortality to those who believe (cf. 2 Tim 1:11–12).
  4. The Spirit indwells and enables me to faithfully and lovingly guard the good deposit of the gospel and God’s Word that has been entrusted to me (cf. 2 Tim 1:13–14).

Thoughts on Seeking the Best Hymnody for Our Church

By | December 1, 2022

If I could say something to my church about hymnody in 1,000 words or less, the following would be my thoughts. This rough guide is just a few paragraphs, each of which could be expanded into a book and indeed have by others who articulate these matters better than me. I list various kinds of hymnody that we do not want and then what (I hope) we do—what is biblical and best. 

We do not want a hymnody based on Praise & Worship.

As a formal system of thought, Praise & Worship believes that, as the cloud descended on the temple in the Old Testament, so also we can praise God until He “comes down” to inhabit the assembly’s praises today (cf. Hebrews 11:15 with Psalm 22:3b), a descent manifested through tongues, prophecy, and other ecstatic phenomena. This theology misunderstands God’s presence in worship and stems from continuationism. Ironically, though this tradition began with a heavy use of Scripture (especially the OT), it melded with contemporary worship in time, a pragmatic philosophy of worship.

We do not want a hymnody based on Contemporary Christian Music.

Pragmatic from the outset, intentionally or not, Contemporary Christian Music was “experimental,” using novelty for the sake of winning a crowd. Novelty meant the church using the world’s popular music to bring the world into the church, shifting the purpose of the assembly from edification to evangelism. Ironically, though this movement began with an emphasis on evangelizing the world, its pragmatism and church-marketing methods led to targeting certain groups. Boundaries were little to none. Its theology misused Paul’s personal method of evangelism as the mission of the church, becoming all things to all men (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:22).

We do not want a hymnody based on Gospel Music.

“Gospel music” as a category comes from musicians who wrote music intended for revivals and not for churches. These musicians also tested their music in revivals to see which ones would make for good sales in hymnals over time. This music and its hymnals crept into the churches nonetheless, as supplements or supplanting traditional hymnals altogether. Good hymnody gave way to the easy-to-sing, nondenominational, sometimes sentimental, popular camp-meeting choruses of the day. Ironically, because of gospel music’s generally conservative heritage, many churches still sing these songs, not realizing that these “traditional hymns” are actually popular hymns meant for revivals back in the day.

We do want a hymnody using the best hymns, old or new.

The best hymns let the word of Christ dwell richly among us, teach and admonish us about Him, and express thanks to God from our hearts (Colossians 3:16). The Spirit guides our melodies as we are sung to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18–19). We have 2,000 years of church history, and especially since the Reformation, we have many good hymns to sing. Our own hymnal (Hymns of Grace and Glory) has many psalms and good hymns by Calvin, Luther, Watts, Wesley, Spurgeon, and many others. We have a self-published hymnal supplement with more psalms and even hymns by pastors and members of our church.

Some hymns can rise beyond questionable origins to become timeless staples for us today. New hymns can encourage us for a season but may not stand the test of time. Perhaps chapels, colleges, and camps can have simpler songs as long as churches do not replace their liturgy with lighter things. “For everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). When the local assembly gathers to let the word of Christ dwell richly in song, however, we must sing psalms and the best from Christian hymnody.

So how can we maintain a good hymnody for our church?

Here are some basic suggestions to scratch the surface of answering this question.

Have an infinitely high view of God.

We worship Him, His way, according to His Word. Man’s innovation never glorifies God. We glorify Him only as He allows. As we hold Him and His Word as our standard, our worship will be in keeping with Him. 

Continue our practice of expository preaching.

By preaching and knowing the word of Christ as God has given it, and by having this standard for our pulpit, we will expect biblical content in our hymns and have a high standard for the times in our services when we sing as well.

Have pastors who oversee what is sung.

As pastors, we need to be choosing and encouraging the best hymns, whether for the congregation, a group, or a soloist. Pastors steward the whole household of God, hymns included. We cannot overlook what God means us to oversee.

Love one another.

Realize that in churches great or small, there are people who are more or less conservative, or perhaps have not given hymnody any serious thought at all. I believe that the rule of thumb is to be more conservative when gathered as a congregation so as not to violate anyone’s conscience (cf. Romans 14:1–15:7). Each church has its own heritage and tradition, and the matter of worship of song must be handled with patience and care by pastors and everyone else.

Encourage excellent music.

There is no good substitute for excellence in leadership and accompaniment in music, whatever the instruments may be. A pastor or a godly man should lead (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8, 11–12), and instruments should be played in such a way so as to aid and not distract from singing or the text. This does not mean perfection but the best that we can give.

May God help us to sing our praises to Him and His Son by the Spirit to glorify Him.