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ETHICS AND SITUATIONS

THE ETHICS OF CHRISTIAN


MORALITY; IS IT BIBLICAL?

Edited by jeffperado
BNOresearch Press

Big Picture Enterprises


2015
Table of Contents

The Anchor of Theology by Janet Mefferd | Reformed


Theology Articles at Ligonier.org
Intolerable Tolerance by Robert Rothwell | Reformed
Theology Articles at Ligonier.org
Wright Is Wrong on Imputation by Thomas Schreiner |
Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org
What Are You Worried About? by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed
Theology Articles at Ligonier.org
Heaven by Gerrit Scott Dawson | Reformed Theology Articles
at Ligonier.org
A Conspiracy of Goodness by William Edgar | Reformed
Theology Articles at Ligonier.org
Intolerable Tolerance
by Robert Rothwell

Ligonier.org

One of my seminary professors had a true story that he would tell in


order to illustrate the false humility of postmodern relativism. While he
was a professor at a state university, he had a student who was an
evangelical Christian. One Sunday, this student was visiting a liberal
church in the downtown area of a big city. The pastor, who had embraced
relativism with enthusiasm, was preaching a sermon that began with the
statement “all religious beliefs are true,” and it went downhill from there.
Minute by minute, the preacher told the congregation that all faiths were
equally valid and that salvation was available to all, no matter what his or
her belief system was. The student who was visiting the church could not
take such nonsense and got up to leave as the pastor was bringing his
sermon to a conclusion. As the student was leaving, the pastor called out
to him. Desiring to use the young man to illustrate his point, he asked the
student what his religious beliefs were. The student turned and said “Sir, I
believe you are preaching another gospel, and that you are in danger of
going to hell.” Needless to say, the pastor was incensed at the student and
began mocking and berating him. So much for all religious beliefs being
equally valid.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “It does not matter what
you believe, as long as you believe it.” “All paths lead to salvation.” “No one
who is sincere will be left out of the kingdom.” The pastor in the above
story clearly held this view, and it is the prevailing sentiment in American
culture. It is yet another example of the postmodern emphasis on the
relativity of truth. All sincere beliefs are true, no matter if they contradict
the beliefs of another.

These ideas are promoted in the guise of tolerance: “We cannot judge
another person.” “We must accept anything another person believes.” “We
cannot tell them they might be wrong because to do so would
be intolerant.”

But it is laughable to suggest that these ideas are tolerant. As the story
above demonstrates, all religious beliefs are tolerated, as long as they do
not claim any exclusivity for themselves. As soon as someone holds to a
religious belief that claims exclusivity, that person’s belief is no longer
accepted. The moment someone claims truth or universality for their belief
system, that person loses all credibility in our culture.

When people say “it does not matter what you believe, as long as you
believe it,” they are displaying false humility. They do not really hold to
this statement. They certainly do not accept it in “non-religious” settings.
No one lives their life consistently believing that the only thing that
matters is sincerity. If they did, they would encourage others to drink
poison if those others sincerely believed it was not poison. They would tell
others to go ahead and run red lights if those others sincerely believed a
red light meant go. They would not make fun of scientists who held to
intelligent design as opposed to Darwinian theory if it really did not matter
what a person believes.

No, to say “it does not matter what you believe, as long as you believe it,”
applies only to religious matters. But as we have seen, even that idea
applies only to certain religious beliefs. Tolerance only goes so far.

This statement is the height of arrogance. Mankind will do whatever it


can to avoid the claims of an exclusive God. They will ignore the logic they
use in “non-religious” areas of life and attempt to violate the law of non-
contradiction by assuming that the contradictory beliefs of Christians,
Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, et al. are all mutually
compatible. But when they denounce the exclusive claims of Christianity
for the sake of tolerance, they embrace the law of noncontradiction in
order to uphold their real allegiance to the god of religious relativism. For
them it is exclusively true that all religious beliefs are true. If this were
not so, they would not hate us for claiming otherwise.

It is easy to see how the god of religious relativism permeates the


secular culture. For example, we often hear the claim that Islam is a
religion of peace, while judges who claim that there exists a universal
natural law by which all societies should be governed are immediately
held suspect. Less readily apparent, however, is that the god of religious
relativism is making inroads into the church. Since Vatican II, some
Roman Catholics teach that sincere belief is adequate to get into heaven.
Even some “evangelical” churches are filled with people who think
unbelievers who have not heard of Christ will be going to heaven.

Our age is filled with those who would try to downplay the laws of
reason. We encounter people everyday who live their religious lives as if
the law of noncontradiction does not matter. But the God of Scripture is
an exclusive God; there is none other beside Him. And Jesus is the only
way to Him (John 14:6). But when the culture embraces postmodern
relativism, these claims are set aside. And if the church does the same, she
too will deny her Lord.
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


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What Are You Worried About?


by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed
Theology Articles at
Ligonier.org
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-are-you-
worried-about/

What Are You Worried About?

by R.C. Sproul Jr.

We are inveterate plea-bargainers. We are adept at the art of the deal.


Romans 1 tells us that in our fallen condition, we all deny the God we
know exists. We know we stand guilty before Him, but we suppress that
truth in unrighteousness. But, we do not want to be utterly and completely
selfish, absolutely unrestrained. So we submit to sundry creatures, gods of
our own making. We are willing to have, for instance, “god-to-me” in our
lives, if it will keep the living God at bay. We are willing to admit some
level of guilt—“nobody’s perfect”—in order to avoid entering into the
fullness of our wretchedness. And we are willing to fear some minor
inconveniences, if it will keep terror away.

When Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount, He treated His audience
as though they were believers. He told those who had gathered that they
were the light of the world and the salt that preserves the world.
Unbelievers, however, do not go unaddressed. In calling on believers to set
aside their petty fears and to embrace a single-minded passion for the
kingdom of God, in chastening those assembled for worrying about what
they will eat and what they will wear, He says, “For the Gentiles seek after
all these things” (Matt. 6:32).

This worrying, too, is plea-bargaining. It is an attempt to squelch one


dreadful fear by replacing it with a merely annoying fear. It is a great win
to be able to sigh in relief after honestly assessing, “What’s the worst that
could happen?” If I don’t have enough to eat, that could be bad, from a
certain perspective. If I have nothing to wear, that too could be bad, from a
certain perspective. Either of these deprivations could, at worst, lead to my
death, through starvation or exposure. That, it seems in our day, is at the
root of our fears. We live in a culture where death is looked upon as an
option to be delayed. Exercise, diets, surgeries, cosmetics, and Photoshop
are the tools of our trade by which we avert our eyes from the truth that
we are dying.

We have not, however, reached the end of our bargaining. We prefer


worrying about what we will eat or wear to worrying about dying. But we
prefer to worry about dying rather than worry about hell. Dying, after all,
happens only once, and then it is over. Hell, on the other hand, is forever. I
would argue that far more terrifying than the pain of hell is its duration.
A great deal of pain for even a relatively brief time is less than a pain that
lasts forever. What unbelievers ought to be worrying about is not he who
can kill the body, but He who can kill both body and soul (Matt. 10:28).

This, in turn, ought to tell us for what we should be most grateful. This
great fear is no longer on the table for those who trust in the finished
work of Christ alone. What are we doing spending our time worrying
about the plea-bargained fears of the Gentiles when we are free of their
ultimate fear? Why should we worry about what we will eat when we
feast on the body and blood of our Lord? Why should we worry about
what we will wear when we are clothed in His righteousness?

Hell should not, however, fall off our radar even though we need no
longer fear it. First, we are called to constant thanks and gratitude that we
will never experience hell. We are called to remember that on the cross
Christ descended into hell for us, that He received the full wrath and fury
of the Father due to us for our sins. But second, hell did not disappear.
Why are we worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear while
there are people out there who will end up in hell unless they repent, but
are instead worrying only about what they will eat or what they will
wear? It is bad enough that they who want to deny that hell exists worry
about petty things. How much worse is it that we who affirm the reality of
hell worry about petty things?

When we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we are
not merely seeking to get in before the gates close. It is not merely our
own entrance that we seek as we seek the kingdom. Rather, we are about
the business of seeing the glory of the reign of Christ over all things made
known all across the globe. Which means we seek the kingdom as we seek
to be used of the King to bring in the elect from the four corners of the
world. We seek the kingdom when we proclaim the good news to a lost
and dying world. We seek the kingdom when the Spirit uses us to snatch
brands not just from the fire, but from the fire that never dies.

We are none of us conscious enough of hell. Were we so, we would be


marked by both gratitude and urgency, gratitude for our own rescue,
urgently laboring for the rescue of others. Hell is real, and hell is forever.

© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
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A Conspiracy of Goodness by
William Edgar | Reformed
Theology Articles at
Ligonier.org
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/conspiracy-
goodness/

A Conspiracy of Goodness

by William Edgar

There is a small village in the center of France with a unique history. In


the midst of World War II, the country was partly occupied and partly
“free,” meaning the French government, headquartered at Vichy, led by
Maréchal Pétain, cooperated with the Germans, who in turn granted a
certain measure of liberty to its citizens. Everyone understood, however,
that no true freedom existed in either of these zones. The Nazis bore
down hard and had no intentions of allowing any sort of independence
from the claims of the Third Reich. In this context, and particularly in
France, Jews and other “misfits,” such as handicapped people, were
regularly denounced by the authorities and sent to concentration camps in
Poland. All told, French collaborators turned over some 83,000 Jews,
including 10,000 children, for deportation to the death camps. Only 3,000 of
them returned.

One place turned out to be a powerful exception to this complicity. In the


Haute Loire, on the plateau of the Ardèche, a farming village called Le
Chambon-sur-Lignon made history by harboring some 5,000 refugees,
most of them Jews, many of them children. A good deal of sacrifice was
involved. The village basically doubled its size. Families took in children
and their parents, making them feel as though they were fellow
“Chambonnais” (citizens of Le Chambon), going to school, working on the
farms, sharing meals, and so forth. There was great risk involved. The
village became a center for the forgery of documents. It was obvious that
Jews had virtually doubled the population of this remote village. The Nazis
were not entirely stupid. Occasionally they would raid the village and
interrogate the people, asking them about the children. But the
Chambonnais stood firm.

The story gets more interesting. Almost all of the Chambonnais were
Huguenot Christians. France had persecuted Protestants heavily, especially
during the eighteenth century. Those who did not flee, and those who
were not put to death for their faith, survived in particular pockets of the
country. They kept the memories alive by meeting in worship, hearing the
Bible preached by their pastors, and singing the psalms as well as folk
songs that recounted their story. They felt a special affinity for the Jews.
Le Chambon became the safest place in Europe for refugees from the
Nazi horrors.

Most extraordinary of all, the Chambonnais did not feel they were
heroes. One of those born in Le Chambon, Pierre Sauvage, moved with his
family to America, where he became a filmmaker. Out of curiosity about
his origins, he did a documentary on Le Chambon called Weapons of the
Spirit. When he returned to his birthplace with a film crew, he
interviewed the somewhat reluctant villagers. Over and over he found that
they did not think of themselves as courageous champions who had defied
the Nazis. Instead, they quietly did what very few others could do, saving
thousands of people from their oppressors. Why? How? “It’s simple,” they
explained, “love God and love your neighbor; that’s what Christians do.”
Never mind that most of the so-called Christians in Europe at best turned
a blind eye or at worst participated in betraying the Jews to their
tormentors. Pierre Sauvage was shocked to discover that these Huguenots
had gone to the greatest trouble, risking their lives, threatening their very
livelihoods, simply because that is what Christians need to do when
someone is in trouble. No questions asked.

The local Reformed church became a center of reinforcement for this


extraordinary non-heroic bravery. On Maréchal Pétain’s birthday, it
refused to ring the bell as ordered. Pastor André Trocmé was asked to
stop taking in Jews by his denominational headquarters. He flat-out
refused, adding danger to himself, his family, and his flock. But historians
agree that even without the skills of this clerical leader, the people of the
village would have acted the same.

The Germans knew something was going on. They had lists of the
citizens, and some of the names were demonstrably Jewish. But a number
of their soldiers were tired of their own disturbing tactics. At least one of
them, fairly high up, decided to ignore the names on the lists. The
comment in the documentary says of him, “You just never know who
might get caught up in a conspiracy of goodness.”

A conspiracy of goodness, indeed. Today, “being good” is more likely to


invoke condescending nods by cynics who can only imagine the good to
be something like the naïve behavior of a goody two-shoes. If a friend tells
you you’re a “good boy” or a “good girl,” that usually means you are a nice
person, you are not especially devious, and you stay out of trouble, but you
are not very clever. How far is such a notion from the grit of the
Chambonnais, who faced immeasurable dangers because they were…good.

According to the Scriptures, the Chambonnais are right. Goodness has


an active power. When God had finished His mighty acts of creation, He
contemplated His finished work and judged that it was “very good” (Gen.
1:31). The wonderful Hebrew word tov (“good”) means not only that it was
beautiful, but that it was profoundly valuable, most fitting, full of integrity.
This level of goodness has its deepest resource in God Himself. “Let your
saints rejoice in your goodness,” Solomon prays at the dedication of the
temple (2 Chron. 6:41). After the ark has been brought safely back to
Jerusalem and the covenant with David is renewed, David exclaims with
profound gratitude, “And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words
are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant” (2 Sam.
7:28). God’s truth is a good thing. The gospel itself is a call to enjoy the
very goodness of God (Titus 3:4). It is good news because it comes from a
good God, a uniquely good God (Luke 18:19).

Ultimately, a thing is good because God calls it good. But He can call a
thing good because He is Himself the source of all goodness. He defines
the good. Although we may have a conscience that tells us some basics
about what is good, there are times when what God says may be
counterintuitive to us. This is true of our suffering. It may not seem
appropriate for Christians to be called to suffer. But that is indeed our
high calling in Christ (Phil. 1:29).

Even when bad things happen to us, though, everything works together
for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His
purpose (Rom. 8:28). We should be careful here. Not everything in itself is
good. But when God ordains the circumstances of our lives, even the evils
in our experience contribute to a good outcome. The French translation of
Romans 8:28 uses a musical metaphor: “…all things concert together for
the good.” Every part of the orchestra is needed to make a good symphony,
including instruments or melodies that would not sound at all good if
played solo, isolated from the whole.

Not only does God direct all things so that the ultimate outcome is good,
but while we remain on earth we can be doers of the good. The gospel
engenders goodness in us, God’s people. Through Christ’s finished work,
we may change from being evildoers to doers of good. “Do not be
overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” Paul tells his Roman
readers (Rom. 12:21). We can do this in Christ because He is able to give us
power to be good, a power not possible for sinful people in and of
themselves (3:12).

Radical, biblical goodness is profoundly connected with both beauty and


truth. “In a world without beauty, the good also loses its attractiveness.”
This saying from Hans Urs von Balthassar (The Lord of Glory, vol. 1, p. 18)
could no doubt be expanded to include the true. Indeed, neither beauty
nor goodness is possible without a basis in truth. Of course, many
philosophers from Nietzsche on have believed that we can be good without
God. But there are two problems with this approach. First, it is not borne
out in history. Although there are undoubtedly “good” people who do not
confess the name of Christ, the logic of denying God in matters of morality
most often leads to great darkness. Nietzsche himself mocked the Christian
view of goodness and favored instead the pagan virtue of raw power. He
is considered an unwitting predictor of the Nazi muscle that destroyed so
many people and so much goodness.

But second, true goodness is not restricted to following rules. Moral


behavior, if it is to be good in any biblical sense, must be motivated by the
desire to give God glory. Not only following the right rules, but doing it for
the sake of God’s honor is the only acceptable supreme good, the summum
bonum. This kind of goodness is simply not possible without God. Nor is it
possible outside of the power of the gospel. Only when we have been
gripped by the grace of the Lord can we seek not our own welfare but the
good of our neighbors (1 Cor. 10:24).

If only we saw this more clearly, we could, like the Chambonnais, resist
the evils of our time. We could proffer the good on our confused and
twisted world. And, like them, we might see many people caught up in a
conspiracy of goodness. After all, is not the gospel God’s own conspiracy
of goodness?

© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and
distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the
wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
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Heaven by Gerrit Scott


Dawson | Reformed Theology
Articles at Ligonier.org
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/heaven/

Heaven

by Gerrit Scott Dawson

As we discussed heaven, my wife asked a fascinating pair of questions:


“How do you think God’s presence with us in heaven will compare to His
presence in Eden? Will it be as intimate?” These questions get us right
down to the heart of why we want to know about heaven. Once, God
walked with us in the garden in the cool of the day. Once, we related to
God and to one another with no barriers, no shame. Once, we did not die.
Will it be so again? Will heaven answer the yearnings for love and life
that are in every heart?

In both the Old and New Testaments, the same words we translate as
“heaven” can have different meanings depending on the context. First,
heaven can mean simply the sky above us, either the atmosphere where
the birds fly or space where the stars are flung. In that sense, heaven is
simply part of this reality where we live. Second, heaven can mean the
realm of God, a “place” beyond our sense perception. Heaven in this sense
is spiritual, for “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and heaven is where we consider
the uncontainable, omnipresent God to dwell. This is the main way we
think of heaven today.

We see both these senses used in one of the Bible’s most important
passages on heaven. In Revelation 21:1, John sees “a new heaven and a
new earth.” Here, heaven means the sky and the deeps of space in which
our earth resides. But John also sees the new Jerusalem “coming down out
of heaven from God” (21:2). Here, heaven is a spiritual reality. The wonder
in this passage is that the two senses of heaven are being joined. The
heavenly city is coming from the realm of God to the realm of man. This
means that the divide between God and His creation will be closed. After
sin’s long interruption, we will in heaven at last become all we were
meant to be.

So let’s peek in on John’s vision to glean some thrilling information


about what heaven will be like at the consummation. The Apostle reports
that he heard a loud voice declare, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is
with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God
himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from
their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning
nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”
(21:3–4). Two foundational truths about heaven arise from these verses.

Embodied Existence

The text tells us that mourning and pain will disappear. This is not
because we will lose our memories, our emotions, or even our nerve
receptors. It is because any cause for such anguish will be gone. Heaven
will be, in a sense, even more real than this “real” world we live in now.

How may we be sure of this? We anchor our hopes to the Son of God
who became man for our sakes. We know that Jesus has ascended into
heaven and still retains His resurrection body. So Paul could write that
Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil.
3:20). The body that Jesus has now is the very same kind of body we will
have in heaven. Jesus has been outfitted, so to speak, for an embodied life
in heaven. His body has been transformed, but it is also still Him, still
Jesus. So, too, we will be ourselves, only more so as we too receive
resurrection bodies fit for embodied existence in a real heaven.

Covenant Communion

Throughout Scripture, we read that the intention of God has been to


create intimate communion with His people. Salvation history may be
summed up in the phrase: “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
In Revelation 21, we see this vision fulfilled. The triune God will dwell, will
have His very life, in intimate relation with the community of people to
whom He has bound Himself forever.
Heaven is described in terms of the the new city of Jerusalem. There will
be robust interaction among those who are the people, the body, the bride
of Christ. We will relate in love to one another. But at the same time that
God will relate to all of us as one body, God will also relate to each of us
personally. He will wipe away every tear. A hand to the face to gently
daub away a tear is deeply intimate. That’s how close His healing presence
will be to each person in heaven.

In summary, the stab of longing in our hearts for our Lord since the fall
will be fulfilled in heaven. The intimacy we will have with God and one
another will be even greater than that of our first parents.

© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and
distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the
wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of
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applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
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formally approved by Tabletalk.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-
800-435-4343.

The Anchor of Theology by


Janet Mefferd | Reformed
Theology Articles at
Ligonier.org
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/anchor-
theology/

The Anchor of Theology

by Janet Mefferd

“Why aren’t Christian women interested in theology?” I often hear that


question (usually from men), and I’m never sure how to answer. That’s
likely because I can’t relate to the premise that Christian women aren’t
interested in theology—the study of God.

This wasn’t always true of me. If I’d heard that question when I was a
college student, I probably would have answered, “Theology is for pastors.
The most important thing is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I had a lot to learn.

At the time, my thinking about Christianity was influenced heavily by my


interest in contemporary Christian music. And one of my favorite songs
was the Twila Paris tune, “Do I Trust You?” Twila had written the song to
express her grief after her friend and fellow Christian singer, Keith Green,
was killed in a plane crash. The song really resonated with me. I’d lost my
best friend to leukemia just a few years before, so I knew exactly how
Twila felt as she poured out her honest grief to the Lord: “Shaken down to
the cavity in my soul, I know the doctrine and theology. But right now they
don’t mean much to me.”

Yes, I thought. There are times when the last thing you need is theology.

Eventually, my Twila Paris cassette ended up in a shoebox somewhere.


And while I still loved Christian music, the Lord was turning me in a
new direction.

It started with a providential turn when I came across Dr. James


Montgomery Boice’s book The Christ of Christmas in a public library.
When I opened that book and read Dr. Boice’s deep, biblical exegesis of the
Christmas story, I immediately thought: “He knows the same Jesus I do—but
I’ve never read anyone who knew so much about Him.”

I was naïvely stunned that anything about Jesus could be new to me. I’d
been in church all my life. I became a Christian as a child. I went to
Sunday School and Bible study. But after I read Dr. Boice’s book, I suddenly
realized how little I really knew about the Lord and His Word. I was
starving for truth, and I wanted more of it.

I bought every book by Dr. Boice that I could find, and I also started
filling my book shelves with titles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-
Jones, Dr. John MacArthur, and others. I learned about the nature and
character of God, the redemptive work of Jesus, sanctification. I was eating
it up. I would read a Christian book, then my Bible, back and forth.

Without fully realizing it, I had come to love theology.

What’s more, I was beginning to understand what John Calvin meant


when he said in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that “nearly all
the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom,
consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” This is what
studying theology was helping me to grasp. I was realizing the depths of
my sin and God’s amazing grace to me in Christ. And as I grew in my
knowledge about God, I was drawing closer to Him, as He lovingly and
patiently sanctified me.

A short time later, my Twila Paris tape resurfaced. As I popped the


cassette back into the tape player, I was anxious to hear my old favorite
song, “Do I Trust You?” And soon, I heard the familiar lyric: “Shaken down
to the cavity in my soul, I know the doctrine and theology. But right now
they don’t mean much to me.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Did she just sing, “Doctrine and
theology…don’t mean much to me”?

I love your music, Twila, I thought. But I don’t agree! When grief shakes
me “down to the cavity in my soul,” theology now means everything to me.

I may not “feel” the presence of God when I grieve, but because I know
that He is sovereign, that He cares for me, and that He is close to the
brokenhearted, I can endure whatever situation He has ordained for me.
It’s precisely because of the emotional ups and downs of life that the
Christian must be rooted in theology—in the objective truth about God in
His Word.

This is true for every Christian to understand, but perhaps especially for
women. Though many women do love theology, others discount it in favor
of mere subjective experience with God. Yet we ignore theology to our
peril. As C.S. Lewis noted, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not
mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of
wrong ones—bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.”

What’s more, women need to remember the spiritual benefit of glorifying


God with our minds. Studying theology helps us to understand and love
the great God who saved us. It enables us to think properly about God, and
it anchors our emotions in truth as we “grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

That’s why if we love the Lord, then we should love learning about Him.
Theology should mean much to us.

© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
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Wright Is Wrong on Imputation


by Thomas Schreiner |
Reformed Theology Articles at
Ligonier.org
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/wright-wrong-
imputation/

Wright Is Wrong on Imputation

by Thomas Schreiner

“It is therefore a straightforward category mistake, however


venerable within some Reformed traditions including part of my own, to
suppose that Jesus ‘obeyed the law’ and so obtained ‘righteousness’
which could be reckoned to those who believe in him. …It is not the
‘righteousness’ of Jesus Christ which is ‘reckoned’ to the believer. It is
his death and resurrection.”
—N.T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, p. 232

A Survey of Wright’s View

Is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer an artificial


construct, an idea from systematic theology that does not truly come from
the Bible? N.T. Wright argues that the traditional view of imputation veers
away from the Pauline meaning. He defends his reading by emphasizing
that justification language in Paul stems from the law court.
Righteousness, then, has to do with one’s legal status and should not be
confused with one’s moral character. When we think of a law court, says
Wright, it is clear that the idea of imputation is ruled out, for in a law
court no one is vindicated on the basis of the judge’s righteousness. The
judge, Wright insists, cannot give or transfer his righteousness to the
defendant. The issue is whether the judge declares the person being
charged to be in the right — whether the judge finds in the favor of the
one being charged. Hence, justification speaks to the status of a person,
not to their moral character. Nor is there any idea that their behavior or
misbehavior is the basis of the verdict passed. Justification means that one
has been acquitted or vindicated by the judge.

A Response to Wright’s View

Wright’s interpretation is wrong and confusing on several levels, and so


we need to examine the issues one at a time. First, he rightly says that
justification has to do with the law court and represents a legal
declaration. When we are justified, God as the judge finds in our favor and
declares us to be in the right before him. Wright is right on this matter.

Second, however, Wright leads us astray when he says that justification


is a legal declaration and hence it is not based on one’s moral character. A
couple of things need to be untangled here. In one sense, of course,
justification is not based on our moral character, for God justifies the
ungodly (Rom. 4:5). If justification depended on our moral worth, then no
one would be justified. But Wright fails to state clearly the role that moral
character plays in justification, and because he separates moral character
entirely from the law court he fails to see the role that Christ’s
righteousness plays in imputation. When a judge in Israel declared a
person to be innocent or guilty, he did so on the basis of the moral
innocence or guilt of the defendant. The biblical text is quite clear that
judges render a verdict on the basis of the moral behavior of the
defendant. This is clear from Deuteronomy 25:1: “If there is a dispute
between men and they come into court and the judges decide between
them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.” For Wright to
say, then, that one’s moral behavior has nothing to do with the judge’s
declaration flies in the face of the biblical evidence. Indeed, the only basis
for the legal declaration was one’s moral behavior — whether one was
innocent or guilty.

Third, what does all of this have to do with imputation? The


fundamental question is how God can declare sinners to be righteous.
How can a verdict of “not guilty” be pronounced over those who are
ungodly and sinners? For a judge to declare that the wicked are righteous
is contrary to the way judges should behave (see Prov. 17:15). So how can
God be righteous in declaring the wicked to be righteous? The answer of
Scripture is that the Father, because of His great love, sent His Son, who
willingly and gladly gave Himself for sinners, so that the wrath that
sinners deserved was poured out upon the Son (Rom. 3:24–26). God can
declare sinners to be in the right because they are forgiven by Christ’s
sacrifice. God vindicates His moral righteousness in the justification of
sinners since Christ takes upon Himself the punishment sinners deserve. It
is clear, then, that moral character plays a vital role in justification, for
God’s own holiness must be satisfied in the cross of Christ for forgiveness
to be granted.

Wright insists that no judge in the courtroom can give his righteousness
to the defendant. The mistake Wright makes here is astonishing, for he
should know that the meaning and the significance of the law court in
Scripture cannot be exhausted by its cultural background. In other words,
it is true that in human courtrooms the judge does not and cannot give
his righteousness to the defendant. But we see the distinctiveness of the
biblical text and the wonder and the glory of the gospel precisely here.
God is not restricted by the rules of human courtrooms. This is a most
unusual courtroom indeed, for the judge delivers up His own Son to pay
the penalty. That doesn’t happen in human courtrooms! And the judge
gives us His own righteousness (see Phil. 3:9 and 2 Cor. 5:21). The biblical
text, then, specifically teaches that God, as the divine judge, gives us His
righteousness. When we are united to Christ by faith, all that Christ is
belongs to us. Hence, we stand in the right before God because we are in
Christ. Our righteousness, then, is not in ourselves. We rejoice that we
enjoy the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Once again, moral
character enters the picture, contrary to Wright. We stand in the right
before God because our sins have been forgiven and because we enjoy the
righteousness of Jesus Christ.

© Tabletalk magazine
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Christian Ethics of Personhood
Table of Contents
1. The Ethics of Personhood
2. Abortion
3. Understanding Personhood
4. How much weight should our opposition to
abortion carry in our voting decisions? by R.C.
Sproul Jr.
The Ethics of Personhood
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/ethics-
personhood/

The Ethics of Personhood


by Justin Holcomb
Human history is tragically full of examples of the
persecution and oppression that arise when those in power
create their own definitions of human personhood and rights
so as to exclude and misuse certain groups of people.
Scripture is clear that God has given all human beings
dignity, personhood, and rights. The biblical understanding
of personhood provides the essential foundation for ethical
decisions about how to treat other people.
The Biblical View of Personhood
The Bible begins with God, the sovereign Creator of all
things: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the
earth” (Gen. 1:1). His handiwork, everything from light to land
to living creatures, is called “good.” But humanity, being the
very image of God, is the crown of creation—“behold, it was
very good” (v. 31). As such, human beings reveal God more
wonderfully than any other creature.
In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man in our image.”
In the beginning, our Creator gave us a remarkable title: “the
image of God.” This expression reveals the dignity of all
human beings because it designates people as
representatives of the King of the universe. As the image of
God, humans are given special dignity and dominion, and
are commissioned to care for God’s good creation (vv. 28–
30).
Consequences of the Biblical View of Personhood
As God’s image-bearers, human beings are imbued with a
dignity and worth beyond that of animals. Speaking to Noah
after the flood, God emphasizes that human life is to be
highly valued, and that violence against any human being is
to be rigorously punished (9:5–6).
In Genesis 1 and 2, we see that God’s plan was for the earth
to be filled with His image-bearers, who were to glorify Him
through worship and obedience. This state of being, enjoying
the bliss of God’s intended blessing and His wise rule, is
called shalom. As Cornelius Plantinga Jr. writes,
In the Bible, shalom means universal
flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich
state of affairs in which natural needs are
satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully
employed… . Shalom, in other words, is the
way things ought to be (Not the Way It’s
Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, p. 10).
Shalom means fullness of peace, the vision of a society
without violence or fear: “I will give peace [shalom] in the
land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you
afraid” (Lev. 26:6). Shalom is a profound and comprehensive
sort of well-being—abundant welfare—with its connotations
of peace, justice, and common good. In short, biblical writers
use shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety,
justice, order, and wholeness God intended, in which all
human beings enjoy freedom, security, and peace.
Unbiblical Views of Personhood
Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell and
shalom was violated. Adam and Eve violated their
relationship with God by rebelling against His command.
This was cosmic treason. Instead of trusting God’s wise and
good word, they trusted the Serpent’s crafty and deceitful
words. In response, the Creator cursed humanity with
futility and death. God’s royal image fell into the severe
ignobility we all experience.
This tragic fall plunged humanity into a relational abyss.
After the fall, humanity was enslaved to idolatry (hatred for
God) and violence (hatred for each other). Sin inverts love
for God, which in turn becomes idolatry, and inverts love for
neighbor, which becomes exploitation of others.
The fallen human heart finds ways to justify its hatred of
other people and its desire to exploit them. The result is the
multitude of unbiblical views of personhood found
throughout human history that dehumanize and exclude
people who are made in God’s image. There have been
several major non-Christian views of the nature of humanity,
such as the rationalistic dualism of Plato, the materialist
economic determinism of Karl Marx, the psychic
determinism of Sigmund Freud, and the environmental
conditioning determinism of B.F. Skinner. Myriad other
unbiblical ideologies of personhood have existed, such as
tribalism, Social Darwinism, racism, Nazism, and views of
superior personhood based on religion, wealth, gender, age,
intellect, heredity, and many other factors.
Consequences of Unbiblical Views of Personhood
Without the biblical understanding of human personhood
and dignity as image-bearers of God, society is free to
degenerate into violence, oppression, and exploitation of the
weak by the strong. The Old Testament clearly depicts the
cruelty and violence that results from the fall: violence
against children (Ps. 137:9), women (Amos 1:13), and the
unborn (2 Kings 15:16); rape (Judg. 19:22–30); massacres (1
Sam. 22:18–19); and enslavement (Amos 4:2).
Throughout history, we see how unbiblical views of
personhood are used to exploit and oppress people. The
strong oppress the weak, and there is injustice against
disliked and lesser-valued groups, from the unborn to the
elderly. There is abortion, infanticide, child abuse, and
exploitative child labor. There is slavery, gender violence,
sexual assault, sex trafficking, labor trafficking, racism,
genocide, and ethnic warfare. There is class warfare,
disenfranchisement, age discrimination, oppression of the
poor, and discrimination against the disliked, the disabled,
the uneducated, the weak, and the powerless. The injustices
and exploitations that occur when personhood is redefined
are innumerable and heart-breaking.
The Biblical Call to Justice and Mercy
Though it does not hesitate to depict the harsh reality of
violence and oppression, the Bible clearly calls us to fight for
justice and mercy for all people as God intended (Ex. 23:2–3,
6; Deut. 24:17–18; Prov. 21:3).
The prophet Zechariah portrays God’s people as a nation
that practices justice and mercy in their society:
Render true judgments, show kindness and
mercy to one another, do not oppress the
widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the
poor, and let none of you devise evil against
another in your heart (Zech. 7:9–10).
When Israel fails and continues to rebel against God’s law,
God threatens judgment, but then pours out grace and
restores them. Zechariah envisions God’s grace leading to
repentance and a people who fervently pursue justice and
mercy for all. As a result, the unbelieving nations will come
asking about the Lord (Zech. 8:20–23). God’s people will be a
light to the nations (Isa. 49:6), a hope that culminates in
the Messiah.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He declared that these
words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Him:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because
he has anointed me to proclaim good news to
the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty
to the captives and recovering of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty those who are
oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s
favor. (Luke 4:18–19)
Freeing the captives and relieving the poor and oppressed
was central to His divine mission (Matt. 4:24; Luke 6:20; 7:18–
23; 14:12–24; John 8:36). His ultimate act of liberation was His
substitutionary death and victorious resurrection, which set
His people free from slavery to sin and death (Acts 13:36–39;
Rom. 8:1–4; Gal. 1:3–4; Heb. 9:27–28; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev. 1:5).
Throughout His ministry, Jesus opposed the dehumanizing
assumptions of His culture. He spent significant time with
children, women, the poor, the diseased, Samaritans, and
other outcasts (Matt. 8:1–4; 9:9–13; 21:28–32; Mark 10:13–16; Luke
6:17–19; 10:38–42; John 4:1–45). Paul echoes this
paradoxical approach:
God chose what is foolish in the world to
shame the wise; God chose what is weak in
the world to shame the strong; God chose
what is low and despised in the world, even
things that are not, to bring to nothing
things that are, so that no human being
might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor.
1:27–29)
At its best, the church has been known for love and
sacrificial service to the poor, oppressed, and marginalized.
Such service has been a powerful apologetic for the gospel.
By upholding the dignity of all people as the image of God
and tangibly expressing the biblical ethic of personhood
flowing from it, the church can be a light to the nations and
participate in God’s mission by welcoming the weak and
powerless to find grace, mercy, and rest in Jesus Christ.
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
reproduce and distribute this material in any format
provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you
do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and
you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web
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(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
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Please include the following statement on any distributed
copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. ©
Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk.
Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

Abortion
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/abortion/

Abortion
by Randy Alcorn
Some “pro-choice” advocates claim to base their beliefs on
the Bible. They maintain that Scripture does not prohibit
abortion. They are wrong. The Bible does, in fact,
emphatically prohibit the killing of innocent people (Ex.
20:13) and clearly considers the unborn to be human beings
worthy of protection (21:22–25).
Job graphically described the way God created him before
he was born (Job 10:8–12). That which was in his mother’s
womb was not something that might become Job, but
someone who was Job—the same man, only younger. To the
prophet Isaiah, God says, “Thus says the Lord who made
you, who formed you from the womb and will help you” (Isa.
44:2). What each person is, not merely what he might
become, was present in his mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13–16 paints a vivid picture of God’s intimate
involvement with a preborn person. God created David’s
“inward parts” not at birth, but before birth. David says to
his Creator, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb”
(v. 13). Each person, regardless of his parentage or handicap,
has not been manufactured on a cosmic assembly line, but
personally formed by God. All the days of his life are planned
out by God before any come to be (v. 16).
Meredith Kline observes: “The most significant thing about
abortion legislation in Biblical law is that there is none. It
was so unthinkable that an Israelite woman should desire an
abortion that there was no need to mention this offense in
the criminal code.” All that was necessary to prohibit an
abortion was the command, “You shall not murder” (Ex.
20:13). Every Israelite knew that the preborn child was a
child. So do we, if we are honest. We all know a pregnant
woman is “carrying a child.”
Every child in the womb is God’s handiwork and part of
God’s plan. Christ loves that child and proved it by becoming
like him—He spent nine months in His mother’s womb.
Like toddler and adolescent, the terms embryo and fetus
do not refer to nonhumans but to humans at various stages
of development. It is scientifically inaccurate to say a human
embryo or a fetus is not a human being simply because he is
at an earlier stage than an infant. This is like saying that a
toddler is not a human being because he is not yet an
adolescent. Does someone become more human as he gets
bigger? If so, then adults are more human than children, and
football players are more human than jockeys. Something
nonhuman does not become human or more human by
getting older or bigger; whatever is human is human from
the beginning, or it can never be human at all. The right to
live does not increase with age and size; otherwise, toddlers
and adolescents have less right to live than adults.
Once we acknowledge that the unborn are human beings,
the question of their right to live should be settled,
regardless of how they were conceived. The comparison
between babies’ rights and mothers’ rights is unequal. What
is at stake in the vast majority of abortions is the mother’s
lifestyle, as opposed to the baby’s life. In such cases, it is
reasonable for society to expect an adult to live temporarily
with an inconvenience if the only alternative is killing
a child.
Pro-choice advocates divert attention from the vast
majority of abortions (99 percent) by focusing on rape and
incest because of the sympathy factor. They give the false
impression that pregnancies are common in such cases.
However, no child is a despicable “product of rape or incest”
but God’s unique and wonderful image-bearing creation.
Having and holding a child can do much more good for a
victimized woman than the knowledge that a child died in an
attempt to reduce her trauma.
When Alan Keyes addressed middle school students at a
school in Detroit, a thirteen-year-old girl asked if he would
make an exception for rape in his pro-life position. He
responded with this question: “If your dad goes out and
rapes somebody, and we convict him of that rape, do you
think it would be right for us to then say, ‘OK, because your
dad is guilty of that rape, we’re going to kill you? ‘” The class
answered “No.” When asked why a girl should have to go
through a pregnancy when something so awful happened to
her, he wisely answered with this analogy:
Let’s say that when you are 19, America
gets involved in a war. And, when we’ve
gotten involved in wars in the past, we had a
draft and the people your age would be
drafted, and they’d be sent off to war, right?
You are going to have to go off. You are
going to have to live on a battlefield. You are
going to have to risk your life. And many
people did in fact risk their lives, lived in
hardship every single day and finally died.
Why? Because they were defending what?
Our country and defending its freedom. They
had to go through hardship, didn’t they, for
the sake of freedom.
The principle of freedom is that our rights
come from God. Do you think it’s wrong to
ask people to make sacrifices to keep our
respect for that principle? … But I don’t
believe it is right to take that pain and
actually make it worse … do you know what
I’m adding if I let you have an abortion? I’m
adding the burden of that abortion. And at
some point, the truth of God that is written
on your heart comes back to you. And you’re
wounded by that truth.
So I don’t think it’s fair, not to the child and
not to the woman, to let this tragedy claim
both their lives; the physical life of the child
and the moral and spiritual life of the
mother. And I think in this society we do both
terrible harm because we don’t have the
courage to stand by what is true. (ProLife
Info Digest, Feb. 2, 2000)
In their book, Victims and Victors, David Reardon and
associates draw on the accounts of 192 women who
experienced pregnancy as the result of rape or incest. It
turns out that when victims of violence speak for themselves,
their opinion of abortion is nearly unanimous and the exact
opposite of what most would predict: nearly all the women
interviewed said they regretted aborting their babies
conceived via rape or incest. Of those giving an opinion,
more than 90 percent said they would discourage other
victims of sexual violence from having abortions. Not one
who gave birth to a child expressed regret.
Imposing capital punishment on the innocent child of a sex
offender does nothing bad to the rapist and nothing good to
the woman. Creating a second victim never undoes the
damage to the first. Abortion does not bring healing to a
rape victim.
Christ’s disciples failed to understand how valuable
children were to Him, so they rebuked those who tried to
bring them near Him (Luke 18:15– 17). But Jesus said, “Let the
children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such
belongs the kingdom of God.” He considered attention to
children to be part of His kingdom business, not
a distraction.
The biblical view of children is that they are a blessing and
a gift from the Lord (Ps. 127:3–5). However, Western culture
increasingly treats children as liabilities. We must learn to
see all children as God does, and we must act toward them
as He commands us to act. We must defend the cause of the
weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and
oppressed; rescue the weak and needy; and deliver them
from the wicked (Ps. 82:3–4).
Christ stated that whatever we do or do not do for God’s
weakest and most vulnerable children, we do it or do not do
it to Him. At the judgment, “The King will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these
my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matt. 25:40).
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
reproduce and distribute this material in any format
provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you
do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and
you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web
posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred
(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above
must be formally approved by Tabletalk.
Please include the following statement on any distributed
copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. ©
Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk.
Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.
Understanding Personhood
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/understanding-
personhood/

Understanding Personhood
by W. Robert Godfrey
We live in a world where there is much cruelty and
violence. Whe t he r we watch local or international news on
television, we hear of countless instances of intimidation,
injustice, thefts, beatings, murders, and wars. In some
places, violence seems to be a way of life; elsewhere, it seems
to explode unexpectedly in apparently peaceful places. How
do we account for this violence?
Many today claim that violence does not really arise from
the human heart, but it is the result of external social
conditions. If we can make the social environment better, it
is said, the essential goodness of man will manifest itself.
Many others claim that violence is a result of man’s
evolutionary development and was necessary in his struggle
for survival as an animal. Neither of these claims is biblical
or ultimately helpful in understanding the violence that we
observe in our world.
Christians understand that human beings were created
good, but fell into sin and rebellion against God and
alienation from one another. Apart from God’s redeeming
and renewing grace, fallen man finds only violence in his
heart. David expresses the truth eloquently as he writes of
God’s attitude toward the wicked: “The boastful shall not
stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy
those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and
deceitful man” (Ps. 5:5–6).
In this passage, David highlights three key characteristics
of the wicked. First, they are boastful and proud. They assign
far more value and importance to themselves than they
deserve, failing to acknowledge the superiority of God over
them. Second, they are full of lies and deceit. They live
according to falsehoods that they invent rather than
according to the truth of God. Third, they are bloodthirsty
and violent. In their pride and self-deceit, they are willing to
use cruelty to advance themselves rather than pursuing love
and peace.
Early in Genesis, we see a picture of this wickedness in
action. Cain murders his brother Abel out of selfishness
(4:8). Cain’s great-great-great-grandson, Lamech, also
shows this selfishness: “Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and
Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I
say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for
striking me’” (v. 23).
The selfish sense of superiority that we see in Cain and
Lamech can be seen in many ways throughout history.
Consider this judgment about the attitude that was
foundational to the British Empire:
Britain’s empire was not liberal in the sense
of being a plural, democratic society. The
empire openly repudiated ideas of human
equality and put power and responsibility
into the hands of a chosen elite, drawn from
a tiny proportion of the population in
Britain. The British Empire was not merely
undemocratic; it was anti-democratic… . My
contention is that in terms of administration
itself, while there was clearly a great deal of
racial arrogance among the administrative
class as a whole, notions of class and
hierarchy were as important, if not more so
(Kawasi Kwarteng, Ghosts of Empire, p. 2).
While Cain and Lamech seem to show their power out of
selfishness, other wicked individuals seek to justify their
violence. In one way or another, they claim that the victims
of their violence are in some way inferior or less human than
they are. I can justify violence against those who are not like
me: they are not part of my family, my neighborhood, my
tribe, my nation, my race, or my religion.
The wicked justification of violence may well be at its worst
when it appeals to science. We can see that in a particularly
clear way in the Nazi movement in twentieth-century
Germany. The character and historical appeal of Nazism is
complicated, but one important element of its ideology was
its use of science. In particular, it used the theory of
evolution. If evolution teaches the survival of the stronger at
the expense of the weaker, it seems to follow that stronger
races should dominate inferior races. Nazi scientists claimed
to have scientific means for distinguishing races and for
proving the superiority of the Aryan race to others,
particularly Jews and Slavs. Today we know that the Nazi
science was bogus, but at the time it convinced many,
including some of the most educated scientists. Nazi
ideology did seem to be a logical extension of evolution.
A distinguished historian wrote of the intellectual
environment that prepared the way for Nazism: “Integral
nationalism, anti-Marxist ‘national’ socialism, social
Darwinism, racism, biological anti- Semitism, eugenics,
elitism intermingled in varying strengths to provide a heady
brew of irrationalism attractive to some cultural pessimists
among the intelligentsia and bourgeoisie of European
societies undergoing rapid social, economic, and political
change in the late nineteenth century” (Ian Kershaw, Hitler,
p. 134). But were social Darwinism and eugenics really
irrational for evolutionists?
The leaders of the Nazis applied such Darwinism to
politics. Adolf Hitler declared: “Politics is nothing more than
the struggle of a people for its existence… . It is an iron
principle [—] the weaker one falls so that the stronger one
gains life” (Kershaw, p. 289). Heinrich Himmler foresaw a
“battle to the point of annihilation of those subhuman
enemies I mentioned throughout the world against Germany
as the core nation of the Nordic race, … against Germany as
the bearer of culture for humanit y” (Peter Longerich,
Heinrich Himmler, 814).
The Nazis wanted to take Jews’ property and expel them
from Germany. They wanted to drive Slavs out of Eastern
Europe and take their land. Out of a selfish desire for power,
they visited hideous violence on Jews and Slavs, using a
scientific justification that dehumanized these people.
Millions of Jews and Slavs died.
The “scientific” justification of slavery also rested on
notions of racial superiority. The enslavement of black
Africans in recent centuries was justified by the claim that
they were racially inferior to white Europeans and
Americans. Some even claimed that slavery was a civilizing
and Christianizing institution. In reality, it was a violent
institution promoted in the interest of cheap labor. Here
again we see scientific and moral justifications for a violent
and dehumanizing practice.
In our day, the justification of abortion similarly rests on
“scientific” arguments that proclaim the unborn baby to be
merely subhuman tissue. Proponents of abortion insist that
they are exercising their freedom legitimately. However, they
have actually dehumanized the unborn child to justify their
elimination of unwanted pregnancies.
In these three instances, we see bad science used by wicked
men to make moral or religious judgments as if they were
objective scientific conclusions. The real problem is not
science, but the abuse of science. The horrendous effect of
these pseudo-scientific justifications is dehumanizing
violence born of selfishness.
These scientific justifications of violence rest on reducing
some or all humans to the status of animals. The psalmist
anticipated this tragic situation in a remarkable way. Psalm
49 is addressed to all the people in the world in order to
teach them wisdom and understanding. Here the teaching of
wisdom begins by meditating on the universal reality of
death. If death is the same for the fool and the wise, for the
poor and the rich, for the weak and the powerful, what
meaning does life really have? “Man in his pomp will not
remain; he is like the beasts that perish” (v. 12). How can
man be more than a beast? The answer is by knowing the
truth: “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like
the beasts that perish” (v. 20). Ultimately, only real wisdom
or understanding separates man from the beasts. The truth
is that only God can save His people from death and give
them everlasting life: “But God will ransom my soul from the
power of Sheol” (v. 15).
As Christians, we must beware of becoming self-righteous
in our reaction to those who dehumanize people. There were
Christians who were taken in by Hitler and Christians who
defended slavery. We must not dehumanize those with
whom we disagree. We especially want to make clear to
those who have defended abortions or had abortions that all
those who come to Jesus in repentance and faith
find forgiveness.
As David described the wicked so insightfully in Psalm 5,
he also showed the character of the righteousness that we all
must pursue: “But I, through the abundance of your
steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward
your holy temple in the fear of you” (v. 7). As Christians, we
look away from ourselves, hoping only in the steadfast
saving love of God in Jesus. Then, instead of boasting in our
pride and selfishness, we bow humbly before our God. This
is the antidote to dehumanization and violence in our world.
© Tabletalk magazine
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How much weight should our


opposition to abortion carry in
our voting decisions? by R.C.
Sproul Jr.
SourceURL: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/how-
much-weight-should-our-opposition-abortion-carry-our-
voting-decisions/

How much weight should our opposition to abortion


carry in our voting decisions?

by R.C. Sproul Jr.

How much weight should our opposition to abortion carry in our


voting decisions?

God calls us to think His thoughts after Him. That means all of His
thoughts. That is, we ought to have a sound and biblical view on
everything the Bible touches on. Where it touches on political issues, we
are called, again to have sound biblical views. We need to think biblically
about what is just war and what is not. We need to think faithfully about
taxation, and the size and scope of government. We need to think through
what obligation, if any the state has to protect property, to protect
our lives.

That said, there are precious few things that frustrate me more about
the evangelical right than its utter foolishness with respect to proportion
politically. We bundle together this issue and that, everything from tax
rates to school vouchers to flag burning to abortion, and call it “family
values.” There is a right and a wrong answer on all these issues. But
abortion is not like any of the others. It stands out all on its own. In a
hundred years, the Christian church will not hang its head in shame that
it did so little to pass a Constitutional Amendment against the burning of
the flag. In a hundred years, no elderly Christian will be looked at with
suspicion by the younger generation because they didn’t do more to lower
the tax rate. In a hundred years, if God should be so gracious, we will be
looked upon as that godless generation of the church that watched tens of
millions of babies go to their deaths. Indeed, we’ll be remembered as those
“Christians” who elected men to office who believed that the state ought to
protect the rights of some mothers to murder their babies.

It is unfair to draw too tight a comparison between abortion in America


and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. There are significant differences.
First, the Holocaust was carried out, by and large, in secret. The rank and
file Germans had no idea what was going on. We, on the other hand, every
last one of us, woke up today knowing that four thousand babies would
die today. We, on the other hand, have four thousand mothers, every day,
who knowingly do this. We, on the other hand, have four thousand fathers,
boyfriends and husbands who every day encourage this. The Holocaust
lasted roughly ten years, and the Nazi’s killed roughly six million people.
We, on the other hand, have been at this for 35 years, and have killed
more than fifty million babies. It is an unfair comparison, unfair to the
Nazis. We are far worse monsters.

How much weight should our opposition carry? I have purposed in my


heart that I would never vote for a man for any office that is not
committed to using every power at his disposal to protect and defend
every unborn child. Never. Ever. If every Christian would simply make that
simple pledge, then we would win this battle. As it stands, at best we vote
for candidates who might nominate or support judicial candidates who
might vote for this small impediment or that to abortion on demand. At
worst, we vote for the guy with the R by his name. We need to get rid of
our strategies, and get on our knees in repentance. We need to stop
negotiating with candidates over the bodies of dead babies.

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and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not
alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the
cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical
copies.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights
reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343”
Christian Ethics Derived From Theology
Table of Contents
1. Paradise Created
2. Defining Marriage
3. Clean and Unclean
4. The Holy of Holies
5. The Sons of God
6. That the Scriptures Might Be Fulfilled
7. Can Snakes Talk?
8. The Historical Reality of Adam
9. The Binding of Satan by Douglas Kelly
10. Every Jot and Tittle by Burk Parsons
11. Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend? by Albert
Mohler
12. Can Christians 'Do Business' with the World? by
Robert Rothwell
13. Angels of Darkness by Kent Heimbigner
14. Holy Orders by John Duncan
15. A Man Created in God's Image by Burk Parsons
16. What Is the Gospel? by R.C. Sproul
Paradise Created
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/paradise-
created/

Paradise Created
by Guy Waters
Even people who are not familiar with the Bible have heard
of Adam and Eve. Perhaps they have seen Michelangelo’s
Creation of Adam or have read John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Many, however, also know that Adam and Eve play an
important role in the opening chapters of the Bible. Some
also know that the Bible teaches that Adam had something
to do with the evil and misery that we witness in the world
and in ourselves every day. Just what did Adam do? How did
his action come to affect us and our daily lives? Let us turn
to the Bible for some answers.
The biblical account of the creation tells us that after God
created man, He declared all His works on the sixth day
“very good” (Gen 1:31). In other words, God created Adam
good. As Solomon puts it: “God made man upright” (Eccl
7:29). God created Adam righteous and without sin. From the
beginning, Adam flawlessly observed the law of God written
upon his heart (Rom 2:14–15).
Having created Adam, God placed Adam in the garden of
Eden and established with him what has been called a
covenant of works or covenant of life.
Before we look more closely at Genesis 2, let us ask a basic
question: What is a covenant? Part of the difficulty in
answering this question is that we do not often see covenants
in modern society. Nevertheless, we do have them. Some
states, for instance, have what is called “covenant marriage.”
Some neighborhoods require homeowners to sign a
“covenant” in order to live in that community.
What, then, is a covenant? Put simply, a covenant is a
solemn agreement between two or more parties. That
agreement stipulates conditions that the parties agree to
fulfill. Those conditions are frequently accompanied by
promised blessings (to encourage obedience) and by
threatened punishments, often called sanctions, (to
discourage transgression).
This is precisely what we see in Genesis 2. God approaches
Adam and commands him: “You may surely eat of every tree
of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you
shall surely die” (Gen 2:16b–17). The parties to this covenant
are God and Adam. The condition of the covenant is Adam’s
ongoing obedience to the law of God coupled with his
obedience to this special command not to eat of the fruit of
the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The consequence for
disobedience is death. Had Adam obeyed, we may surmise,
he would have received the blessing of ongoing, confirmed,
and uninterrupted “life” — holiness and communion
with God.
Consequently, even though Moses does not use the word
covenant in Genesis 2, we may fairly conclude that God
entered into a covenant with Adam in the garden of Eden.
Theologians have called this arrangement the covenant of
works. They do so because the outcome of the covenant
hinged on Adam’s obedience or disobedience to the
commandments of God.
We need to add an important qualification to the statement
that God and Adam were parties to the covenant of works.
Adam is party to the covenant of works, but not as a private
person. He is a representative person. In other words, his
actions were not only his own but also his posterity’s.
The apostle Paul develops this point in Romans 5:12–20.
Adam’s descendants die because their representative, Adam,
broke the covenant of works by sin. In verse 12 we read:
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man,
and death through sin, and so death spread to all men
because all sinned.” Paul has in mind here the “one trespass”
of the “one man” (Adam, see verses 15–17). How is it, then,
that “all sinned” because of the one sin of Adam? It is not,
Paul says, that Adam’s descendants have followed Adam’s
bad example — imitating his sin and becoming sinners in
that fashion (v. 14). Rather, the apostle says, “through the
disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted
sinners” (v. 19a, author’s translation). Adam’s posterity is
responsible for or guilty of the sin of Adam their
representative. The guilt of Adam’s first sin is transferred or
“imputed” to them. Someone might ask, “Is this just?” The
answer is yes. God was just in imputing Adam’s sin to his
posterity because Adam was their divinely-
appointed representative.
We must note that when Paul says that “all sinned” in
Adam, he does not mean that Adam’s sin was imputed to
Jesus. This is because Adam did not represent Jesus. Jesus,
rather, is the “second Adam.” Conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of a virgin, Jesus was without sin.
If Adam’s one sin has been imputed to his posterity, what
does this mean for people as sons and daughters of Adam?
We may point to four things.
First, the imputation of Adam’s sin means that people are
guilty of Adam’s first sin. The “one trespass [of Adam] led to
condemnation for all men” in Adam (v. 18). You and I, from
the moment of our conception, stand justly condemned in
the sight of God.
Second, the imputation of Adam’s sin means that people
are naturally depraved or sinful. Because in Adam they are
guilty, they are punished with depraved natures. They lack
the moral and spiritual goodness with which Adam was
made. By nature our whole person is in bondage to sin. We
sin and can do nothing but sin — “none is righteous, no, not
one” (3:10). Further, sin reaches down to the very “thoughts
of [the] heart” — the innermost recesses of our person. As
Jesus taught, sin springs from sinful hearts (Matt. 7:17–18;
15:19). We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we
are sinners by nature.
Sadly, this condition is true of us from the moment of our
conception (Ps. 51:5). As the late Dr. John H. Gerstner often
reminded his hearers, Scripture tells us that infants emerge
from the womb as “wicked vipers.” The birth of a child is
rightly an occasion for joy and celebration. It is also a
somber reminder that we enter the world as already guilty
and depraved persons.
Third, the imputation of Adam’s sin means that people are
estranged from God and hostile to Him. Before Adam
sinned, he had fellowship with God. We see Adam standing
in the presence of God, wherein God speaks to him (Gen.
2:15–17). After Adam sins, however, he tries to hide himself
from God (3:8). This is true of every fallen child of Adam.
Even though he knows God’s “invisible attributes, namely,
his eternal power and divine nature…in the things that have
been made,” he turns his thoughts and worship to dead idols
rather than to the living God. This is why the Scripture says
“no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11) and “the mind that is set
on the flesh is hostile to God” (8:7).
Fourth, the imputation of Adam’s sin means that people
are subject to death. Death, after all, is sin’s “wage” (6:23).
“Death spread to all men because all sinned” (5:12). Death,
sickness, and injury are daily, grim reminders of man’s guilt
in Adam. Moreover, the death that you and I witness in this
fallen world is not the end of the story. The Bible tells us that
“the second death” (Rev. 21:8) awaits the impenitent — when
sinners are sent to a place of torment and misery to be
punished eternally for their sins.
What more does the covenant of works have to say to
Christians today? First, the Bible’s teaching on the covenant
of works shows us mankind’s true spiritual condition. The
unrenewed sinner has no desire or inclination to turn to
God. How important it is for us to remember this when we
evangelize our unbelieving friends and neighbors. It can be
tempting to think that the unbeliever has some innate
disposition to respond positively to the gospel. If only we use
the right techniques, say just the right words, lay before him
the best incentives, then surely that person will come to
Christ! The covenant of works, however, reminds us that our
very best labors in sharing the gospel can meet with spiritual
success only if the Spirit of God is first pleased to open the
sinner’s heart, giving new life to the dead.
Second, the covenant of works teaches us that salvation
can only be by the grace of God. Sin means that we are
debtors to God’s justice. God owes us nothing except His
everlasting wrath. If salvation comes to a sinner, then it
must be by divine grace. We must never think that God has
saved us because we in any way have deserved salvation.
Finally, the covenant of works teaches us that salvation
cannot come by the hand of any ordinary son or daughter of
Adam. The good news of the Bible is that salvation has come
only through the work of the sinless Son of God, Jesus
Christ, the last Adam. What a comfort it is to the believer to
know that his eternal standing rests on this secure,
unshakable foundation. This very truth is the song of heaven
now (Rev. 5:9). Is it your song?
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
reproduce and distribute this material in any format
provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you
do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and
you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web
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(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
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Please include the following statement on any distributed
copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. ©
Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk.
Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

Defining Marriage
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/defining-
marriage/

Defining Marriage
by Joe Carter
Abraham Lincoln was fond of asking, “If you call a dog’s
tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” “Five,” his
audience would invariably answer. “No,” he’d politely
respond, “the correct answer is four. Calling a tail a leg does
not make it a leg.”
Like Lincoln’s associates, many of our fellow citizens—
including many Christians—appear to fall for the notion that
changing a definition causes a change in essence. A prime
example is the attempt to change the definition of marriage
to include same-sex unions. Simply calling such
relationships “gay marriages,” many believe, will actually
make them marriages. Such reasoning, however, is as flawed
as thinking that changing tail to leg changes the function of
the appendage.
Consider the change that must occur in our tail/leg
example. A dog’s tail cannot perform the same functions as
its leg. He can’t use his tail to run or swim or scratch an itch.
In order to use the term for both parts, we must discard all
qualities that make a tail different from a leg. The new
meaning of leg will require that we exclude any difference of
form (for example, we can no longer say that a paw can be
found at the end of a leg) or function (for example, legs are
not necessarily used for standing). In other words, by
redefining the term tail we have not made it equivalent in
form or function to a leg; we’ve merely stripped the term leg
of its previous meaning and made it as generic a term as
appendage.
The same is true with the attempts to redefine marriage.
Because marriage requires the specific form of a union of
man and woman (Gen. 2:24), applying the term to same-sex
unions alters the very concept of what a marriage is for and
what functions it takes.
For example, a significant percentage of people in same-
sex sexual partnerships do not view monogamy or sexual
exclusivity as part of the meaning of marriage. They may still
use the term monogamy, but they have redefined that term
too, in a way that means “monogamish,” that is,
relationships in which they are emotionally intimate with
only one partner yet remain free to engage in sexual
infidelities or group sexual activity. Changing the definition
of marriage to include same-sex unions does not make it
more inclusive, but rather more exclusive, since it requires
excluding all the functions that were previously believed to
be essential to the institution of marriage (for example,
sexual fidelity).
Some Christians, recognizing the change that occurs
because of the redefinition of marriage, argue that we need a
two-track system: marriage as defined by the state and
marriage as defined by the church. The problem with this
view is that it also misunderstands the nature of marriage.
Neither the state nor the church has the authority to change
the essential nature of marriage, since the institution was
neither created by nor belongs to either the church or the
state. As Dr. R.C. Sproul wrote in a previous issue of
Tabletalk (June 2013):
Marriage is ordained and instituted by God
—that is to say, marriage did not just spring
up arbitrarily out of social conventions or
human taboos. Marriage was not invented
by men but by God.
Because the three institutions of church, state, and
marriage have interdependent yet independent existence,
they can decide whether to recognize each other’s legitimacy,
but they cannot delineate each other’s boundaries. In this
way, the relationship is similar to nation-states. The U.S.
government, for example, can decide to “recognize” the state
of Israel, but it cannot redefine the country in a way that
contracts its border to exclude the Gaza Strip. The U.S.
either recognizes Israel as it defines itself or it rejects its
legitimacy altogether.
Some Christians may even concede that while the state
doesn’t truly have the authority to redefine marriage, we
should go along with the legal fiction for the sake of the
gospel witness. Although such Christians may have the best
of intentions, they are actually subverting the very gospel
they want to protect.
In acceding to laws that redefine marriage, they are doing
the very opposite of what Jesus calls us to do: they are hating
their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors.
You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to
engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath (Ps. 5:4–5; Rom.
1:18). As Christians, we may be required to tolerate ungodly
behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse it, we too
become suppressors of the truth. You cannot love your
neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom
of Christ (Eph. 5:5).
What is needed is for the church to have the courage to
speak the truth of the gospel: we cannot love our neighbor
and tolerate unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot
continue with the “go along to get along” mentality that is
leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the
Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact
that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We
must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with
the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of same-
sex marriage?
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
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(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
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Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

Clean and Unclean


SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/clean-and-
unclean/

Clean and Unclean


by Benjamin Shaw
Clean and unclean—this pair of words strikes fear into the
heart of the average Bible reader. It conjures up the text of
Leviticus 11-15 with its long list of clean and unclean
animals, its extended discourse on leprosy, and the “too
much information” section on bodily discharges. The
average Bible reader doesn’t quite know what to make of
these things, and they have no apparent application to him
as a Christian. So, in his Bible reading, he quickly pages
through the section, glancing briefly at the subheadings, and
breathes a sigh of relief, reasoning that he has “read” those
chapters as much as they need to be read.
Unfortunately, this all-too-common approach to the
material fails to deal with a couple of important
considerations. First, this material is part of the Word of
God, and in the book of Leviticus it is a substantial part of
God’s instruction for Israel. Second, this was part of the law
given to Israel that defined the life of the people of God
under the administration of Moses. Thus, it had significance
for Israel, and, implicitly, has lasting significance for
the church.
We must recognize that there are two aspects to this
material: a practical aspect and a theological aspect. The
practical aspect is that these regulations were part of the
directions that God gave His people in order to set them
apart from the surrounding nations who did not know God.
As Deuteronomy 4:6 puts it, the laws “will be your wisdom
and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who,
when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great
nation is a wise and understanding people.’ ” The theological
aspect is that this material was provided to teach the people
truths about themselves, about God, and about their
relationship to Him.
So far, so good. But how is the reader to make sense of this
material? As we might expect, God has placed a couple of
keys in the immediate context that enable us to unlock
something of the practical and of the theological significance
of these regulations.
The first of these keys is found in Leviticus 10:3, in which
the Lord says, “Among those who are near me I will be
sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.” In
other words, in interacting with God, in living coram Deo,
the people are to remember that God is holy, and that they
are to live for His glory.
The second key is in Leviticus 10:10-11, where God says to
Aaron, “You are to distinguish between the holy and the
common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you
are to teach the people of Israel the statutes that the Lord
has spoken to them by Moses.” From this, we learn that the
priesthood had the special responsibility to instruct the
people in how they were to live as God’s “holy nation” (Ex.
19:6). The distinctions between holy and common and
between clean and unclean were part and parcel of
that instruction.
The people as a whole were holy. That is, they had been set
apart by God for Himself and for His glory. However, in
approaching Him, they were to maintain that holiness by
coming to Him only when they were in a state of cleanness.
But that was a difficult state to maintain, as almost anything,
at any time, could plunge them into a state of uncleanness.
They might touch a dead body. They might eat the wrong
kind of food. A woman might be having her menstrual
period. A man might have a bodily discharge. A person
might have some sort of skin disease. A family’s house or
garments might be infested with mold or mildew. Some of
these uncleannesses were, so to speak, natural, and required
only washing and waiting until the end of the day for
cleanness to be restored. Others, such as bleeding beyond
the time of the normal menstrual period, or some sort of
skin disease, required the offering of sacrifice for
purification, as well as the washing with water. By these
means, the people maintained, or rather, regularly restored
their cleanness before God through the ordinary course
of life.
These practical considerations no doubt provided
numerous beneficial side effects, such as a good level of
general health. But, even at the practical level, these were
side effects, not the main purpose of the laws.
As to the theology of these laws, Jesus Himself gives us
another clue as to their significance. In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus
makes clear to His listeners that it is not what goes into a
man that defiles him. He is speaking here about the
cleanness laws, because defilement was what produced
uncleanness in a person. But Jesus says it is not what goes
into a man that truly defiles. Instead, what truly defiles a
person is what is in his heart—his sinful thoughts, desires,
and intentions.
By this statement, Jesus is telling the people that those
laws of clean and unclean were intended to be a picture that
showed them that the totality of their lives was, by nature,
unclean. Uncleanness was not sin, but it was a picture of sin.
As it was almost impossible to get through a day in ancient
Israel without contracting some sort of uncleanness, the
Lord by these laws was showing how thoroughly sin had
corrupted human life. There was really no escaping it. In
reality, their hope was not to avoid uncleanness. Instead,
their hope was to be delivered from it. As the author of
Hebrews says, the blood of bulls and goats only sanctified for
the purification (or cleansing—again, an obvious allusion to
the cleanness laws) of the flesh. It is only the blood of Christ
that cleanses our consciences from dead works to the true
service of the living God (Heb. 9:13-14).
So the next time you read through Leviticus 11-15, slow
down. Read the details. Contemplate how deeply sin affected
the ordinary life of the ancient Israelite. From that, be
reminded how deeply, and how thoroughly, sin affects your
life. Give thanks that you do not live under the burden of the
shadow of the law, with its washings and its sacrifices.
Rejoice that you live under the easy yoke of Christ, whose
blood has cleansed your conscience from dead works and
enables you to serve, from the heart, the living God.

© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
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(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
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Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

The Holy of Holies


SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/holy-holies/

The Holy of Holies


by Daniel Hyde
“That I may dwell in their midst” (Ex. 25:8). Israel’s
tabernacle was a piece of astonishing architecture. Its whole
purpose was to incarnate the immense and infinite presence
of God. Until it was built, God’s presence was manifested at
different times, at different places, and in different ways. To
Adam and Eve, He revealed Himself as they “heard the
sound of the Lord God walking in the garden” (Gen. 3:8). To
Abraham He revealed Himself as a smoking fire pot and
flaming torch (15:17). To Jacob He revealed Himself as a
man with whom Jacob could wrestle (32:22–32). To Moses
He revealed Himself as a burning bush that was not
consumed (Ex. 3:2). And to all Israel He revealed Himself as
a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night (13:21–22)
during their wilderness journey and as a thick cloud,
lightning and thunder, and trumpet blast (Ex. 19:9, 16).
Yet with the tabernacle there was something new. God’s
presence was no longer like a visitor who came and went but
like a resident who dwelled in a tent just as they did, in their
midst. The tabernacle was His kingly house, then, complete
with a door in the veil, curtains that covered it, a table with
bread, a lamp for light, and the ark as His royal footstool.
One aspect of this newness was that now, the covenant
people could enjoy the Lord’s presence in their midst in a
way their forefathers could not. And this is highly instructive
for Christians today as well, since the tabernacle was a type
of God’s dwelling among us in the flesh: “And the Word
became flesh and dwelt [the word dwelt can be translated
“tabernacled”] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory
as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”
(John 1:14).
The Lord’s presence could only be enjoyed on His own
terms. He revealed those terms to Moses, saying, “Exactly as
I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of
all its furniture, so you shall make it” (Ex. 25:9). The
specificity of the narrative (chap. 25–30) impresses this
upon us. God reveals Himself to us, His people, and by
means of His Word we may draw near to Him and come to
know Him. As we observe all that the Lord has commanded
us to be taught through the ministers of His Word, we can be
sure that He is “with [us] always, to the end of the age”
(Matt. 28:19–20).
The Lord’s presence was enjoyed as it was embodied in and
mediated through His chosen servants, the priests. They
could be related to with all of Israel’s senses as ministers of
the Lord’s presence. Their clothing was meant to
communicate the beauty and glory of the Lord to the people
of the Lord as well (Ex. 28:2). And they offered up sacrifices
for the intentional and unintentional sins of the people, for
propitiation and expiation of their sins, as well as in
thankfulness for the gracious activity of their God (Lev. 1–7).
In fact, one of the striking things about the sacrificial system
is how participatory it was. The people brought their own
animals to be sacrificed, laid their hands upon the animals’
heads, and confessed their own sins. Further, with the
sacrifice known as the peace offering, not only did the Lord
“eat” His portion upon the altar and the priests get their
share, but the people ate a portion of it as well (7:11–18).
The Lord gave the tabernacle to His people so that by
means of His Word, the sacramental signs of grace in the
priests and sacrifices, and their prayers offered there, He
would dwell in their midst in grace and mercy. Wonderfully,
He still dwells among us today (Eph. 2:18–22).
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
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The Sons of God


SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/sons-god/

The Sons of God


by R.C. Sproul
In the twentieth century, the German biblical scholar
Rudolf Bultmann gave a massive critique of the Scriptures,
arguing that the Bible is filled with mythological references
that must be removed if it is to have any significant
application to our day. Bultmann’s major concern was with
the New Testament narratives, particularly those that
included records of miracles, which he deemed impossible.
Other scholars, however, have claimed that there are
mythological elements in the Old Testament as well. Exhibit
A for this argument is usually a narrative that some believe
parallels the ancient Greek and Roman myths about gods
and goddesses occasionally mating with human beings.
In Genesis 6, we read this account: “When man began to
multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to
them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were
attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… .
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also
afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of
man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty
men who were of old, the men of renown” (vv. 1–4).
This narrative is basically a preface to the account of the
flood God sent to eradicate all people from the earth, except
for the family of Noah. Of course, the flood narrative itself is
often regarded as mythological, but this preparatory section,
where we read of the intermarriage of “the sons of God” and
“the daughters of man,” is seen as blatant myth.
The assumption in this interpretation of Genesis 6 is that
“the sons of God” refers to angelic beings. Why do some
biblical interpreters make this assumption? The simple
answer is that the Scriptures sometimes refer to angels as
sons of God, and it is assumed that the reference in Genesis
6 means the same. This is certainly a possible inference that
could be drawn, but is it a necessary inference? I would
answer no; I do not believe this text necessarily teaches the
idea of sexual relations between angels and human beings.
To understand this difficult passage, we have to look at the
broader application of the phrase “sons of God.” Pre-
eminently, it is used for Jesus Himself; He is the Son of God.
As noted, it is sometimes used to refer to angels (Job 1:6; 21:1;
Ps. 29:1). Also, it is sometimes used to speak of followers of
Christ (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26). So, the concept of
divine sonship in the Scriptures is not always linked to a
biological or ontological relationship (relationship of being).
Rather, it is chiefly used to set forth a relationship of
obedience. This means Genesis 6 could simply be speaking
about the intermarriage of those who manifested a pattern of
obedience to God in their lives and those who were pagans in
their orientation. In other words, this text likely describes
marriages between believers and unbelievers.
The immediate context of Genesis 6 supports this
conclusion. Following the narrative of the fall in Genesis 3,
the Bible traces the lines of two families, the descendents of
Cain and of Seth. Cain’s line is recounted in Genesis 4, and
this line displays proliferating wickedness, capped by
Lamech, who was the first polygamist (v. 19) and who
rejoiced in murderous, vengeful use of the sword (vv. 23–
24). By contrast, the line of Seth, which is traced in Genesis
5, displays righteousness. This line includes Enoch, who
“walked with God, and … was not, for God took him” (v. 24).
In the line of Seth was born Noah, who was “a righteous
man, blameless in his generation” (6:9). Thus, we see two
lines, one obeying God and the other willfully
disobeying Him.
Therefore, many Hebrew scholars believe that Genesis 6 is
describing not the intermarriage of angels and human
women but the intermarriage of the descendents of Cain and
Seth. The two lines, one godly and one wicked, come
together, and suddenly everyone is caught up in the pursuit
of evil, such that “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s]
heart was only evil continually” (v. 5). We do not need to
surmise an invasion of the earth by angels in order to make
sense of this chapter.
Resolving the interpretive difficulties of Genesis 6 reminds
us to be very careful about drawing inferences from
Scripture that are not necessarily warranted. The descriptive
terms “sons of God” and “daughters of man” do not give us
license to make the assumption of interaction between
heavenly beings and earthly beings. We have to be very
careful when we look at a difficult text like this to see how
the language is used in the broader context of Scripture. It is
a very important principle that Scripture is to be interpreted
by Scripture.
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
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(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
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copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. ©
Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk.
Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

That the Scriptures Might Be


Fulfilled
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/that-the-
scriptures-might-be-fulfilled/

That the Scriptures Might


Be Fulfilled
by John Piper
The glory of Jesus Christ shines more clearly when we see
Him in His proper relation to the Old Testament. He has a
magnificent relation to all that was written. It is not
surprising that this is the case, because He is called the
Word of God incarnate (John 1:14). Would not the Word of
God incarnate be the sum and consummation of the Word of
God written? Consider these summary statements and the
texts that support them.
1. All the Scriptures bear witness to Christ. Moses
wrote about Christ (John 5:39, 46).
2. All the Scriptures are about Jesus Christ, even
where there is no explicit prediction. That is, there is a
fullness of implication in all Scripture that points to Christ
and is satisfied only when He has come and done His work.
Graeme Goldsworthy explains: “The meaning of all the
Scriptures is unlocked by the death and resurrection of
Jesus” (see Luke 24:27).
3. Jesus came to fulfill all that was written in the
Law and the Prophets. All of it was pointing to Him even
where it was not explicitly prophetic. He accomplished what
the law required (Matt. 5:17–18).
4. All the promises of God in the Old Testament
are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That is, when you have
Christ, sooner or later you will have both Christ Himself and
all else that God promised through Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
5. The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its
penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on
Christ. Therefore, the Law is manifestly not the path to
righteousness, Christ is. The ultimate goal of the Law is that
we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our
righteousness (Rom. 10:4).
Therefore with the coming of Christ virtually everything
has changed:
1. The blood sacrifices ceased because Christ
fulfilled all that they were pointing toward. He was
the final, unrepeatable sacrifice for sins. Hebrews 9:12: “He
entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the
blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood,
thus securing an eternal redemption.”
2. The priesthood that stood between worshipper
and God has ceased. Hebrews 7:23–24: “The former
priests were many in number, because they were prevented
by death from continuing in office, but he holds his
priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.”
3. The physical temple has ceased to be the
geographic center of worship. Now Christ Himself is
the center of worship. He is the “place,” the “tent,” and the
“temple” where we meet God. Therefore, Christianity has no
geographic center, no Mecca, no Jerusalem. John 4:21–23:
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming
when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you
worship the Father… . But the hour is coming, and is now
here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in
spirit and truth.’” John 2:19–21: “‘Destroy this temple, and in
three days I will raise it up.’ … He was speaking about the
temple of his body.” Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three
are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
4. The food laws that set Israel apart from the
nations have been fulfilled and ended in Christ. Mark
7:18–19: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Do you not see that whatever
goes into a person from outside cannot defile him…?’ (Thus
he declared all foods clean).”
5. The establishment of civil law on the basis of an
ethnically rooted people, who are ruled directly by
God, has ceased. The people of God are no longer a
unified political body, an ethnic group, or a nation-state, but
are exiles and sojourners among all ethnic groups and all
states. Therefore, God’s will for states is not taken directly
from the Old Testament theocratic order, but should now be
reestablished from place to place and from time to time by
means that correspond to God’s sovereign rule over all
peoples, and that correspond to the fact that genuine
obedience, rooted as it is in faith in Christ, cannot be coerced
by law.
The state is therefore grounded in God, but not expressive
of God’s immediate rule. Romans 13:1: “Let every person be
subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authorit
y except from God, and those that exist have been instituted
by God.” John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my
kingdom were of this world, my servants would have
been fighting.”
Let us worship the wonder of Christ, who unleashed these
massive changes in the world.
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
reproduce and distribute this material in any format
provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you
do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and
you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web
posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred
(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above
must be formally approved by Tabletalk.
Please include the following statement on any distributed
copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. ©
Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk.
Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

Can Snakes Talk?


SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/can-snakes-
talk/
Can Snakes Talk?
by Derek Thomas
With the possible exception of John 3:16, no verse in the
Bible is more crucial and definitive than Genesis 3:15: “I will
put enmity between you and the woman, and between your
offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and
you shall bruise his heal.” As Alec Motyer writes, “The whole
of Scripture is not packed into every scripture, but we may
allowably expect every scripture to prepare and make room
for the whole. This is what happens in Genesis 3:15” (Look to
the Rock, IVP, p. 34). Several important issues emerge all
at once:
First, it establishes a principle that runs throughout the
Old Testament, creating an expectation of a Redeemer who
would be a descendent (a “seed”) of Adam and Eve.
Prematurely and horribly wrong, Eve thus thought her
firstborn son, Cain, was its fulfillment (Gen. 4:1). Equally, in a
deliberate echo of this line of thought God’s covenant with
the patriarch Abraham sounds the note of a “seed” that rings
like a tolling church bell (Gen. 12:7; 13:15–16; 15:3, 13, 18; 17:7–10,
12, 19; 21:12; 22:17–18; and so on). No one reading the Bible can
miss the connecting threads: God is doing something in the
history of Israel that has its genesis in a promise given in
Eden. When Mary discovers that she is expecting a baby,
Gabriel announces to her concerning her future son: “He will
be great” (Luke 1:32), clearly picking up a phrase already
made to both Abraham and David (Gen. 12:2; 2 Sam. 7:9). The
“He” is Jesus, of course. The Latin Vulgate rendered it “she”
implying that it was Mary, but this was exegesis in the
interests of dogma. It is not the woman who conquers but
her seed.
Second, it establishes the parameters by which God will
redeem His people from their sin. From the earliest times,
Genesis 3:15 has been called the proto-evangelium because it
is the first note of God’s redemptive intention following the
fall in the garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve failed to
obey the terms of the covenant of works (Gen. 3:6), God did
not destroy them (which would have served justice), but
instead revealed His covenant of grace to them by promising
a Savior (Gen. 3:15), one who would restore the kingdom that
had latterly been destroyed. God’s method of grace is costly:
the heel of the Savior will be bruised. Clearly, this is a
metaphor that in the context is to be contrasted with the
blow the serpent receives (the crushing of his head), but it is
immediately apparent what this involves — the shedding of
substitutionary blood. That seems to be what lies behind the
provision of animal skins as a covering for Adam and Eve in
Genesis 3:21. Blood needs to be shed for sin to be forgiven,
something that accounts for why it is that Abel’s offering (the
firstborn of his flock) is accepted but Cain’s (the fruits of the
soil) is not (Gen. 4:3–5). The way is now clear: “without the
shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).
Third, this verse establishes a cosmic explanation for the
disorder of the world: Satan is at work. True, there is no
mention of Satan here, only a serpent. Adam and Eve are
responsible for their actions and are punished accordingly,
but their actions are inextricably entwined with the serpent’s
malevolence. There is more by way of explanation for sin
than “free will.” The serpent is a part of that which “the Lord
God had made” (Gen. 3:1), but he is no longer in the
condition the Lord had made. Genesis draws a veil over the
origins and nature of this rebellion (sin existed before the
fall in Eden), and is only partially unveiled elsewhere (1
Chron. 21:1; Job 1–2; Zech. 3:1–2; and especially 2 Peter 2:4;
Jude 6). Eve’s sin was more than something internal; it came
from outside, Genesis 3:1 seems to say. Did the serpent
actually speak? Why not? But look at how he grows in the
Bible to be the great red dragon of Revelation 12! The
serpent is a murderer and a liar (John 8:44), as well as a
deceiver (2 Cor. 11:14; Eph. 6:11).
Fourth, the principle of the victory of the kingdom of God
over the kingdom of darkness is established from the
beginning. It is echoed by Jesus at Caesarea Philippi: the
“gates of hell” are resolutely set against the church of Jesus
Christ, but Jesus assures His disciples that the church will be
victorious (Matt. 16:18). The work of redemption unfolds in
enemy occupied territory of deadly and tireless opposition
by Satan and his minions. The enmity is one of unimaginable
meanness and cruelty, which we ignore at our peril. The
story of redemption is not in one sense a cliff-hanger to the
very end, a tale the outcome of which is uncertain until the
last page is turned. The precise nature of the serpent’s
destiny as the lake of fire is not disclosed until the end (Rev.
20:10), but from the outset his doom is sealed. Christian
discipleship is to be worked out within the context of the
assurance of victory rather than the prospect of defeat. We
are to be equipped and ready for battle, but with the
certainty that the decisive battle with the enemy has already
taken place and has been won!
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
reproduce and distribute this material in any format
provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you
do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and
you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web
posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred
(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above
must be formally approved by Tabletalk.
Please include the following statement on any distributed
copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. ©
Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk.
Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

The Historical Reality of Adam


SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/historical-
reality-adam/
The Historical Reality of Adam
by Guy Waters
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” So begins the New England
Primer, which taught generations of early Americans to read.
In introducing our forefathers to the letter A, the primer was
also administering a generous dose of biblical theology. As
Paul puts it crisply in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all
die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Through Adam,
sin and death entered into the world. By Christ, sin and
death were conquered. Adam forfeited life by his
disobedience. Christ achieved life by His obedience. These
simple, basic truths, Paul tells the Corinthians, are the very
structure and content of the gospel.
In the modern world, skeptics have long questioned or
denied the historicity of Adam. Neo-orthodox theologians
added their voices to this chorus in the last century. More
recently, and under the pressure of evolutionary theory,
some prominent evangelical voices have as well. One
prominent evangelical Old Testament scholar has argued
that “it is not necessary that Adam be a historical individual
for [Genesis 1–2] to be without error in what it intends to
teach.” Another well-known evangelical Old Testament
scholar denies that “a literal Adam [was] the first man and
cause of sin and death.” Even so, he continues, we may
retain “three core elements of the gospel,” namely, “the
universal and self-evident problem of death; the universal
and self-evident problem of sin; the historical event of the
death and resurrection of Christ.”
It may help to pause and review what the issues in this
particular debate are and what they are not. The issues do
not concern the age of the earth and of the universe. Neither
do they concern how we are to understand the days of
Genesis 1. Reformed evangelicals have disagreed on these
issues for generations, all the while affirming their common
belief that Adam was a historical person.
We may frame the issue in the form of two related
questions. First, does the Bible require us to believe that
Adam was a historical person? Second, would anything be
lost in the gospel if we were to deny Adam’s historicity?
In answer to the first question, yes, the Bible requires us to
believe that Adam was a historical person. Some of the
clearest testimony about Adam comes from the New
Testament. When explaining Genesis 2, Jesus clearly speaks
of the first man and the first woman in historical terms, and
of the institution of marriage in historical terms (Matt. 19:4–
6). The Apostle Paul, in referring to Genesis 2, speaks of
Adam and Eve in terms equally historical (1 Tim. 2:12–14).
In 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, Paul places Adam and
Jesus in parallel relationship. Paul calls Jesus the “Second
Adam”—there is none between Adam and Jesus (1 Cor. 15:47).
He also calls Jesus the “Last Adam”—there is none after
Jesus (v. 45).
This relationship requires Adam to be a historical person.
Paul compares Adam and Christ in terms of what each man
did. Paul speaks of Adam’s one trespass in eating the
forbidden fruit, and of Christ’s obedience unto death and
resurrection unto life. For the comparison to hold, Adam’s
actions must be as fully historical as Christ’s actions are
historical, and Adam must be as historical a person as Christ
was and remains.
So then, the Bible requires us to believe that Adam was a
historical person. Now, taking up our second question, what
are we to make of the argument that nothing in the gospel
would be lost if we were to deny Adam’s historicity? May we
uphold universal sin and death while discounting the way in
which the Scripture says sin and death entered the world?
The answer is no. The Bible does not give us that option. It
clearly teaches that sin entered the world through the one
action of one historical man, Adam (Rom. 5:12). If we reject
the Bible’s account of a historical point of entry for sin into
human existence, then, as Richard Gaffin has rightly
observed, sin is no longer a matter of “human fallenness.” It
is a matter of “human givenness.” It is just the way that
human beings are.
This understanding of our plight upends the gospel. Absent
a historical fall, the Bible’s account of redemption through
the Second and Last Adam, Jesus Christ, makes no sense at
all. How can it at all be meaningful to say with the Bible that
God, in His sovereign and infinite mercy, has recovered and
restored what was lost in the fall? To deny the historicity of
Adam is no trivial matter. It has radical implications for the
way in which we look at human nature, evil,
and redemption.
The second lesson of the New England Primer, teaching
the letter B, is “Thy life to mend / this Book [the Bible]
attend.” Having clarified our human problem in biblical
terms with its lesson on the letter A, the primer then
articulates the solution in equally biblical terms with its
lesson on the letter B. Wise counsel indeed. And what God
has joined together, let no man put asunder.
© Tabletalk magazine
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to
reproduce and distribute this material in any format
provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you
do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and
you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web
posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred
(where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above
must be formally approved by Tabletalk.
Please include the following statement on any distributed
copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. ©
Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk.
Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

The Binding of Satan by


Douglas Kelly
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/binding-satan/

The Binding of Satan

by Douglas Kelly

Revelation 20 is the only place in the Bible that speaks of “the


millennium”—the thousand-year reign of the triumphant Christ on earth.
Nowhere else does Holy Scripture mention this word, so it is necessary to
look at related teachings elsewhere in Scripture to understand what it
means in Revelation. A sound principle of biblical interpretation (used
from ancient times by Augustine, Tychonius, and other early Christian
writers) is that one interprets the few mentions of a word or concept in
light of the many, and the symbolic in light of the plain. It would be
contrary to a clear understanding of the Scriptures to make the many fit
into the one, or the plain into the symbolic. Therefore, we should
understand what Revelation 20, a highly symbolic book, says about the
millennium in light of the very large number of other biblical passages
that tell us more plainly (and less symbolically) what occurs between
Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, and His final return to
earth to complete His victorious work. With that in mind, let us seek
biblical help in order to make sense of the very first thing that is said to
occur in this thousand-year period between Christ’s two comings: the
binding of Satan.

Revelation 20:1–3 says that a mighty angel from God binds the Devil for a
thousand years. Specifically, verse 3 relates that he is bound from
deceiving the nations during this period. Something happens to Satan’s
ability to keep the nations of earth blinded from seeing who God is, and
what His gospel means for them. As a result of Christ’s finished work in
dying on the cross, in rising from the dead, in ascending to the Father,
and in being crowned on the throne of glory, Satan lost his power to
deceive the untold millions of pagans, whom he formerly kept blinded to
God’s saving truth.

The ancient story of Job may give us some important insight into this
massive reduction of Satan’s power over the heathen nations. Job 1:6–12
portrays Satan as possessing the ability to come into God’s immediate
presence along with other angels, or “sons of God” (v.6). He used this place
of power to cause great harm to Job. But according to what Christ says in
the Gospels, Satan lost that privileged access to the heavenly courts as a
result of the incarnation and work of Christ. In Luke 10:18–19, the seventy
disciples return with great joy from their successful mission in preaching
the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons. Christ then explains
how they were able to accomplish these wonders: “He said to them, ‘I saw
Satan fall like lightning from heaven’” (v. 18). Jesus explains Satan’s fall in
terms of Christian ministry: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on
serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing
shall hurt you” (v. 19).

It is significant that the first beings to recognize the incarnate Christ,


according to the gospel of Mark, were demons. Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34 are
among the passages that show the demons crying out in terror that the
Holy One of God has come to torment them. Jesus explained that when He
cast out demons by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28–29), it meant that the
kingdom of God had come. In His work, He was binding the strong man
(that is, the devil), who formerly had been keeping people in the dark and
painful prison of unbelief, sin, and certain judgment.

After the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection, and immediately before


His ascension back to the Father, He commissioned the church to “go …
and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19). They would be able to do this
because of Christ’s victory over Satan, who had long blinded the nations,
for Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’
(v. 18). Satan’s illegitimate power over the nations has been wrested from
him, and placed into the hands of the legitimate Lord and Savior of the
world. Now the Christian church can do its work; it can engage in
successful mission all over the world, bringing the good news of freedom
from captivity to those who had long been in chains because of sin
and unbelief.

Colossians 2:14–15 makes it clear what happened to the powers of evil


through Christ’s ministry, especially what He accomplished on the cross:
“[He] cancel[ed] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal
demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers
and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in
him.” This indicates that wicked powers were defeated in principle at the
cross of Christ. When Jesus purged all of our sins on Calvary, something
happened to Satan. The evil one lost his authority to keep people back
from God. He was bound by what Jesus did.

The missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul into the pagan territories of
Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome were successful in turning the once-
darkened nations to the saving light of God in Christ on the basis of the
binding of Satan. Paul says in Acts 28:28, “Therefore let it be known to you
that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
That has been the engine of all Christian missions and evangelism from
that day to this one.
How long does the millennium last? There can be no doubt that it began
with the completed work of Christ on earth. Revelation 20 follows
immediately upon Revelation 19, which celebrates the triumph of the One
who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (v. 16), whose robe was dipped in
blood (v. 13), and who now rules the nations with a rod of iron (v. 15). But
when does it end? Revelation 20 presents it as continuing until the end of
the age, when after a brief uprising by Satan, the final judgment takes
place (20:7–11). That means that the evil one is bound from deceiving the
nations until just before the conclusion of salvation history.

Why, then, does Revelation use the expression a thousand years? In


terms of biblical numbers, ten represents fullness, and a thousand is ten
times ten times ten, hence fullness times fullness times fullness. It seems
to equal a vast number of years without being a precise chronology of
human history. Nowhere else does Scripture limit the binding of Satan and
the success of the church’s mission to a specific period of time before the
end of the age. Moreover, there are other places in Scripture where the
word thousand is used without being a literal number. In Psalm 50 this
same number is employed in a different context, where it says that God
owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (v. 10). This could not mean that the
only thing God owns in His creation is one thousand hills, for “the earth is
the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (24:1). It is an expression for fullness. It
is the same in Psalm 68:17, where the chariots of God are said to be “twice
ten thousand.” It is highly unlikely that God has only twenty thousand
active angels at his behest, for Christ on the cross could have called down
twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53), which is far more than twenty
thousand. The message in Psalms 50 and 68 is one of fullness, and it is the
same in Revelation 20. One day, the fullness of the elect will be brought
into the church, and then the end will come. It is not a matter of literally
one thousand years, but of God’s secret timing as to the gathering of His
people into union with Christ, however long that may take from our
human perspective.

Although the evil one still has limited power in a fallen world, it is far
less than what he had when he was able to bind and blind all nations
outside Israel. And believers can still overcome even Satan’s limited power,
for James 4:7 commands us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Revelation 12:11 testifies of the embattled saints that “they have conquered
him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Hence,
on the foundational truth of Satan’s having been bound from blinding the
nations, the church may daily pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be
done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), and find comfort in God’s
assurance: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the
ends of the earth your possession” (Ps. 2:8).

© Tabletalk magazine

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and


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800-435-4343.

Every Jot and Tittle by Burk


Parsons
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/jot-and-tittle/

Every Jot and Tittle

by Burk Parsons

Although we don’t like to admit it, the reason many of us don’t read the
Bible regularly is because we are afraid of it. We are afraid of the Bible
because we are ignorant of the Bible. Many of the theological words and
concepts we come across in the Bible are foreign to us and, therefore,
frighten us. When we come across such words, we often don’t know what
to make of them. So, we just move on to the next word and, to our own
detriment, fail to grasp the full meaning and beauty of the passage we’re
reading. This isn’t just the case with big theological words we run into
from time to time, but with common words we’re familiar with that appear
on every page of the Bible. Part of the reason we move on is because we
are often trying to read the Bible simply to get through a particular
chapter or book rather than digging into it to study it in its fullness. In
fact, the Bible doesn’t ever call us just to read it. Rather, the Bible calls us
to study it, to examine it, to devour it, to meditate on it, to let it dwell
within our hearts richly, and to hide it in our hearts that we might not sin
against the Lord.

As a pastor, one of my greatest concerns is that people know the Bible


for themselves so that they might know God, love God, glorify God, and
enjoy God. As Dr. R.C. Sproul and I preach every Sunday at Saint Andrew’s
Chapel, we strive to help our congregation know the Bible by preaching
verse-by-verse through entire books of the Bible. Recently, I completed
preaching 150 sermons through 1 and 2 Corinthians, and in most of these
sermons, following the example set by Dr. Sproul, I defined key theological
words so that the congregation would be better equipped and unafraid to
study Scripture on their own and with their families.

Some words we come across in the Bible require that we not only
examine their meaning, but also the meanings of related words. This is
because a word itself is often just one part of a two-part concept—a
dichotomy—in Scripture. For instance, when we come across the word
blessing, we must also know the biblical and theological distinction
between blessing and its opposite, cursing. Similarly, in order to fully
grasp the meaning of wisdom, we must examine the meaning of
foolishness. If we study one without the other, we do ourselves a great
disservice in our understanding and application of the theology of God’s
Word. God’s Word is truth—it not only contains the truth, it defines the
truth, and it is by that truth we are sanctified. Consequently, the more we
know God’s truth, the more we will grow in the grace, knowledge, and
holiness of Jesus Christ, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Let us
therefore study not only the major stories and theological themes of the
Bible, but also every word, every jot and tittle, that we might know and
love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, coram Deo,
before the face of the God who has revealed Himself to us for our eternal
good and His eternal glory.

© Tabletalk magazine

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and


distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
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800-435-4343.

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My


Friend? by Albert Mohler
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/enemy-my-
enemy-my-friend/

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

by Albert Mohler

We are not living in a season of peace. Thinking Christians must surely


be aware that a great moral and spiritual conflict is taking shape all
around us, with multiple fronts of battle and issues of great importance at
stake. The prophet Jeremiah repeatedly warned of those who would falsely
declare peace when there is no peace. The Bible defines the Christian life
in terms of spiritual battle, and believers in this generation face the fact
that the very existence of truth is at stake in our current struggle.

The condition of warfare brings a unique set of moral challenges to the


table, and the great moral and cultural battles of our times are no
different. Even ancient thinkers knew this, and many of their maxims of
warfare are still commonly cited. Among the most popular of these is a
maxim that was known by many of the ancients—“the enemy of my enemy
is my friend.”

That maxim has survived as a modern principle of foreign policy. It


explains why states that have been at war against one another can, in a
very short period of time, become allies against a common enemy. In
World War II, the Soviet Union began as an ally of Nazi Germany. Yet, it
ended the war as a key ally of the United States and Britain. How? It
joined the effort against Hitler and became the instant “friend” of the
Americans and the British. And yet, as that great war came to an end, the
Soviets and their former allies entered a new phase of open hostility
known as the Cold War.

Does this useful maxim of foreign policy serve Christians well as we


think about our current struggles? That is not an uncomplicated question.
On the one hand, some sense of unity against a common opponent is
inevitable, and even indispensible. On the other hand, the idea that a
common enemy produces a true unity is, as even history reveals, a
false premise.

We must not underestimate what we are up against. We face titanic


struggles on behalf of human life and human dignity against the culture of
death and the great evils of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. We are
in a great fight for the integrity of marriage as the union of a man and a
woman. We face a cultural alliance determined to advance a sexual
revolution that will unleash unmitigated chaos and bring great injury to
individuals, families, and the society at large. We are fighting to defend
gender as part of the goodness of God’s creation and to defend the very
existence of an objective moral order.

Beyond all these challenges, we are engaged in a great battle to defend


the existence of truth itself, to defend the reality and authority of God’s
revelation in Scripture, and to defend all that the Bible teaches. A
pervasive anti-supernaturalism seeks to deny any claim of God’s existence
or our ability to know him. Naturalistic worldviews dominate in the
academy, and the New Atheism sells books by the millions. Theological
liberalism does its best to make peace with the enemies of the church, but
faithful Christians have no way to escape the battles to which this
generation of believers are called.

So, are the other enemies of our enemies our friends? Mormons, Roman
Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and a host of others share many of our enemies
in this respect. But, to what extent is there a unity among us?

At this point, very careful and honest thinking is required of us. At one
level, we can join with anyone, regardless of worldview, to save people
from a burning house. We would gladly help an atheist save a neighbor
from danger, or even beautify the neighborhood. Those actions do not
require a shared theological worldview.

At a second level, we certainly see all those who defend human life and
human dignity, marriage and gender, and the integrity of the family as key
allies in the current cultural struggle. We listen to each other, draw
arguments from each other, and are thankful for each other’s support of
our common concerns. We even recognize that there are elements
common to our worldviews that explain our common convictions on these
issues. And yet, our worldviews are really quite different.

With the Roman Catholic Church our common convictions are many,
including moral convictions about marriage, human life, and the family.
Beyond that, we together affirm the truths of the divine Trinity, orthodox
Christology, and other doctrines as well. But we disagree over what is
supremely important—the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that supreme
difference leads to other vital disagreements as well—over the nature and
authority of the Bible, the nature of the ministry, the meaning of baptism
and the Lord’s Supper, and an entire range of issues central to the
Christian faith.

Christians defined by the faith of the Reformers must never forget that
nothing less than faithfulness to the gospel of Christ forced the Reformers
to break from the Roman Catholic Church. Equal clarity and courage are
required of us now.

In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our
friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our
enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
© Tabletalk magazine

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and


distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the
wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of
reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For
web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where
applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above must be
formally approved by Tabletalk.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-
800-435-4343.

Can Christians 'Do Business'


with the World? by Robert
Rothwell
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/can-christians-
do-business-world/

Can Christians ‘Do Business’ with the World?

by Robert Rothwell

In recent decades, a number of prominent Christian organizations and


denominations have called for Christians to boycott businesses that are
associated in some way with non-Christian ethics. Over the years, these
groups have called for boycotts of companies and products such as
American Airlines, The Gap, Burger King, Clorox, Crest, Ford, Hallmark
Cards, Kraft Foods, Microsoft, the Walt Disney Company, IKEA, Pampers,
Target, the Campbell Soup Company, and many more.

Homosexuality and abortion have been the major issues that have
inspired these boycotts. For example, some of the boycotted companies
give employee benefits to homosexual couples, advertise in pro-
homosexual magazines, or donate to pro-homosexual advocacy groups.
Numerous companies financially support pro-abortion organizations such
as Planned Parenthood.

These calls for boycotts stem from a belief on the part of some
Christians that all believers have a moral obligation to boycott any
company that supports sinful behavior such as homosexuality or abortion.
Their motivation is a noble one, for they are attempting to follow the
biblical mandate to obey God’s Word and to not love the things of this
world (1 John 2:15–17; see Eph. 5:11; James 4:4).

Other Christians argue that Scripture does not place such a moral
obligation on all Christians. These Christians point out that the
aforementioned commands deal with love of the world’s system of
thinking—that is, its evil worldview. They say that boycotting any business
that is associated with non-Christian ethics in any way goes beyond the
biblical meaning of separation and, if taken to its logical conclusion, would
require that Christians abandon the world. Christians would not be of the
world—which is good—but neither would they be in it—which is not good.

What shall we say to these things? First, let us note that people on both
sides of this issue believe that we may not compromise the holy standards
of God. We all agree that we must not capitulate to our culture’s definition
of right and wrong, and that we must resist calls for Christians to redefine
biblical ethics.

However, it is one thing to stand strong on what God defines as sin, but
it is another to say this requires us to boycott any business that is
involved tangentially with sin.

Paul gives an essential principle regarding associating with non-


Christians:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with


sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the
sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and
swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to
go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to
associate with anyone who bears the name of brother
if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an
idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to
eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging
outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you
are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the
evil person from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:9–13)

Note that Paul clarifies some teaching that he had previously delivered
to the Corinthians. Apparently, some in the Corinthian church took Paul’s
admonition to separate from immoral people as a command to separate
from all immoral people without distinction. But that is not what he meant.
He clarifies his point by saying that the ones from whom we must
separate are immoral people who bear “the name of” brothers (v. 11). The
Apostle is referring to individuals who insist on calling themselves
Christians while living in grievous, impenitent sin. Separation pertains to
the visible church. Paul wants the church to present a good witness to the
world around her by remaining as pure as possible on this side of heaven.
That means removing from the visible church anyone who claims to be a
believer and impenitently bears the fruits of wickedness and not the fruits
of regeneration. The entire chapter is dealing with a church discipline
issue, with a problem among those in Corinth who professed the name of
Christ and not every Corinthian citizen.

To be sure, we are to refrain from personal sin and to encourage godly


living, but that is different than staying away from impenitent sinners who
make no claim to being Christians. The only way to do that, Paul notes,
would be to remove ourselves entirely from the world (vv. 9–10). Paul’s
clarification on the matter shows that he does not want us to remove
ourselves from the world. He wants us to associate with sinners—not in
endorsing or joining in their sin, but in making ourselves available to
them so that they can hear the gospel. This is what Jesus did (Mark 2:13–17),
and the Apostles did the same as they took the gospel to pagan sinners ( 1
Cor. 6:9–11). Therefore, because we are not to separate from the world into
a Christian ghetto, we have to participate in the world’s economy and do
business with our non-Christian neighbors. There is no way around it.

That is all well and good, you might say, but should we not distinguish
between non-Christians who promote immorality openly and those who do
not, and then take our business to the former? Does not our purchasing
from those who promote sin make us responsible for sin because our
dollars might be going to the promotion of evil? There are two passages
that bear on this subject. In Romans 13:6–7, Paul explains that Christians
are to pay their taxes, thereby echoing the teaching of our Lord in
Matthew 22:15–22. This is significant because the specific government to
which Jesus and Paul commanded Christians to pay taxes was the Roman
government, which supported and condoned heinous activities. In fact,
Jesus commended the paying of taxes to the very authorities He knew
would soon crucify Him. The Roman Empire was not merely non-Christian
—it was anti-Christian. And yet, both our Lord and the Apostle Paul
instruct Christians to pay taxes to that government. Since Jesus and Paul
would never tell us to do anything that involves us in sin, we may deduce
from these passages that Christians are not morally responsible if their
tax dollars are used for sinful purposes. And if we are not morally
responsible for what the government does with our tax dollars, we are
certainly not responsible for what companies do with our purchasing
dollars. We do not intend to support sin with our purchases; we simply
need a good or service. When we buy chicken from a supermarket that
supports Planned Parenthood, for example, we are not trying to fund
abortion. We just need food for our families.

We are to be in the world, and being in this world means participating


in the economies of this world. So, we must respectfully disagree with our
fellow Christians who insist that all believers are morally obligated to
boycott any company that supports sinful behavior. Therefore, we choose
to do business with non-Christians. We choose to live among them. We
choose to do so in order that we might call them out of darkness and into
light. We do so in imitation of our Lord who did not abandon us when we
were His enemies, and who came and lived among us and died for us that
we might live.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce


and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not
alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the
cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical
copies.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights
reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343”

Angels of Darkness by Kent


Heimbigner
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/angels-
darkness/

Angels of Darkness

by Kent Heimbigner

Christ warned His disciples, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you
in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize
them by their fruits” (Matt. 15–16a). Like every word uttered by the mouth
of the Lord, He speaks these words purposefully: He would not have
warned us against “wolves in sheep’s clothing” if they posed no danger.
Quite to the contrary, cults would draw those who hear them away from
the one true, saving faith in Christ.

To understand the danger cults present, consider Martin Luther’s


explanation to the petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into
temptation.” He writes, “God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that
God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful
nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and
other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we
pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory” (Luther’s
Small Catechism).
Were you to ask most people, even Christians, for examples of “really big
sins,” they generally would respond with things like murder, sexual sins,
or perhaps even sins against the property of another. So why does Luther
single out “false belief” and “despair”? Luther does not think in terms of
what violates God’s law here. He speaks rather to those things that would
overthrow the Gospel! No matter what you have done in terms of sin, as
long as you still know the blessed and holy Triune God, and as long as you
still trust in the death of Christ on the cross to have paid for all your sins,
there is still a way back. You cannot sin a sin bigger than the sacrifice of
Christ. Repent and receive His forgiveness.

However, if you have the wrong God (false belief), or you no longer
believe the atoning sacrifice of Christ counts for you (despair), then you
have cut yourself off from the source of forgiveness. So we pray most
fervently against these salvation-destroying things, and then secondarily
against “other great shame and vice.”

This is where cults come in. They are nothing but mighty tools in the
hands of the evil one to lure you into false belief, that is, to lure you into
trusting a false god for your salvation. Know this, that the appeal of these
organizations goes well beyond issues of a “sense of belonging,”
opportunities for social interaction, or psychological attraction. There is
demonic power behind all falsehood, and the father of lies wants nothing
more than to unleash faith-destroying falsehood on all who would
follow Christ.

Immediately after warning against false prophets, Christ tells us that we


may recognize them by their fruits. What does He mean? It must mean
more than who does outwardly good things: most religions encourage
such civic righteousness, and they cannot all be true. No, when Christ
points us to the fruits, He means most particularly their doctrines. Do they
come to you in the Name of the only true and living God — the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit? Do they teach that Jesus Christ is true God, that He is true
man, that He was born of the Virgin, crucified, rose, and ascended into
heaven? Do they point you to the work of Christ for your salvation, or do
they point you away from Him, inviting you to trust in your own good
works (a false god if ever there was one!)? These are the fruits we seek.
When the focus is turned instead to the works of man, to a charismatic
leader, or to some new revelation, then God is being robbed of His glory,
and we turn away.

How do you guard yourself against false doctrine? Many have become
experts about the particular beliefs and practices of certain cults, and they
render a great service to our Lord and His church. Nevertheless, the single
best way to protect yourself against false doctrine is to know the truth of
God’s Word thoroughly. When we have a firm grasp of the truth, we will
easily recognize falsehood when it comes our way.
Finally, how can we reach out in Christian love to our neighbor who has
been led astray into one of these cults? It is not enough to show them that
what they believe is false: they will likely see this as a personal assault on
them. At best, they will receive the critique, realize that their cult is a
deception, and as a result have no idea what, if anything, to believe.
Further, even an approach that says, “I know it sounds good, but it’s not
true,” already concedes too much.

The holy Christian faith offers one thing that no other religion can:
certainty of salvation! Any cult or religion that looks to the works of man
for salvation can never give the guilty conscience peace. As we doubt
ourselves, so we must inevitably doubt the acceptability of our works in
the eyes of God, and so salvation must remain an uncertain thing. One
can be certain of salvation only when that salvation is the work of Christ
alone, for only Christ is reliable beyond all doubt. This is the precious gift
we can offer those whom the cults have deceived.

God grant us complete confidence in the all-sufficient work of our Lord


and Savior Jesus Christ, and so protect us against all that would lure us
away from it. So then shall He also have use of us to speak to those who
sit in darkness about the good news of salvation solely by grace, solely
through faith, solely on account of the atoning work of Christ. Amen.

© Tabletalk magazine

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and


distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the
wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of
reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For
web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where
applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above must be
formally approved by Tabletalk.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-
800-435-4343.

Holy Orders by John Duncan


SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/holy-orders/
Holy Orders

by John Duncan

In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul admonishes Timothy with these words: “Do your
best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no
need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

This is a sacred charge to ministers and to all professors of the


Christian religion: that we are known by and well versed in truth. The
substance of that truth is to be seen in our conduct, and the benefits of
that truth extend to our neighbor.

But the Christian church in America is increasingly unacquainted with


truth, ashamed of our ancient faith, unapproved and feeble in our gospel
abilities. We live in a culture that challenges our beliefs every day, and
rather than accept that challenge with clarity, grace, and constancy we
concede and compromise. We defer or say nothing at all.

But Christians are to present themselves to God — not men — for His
service and for His approval. When scriptural truths are challenged, we
are to be ready to defend their integrity. But how often it is the case that
the outward conduct of the church is the very ground on which the world
dismisses the free offer of the gospel. Though it is no excuse for the non-
believer, it is nonetheless a shame on those who are to be emissaries of
light. We are called to be the outworking evidence of Scriptures’ truth
claims. Our lives are intended to be verification of God’s decrees.

But we are often mute in the face of opposition, and Christians struggle
to apply biblical principles to everyday discussions.

You know, there’s a right way to use a buzz saw, a right way to hold it,
and a right way to cut with it. Deviating from these obvious ergonomic
realities can be dangerous or fatal. I cannot imagine anyone ever saying,
“Well, that’s the way you hold it, but I like to grab it by the blade during
cutting and secure it by leaning on it.” That method is only
executable once.

There’s also a right way to handle the word of truth — to serve its
meaning, to serve its purposes, and to serve its author, God.

© Tabletalk magazine

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and


distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the
wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of
reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For
web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where
applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above must be
formally approved by Tabletalk.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-
800-435-4343.

A Man Created in God's Image


by Burk Parsons
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/man-created-
gods-image/

A Man Created in God’s Image

by Burk Parsons

In 1998 a dear friend prompted me to get involved working with Dr. Tom
Woodward and the C. S. Lewis Society. A few months later I found myself
at dinner with Phillip E. Johnson, noted law professor at Berkeley and
author of Darwin on Trial. During my time with Dr. Johnson I learned two
very important things. First, if we as Christians are going to enter the
debate on Darwinian evolution, we must first understand who and what
we’re up against-—we must know our opponents’ arguments better than
they do. Second, I learned that our ultimate end is not simply to win the
argument but to win our opponents to Christ, and that we must therefore
be careful to win both the argument and win the man so that at the end
of the debate our opponent has a place to land, a smooth runway, so to
speak, where he can come down.

We’re familiar with Peter’s charge: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord
as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you
for a reason for the hope that is in you.” However, we too often forget the
manner in which we are called to “make a defense” (an apologetic) for
the hope within us. Peter continues, “yet do it with gentleness and respect,
having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who
revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15–16).

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, and
this month marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the
Origin of Species. While it would certainly be easy for us to do an issue of
Tabletalk that simply reiterated the glaring deficiencies of Darwin’s
naturalism and evolutionary biology, we decided instead to follow the
wisdom of Dr. Johnson. Thus, we have provided you with something that is
hard to find anywhere, namely, a fair and honest biographical portrait of
Charles Darwin and an overview of responses to Darwinian evolutionary
theory from a Christian perspective, so that, at the end of the day, the
church might be better equipped to give a defense of her hope with
gentleness and respect, pointing all professed Darwinists to the undeniable
Creator before whose face we live coram Deo.

© Tabletalk magazine

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and


distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the
wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of
reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For
web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where
applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above must be
formally approved by Tabletalk.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website:
www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-
800-435-4343.

What Is the Gospel? by R.C.


Sproul
SourceURL:
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-gospel/

What Is the Gospel?

by R.C. Sproul

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the


Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions
or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you
when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can
have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship
with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they
don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.
The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most
serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is
simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my
life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll
be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or
the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus
lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for
His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t
possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect
obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice
and the righteousness of God.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to
protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just
waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is
a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was
that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the
dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the
Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what
He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of
Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it
clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our
deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the
benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in
Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His
family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your
pilgrimage for eternity.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce


and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not
alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the
cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical
copies.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From


Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights
reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343”