Books Gospel

Twenty-One Books on the Gospel

1. A Gospel Primer: for Christians by Milton Vincent

A Gospel Primer is a handy guide designed to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves every day.

2. Living the Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney

What Really Matters – Have the extremities taken over and left the core of your faith forgotten? Do you get confused by what you feel versus what is real? Let dynamic pastor C. J. Mahaney strip away the nonessentials and bring you back to the simplest, most fundamental reason for your faith: Jesus Christ.

3. The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Bridges invites Christian believers who are pursuing holiness to pause for a moment to consider the role of God’s grace in making such pursuit possible. Bridges urges the discernment of grace and the subsequent practice of the disciplines of commitment, conviction, choices, watching, and adversity.

4. Preaching Christ in All of Scripture by Edmund Clowney

Voicing one theme for the entire Bible and structuring all sermons around that idea may seem to be an impossible challenge. For veteran pastor and preaching professor Edmund Clowney it will not do to preach a text from either the Old or New Testaments without fully preaching its ultimate and primary focus—the person and work of Jesus Christ. He writes, “To see the text in relation to Christ is to see it in its larger context, the context of God’s purpose in revelation.”

5. Christ-Centered Preaching,: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chapell

This complete guide to expository preaching teaches the basics of preparation, organization, and delivery–the trademarks of great preaching. Chapell shows how expository preaching can reveal the redemptive aims of Scripture and offers a comprehensive approach to the theory and practice of preaching.

6. Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy

Graeme Goldsworthy examines the foundations and presuppositions of evangelical belief as it applies to the interpretation of the Bible. He then surveys the hermeneutical history of the Christian church in an attempt to see where alien approaches have deconstructed our way of reading Scripture. Finally, he reconstructs an evangelical hermeneutics rightly centered in the gospel and rightly influenced by the method of biblical theology.

7. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones

“I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian … I’d urge ministers to buy it and read it for themselves. It will improve their preaching.” ~Tim keller

8. Ethics, Preaching, and Biblical Theology (online) by John Frame

The tension between the already and the not-yet is the setting of New Testament ethical reflection. God has justified us in Christ and has given us his Spirit; yet sin remains and will not be completely destroyed until the final day. Nevertheless, the “already,” the definitive accomplishment of redemption in Christ is our motivation for obedience.

9. Machen’s Warrior Children (online) by John Frame

From 1923 to the present, the movement begun by J. Gresham Machen and Westminster Theological Seminary has supplied the theological leadership for the conservative evangelical Reformed Christians in the United States. Under that leadership, conservative Calvinists made a strong stand against liberal theology. But having lost that theological battle in the Presbyterian Church, U. S. A., they turned inward to battle among themselves about issues less important—in some cases, far less important—than liberalism. This essay describes 21 of these issues, with some subdivisions, and offers some brief analysis and evaluations. It concludes by raising some questions for the Reformed community to consider: Was it right to devote so much of the church’s time and effort to these theological battles? Did the disputants follow biblical standards for resolution of these issues? Was the quality of thought in these polemics worthy of the Reformed tradition of scholarship? Should the Reformed community be willing to become more inclusive, to tolerate greater theological differences than many of the polemicists have wanted?

10. The Drama Of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach To Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Observing a strange disappearance of doctrine within the church, Kevin Vanhoozer argues that there is no more urgent task for Christians today than to engage in living truthfully with others before God. He details how doctrine serves the church—the theater of the gospel—by directing individuals and congregations to participate in the drama of what God is doing to renew all things in Jesus Christ. Taking his cue from George Lindbeck and others who locate the criteria of Christian identity in Spirit-led church practices, Vanhoozer relocates the norm for Christian doctrine in the canonical practices, which, he argues, both provoke and preserve the integrity of the church’s witness as prophetic and apostolic.

11. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen

The Bible is way more than a big book of isolated verses to claim for helping oneself spiritually. The Bible is the “story” of God’s unfolding plan of redemption throughout history, from creation in Genesis, and its fall into sin, and then climaxing in the new creation vision of Revelation ch. 21 and 22. This wonderful book shows this story from start to finish and shows how the biblical story of God’s salvation unfolds and holds together. This book has some truly eye opening material about what the Bible is all about, it should be required reading for anyone wanting to understand the Bible according to the Bible’s own thematic structure. Don’t miss this one!

12. God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-Line of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts

Sixty-six books written by forty people over nearly 2,000 years, in two languages and several different genres. A worldwide bestseller published in countless sizes and bindings, translations and languages. Sworn by in court, fought over by religious people, quoted in arguments. The Bible is clearly no ordinary book. How can you begin to read and understand it as a whole?In this excellent overview, Vaughan Roberts gives you the big picture–showing how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of the kingdom of God. He provides both the encouragement and the tools to help you read the Bible with confidence and understanding. And he points you to the Bible’s supreme subject, Jesus Christ, and the salvation God offers through him.

13. Prayer And The Knowledge Of God: What The Whole Bible Teaches by Graeme Goldsworthy

Is it really possible to talk to God?
Does he listen to us?
How do we know what to say?
Will it make any difference if we pray?Prayer is central to Christian faith and life and such questions are fundamental. While much teaching on prayer adresses practical issues and is experience-oriented, Graeme Goldsworthy’s conviction is that good practice comes from a foundation of good biblical understanding.In this accessible and wide-ranging study, Goldsworthy explores the reality of God, the ministry of Jesus Christ, and our experience of being his redeemed people as the grounds for prayer, which he defines as “talking to God.”Using a biblical-theological approach, he examines the principles that lie behind particular texts in Scripture, and he maps out the “progress” of prayer from Genesis to Revelation. He explains the basis for prayer, its role in our fellowship with God, and what is involved in Christian prayer.Above all, Goldworthy’s desire is to encourage Christians in their praying, through a better understanding of, and reflection on, the “big story” of the whole Bible.

14. Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching by Kevin J. Vanhoozer

While strong, gospel-centered preaching abounds, many Christian pastors and lay preachers find it difficult to preach meaningfully from the Old Testament. This practical handbook offers help. Graeme Goldsworthy teaches the basics of preaching the whole Bible in a consistently Christ-centered way.

Goldsworthy first examines the Bible, biblical theology, and preaching and shows how they relate in the preparation of Christ-centered sermons. He then applies the biblical-theological method to the various types of literature found in the Bible, drawing out their contributions to expository preaching focused on the person and work of Christ.

Clear, complete, and immediately applicable, this volume will become a fundamental text for teachers, pastors, and students preparing for ministry.

15. Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Timothy Keller

There’s a lot of books out there on being missional. Most of them laud the theory of being missional. This one provides a good example (on a local and urban scale) of how to move toward being missional. Keller provides a strong theological case and some practical examples of how to live out ones faith.

16. Preaching Christ Today: The Gospel and Scientific Thinking by TF Torrance

Torrance presents a creative plea of genuinely fresh paleo orthodoxy addressing the way of preaching Jesus Christ and his message by returning to Christ centered teaching. Torrance is an advocate of biblical wholeness, through a renewed appreciation of a New Testament approached as an inseparably tuned evangelism and a theology based on the good news of the incarnate, crucified, and risen redeemer.

17. Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength by Bryan Chapell

Although his purpose is “to explain the role of grace in sanctification,” Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary, not only explains fundamental theological concepts, but gives them passion and life through colorful, often poignant illustrations. Chapell argues very carefully that God’s grace is the necessary foundation and source for all spiritual growth in the Christian life. He thoughtfully explores the deeply rooted human tendency to turn away from grace, seeking favor and blessing through our own efforts. But he also deals with tougher issues asking, for example, “Can the preaching of grace become an excuse for lawlessness?” He honestly confronts how church leaders are tempted to de-emphasize God’s grace in order to prevent chaos. Chapell gives new meaning to the idea of repentance, offers practical and helpful teaching on temptation, shows the often-overlooked role of grace in spiritual warfare, explains the positive role of suffering and paints an inspiring picture of God’s love and mercy.

18. The Mediation of Christ by TF Torrance

The continued attempt to make Jesus relevant to modern ways of thought has had the effect of obscuring him, for all the time we have been engaged in plastering upon the face of Jesus a mask of different gentile features which prevents us from seeing him and understanding him as he really is, as a Jew … We must go to school with Israel and share with it the painful transformation of its mind and soul which prepared it for the final mediation of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, if we ourselves are to break free from our assimilation to the patterns of this world and be transformed through the renewing of our mind in Christ, for only then will we be in a position to recognize, discern and appreciate what God wills to make known to us.

19. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ by Walter Marshall

That we may acceptably perform the duties of holiness and righteousness required in the law, our first work is to learn the powerful and effectual means by which we may attain to so great an end.

20. Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace by James B Torrance

Here is a book that sets our worship, sacraments, communion and language of God back on track. In a day when refinement of method and quality of experience are the guiding lights for many Christians, James Torrance points us to the indispensable who of worship, the triune God of grace.

21. Renewal as a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth by Richard Lovelace

Lovelace makes a good point about the theological integration of revealed truth and cultures. Too often, our spiritual growth models are very western in its approach without being in the context of our pluralistic Asian cultures.

More to come…


[Repost] My Reason for Reviewing David Platt’s Radical the Way I Did

Readers are asking the question, “Why is your review of David Platt’s Radical negative?”

Tis a funny thing about the books I read. Simply put, if they’re about the Gospel, they had better flesh it out regarding the points the book makes.

It comes down to how I read Paul. Yes, that Paul.

Paul establishes the precedent of letter / book writing. See for instance:

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead–

Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2 Timothy 2:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,

Notice Paul always references the Gospel and much of the first chapters of his letters / books expound and explain the Gospel–the Gospel being Jesus Himself, His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Paul does not just explain the Gospel, he tells us how it is applied into our lives and how it should look as we live our lives. I will go so far as to say that Paul does not merely explain the Gospel and then provides commands for us to do, but he uses the Gospel as motivation for our doing.

David Platt’s book is good. Really good. Don’t get me wrong. It is well written. He hits the nail on the head regarding American Christianity. He explains the Gospel very well. But the breakdown for me is he does not put flesh on the skeleton he creates. In other words, he does not flesh out the Gospel enough before he provides the commands for us to surrender everything for and to Jesus.

Another way to put it, Platt focuses on the command in the context of the Gospel, but he does not use the Gospel explicitly as motivation for the doing of the command. I am left with a law that I must do which makes me look inside myself to do the command, rather than helping me focus on the Gospel, make me motivated to do something and then provide the means by which I can start doing.

Yes, this is a technical review of a very good book. But when it comes to the Gospel and the fruit it produces in our lives, we must, must–must– be motivated by the Gospel. Otherwise, we exchange one religion for another.

The Gospel places us within line of the Father’s heart. With the Gospel as our motivation, we act wholly different than the Prodigal Sons <--- notice the 's' from Luke 15. You can read more about my take on Luke 15 here.

This is the point of the Gospel. And I believe Platt misses the point.

Or it may just be me.

Gospel Review

[Repost Review] Radical – Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

David Platt’s book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, is an excellent book. I highly recommend it – if only for his assessment of American Christianity; the American Dream couched in Christian verbiage.

His prescription of the problem? Not so much.

The American Dream is what I would call a “secular religion” of which Platt rightly calls us to abandon, but Platt exchanges this “secular religion” for a “religious religion” and not the Gospel.

Let me explain.

“But if Jesus is who he said he is, and if his promises are as rewarding as the Bible claims they are, then we may discover that satisfaction in our lives and success in the church are not found in what our culture deems most important but in radical abandonment to Jesus.” ~Platt p3

“‘Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’ Now this is taking it to another level. Pick up an instrument of torture and follow me. This is getting plain weird…and kind of creepy. Imagine a leader coming on the scene today and inviting all who would come after him to pick up an electric chair and become his disciple. Any takers?

“As if this were not enough, Jesus finished his seeker-sensitive plea with a pull-at-your-heartstrings conclusion. ‘Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.’ Give up evertying you have, carry a cross, and hate your family. This sounds a lot different than ‘Admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer after me.'” ~Platt pp10-11

Throughout the book, there is a plea to surrender to Jesus, which is good, but the pleas are expressed either by making a person feel guilty or via a command to surrender.

There is no connection with the Gospel itself. How does my surrender flow from and out of the Gospel? How does my surrender to Jesus get motivated by Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection? This is the Gospel, and my surrender MUST, it MUST, flow out and from the Gospel.

The Gospel is mentioned but the “surrender to Jesus” is not connected WITH the Gospel.

Yes, we can “surrender to Jesus” but how do you know your surrender is sincere enough? How do you know your surrender to Jesus is surrender enough? Can you surrender EVERYTHING for Jesus?

Sure. We WANT to surrender everything, but the reality is, our sin touches every part of our being, sin corrupts our every molecule to such a degree that even our best surrender and abandonment to Jesus is as filthy or polluted rags before God. See Isaiah 64:6.

Ask yourself this: Can I absolutely, 100% abandon EVERYTHING in my life for Jesus? This means there is NO turning back; this means you cannot, even for a split second, think “wow, it’d be nice to have X for a moment” or “I miss X….”

I cannot do that. I want to. But I cannot DO it. It is a law I cannot fulfill.

But Jesus DID do it. For me. In my place. And it is HIS work of surrender and abandonment to God that I rest in.

Speaking of Jesus parable of the treasure in a field in Matthew 13:

“This is the picture of Jesus in the gospel. He is something–someone–worth losing everything for. And if we walk away from the Jesus of the gospel, we walk away from eternal riches. The cost of non-discipleship is profoundly greater for us than the cost of discipleship. For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him.”

This is very true, but this statement does not go far enough.

How does the Gospel motivate me to “abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus?”

Platt explains the Gospel very well, but there is a disconnect between the Gospel and its motivation of our doing.

Without this connection of our motivation with the Gospel, the command to surrender all is just a command, a heavy weight placed upon us we can never fulfill.

Show me the beauty of the Gospel, don’t just tell me it’s beautiful.

Let me quote large portions of Radical and let Platt speak for himself:

“Biblical proclamation of the gospel beckons us to a much different response and leads us down a much different road. Here the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus. These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible. And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for his grace. Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.

‘You might think this sounds as though we have to earn our way to Jesus through radical obedience, but that is not the case at all. Indeed, ‘it is by grace you [are] saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.’ We are saved from our sins by a free gift of grace, something that only God can do in us and that we cannot manufacture ourselves.

“But that gift of grace involves the gift of a new heart. New desires. New longings. For the first time, we want God. We see our need for him, and we love him. We seek after him, and we find him, and we discover that he is indeed the great reward of our salvation. We realize that we are saved not just to be forgiven of our sins or to be assured of our eternity in heaven, but we are saved to know God. So we yearn for him. We want him so much that we abandon everything else to experience him. This is the only proper response to the revelation of God in the gospel.

“This is why men and women around the world risk their lives to know more about him. This is why we must avoid cheap caricatures of Christianity that fail to exalt the revelation of God in his Word. This is why you and I cannot settle for anything less than a God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-denying gospel.

“I pray continually for this kind of hunger in the church God has given me to lead and in churches spread across our country’s landscape. I pray that we will be a people who refuse to gorge our spiritual stomachs on the entertaining pleasures of this world, because we have chosen to find our satisfaction in the eternal treasure of his Word. I pray that God will awaken in your heart and mind a deep and abiding passion for the gospel as the grand revelation of God.” ~Platt pp38-40

“The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability. The American dream prizes what people can accomplish when they believe in themselves and trust in themselves, and we are drawn toward such thinking. But the gospel has different priorities. The gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in God and to trust in his power. In the gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him. This is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'” ~Platt p46

“It is the way of Christ. Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves. Instead of imagining all the things we can accomplish, we ask God to do what only he can accomplish. Yes, we work, we plan, we organize, and we create, but we do it all while we fast, while we pray, and while we constantly confess our need for the provision of God. Instead of dependence on ourselves, we express radical desperation for the power of his Spirit, and we trust that Jesus stands ready to give us everything we ask for so that we might make much of our Father in the world.

Think about it. Would you say that your life is marked right now by desperation for the Spirit of God? Would you say that the church you are a part of is characterized by this sense of desperation?

Why would we ever want to settle for Christianity according to our ability or settle for church according to our resources? The power of the one who raised Jesus from the dead is living in us, and as a result we have no need to muster up our own might. Our great need is to fall before an almighty Father day and night and to plead for him to show his radical power in and through us, enabling us to accomplish for his glory what we could never imagine in our own strength. And when we do this, we will discover that we were created for a purpose much greater than ourselves, the kind of purpose that can only be accomplished in the power of his Spirit. ~Platt p60

Do you have this desperation for the Spirit of God? How do I know my desperation for the Spirit of God is enough?

I can tell you, my desperation will NEVER be desperate enough. My abandonment will NEVER be abandoning enough. To command me to do these things even in the context of the Gospel is still placing a law upon me I can never fulfill. Connect me to the Gospel. Connect my doing to the Gospel and that fruit will grow in my life because only my conforming into Christ’s image will be done.

“‘Abandon all, take up your cross and follow me.’ If in responding to this command our stress is primarily upon our own responsibility, we will first look within, at the quality and sincerity of our own faith and repentance, rather than without, at the vicarious life and death of Christ. ‘Gospel proclamation’ that leads Christians to think mainly about what they must do, rather than mainly about what Jesus has done as our substitute inclines the hearers to stray from gospel-centered missional living.

“The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has done it all–for us and in our place. Only as we believe and live in the reality of what he has done are we progressively freed to live truly missional and radically obedient lives in a broken world.

“As we grow in understanding the reality of who Jesus is for us, we are progressively freed from our personal and missional paralysis and empowered to turn outward for the gospel-good of others. The good news of who Jesus was and is for us as the God-man turns dread into joy and frees us from self-preoccupation to move outward in mission.”

All this to say, say these things; just say them in a different way–in a way in which the Gospel is my motivation not a command.


Why Church Membership? Concluding Thoughts

A Product of American Thinking

American culture has too much of a hold upon our thinking and is the lens through which we understand Scripture, and more specifically, how we understand Church Membership. This is one reason you will hear objections to Church Membership like:

In the New Testament there was no such thing as church membership.
There is no explicit command for Church Membership.

When Christians live in hostile areas (hostile towards Christianity), mere identification with a local body of believers essentially places a death warrant upon those people.

Baptism is a public affair. It is a public identification with Christ and His people. When a person trusts Christ in faith, Baptism becomes the first real step of obedience to God and is the expression of faith in Christ, publicly.

Due to the public nature of baptism, baptism itself becomes Church Membership in many parts of the world. Due to persecution, you know with whom you are covenanting together to disciple, exhort unto love and good works, and even die with.

America is not a country that is hostile toward Christianity, at least, not in the life-threatening variety. There needs to be a level of accountability and covenantal commitment that American Christians do not typically pursue.

Widows Indeed

“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows” (1 Timothy 5:9-16 ESV).

Why am I bringing up widows in a discussion of Church Membership?

Notice the phrase, “But refuse to enroll younger widows.” What does “enroll” mean? It means, they have some kind of formal list of women who are widows. It means they formally keep track of who the widows are within the local body of believers, in the local church. And if someone does not meet the specific requirements, as laid out by Paul, they must be refused from being enrolled in this ministry.

If a formal list was created for a specific ministry within the local church in the first century, how much more would they have a formal list of members?

Church Cohabitation

The New York Times published an article called The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage.

The articles explains people,

believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce. But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.”

Likewise, American Christians don’t like formal commitment before long term attendance at a church. I am not denouncing checking out a church a few times to see if it lines up with biblical expressions of a church, if indeed, you are blessed to live in an area where you have a choice of many churches.

I am speaking to long term commitment to a church. If you have found a church with whom you will meet long term, formal commitment should be required. Otherwise, I’m afraid, we’re promoting Church Cohabitation. How many people leave a church because certain things are not done “their way”? I’m not talking about biblical issues and clear sin issues, but personal preference issues? More times than not, they were not members in the first place.

Leaders Giving Account

Hebrews 13:17 makes an interesting statement: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Question: Without formal church membership, for whom will your Pastors give account? Everyone who darkens the doorway of your church?

Church Discipline

Without formal church membership, how can you avail yourself to the hard grace of Church Discipline? How can a local church take action against an offending brother or sister from a local church with whom s/he has not covenantally committed him/herself?

“The discipline of the church is first patterned after the fact that the Lord Himself disciplines His children (Hebrews 12:6) and, as a father delegates part of the discipline of the children to the mother, so the Lord has delegated the discipline of the church family to the church itself (1 Corinthians 5:12-13; 2 Corinthians 2:6).” See this study on Church Discipline for more reading.

As God the Father knows the names of His children, so likewise, the local church should know the names of those who have covenantally committed themselves to it.

This concludes our study on Church Membership. To be honest, I cannot see how the conclusion of this study cannot be formal church membership.

For previous articles on Why Church Membership? see below:
Why Church Membership? Living the Gospel in Practice
Why Church Membership? Humility
Why Church Membership? Accountability
Why Church Membership? The Gospel
Why Church Membership? Our Leaders
Why Church Membership? Fellowship
Why Church Membership? Being Set Apart
Why Church Membership? Church Discipline

Eschatology Religion Videos

Eschatology 101: A Christian and a Jew discuss Dispensationalism

Bill Moyers (on PBS) does an interview with a Christian (Timothy Weber, author of On the Road to Armageddon) and Jew (Michael Lerner) about the dangers of dispensationalism (video).


BILL MOYERS: How many people belong to Christians United for Israel? Well, they say they have the support of 50,000 pastors and their congregations. And that would be no mean number. Let’s talk further now with two men who follow closely relations between American Christians and Israel.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of the widely read and quoted TIKKUN magazine, which he founded in 1986 as a journal of liberal and progressive Jewish thought. He holds doctorates in both philosophy and clinical psychology and has written 11 books, including JEWISH RENEWAL, SPIRIT MATTERS, and his most recent, THE LEFT HAND OF GOD.

Dr. Timothy Weber is himself an evangelical Christian. Once a Baptist now a Presbyterian, a teacher and historian of religion, he taught at Denver Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, among other schools. He’s known as an innovator in graduate theological education and the author of LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE SECOND COMING and this one, On the ROAD TO ARMAGEDDON: HOW EVANGELICALS BECAME ISRAEL’S BEST FRIEND. Welcome to you both.

These people seem to be on a roll. They look as if they believe the future belongs to them. Right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: This is one group in a long line of similar groups that– began to organize in the late ’70s and early ’80s which combined a firm belief of Bible prophecy and a particular political agenda that has gained more and more power as the years have gone on.

BILL MOYERS: How do you account for the fact, rabbi, that there were more political actors among them than there were preachers?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: I think that that movement has three different parts to it. And one part is those people whose primary agenda is conservative politics in America and are using the issue of Israel as another part of their support for conservative politics. And if the United States moved away from Israel, they might move away from it. The second part are people who are dispensationalists, who believe that getting Israel into a huge battle with the Arab states is going to be good for bringing Jesus back onto our planet. And-

BILL MOYERS: Dispensationalist is a theological concept.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Right. It’s a theological concept. Then there are an awful lot of people who genuinely care about Jews; decent good people in this movement who, unfortunately, are being manipulated for a political agenda that is very, very different and, in my view, not at all in the best interests of the Jewish people or in the best interest of Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Before we go any further, give me a shorthand definition of dispensationalism.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Dispensationalism is a particular way of reading Bible prophecy which divides the Bible into two stories. There’s a story about God’s earthly people, Israel. And then a story about God’s heavenly people, the Church. And the basic premise of dispensationalism is that all Bible prophecies concerning earthly events applies to the Jews. And all of those events will be fulfilled literally in the End Times. So, Israel must be returned to the land. They must stay in the land. Without Israel in the land, there can be none of the other events prophesied in the Bible. There can be no rise of Anti-Christ. There can be no rebuilding of the Temple. There can be no Battle of Armageddon. And there can be no second coming of Jesus Christ. So everything is riding on the Jews, getting them there and keeping them there in the Holy Land.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: But I think– but what you have to add in there is that when this is a step in the process that they see towards the end of end times in which the Jews will be cast down into eternal damnation and to the fires of hell. And only those Jews who convert to Christianity will be okay. And everyone — all the rest of us so they’re welcoming us now — with open arms and saying, “Oh, we love the Jewish people” But they love the Jewish people literally to death because they they want see those of us who stay Jews burn in hell but not– not right away. They don’t imagine it will happen right away. So there’s a staged process. And this is the first stage in the process that will eventually lead either to us converting totally to Christianity or burning in hell. So it’s not a really great future for the Jews that those theological people have in mind.

BILL MOYERS: If what you say is so, and I think you probably agree with it, I read your book.


BILL MOYERS: Why does this play in Israel?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, there’s– this is the other–

BILL MOYERS: They are being used, right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yes. This is the other terrible part about the role that Christian Zionists play. Because they’ve been aligned with the most right-wing elements in Israel and the most right-wing elements in the American Jewish community– that have gathered together in the Israel lobby. And the Israel lobby includes AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and many other of the Israel-is-always-right organizations in the Jewish world have played the role of supporting the most reactionary policies in Israel. And that–

BILL MOYERS: Isn’t this an act of survival?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, they think it’s survival. But, in fact, for a very large number of Jews today, both in Israel and in the United States, recognize that the policies that Israel has been following has actually been destructive for the long-range survival of Israel. And so they are an element, the Christian Zionists are really an important element in the Israel lobby today, pushing the United States towards support of the most conservative and unloving policies.

BILL MOYERS: As you watched the film, were you concerned that the thread that seemed to run throughout it, that connected the political wing of the movement and the theological wing of the movement, was the belief that a confrontation with Iran is not only inevitable but desirable? Did that hit you?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: It’s easy to make that connection and to see that. As an historian, I’m struck by the fact that in previous attempts to understand Bible prophecy Iran did not show up on anybody’s radar screen. As history takes these unexpected turns the Bible teachers, the preachers, the dispensational theologians, they adjust the scenario to fit. In some ways, Iran is playing the role that the former Soviet Union used to play as the great evil empire in the world. In short, dispensationalists know how to change the subject, when it’s necessary.

BILL MOYERS: But to them — to the religious folks, Iran is an agency for war. To the political folks, Iran is a threat to Israel for its national security reasons. Isn’t this a combustible combination?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Absolutely.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: It’s bad for the world. It’s bad for the Jews. It’s bad for Israel. And it’s bad for the United States.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: This kind of a world view — as either they dominate us or we dominate them — has led us into this terrible– quagmire in Iraq. And most Americans now believe that we made a terrible mistake going into that war. Now the president believes that he can do a different kind of war in Iran. But I think that he’s not going to be successful in containing that war either, just as he failed in the Iraq War. So it’s bad for the United States. It’s bad for Israel because this will further enflame the Islamic world against Israel. Because the primary reason being given by Christian Zionists, by the Israel lobby for the need to take out Iran is protect Israel. So–

BILL MOYERS: Ahmadinejad himself has enflamed the, as you say, the worst instincts in the Muslim world, right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yeah, he claims they’re the best allies. Ahmadinejad is really one of the best allies of the Christian Right and and of the Jewish Right.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, Islam has its own view of prophecy of the end days. And the president of Iran certainly speaks to that and speaks the language of Koranic prophecy to his own followers. Many people in this country, many political analysts don’t get it yet.

BILL MOYERS: Don’t get what?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: The fact that he is operating out of a particular view of what the future will be like and what role he can play in bringing about the return of the Mahdi, a kind of messianic figure who will turn the world Islamic.

BILL MOYERS: So you’ve got two apocalyptic world views heading toward a collision.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: And how do you negotiate two apocalyptic world views? How do you compromise? This is the danger that we’re in.

BILL MOYERS: When both believe that they speak for God or God speaks through them.


RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Right. The alternative is to create a different world view. And this is the problem that the United States and those of us who are liberals or progressives in the United States and in the Western world have not been able to articulate an alternative world view, in part because we’re so largely secular and because we don’t understand that there is some spiritual foundation to the yearnings of people all over the world for something other than global capitalism, for something other than the globalization of selfishness. And that is seen as what America has to offer the world, each one for herself or himself. We need an alternative. We need an alternative that can speak to the hunger that people have for a framework of meaning and purpose to their lives and the hunger that they have for loving relationships that are not based solely on looking out for number one.

BILL MOYERS: The hunger I don’t deny. But as Dr. Weber just said how does a progressive world view, a more loving world view, compete with two apocalyptic faiths that believe God has set them on a course which can only be consummated in violence?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, this is why I emphasize the fact that there are a lot of good Christian Zionists and a lot of good people in the religious right who are not primarily committed to the conservative agenda and to the support of global military interests of either the United States or Israel, but are actually coming from a different place. Their base can be split from their top if there is a reaffirmation of a loving world view.

BILL MOYERS: But there is no evidence, I mean, there are evangelicals who have actually signed statements to the president saying “we don’t agree with these people. We believe in a two state solution in Israel. We have empathy and sympathy for the Palestinians.” But they don’t have the clout that the–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. They’re not organized. And when you’re not organized in this kind of an environment, you end up bringing up the caboose. I mean, you’re at the end of the train. It’s important to recognize that only about a third of American evangelicals would identify with a dispensational world view. This is–

BILL MOYERS: The end times theology.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.


BILL MOYERS: –what? Twenty–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Maybe 20 million, 25 million. That leaves an awful lot of other evangelicals who are Bible believers, who have a very warm spot in their heart for Israel. Let’s face it. Evangelicals grew up with maps of Israel on their Sunday school wall.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, exactly. I did, too.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: And the whole–

BILL MOYERS: You love the Bible, you love Israel.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And the whole story of Jesus and the whole story of his ancestors were in the Holy Land. This is sacred space. And evangelicals know that. And they tend to love Israel because of it. In other words, evangelicals love Israel not just because of a specific prophetic scenario but for all kinds of other reasons.

BILL MOYERS: That’s a very important point to remember.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: So growing numbers of evangelicals are recognizing that very thing. Bill referred to a letter sent to the president this summer signed by 30 evangelical heavyweights, presidents of seminaries and leaders of denominations and very well-known authors and spiritual leaders. And their point was we don’t want you to believe that groups like Hagee’s speak for the vast majority of us. We recognize that sometimes the best friend, the best advice that friends of Israel can give is to cooperate, is not to just endorse everything that happens but to encourage justice and peacekeeping and so on. And so you have this one group of evangelical leaders who are speaking for, I think, a much larger group that is encouraging a different approach.

BILL MOYERS: I can’t see that they are having any impact.




RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: History isn’t over. And —

BILL MOYERS: It may be sooner than you think.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well– I’m hoping we have a few more years here. And I think in the 21st Century the growing wisdom of the American people and of all people is that our well being depends on the well being of everyone else on the planet, and I think that the Israeli population increasingly are coming to understand that their well being depends on the well being of Palestinians and of the Arab world. That there’s that fundamental interdependence.

BILL MOYERS: But if you lived in Israel and none of the governments around you recognized your right to exist, and if, in fact, you heard Ahmadinejad– proclaiming the apocalyptic consummation of history on his terms, wouldn’t you welcome the support of John Hagee and these people no matter what ultimately they think happens to the Jews? Wouldn’t it be an immediate factor of survival?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, I think it’s a mistaken view of survival. In other words, yeah, they’re —

BILL MOYERS: From your standpoint over here.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: They’re coming in there and they’re saying, “Right on, Israel, when you cut off food for the people in the Gaza Strip right now. Cut off water, cut off electricity, and just starve them out of their Hamas.” But anybody with understanding of human dynamics knows that that’s not going to lead to reconciliation. It’s just going to lead to further anger and further willingness of people to give their lives in murderous assaults on Israel. So it’s not really being helpful.

Now, yeah, there are a fair number of opportunists in Israel who say, “You know, we’ll deal with the second coming of Jesus and being burnt in hell when that happens. Right now we’re glad to have their support on the politics.” But what I’m saying is the politics is the wrong politics. It’s not helping Israel. It’s actually pushing the most reactionary elements in Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Dr. Weber, there was a CNN/Time poll that said only 36 percent of all Americans believe the Bible is God’s word. Only one third of all Americans believe the Bible is God’s word and should be taken literally. But 59 percent say they believe that events predicted in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian New Testament, will come to pass. How do you explain that?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Paul Boyer, who is a now-retired historian from the University of Wisconsin, wrote a book called WHEN TIME SHALL BE NO MORE. And he studied this phenomenon, called prophecy belief in America. And he explained that the influence of this group, of this perspective, of dispensational perspective goes way beyond the confines of its own boundaries. He said if you view America in terms of this issue in concentric circles, you have this core maybe 20 million of really dedicated dispensationalists who give you chapter and verse, who can give you– draw the battle maps of the future and everything.

Then outside that core is another group of evangelicals, many millions more who believe in the Bible, who believe that it has something to say about the future. They’re just not exactly sure what it is. And therefore, they defer to the Bible teachers who seem to know. They listen to them. And a lot of the dispensational vocabulary filters out to that broader evangelical world of Armageddon and Rapture and the like.

And then more significantly, beyond that, you have a group of mainly secular people who don’t give the Bible much mind at all but who, during times of apocalyptic threat will give the Bible teachers a listen. Because of the fear that is so — I mean, this movement would not be strong if the newspapers every morning didn’t seem to support their world view.

BILL MOYERS: You mean with all the news of calamity and–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Calamity and disaster, threats, potential disasters, war. This is how they said it would look and this is how most people see the world today.

BILL MOYERS: It seems to be on the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES playing out what they’ve read in the Bible.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: I think the dispensationalists are onto something. They have a sense, they just have the wrong analysis of why it’s all going to end.

BILL MOYERS: But what do you mean they’re onto something?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: They are onto the growing depression that people are feeling, a deep emotional depression in the United States — a lack of any hopeful picture of what the world could be. And that failure is not a failure of dispensationalists, it’s a failure of the mainstream political framework in this country that– to address the major questions facing the world in the 21st century.

BILL MOYERS: Isn’t that why John Hagee is providing political leadership? I mean, the fact is John Hagee is providing not only theological guidance, he’s providing political leadership to these people, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes, yes, he is. But if you listen carefully to his message, it is a message, in many ways, at war with itself. Because on the one hand, as you just pointed out, evangelicals at the core of evangelical religion is the belief that change is possible. Evangelicals believe in conversion. They think–

BILL MOYERS: Born again.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: They think that enemies can be made friends and that bad people can be made good through the grace of God. And so they preach that. And you hear in some of the language of Haggee’s followers that we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Then in the next– in the next breath they say, “But we don’t think it’ll do any good.”

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: No, and that we’re going to make– support those who want to make war for Jerusalem. And that–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. So how does that fit?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: — But they also are very questionable from my standpoint in the way that they read the Bible. Because they’re literalists when it comes to some issues and very much ignoring other issues. For example, they say that the Jewish people were promised the holy land from God through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They neglect to mention that the Arabs descended from, or believe they descended from one of the children of Abraham, Ishmael. And that that land was twice promised. It was promised to Jews and promised to Arabs. Why to two? So that we could become a model of how to reconcile. But we haven’t done that yet and we need to do that.

BILL MOYERS: So is there a different way in your judgment these conservative Christians could help the people of Israel whom historically and biblically they were taught to love and to appreciate without supporting the right-wing elements in Israel that want to crush the Palestinians?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, many evangelicals are calling for exactly that. They’re looking for another way. And I-

BILL MOYERS: And they’re not all like John Hagee. So many people think that all evangelicals are alike in the same way they think all Muslims are alike, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And there are variations within the evangelical community. What I hear on the one hand, we have certain fellow believers who view the future in very well-defined ways and who or absolutely convinced that there’s nothing that anybody or anything can do about it. And yet we also have the clear teachings of Jesus about being peacemakers, about caring for the world, about loving your enemy. How do those two things go together? So there’s that deep biblical tradition that evangelicals can draw on to find another way.

BILL MOYERS: Here it seems to me is the fundamental issue. You heard all of the talk in the film about Islamofascism. People are genuinely concerned about terrorism and terrorist states. So how do we make a distinction between fighting terrorists and terrorist states without enflaming the religious passions? How do we do that?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that dispensationalists are not the only ones who are worried about these issues. When you have the president of France and leaders in Germany who are warning Iran that there will be war if they do not stop what they’re doing, these are not dispensationalist-inspired people. I mean, the world is–

BILL MOYERS: Neither is Norman Podhoretz and Bill Kristol and people like the neoconservatives in this country.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –the neoconservatives in this country.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And so the wind is blowing in a particular direction and it’s very hard to redirect it. There is an evangelical past that is much more positive, much more world changing, much more embracing diversity and even tolerance in some ways than seems to be in the public eye today. And many evangelicals are beginning to rediscover who they are in that in their past. They’re saying we can be about our father’s business only if we take concern for people who are poor. The world that God has made is getting destroyed. We need to take care along those lines. And-

BILL MOYERS: But these people you heard had no sympathy for the Palestinians.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: No, absolutely not.

BILL MOYERS: They see the Palestinians as part of the problem, right?




RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: This very week the WASHINGTON POST revealed a poll that it had done that shows that a majority of Americans now favor cutting favor for the war in Iraq. That’s a very big shift from where the majority of Americans were only five years ago in relationship to this war. Change is possible. Fundamental changes in world views are possible. And it is possible to create a different understanding of the Islamic world, one that doesn’t put them all together in one evil category just as it’s possible to understand that there are evangelicals who are very hurtful in their world view. And there are evangelicals who are very loving in their world view.

BILL MOYERS: So Timothy Weber, are evangelicals still Israel’s best friend when you saw what you saw?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, they certainly think they are Israel’s best friend. But I think evangelicals are realizing that there’s more than one way to be a friend to Israel. Whether in the long run the kind of support that– groups like Hagee’s group really brings to Israel, I tend to agree with the rabbi here, that this kind of support could really backfire. But when American evangelicals support those who want to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem by tearing down the Dome of the Rock-

BILL MOYERS: That’s because the Bible seems to indicate that when the Jews come back to Israel, they will rebuild the destroyed temple-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –and it will be built upon the– on the very place that-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –in the meantime the Muslims have built a sacred mosque.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: There this is not a friendly act, according to anybody.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: And they forget the Isaiah prophecy that “my house will be a house of prayer for all people.”

BILL MOYERS: But this is combustible, isn’t it? I mean, when both tenants want the same property.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. And say that God gave that property to them. And that their own — the ultimate vindication of their religion depends on that piece of ground, then compromise is very hard.

BILL MOYERS: And both of you seem to be saying that politics truly enflames religious passions when they become so intertwined, as we’ve seen, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That and the other way around as well. Religion enflames politics and politics enflames religion.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Politics was never separate from religion in the Bible. And I don’t believe that there needs to be a separation between our highest ideals that come from the religious world and our commitment to implement them in the political world. It’s only when we try to implement them in an exclusivist way that says, “You have to believe in my religion and my particular vision of God”– that we run into deep trouble.

BILL MOYERS: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Dr. Timothy Weber, thank you both for being with me for this discussion on THE JOURNAL.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Thank you for having us.


Just for Fun Videos

Just For Fun: Worlds Largest Rope Swing

Adoption Gospel Love of God

Rinse, Repeat, Rinse, and Repeat Again (Reflections on Our Justification)

If you are like me, you hardly ever have to convince yourself of your sinfulness. Temptations abound and sin is ever present. But what you must convince yourself of is the extent to which your Justification reaches. You must continually think on how your Justification affects everything in which you may be involved- job, unpleasant co-workers, family life, social pressures, and self-doubt just to name a few.

How does our Justification affect how we handle our job, family life, and social pressures?

Understanding our Justification begins by striving to understand the nature of God. Within God’s Trinitarian essence, we see the Father loving the Son (John 5:20). This love with which God loves the Son is an everlasting love. In other words, there has not been a time in which the Father has not loved the Son. This is demonstrated by the Father’s full acceptance of the Son. When a person is loved, he is fully and completely accepted.

Jesus, Who is righteous, became as one who is unrighteous, yet without sin. He was born under the law in order to fulfill the law but was treated as one who broke the law, and He did this so that we might become the righteousness of God and adopted as Sons. Christ not only is righteous, but He accrued righteousness on our behalf because He fulfilled the law. Christ fulfilling the law is a complete fulfillment, in that, there is not one part of the law for us to fulfill; absolutely nothing left for us to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 3:10; Romans 8:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 4:5).

Jesus, Who possessed the full and complete love and acceptance of the Father did everything required to gain the full and complete love and acceptance of the Father, for us. So that, through faith in Jesus, we possess all of the righteousness He Himself accrued which is imputed to us and our sin imputed upon Him. Once we possess this love and acceptance, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). We are then fully and completely loved and accepted by the Father.

Our justification is not merely a forensic declaration of being righteous. It is certainly nothing less than that, but it is not merely the declaration of being righteous. We are fully and completely loved by the Father.

We must remind ourselves of these truths particularly when we struggle with doubt, temptation, guilt, and sin.

Have you struggled with doing your devotions? consistently? Have you caught yourself thinking, “I haven’t done my devotions consistently enough, so I will read my Bible for one full hour (as punishment),” even though we may not explicitly express it that way.

Do you struggle with consistently tithing? Have you ever thought, “I need to give $20 more each week to make up for my lack of consistency” ?

Do you struggle with anger? Have you found yourself thinking, “I can’t control my anger. I might as well give up trying” ?

Do you find yourself arguing with people all the time (the subject doesn’t matter)? Do you think “I can not help it that I’m always right and they’re always wrong”?

But when we think in these ways, we say that Christ’s complete fulfillment of the whole law is not enough; Christ’s accomplishment of acquiring the Father’s full love and acceptance is incomplete. We really believe that God’s love and acceptance of us is not enough; there is something more outside of Himself.

We think our effort of reading Scripture is a means to get back God’s full and complete love and acceptance of us.

We have placed a price on God’s love at a mere $20 instead of the priceless (and all sufficient) blood of Jesus which paid for our sin and guilt.

We struggle with anger because we truly believe we are superior to others, no one else thinks properly like I do, or we simply do not see people as made in the image of God.

We find ourselves arguing over anything and everything because we simply must be right. We have failed to recognize that Christ’s finished work frees us from this self-imposed law of “being right”.

We do not see that the Father’s love and acceptance of us is all we need; we do not need to be right all the time.

We are either thinking “I must do something to gain the Father’s full and complete love and acceptance,” or “there is something more I must have outside of God”. We are not remembering that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, (nor our lack of consistency in our devotions), (nor anger), (nor being right), nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). Oh, what love is this!

Yes, we must strive to do better in the areas of which we struggle, but our motivation must flourish from the Gospel, the Good News that we are Justified by faith in Jesus Who is our righteousness and has gained the full and complete love and acceptance of the Father for us! Let this truth pour over your soul like pure water over a parched tongue; rinse, repeat, rinse, and repeat again.

Church Membership

Why Church Membership? Church Discipline

For the sake of Church Discipline

If we have not availed ourselves to the hard privilege of church discipline (as necessary), can we truly say we have submitted to God’s ruling in and through His church?

Of course, if your church does not practice church discipline, this point is moot. And, I might add, your church may not be a true church in the first place.

“Church discipline is rarely done in the modern church, and because it is rarely done, when it is done, it is rarely done well. As with everything, we have to turn to the Scriptures for guidance and protection.

‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’

A moment’s reflection shows the need for discipline. In a fallen world, sin will seek to corrupt anything of value. When sin begins to work, the one in a position to discipline has a choice to make. Discipline is inescapable. At that point, we will either discipline the sin, or we will discipline the righteous. But as long as the antithesis between the two exists (which is to say, throughout history) we must choose one way or the other. (Jay E. Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986).

Scripture does not just command the discipline. We find in the Bible five basic reasons to practice church discipline. Not surprisingly, these biblical reasons for disciplining usually anticipate and answer some of the most common objections.

First, we are to discipline to glorify God –our obedience in this matter glorifies God. We know that God intends discipline for His church (Matthew 18:15-19, Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Timothy 5:20, 1 Timothy 6:3, Titus 1:13, Titus 2:15, Titus 3:10, Revelation 2:2, Revelation 14-15, 20). God tells us what to do, and because we are His people we are called to do it. This answers the objection, “Who do you think you are?” We do not discipline in our own name, or on our own authority. The Bible says that our good works (when defined by Scripture) glorify God (Matthew 5:16).

Second, we are to discipline in order to maintain the purity of the church. If we measure the “success” of discipline by whether or not the offender is restored, we will be forced to conclude that sometimes it “doesn’t work”. But if we see other things accomplished by means of discipline, our perspective changes. Conducted biblically, church discipline always purifies the church (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). It also prevents the profanation of the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:27). This also answers the common objection against the faith–“too many hypocrites in church.”

Third, we are to discipline to prevent God from setting Himself against the church. If we have a choice to distance ourselves from sin, and we choose rather to identify ourselves with it, then what will a holy God do? We see that God will come Himself and discipline a church which does not willingly follow Him in this (Revelation 2:14-25).

Fourth, we are to discipline in an attempt to restore the offender. We are not promised that the offender will be restored, but this end is nonetheless one of our goals. This rationale is clearly set forth in Scripture (Matthew 18:15, 1 Corinthians 5:5, Galatians 6:1). This purpose answers the objection that “discipline is harsh and unloving.” The goal is not to destroy the offender; the goal is a confrontation in which we formally protest the fact that the offender is destroying himself. Discipline is an act of love.

And fifth, we are to discipline to deter others from sin –the Bible teaches that consequences for sin detor others (Ecclesiastes 8:11, 1 Timothy 5:20). The objection here is that “people sure wouldn’t want to mention any of their spiritual problems around those elders!” But the issue is always impenitence, and if someone is intending to continue in sin impenitent, then he had better not mention it to any of the elders. But if he struggles against sin, as all of us do, then he will find nothing in church discipline except an aid in that struggle.

What does biblical discipline look like once it has been implemented? Many misunderstand what is actually being done in discipline. Discipline is not shunning or avoiding. It is rather avoiding company on the other’s terms.

The most obvious result is that the one disciplined is refused access to the Lord’s Supper, as well as the general communion which that Supper seals. But the offender is not being denied kindness, courtesy, opportunity to hear the word preached, the duties owed to him by others, or anything else due him according to the law of love. He is merely denied one thing: the right to define the Christian faith.” ~ Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk: Essays and Forays in Practical Ecclesiology, (Canon Press, 2001), 158-159.

Eschatology Hermeneutics

Israel Part Four

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus refers to Himself—in relatively rapid succession—as the greater temple (12:6), a greater Jonah (12:41), and a greater Solomon (12:42). In other words, He is the greatest Prophet, Priest, and King, and thus “the ultimate” of every institution that comprises the distinct character of Israel. To reiterate the point you make above, He essentially identifies Himself as the New Israel.

In A House for My Name, Peter Leithart elaborates on this theme: “In Pilate’s Praetorium, the Jews renounce Jesus, choosing death over life. But the Israel of God is never dead for long. Israel has died before. . . . But when Old Israel dies, Yahweh, the Lord of life, brings a New Israel from the grave. The death and resurrection of Jesus, who is the true Jacob and Israel, who is the temple flowing with living water, is the sign that a New Israel will be born. The Jews have rejected their King and destroyed their temple, but out of their dead bones the Spirit brings forth living stones for a holy house, an army that cannot be numbered.” (Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000), 262-63

Eric Adams is currently forging a series of short articles about being Jewish. I have posted them below with their original links.

What about Acts 7:38?

Eric writes,
I have been skimming Christ’s Prophetic Plans, which is a primer on Dispensational Eschatology. I would like to write a review or a response at some point, but I can’t let this pass:

Richard Mayhue asserts, “Furthermore, never in the whole New Testament is ‘Israel’ ever called ‘the church'” (page 82).

This is patently false. Stephen refers to Israel as the church in his sermon:

“This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you” (Acts 7:38).

“The congregation” is the Greek word, ekklesia, which is the word for the church. Thus, Stephen calls Israel the church.

So, whenever you find yourself listening to a Dispensationalist wax eloquent about how Israel is never called the church, simply ask, “What about Acts 7:38?”

See here for the original article.

Was Ruth a Jew?

In my previous post, I argued that the fatal flaw of Christ’s Prophetic Plans is that the authors assume that Israel/Jew is defined strictly by ethnicity. In the next few posts, I want to explore the ramifications of such a presupposition.

If Israel is defined strictly by ethnicity, then no one could ever become a Jew. You were either born a Jew or you were not. Nothing that you ever did would change that.

What about Ruth? Ruth was a Moabite; she was not born a Jew. If Israel/Jew is strictly an ethnic designation, then Ruth could never become a Jew because no one can become a Jew. She was a Gentile who got in on the promises.

However, this is not what the Scriptures teach. Ruth herself claimed, “Your people shall be my people” (Ruth 1:16). She saw herself becoming part of Israel. She became a Jew.

The only way this is possible is if Israel/Jew is not strictly an ethnic designation. In the Bible, Israel/Jew is a religious designation with ethnic implications.

Was Ruth a Jew? Not by birth, but by conversion, Ruth became a Jew. She was grafted into Israel, and both she and all of her progeny became Jews.

See here for the original article.

Was Boaz a Jew?

The most fundamental error that Dispensationalists make is in restricting their definitions of Israel and Jew to ethnicity. One who is born a Jew is always a Jew, and nothing can change this. Likewise, no one can become a Jew because blood alone determines whether one is a Jew. Blood alone defines Israel.

Dispensationalists continually pound this pulpit, yet they show little awareness of the difficulties surrounding such a definition. Specifically,
How much Jewish blood makes someone a Jew?
In a mixed marriage (Jew + Gentile), does it matter which party is Jewish?
I will deal with both of these questions in the next few posts.

Matrilineal Descent?
In a mixed marriage, does it matter which party is Jewish?

Some branches of Modern Judaism define Israel/Jew partly according to matrilineal descent. That is, one is a Jew if their mother is a Jew. Thus, a Jewish mother begets Jewish children, regardless of the ethnicity of the Father.

The problem with defining Israel/Jew according to matrilineal descent is that this excludes some famous Jews, such as Boaz.

Boaz’s mother was Rahab, who was a Canaanite. She was not Jewish, and thus, according to matrilineal descent, Boaz was not a Jew.

Also, Boaz married Ruth, who was a Moabite. Thus, their son, Obed, was not a Jew, according to matrilineal descent.

Technically, neither Judah nor any of the other sons of Jacob would be Jews, as Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah were not Jewish. Thus, according to strict matrilineal descent, none of the twelve sons of Israel were Jewish.

Of course, Modern Judaism has an answer for this dilemma, which I will explore in a future post.

Also, I know of no Dispensationalist who defines Israel/Jew according to matrilineal descent. I am not suggesting or implying this in any way.

I am simply ruling out defining Israel/Jew according to strict matrilineal descent.

See here for the original article.

Was Jesus a Jew?

Dispensationalists consistently emphasize that God made promises to the Jews, and these promises must be fulfilled for the Jews.

This raises the question: Who are these Jews who will inherit the promises?

Dispensationalists insist that a Jew is someone who is ethnically descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. Blood alone defines Israel.

This raises the question: Is Israel defined by matrilineal descent (through the mother) or by patrilineal descent (through the father)?

In my previous post, I demonstrated that matrilineal descent alone is an invalid way to define Israel/Jew. This eliminates Boaz, Obed, and technically, even Judah, from Israel because their mothers were not Jewish.

Patrilineal Descent?
What about patrilineal descent?

This seems to make more sense. All genealogies in the Bible trace the male line. The promises were given to males and renewed with males. The male descendents were circumcised. Patrilineal descent seems more Biblical.

However, patrilineal descent alone is insufficient to define Israel/Jew because of one obvious exception: Jesus.

If being a Jew is defined by one’s father, then Jesus is not Jewish because his Father is not Jewish.

As Archie Bunker once retorted when reminded that Jesus was Jewish: “Yes, but only on his mother’s side.”

This one enormous exception means that patrilineal descent alone cannot be used to define Israel/Jew.

See here for the original article.


Orphan Care Ministry Spotlight – Sixty Feet

This new series highlights organizations that, in my estimation, are on the frontlines of mercy ministries, but not just any mercy ministries. They are ministries focusing on orphan care. They’ve taken James 1:27 to heart.

What is Sixty Feet?

Sixty Feet is an action-based organization created
to bring hope and restoration to the imprisoned children of Africa in Jesus’ name. We are not referring to a figurative prison of poverty or circumstance, but real places, with real bars.

At the turn of the 20th century, Winston Churchill described Uganda as “the Pearl of Africa”. He was illustrating the beauty of the land. Indeed, in this lush African country, there is no shortage of water. Yet much of the water in Uganda is polluted. Experts tell us, often less than 60 feet down, they find crystal clear, clean water that changes these peoples’ lives forever.

Less than sixty feet below the dusty little feet of these orphans is the purest water they could ever drink…waiting for the children… just out of their reach.
For us this is not even close to being just about water. We have big dreams for these children that if we told you, you might think we are crazy. We know God loves these orphan children at “M”. Everything does seem just out of their reach, but we are doing something about it.

It doesn’t take much to go sixty feet.

Sixty Feet is about changing lives forever.

Meeting Needs from Sixty Feet on Vimeo.