The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Ted Donnelly

Review: “Peter: Eyewitness of His Majesty”

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Peter: Eyewitness of His Majesty

Edward Donnelly

Banner of Truth, 1998, 160pp., paperback, £6.50

ISBN 0-85151-744-7

We might imagine that we know Simon Peter. His character seems to lie splayed on the pages of the New Testament. Yet, at the same time, we may think that a few bold strokes capture him entirely, leaving us with a limited, one-dimensional, perhaps too-readily-dismissed caricature. Here, Ted Donnelly provides a corrective, surveying the Scriptural data to give us a portrait of Peter as disciple, preacher and pastor. In this way, the author draws out principles and applications for all believers: any Christian will appreciate the realism and encouragement of the first section, while the latter two shine light on the role of pastors and preachers in a way that helps both those who labour in the pulpit and listen in the pews. Exegeting insightfully, as well as extrapolating sensitively from the white spaces in the Biblical narratives and epistles, with penetrating applications, here is a book which models the very truths and virtues it declares. It is not an easy volume to classify: you will not, for example, find it in many lists of pastoral theology, and yet the portions on Peter as preacher and as pastor would certainly merit its place. It is more than a mere character study, and yet you come away appreciating Peter better. It is not just a work on discipleship, although you understand better what it means to follow Christ having read it. Simple in its style, sweet in its tone, sweeping in its reach, substantial despite its brevity, it is an excellent book for any believer, and might be especially well-placed in the hands of any man entering or exiting seminary.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 19 March 2011 at 08:02

Playing with fire?

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It is hard not to notice the Bell-shaped brouhaha brewing on the other side of the Atlantic (see Taylor, DeYoung and Johnson) and probably intending to blow east at some point. In terms of accessible Biblical resources for thinking through the issues of heaven and hell and the false teachings of universalism and annihilationism, I could not recommend a better beginning than Ted Donnelly’s Heaven and Hell (Banner of Truth, buy at Westminster Bookstore/ it really is outstanding as a clear and straightforward introduction to the realities, issues and applications.

But this is not about Bell or the brouhaha, though prompted by it. While I was unwell over the last few days, one of the things I read was From Death Into Life by William Haslam, an autobiographical volume of a 19th century High Churchman who came under powerful conviction of sin and was converted in the act of preaching a sermon in which his nascent grasp of evangelical truth was beginning to show.

There is no doubt that Haslam was quirky, and had some interesting notions and practices. Nevertheless, he was a man who came to know and feel the awful weight of a condemnation that could be escaped only through fleeing in faith to Jesus. It is was in the context of the building storm about the eternal destiny of souls that I read this powerful passage in which Haslam has an interview with a man who believes the truth about the absolute necessity of true conversion but is not prepared to state it plainly:

“Well,” he said, “but think of all the good men you condemn if you take that position so absolutely.”

Seeing that I hesitated, he went on to say that he “knew many very good men, in and out of the Church of England, who did not think much of conversion, or believe in the necessity of it.”

“I am very sorry for them,” I replied; “but I cannot go back from the position into which, I thank God, He has brought me. It is burned into me that, except a man is converted, he will and must be lost for ever.”

“Come, come, my young friend,” he said, shifting his chair, and then sitting down to another onslaught, “do you mean to say that a man will go to hell if he is not converted, as you call it?”

“Yes, I do; and I am quite sure that if I had died in an unconverted state I should have gone there; and this compels me to believe, also, that what the Scripture says about it is true for every one.”

“But what does the Scripture say?” he interposed. “It says that ‘he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed’ (John 3:18); and in another place, he that believeth not shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16). As surely as the believer is saved and goes to heaven, as surely the unbeliever is lost and must go to hell.”

“Do you mean Gehenna, the place of torment?”

“Yes, I do.”

“This is very dreadful.”

“More dreadful still.” I said, “must be the solemn reality; and therefore, instead of shrinking from the thought and putting it off, I rather let it stir and rouse me to warn unbelievers, so that I may, by any means, stop them on their dangerous path. I think this is the only true and faithful way of showing kindness; and that, on the other hand, it is the most selfish, heartless, and cruel unkindness to let sinners, whether they are religious, moral, reformed, or otherwise, to go on in an unconverted state, and perish.”

“Do you believe, then,” said my visitor, “in the fire of hell? Do you think it is a material fire?”

“I do not know; I do not wish to know anything about it. I suppose material fire, like every other material thing, is but a shadow of something real. Is it not a fire which shall burn the soul – a fire that never will be quenched – where the worm will never die?”

“Do you really believe all this?”

“Yes,” I said, “and I have reason to do so.” I remembered the anguish of soul I passed through when I was under conviction, and the terrible distress I felt for others whom I had misled.

“When our blessed Lord was speaking to the Jews, and warning them against their unbelief and its fearful consequences, He did not allow any ‘charitable hopes’ to hinder Him from speaking the whole truth. He told them of Lazarus, who died, and went to Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom; and of Dives, who died, and went to Hell, the place of torment” (Luke 16).

“But,” he said, interrupting me, “that is only a parable, or figure of speech.”

“Figure of speech!” I repeated. “Is it a figure of speech that the rich man fared sumptuously, that he died, that he was buried? Is not that literal? Why, then, is it a figure of speech that he lifted up his eyes in torment, and said, ‘I am tormented in this flame’(Luke 16:24). My dear friend, be sure that there is an awful reality in that story – a most solemn reality in the fact of the impassable gulf. If here we do not believe in this gulf, we shall have to know of it hereafter. I never saw and felt,” I continued, “as I do now, that every man is lost, even while on earth, until he is saved, and that if he dies in that unsaved state he will be lost for ever.”

My unknown visitor remained silent for a little time, and I could see that he was in tears. At last he burst out and said, “I am sure you are right. I came to try you upon the three great “R’s” – ‘Ruin,’ ‘Redemption,’ and ‘Regeneration,’ and to see if you really meant what you preached. Now I feel more confirmed in the truth and reality of the Scriptures.”

I thought I had been contending with an unbeliever all along, but instead of this I found that he was a man who scarcely ventured to think out what he believed to its ultimate result – he believed God’s Word, but, like too many, alas! held it loosely.

William Haslam, From Death Into Life (London: Morgan and Scott, n.d.), 74-77.

Holding loosely the Word of God with regard to ruin, redemption and regeneration will cut the nerve of true gospel endeavour. It will remove our urgency, enervate our efforts, and dilute our message. If there is no hell, then there is no need for men to be saved, and the death of Jesus was a monstrous waste. Whoever believes otherwise, and however many ‘good men’ may seem to be condemned, we must cling to and proclaim – with tears – God’s glorious and terrible truths concerning eternity, and concerning the Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1Thes 1.10), if we are to be faithful both to the Lord whose people we are and to the lost whose souls we seek.

Let us believe God’s Word and hold it fast. No one can afford to play with this fire.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 3 March 2011 at 15:24

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

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A couple of helpful resources, the first of which I found by way of recommendation many moons ago, and the second of which I just found today.

While I would recommend tracking down audio of this material (which I think he has preached at a Banner of Truth Conference in the US), Ted Donnelly has given nine directives (the first version I heard had only six, so he is obviously developing this as he goes) that help us to preach Christ from the Old Testament:

  1. Face up to the predispositions.
  2. Follow the pattern.
  3. Cultivate the perspective.
  4. Grasp the plot.
  5. Look for the promise.
  6. Explore the parallels.
  7. Apply the precedents.
  8. Watch the pendulum.
  9. Love the person.

Sinclair Ferguson has also written a Proclamation Trust pamphlet on this topic, subtitled “Developing a Christ-centred instinct.”  Insisting that you need an instinct for this rather than a formula, he provides four pointers:

  1. The relationship between promise and fulfilment.
  2. The relationship between type and antitype.
  3. The relationship between the covenant and Christ.
  4. Proleptic [anticipatory] participation and subsequent realisation.

Having preached yesterday on Exodus 17, I am at once corrected and directed and encouraged by the insights of these masters of their craft.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 24 August 2009 at 12:00

Evangelical Movement of Wales addresses

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Martin Downes points us to several superb series of sermons delivered at the English-speaking Aberystwyth conferences of the Evangelical Movement of Wales in past years.

From 1996, Sinclair Ferguson on Ruth:

From 1993, Ted Donnelly on the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53):

From 2001, Ted Donnelly on union with Christ (see also here):

Please note: If you download the sermons you are allowed to make one copy for your personal use. Please don’t redistribute copies of these sermons without first asking permission.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 25 June 2009 at 13:36

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Heavenly instructions and mutations

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Paul Helm blogs about “the domestication of heaven” and the propounding of what he calls “a geo-heaven” – there are some stimulating and suggestive comments here, but it’s more a survey and critique of issues arising than a positive discussion.

For an outstanding survey of the Biblical data on both heaven and hell – simple, non-histrionic, warmly applied – I strongly recommend Ted Donnelly’s Heaven and Hell.  Reading it, you will be instructed, moved, exalted, humbled, challenged and directed.

On a slightly different tack, David Anderson has a good survey of the scriptural teaching on rewards at the final judgement.  There are some helpful principles enunciated here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 20 January 2009 at 09:19

Helped and humbled

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Child-and-infant-related lack of sleep is still slowing me down a little, but things have improved slightly over the last couple of days.

On Friday and Saturday nights I managed to get out into Maidenbower to see if any of my young friends were hanging around.  It was late and cold when I went out on Friday – about 10pm – and there was no-one around.  I walked for thirty minutes or so and there was no sign of anyone.  Saturday we had an early start as I took my mother-in-law to Heathrow airport at the end of her visit to us over the last week or so.  The rest of the day was spent preparing for the Lord’s day and working on various tasks related to our witness to Christ in Crawley, before I went out to the park again with Alan, a friend from the church, at 9pm, to see who we could see.  It was colder still, and we were hoping to arrange with the mob to come over to the church building for some shelter, if not immediately, then perhaps at some future date.  Again, there was no-one around.  We walked around once more, and found no sign of anyone, and then we drove around the neighbourhood, including stopping in at one or two known points of congregation, but we could find none of our contacts.  Where are they?  Has the cold finally driven them inside?  We hope and pray that we have not lost contact with them, and I hope to go out after school a couple of times to see if we can pick things up.  We’re also hoping to go into Crawley town centre before Christmas to take advantage of increased traffic to speak to people and to invite them to church services.

Sunday morning I was up early again.  Fortified by some eggs and bacon, I was in the car shortly after 7am, heading up to Holywell Free Church in Loughborough to preach the gospel.  Travelling north, I hit the bad weather sweeping down the UK, driving through three bands of snow and sleet on the way.  Apart from that, the Lord God gave me a straightforward and safe journey.  With a drive of about three hours to negotiate, I had an opportunity to listen to several sermons there and back from a recent conference that I was not able to attend.  I heard sermons from George McDearmon, Ted Donnelly, and Randy Pizzino, and hope to finish off the set at a later date.

Arriving in good time, I preached in the morning on Zechariah 13.1 once more, introducing some slightly different illustrations and expanding some parts and contracting others as I sought to point to Jesus Christ and the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.  The church has a large contingent of Chinese people in attendance, some members and others visiting (many associated with the university).  Most of them follow along in Mandarin Bibles, and I was encouraged to hear later in the day that even those still coming to grips with all the complexities of English (not to mention Scriptural and theological language) were able to follow well.  I think that the Spirit helped me to preach plainly and warmly.

The afternoon was spent with one of the elders and his wife, Richard and Jo Hall.  Walking to their home, we discovered friends in common – they were members of the church in Cumnock pastored by Bill Hughes a good number of years ago.  That set us off on a very good footing, and I had a delightful afternoon discussing various aspects of life in Christ’s kingdom.

In the evening I preached on seeking God from Psalm 119.10: “With my whole heart I have sought you; oh, let me not wander from your commandments.”  For some reason, my throat started seizing up (a heating system or temperature to which I was unaccustomed, perhaps?) while I was leading the service and I had a coughing fit just before preaching, with a real coarseness in my throat.  In this verse are displayed a total engagement with God, a singleminded pursuit of God, and a humble request to God.  We considered these, and the relationships between them, but I felt as if I were struggling badly.  The sermon was not holding together as I thought it would, and I was wrestling to keep it focused and coherent.  I ended up loading myself into the cannon and firing the preacher with the sermon toward the congregation.  People were gracious afterward, but I was disappointed.  On reflection, I think I can identify some particular reasons why I was struggling, and I need to look at and learn from those.

I arrived home shortly before midnight, catching up a little on the day at Maidenbower on the way home, and headed swiftly to bed.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 24 November 2008 at 13:08

A throne for Self

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James Henley Thornwell somewhere speaks of the desire to serve the living God with all one’s heart and soul and strength, and then speaks the chilling words: “. . . but self is a powerful idol.”  I recall hearing Pastor Ted Donnelly preaching on justification, and speaking of self-righteousness and self-congratulation, and the horror of finding – even in the very outward act of exalting Christ – a little voice whispering in the minister’s own mind, “Didn’t you do that well?”

I was first and most powerfully struck by this when reading a biography of the Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, called To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (Judson Press).  At one point (382-3), the biographer is seeking to describe a seminal moment in the ministry of Judson, a time of extreme trial (many grievous deaths in his family).  It was his father’s death that brought poignant memories to the missionary of the “glowing ambitions” his pastor father had had for him.  Anderson writes that,

Reliving these memories, Adoniram began to realise that no matter how he had rebelled, his father had succeeded in instilling in him, consciously or unconsciously, a goal of earthly ambition, an intense determination to surpass his fellows.

Judson began to search his heart, and discerned that his fundamental desire in being and doing what he had sought to be and do was not “genuine humility and self-abnegation but ambition . . . [to be] . . . first in his own eyes and the eyes of men.”  Courtney continues thus:

He had always known that his forwardness, self-pride and desire to stand out were serious flaws in his nature.  Now he began to suspect that they were more than flaws.  They made his entire missionary career up to now a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.  He had deluded himself.  But he had not deluded God.  Perhaps here was the intention in all these deaths: to teach him true humility. . . . No wonder it took death itself, by wholesale, to teach him better.  For Adoniram’s mission, God had approval; for Adoniram and his self-love, a harsh lesson.

How truly awful to have the pall of such a conclusion hanging over the scene of one’s ministerial labours: “a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.”  Such pride and self-elevation is an act of wicked folly on the part of any child of God, but how much more so for one whose very existence calls him to decrease, that Christ might increase?

Few of us need to be taught earthly ambition by our parents; we inherit it from our first parents.  The idol-factory of the heart has a great forge in which is constantly being hammered into shape a fearful throne for that most insistent god, Self.  How often do we need to pause and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?  What is my true goal?”  Behind the facade of righteous endeavour, of generous effort, do we hide a drive to excel not for the glory of Christ, but for our own reputation?  Are we driven by love to self, or love to God?  How much, how often, we need to examine our hearts, to search our souls, remembering always that “self is a powerful idol” and that God may approve the work but condemn the motive.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 3 October 2008 at 09:49

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