The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 7th day of January 2018, during the evening service:
The following sermon was delivered at Lakeview Baptist Church, in Benton, KY on the 8th day of October 2017:¹
“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
“O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah” (Psalm 3).
Introduction: Sorry, But Rodney Atkins Was Wrong
There is a popular country song on the radio today that’s been around for a while, and I’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with its meaning. I know I’m overly critical of things in general, I know my wife can attest to that. I like country music myself, we listen to it all the time, so don’t get me wrong. However, the song If You’re Going Through Hell, by Rodney Atkins should have never been written. While it has some good themes and a good tune, it is the worst possible explanation for what is going on in the trials of life. I know its not meant to be a sermon on the trials of life, but what astonishes me is that many people have a theology of trials almost synonymous with the message of this song! I believe Rodney is seriously mistaken when he describes what’s going on in the trials of life and what to do about them. Here’s the chorus we all know:
If you’re going through Hell
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there!
First of all, trials are not hell – not even close. Trials do not compare with the eternal wrath of God poured out on the nonelect. Though I know Rodney is using the term loosely, the fact is, some people actually believe that trials in life are hell on earth. Secondly, self-pride and self-strength are not the way to get through them. A lot of people think this way. Thirdly, if you are scared, it’s okay to show it. Don’t hide your fear of the unknown as many people do. Fourthly, most of the time you don’t get out of them. I’ll give Rodney credit here – he says you might get out. But for believers and nonbelievers alike, we will never been done with trials on this earth as long as we’re here. And finally, the devil isn’t always watching to see if you are in a trial. Though the devil is a crafty enemy, I think people give him way too much credit these days. He is rarely the direct cause of trials in life, and he is certainly not always watching you, though he does strike at moments of weakness which may happen during trials of life.
Rodney Atkins’ song is not what is happening in the trials of life, and that’s not the way to react to them either. But you know, just as worse sometimes is the way that we do react to trials. Sometimes we do have an outlook on trials like the one portrayed in the song, and sometimes our outlook is even worse! It has been my experience in speaking with people as a pastor, and in dealing with my own trials, that we as believers do not usually react to trials in the right way. We usually react with a desire to escape, or having great despair, suffering from anxiety, being depressed, or perhaps even being angry with God. If we always reacted rightly during trials, there certainly wouldn’t be a plethora of biblical commands concerning this very matter (John 16:33; Romans 12:12; James 1:2-4).
Whatever way that we tend to react to trials of life, it is certainly the teaching of Scripture that we should react to trials by trusting in the Lord. We could spend our entire time together proving that fact, but I’ll just note a few examples. Consider Joseph – he certainly trusted in the Lord during his troublesome times when he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. He had confidence in the Lord during the turmoil he faced along the way. He confessed at the end of that account in Genesis that he believed the Lord was doing what was good and right the entire time. Remember that he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). The book of Psalms themselves are each an expression in some way of trusting in the Lord during times of lament, sorrow, persecution, trials, and even joy. In fact, there isn’t one psalm that doesn’t have an underlying confidence in the Lord. It may not always be explicitly written, but it is always the thread which binds the verses together. James tells us in his letter that we should count our trials as joy because of knowing and trusting that the Lord, through the trial, is developing us into stronger believers (James 1:2-4).
And assuredly, David trusted in the Lord during the trial he faced as he was being pursued by Absalom his son. This entire psalm is an expression of trusting in the Lord during the time when David was fleeing his own son. That situation is what fostered the writing and praying of this psalm we have read, and we see clearly in this psalm that David trusted in the Lord in many ways. To give you some understanding as to his situation, look at the superscript above verse 1. It’s the smaller print above most of the psalms which will give you insight as to what spurned the writing of the psalm, or instructions regarding how to use the psalm. The whole narrative is in 2 Samuel 15-17, and we see there that David’s son, Absalom, conspired a revolt against David and his kingdom. Absalom wanted to be king, so David fled from Jerusalem in search of safety. Absalom would eventually pursue David to try to kill him.
The way David reacted is what we have recorded in Psalm 3, and it is easily recognizable that the way he reacted was by trusting in the Lord. He trusted in the Lord because he went immediately to the place of prayer. He trusted in the Lord because he knew who He was. He trusted in the Lord because he slept peacefully. And because he petitioned God for what he needed and believed in His promises, he trusted Him. The whole psalm is a beautiful call for all suffering believers to trust in the Lord during the trials they face in life. And because the psalms themselves model for us how we should pray, what we should believe, and how we should respond as the authors did to their various situations, we will see from this psalm that, like David we can and should trust in the Lord during our trials. We will learn from David’s prayer here exactly how we can trust in the Lord during our trials. We will look at each verse this morning and learn that we can trust God during trials if we will:
I. Lament in the Presence of God (3:1-2)
II. Reflect on the Person of God (3:3-4)
III. Gain Relief from the Peace of God (3:5-6)
IV. Express Petitions to God (3:7a)
V. Believe the Promises of God (3:7b-8)
Do you want to trust in the Lord during your trials? That’s something we should all want to attain, so let us look now at Psalm 3 to find out how we may do so.
I. Lament in the Presence of God (3:1-2)
The first thing we need to do in our trials is lament in the presence of God. We need to go immediately to the place of prayer. When the winds of trials are violently gusting upon our lives, we need to take cover in the place of prayer, and talk to the Lord about what is going on. We are by nature people who think we can handle problems by ourselves—we’ve been that way ever since Adam and Eve tried to cover up their sin and deal with it by themselves and without God (Genesis 3:7). But prayer reverses that tendency. Instead of handling trials and troubles with our own hands, going to the place of prayer puts trials and troubles in the hands of God. By prayer, we acknowledge our dependence upon the Lord for everything we need. And sometimes, the trial our trouble we’re going through is so extremely intense, we often need to pour out our hearts to God immediately—before we ask Him for anything or resolve to do anything about our trials.
And this is precisely what David did. David went immediately to the presence of God in prayer, and lamented about his situation to God. In vv. 1-2, David laments in the presence of God, expressing his situation to God. David lets the Lord know about the enemies he is facing because of Absalom’s rebellion. David laments to God regarding his enemies, noting that they are many in number and they taunt him, claiming that God is unable to deliver him. And it’s not because God doesn’t already know what’s going on—but it so that David can gain some relief from his distress—so that he can get some of these burdens off his shoulders. So what David does in the first part of this psalm is what we are to do when faced with extreme trials—we should lament in the presence of God. We should go immediately to the place of prayer, and talk with the Lord. Notice how David does this:
“O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
The psalm begins with a lament, which is an expression of great sorrow. And this lament is divided up into two parts—David tells God about his enemies, and then about what they are doing to him. So first, David tells God about his many enemies: “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (v. 1). David is pouring his heart out to God concerning his many enemies. David wants to be delivered from his many enemies, that is abundantly clear. His enemies are great in number, for notice the language, “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul.” It is not just Absalom who is pursuing David, but many other enemies which Absalom convinced to join him! The author of the account in 2 Samuel tells us this when it documents Absalom’s conspiracy against David. It wasn’t just Absalom and a few soldiers who were coming up against David, it was a great number of people. The author of that narrative describes it this way, that “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (v. 6, 13). So, there was a great number of enemies who were pursuing David—that fact is only confirmed by David’s second lament: “Many are rising against me,” conveying a similar meaning that David is being surrounded by enemies all around.
That brings us to the second part of the lament, where David’s enemies taunted him by mocking his relationship to God. In verse 2, it gets interesting because we see that David’s enemies are concerned with much more than his physical life. They taunt David with an insult towards God. The second part of David’s lament is this: “Many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” The taunt and insult that David’s enemies hurl at him is directed at his soul, not just his physical body. Their taunt is in regards to David’s relationship with God—they claim that God is unable to save David. They say, “God will not deliver you,” indicating that David’s enemies do not believe in the power of God to save. David’s enemies attack him in the area which is dearest to him—his relationship with God. They are saying, “There is no deliverance for him in God!” or “God can’t save him!” They taunt, “No deliverance shall be his as we pursue him, for his God cannot save him at all!”
David is expressing all of this to God in prayer through his lament. We see David lamenting in the presence of God through prayer here, and this is the first principle in learning how to trust the Lord during trials. It should be our default setting to run to the place of prayer as soon as we are afflicted with difficulties and trials. We should be in the constant mode of prayer anyway, regardless of facing trials and troubles (1 Thess. 5:17). But we should especially go to the place of prayer when facing extreme troubles. Now, we must be careful that we are not just talking at God—moping and soliciting, as it were, in His presence. That is, spending time there and not accomplishing anything. And we must not stay there in lament-mode, but move on in prayer to reflecting on the person of God, trusting in Him, bringing our petitions to Him, and believing His promises. But the point is, it is okay to begin your prayers as such—the point is that David responded to trials with prayer, and so should we. We need to tell the Lord about what is going on in our lives.
Now, why should we lament about a situation God already knows? Why tell Him what’s going on if He is all-knowing? Jesus does say in the Sermon on the Mount to consider this truth when praying: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Why am I speaking to God about a situation He already knows? Well, because we do not pray to inform God, but to conform ourselves to His will. We pray to get burdens off our shoulders. Prayer is a means God has provided for us to be changed and gain relief from our communion with Him. 1 Peter 5:7, though written first to all elders in the church, instructs all believers, “[cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
We also pray in order to recognize that our trials aren’t as big a problem as we think. Sometimes we just need to vent, and as soon as we start describing the situation, we most of the time will realize that we may have exaggerated it and made it into something bigger than it is. But we can’t exaggerate to God—He knows the situation or trial we’re going through. Once we talk to Him honestly about it, it seems to shrink in size.
We pray also because it is simply obedient to do so. Scripture tells us to do so, and this verse implies that we should. It is what David first did, and it is what we must first do. During trials, we need to first lament in the presence of God. But we also need to reflect on the person of God.
II. Reflect on the Person of God (3:3-4)
As I noted earlier, let he who has ears to hear understand that it is a grave mistake and contradictory to the very nature of prayer to remain at the place of lament when praying about your trials. After we cry out to God in lament, we must reflect on who He is. In prayer, it is not enough to say, “Alright Lord, here’s what’s going on,” we must instead say, “Alright Lord, here’s what’s going on—but I trust in You because You’re a great and sovereign God.” We must reflect on the character and person of God during our trials—we must know who He is, and based off of knowing who He is, we should then trust Him.
That’s the second thing David does in this prayer. David expresses trust in the person of God, because he is reflecting on the person of God. In vv. 3-4, David refutes the taunt of his enemies by describing God’s character, and pointing to his relationship with God. Underlying what David says about God, and what David says about his relationship with God is a confident trust in Him that God will see him through. And we will see from these verses that, like David, we too must trust in the person and character of God during our trials. Listen to what David says in response to his enemies:
“3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah”
First of all, observe here that David reflected on and was confident in God’s character. David refutes the taunt of his enemies, that God is unable to save. David’s enemies say, “There is no salvation for him in God,” and David replies by pointing to who God is, that He is indeed, a God who grants salvation to His people. David defends the fact that God saves in this part of the psalm—he destroys their staggeringly foolish taunt with proof that there is “salvation for [David] in God.” And it’s because of who He is. “God can’t save you,” says David’s enemies—and David replies, “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” David describes God’s character in three ways:
God is a Shield. God is a king who protects—that’s what shields do, they protect. God is a shield of protection all around David, even when he sleeps. God has promised to protect His own and this is the first thing David points to in order to refute the claim of his enemies: “You, O LORD are a shield about me.” This is a repeated theme in the Psalms, the fact that God protects His people from physical and spiritual danger. God is described very often in the Psalms in terms of a protector. He is a refuge, protector, deliverer, a warrior, a keeper, the preserver, the rock, a fortress, a stronghold, a rescuer, a shepherd, and a king. You can learn all of that just from reading up to Psalm 23.
God is David’s Glory. God is also David’s glory, meaning here David’s “power.” God is the Glorious One who provides strength to His people, and especially to His kings. God is so glorious that He can marshal the angelic host to aid His children (Psalm 34:7; 91:11).
God Lifts David’s Head. This phrase means that God has raised David up. God raises the humble, and those with their heads down. While David may be down and afflicted, God is ultimately the one who raises him up again.
Now in v. 4, David gets more personal in reflecting on God’s character. Secondly, notice that David reflects on the person of God in terms of his relationship with him. David turns from reflecting on God’s character to reflecting on God’s relationship with him. And what’s interesting is that David uses answered prayer as the greatest display of his relationship with God: “I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill” (v. 4).
David explains that he prayed to the Lord, and God answered him. He cried aloud to the Lord, meaning he prayed. And God answered him from His holy place—where He sits high and lifted up. And by the way, David was not in Jerusalem when he prayed this prayer. Even when David was removed from the presence of God in Jerusalem, he knew that the Lord would answer him when he called. David understood that he didn’t have to be in Jerusalem for God to hear his prayer—and neither do we. We don’t have to be in church or even in some quiet room with Bible verses everywhere (as in the movie War Room). Anywhere we are, we can pray and God will hear us.
Here’s something else extremely important to notice about this part of the psalm. Consider the order of the verses here—David first reflects on God’s character, then he prays. David points to who God is as a protector and shield, and then he prays. David’s prayer comes after he has reflected for a time on who God is. The prayer of verse 4, comes after the reflection of v. 3. David first looks up to God and then he cries out for help. From this we see a great truth, which is worthy of imitation: David’s understanding of God is what lead him to pray and ask God for help. David’s reminiscing of the power and protection of God leads him to cry aloud to the Lord. And you want to know why we so rarely pray and trust the Lord during trials? Verily, it is often because we do not understand who He is. Often times, the reason why we do not immediately respond to trials by trusting in the Lord is because we don’t understand the character and person of God. David truly did, and it was only a few truths about God at that. David acknowledged a few key truths about God, and that is what lead him to the place of prayer. I mean, just consider this for a moment. Would you be more inclined to pray if you knew God “who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6)? Would you be more inclined to pray if you knew, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27).
Maybe the reason why we don’t pray during afflictions is because we haven’t reflected on God’s character. Maybe if we knew more of God’s character, we might be more inclined to pray. If we stopped and remembered that God is “[working all things] together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28), we may be more inclined to pray. This is the biblical order of prayer—reflecting on God’s character—who He is, and then expressing our needs in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Philippians 4:5b-7). That’s precisely what David did here. Now, the importance of doing this comes in the next section—why reflect on and trust in the person of God? Because of the benefits of doing so, and that we take up in the next two verses. We will see in the next section (vv. 5-6) why it is so important for us to reflect on and trust in God’s person and character during trials.
We need to reflect on the person of God during our trials. We must know who He is through His word, and in those times of trials, remember who He is. The only way to do that is to be saturated with the word of God—to be so much in the word so that life’s most difficult trials can’t get the word out of you.
III. Gain Relief From the Peace of God (3:5-6)
Trusting the Lord during trials requires for us to lament in His presence, and reflect on His person. And when we do, we will gain relief from the peace of God. Now, there is no command here in this section, neither is their stated anything we should do during trials. Rather, this is something which will happen if we respond to our trials the way David did. This is what God does in response to our lamenting to Him and reflecting on who He is, and thereby trusting in Him. You can observe here that David explains what God did in response to his prayer. Because David reflected on the person of God and therefore trusted in Him, he can sleep peacefully and have no fear of his enemies, even if there were more of them.
And this is what God will do if we will trust in Him. He will sustain us, and we can rest our weary head on the pillow of His sovereignty. God will give us “peace which surpasses all understanding,” says Paul the apostle, but we must first “let our requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6-7). That is, God will grant us peace in our trials but we must trust in Him and pray. We must rest in who He is as a sovereign God, and He will sustain us during our trials. C. H. Spurgeon preached once on this very thing, stressing the need and importance for us to trust in the Lord to sustain us during our trials. He said, “The sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which the child of God rests his head at night, giving perfect peace.” If we will understand the truth about God from Scripture, namely the sovereignty of God, we will trust in Him as David, and gain relief from the peace God will give us.
And to that point, David expresses two ways in which he gained relief from trusting in God. He can sleep because God sustains him, and he can have great courage in the face of his enemies. Listen to what he says,
“5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.”
David explains that he is able to sleep peacefully because God sustains Him: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” After lamenting, after trusting in the Lord by reflecting on His character/person, he says that he went to sleep. Now, remember—David is in great danger at this time—his life is being sought after. Nothing has changed about his situation and his trial. But something has changed about his perspective. After reflecting on who God was and praying, he is so confident in God’s ability to deliver him that he prepares to go to sleep. Now that is what you call confidence. A king is either insane or truly protected to respond to war by going to sleep! But not only does he lay down to sleep—he does sleep (indicated by “slept”), and he wakes up again the next day! And David expresses trust once again in the person of God by telling us why he can sleep in the midst of trouble: “for [or because] the LORD sustained me.” So we get a picture of David no longer having fear of his enemies, so much so that he can lay down on his bed, go to sleep, and wake up the next day—all because God has sustained him. But notice too, not only does David have a great peace to come upon him because of how he has responded to his trial, but also he no longer has fear.
David expresses that he no longer has fear of his enemies: “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (v. 6). Notice again—David’s problem hasn’t changed at all. In fact, he expresses that he will have no fear even if it does—even if it gets much worse! Even if there were more enemies surrounding him, he would still have no fear. Compare v. 1 to v. 6—a lot has changed since v. 1! A lot has changed since David has lamented in God’s presence, reflected on the person of God. David’s problem hasn’t changed at all, but his perspective certainly has. Now there is a new perspective on the same problem. What a great change from simply reflecting on God’s character and praying!
Everything changed when David reflected on who God is. This experience of peaceful sleep and courage in the face of more enemies comes only after David brings his prayer to God and reflects on the person of God. That’s the central thrust of this psalm—David wants everyone who reads this psalm to understand that they too can have peaceful sleep and courage in the face of trials if only they will pray and understand who God is! We too can experience sustenance, peace, and courage in our trials if we will do what David did. Our problems may not change, and they may even get worse (and most of the time they do), but we can change our perspective! We can get through the trials we have in life when we pray and recognize who God is. Once we understand who God is, our perspective and attitude will change—we will trust the Lord.
And another thing too, note how brief David’s reflection of God’s character is—David only needs to understand a few key truths about God in order for him to gain confidence again. All he acknowledged about God was that God protects him, God answers his prayer, and God sustains him. This just goes to show you that the length of our prayers do not matter as much as their content! David’s brief description of God’s character, and his corresponding confidence shows us that you are closer on the road to peace and faith when you know who God is, than you are if you pray for 10 hours. And you know, something I have found to be astonishing in comparing our faith to the faith of characters in the Old Testament like David is this: Many characters of the Old Testament had a better understanding of God and a greater faith in God with less Bible than we do with the whole Bible! David had peace, joy, and courage again after reflecting on only three truths about God—but it was because he knew them. He had read them, known them, and been taught them. Let me tell you something—you’ll never have a faith like David’s and you will never have the peace, joy, and courage like he had until you understand truths about God which come from His word. And it is those truths which we must reflect on during our times of trouble.
This is especially important during trials in life, because there are all kinds of emotions we are dealing with—and emotions can be deceptive. You may feel distant from God, you may feel like God has abandoned you, you may even feel like God is “punishing you,” but you need to have your faith rooted in the objective, unchanging word of God because it doesn’t matter how you feel during your trials. What truly matters is what you know and what you do with it. Once we know who God is through His word, we can truly trust in the Lord during our trials.
For a while now, my parents have had a little Jack Russel Terrier named Charlie, and one thing that has been surprising to us about him is that he likes to take care rides. He’s the first dog we’ve ever had in the family that actually likes to take rides in the car. Our dog hasn’t always been so audacious—he used to be really timid and scared. But as long as he rides up in the front with you, he’s pretty calm. He usually puts half his body out of the driver side window, while burying his nails into your knee. But you know, I’ve noticed something about him. When he is hanging out the window while we’re going 45, or while we are driving on a curve, he will start to lose his footing. He gets freaked out and comes back inside the car for fear that he may drop out. So usually I hold on to his side or his back leg so he won’t go out the window when we turn on curves or are going too fast down the road. He is pretty fearless when you’re holding on to him—he has faith in me because he knows who I am. He knows I’m not going to drop him. He knows that if the ride gets rocky, too fast, or swings him around, he’s going to be just fine because I’m not letting him go. Charlie has no fear because he knows who I am.
Let me tell you something—we should have no fear of what might happen to us when we’re driving through life because we know that God isn’t letting us go. You may be suffering so much that you feel like you are being thrown out of the window. You may be in such a tumultuous situation that you feel like your life has crashed—but all you need to do is look over to the driver seat, my friend. God is there, and He is the one driving. He is holding on to you, and He won’t drop you—all you need to do is trust Him. Don’t trust your hold on Him, but trust His hold on you.
Once we lament in the presence of God, and reflect on the person of God by knowing and believing His word, we will gain relief from the peace of God—He will allow us to sleep peacefully and have courage.
IV. Express Petitions to God (3:7a)
Trusting in the Lord during trials begins by lamenting in the presence of God. We then must reflect on the person of God, and when we do, we will gain relief from His peace. Fourthly in this psalm, we see that we must express our petitions and requests to God. After all of these things in the psalm, David prays for what he needs. David petitions God for salvation and deliverance saying, “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!” (v. 7a). David made mention in v. 4 of a prayer he prayed that God answered, and the first part of v. 7 contains that prayer. David wants for God to rise up and deliver him. Though many have arisen against him, David wants for God to rise against his enemies. He wants God to get up from His throne, and to come down and save him from his enemies. We won’t spend much time here in this point because there’s not much said in this part of the verse—but one thing we can glean from this for sure is that David petitioned God. And this too is an essential element to learning how to trust the Lord during our trials. Whatever it is that we need, we need to ask the Lord for it. We need to petition God as David did here. What is it that you need during your trial or difficulty? Ask the Lord for it. This is certainly included in Scripture’s teaching on responding to trials and anxieties (Phil. 4:7; Matthew 7:7-12; James 4:2).
V. Believe the Promises of God (3:7b-8)
Lament in God’s presence, reflect on God’s person, gain relief from God’s peace, express petitions to God, and finally we need to believe God’s promises. Finally, David expresses belief in the promises of God. Why does David have such a request as the one in v. 7a? Why does David believe that God will answer that petition/prayer? Because he believes in the promises of God. Listen to the way David explains this: “[Petition] Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For [or because] you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!” (vv. 7-8). David prayed because he rested in God’s promises—and these two statements in this section are two promises of God. One is a promise from God to His enemies, the other a promise from God to His people.
The first is a promise to God’s enemies (v. 7b). Now, this phrase may seem harsh to our ears, but it’s what this phrase conveys that is really important. David is resting in God’s promise that He will protect His covenant people by destroying their enemies. This was a promise from God to do this. God will strike the enemies of the king, and wipe them out.
The second is a promise to God’s people (v. 8). This was also a promise that David rested in. David knew that God had promised to deliver His people, and it was the only source of David’s confidence that God would answer his prayer for deliverance. God has promised to eradicate the wicked, and has said previously that salvation belongs to Him. And these promises are what gave David the confidence to pray such a thing as he did. These are promises David recalled which are specifically applicable to his situation. They speak directly to what he was going through. And because David rested and believed in these promises, he was able to pray confidently. He prays, “Arise and save me, for here is what You promise to the wicked, and here is what You promise to Your people.” These specific promises of God from His word are what gave David his confidence that God would hear His prayer and answer it. And let me just ask this morning, considering that these are promises specifically applicable to his situation—how many promises of God do you know which are specifically applicable to your situation? If we do not know the promises of God, we will have no rest nor confidence that God will answer our prayer or see us through. The promises of God are the blood flowing through our arms when we lift up our burdens to the throne of God. If we know what God says in His word about our troubles and trials, then we can rest in those promises. If we don’t know the promises, we will have no rest. How many promises of God do you know?
We need to believe the promises of God in order to trust the Lord during trials.
Conclusion: A Hymn With the Wrong Name
One of my favorite hymns is What a Friend We Have in Jesus because it conveys to us the importance of prayer in our pain. It explains to us what God will do when we pray. Really, I think this hymn has the wrong name. It only speaks of Jesus as a friend remotely—it’s main emphasis is how God works through prayer. I love this part of the song:
“What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!”
We forfeit peace and bear needless pain when we do not carry our pain and burdens to the Lord in prayer. It’s what David did, and it is what we must do if we will learn to trust the Lord during our trials. We do not have to go through our trials without peace and bearing needless pain—if we will trust in the Lord, He will take care of the rest. We don’t have to act like we’re not scared during trials—but we should trust the Lord to calm our fears. Like our dog Charlie, we should not fear what will become of us because our Father holds us near Him.
As God enables us, may we trust in Him during our many trials by going to Him in prayer, reflecting on who He is, gaining relief from His peace, expressing our petitions to Him, and believing His promises.
- This sermon was also delivered at LaCenter First Baptist Church in LaCenter, KY; Ohio Valley Baptist Church in Barlow, KY; New Concord Baptist Church in Melber, KY; and Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY.
The following sermon audio was recorded at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY:
I want to say from the start, I am not making the case here for the doctrine of the perseverance of the believer, even though I firmly believe it to be taught throughout Scripture. In fact, I could take up all the space on your screen with both a firm biblical argument for this doctrine, and a corresponding polemic against the opposite view if I needed to. At the present time, however, I am just looking for solid answers to some genuine questions I have for the individuals who do not believe in the doctrine of the believer’s perseverance. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as eternal security or the perseverance of the saints. I will not post any Bible verses or any of “my interpretations” whatsoever in this post – I simply want answers to a few questions.
It’s pretty crucial because if any doctrine is to be proven biblical, and therefore true, then it should be fully developed in Scripture. In other words, it shouldn’t just be one thing and nothing else. It should be the game of basketball and not just the ball or the goal. If you hold the view that a believer can lose his or her salvation, you should be able to explain the whole doctrine with all of its facets and implications. It’s not enough to just say, “You know the Bible teaches you can lose your salvation, right?” You should be able to explain how this teaching, if true, relates to every other teaching in Scripture – and that’s where my questions come in. I want to know what the implications are for some other areas in Scripture if this teaching is biblical. I also want to know how it relates to other areas of the believer’s life. These questions have to be answered clearly, with examples, and with plenty of Scripture, otherwise there can be no real case for this view. It has to be more than just the ball – it must be the whole game.
With that said, all of my questions are listed below with brief commentary. Feel free to answer these questions in the comment section, or however you wish.
- What must a believer do in order to lose his salvation?
In other words, what must take place for the believer to lose his salvation? If this teaching is true, then believers should definitely guard themselves against doing the very thing which causes him to lose his salvation. So what must the believer do to lose his salvation, what line must he cross, or what requirement must he fulfill to no longer be a believer?
- Can salvation be regained? If so, how?
If there are passages which mean that salvation can be lost, then equally there must be passages which speak to it being regained. I may be wrong, but if God clearly prescribes what one should do in order to be saved, and if Scripture teaches salvation can be lost, then surely it states in some way that it can be regained. If it cannot be regained, then just say so. But if it can be lost, then surely it can just as easily be regained.
- Can a believer lose their salvation multiple times, and can they regain it multiple times?
This is banking off the previous question, but if there is a way for the apostate to gain his salvation back, then can he lose it again? And if he can lose it again, then can he regain it again? Is there an endless cycle here, a certain number of times, or no such thing at all?
- How does a believer remain saved, so that he doesn’t lose his salvation?
This is probably the most pressing question – if salvation can be lost then what must a believer do to ensure that he doesn’t? In other words, what must a believer do to maintain his salvation so that it cannot be lost? Or is it an absolute mystery, where you cannot know whether or not you have lost your salvation?
- Who or what decides when a believer loses his salvation?
As an extension of the previous question, is there an action or person which decides that the believer becomes an apostate? Said another way, does the believer do something which causes him to lose his salvation or does God decide that unbeknownst to him?
- What are the mechanics of how a believer loses his salvation?
This is something I would really like to know. What actually happens when a believer loses his salvation? I have a lot of questions following this one because of how extensive the effects of the gospel are for the believer. Is the Holy Spirit withdrawn from him and is he now dead in sins again? What happens to the progress he made during his sanctification? Does God remove the righteousness of Christ from his account, and credit his sin back to him? Does he have any recollection of what his life was like when he was saved? What spiritual state is the once-a-believer in, now that he is once again unsaved? Is everything about his salvation now reversed, or is he better or worse off than he was before?
- What did Jesus actually accomplish through the atonement at Calvary if salvation can be lost?
Did Jesus die for all sins except for the one sin which causes the believer to lose his salvation (whatever it may be)? Is the atonement temporary, or eternal? What exactly is salvation for the believer who loses it? In my view, it is by all accounts a significant wreckage if salvation can be lost if it was purchased by Christ for the believer. Wouldn’t it be a waste of Christ’s crucifixion if the believer can lose what Christ bought for him?
- Where, specifically in Scripture does it state that a true believer can lose his or her salvation?
While all of these questions are pressing, this is probably the most significant. If salvation can be lost, there should be clear exegetical proof from Scripture as a whole. It shouldn’t be a few verses here, and a few verses there. This should be a clear message throughout all of Scripture. Additionally, there should be plenty of examples of this in the Bible – nothing occurs in Scripture without an existing personal account.
So if you hold this view that a believer can lose his salvation, then feel free to answer below or e-mail me.
Before I dive into the subject of why theological study is crucial for the Christian, I would really like to address something important. When you read the title of this post, you may have had certain doubts. You might have had one of these reactions: Theology? I don’t want to lose the simplicity of faith! Won’t I substitute thought for action? I mean, theology has caused divisions – theology uses big words, and it just complicates communication. Isn’t theology all based on speculation, and doesn’t theology major on minor truths?
If you had a reaction similar to this, you’re not alone. You see, a large number of people in the church, unfortunately try to avoid theology and all that goes along with it like avoiding some plague. Most people have strong doubts about theology – but let me encourage you by saying that theology is not a bad thing. In fact, if theology is done with the right motive, it is a most glorious thing. With that said, let’s dive in deeper into why we should study theology and why it is definitely a good thing.
First of all, what is theology? Theology, in its literal translation is the study of God. The meaning of the word comes from two separate words: Theo (meaning God) and ology (meaning study). Essentially, theology is the study of God. Henry Clarence Thiessen gives us an even better way to understand the definition of theology, saying that “we may define theology as the science of God and His relations to the universe.”¹ Why is this? Why is theology the science of God and how He relates to the universe? Because in Christian theology, you have to include many different doctrines. Throughout years of study, we now include every Christian doctrine to this idea of theology. Doctrines such as:
- the doctrine of revelation (the study of how God reveals Himself to us, etc.)
- the doctrine of God (this includes His nature, His attributes, His decrees, His works, etc.)
- the doctrine of humanity (this includes our nature, and our relationship to both sin and a holy God)
- the doctrine of Christ (includes both the person and the work of Christ)
- the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (includes both the person and the work of the Holy Spirit)
- the doctrine of salvation (how it is that we are saved, what does that entail, etc.)
- the doctrine of the church (how is the church to be led, what is the purpose of the church, etc.)
- the doctrine of last things (consummation and what will happen when we die)
This was far from a complete list, but it definitely gives a good overview of what we consider to be theology today. It’s not just one idea, or a few scattered ideas – it is a science – the science of God. Theology is important because it deals with every day Christian life, as you can see clearly from the list above.
Why should we study theology? There are four main reasons why it should be important for Christians to study theology. So why should we sit down and enjoy studying theology?
1. Study Theology Because the Bible Teaches That Theology is Important
The first reason is because the Bible teaches us that theology is important. Look at Hosea 4:1-6:
“Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and also the fish of the sea disappear. Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; for you people are like those who contend with the priest. So you will stumble by day, and the prophet also will stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest, since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (NASB).
In the beginning verse, God tells the people of Israel that there is a case against them – because on top of many other things, there was no knowledge of God in the land. And this is an essential part of theology. We as theological students try to learn more and more about our God. We need the right knowledge of God as Christians. This passage from Hosea calls us to pursue that knowledge, and it does so through one of its many warnings found in verse 6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest, since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” If God is unchangeable (which is one of His many attributes), then He can do the same thing to us. We can be spiritually destroyed and reap the consequences without knowledge of God. We as Christians, as God’s people, need to have knowledge about God. Also, similar instruction is found in Malachi 2:7, “for the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” In the local church, your pastor(s), deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, or any other persons in leadership roles should help you in your personal study of the knowledge of God. This study is what we call theology. So first we see that the Bible teaches that study of theology is important.
2. Study Theology Because Jesus Demonstrated That Theology is Important
Secondly, we should study theology because Jesus demonstrated that theology is important. Let us look at Matthew 16:13-16:
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (NASB)
What is pictured in this passage is that they are walking in a line and Jesus goes to each disciple individually and asks these questions. When it says that Jesus was asking the disciples, it has the action of beginning to ask and kept asking. Finally, after he got through all of the disciples, he got to Peter. And Peter said that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. The point: Jesus wanted to know what people were saying about Him. By doing this, He was demonstrating that theology is important to Him. If we cannot answer this fundamental question right, then we cannot dive further into theology, for if we have an answer any different than Peter’s, anything else we say is as flawed as the “wisdom” of this world.
3. Study Theology Because it is Important for Discipleship
Thirdly, to be a disciple we need to study theology. Remember, if we cannot answer who Jesus is correctly, we cannot begin to go anywhere else in Scripture. To be a true disciple of Christ, we have to know what Christ says, does, and thinks. The only way we can figure this out is by reading our Bibles and by studying theology. We need theology to help us in our walk with God. We need theology to be better ambassadors for Him. The Christian life may start out with a “blind” and simple faith, but God does not want us to stay there. God wants you and I to grow in our faith. God wants us to learn more about Him, and as we do we will be growing disciples.
4. Study Theology Because the Early Church Demonstrated That Theology is Important
Last, the early church demonstrated that theology is important. The early church had to rely on sound theology to safeguard against the all-too-frequent heresies that came about. Many of the major heresies really started after the apostle John died. Soon after his death was when Gnosticism was on its rise. This heresy affected people’s understanding of the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of humanity. If you ever decide to research Gnosticism, you will see that its impact was so sever that we are still trying to recover from this heresy. On a similar note, you even have to be careful when studying the heresies! Make sure you have a very solid foundation on the Bible before you work through those. There were many other heresies that came about that compelled the early Church to rely completely on sound theology. And that demonstrates the need for studying it.
Conclusion: Study Theology for the Glory of God
As I said in the introduction, if you study theology with the right motive, then it is a most glorious thing. Since we know why we should study theology, then we need to find out what the right motive is for studying theology. So what is this right motive? The answer to that is really the answer to why we do anything. We as Christians do everything to bring praise, honor, and glory to our sovereign King. That is always the end goal in everything that we do. Our motive for studying theology is no different. We study theology for God’s glory. If our motive is anything other than to learn more about our Creator, and to grow in our relationship with Him, then we are wrong and need to desperately repent. There are many who study theology so that they can answer all the questions, and be the smartest person in the room – quite plainly, that is wrong. They need to repent because it is clear that God is displeased with that. Truthfully, they would be better off not studying theology in the first place. So before starting to study theology, ask yourself why you are doing this. If the answer is not so that you can grow in order to glorify God, then wait until you can answer that way.
Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 1-2.
Michael Chadwick is the pastor of Jensen Baptist Church in Pineville, Kentucky. He and his wife Kari live in Pineville, where they both study at the acclaimed Clear Creek Baptist Bible College.
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 doctrine of man as created male and female teaches that man was created for personal relationship, and that both male and female are created with equal value and importance in God’s sight, but male and female have also been created with distinct roles and responsibilities. This is the final characteristic of the doctrine of man as created male and female. Because this is the most expanded teaching of this doctrine in both the Old and New Testaments, it will take longer to explain it fully. We must both acknowledge that these differences were established by God prior to the Fall, and understand that there are differences in roles in marriage and the family because of this.
The difference in roles and responsibilities were established by God before the Fall, and they are not a result of sin. The Scripture offers a substantial account for these differences in roles and responsibilities. Scripture’s testimony conveys that man has been created with a role of headship and authority, distinct from woman, who has been created with a role of submission and nurturing. This does not mean that man is superior to woman, or woman superior to man, as we shall see below. But it does mean that while God created men and women of equal value and importance, they have also been created with different roles so that they will complement each other, and reflect the same complementary fellowship among the members of the Trinity.
For example, it may first be seen in that God created Adam first, then Eve. It is clear that God saw him as having a leadership role in his family, for Adam was already about doing work because God had “put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Second, Eve was created as a helper for Adam. Since it was not good for Adam to be alone, it is clear that God made Eve for Adam, not Adam for Eve. Even Paul states in 1 Cor. 11:8-9, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” This does not mean that man is superior to woman, for in the same passage Paul says that man is just as dependent on woman as she is on man, for “man is now born of woman” (v. 12). Third, these distinctions in role can be seen in that Adam named Eve. He was given that authority by God over the animal kingdom (Gen. 2:19-20), and in a similar way he named Eve “Woman” because she was taken “out of Man” (Gen. 2:23). Fourth, God named the human race “Man,” and not “Woman.” This suggests, again, that a leadership role belongs to man within God’s created order. Fifth, it is interesting to notice in the account of the Fall that the serpent came to Eve first. Grudem rightly says regarding this, “It is likely that Satan (in the form of a serpent), in approaching Eve first, was attempting to institute a role reversal by tempting Eve to take the leadership in disobeying God.” Since Satan’s desire and object is to thwart the created order of God, it is obvious that this was his intent, thus revealing that Adam was created with a leadership role. Sixth, God spoke to Adam first after the Fall. Even though Eve had sinned first, God came to Adam first and called him to account for what had taken place (Gen. 3:9). It is evident that God saw him as the one to be responsible and accountable for what had happened in the family. Seventh, Adam represented the human race instead of Eve. The Bible teaches, especially in Romans 5:12-21, that Adam sinned as our representative. This indicates that God had given Adam headship over the human race, and this was a role that was not given to Eve though she was also responsible for sinning. Eighth, the curse as a result of sin brought distortion of previous roles, not new ones. When sin was introduced into God’s good creation, so introduced was both a mutilation and abuse of the distinct roles given to men and women. Adam would still be the leader of his family, working the ground and harvesting crops, but the land would not bring forth “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18). Eve would still give birth to children, but now it will take place in great pain (Gen. 3:16). Though Adam and Eve still complemented each other in every way, they will now have conflict and Adam’s authority over his wife Eve would be abused (Gen. 3:16). Finally, we see in the New Testament that God is redeeming those distinct roles through Christ. This must mean that they are part of God’s original created order, if God seeks to redeem these roles in the life of the church through Christ. The New Testament is replete with the imperative to be subject to husbands, and for husbands to love and care for their wives (Col. 3:18-19; Eph. 5:22-23; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
It is clear from the substantial evidence in Scripture that these differences in role were established by God Himself, and are not a result of the Fall. Any view that says men and women are absolutely equal in their roles and responsibilities simply fails to consult and nuance all the biblical data on the subject. Some argue that the differences in roles between male and female are actually a distortion of God’s creation, and are actually a result of the Fall. Professor and writer Gilbert Bilezikian says,
“The ruler-subject relationship between Adam and Eve began after the fall. It was for Eve the application of the same death principle that made Adam slave to the soil. Because it resulted from the fall, the rule of Adam over Eve is satanic in origin, no less than is death itself.”
While the relationship between male and female is not “ruler-subject,” Bilezikian (and many others in the theological camp of egalitarianism) views the differences in roles as a consequence of the Fall. The implications of this view are drastic. First of all, it fails to take into account the enormous biblical evidence for difference in roles before the Fall (as noted above). Second, it causes a hermeneutical problem by interpreting the Bible (especially the New Testament) through an unbiblical lens. If men and women have equal roles, then there is no need to emphasize submission and leadership in marriage, which the New Testament does so frequently (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:21-24; 1 Tim. 3:5; 5:8). Third, this view does injustice to the heart of this doctrine—having been created in the image of God. We have already seen that being created in the image of God means that we reflect Him, and in many ways His attributes are seen in us because we have been formed and fashioned in His image, after His likeness. Clearly, the Father is seen as having a distinct authoritative role as the Father. So the Son is seen as being submissive (though equal) to the Father. So if men and women have equal roles, then in what way do they reflect the Godhead where there are clear distinctions in roles? Indeed, they do not.
But it is clear that the difference in roles and authority were indeed established before the Fall, but through the entrance of sin there will be a distortion and misuse of those roles. Michael Horton aptly states, “As male and female humanity was the image of God (Gen. 1:27), but now they are at enmity not only with God but with each other.”
Implication(s) for Church Life Today
Theology should always lead to doxology, that is, doctrine should move us to obedience in our Christian lives. Having discussed the doctrine of man as created male and female, there are several implications it bears upon our lives. Too much is at stake for us to carelessly leave this doctrine on a bookshelf. This doctrine carries several connotations concerning the difference in roles and responsibilities. In our American culture, more than ever before, the doctrine of man created male and female is being both neglected and distorted. It is now acceptable in our culture for a biological woman to identify as a man, and be considered just as much a “man” as a biological man, and vice versa. And what’s worse is that this is viewed as equality by its proponents. This movement of transgenderism in our culture should be combatted apologetically, firmly, and gracefully with the biblical doctrine of man as created male and female. The clear differences in biological makeup and roles and responsibilities must be recognized, and they should be encouraged.
Also, in the church those different roles should be acknowledged and encouraged. There are differing roles between men and women so that the church acts as a body, with all the parts “working properly” (Eph. 4:16). Women are called to certain ministerial duties that men are not called to, and men are called to certain ministerial duties that are exclusive to only men. This is God’s design for humanity, the family, and the church. So it should be encouraged and taught in our local churches. There should be opportunities to serve the church for both men and women, and there should be ministries to both men and women. As our churches seek to redeem the family, we should teach men how to be the leaders of their homes, and likewise we should teach the women to be the nurturers of their homes.
Like the most expensive and rare treasure in the world, we are God’s most valuable creation because we have been created in His image. No higher honor could have been given to man than the privilege of being an image of the God who created him. What is truly breathtaking about this is that we have been created in God’s likeness, not as one uniform human race, but as male and female. We have been created as male and female for personal relationships, we have been created with equal value and importance, and we have been created with different roles and responsibilities. This is God’s plan and created order, and we can surely say with David, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).
 Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) , 463.
 Bilezikian, Gilbert G. Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman’s Place in Church and Family (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 41-42.
 Horton, Michael. Pilgrim Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 145.
If you’re like me when you hear the word missions, you probably think back to the Great Commission that Jesus gave the church (Matthew 28:19). Or you might think of those fighting for social justice, or those who sweat and work for years at building projects and digging wells, and feeding the hungry. But missions is even more than that, and missions does not originate with man’s desire for social good, and it doesn’t even originate or begin in the Great Commission. The idea of missions is rooted in the Bible and weaved carefully throughout it’s pages. The Bible teaches us that missions is not man’s idea. Missions is within the nature of God, it is Jesus’ chief reason for coming to earth, and it is the goal of the church. I believe the Bible reveals this to us by way of three major pillars, if you will. Let’s take a look:
I. God is Missional
The Bible teaches that God is missional in both His nature and being, and His plan for mankind. These are inseparable. We see throughout the biblical account that as God seeks after man, His mission is to redeem him. This originates from God’s own character and nature, and is revealed in His promises of redemption in the Old Testament, and the work of redemption culminated in the New Testament. We can see that God is seeking after man to redeem him in just the beginning chapters of Genesis. After Adam had sinned, God came looking for him once he had sinned (Gen. 3:9-13), and then promises future redemption (3:15).
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God in relationship to the patriarchs and to His people, the Israelites—but only because He sought them as His covenant people that He would one day redeem from the curse of sin through His promised Redeemer, Christ. This very truth is promised to Abram (later in Genesis) that through His covenant people who would eventually bring forth the Messiah, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). So while God first sets the Israelites apart as His chosen people, it is clear from the Old Testament and especially the Psalms, that God is seeking for “all the nations” to praise Him (Psalm 66:4; 67:3; 117:1). The narrative of the Old Testament would be enough evidence to say that God is a missional God who is seeking His people for a covenant relationship with Him.
But the New Testament attests to this fact as well. We read that God desires all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). God’s missional nature and plan climaxes at the highest point through the coming of the Lord Jesus, God Himself, who takes on flesh and bears the penalty for sin in order to accomplish redemption (Luke 19:10; John 3:17; Rom. 3:24).
II. Jesus is Missional
Secondly, it is evident that Jesus is also missional. The Bible implies that Jesus is missional in His purpose for coming to earth, and His work of redemption on the cross. First, the purpose for Jesus’ coming to the earth is missional. Jesus Himself testifies that He has come to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), and that He came into the world “in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Indeed, the Gospels depict Jesus’ main purpose for coming to earth was to redeem man, and the Epistles explain the implications of this redemption, revolving around the truth that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
Second, the work of Jesus is missional. He accomplished fully His purpose for coming into the world by dying on the cross and resurrecting in order to reconcile man to a seeking God. His death and resurrection accomplished the mission of God to redeem mankind. Jesus’ work on the cross results in reconciliation to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19), and now believers are “brought near [to God] by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13; cf. Col. 1:21-22). Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth was missional—He came to redeem mankind. And His work was missional—it did redeem mankind, reconciling us back to God through faith in Christ.
III. The Church is Missional
Finally, the Bible teaches us that the church is missional. The church, being the body of redeemed believers everywhere, is missional in its very structure and origin. The only way that the church can grow is through the goal of missions: making disciples. Jesus commissions His few disciples in Matthew 28 that they are to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (v. 19a). This would not happen by keeping to themselves and being apathetic about sharing the gospel. Empowered by the Spirit, they made disciples and the church grew in only a short time to “about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
The church is missional because the only way it can grow is by disciples making disciples. It is within the context of the church that believers are equipped through the teaching of the word, in order to do “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). It is the mission of the church to bring the ultimate message of missions—God’s mission to mankind, to others so that God can “bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom. 1:5).
Bullying hurts. We all had that one bully during grade school that no one liked. A bully was usually someone bigger than us who was making fun of us, putting us down, threatening to beat us up, or take our lunch money. Bullying has really progressed through recent decades. My generation has lived through the uprising of what is known as “cyber-bullying” where bullying can be done via social media and the internet. But I believe bullying has taken on a different form than student to student, as was in my school (and likely yours).
We are seeing today more than ever, what I believe to be bullying disguised as “equality,” or “equal rights.” Different groups have been fighting for the past couple of years for what they refer to as equal rights or equality, but at the same time, the greater majority of our nation is being bullied. Thousands of people in this nation are having their God given, and constitutionally mandated rights either taken away, infringed, or ignored.
Yet at the same time, this is called “equality” for those who are gaining dominance over others who are having their rights infringed. But how can it be equality for all when someone else’s rights and privileges granted to them by God and by the Constitution are taken away, infringed, ignored, or even obliterated?
Let me illustrate how this has been happening for decades, and has culminated in recent days.
First of all, unborn children who haven’t even had the chance to receive their birth certificates, are immediately denied the most important right of all because they are seen as “a collection of cells,” or “inconvenient.” What is this most important right? The right to life. There are about 3,315 abortions daily in the United States alone.¹ Does that sound like equality to you? The world considered it a damnable atrocity when the Nazi Regime took the lives of over 11,000,000 Jews, homosexuals, children, and disabled people – and those people had already been born.² But an unborn child is denied the right to live, and it’s mother is told by organizations like Planned Parenthood, that “options are available.”
Equality is not defined as, “when the helpless and unborn are denied the right to life by those bigger than them.” That is murder. That is bullying in the highest degree possible.
Secondly, notice the so-called “equality” taking place in the marriage realm of our country. The Supreme Court ruled not long ago that all states must recognize same-sex marriage, and that states cannot deny or ban same-sex marriage within their own state. This decision was celebrated all over the country on the day it was publicized, but as with anytime someone is bullied, the “little guy,” is taking a beating. Who is the “little guy” whose rights are being ignored, taken away, or infringed? How about the Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis who is now being jailed for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples?³ How is that equality for those whose conscience cannot allow them to do so? It is a violation of one’s right to believe what they want to believe.
Or what about Aaron and Melissa Klein who were ordered to pay $135,000 for refusing to bake a gay wedding cake?4 They were punished for not participating in a wedding that violated their conscience. That doesn’t sound like equality, that sounds like bullying. That’s $135,000 that could have fed their family, or sent their children to college, or paid their bills. Instead, they lose that amount of money, in addition to their right to believe what they want to believe. Bullying happens when someone bigger than you oppresses you because they have the upper hand. And bullying can lead to tyranny in the political realm. That’s clearly what has happened here.
There are plenty of other examples I could give where bullying is disguised as “equality,” in our nation but I’d like to close with a few suggestions on what Christians can do in light of this discrimination taking place.
- Prepare for persecution. You had better get ready. History is doomed to repeat itself, and a day is coming sooner than ever where we will see an exact replica of the persecution that took place in the early church. Christians were imprisoned for their faith. One was sentence to jail just today. Don’t think you won’t see more and more of this in the coming days – you will. If believers are still on the earth at the time when this climaxes, we will need to mimic the same practices of the current underground churches in China, Vietnam, India, and other countries where Christianity is illegal.
- Preach the gospel more than ever. As a minister, I am concerned, saddened, and even angered that we are being bullied and our God given rights are being infringed, and plain ignored. But at the same time, my love and concern for souls who need Christ is stronger than ever. We should continue to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), and do so with more diligence and perseverance, than we ever have before.
- Pray for and support those standing up for the faith. Christians all over the country are standing up for their faith, and for their Constitutional rights. They need our prayers and encouragement. We need to stand with them.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
- “Abortion Facts.” Abortion No, https://www.abortionno.org/abortion-facts
- “11 Facts About the Holocaust.” DoSomething.org, https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-holocaust
- Blinder, Alan “Deputy Clerks to Issue Gay Marriage Licenses in Kentucky.” The New York Times. Sept. 3, 2015.
- Starnes, Todd “Christian bakers fined $135,000 for refusing to make wedding cake for lesbians.” Fox News Opinion. July 3, 2015.
The omnipotence of God is a central, biblical doctrine to Christianity. It refers to God’s all-encompassing power. He is the all-powerful Lord who has created all things and sustains them by the Word of His power (Gen. 1:1-3; Heb. 1:3). God reveals in the Bible that He is all-powerful and in the final sense, He is the ruler of nature and history. Psalm 147:5 reveals, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Similarly, Job says “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2, emphasis mine). The Scriptures reveal, then, that God is all-powerful—He is omnipotent. Further, if God is infinite, and if He is sovereign, which we know He is, then He must also be omnipotent. He has all power over all things at all times and in all ways.
Given this understanding of God’s omnipotence, does this mean that God can sin or bring about contradictions in Himself? After all, He can do all things. Some people shriek when any limitations, logical or physical, are placed on the power of God. The Scriptures reveal, however, that there are certain things that even an all-powerful God cannot do. Ronald H. Nash writes, “If there is anything to be learned from the classical Christian discussions of omnipotence, it is that omnipotence was always understood to be compatible with certain limitations on God’s power.”¹ How is God’s power “limited” in regards to logical and physical possibilities? First, if something is physically impossible, no human can perform that act in the real world. More than that, if something is logically impossible, then it cannot be done in the real world (or other possible worlds) by anyone or anything under any conditions (that would include God). So in relation to God, His omnipotence does not extend to things that are logically impossible. This does not count against His omnipotence, however, because as Frankfurt observes, “If an omnipotent being can do what is logically impossible, then he can not only create situations which he cannot handle but also, since he is not bound by the limits of consistency, he can handle situations which he cannot handle.”² If God was above the law of non-contradiction and the matters of logic, then He would be unknowable and unintelligible. So then, God’s inability to perform the logically impossible does not count against His omnipotence. Those logical impossibilities just cannot be done.
So when it comes to matters of contradictions within the Godhead, or the question of God’s ability to sin, or ability to bring about a contradictory state of affairs, those are logical impossibilities. Logical consistency is a necessary condition for God’s omnipotence, not merely physical possibility. Is sin a logical and physical possibility? Yes. After all, sinning is done by humans all the time and it is logically and physically possible. How then, can God not sin? Early Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and Anselm were faced with the same question. They pointed out that God could not sin because the ability to sin is not a power. Writing about Anselm, Nash observes that “[Anselm suggested] that the ability to sin results not from power but from lack of power.”³ If God could sin, then that would mean a lack of power, which would then mean that He is not omnipotent. God’s inability to sin, then, is not contradictory to His omnipotence. This compatibility does not mean that “God is above logic” or that the law of non-contradiction is a limitation on God’s power. Nash writes, “no logical contradiction results from ascribing a certain action like sinning to a human being, the action does become self-contradictory when it is attributed to God.”⁴ In conclusion, the Scriptures attest to God’s omnipotence, but do not support the view of a God who can do the logically impossible—it cannot be done.
1. Ronald H. Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 306.
2. Harry G. Frankfurt cited in Nash, 311.
3. Nash, 312-313.
4. Nash, 314.
There are certain essential attributes that theology ascribes to God. These attributes are drawn from what is clearly revealed in the Bible about God’s nature. Among these essential attributes are: omnipotence (God is all-powerful), omnipresence (God is all-present), and omniscience (God is all-knowing). All of these are equally important, and require careful study and attention. For God to be God, these attributes must be His nature. He must be all powerful, able to do anything—He must be always present with His creation, and He must be all-knowing, not restricted by any means.
God’s omniscience, however, presents a struggle in matters of God’s power to know all things, and how that relates to human freedom. Omniscience refers to God’s perfect knowledge about the past, present, and the future. Biblical Christians have always affirmed that God is omniscient, but recently certain thinkers have denied God’s perfect knowledge about the future. These “certain thinkers” are proponents of what is known as open theism. Their denial of God’s complete omniscience is due mainly to their system of theology that seeks to answer a problem in relation to God’s omniscience and human freedom.
Since God is all-knowing, this implies that He must know the future. If He knows the future, this poses difficulties for the freedom of human choices and ability. If God knows what humans will do in the future, do humans have the ability to do anything other than what God knows they will do? If humans had the power to do something other than what God foreknows, then God would be mistaken—His knowledge would be false, thus He would not know the future. Ronald H. Nash writes, “God’s foreknowledge would have actually been fore-ignorance.”¹ So the nature of the problem is reconciling God’s divine foreknowledge of the future, with human freedom in regards to their choices and abilities.
The system of theology known as open theism has attempted to provide an adequate answer to this difficulty. Defined by Nash, the basic tenet of open theism is this: “[Proponents of open theism] believe it is necessary to eliminate God’s knowledge of future human actions in order to preserve a sphere of human free will.”² In order to “protect” human freedom and reconcile this problem of divine-foreknowledge-human-freedom, God cannot have knowledge of any future human decisions, or those decisions would lose their significance. As open theists propose, God can have no knowledge about future human possibilities. Those who hold to this view say that God cannot know these things because there is nothing to know—the decisions, choices, and actions have not been made by humans yet because they are future contingents, and not done in the past. The past is fixed, but the future is not, and since those actions have not yet been done, God could not possibly know them.
It is important to point out that, though open theist deny God’s knowledge of the future, they are not necessarily saying that God doesn’t know about everything in the future. According to their view, God knows that “the multiplication tables will be true in the future, just as he knows that the law of gravity will continue to obtain.”³ God doesn’t know the specifics about future contingents—He just knows the fundamentals, if you will, those things which can be accurately predicted because they do not change. Things like natural laws and obvious consequences. But if God can know one contingent like these, how can He not know more? Who or what is the authority in determining how many future contingents God can or cannot know?
Open theism, then, creates more problems than it attempts to resolve. The theological implications of a limitation on God’s foreknowledge are possibly something the proponents of open theism have not considered. One implication is that God would have no knowledge of which human beings will come into existence in the future. God had no knowledge of anyone’s future existence, and He couldn’t have (if they did not yet exist). How then, would the atonement of Christ accomplish anything at all? This would mean that God sent Christ to die with the possibility of dying for no one—for He had no way of knowing if even one human being would come to faith. Nash writes, “Just as the God of open theism cannot know which future human beings will exist, neither can he know which future humans will become Christian believers, will receive his salvation, and will be blessed with eternal life.”⁴
This theory of open theism also does serious damage to the teaching of the knowledge of God revealed in the Scriptures. God “knows everything” (1 John 3:20), and even says of Himself, “[I declare] the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:10). The psalmist writes, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). Open theism, therefore, cannot provide an adequate reconciliation for the struggle between God’s foreknowledge and human freedom. The Bible affirms that God knows all things, and that He knows the future perfectly. God has true foreknowledge of what human beings will do in the future, and those actions are determined, while at the same time, not violating human free will. All human choices and future contingents will therefore be what God already knows they will be.