Category Archives: Practical Helps

The Destructive Repercussions of Avoiding Theological Terms

Back a few months ago, I sat among hundreds of students at a summer camp while listening to a widely-known speaker teaching theology. You could tell this guy had been doing this for quite some time – he had us on the edge of our seats as we were gripped by his stories, illustrations, and hand gestures. He was the full package, even using diagrams and object lessons in an attempt to teach us deep theological truths. I leaned in to listen and grow in my faith just like everyone else in the room. Eventually however, I was leaning in with one eyebrow raised. Most of what he was saying was helpful and biblically sound, but as he continued to speak I began to notice a pattern in his teaching – and it made me sick to my stomach.

Once he would come to a five-syllable theological term in the Scriptures such as justification or sanctification, he would immediately diminish its significance by describing the term as such: “This is a term that theologians use – oh ho ho ho (with a French accent).” Everyone laughed as you’d expect. He would then replace the word with something “simpler” and “easier to understand,” without giving a definition of the word or explaining its meaning. When it came to justification, he referred to it as something that only theologians talk about and then said what he preferred to call it. In an attempt to make the truth “easier” to understand, he avoided the use of the term altogether and sidestepped from defining and explaining the term.

There were students in this room that had never heard of justification or sanctification before, and now they will go back to their churches, schools, and families with the impression that big theological terms really amount to nothing. And sometimes, it is near impossible to undo first impressions.

This practice of avoiding the use of theological terms in preaching and teaching is theologically destructive. When this practice is followed, whether by speakers, Bible teachers, or even pastors, it is done so in hopes that their audiences will not be confused. But when they do this, it completely backfires and it creates a ticking time bomb ready to explode at the next hearing or reading of that theological term.

Those who do this really have good intentions, I truly believe that. They don’t want people to be frightened or confused by big terms. But avoiding the use and explanation of theological terms is fundamentally avoiding explanation of the Bible. Any person who teaches the Bible should use and explain theological terms because the Bible uses these terms. When we fail to do so, it’s a ticking spiritual bomb, waiting to explode within the Christian’s mind when he comes to the term the next time he reads it in the Bible. If we don’t use and explain the theological terms that the Bible uses, Christians will not know what they mean when they read them in the Scriptures. They will regard the terms as unimportant, run over them, and turn the page. It’s never a good thing when people consider terms in Scripture to be unimportant. This leaves them with a poor and unbiblical view of the Scriptures.

Bible teachers and expositors should use and explain terms such as justification, sanctification, glorification, propitiation, salvation, preeminence, redemption, substitution and a host of others because the Bible uses these terms. With that I want to encourage you, whether you are a parent, Sunday school teacher, youth pastor, lead pastor, Bible teacher, or a widely known speaker – labor much in the use and explanation of the theological terms replete in the Scriptures. We need to know what they mean, and our people need to know what they mean. We need resources like Bible dictionaries to help us understand and grasp the meaning of these terms. We need to labor much to explain the meaning of theological terms to our people. If we want to be faithful teachers of the Scriptures, we must explain all the Scriptures – every term included.

The Believer’s Sanctification (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Introduction: How We Act in God’s Family

I read a story recently about a boy named Roger who had a difficult time getting adjusted to his foster family. His parents had died from a drug overdose, and there was no one to care for Roger. So a kind Christian family decided they would raise him as their own.

At first, it was difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home. Several times a day, you would hear the parents saying to Roger, “No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family,” or “No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want,” and “No, no, Roger we expect you to show respect in this family.”

In time, Roger began to change. Did he have to make those changes to become part of the family? No. He was already part of the family by the grace of the foster parents. But did he have to work hard because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for Roger to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the amazing love he had received.

That story captures well what it’s like to live the Christian life.

We have been adopted into God’s family by His redemptive grace. And since it is a new way of life, sometimes we will fail and sin, and the Spirit will say to us, “No, no. That’s now how we act in this family.” And we make those changes in our lives through God’s grace because we are His sons and daughters—not so that we can become a son or daughter—but because we already belong to Him. And this process of learning how to act in God’s family is known as sanctification. Sanctification is “the process of God’s grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God’s righteousness.”¹

It’s growing in holiness because God has declared us holy in Christ; it is a holy cleansing; it is daily overcoming the power and presence of sin in our daily lives through the power of the Spirit and the work of the Word. It is becoming adjusted to God’s family.

And it doesn’t happen overnight, and the reason it doesn’t is because you haven’t always been in God’s family – in fact, you were “alienated” from the family of God (Eph. 2:12), you were God’s enemy (Rom. 5:10); you were “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).

But God saved you and now you are a part of God’s family – and learning how to live as God’s child in God’s family will be tough, and it will take time. And overcoming our sinful behaviors and living obediently as His child is what the Bible calls sanctification.

Sanctification is sanctifying ourselves from ungodliness and associating ourselves with God and His word, like the blessed man in the first Psalm:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

Sanctification is being set apart through God’s word, as Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17:

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

Sanctification is living as those who have been brought from death to life: 

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Rom. 6:12-13).

Sanctification is possible only through God, by His grace: 

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

And here in our text for this evening, we have a passage of Scripture that spells out sanctification in more detail. It is 1 Peter 2:1-3, and in this passage we have three things that are necessary for us to live lives that are continually being sanctified. Now let me say at this point, just from hearing these passages of Scripture about sanctification, and relying on your current biblical knowledge about sanctification and holiness, you probably understand the importance of sanctification in the Christian life. Every day perhaps you strive to be more holy and walk straighter on the narrow path. It is necessary and crucial to know and understand that we need to be living lives that are consistently being sanctified – but what if you don’t know how? Do you know what sanctification looks like practically? Do you understand how to live sanctified as well as you understand why you are to live sanctified? If someone approached you, seeking to grow in their sanctification, would you know what to say to them? How does one truly live a sanctified life? It’s not enough to know that we need to, but we must know how.

Maybe that’s you today. Maybe you understand that you really need to live sanctified – you really need to live a life that is holy unto the Lord, and you really want to. But maybe you don’t know how. Well, with unwavering confidence I can truly say that this passage of Scripture is for you. Because in this passage, Peter tells us exactly what we need to live continually sanctified lives. This passage is the triad of Christian living; three essential components for obedience to God; the triangle, if you will, of sanctification. We will see that three things are necessary for our sanctification: renouncement of sin, craving the word of God, and a constant examination.

The Text: 1 Peter 2:1-3, ESV

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

I. The Renouncement for Sanctification (v. 1)

First, we see in this passage that for our sanctification, we must renounce sin. At the most fundamental level, this is exactly what sanctification is—the process of God’s grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God’s righteousness. Sanctification involves a daily renouncing of sin.

So Peter writes, “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” He begins this passage by commanding his readers to put away sin from their lives—that’s what it means to renounce. Renouncing is to abandon something, reject it, and put it away from you.

And as you can see here, he gives a list of five things to put away (and we will look at these in more detail later), but what is most important to notice at the beginning is the reason he gives for putting away and renouncing sin. When Peter says, “So put away,” this command is not alone. By using the word “so,” or as some translations render it “so then,” he is pointing back to what he has just dealt with in the previous passage.  So is a conjunction – a connecting word. This means that Peter is giving this command to put away sin, solely on the basis of something previously stated. Here’s a few examples of using this conjunction:

Pokémon Go is the greatest virtual mobile game for phones, so then, download it for free.

Justin Bieber is the girliest, most unmanly excuse for a pop artist, so then, do not buy his albums.

In Peter’s use of the conjunction, he is essentially saying that because of something that has already taken place, his readers are to put away sin from their lives. So what is that something that has already taken place? The believer’s salvation. 

Notice in the previous verses that he talks about a salvation that has already taken place in the lives of his readers:

“since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1:23-25).

Peter stated there that these believers were born again, and that the gospel had been preached to them – all indicators of their salvation which has already occurred. So because they have been “born again,” Peter says they should put away sin from their lives. In fact, the Greek actually adds more emphasis to it than do most of our English translations. The Greek reads something like, “Having laid aside all malice, and all deceit, and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” Renouncement of sin, according to Peter, is something that actually should already be taking place because of salvation—but because of the tendency to fall into those sins again, Peter reminds them to put away these sins from themselves because they have been saved.

Several times throughout this letter, Peter describes the Christian life this way—that we should be living obedient and holy lives simply because of the salvation and regeneration that we have experienced and received. Often times in this letter, the only reason he says we should live a godly life is because of salvation—and really, it’s the only reason he needs. Because true salvation will always lead to sanctification and a holy life. True salvation always results in a godly life. When God saves us, inevitably we live saved lives.

In 1:3-12, Peter says that God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope” (v. 3), and then spells out many other blessings of being a believer. Following this immediately, he then commands them: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13). Because they are born again, they should set their hope on God’s grace and it should transform the way they live their lives.

In 2:4-10, he says that believers have “come to [God]” (v. 4), and that they are now a “chosen race, a royal priesthood” (v. 9). Even more, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (v. 10). Then he commands them because they are those who have received God’s mercy: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (v. 11).²

Indeed, becoming a Christian is no four-step initiation into a social club, but a complete life change from the inside out because we have been “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5). All of that was a brief look at why we should renounce sin—because we are saved and born again. And it was crucial that we spent time looking at it, because if you’re wondering why it is a problem to continue living in sin, it is because it is an eternal issue—you’re not saved if you’re not being sanctified.

So after giving the reason for renouncing sin, what does it actually mean to renounce sin in the first place? Well, Peter says we should “put away” sin. He doesn’t mean the kind of putting away like we would put away leftovers in the refrigerator, or put away dishes that we’re just going to use again. The kind of “putting away” he is referring to is putting something away for good. In the Greek, the command “put away” denotes something like taking off and laying aside old clothes. So Peter is picturing Christians taking these sins off like you would with old clothes, and then casting them far away.

That’s what you do with old clothes that are no longer wearable—you take them off and put them in the garbage. That’s what Peter says to do with these sins. To renounce them, to put them away from us, to stop wearing them, to be rid of them all together.

He has a list of five sins that we should put away from ourselves. And the important thing to notice here is that these sins are sins that affect relationships with people, namely people in the church. Peter isn’t listing these here in random order, or just because he thinks these are worse than adultery or stealing. He lists these here because they are sins that will harm our fellowship with others, especially Christians.

And renouncing these sins are absolutely essential to our sanctification, because sanctification cannot be done alone. Sanctification is meant to be done in the Christian community—the church! If we have these sins present in our lives, we are hindering our own sanctification and the sanctification of others. So when we go through this list, if you happen to notice even slightly that these sins may be present in your life and in the way you view others, then pray as you hear them that God would create in you a clean heart (Psalm 51:10), and renew a right spirit within you.

Malice. Malice is best defined as “the intention or desire to do evil.” It is like premeditated murder—it is planning on committing sin. Malice is a force that can destroy Christian fellowship. This should not even be named among the congregation of believers. Malice is a grave sin because it is the intention and desire to commit sin before we even do (which by the way, is committing sin already). If we intend to gossip about someone, or a church member, or say in our hearts, “Man the next time I see them, I’m gonna . . .” Or if we intend to mistreat someone and disrespect them in the church, then we have a problem with malice. We must put it away and cast it far from us.

Deceit. Deceit is speaking or acting with a motive for deception. It is lying or living in a manner that is deceptive. We cannot live our lives together lying to one another, and we cannot live lives that are deceptive and untruthful. We are to be those who present God’s truth to each other and to the unsaved, both by our words and actions—we are to be lovers of truth, not deceitful. We must renounce and put away deceit far from us.

Hypocrisy. We cannot live double lives. In Greek theater, a hypocrite was one who played different parts in a drama. And it is no mistake that Peter names hypocrisy right after deceit, for they go hand in hand. Deceit and hypocrisy are two branches of the same sinful weed that should never be growing in the life of one who abides in the True Vine (John 15:1-4). We must be honest about our faults and shortcomings, and our behavior in the church and our behavior at home or in the workplace should be consistently the same. We must put away hypocrisy from ourselves.

Envy. Envy is synonymous with jealousy. It is a desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute which belongs to someone else. It is when we desire what belongs to someone else. It might be a position in the church, nicer clothes, someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend, a nicer home, or a shinier vehicle—but we must put away envy from ourselves.

Slander. And finally, we have slander. It is defined as “making a false statement about someone.” It is lying about another person, gossiping about them, or any type of speaking that is false or unhelpful. Paul says in Ephesians that we should speak only that which “is good for building up” (4:29), and slander is the opposite of this. In fact, it is more satanic than any sin in this list, for the word devil in the NT actually means slanderer or “one who slanders.” So committing this sin is contributing to Satan’s notorious schemes. We should put this sin away from ourselves.

These are all sins that should not be found in our lives, but like old clothes, we should put them away from ourselves. Renouncing sin is something we did at our conversion, and it is something we must continually do throughout our Christian life. The moment you were saved was only the beginning of a lifelong process of sanctification unto God, to be set apart from sin daily for God’s glory.

How can we renounce these sins? Repent when you see it present in your life, and pray for a clean heart. Ask for trusted brothers and sisters in Christ to keep you in check—be accountable to them, a mutually watch your lives and confront each other with grace and correction when these sins are present. For our sanctification, we must renounce sin.

II. The Nourishment for Sanctification (v. 2)

Second, we see in this passage that for our sanctification, we must long for the word of God: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (v. 2). 

After exhorting his readers to renounce sin, he says that they should be longing for the word of God, the “pure spiritual milk.” Peter had described in v. 1 what they should not do (commit those sins), and now he turns to the positive and describes what they should be doing. That in itself teaches us that sanctification is twofold in this sense: it is overcoming sin, and doing good things. It is not enough to avoid committing sin and resist temptation, we must also be doing good things.

They should be craving and longing for the word of God. Peter uses a familiar image here of a newborn baby longing for its mother’s milk, to illustrate how the believer should long for the word of God in order to partake of it, and grow by it. He tells them, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk.” He tells his readers that they should do something just like newborn infants do. And by the way, this is the only passage of Scripture in the whole Bible where we are commanded to be like infants. All other places in Scripture exhort us against being an infant and tell us to grow up (Eph. 4:15).

So Peter’s readers, like newborn infants, should long for the pure spiritual milk of the word. The phrase “long for,” carries a deal of weight to it in the Greek. It is epipotheo, which speaks of an intense desire or longing for something. It is the intensified version of the Greek word potheo which speaks of simply longing. It means to long greatly for something.

What is the object of their longing? The pure spiritual milk. And of course, he is referring to the word of God and nothing else. It was the preaching of the word of God that brought about their salvation (1:25b), and now it is the word of God they are to consistently long for.

It is pure, meaning it is stainless, clean, and free of contamination. This confirms the truth that Scripture is perfect and without error because it has been inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is spiritual, meaning it is more than just milk because it deals with our inner being. But it is like milk, because we can take it in and be nourished by it. We can long for it, and we can digest it. So to sum up what Peter is saying in this part of the verse, in the same way that newborn infants long for their mother’s milk to satisfy their hunger and be nourished, so we should long for the word of God in order to be nourished for our sanctification.

We are to be like newborns, craving and starving for the word of God so that we can gain strength and sustenance for our sanctification.

This intense desire for the word of God has been characteristic of God’s people since the time of Job. I love how Job describes his intense longing for the word of God in Job 23:12:

“I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (ESV).

Let me just stop right here and ask: When have we ever longed so much for the word of God that we would rather read His word than eat a meal when we are hungry? Have we ever had a desire like that? When you first wake up in the morning, do you wake up hungry for the word, or are you scrolling through Instagram, checking Facebook, and looking at Snapchat? Let me give you a word of advice, if you want to grow spiritually and hunger for the word of God, you need to be opening your phone and getting into His Book, and chatting with Him daily!

And in Psalm 119, the psalmist speaks often of his desire for the word of God:

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (119:103).

“Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above find gold” (119:127).

Peter says that this is the kind of intense longing for the word of God that we should have. And we should crave it because we need it. That’s why a newborn infant does—because they need the nourishment from it. That’s the idea here: the word of God gives Christians sustenance, nourishment, and growth—just like milk gives sustenance, nourishment, and growth to a newborn baby.

But what is the purpose of longing for the word of God? Why is it such a big deal to long for and crave the word of God? According to Peter, “[so] that by it you may grow up into salvation.” Peter says that we should long for the word of God so that we will grow up into salvation. Once again, that’s what sanctification is—growing up into salvation.

And why will longing for the word of God result in growing in our salvation? Because once we long for the word of God, we will partake and be nourished by the word of God. I’m sure you don’t believe that you hunger for no reason. You’re not hungry just because you want to be. I mean sure, Subway is pretty good, but you still don’t hunger for it randomly. You hunger so that you will eat. Your physical hunger is an indicator to your consciousness that you need nourishment. So what do you do when you’re hungry? You go get something to eat.

Same principle here: we must crave and intensely desire the word of God so that we will read it, study it, take it in and digest its precepts for our lives. We are to have a hunger and craving for God’s word, because we need it. Deuteronomy 8:3 illustrates this perfectly:

“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

And so the expected result of craving for the word of God is “growing up into salvation,” as Peter says here. Of course, we are already saved, but salvation is also ongoing—that’s where sanctification comes into play. We are being saved daily from the power and presence of sin in our lives. And we need to crave and hunger for the word of God like a newborn infant, so that we ill partake of it in order to be nourished and strengthened to live the Christian life!

So how can you crave the word of God? First, understand your utter dependence upon the word of God for sustenance and growth. Understand that you need the word of God for your Christian life and growth. You don’t have anything else in the entire world that can take its place and cause you to grow spiritually. So measure your spiritual strength and growth by your time spent in the word of God. If it doesn’t bother you to go without the Bible for a few days, then something is definitely wrong. You must understand that the transformation effected by God’s word cannot be replaced by anything else. Secondly, understand that craving is directly correlated to tasting. I’ll never forget the first time I tried the arroz con pollo at Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant close to where I live. It’s a beautiful dish of rice topped with chicken and cheese. Well, let me tell ya, I’ve been hungering for it ever since I tried it. But I never had a hunger for it until I tried it. And as you taste the word, as you feast on the Scripture, as you have your breakfast of God’s word every morning, you will notice a deep desire for more of the word of God like you’ve never had before. The more you read the word, the more you want to read the word. The more you study it, the more you want to study it. As you find out just how delicious every verse of Scripture really is, you will keep coming back to it like your favorite meal. If you don’t have a hunger for the word, then perhaps it’s because you haven’t tasted it. For our sanctification, we must long for the word of God.

III. The Examination for Sanctification (v. 3)

“if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (v. 3).

Third and finally, we see in this passage that for our sanctification, we must examine our lives. Once Peter has exhorted the believers to renounce sin, and crave the word of God, he finally calls them to examine themselves. Notice the if (some translations since) in this verse. Most of the time in the Bible, it is the smallest words that make all the difference. Peter is saying that if we have tasted that the Lord is good, we should be renouncing sin and craving the word of God. “Renounce sin and crave the word if you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

This verse functions as an examination for sanctification. In other words, if we are daily being sanctified, we should be seeing evidence of these two things in our lives. Of course, if you know your Old Testament even remotely, you will recognize that the phrase “tasted that the Lord is good,” has its origins in Psalm 34. There, the psalmist gives a loud, open, outstretched and broad invitation to anyone within his hearing to experience the Lord God:

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (v. 8).

That verse in the psalm is an invitation to those who have not experienced the Lord, saying essentially, “Just see for yourself how good the Lord is!” But notice that the way Peter uses the phrase is past tense: “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” In the Psalm, it is “taste and see.” In Peter it is, “you have tasted.” So if Psalm 34 is the invitation to experience the Lord, then Peter assumes that we and his readers have already responded to that invitation.

So if we have been saved, if we have responded to this invitation in the Psalms, we should be able to see clear evidence of renouncing sin and craving the word in our daily lives. If we have responded to God’s invitation to experience Him, our lives should demonstrate a positive response to that invitation.

A young man once asked me a stunning question. We were having lunch and talking about Scripture and he asked me, Is it a sin to doubt your salvation? He struggled with the assurance of his salvation at the time, and he asked me in this restaurant if it was a sin to doubt your salvation and to have no assurance of salvation. As I pondered this, I answered in this way: “Well, it really depends on what brought about the doubt in the first place.” I went on to explain that the Scripture does command us to seek assurance for our salvation, and to rest in that assurance (there are a plethora of Scriptures that speak to assurance). So in that sense, it would be sinful if you fail to seek out those Scriptures that talk about assurance and then gain assurance by reading and believing them. But if your doubt arises from an inconsistency in your Christian lifethen that is a good doubt to have! If you see no evidence of renouncing sin and craving the word in your daily life, then you have great reason to doubt your salvation!

One Scripture came to mind as I was talking with him. It was in 2 Peter 1, where Peter lists off a range of godly qualities that should be present in our lives. He names things such as “self-control, godliness, brotherly affection, love,” and many others. And listen to this—Peter says that the reason we should see these godly qualities in our lives is “to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (v. 10, KJV). And I told him, “The life you’re living should be enough evidence to confirm your salvation. If you see no transformation, you never had salvation.”

But sometimes we backslide don’t we? Of course we do. And God will give us grace to move forward on His path as we seek His strength and power to do just that. But if you don’t see sanctification and transformation in your life, if you see no evidence that you have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good,” then there are basically two options on the table if you’re not living a sanctified life:

Option #1: You are spiritually sick and unhealthy. You are malnourished in your soul if you see no regular transformation. What do you feel like doing when you’re sick? Nothing. Do you act like yourself when you’re sick? No. Do people want to be around you when you’re sick? No. Now, apply all of those questions to your spiritual health. Are you doing anything in the Christian life? If not, you may be unhealthy. Are people positively influenced by you? If not, you may be unhealthy. If you’re not craving the word and renouncing sin daily in your life, I urge you to go the Physician who knows your heart—and get as much of His prescription (the Bible) as you possibly can.

Option #2: You are unsaved. Not only does the unsaved person have no desire for the word of God, he has no desire for God (Rom. 3:11). Obedience cannot proceed from a heart that has not been changed. Perhaps you don’t see evidence of these things in your life either—and I ask you, Can you honestly think of a time in your life when you realized you were a sinner, and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ for salvation

Conclusion

Peter has explained in this passage that these are the necessary requirements for living a life that is continually sanctified. We must renounce sin (v. 1), we must be nourished by Scripture (v. 2), and we must continually examine ourselves for evidence of these things (v. 3). Sanctification is part of the Christian life from beginning to end, and we know what is required in order for sanctification to take place—and just like Roger, there will be times when God says, “No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family.” But it will be said to us because we already belong to Him—and because we are continually being set apart for His purposes and His glory each and every day.

Is God saying that to you tonight? Is God saying to you, “You know you don’t need to be in that relationship,” or “You know you need to get that pornography out of your life,” or “You know you need to apologize to him,” or “You know you need to start getting into the Bible more.” If God is saying things like that to you, He wants you to respond to Him. Confess that sin to Him, and ask Him for His sustaining grace to help you. The good news is that you can change and you can live faithfully because God has already given you everything you need for it.

But perhaps God is saying something different to you – maybe when you look down through the history of your life, you have never renounced the sin in your life; maybe you’ve never craved or desired the word of God; maybe you don’t have a relationship with the Lord. If you’ve never been saved and you know you need to be – let me tell you something: God is telling you right now that you need to be saved and have a relationship with Him. You need to understand that God is holy and requires holiness of you. You  need to understand that you have sinned against Him, you have not lived a holy life, and God considers your sins to be as crimes. And like any crime, He will punish them if there is no payment for them. The good news is that He sent Jesus Christ into the world to live a perfect life, and die on the cross to pay for your sins. All you must do is realize you are a sinner, turn away from sin, and trust in Jesus Christ to be your Savior – believe that what He did on the cross is enough for your salvation.

So I read to you again this text: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk of the word, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”


  1. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1986), 948.
  2. Peter states here that a costly war is taking place in the Christian’s life. You can read more about that in one of our past Bible studies here.
This message was preached on January 17th, 2016 in Sevierville, TN during Winter Retreat 2016 hosted by First Baptist Church, Barlow.  This message was also preached on May 22, 2016 at Ohio Valley Baptist Church in Barlow, Kentucky. Recently, this message was also preached on August 14th, 2016 at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Cadiz, KY.

Why I Love Expository Preaching (Pt. 2)

The Meaning of the Law

Rightly interpreting the law is the chief responsibility of those who serve as judges in our district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court. Every judge in every court evaluates evidence presented, they control how the hearings and trials unravel in their courtrooms, and most of all they are the “impartial decision-makers” who pursue justice according to the law. This means that their fundamental obligation is to rightly interpret and apply the law to every particular case. Judges of any kind are not above the law, but instead, the law stands above them as the authority in all cases. The job of the judge is crucial – they are to correctly interpret what the law means and so they can also correctly apply it to the particular case they are dealing with. On the other hand, misinterpretation of the law will always lead to a misapplication of the law. Any judge would tell you, understanding the meaning of a law is imperative for making judgments to ensure justice is served in every case. It’s what they have to know in order to make right judgments about cases today and tomorrow.

On a much higher level than state, federal, and constitutional laws, there is a supreme Law that deserves and demands the same treatment. I’m referring of course to the Book of the Law (Josh. 1:8), the guarding commandments (Psalm 119:9-10), the sacred writings (2 Tim. 3:15), the word of God (2 Thess. 2:13). The word of God is the “Scripture [that is] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). And in order to live a godly life informed and instructed by the word of God, it is necessary to understand its meaning in order to correctly apply it to our daily lives.

It is this exigent task that the expository sermon seeks to accomplish. Expository preaching is preaching expositionally (as we’ve seen already), and this means that the expository preacher wants to explain the meaning of a text verse by verse, and then apply its meaning to the 21st century. What did Paul mean when he said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3)? What did Jesus mean when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3)? What did David mean when he said that the “Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1)? The expository preacher seeks to travel to the churches of Ephesus, the disciples of Jesus, and the Israelites under David’s rule and discover the original intended meaning of an author and bring it back with him to today’s contemporary world. And this is another reason why I love it.

Reason #2: I Love Expository Preaching Because It Properly Interprets and Applies Scripture

The goal of the expository sermon is to preach the original meaning of a passage. If that’s the case, it follows that the expository sermon would also properly interpret and apply that passage of Scripture under consideration. The expository sermon is seeking to find out what the author meant by what he has written and then apply it to the 21st century world. This is discovered through careful exegesis of every word, every sentence, every chapter, and every book of the Bible.

The topical approach to preaching is different than this, rendering it ineffective at communicating the author’s original intended meaning in a text. Topical preaching begins with a topic, not with the Scripture. If the topic is the starting place, it will also be the finish line in a sermon. The topical preacher will likely only consider the topic that he wants to preach on, and there is the automatic tendency to disregard the author’s meaning by what he has written in a text. This tendency is already present from the outset – because the structure, form, and shape of the sermon has already been determined by the chosen topic. If the frame of the sermon and its goals are determined by the topic, then what is really being preached? The topic is what is being preached instead of the Bible.

In the expository sermon, the text of Scripture determines the structure, form, and shape of the sermon. And because the expository sermon does this, it is the only approach to preaching that ensures that the Bible will be preached as it is. This will lead to a proper interpretation and application of the original meaning of a text because the sermon is derived completely from Scripture.

Additionally, the topical preacher may want to preach on a certain topic and choose a passage of Scripture that doesn’t even speak to that topic—or he may simply focus on the “felt needs” of the congregation or current issues of the day. That said, there are times when this is appropriate—when tragedy strikes or maybe when there is a special holiday—but even then we must be extremely careful to draw the meaning out from a text through careful exegesis and then preach it expositionally.

Two Pastors: Joshua and William

Joshua and William are both pastors in a rural community. Both of them believe the Bible is inerrant and they both agree that God’s word is what God’s people truly need. They meet for lunch every Tuesday and discuss how things are going in their churches. One day they discuss what they preached on last Sunday:

Joshua says, “I’ve been preaching expositionally through Titus. We started Sunday looking at the first four verses, and discussed Paul’s principles for ministry.”

William looks up at Joshua with one eyebrow raised and says, “You know, that’s funny – I’ve never noticed that in the text before. I’ve been preaching topically on the attributes of God, and last Sunday we looked at Titus 1:2 where it states that God never lies.”

Joshua replies, “Well Titus 1:2 does say that – it’s definitely true that God never lies. But what about the entire passage? What do you think it’s about?”

“Well, I haven’t looked at it in depth. We just used that one verse to support the fact that God is perfect and sinless,” says William.

Now, let’s evaluate their different approaches to preaching. What’s the starting point for the expository sermon preached by Joshua? The text of Titus 1:1-4. What’s the starting point for the topical sermon preached by William? The topic of God’s attributes. What was the content of their sermons? For Joshua, it was the principles for ministry as explained by Paul in each of the four verses of Titus 1. For William, it was one of God’s many attributes – perfection, and he sought support for this topic from v. 2 of Titus 1. Now, which sermon was more faithful to what Paul was saying in the text of Titus 1? Perhaps a look at the text itself may answer that question:

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:1-4, ESV).

It seems that this entire passage is about much more than simply God’s attributes. Verse 2 does mention that God never lies, and we would imply from this that God is perfect if He cannot lie. But notice that there are about 86 other words in this passage – and Paul isn’t describing God’s character in whole of this passage. Now, we also do not want to say that William’s sermon was heretical. Of course it wasn’t – it is biblical and true that God is perfect and cannot lie. But in preaching, we’re not just trying to avoid being heretical, we want to be faithful. And which sermon do you think was more faithful to the biblical text? And which congregation was exposed to the full meaning of the text?

They used the same Bible, believed the same things, but had different approaches to preaching. And the failure of William’s sermon is that he missed the main point of the text, because he failed to allow the text to form and shape his sermon. He already knew he was going to preach on God’s attributes – consequently, because he didn’t discover the meaning of the text, it was impossible to rightly interpret and apply the entire passage.

Clearly, Paul is describing principles in his own ministry in this passage. By simply preaching on one part of one verse in support of a predetermined topic, the main overall point is missed. And if the main point of the text is missed, then you’re not doing justice to the text or the God who inspired the text. When the meaning is ignored, you cannot faithfully interpret and apply the passage.

Expository preachers want to know what the biblical authors meant by what they said and then preach it to their hungry congregations today. The expository sermon does this most faithfully – and this is another reason why I love it.

 

Why I Love Expository Preaching (Pt. 1)

Delivering a Life-Saving Message

Suppose you were told to deliver an urgent message to someone, and this message was so crucial that their own life depended on it. Perhaps this person needed to know the location of a life-saving medicine, and they needed to know how to use it and apply it. This person is suffering from a debilitating disease, causing him to be very weak. And without this medicine to restore his strength, not only does it prevent him from performing simple tasks, but he will eventually die without it. The doctor has left you in charge, and he’s depending on you to be his ambassador and deliver to the patient the information that he needs. So he gives you a message to deliver. He tells you the location of the medicine, and walks through every step of the careful application of the medicine.

You scramble for your cellphone to call the patient. You’re running out of time. Adrenaline is pumping. A human life is at stake. The patient answers the phone with his last ounce of strength, and you bring him encouragement by saying that you have the answer, you have the cure. And because you know the message the doctor gave you to tell him, you can offer this dying patient exactly what he needs. He can have his strength restored and live a full life—but it is dependent on your full delivery of the message to him.

But instead of telling him the full message that the doctor gave you about the location of the medicine, and how to use and apply it, let’s say you choose only to tell one part of that message. Though you have the full message, you thought it would be sufficient enough to only tell the patient where to find the medicine. You thought that the location of the medicine was the most important part of the message you were given to deliver, so you left out how to apply the medicine because you thought it was less important.

Could the patient get the help he needs by only knowing one part of the message? Would you be doing justice to the doctor who gave you the message to deliver? The answer to those questions is an obvious and emphatic no.

minister-clipart-Preachers005Unfortunately, this is the lamentable practice that happens more in the local church than it does in a hospital or doctor’s office. Behind worn pulpits in the local church, many preachers and pastors with good intentions often fail to preach the whole message of Scripture. What’s worse, matters of supremely greater worth are at stake in the local church, than in the practice of medicine. As a result, the church becomes weak and may eventually die for lack of medicine (and nourishment) as prescribed in Scripture that is necessary for their sanctification. All people in the local church are patients in God’s hospital, and they all need the whole Bible (not just parts of it here and there) in order to live a healthy Christian life.

Some pastors and preachers often fail to preach the whole Bible because of their approach to preaching. Because of the approach to preaching that they choose, often only one part of the Bible is taught, and it leaves the people of God only partially equipped to live a life that glorifies God.

Failing to preach the whole Bible doesn’t do justice to the God who gave us the Bible to preach, if we choose only to preach one part of it. We would quickly consider telling one part of a crucial message to a dying person as inhumane and unthinkable—but yet in some churches today, pastors and preachers thumb through topical indexes looking for “something to preach,” instead of just preaching the Bible as it is.

So how do pastors and preachers teach and preach the whole Bible? What does this look like? Is there a method of preaching that even exists that ensures pastors and preachers will preach the whole Bible?

Yes there is, and it’s called expository preaching. Now, we will define further what expository preaching is and isn’t as we continue our look at it today, but for now I will give you a very appropriate definition for expository preaching. Borrowing David Helm’s definition,

“Expositional (or expository) preaching is empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text. In that way it brings out of the text what the Holy Spirit put there, and does not put into the text what the preacher thinks might be there.”¹

Expository preaching is faithful, biblical, and effective preaching—because it is faithful to the Bible, to God, and to His people who are in need of a word from Him.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re a member of a local church close to where you live. You are probably actively involved in your local church as well. And opportunities will arise where you will teach or preach the Bible – especially if God has called you to pastoral ministry, or worship and music ministry, youth ministry, women’s ministry, or missional life. But have you ever considered the importance of how you preach and teach the Bible? Have you ever considered the most biblical and effective approach to teaching and preaching the Bible? Let’s consider it today as we examine expository preaching as the most beneficial and faithful form of preaching for the local church.

Reason #1: I Love Expository Preaching Because It Is Thoroughly Derived from Scripture

Expository preaching has the Bible as its sole source. Because this method of preaching is expository, the goal of the sermon is to exposit the passage under consideration. By definition, expository preaching is preaching expositionally. It is preaching that explicates the meaning of a passage, verse by verse. Expository preaching seeks to preach the text and to preach the Bible, not just topics. Expository preaching seeks to excavate the true meaning of a passage as communicated by its author, and then verse by verse explain and apply that to God’s people today. A pastor or preacher exposits the meaning of a chapter, passage, or verse of Scripture and applies it to the 21st century based completely on what the original meaning was to the original hearers.

Now, this approach to preaching is altogether different from the other mainstream approach to preaching—topical preaching. There are other forms of preaching, but this is perhaps the most mainstream along with expository. In topical preaching, you typically have a topic in mind that you want to preach on.² And you search the Bible for passages or verses that support that topic. On the surface, this sounds like an effective approach. But without taking the time to point out everything that is flawed with that approach, let me just focus on one fundamental problem with preaching this way: If you already have the topic in mind that you want to preach on, and you’re simply searching for verses to support that topic, then who is really speaking when you get behind the pulpit?

Because when you choose a topic to preach on, you have already set the agenda, shape, and tone of your message. You already know what you’re going to say. If you’ve already set the agenda and shape of the message by your chosen topic, and you’re squeezing verses and passages into your preset agenda, then are you speaking or is the Bible speaking? If the Bible isn’t speaking, then God isn’t speaking. If God isn’t speaking, then your sermon is nothing more than an predetermined oration with the Bible as a footnote.

Expository preaching doesn’t do this, however. In expository preaching, the entire message is thoroughly derived from Scripture. This means that you don’t set the agenda or shape or tone of your own message—the Bible does. It is letting the Bible set the agenda for what you’re preaching. It is having the passage under consideration in authority over you—as you explain what the passage means. Expository preaching shows verse by verse what a particular passage means, not what you want it to mean.

If Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is about loving God and loving your family, then you will preach on loving God and loving your family as presented by that text. If Romans 10:14-17 is about the sovereignty of God in ordaining evangelism to reach the unsaved, then you will preach about the sovereignty of God in ordaining evangelism to reach the unsaved. The passage of Scripture you’re studying shapes and forms the message. In expository preaching, you don’t shape and mold a passage of Scripture to fit your topic.

This approach to preaching, then, also magnifies the infallibility and the authority of God’s word. This is because the expository sermon seeks to preach what God has said, and not merely what we want or think we should say. It takes the original meaning of Scripture and proclaims it now to the present world. Preaching expositionally is saying that what the Bible says is more crucial and more important than a topic I might choose. It is saying that God’s word has authority over you and the sermon. It is saying that “I will preach whatever this text means,” not what I want it to mean, or what I want to preach on.

treasure-hunt-memorial-service-ideasLet’s bring out the kid in you once again. Perhaps you embark upon a treasure hunt. You’ve found a map that reveals the location of buried treasure. You take your gloves and shovel and go where it says to go, then when you arrive, you dig where it says to dig. But what you uncover is sorely disappointing to you. It’s just a little piece of silver. You walk away from your makeshift excavation site, discouraged with the well-intended treasure hunt you took on. But you read in the paper next week that an archaeologist firm found an entire ship full of treasure at the exact same location where you were digging.They describe their findings this way: “We found only little pieces of silver and gold at first, but with more excavation we unearthed this ancient trade ship, loaded with gems and treasures that are worth more than a million dollars each.” That would be disappointing!

But with proper excavation, you would have discovered this great treasure. Because you failed to excavate it completely, and look into its contents, you made the wrong assumption about the treasure. This is what has happened with much preaching—many well-intended people who believe that the Bible is God’s word, are not excavating its contents. They are picking topics and verses here and there just like little pieces of silver. They are not preaching the intended meaning of Scripture. But the expository sermon doesn’t do this, instead, it presents the whole ship with careful detail to every gem and every treasure.

Expository preaching presents Scripture as it is, and not just one piece of silver. It presents the text as it is—of immeasurable worth to the Christian. It brings out the treasures of God’s word because expository preaching is derived and excavated from Scripture. It is preaching and excavating what is in the text, not what we think, hope or wish was in the text.

This is one of the major reasons why I love expository preaching. Week after week, I’m not sitting in my office worrying about finding something to preach. I’m not praying to the Lord, “God, give me something to preach.” I don’t have to despair in my study, thinking that I have to create and form some sermon to preach the following Sunday – because my sermon is derived thoroughly from Scripture. The passage of Scripture I’m studying creates and forms the message I preach – I don’t.


  1. Helm, David. Expositional Preaching, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), p. 13.
  2. Admittedly, there are times when topically preaching can be appropriate. For instance, when tragedy strikes (like recently in Orlando) or maybe when there is a special holiday. But even then there are a few things to keep in mind. First, we must remain extremely careful to draw out the meaning from a text through careful exegesis, and then preach it expositionally. Not even for a holiday or calamity should we ever mold and shape a passage of Scripture to address the needs of our hearers. God’s word already addresses their needs, and it will do this if it is presented as it is. Second, in today’s world it is impossible to address every tragedy or calamity. We have to use our wisdom when and if we want to take precious time behind the pulpit to preach on what the Bible says about a recent world event. If you attempted to preach like this every time something culturally shaking occurred, it’s all you’d ever preach on. Last Sunday you would’ve preached on the tragedy in the Orlando nightclub, the threat of ISIS, the assisted suicide bill, and the U.S. Senate’s vote to have women register for the draft. Additionally, still I think there is a faithful way to plan sermon or teaching series based on topics. Take the passage (or passages) you want to preach on and study them in-depth through exegesis, and let the passages determine the theme, direction, and goals of the sermon or teaching series. Still, sermon and teaching series are done better through whole chapters or books of the Bible. Usually a chapter or book of the Bible is about one major theological theme anyway.

A Review: Created in God’s Image by Anthony Hoekema

Perhaps one of the most important truths we can ever know is the truth about ourselves. Knowing the truth about ourselves will determine the perspective we have on ourselves and on those around us. We cannot derive this truth from ourselves, but from God’s revelation in Scripture, because He is the God who has created us in His image. We are existent only because of Him and through Him, and it only makes since to glean the truth about ourselves from God. The doctrine of man seeks to explain who and what man is, where he came from, where he is going, and what he should be doing.

Created in God’s Image¹ is the magnum opus on this doctrine of man, authored by the well-learned professor Anthony A. Hoekema. He was a professor who taught at the esteemed Calvin Theological Seminary for several years. And this book is one of three volumes which Hoekema has authored that deal with some of the most major Christian doctrines. This book deals with the crucial doctrine of man, and it is easily visible that Hoekema knows what he’s talking about. It is evident from reading the book that Hoekema is completely suited to author such an exposition as this, for he is very acquainted with the Scriptures, with church history, and is skilled in countering the unbiblical perspectives on the Christian doctrine of man. The references to and exegesis of various passages of Scripture greatly demonstrate Hoekema’s careful analysis of all the biblical data concerning this doctrine. Also, in every chapter there are many interactions with the views and teachings on the various aspects of the doctrine of man by those throughout church history, and those who currently teach varying views of the aspects of the doctrine. But Hoekema notably counters the views and perspectives that are contrary to Scripture in a way that should convince any reader.

The main thesis of the book is clearly to accurately define and expound on the doctrine of man, and all of its implications. From the title alone, one assumes that Hoekema is going to deal with the doctrine of man in some way. It is evident from the book that Hoekema describes the three most basic and essential components of the doctrine of man. These three being: first man as created in the image of God, secondly man as corrupted and depraved by sin, and finally the unity of man or man as a holistic being. First, he expounds on the doctrine of man by explaining how man has been created in the image of God. Hoekema stresses the importance of understanding this doctrine, because it essentially answers the crucial question, what is man? He answers this from a Christian understanding by explaining who and what man is as a created person, having been made in the image of God. He examines the biblical teaching on this doctrine first, basically saying that man as he has been created in God’s image is a representation of God and is like Him in certain respects (13). Even though man is affected by the corruption and guilt of sin, the image of God in man is not lost but is distorted, and is being renewed through the process of sanctification (32). Hoekema then examines the understanding of this doctrine throughout history, noting the various views among different theologians, observing what is either right or wrong about their views in light of the testimony of Scripture. Then, he presents the theological meaning and significance of the doctrine, and the affect this can have on man’s perspective of himself.

The second part of the book focuses on how man has been corrupted and depraved by sin. He enucleates on the image of God as having been distorted by sin, and how God is renewing this image in the believer by His grace. Hoekema expounds on this central aspect of the doctrine by dealing first with the origin of sin, and strongly defends the historicity of Adam over against many opposing views. Then, he proceeds to explain how sin spreads to all mankind, noting how exactly the guilt of Adam’s sin is reckoned to our account (166), and that we sinned “in Adam,” therefore being born with a corrupt nature (167). After defining the origin and spread of sin, Hoekema takes on the nature of sin, noting several crucial truths that clarify exactly what sin is. Then he deals with the restraint of sin in the world. One may wonder, Why isn’t the world literally hell on earth if sin is as bad as the Bible teaches? And Hoekema answers by explaining the doctrine of God’s common grace. God’s common grace is the doctrine that deals with God’s restraint (to a degree) of human sin in the world.

Finally in the last part of the book, Hoekema explains the structural makeup of man—how he is both material and immaterial. How he has both a soul and physical body, but that the two are never meant to be seen as separate. He counters the unbiblical views on the human structure, views such as trichotomy (which teaches that man is fundamentally made up of body, soul, and spirit). Hoekema spells out the implications of why the unbiblical views on human structure wrong, and why a dualistic view of man (that man is fundamentally body and soul/spirit) is more faithful to the biblical information on man’s structure. The final chapter of the book deals with the question of human freedom, Hoekema explaining how man is both able to choose but in an unregenerate state is unable to choose good.

I certainly believe that Hoekema’s explanations and arguments are solid and biblically supported. Hoekema is skilled at illustrating difficult aspects of the doctrine of man, and he is able to exegete passages very well, and to show how they form the various facets of the doctrine of man that we hold to and teach today. He is also very good at explaining the obvious faults from the arguments of those who oppose the biblical doctrine of man. However, at a few places throughout the book, I believe he could have done better at explaining and expounding. These are only minor discrepancies in my estimation, but they still are discrepancies nonetheless. First, on the covenant of works he deals with in chapter 7. I’m not convinced that referring to God’s covenant with Adam and Eve as a “covenant of works” is necessarily insufficient, as Hoekema argues. A few of his arguments on pages 120-121 weren’t explained well enough for me to be convinced that this cannot rightly be called a covenant of works. Second, I believe Hoekema wrongly used Romans 1:24-25 as a scriptural proof for God’s common grace. He uses this passage in support of God’s common grace to restrain evil to a certain degree in the world, but even he admits that this passage implies that God has taken His restraint away from sinful man to let him have his way (195). It certainly can’t support both! Of course, God restrains sin by His common grace. There’s no denying that this doctrine is biblical. But this passage in Romans teaches that God withdraws His common grace and gives man over to the dominion of sin. And Hoekema argues strongly for the doctrine of God’s common grace, and expounds on it well, but I believe he could have at least expounded on this passage from Romans a bit more. Finally, I feel like Hoekema quotes theologian Herman Bavinck excessively too much. In a few areas in the book, I feel I would have benefited better had Hoekema put forth his own thoughts instead of Bavinck’s. Though the quotations and references from Bavinck’s many works are true and helpful, it seems that at some points Hoekema is running completely on Bavinck’s own work, and not his own.

Overall, when comparing this book to other literary works put forth throughout history on the doctrine of man and all its implications, Hoekema’s book rests proudly on the zenith of biblical accuracy and exposition. I believe Hoekema expounds best and most exhaustively on this biblical doctrine of man, better than any other book in his time or in our own. He is excellent in nuancing all the biblical data, whereas many other works deal with only portions of Scripture and base their entire theologies from those. Hoekema makes an irrefutable case for the doctrine of man as he has been created in God’s image, corrupted by sin, and holistic in his structure.

The greatest benefit I have gained from this book concerns my dealing with people as a pastor. My line of work requires me to be consistently involved with people. I talk with them, I know them, and they come to me for spiritual advice in their personal problems and trials. I preach from God’s word regularly that deals precisely with who man is and what he is in relation to God. Because of all of these reason (and many more), I am compelled to have an accurate, clear, and biblical view of the nature of man! I cannot deal and interact with people correctly if I do not understand them in the way Scripture portrays them. Further, I cannot even know what or who I am if it weren’t for God’s revelation. So as Hoekema has presented the doctrine of man in Scripture, I have been encouraged to value others because their worth and value is inherent, for they have been created in God’s image. I am also more aware of my own need for the Spirit of God and a perfect Savior to redeem me and others from the depravity and destruction of sin. And finally, I have been encouraged to address others in a holistic manner—applying Scripture to both the physical and spiritual.

Knowing the biblical doctrine of man, as Hoekema has faithfully presented will affect the way we minister to people, as we understand that they are holistic beings as we are, created in the image of God with value and worth. It will affect our involvement in the world, as we seek the best interests of all those in our community, country, and the world. Anyone desiring a concise, clear and comprehensible understanding of the doctrine of man, Hoekema’s book is the one to get.


  1. Hoekema, Anthony A. Created in God’s Image. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986).

A Review: Business for the Glory of God, by Wayne Grudem

I’ll have to be honest, I’ve not always considered the activity of business and all that it entails to be particularly glorifying to God. As many times as I (along with many people in the world) have been deceived, cheated, or suffered hardship in employment, business has not always been viewed as a positive field to pursue or participate in. One certainly does not think of glorifying God when he hears the term business. But in his book, Grudem applies one of the most fundamental doctrines in all of Scripture to the practice and convention of business. This foundational doctrine is being created in the image of God, and Grudem shows how this doctrine is illustrated through the means and activity of business. In fact, not only is business an excellent way to demonstrate this truth, it is even a necessary way to demonstrate it. The basic premise of the book is that the various aspects of business provide many opportunities to glorify God (because we are created in His image), but also many temptations to sin (because of the Fall). The many components that make up what we consider to be business are clear expressions of the responsibilities and privileges that come with being created in the image of God. Grudem deals with all of the individual aspects of business, expounding on how each of them reflect God’s perfect attributes that were meant to be displayed in us because we have been created in the image of God. According to Grudem, being created in the image of God (as Genesis 1:27 portrays) is imitating Him and having His wonderful attributes reflected in us. And in more ways than many of us have ever considered, business accurately and vividly displays God’s attributes, as we conduct ourselves in a way that reflects His character in us.

First, Grudem explains how ownership of possessions imitates the character of God. Basically, it does so because just as God exercises absolute sovereignty over the entire universe, we as humans created in His image can also exercise sovereignty over a tiny portion of the universe. But as with anything that God created good, and because of the effects of the Fall, ownership of possessions can also provide many temptations to sin. Second, he discusses productivity and how it reflects the character and nature of God. It does so because just as God has wisdom, knowledge, skill, strength, and creativity, we can also imitate those attributes by inventing and creating goods and services that will be beneficial to others. Again, there are also temptations to sin in productivity, such as focusing on material things for their own sake. Third, he deals with how even employment exhibits God’s character. We can glorify God in our employer/employee relationships by imitating the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The temptation to sin in this way comes from an improper exercising of authority in employer/employee relationships. Fourth, he analyzes the subject of commercial transactions, and how they relate to God’s character. We can imitate God’s character every time we buy and sell, if we do so with honesty, faithfulness to our commitments, fairness, and freedom of choice. We can even reflect the interdependence and interpersonal love among the members of the Trinity by doing so. Still, temptations to sin are very present. We can sin by being greedy, or having our hearts be overcome with selfishness.

Fifth, he points out how making profit(s) from business portray God’s attributes and character. It goes back to being created in the image of God, for through obtaining profits, we make good and efficient use of the earth’s resources. We exercise dominion over them. Additionally, we can reflect God’s attributes such as love for others and wisdom as we make profits from our goods and services. Once more, there are temptations to sin in making profits, just as there are in any other aspect of business. Sixth, he describes how money relates to reflecting God’s character. It is a means to invest and expand our stewardship and imitate God’s sovereignty and wisdom. Through it, we meet our own needs and imitate God’s independence, and we can even give it to others, reflecting God’s mercy and generosity. And as Grudem points out in every chapter, the temptation to sin is prevalent with the use and possession of money. But the distortion of a good thing like money should not lead us to believe that it is inherently evil. Seventh, he explains the issue of the inequality of possessions, and how it can be glorifying to God. Grudem points out how God has unequally entrusted stewardship to various people. This is because He has gifted everyone in different ways. Eighth, he deals with competition and how even this can glorify God. It does so by providing many opportunities to manifest the God-like abilities that we’ve been granted by God. What competition does is enable each person to find a specific role in which they can contribute to society and the good of others. Ninth, he discusses borrowing and lending and how they relate to the glory of God. Borrowing and lending are closely related to the use of money, for proper practice of the two actually multiply the usefulness of money many times over. It multiplies our ability to enjoy God’s material creation, and thus increases our opportunities to be thankful for those things. In addition, we can show forth God’s trustworthiness, His honesty and wisdom, as we borrow and lend. But there are several temptations to sin, but nonetheless, it is a good thing fundamentally.

In the final part of the book, Grudem deals with the most fundamental facet of doing business: the attitudes of our heart. If all the activities of business are to be glorifying to God, then we must engage them all with a heart attitude that is pleasing to God. All business activity tests our hearts, according to Grudem. While ownership, productivity, employment, commercial transactions, profit, money, inequality of possessions, competition, borrowing and lending all provide the opportunities to glorify God and demonstrate His character—the temptations to distort those things (which are fundamentally good) are very present. But if we love God above all, we will reflect the character of God in all of the aspects of business. And finally, in the last chapter, which serves as sort of a footnote to the entire book, Grudem discusses the impact that business can have on the poverty-stricken world. He argues that the practice of business, of selling goods and services for a profit is the only way poverty can be defeated in places where the economy is very poor. Having read the entire book, I highly recommend it to not just people with a negative view of business in general, but also to Christians who seek to understand what it means to be created in the image of God.


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When God Prayed: Jesus’ Devotion to Prayer (Luke 5:16)

That annoying alarm wakes us up. We grab a shower and a cup of coffee, then we’re out the door on our way to work. We might listen to a sermon on the radio during our morning commute, or we might read the Bible at lunch time. And soon enough, it will be time to go home. We go home, do a few things around the house, cook supper, pay bills, and then we’re off to bed to restart the process. But here’s a pressing question: when did we stop and talk to God, and really spend some time praying to Him? If you’re answer is anything like mine, you might feel a bit of shame. Most of us would likely admit that we haven’t been praying as much as we should be. For me, reading the Bible isn’t a problem. I’ve got a Bible reading plan that keeps me in line. But prayer . . . that’s another story. It is difficult for me to find time in my busy day to really spend time with God. That’s an honest confession.

I read something in the Scripture today that drove me to prayer this morning. It’s something I’ve read dozens, probably hundreds of times before. But a few details helped my understanding and application of it. What I read today was Luke 5, the verse that convicted me to prayer was v. 16 where Luke notes that Jesus prayed at His busiest moment at the beginning of His ministry. It reads in this way:

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

In this passage, Luke records Jesus cleansing a leper saying that once He healed this leper, “even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities” (v. 15). Jesus cleansed this leper, and word got out about His healing power. Because of this, crowds came to hear Him preach and teach, and they came to be healed of their many diseases and infirmities. Jesus was getting popular at this point. More and more people began to know about Him as time went on. And Luke says that there was one thing He would always do, even when He was busy with His teaching and healing ministry: He would withdraw Himself from the crowds, to places where He could be alone, and He would pray. There are several passages of Scripture in the gospels that tell us that Jesus prayed alone, prayed for others, and prayed long prayers (Matt. 11:25-26; Matt. 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 22:41-44; 23:24; John 17:1-26). The fact that Jesus prayed is astounding for two main reasons. First of all, because He was God in the flesh, and still prayed. Because He was God, it would make you think that Jesus would not need to pray, but it is very apparent from the gospels that prayer is something that He needed and something that He did. Though Jesus was God, He prayed to His Father and He made use of prayer.

Second, it is astounding that Jesus prayed because He was occupied with more tasks than any of us ever will be, and He still found time to pray. We might say, “But Jesus didn’t have a full time job like I do. Jesus’ didn’t cook supper for children, or pick them up from school everyday like me. Jesus didn’t have emails to send and receive.” Historically, that’s absolutely true. Jesus wasn’t a factory worker, working from nine to five. Jesus didn’t go to see His children play football at the high school. Jesus didn’t have an iPhone and wasn’t able to Tweet or check emails. But let me tell you what Jesus was involved in doing: Jesus was teaching crowds of hundreds of people everyday, and they were increasing as He became more popular. When is the last time you taught growing crowds of people multiple times a week? He was healing all kinds of diseases, people were coming to Him to be healed of all their infirmities and sicknesses. When is the last time you cleansed a leper? He was calling and teaching His disciples. He was dealing with the persecution of the religious rulers. Everywhere He went, He had to walk. When is the last time we did any of those things? And here’s the biggie: no one else could duplicate Jesus’ ministry. No one else could do what He was doing. It would be different if Simon Peter could heal the same way Jesus was, and teach the same way He was. But there was only one Son of God, and there was only one ministry that could do all this: Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was one busy man.

So even though Jesus was God, and even though He was unbelievably busy, nothing seemed to deter Jesus from spending extensive time in prayer. So we need to reflect now on our own prayer life. In light of this passage of Scripture, what is keep us from spending time in prayer? Whatever it might be, we need to get it out of the way and spend time alone with God, taking our requests to Him, praising Him for His blessings upon us, and praying for His grace and enabling to be obedient. I’ve said it before, and it’s something I have to constantly remind myself of: if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Let us pray, and let us devote time to prayer. Jesus did, so should we.

A Manual For Thanksgiving (Psalm 100)

Introduction

I just finished eating roasted turkey, dressing, corn, mashed potatoes and . . . now I’m going to have to get another plate. So while we are feeding ourselves this Thanksgiving Day, I want to offer you a plate of theology to enjoy on this great holiday. There is much to learn from the Scriptures about thanksgiving, that is, giving thanks. We’re going to glean from Psalm 100, and see a couple of principles to use while we give thanks not only today, but in our daily lives.

In Psalm 100, we have what you might call a manual for thanksgiving. In this chapter, the people of Israel were called to give thanks to the Lord. It serves as both a song and instruction on giving thanks. The Israelites would gather for worship, and this would be one of the things they would sing. This psalm/hymn was likely sung during one of their many festivals. The Israelites had a ton of festivals, and this was one of the psalms that was likely sung during one of those. This Psalm will show us how we should give thanks to the Lord, and why we should do so.

So let’s begin by reading it together.

The Text: Psalm 100, ESV

A Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

1. A Celebration of Song (100:1-2)

Giving thanks should be expressed in song/gladness.

In verse one, we see that the whole earth is summoned to make a joyful noise to the Lord. It is an invitation to worship and give thanks that is extended to anyone: “A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (vv. 1-2)

Here, a joyful song is to be sung to the Lord. When the Israelites would gather for worship, this is one of the many ways they would express their worship of God. They used several instruments in their worship (Psalm 150:3-5). So according to this psalm, one way that we can express our thanksgiving to the Lord is by a song. Do you ever sing to the Lord? You don’t have to sing aloud to the Lord, because a song can also be in your heart.

We are also called to serve the Lord with gladness. Gladness is a feeling of joy or pleasure, to be delighted in serving the Lord. Since we are approaching the Christmas season, I want you to think back with me to Christmas when you were a kid. Now remember that gift you really, really wanted as a kid. Remember the Christmas when you actually got it? You were probably like me, and deserved coal from Santa or a bag of switches. But anyway, man opening that gift you really wanted was a joy wasn’t it? It was what you asked for, and when you opened it up, your heart was full of gladness and delight. That’s how worshiping and giving thanks to the Lord should be. We should have that same kind of gladness when we think of all the gifts God has given us.

2. A Celebration of Covenant (100:3)

Giving thanks should be intimate.

We’ve already seen that giving thanks should be expressed in song, and in this verse we see that giving thanks should be intimate. The psalmist writes, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3). As we give thanks with joyful song, we are called to know the Lord. This only makes sense, for giving thanks to the Lord can only be done if we know Him. Giving thanks to the Lord includes knowing the Lord we worship. You can’t properly worship Him without knowing Him—that is, in a personal relationship.

That’s exactly what the author of this psalm is trying to say. In fact, the Hebrew word for “know” here is yada, which means to know intimately, or to have a deep intimacy. Much like the intimacy between a husband and a wife. Isn’t it interesting that the term knew is how Genesis describes Adam and Eve’s intimate relations? In Genesis 4:1, it says that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” If you’ve ever heard someone ramble on and say yada, yada, yada, in actuality they’re saying know intimately, know intimately, know intimately!

Our relationship with the Lord is that way. In fact, the New Testament describes our relationship with Him in terms of a Bridegroom, who is Jesus, and the Bride, the Church (Matt. 25:1-13; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:6-10). So the idea here in this psalm is that we must have an intimate relationship with the Lord, and our giving thanks to Him should be personal, ongoing, and one-on-one. Our giving thanks to Him needs to be something we do in our private lives. When we get an A on a test, we should thank Him in our hearts. When we wake up, we should thank Him. When we’re about to go to bed, we should thank Him. When we read His word we should thank Him. It’s one-on-one.

Not only must we know the Lord, we also must know that we are accountable to Him: He created us, He owns us, we are His people, and we are His sheep. The psalmist talks about the ownership of God, saying that He created us, we are His, we are His people, and we are the “sheep of his pasture.” He tends to us like a faithful shepherd. These are terms that describe, once again, our closeness to the Lord. We must know Him, and because we know Him, we are His completely. So when you give thanks to the Lord, is it weak and heartless, or is it passionate and intimate? Do you understand your relationship with Him like that?

3. A Celebration of Thanksgiving (100:4)

Giving thanks should be corporate/together.

We’ve already seen that thanksgiving should be expressed to the Lord in song, and that our thanksgiving should be intimate with the Lord, but notice also that our thanksgiving should be expressed together—it should be corporate. This is another call to praise, like vv. 1-2 above. The psalmist says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (v. 4). Notice the terms gates and courts here. This is clearly referring to corporate worship that would take place in the Old Testament temple. It is an invitation to community worship. It is a call to enter the temple of God with an attitude of thanksgiving—to enter his courts with worship and praise. This was the purpose of the Israelites’ gathering—to give thanks to the Lord. They were to give thanks as they prayed, as they read the Scriptures, as they sacrificed, and as they gave. Even Jesus did this, as we see recorded in Luke 4. Luke writes there, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read” (v. 16). He went to the Jewish place of worship on the Sabbath day and took part in the service by reading the scroll of Isaiah (see v. 17). Basically, Jesus went to church. He valued corporate worship, and so should we.

It bothers me when people say, “I’m a devoted Christian, but I don’t go to church because I don’t believe in it.” Corporate worship is laced throughout the whole of Scripture; Jesus attended corporate worship; it is how we grow in our faith and are equipped to do God’s will (Eph. 4:12-16); and the local church is the representation of the worldwide church of God scattered throughout the earth. When we gather for worship in our local churches, our services should be saturated with thanksgiving. We are to enter our sanctuary doors with thanksgiving, and as we fellowship, sing, and learn from God’s word, we are to do so in His courts with praise and thanksgiving.

4. A Celebration of God (100:5)

Giving thanks should be done because of God.

So we know that our thanksgiving should be expressed in song, it should be intimate, and it should be corporate. Finally, we see in this manual of thanksgiving that our giving thanks should be done because of God and who He is. The psalmist writes, “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (v. 5). Three reasons are given for giving thanks to the Lord. First, we are to give thanks because “the LORD is good.” I love the old saying, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” There is so much truth in that statement. God is completely good in His nature and everything He does. We are to give thanks because He is a good God. Second, we are to give thanks because “his steadfast love endures forever.” Because He is a good God, His love for us endures forever. It is a constant love that never ends. That should definitely be a reason to give thanks to the Lord! He loves you with an eternal love! Finally, we are to give thanks because “his faithfulness [extends] to all generations.” God’s faithfulness never runs out, they are in fact new every morning (Lam. 3:23-33).

Conclusion

We’ve seen in this Psalm that our thanksgiving should be expressed in song and gladness. It should also be intimate, one-on-one with the Lord. It should be corporately expressed, together as we gather for worship. And it should be done because of our good, loving, and faithful God.

If you’re like me, every time I get new tech, I always throw away the manual. Heck, I can figure it out for myself . . . until there’s a problem. Then I have to go to the professionals and have them check it out. And most of the time it’s a simple problem that could’ve been resolved easily if I had only read the manual! Well, let us not make the same mistake in our thanksgiving lives. We have in this Psalm the very manual for thanksgiving, instructions on how to give thanks. So let us use it, cherish it, and use these principles in our lives so that our thanksgiving won’t need to be fixed or repaired.

WATCH THIS MESSAGE BELOW:

Missions Panel Discussion With Bro. Nicholas J. Rafael and Bro. Brandon Bramlett

Following Bro. Nicholas’ message on missions emphasis, we had a panel discussion on missions. Several questions were submitted to us that we attempted to answer on this panel, that you can listen to below:

  1. What is/are missions?
  2. Does God call all Christians to missions?
  3. How do I know if I’m called to missions?
  4. Why are missions so expensive?
  5. How can I be mission-minded?

WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION HERE:

I invite you to listen to his message that was preached that night also. You can hear it by clicking here: Missions Emphasis Message.