The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

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“They ceased.”

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John MacArthur has been taking some flak for what he said about Darrin Patrick recently, but here is a critique from the same interview with Phil Johnson in which he also did some pretty straight talking about the charismatic movement:

The charismatic movement is largely the reason the church is in the mess it’s in today. In virtually every area where church life is unbiblical, you can attribute it to the charismatic movement. In virtually every area — bad theology, superficial worship, ego, prosperity gospel, personality elevation — all of that comes out of the charismatic movement.

You can read the whole transcript at The Thirsty Theologian.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 25 January 2011 at 13:30

Truth opposed to error

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The Exiled Preacher gives us a snippet from the good Doctor concerning the need to preach the whole truth in its proper context and proportion, equipping the saints of God to prevail against false teaching:

[Rome] is indeed a form of the antichrist, and it is to be rejected, it is to be denounced; but above all it is to be countered. And there is only one thing that can counter it, as I said at the beginning, and that is a biblical, doctrinal Christianity. A Christianity that just preaches “Come to Christ” or “Come to Jesus” cannot stand before Rome for a second. Probably what that will do ultimately will be to add to the numbers belonging to Rome.

We must warn them. There is only one teaching, one power, that can stand against this horrible counterfeit; it is what is called here “the whole armor of God”.

It is a biblical, doctrinal, theological presentation of the New Testament truth. That was how it was done in the sixteenth century. Luther was not just a superficial evangelist, he was a mighty theologian; so was Calvin; so were all of them. It was that great system of truth, worked out in its details and presented to the people, that undermined and even shook the Church of Rome. Nothing less than that is adequate to meet the present situation. Christian people, your responsibility is terrible. You must know the truth, you must understand it, you must be able to counter false teaching.

Christian people, your responsibility is terrible. You must know the truth, you must understand it, you must be able to counter false teaching.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 30 November 2010 at 09:21

Mining the past

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Too often while reading contemporary authors on the law in the life of believers, I find myself asking the question, “Haven’t these guys read the great minds of the past on this issue?”

So asks Rich Barcellos, before supplying a few key statements from some of the theological giants who have wrestled with these issues before.

UPDATE: And there’s more.

UPDATE: More again.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 18 November 2010 at 17:48

No works in justification

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Regular readers of this blog will know that both neonomianism and antinomianism are bugbears of which we are much aware.  The quote that follows is from The Marrow of True Justification by Benjamin Keach (Solid Ground Christian Books, 2007).  The first part is his eleventh argument for the exclusion of all works done by the creature, or any obedience of his, in the matter of our justification with God.  Keach explodes all attempts to make our own works any part of our standing righteous before God with regard to our justification with the true doctrine of God’s grace in Christ, while making plain that such grace has nothing to do with antinomianism.  Rich stuff!

11 Arg. Is, because Christ is tendered or offered to Sinners as Sinners; not as righteous persons, but as ungodly ones, without any previous Qualifications required of them to set themselves to receive Christ; they are all as poor, lost, undone, weary, and heavy laden Sinners required to believe in Christ, or venture their Souls upon him, though they have no Money, no Righteousness; if they have, they must cast it away, in point of Dependence, Trust, or Justification: These are they, Christ came to call; these are they he invites to come to him, these are they he came to seek and to save, who see nothing of Good in themselves; but contrariwise, are sensible of their filthy Hearts and abominable Lives: And yet though it be thus, if they come to Christ, they shall be at that very instant justified, which Faith or Divine Grace will soon make them holy and sanctify them; for holy Habits are at that very instant infused into them, though Sanctification is a gradual work: This being so, it follows all Works done by the Creature are excluded, in point of Justification of a Sinner before God.  What said Paul to the ungodly Jailor, when he cried out, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved and thy house, Acts 16.31.  The Apostle did not put him upon doing to be saved, but upon believing.  But O how contrary is this to the Doctrine some Men preach now-a-days; they tell Sinners what they must do, what good Fruits they must bring forth, and this before the Tree is good, or they have closed with Christ, or have real Union with him; nay, bid the People take heed they do not too soon believe on Christ or venture on Christ.  Sirs, you cannot too soon believe in Christ, I mean truly believe; I don’t say you should get a presumptuous Faith, but true Faith: But is it not strange a Minister should be heard lately to say, A Man must get a new heart before he can be justified.  I though a Man could not have a new Heart before he had true Faith: Is not a new Heart one of the absolute Promises of the New Covenant, Ezek. 36.26.  Can any thing, short of Almighty Power, make the Heart new, or for the Image of God in the Soul; or can a Man that hath a new Heart be under Condemnation, for are not all in that Condition who are not actually justified?  Or can a dead Man quicken himself, or dead Works please God?  Or the Fruit be good before the Tree is good?  Are not all that are new Creatures in Christ Jesus, and have union with him, 2 Cor. 5.17? (82-83)

A little later, he urges the comfort of these things for sinners before raising and answering an objection:

Here is Comfort for Sinners; but if you are self-righteous Persons, or go about like the Jews of old, to establish your own Righteousness, down to Hell you will fall, Rom. 10.2.  This Doctrine will support you that are weak, and doubt for want of inherent Righteousness, take hold of it, A Robe of Righteousness, Put it on, Believe on Christ, as poor Sinners come to him, you that have no Money, no Worth, no Merit, no Righteousness, this Wine and Milk of Justification and Pardon is for you: Cry to God to help you to believe; Christ is the Author of your Faith, ’tis the Gift of God, ’tis a grace of the Spirit; Do you see you are wounded?  Look to Christ, Believe, and thou shalt be saved, Mark 16.16.  John 3.15, 16.  If thou can’st not come to God as a Saint, come as a Sinner; nay, as a Sinner thou must come, and may’st come.

Obj. But this Doctrine is decried for Antinomianism.

Answ. They know not what Antinomianism is, that thus brand us, as here-after I shall God-assisting prove.  If this is to be an Antinomian, we must be all such, and let them mock on; the Lord open their Eyes: We are for the Law as Paul was, and for Holiness and sincere Obedience, as any Men in the world; but we would have Men act from right Principles, and to a right end: We would have Men act in Holiness, from a Principle of Faith, from a Principle of Spiritual Life, be first married to Christ that they may bring forth Fruit to God, Rom 7.4.

We preach to you, Sinners, that Jesus Christ will entertain you, if you come to him, bid you welcome, and not cast you off, because of the Greatness of your Sins, though you have no Qualifications to recommend you to him.  Would you wash your selves from your Sins, and then come to the Fountain of his Blood to be washed; we hold forth Christ to be your whole Saviour, and that he is set forth as the Propitiation through Faith in his Blood; whom if you close with, and believe in, you shall be justified.  We tell you God justifies the Ungodly, i.e. that they are so before justified.  (88-89)

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 19 February 2010 at 09:38

Brian McLaren’s latest deviations

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 12 February 2010 at 22:10

Posted in Errors & heresies

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Caution on Sailhamer

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Several men of note have been falling over themselves to commend John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch.  David Murray applies a necessary brake to the adulation by identifying a significant problem.  He quotes an early paragraph:

The Pentateuch is a lesson drawn from the lives of its two leading men, Abraham and Moses. The Pentateuch lays out two fundamentally dissimilar ways of “walking with God” (Deut. 29:1): one is to be like Moses under the Sinai law, and is called the “Sinai covenant”; the other, like that of Abraham (Gen.15:6), is by faith and apart from the law, and is called the “new covenant” (page 14).

Says Murray:

I read the passage again and again, just to make sure I had not misunderstood. How can you write 600+ pages on the Pentateuch and go so wrong in such a fundamental way at the very outset? Sailhamer is saying that there were two ways to be saved in the Old Testament. Like Moses, you could be saved by obeying the law. Or, like Abraham, you could be saved by believing in the Gospel.

That leaves me with three possible conclusions. First, Moses is in hell, having tried and failed to be saved by keeping the law. Or, second, there are two groups of people in heaven who have been saved in totally opposite ways. There are those like Moses who were saved by the works of the law, and there are those like Abraham who were saved through faith in the Messiah. Hard to see how there can be much fellowship when some are praising themselves and others are praising Christ. The third possible conclusion is that Sailhamer is wrong.

Ouch.  Murray runs with the third conclusion for a few more paragraphs, then concludes:

I’m going to force myself to keep reading, hopefully to the end of the book, as I’m sure that there is much to learn from Sailhamer’s extensive work. But it’s hard to see how Sailhamer can correct this fundamental error without contradicting himself or greatly confusing his readers.

I was hoping to get hold of Sailhamer.  I may still do so, as there will doubtless be vast quantities for me to learn.  However, I am not now half so eager, as this seems like a disastrous stance, and – as Murray says – surely such a fundamental error does not leave much to build on.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 11 February 2010 at 11:51

Stuart Olyott on Luther’s mistake

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Stuart Olyott has an excellent short article in the December 2009 issue of the Banner of Truth Magazine (information and subscription here – warmly recommended), reflecting on Luther’s retrospective on the progress of the Reformation. Luther said:

I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble . . . I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug’s game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word.

Stuart is dealing with the error of ‘mediate regeneration’, an error which he perceives gripping a vast swathe of British evangelicalism. (Incidentally, my interest in this article was piqued because I was thinking of preaching on the Spirit’s illuminating work this Lord’s day – I may not, but I should like to soon.) Stuart describes this error in this way:

Mediate regeneration teaches that when the Holy Spirit transforms somebody into a new creature in Christ, he uses an instrument to bring this about. That instrument is the Word—the Holy Scriptures. The work of the Spirit is so intimately connected to his instrument, that we can say that the Word of God actually contains the converting power of the Holy Spirit. If you let the Word loose, you are letting the Holy Spirit loose.

To put it another way: the Spirit, or the principle of new life, is shut up in the Word, just as the life-giving germ is shut up in the dry seed. Just sow the seed and people will get converted! If they don’t, it will be because they have persistently resisted the appeals of God’s Spirit coming to them through that Word. His power is resident in the Word, but that power has been resisted. Where the gospel has little success, there is a human explanation.

So Luther should not have baldly said, “I left it to the Word” because the Word, apart from the Spirit (who is not bound to the word in the way wrongly suggested) accomplishes nothing.

Stuart’s point is that the Spirit works with the word (cum verbo) and not simply through the word (per verbo). While it is and always remains the true Word of the living God, yet without the operation of the Spirit on the heart of the man reading it, it remains as dry as a stick to him. Regeneration is an immediate operation of the Spirit of Christ on the heart of a man making him spiritually alive and aware, and therefore able to comprehend the truth. But the Spirit does not use the truth to accomplish that regeneration; the effect of regeneration is spiritual comprehension of the truth.

Isn’t this splitting hairs? No, says Mr Olyott:

A biblical mind-set ticks completely differently. It goes like this:

  • Although the Word can bring a new spiritual life to birth and visibility, it can never bring about the generation of that new life. God himself must do that, by a direct action of his Spirit within the human soul.
  • We can preach, teach, persuade and print until we are blue in the face, but nothing will get done unless the Lord himself accompanies the Word. All men and women are spiritually dead, and will remain so for ever, unless the Lord brings them to life.
  • It is not enough then to sow the Word, making its meaning plain while we do so. We must have dealings with God, pleading with him to do what only he can do, that is, to work by direct action within people’s souls.

What will be the effect of such a Biblical state of mind?

Where the biblical mind-set rules, you will find preachers who ‘pray through’—men who strive and agonise and prevail in prayer, until the Lord accompanies their preaching in an obvious way.

  • Where the biblical mind-set rules, you will find crowded prayer meetings filled with believers who storm the throne of grace, determined that by sheer importunity they will persuade God to accompany the word to be preached.
  • Where the biblical mind-set rules, you will find gatherings of Christians beseeching the Lord to pour out his Spirit in awakening power. Of course you will! They understand all too well that no spiritual work will get done anywhere, however much sowing takes place, unless the Lord himself changes rebellious hearts and gives to them spiritual life and appetite.
  • But the biblical mind-set does not rule. Most British preachers study more than they pray. Countless believers do not go regularly to church prayer-meetings, or, if they do, fail to plead with God for his blessing upon the preaching. Prayer for revival has almost left us. The error of mediate regeneration is slowly but surely strangling us, and things will go from bad to worse unless we repent.

Stuart is not saying anything new. The 1689 Confession of Faith contains a chapter on the gospel and its gracious extent. The fourth paragraph, in its usual pithy and dense fashion, makes the same point as Stuart, which I give in a slightly modernised format:

The gospel is the only outward [external] means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and, as such, is fully sufficient for this purpose. However, in order that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is also necessary an effectual, insuperable [irresistible] work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul to produce in them a new spiritual life.8 Without this, no other means will accomplish their conversion unto God.9

8 Ps 110.3; 1Cor 2.14; Eph 1.19-20  9 Jn 6.44; 2Cor 4.4, 6

I feel the charge of spending more time bending over a commentary than bending my knees in prayer. I see all around me men and women who have heard and are hearing the truth as it is in Jesus without any spiritual comprehension of that truth, and I see the desperate necessity of a direct work of God’s Spirit upon their hearts if they are to believe. They are, many of them, competent, intelligent professionals, some eminent in their spheres, but they cannot see the truth. They never will, unless the Holy Spirit opens their blind eyes.

The story is told of how William Wilberforce once took William Pitt, Britain’s youngest ever Prime Minister, a man of intellectual penetration and brilliance, to hear Richard Cecil, an evangelical minister of the gospel with a reputation for sweetness and clarity. As the brilliant Pitt came out of the church, having heard the gospel plainly and powerfully declared, he blinked in the sunlight. “You know, Wilberforce,” he said, “I have not the slightest idea what that man has been talking about.” What was missing? The blessing of spiritual enlightenment for which Wilberforce had been praying, a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit enabling even the most humanly brilliant of men to grasp the simple truth of the good news in Jesus Christ. Truly, the kingdom advances “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zec 4.6).

Let us not, then, fall into the sterilising error of mediate regeneration, but pray for the Spirit powerfully and savingly to accompany the Word preached.

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