The Whole Counsel of God

“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

(Acts 20:25-27, ESV)

Those are the words of the Apostle Paul that were part of his final address to the Elders of the church at Ephesus, that he summoned to the city of Miletus during his 3rd missionary journey that started in Antioch and then through Asia, Macedonia, Greece, Achaia, and finally to Jerusalem.


Paul traveled to Ephesus during the first half of his missionary trip, remained there for 3 years, then crossed the Aegean Sea to Macedonia, south to Greece and Achaia, then north again to Philippi. From Philippi he again crossed the Aegean Sea and traveled south to Miletus, where he gave his final address to the Ephesian Elders before heading to Jerusalem by way of the Mediterranean Sea, landing at Tyre and taking a land route south to Jerusalem, where his 3rd missionary journey ended. The entire journey is described in Acts, chapters 18 – 21.

Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian Elders is recorded in Acts 20:18-38. In that address Paul:

  • presented his life and ministry as an example for the Elders to follow (Acts 20:18-21),
  • declared his total dedication to the gospel mission (Acts 20:22-24),
  • relinquished his responsibility as their teacher and leader, (Acts 20:25-27), and
  • charged the Ephesian Elders to guard the church from wolves (Acts 20:28-29)

After Paul presented his own life and ministry as an example to follow as leaders in the church at Ephesus, he told them that he (Paul) “did not shrink from declaring to you (the Ephesian Elders) the whole counsel of God”, a clear signal that the Elders from Ephesus should also declare to the Ephesian believers the whole counsel of God.

The question that immediately comes to mind is: What did Paul mean by “the whole counsel of God”?

Pastor and teacher John MacArthur defines it as:

“The entire plan and purpose of God for man’s salvation in all its fullness: divine truths of creation, election, redemption, justification, adoption, conversion, sanctification, holy living, and glorification.”

18th Century theologian John Gill defines it as:

“All that God has determined and revealed concerning the salvation of man – the whole doctrine of Christ crucified, with repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus as the Messiah and great atoning Priest.”

The other commentaries I consulted all echoed John MacArthur and John Gill.

Simply put, Paul was about the gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel. He left nothing out – NOTHING – none of the ‘hard bits’. He had given them the whole truth about God’s salvation. He had spoken of the immeasurable blessings of salvation (Ephesians 1:3), being made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6), and the mystery of salvation also being offered to the Gentiles.

He had also spoken of the state of all unbelievers, who are dead in sin and deserving of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1–3) . He let them know that no amount of works could save them (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that salvation was a matter of repentance and faith.. Based on the opposition that Paul faced during his three years in Ephesus, the Ephesian Elders also knew that they would also face persecution.

Paul also presented a similar challenge to young Pastor Timothy:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2, ESV).

So what is Paul’s message to us today?

First, like the Ephesian Elders, we should also follow Paul’s example and preach the whole counsel of God. We must preach it in its entirety, leaving nothing out, and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to use His sword as He sees fit (Ephesians 6:17). It is our solemn responsibility to share the complete gospel – the good parts and the ‘hard bits’, “with complete patience and teaching”, and leave the saving of lost souls to God. “He (Jesus) WILL save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).

Secondly, I draw your attention to Paul’s reason for not neglecting to preach the whole counsel of God – that he would be found innocent if any of the Ephesian to whom he was sent chose to turn away from Christ. He had delivered the complete gospel and had been faithful to God in his ministry.

Lastly, I am prompted to ask myself “Dan, are you being faithful in sharing the whole counsel of God in personal evangelism?

I’ll leave it right there……….

Be Blessed!

“What Color is Truth? Biblical Truths that No Blog Post can Change” by George Lawson

Sadly, it seems like no matter what you say about the current debate over social justice and racial reconciliation, you’re already wrong.  Somehow it’s believed that unless you share the same perspective and a similar experience as the one you are speaking with, that’s proof enough of your ignorance, insensitivity or insanity. In so many words: “If you don’t agree, it’s only because you don’t understand.” Oddly, many of the same people who speak the loudest about prejudice have already sized you up, labeled you, and dismissed what you have to say before you’ve even had a chance to finish speaking (or writing)!

I understand why this is true in an unbelieving context, because unbelievers begin their discussions from so many diverse and contradictory points of origin.  I have to confess that I struggle at times to understand why this confusion is true in the church.  Aren’t we all reading from the same book?

Unfortunately, much of the debate around race and justice and reconciliation completely ignores biblical truth (which is objective) and rather centers its arguments around: experiences, feelings, assumptions, suspicions, perceptions, hurts and conjectures (which are all subjective).  People are being encouraged to “share their story” rather than “proclaim God’s truth.”   Instead of “understanding the biblical context,” they are celebrated for connecting with their “cultural context.”

Personally, I praise God that The Master’s Seminary and its president trained me to focus my attention on the central and eternal realities of Scripture and its theology, rather than attempting to offer some particular approach for reaching a certain ethnic group. I never expected my seminary training to focus on social reform, political activism or the civil rights movement. Why would I?

I recently came across a slanderous and unsubstantiated charge that somehow Dr. MacArthur is guilty of being “partial, inconsiderate and unbiblical” because he rejects the idea that social justice is an essential part of the gospel ( Surely this is evidence that he doesn’t consider the circumstances of anyone other than upper middle class, republican-leaning white men, isn’t it?  But to impute those motives to him would be a violation of 1 Corinthians 4:5, which warns us against judging the motives of men’s hearts.  It is also demonstrably false.  MacArthur’s posts never mentioned anything about being white, upper middle class or Republican.

If I have gained nothing else from my time at The Master’s Seminary and from our President, I have gained an appreciation for the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, which sits above ethnic, political and class distinctions.  Frankly, that’s the reason I applied to Seminary in the first place.  If my goal for attending seminary was to learn more about my cultural heritage, I had many other options for that.  That’s not why I applied to seminary.  My goal was to accurately handle “the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and the seminary training I received was committed to that.  For some, that is perceived as a reason to criticize the training or even become sorrowful, frustrated, or angry about it.

I have personally experienced the pain of racial discrimination.  I get it, and I am sincerely sorry for whatever your experience might have been.  But I am saddened to learn that some of my brothers, who received the blessing of a curriculum that was designed to produce faithful expositors, would judge their books “by the color of their contributors, rather than the content of their pages.”  There is the notion that unless you can find your ethnic group represented in the books you’ve been assigned to read, it is part of a conspiracy to convince people that your ethnic group made no significant contributions.  Really?

Truth doesn’t have a color, or does it?  Would I receive the truth of Scripture differently if it was written by Gentiles instead of Jews? Should my wife reject the writings of the New Testament because they were all written by male authors?  Furthermore, can Paul or Peter or James really have anything relevant to share with me, if they didn’t share my personal experience as an African-American? Would I breathe a sigh of relief if my Greek-Grammar textbook was written by an Asian? Is the truth of Scripture universal for the entire church or does it have to be “shaded in” first to match my skin tone before I can receive it?

I have the privilege today of shepherding a multi-ethnic congregation in the city of Baltimore. Often people will ask me, “What did you do to a create such a diverse church?”  I always tell them the same thing:  “I didn’t do anything.  God did the work, I simply preached the Word.”  I didn’t come to the city of Baltimore with some kind of multi-ethnic strategy. My mandate as a pastor is clear, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).  I don’t have a “plan B.”

With that in mind, I would like to briefly remind all of us of “Biblical Truths that no Blog Post can Change”.

1) Believers in Jesus Christ are part of a spiritual family.

Once a person is adopted into the family of God they have been accepted into a new family. How many times does the Scripture refer to believers simply as, “Brothers”?  That is not to say that the Bible does not recognize that we come from a physical family or a particular heritage.  Even Paul acknowledged his personal desire to see his “kinsmen according to the flesh” brought into the family of God (Romans 9:3).  I share a similar desire for my family and my particular heritage.  However, I also understand that as a believer I have been born of the Spirit (John 3:8), I have a Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9) and my bond with believers is more permanent than the one I enjoy with my physical family members who are not believers. 

Jesus highlighted the priority of our spiritual family with these words in Matthew 12:50, after His physical family attempted to interrupt Him in the middle of ministry.

Matthew 12:50: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

It would have been assumed that Jesus would immediately drop what He was doing at the beck and call of His natural family.  After all, “blood is thicker than water” but Jesus surprised those around Him by making the point that “spirit is thicker than blood.” My truest “soul brothers” are those who do the will of God and obey Him.

2) Believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of a heavenly country.

National heritage is not ignored in Scripture.  After the flood (Genesis 10:5) and particularly after Babel (Genesis 11:9), mankind began to be divided into nations.  As we continue to follow the biblical narrative, we discover that God has a plan for these nations and that men would be “purchased for God…from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”  That is a monumental statement! According to one site there are over 1,652 languages spoken in India alone and over 6,000 ethnicities in India. What will unite the nations of the world together will not be their language or culture or their allegiance to their flag but rather their allegiance to Christ. Believers are “fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19) and our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). 

Again, I’m not arguing that national or cultural heritage is unimportant but it certainly does not have the power to unite men from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” If I spend my time and energy intently looking for people of my particular heritage and their contributions, rather than intently looking for Christ and His accomplishment, I won’t be moving closer towards unity but away from it.

3) Believers in Jesus Christ have been given a new identity.

How do you identify yourself as a believer?  If people really want to know who you are and how you think and what makes you the person you are, what would you say?  What would summarize you as a person above everything else?  Would you identify yourself by your occupation, your hobbies, your family, your nationality, or your skin color or would you identify yourself by your relationship with Christ?

As believers, we have been given a new identity.  My primary identification is no longer my ethnicity, nationality or heritage.  My primary identification is with Christ.  Colossians 3:4 puts it this way “Christ…is our life.”

Paul makes a similar point in Galatians 2:20 where he says:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

My primary identification is with Jesus not with myself.  Even though we might have differences in our physical features, our primary identification is not a physical one.  Christians have been made new!

2 Corinthians 5:16-17:

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

4) Believers in Jesus Christ are members of the same body.

Regardless of what evolutionary theory might try to teach us, we are all part of the same race.  Even without checking I could tell you who your first grandparents were.  We can all trace our family tree back to Adam and Eve, which means that we are all related.  The story of all people intersects, which means that learning about any group of people in history is learning about my history. Sadly, many African-Americans have been robbed of much of our immediate family history because of the horrific sins of the American slave trade but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know where we came from.

Far beyond our physical connection as mankind, we are also connected to each other spiritually as believers.  How close are we?  We are members of the same body! First Corinthians 12:13 says,For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

God places each member where He wants and the Spirit distributes to each member what He wills but we are all members of the same body. The church is considered a “new man” where distinctions between Jew and Gentile have been abolished and peace has been established (Ephesians 2:15). Can you even imagine Paul attempting to split the church into black and white congregations?  We are one body!  This means that the accomplishment of any member in Christ is the accomplishment of all of us!  I don’t have to search the pages of Church History to find “one of my own” because all believers belong to me!

Paul addresses the division in the Corinthian church by reminding them: “For all things belong to you,whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you” (1 Corinthians 3:21-22).

Every significant figure in church history is one of my people, because we are all connected, whether they share my physical traits or not. 

5) Believers in Jesus Christ are subjects of a heavenly kingdom.

There is one kingdom that will stand when all others have been crushed into powder.  Daniel 2 describes a vision where the kingdoms of the earth are depicted as different materials like iron, clay and bronze but the kingdom of God is pictured as the stone that crushes them all.  Listen to this awe-inspiring vision of the kingdom to come:

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).

As believers we have become citizens of that kingdom.  Our nation and its monuments will one day be crushed into powder.  It won’t matter who the majority culture is or who the minority culture is.  All that will matter is whether or not you have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).  

That’s why the preaching of the gospel has to remain central.  The gospel may not change every issue in your life but for those who believe, it changes the most important issue.  It places you into the Kingdom of Christ.  These are the kinds of truths that I was taught during my time at The Master’s Seminary, for which I am extremely grateful. Those who advocate a different approach to ministry don’t represent me.

If you are faithful to preach the gospel, I rejoice!  Paul rejoiced even over those who sought to cause him distress in his imprisonment (Philippians 1:17-18).  I am grateful for the faithful proclamation of the gospel, even if we disagree.

Maybe I’ll be considered a “white sheep” because of this post but I’m most concerned that I’m considered one of “God’s sheep” and Christ tells us that there is only “one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).


George Lawson is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and is the Pastor-Teacher of Baltimore Bible Church, a new church plant in Baltimore, MD (

Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the Bible – Part 2

The last post here at the Battle Cry was a video clip in which Todd Friel of Wretched Radio named names and shared direct quotations of prominent evangelical leaders. The video clip criticizes a movement while intentionally not criticizing evangelicals who have embraced elements of CRT.

Racism is Real

Let me emphasize right now that racism is real. Racism has been a problem since the fall of man and the entrance of sin into a world God declared “good – very good”. It permeates every society and culture on the planet in one way or another

What is Critical Race Theory?

In short, CRT looks at nearly every facet of our society through a ‘racial’ lens. As one author states:

Critical Race Theory Calls for Permanent, Codified Racial Preferences

At the heart of Critical Race Theory lies the rejection of colorblind meritocracy. “Formal equality overlooks structural disadvantages and requires mere nondiscrimination or “equal treatment.”[1] Instead, Critical Race Theory calls for “aggressive, color conscious efforts to change the way things are.”[2] It contemplates, “race-conscious decision making as a routine, non-deviant mode, a more or less permanent norm”[3] to be used in distributing positions of wealth, prestige, and power.[4]

That’s just one characteristic of CRT, perhaps the main one leading to many other characteristics and eventual outcomes at all levels of our society. This post is not intended to be a discussion of CRT. Rather, it asks a different question.

How should blood washed members of the body of Christ, and the church, behave?

Should the church behave like the society around us, and contemplate “race-conscious decision making as a routine, non-deviant mode, a more or less permanent norm?”. If we believe the words of prominent evangelicals (watch the video clip), it could seem like we are.

What does the Bible say about us?

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Eph 2:19-22)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:1-6)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:11)

so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom 12:5)

Does racism exist? Yes. It is born in the heart of sinful men. CRT would have us believe that ‘inanimate’ entities and institutions are racist (but just certain ones). As with any evil, racism begins in the hearts of the sinful human beings who make up entities and institutions. They key to lasting change is found in Christ, and only in Christ,  with the radical transformation of the human heart into the likeness of our Savior.

Does racism exist in the hearts and minds of professing believers? Only to the extent that the sin of racism has not been conquered in Christ. When racism raises its ugly head in the life of a believer, it must be confessed and repented of before a Holy God, and when appropriate, before those whom we have wronged.

What we, as individuals and as the church, do NOT need to do is behave like the society and culture around us, when the behavior of our society and culture contradicts what the Bible clearly states and teaches.

We should be shining examples of how things should be, not the way they are.

For further reading, should be interested:

Racism, Justified: A Critical Look at Critical Race Theory (Highly recommended)

What is Critical Race Theory?

Critical Race Theory, RTS, and SBTS

Critical race theory – Wikipedia

Did Jesus make us ‘flawless’ at the Cross?

According to the popular Christian song, “Flawless”, when Jesus went to the cross he made us ‘flawless’. To be fair, the song has a catchy tune, excellent instrumentation, and is really well sung! The song also speaks highly of God’s Amazing Grace:

Well let me introduce you to amazing grace. . .

Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did

That believers are sinful human beings clothed in the righteous of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest truths in all of scripture!

At the same time there is the often-repeated chorus that says. . .

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

So here’s the question for which I have been accused of ‘theological nit-picking: Is being ‘wrapped up in righteousness’ the same as being ‘flawless’?

To that question I must answer with a resounding ‘NO!’ ? I submit to you that although in Christ we are ‘wrapped up in His righteousness’, but we are far from ‘flawless’.

The term ‘flawless’ literally means perfect, without a blemish, without any mistakes or shortcomings. Folks, that’s not me, you, or anyone else. I’m sure you would agree with me.

We might be wrapped up in the flawlessness of Christ as we stand before God, but in no way are we ‘flawless’. We still sin daily in countless ways.

So what’s the big deal? Just a couple of things:

1. Even if the song’s author didn’t intend the literal meaning of ‘flawless’ in the song, but was talking about the believer’s flawlessness IN Christ, most listeners either cannot or will not pick up on that distinction. They will listen to and love the song because it tells them (over and over again) that the Cross has made THEM flawless. Regardless of what the song’s author might have intended, the words say otherwise.

2. It is Christ who is flawless, not us. We will all die as flawed sinful human beings. But for the righteousness of Christ with which we are clothed, we would spend eternity separated from God in a very dark and painful place.

3. The song ends up being man-centered and not God-glorifying at its core. The hearer is encouraged to focus more on his/her ‘flawlessness’ than God’s righteousness and the great sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

Theological nit-picking? Maybe, but I don’t think so. The man-centeredness of this song typifies much, if not most of contemporary Christian music. Some if it is really good, but most of it is about ‘us’ in one way or another.

So here’s my final question. Is man-centered Christian worship music, or man-centered Christianity, really ‘Christian’?

I’ll leave it there.

Five tulips in one field: Revelation 13:8-10

by Jesse Johnson


The “five points of Calvinism” are a mnemonic approach to understanding the complexity of our salvation. The doctrine of salvation can seem complicated because it incorporates hamartiology (the effects of sin on a person’s nature), Christology (the nature of Christ), theology proper (the sovereignty of God), and pneumatology (the work of the Holy Spirit). To put it another way, our salvation intersects with just about every major area of theology, and the five-points help us understand what exactly is going on when God saves us.

The five-points are often presented in an acronym form (T-U-L-I-P), and that is fitting because the whole point of extracting these five particular points of emphasis is to help us think memorably about salvation. While they are called the five points of Calvinism, they were not designed by John Calvin—although they do reflect some of the emphasis of his ministry, it is unfair to his legacy to confine it to the five points.

While the five points themselves were identified in the 1600’s, the acronym T-U-L-I-P didn’t come into use until the 1900’s in the United States (say what you will about Americans, but we are good at acronyms).

A common push back against the five points is to claim that they are an invention of man, and are not found in the Bible. In a limited sense I grant that is true: the phrase “total depravity’ is not in the Bible (nor is I suppose is “theology”), but the concepts themselves are obviously biblical, and there is no shortage of resources that make strong cases for them (like this long-form article on Desiring God, or an 8-part Grace To You series, or a 30-minute John MacArthur video).

But this year, I stumbled across a new (to me) approach to the five points. In studying for a sermon on Revelation 13:8-10, I realized that all five points are represented in this single concise passage:

All who dwell on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

T—Total Depravity

“All who dwell on the earth will worship the beast.” John declares that during the tribulation, every human will worship the beast, and by extension, the antichrist. Revelation 13:7 expressly says that it will include people from every ethnic group, language group, and nation. Verse 16 says that “all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave” will worship the antichrist. In other words, every human has the capacity to worship the devil and believe his lies.

It’s not just that humans are sinners. Total depravity means that we worship that which is evil. Nor is this confined to some future eschatological judgment on earth. Back before the flood God had already said that “every inclination of people’s hearts is only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Total Depravity doesn’t mean that people are as evil as they could be, but it does mean that every one of their actions, inclinations, and desires are all corrupted by sin; so much so that they will worship the antichrist, were he on earth. You could say it this way: there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who seeks for God; all have turned their own way.

This depravity is exactly what makes our salvation necessary.

U-Unconditional Election

“Everyone whose name has not been written from before the foundation of the world in the book of life.” While everyone is born depraved, and with the inclination toward worshiping the devil’s lies, that is not the end of the story. There is a sub-group of people that will be rescued from this, and they all have one thing in common: their names were written by God before the world was even created.

If you are a Christian, marvel that before your parents even met, God already knew you by name. Before our country was formed, before God spoke light into darkness, he knew you, and he knew you by name.

He didn’t know you because he saw that would do something good in your life. Rather, before you were “even born, or had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose in election might stand,” God wrote the names down of the people whom he would save.

He didn’t write everyone’s name down. Also, he didn’t write family names, or church names, or nation’s names. That’s because he doesn’t save nations, churches or families—he saves people, people whom he has known before they were even alive.

John presents this book as the causal effect for why one group of people does not worship the antichrist. There will be lots of differences between them and the rest of humanity (holiness, purity, worship, faith, etc.). But none of those are presented as the causal difference. John instead identifies this book with names as what separates those who will be saved from those that will perish resisting the gospel. And this book was written before anyone was born.

This election is what makes our salvation possible.

L-Limited Atonement

“..the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.” While I prefer the phrase “definite atonement” or “particular redemption,” those would mess up the acronym, so we are stuck with limited atonement, which is probably the most controversial of the five points.

But when you look at the book John sees, you see one of the places this doctrine comes from. The book is titled “The Book of Life,” and the copyright date is “before Day 1.” The content is a list of names. But closer inspection reveals that this book has a subtitle: “The Book of Life: of the Lamb that was slain.”

The book which describes whom God will save was written in light of the means by which God would save them. Jesus did not simply die a generic death for people everywhere, but a specific death to take away the punishment for the sins of specific, named people.

The Lamb indicates that the death was substitutionary and efficacious. Jesus’ death was in our place, and was effective at removing the sins of all for whom he died—even the sin of unbelief. In fact, once the Lamb died, our salvation was so accomplished that Jesus himself could declare, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

The atonement is what accomplishes our salvation.

I- Irresistible Grace

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” John inserts a refrain from the seven letters (Revelation 2-3), which serves as an appeal for those who are spiritual to see the spiritual truth which he is describing. And of course this is an adaptation of Jesus’ own explanation of why he taught in parables: “So that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (Mark 4:12).

If Jesus accomplished our salvation at the cross, how come people whose names are in the book of life spend much of their lives running from God and rejecting the gospel? Because of their depravity they are unwilling to turn and be saved, and this remains until God gives them spiritual ears to hear. This is called regeneration, and it has the effect of opening a person’s eyes to the truth, so that they can turn and be saved.

This happens in time, through the preaching of the word and the gift of faith. It is a work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8), and it results in a person able to hear spiritual truth through their faith (1 Corinthians 1:182 Corinthians 2:15, 4:3).

This grace is what makes our salvation a reality.

P—Perseverance of the Saints

“If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” John now quotes Jeremiah 15:1-6, which was Yahweh’s response to Jeremiah’s question. Yahweh told Jeremiah to evacuate Jerusalem, and the question was, “where, exactly, should they all go?”

God’s proposed destinations were less than encouraging. He said that some of them could be killed by the beasts, some by birds, some by famine, and some by plagues. In short, if God wants them to go to jail, to jail they will go. If he has chosen some of them for death by the sword, then by the sword they will die.

What is that reference doing in Revelation 13? Well for Christians under the antichrist’s reign of terror, they too might wonder “Where should we go?” The answer is simple: God has already chosen each person’s end. Some the antichrist will throw in jail, and some he will kill with the sword. But despite their martyrdom, the antichrist cannot take their salvation away. They may die a martyr’s death, but their names cannot be removed from the book of life. The cannot take Jesus off the cross, and he cannot take the Spirit out of believer’s hearts. And because their names are in the book, and Jesus did die for their sins, and they do have spiritual ears to hear, then they will overcome. Or, as John says, “this is the perseverance of the saints.”

Such a promise encourages believers to hold onto the grace that is holding onto them. It compels us to trust God even in the midst of horrific persecution.

This perseverance is what makes our salvation a certainty.

Taken together, these verses explain salvation by showing:

The condition that required it (depravity)

The predestination that allows it (election)

The substitution that achieves it (atonement)

The illumination that gives it (regenerative grace)

The sovereignty that keeps it (perseverance).

Source: The Cripplegate

What if there’s a power outage at Hillsong?

. . .or any other ‘church’ where the big attraction is the music?

Think about that for a minute. I know Christians who choose a church based on how much they like the ‘worship’ music, and I’m sure you do also. But what if the power went out and there were no more electric instruments, lights, smoke, etc.? All we would have left are lyrics.

If all we have left are the lyrics, would we ‘feel’ the Spirit come down, or is all that excitement generated from the stage and those great ‘worship’ feelings pretty much the same as a good U2 concert (name your band)? Is today’s ‘worship’ more about us than God?

And if all we have are the lyrics, what are they saying and teaching? Something to think about.

Fighting For The Faith discussed that very thing – lyrics – this last week titled “Heresy Hiding in Plain Sight” .

Enjoy, or not. The segment discusses some of the lyrics to specific worship songs from Hillsong. Protect your toes.

6 Ways Christians Lost Because of the SCOTUS Decision

I recently read an online article called 6 Ways Christians Lost This Week that immediately caught my attention but took a bit longer to process. The article seemed to say that because of some Christian responses to the SCOTUS ruling legalizing gay marriage, Christians ‘lost’ the following:

1) We lost the chance to be loving.

2) We lost the chance to be good neighbors.

3) We lost the chance to be Good Samaritans.

4) We lost the opportunity to show how big God is.

5) We lost the chance to reflect Christ.

6) We lost people.

There were explanations around those points, and even a few passages of scripture (taken out of context) to support the idea of Christians having ‘lost’ things, but what struck me was that the author claimed that Christians ‘lost’ all these things at all!. How could that be? How could we ever just lose ‘chances’ and ‘opportunities’? We can no longer reflect Christ to gay persons? Some Christians have been lost to the faith because of the responses of other Christians? None of it made any sense to me.

To find answers to my questions I took a closer look at the author’s web site and went straight to the ‘What We Believe’ page. Sadly, my questions were answered. The author proudly attends an ‘Emergent’ church in North Carolina. Among all of the core, and thoroughly emergent, beliefs of this church two statements stood out among the typical ‘emergent’ beliefs and practices mentioned at the church’s website:

1. “The scriptures are inspired by God: They are the words of humans.” (Emphasis mine)

2. “At ________, we believe that sin is not that big of a deal.”

The belief that the scriptures are inspired by God but are the words of humans is quite telling. It allows for a casual ‘head nod’ to God’s involvement in the development of scripture, but denies the authority of the Bible by claiming that the words in scripture are the words of humans, not God. .In the case of gay marriage, the humans who penned some really clear ‘words’ concerning homosexuality must have so totally misunderstood God’s ‘inspiration’ that they wrote down the exact opposite of God’s opinion/intent!

As for the thought that “sin is just not that big of a deal”, what can I say but that sin (any and all sin) is a VERY big deal with God. In fact, it’s such a big deal that it deserves eternal punishment in a place called Hell. It’s such a big deal that God sent his Son to live the perfect life that no man could (but must to inherit eternal life) and then poured out his just wrath upon his Son instead of us who deserve it!

So why is it again that Christians ‘lost’ so much? What did we do exactly? Some of us behaved rather poorly and didn’t communicate a lot of love in our responses. However, if the Holy Spirit is in the process of awakening blind eyes to the message of the gospel, even a message delivered poorly will accomplish God’s intent. Then there are those who ‘lovingly’ communicated God’s opinion in the matter at hand (quoted scripture). How did they cause such devastating ‘losses’? They DIDN’T. The Bible I read tells me that those living in sin and darkness love their sin and darkness. Furthermore, I don’t believe for a New York second that any true believer would deny his/her faith because he/she was informed of the truth of scripture. True believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who brings conviction of sin, maybe not right away, but eventually. And after conviction comes healing by the same power of God.

Then there were the comments to the original article, which are probably somewhere north of 1K by now. Many, if not most contain little if any value at all. Diatribes against ‘hateful’ Christians who refuse to affirm gay marriage and homosexuality as being approved of by a ‘loving’ God. Then there are those little verbal tennis matches between commentators on both sides of the debate, with both sides being less than polite in their discourse. I couldn’t keep up with all the scripture twisting or the claiming as scripture things that are nowhere written in the Bible – and by professing Christians!

I have no doubt that those who claimed Christ while affirming gay marriage were sincere. Their comments communicated their limited knowledge of the attributes of God. Their comments reflected that Gods only attribute is ‘love’. While I am equally certain that their ignorance is due to the lack of sound doctrine being taught in some of the churches they attend, they have no excuse for remaining ignorant. There is more access to the Bible today than ever before, in every form imaginable!

Would you pray with me that the Spirit of God would cause a deep desire in the hearts professing Christians who seem to be ‘children of a lesser God’ to really get to know God through his inspired Word. Relevant passages clearly stating what’s what concerning the big issue of the day have been shared numerous times. I am confident that those whose hearts have been opened by God will listen. Others will remain in their hardened state and continue to call us hateful for standing on God’s word and shake their fists at God.

A.D. The Degradation Continues – Episode 12

And Season 1 Concludes…….

Where to begin? Apparently, from a Hollywood perspective, the concluding episode for Season 1 was successful because Season 2 is in the works. You can actually get an alert when the release date is announced. I think I will pass on that one.

As TV series’ often do in a season’s final episode, A.D. brought together several story lines. We see that Cornelius, who appeared at the Cross at the beginning of the series, is the Cornelius who becomes a believer in the final episode. Some of us probably saw that coming. We did see the angel’s appearance to Cornelius and Peter’s vision recorded in Acts, chapter 10. We see Peter at the home of Cornelius and a Pentecost type of appearance of the Holy Spirit, complete with some wind, tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. Cornelius is baptized after he confesses some of his sins. In the series he had killed Joanna and whipped Tabitha. In Acts, Chapter 10 however we are told that Cornelius worshipped God and was highly thought of by ‘all the Jewish people’. The series was disconnected from Biblical reality.

The other major plot in the TV episode concerns the statue of Caligula entering Jerusalem to be placed in the temple, opposition from the disciples, the Jewish priests, and zealots waiting on the parapets to ambush the Roman soldiers accompanying the statue. Cornelius, now a believer, is in charge of the Roman soldiers and confronts Peter in front of the temple. The disciples kneel before the roman contingent, the Priests, including Caiaphas kneel and offer their necks to the Romans. The Disciples and Cornelius recite the Lord’s Prayer and at the same time the priests recite a Jewish prayer from Psalm 57.

Everything surrounding the statue of Caligula is 99.999% pure fiction. Yes, Caligula did command that his statues be scattered throughout the Roman controlled world. Historians tell us that Jerusalem might be the only place Caligula’s statue did NOT appear.

A statue was built and dispatched to Jerusalem, but it never arrived. A newly elected leader of Syria, one Petronius, was charged with the delivery, NOT Cornelius. The statue made it as far as Ptolemais, a cosmopolitan port city in Galilee (70+ miles NW of Jerusalem). The Jewish outcry was tremendous, Jewish peasants revolted, and necks were offered to the Roman soldiers (the .001% accuracy?). The peasants also threatened to stop planting crops, which would have hurt the Roman economy. A letter was sent back to Rome to reconsider sending a statue to Jerusalem, and Caligula answered in another letter that Petronius would be executed if he didn’t deliver the statue. That letter never made it to Ptolemais due to really bad weather. Caligula was assassinated, the news of the assassination did reach Petronius (better weather), and the statue never made it to Jerusalem.

There is also a lot of dialogue amongst the disciples concerning being in the end times and the statue of Caligula being the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of in Matthew 24, and fear that the end of time and Christ’s return was imminent. In the episode, James the Just asked the big ‘what if it’s not’ question. None of that dialogue is actually recorded in the book of Acts, but I guess it made for good drama.

At the very end, Cornelius nearly flees Jerusalem with Pilate’s wife, who earlier had an ‘almost’ knock down drag out with her husband. The setup for the beginning of next season is a Roman soldier drawing a sword against Peter, leaving us in suspense.

The Issues, Etc. review, found here, is interesting and informative. Lutheran Pastor Ted Giese is asked to rate the series from a secular perspective and from a Pastor’s theological perspective. I liked his answers but will leave you in suspense, with a desire to listen to the interview.

Having said all that, I am not sure if I will watch and comment on the next season. I watched this season mostly in order to be able to engage in discussion(s) about it with both believers and nonbelievers. I never did overhear a discussion about any of the series that I could join. When I asked other believers if they were watching, most were not. They had no interest in what they knew was mostly conjecture and fiction. I did benefit personally by rereading certain portions of Acts, just to make sure I wasn’t being too critical. Digging into historical sources was also beneficial.

My main beef with the producers is having called it ‘The Bible Continues’. All Scripture is inspired (breathed out) by God…. (2 Timothy 3:16), not Hollywood. They could have just called it ‘Left Behind – The Book of Acts’.

A.D. The Degradation Continues, Episode 9

From Acts 9

The episode begins with Saul/Paul leaving the temple in Damascus after having preached about Jesus and causing a bit of a ruckus. He is let down over the wall in a basket.>the Acts account states that after he spent many days in Damascus there was a plot to kill him by the religious Jews and he did escape in a basket.

Switch to the Jerusalem Palace where Caligula is holding court and demanding obeisance, even to the point of asking a man who had sworn allegiance to his father (to even die for him) and also swore allegiance to Caligula, to kill himself, which he did, appealing to ‘the gods’ to find favor with him.

The episode is dominated by politics and intrigue in the palace. At the same time, it appeared in the episode that women are clearly large & in charge of things (primarily the wives of Caiphas and Pilate). Since all of the drama and intrigue is foreign to scripture, I will omit the recounting this time. It’s barely worth it. I will say that historians, mainly Josephus, do record Caligula’s desire to have his statue placed in the temple and elsewhere in Jerusalem (circa 39 A.D.) but his efforts to do so were eventually frustrated. The drama of the television episode is largely fictional, however.

The other dominating scene in this episode is the eventual meeting of Saul with the disciples in Jerusalem, which is quite ‘interesting’.

Here is the entirety of the account in Acts, Chapter 9:26 – 30:

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.”

The television version is rather lengthy and drawn out with significant drama not in the biblical account. In the TV version, Saul first tells some of the disciples that he is now a believer in Jesus and ends up having a private session with Peter to sort things out. In that scene, Saul seems to ‘school’ Peter concerning how they should partner and boldly preach the gospel (Peter and the boys are still a bit fearful at times.

If I were asked about what I would consider the most problematic issue with episode 9, I would discuss the scene in which Saul, as part of his testimony, said to the disciples “I was baptized and made brand new”. In the biblically account, we are told simply that Barnabas recounted Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus.

Although one could debate whether or not this episode of A.D. intended to imply that water baptism causes one to be regenerated, ‘baptismal regeneration’ was clearly implied. While some might think I’m being a bit picky, I would remind readers that ‘baptismal regeneration’ is a primary tenet of the Catholic Church, while certain Protestant denominations would also consider water baptism necessary for salvation/regeneration. It’s interesting to note that the main producer of A. D. (Roma Downey) is Roman Catholic.

This leads to the issue of whether or not regeneration itself (being born again) is a sovereign act of God (monergistic) or the result of God and man working together (synergistic). In the synergistic paradigm, which would be the prevailing thought in most of today’s protestant evangelicalism, God made it possible for men to be saved by sending His Son to die, however it is a human ‘free will’ decision that brings about regeneration. I believe very strongly that regeneration is a sovereign act of God upon His elect whereby their hearts are opened to receive the message of the gospel and when that message is presented to a God opened heart, salvation always results.

There are other things that, to me, were problematic as well, both historically and biblically that I will refrain from discussing for the moment.

Another example of reducing the story of the establishment of the early church to mass/crass entertainment. Enough said for now. I can’t wait for the next episode!

If/when this episode is reviewed at Issues, Etc. I will also post that link.