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What is Biblical Preaching?

BIBLICAL PREACHING

Preaching open Bible image

By Phil A. Newton

George Barna, the guru of statistics among evangelicals, seems to be influencing today’s pulpit more than the apostles Peter and Paul. Barna, whose popularity began with his book Marketing the Church, has assumed the position of telling preachers how they are to preach in order to “reach” certain segments of society. His basic thesis of “marketing the church” continues in his profusion of books. While no one can doubt the importance of Barna’s statistical data to the strategies of evangelicals, it seems that he continues to cross the line of offering data to pontificating changes that ignore God’s Word.

In a recent article in Preaching titled “The Pulpit-meis-ter: Preaching to the New Majority,” Barna departs from his role as a sociologist and assumes the role of professor of preaching. He does state that “the core of our message must never be compromised,” but the paradigm he proposes can lead only to compromise. He suggests that “the new majority,” the group of so-called Boomers and Busters (those born from 1946 to 1964 and 1965 to 1983, respectively), have certain characteristics which prevent them from being attentive to typical, traditional preaching (George Barna, “The Pulpit-meister: Preaching to the New Majority,” Preaching [January/February], 11).

I recognize that preachers must develop their individ- ual styles and that preaching in certain parts of the world may vary due to particular cultural influences. But when the preacher must change his use of language to purge it of any hint of the theological or judgmental, he finds himself positioned to be more of an inspirational speaker than a preacher of God’s Word. When he must keep his sermons under twenty minutes, filling them with stories, avoiding “moral absolutes,” and going light on scriptural references, he has no hope to teach and explain the doctrines of the Word. Barna goes so far as to state, “Increasingly we find that the entire approach of ‘talking at the audience’ is an ill fated form of communication.” He suggests that preaching in any kind of series will not work since the audience may change from week to week (The Pulpit-meister, 11-13).

The question Barna’s article raises for me is this, What are we trying to do in preaching? Are we trying to placate the self-centeredness of man? Or proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord”? Preachers must reckon with the biblical basis of preaching rather than the sociological observations of barn. Barna is fallible. God’s Word is not.

In His classic work Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need in the world also.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1971], 9). Assuredly, Lloyd-Jones did not have drama, entertainment, or pulpit chats in mind when he pressed the need for “true preaching.” In his mind, true preaching was nothing less than the exposition of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. “What is preaching?” Lloyd-Jones queried:

Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire (Preaching and Preachers, 97).

The issue in preaching is proclaiming faithfully, accurately, and clearly the Word of God, so that the truth of the Word penetrates the mind to affect the heart, rather than the cleverness of the preacher impressing the hearers. At the core of all a preacher does is to dig deeply into a given text of Scripture, seeking to understand it grammatically, historically, and doctrinally. He must then apply himself, in the power of the Spirit, to let the text speak through him. J.I. Packer explained what true preaching is when he wrote:

The true idea of preaching is that the preacher should become a mouthpiece for his text, opening it up and applying as a word from God to his hearers, talking only in order that the text may speak itself and be heard, making each point from his text in such a manner “that the hearers may discern how God teacheth if from thence (J.I. Packer, God Has Spoken [Grand Rapids, Michagan: Baker, 1979], 28; Packer quote from Westminster Directory, 1645).

With much grief, I listened recently to a man who filled the pulpit with jokes, clever stories, and talk-show one-liners. But he never proclaimed God’s Word. He read a text and even referred to it, albeit eisegetically. Yet the truths of the Word were never expounded for the congregation to be confronted with the living God and his truth. That is entertainment. it is not preaching in a biblical sense. I fear that such pulpit-abuse (or perhaps I should say, congregation abuse) is all too common.

We must consider what we are attempting to do in the pulpit. It seems that some preachers have a goal to be enjoyed by the hearers rather than to help the hearers understand God’s Word, and, consequently, come to know God in truth. Surely the shallowness in the pew is primarily due to the neglect in the pulpit. I agree with James Montgomery Boice: “The church has to rediscover who God is, come to know him, and fellowship with him. The avenue for that has always been Bible exposition and teaching. There’s no shortcut.”(Quoted by Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church [Chicago: Moody, 1996], 59). Yet the popular methods of the day fall short of “Bible exposition and teaching.”

What does the Bible have to say about all this? There’s no more forceful nor clear passage addressing the subject of preaching than that which Paul wrote to Timothy in his last epistle:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and kingdom; preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry  (2 Timothy 4:1-5 [Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible]).

Whatever the preacher is to be doing in the pulpit, at the very minimum he ought to be dictated by the teaching of God’s Word. Anything less than this is a compromise of his ministry and calling. The example and exhortation of the Bible points back to the priority of preaching. Don Whitney expresses it well:

Regardless of how inefficient some may think preaching is in our technological, mass media society, regardless of how much more exciting or entertaining or even successful other methods may appear, the most effective way of communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ is still through the means God was pleased to choose—preaching (Spiritual Disciplines, 64).

With these things in mind, I offer some of the chief issues raised by the apostle Paul in his exhortation to Timothy.

BIBLICAL PREACHING IS A SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY

The apostle Paul was nearing the end of his life as he penned these words to Timothy. We can call them “Final Instructions,” for the apostle knew the pressures of the ministry which his young disciple faced. He understood that nothing short of biblical preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit will have the needed effect upon his congregation. So we see him reminding Timothy of the gravity facing him in the discharge of his responsibilities. For Paul, being a preacher was not a matter of fun or popularity. It was a divine calling that must be fulfilled in a God-ordained fashion.

We see that biblical preaching is a solemn responsibility…

Because of the Audience. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,” he begins. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that while he had a congregation who listened to his preaching, they were not his chief audience. Instead, God and Christ Jesus were.

This is a shocking thought to consider: The God of heaven listens in on the preaching of the pastor! There is no more important thing for me to remember when standing at the pulpit than the fact that the ears of heaven are attuned to every word I speak. The Greek of the prepositional phrase, “in the presence of,” literally means “in the face of” (Gk. enopion). The solemn charge to preach and the discharging of the duty is given “in the face of” God and the Redeemer.

When I first spoke this truth to my own congregation there were a few people who were repulsed at the thought. They argued against such a proposition that God himself is the primary audience in preaching, while the congregation is secondary. Yet this is exactly what Paul spoke to the church at Corinth: “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do beloved, is for the sake of building you up (2 Corinthians 12:19). The solemnity of preaching demands that the preacher realize that he is speaking “in the sight of God,” yet for the “upbuilding” of the congregation.

Because of the Accountability. The reminder that the Lord Jesus Christ is “to judge the living and the dead” should stem the endless jokes and cute stories that pollute the pulpit as a substitute for preaching. Those seated before the preacher will one day face a Judge who executes his judgement in righteousness. In light of this, can the preacher be trivial in the pulpit? If he truly loves those under his charge, can he neglect to expound the Word of God which addresses the “real need” of sinners rather than offering up sermonic ditties for the “felt needs” of his hearers?

Because of the Appearing. The imminence and gravity of Christ’s return is held before Timothy as he is charged with preaching the Word of God. The preacher of the Word must keep in mind that we do not await clever timetables for Christ to return. He can end this life in a moment. The preacher must so live and so preach as if today is the day of Christ’s appearing. The urgency of the messenger delivering the right message to his hearers is pressed upon us by this charge.

Because of the Authority. The mention of Christ’s kingdom reminds Timothy of the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ over him and the affairs of his King. His duty is to his King. His energies are to be expended for his King. When he stands before a people to deliver the Word of God, he must keep in mind that he stands as a representative of his King. And he is confronting his hearers with the lordship of Christ over their lives as well. His message must not be muddled by a blend of self-help and psychobable. As Paul expressed it: “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

BIBLICAL PREACHING IS A SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITY

The three key words of our text, “Preach the word,” drive home to us the specific nature of the preaching task. The preacher must expound the Word of God or else he has failed in his calling. He may be a wonderful administrator, a winsome personal worker, an effective leader. But if he fails to expound the Word of God, he is a failure to his calling to “preach the Word.”

Before considering the specific elements involved in biblical preaching, I offer some observations on the trends that seem to be affecting the hearing of the Word in our congregations. These trends have an impact upon preaching and hearing.

Observations

First, there has been a popularizing and Americanizing of the Word to make it more palatable and acceptable to the masses. Rather than seeking to understand a text as God gave it, the preacher seems to be more intent on appealing to people. Often the goal is to increase church membership. But if that membership is gained at the expense of a genuine work of God through biblical preaching, can it really be worthwhile?

Neither Jesus nor the apostles sought to make the truth of God more palatable to their hearers. They laid the truth out with force and clarity. Paul assessed that his preaching of the cross was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). They preached the truth and depended upon the power of God to drive it home to the hearers’ minds and hearts.

Perhaps one of the problems that has necessitated a watering down of truth in the pulpit is a shallow theology of the Holy Spirit. Rather than believing the Spirit of God can penetrate calloused minds with the Word of God, preachers have sought to use clever devices and techniques to persuade hearers. A failure to understand the biblical doctrine of regeneration has led to untold harm in the name of evangelism, all because preachers do not trust the Holy Spirit to do his work.

When we try to use the latest methods of communication we may have a ready audience, but they pay more attention to our cleverness than to the cross. They are impressed with the speaker, not the Savior (1 Corinthians 1:17). While a seminary student, I had two different professors for preaching. One taught biblical exposition. The other encouraged preachers to offer fifteen-to-twenty-minute dramatic presentations to their congregations. One method communicates divine truth. The other draws attention to the preacher.

Second, the attention given to the “electronic preacher” has shortened the attention spans and changed the appetites of congregations. I am thankful for the many wonderful media broadcasts that faithfully proclaim the Word of God. But I am appalled at the equally large number which claim everything but biblical truth. Some media preachers water down truth in order to be popular and secure good ratings. They know what sells. Marketing has driven them to change their content to appeal to the masses in order to gain a larger following.

Another effect of media preachers is that even those who faithfully preach the Word have their messages edited to fit a twenty-five-minute broadcast format. certainly this is understandable with the cost of airtime. But when you add to this the lack of hunger for the purity of the Word and the typical church member’s shortened attention span, you find complaints about Sunday sermons that last longer than thirty minutes.

I have been preaching since 1970. Since I started preaching exposition ally, about 1974, I have found that I will normally spend forty to forty-five minutes for each sermon. I’ve tried to shorten my outlines and change my notes, but nothing seems to have a real effect on my sermon length. And rightly so! The goal should never be just to get through. It should be to expound the text of God’s Word.

A few years ago I found myself facing some disgruntled people who wanted shorter sermons. They really did not care what I preached as long as it was shorter! But I took time to explain, that in my understanding, I could not adequately deal with a text of Scripture in less than forty to forty-five minutes. I found a kindred mind in this with John MacArthur. He wrote:

If you are going to be a Bible expositor, forget the twenty and thirty-minute sermons. You are looking at forty or fifty minutes. In any less than that, you can’t exposit the Scripture. The purpose is not to get it over, but rather to explain the Word of God. My goal is not accomplished because I am brief. My goal is accomplished when I am clear and I have exposited the Word of God (John MacArthur, Jr., Rediscovering Expository Preaching [Dallas, Texas: Word, 1992], 339-40).

Third, proclamation has been replaced by a “talk-show-host” mentality. Because of a fear of offending or due to an audience’s appetite, the “herald” no longer is concerned with speaking “thus saith the Lord,” but “Whatever you want, I’ve got” and “Listen to me and feel good.”

Don Whitney offers a personal vignette that illustrates this problem:

Your soul will only be fed from the Word of God. Without it, you will be undernourished and suffer spiritual marasmus. That’s what happened to a man I’ll call whom I spoke with not long ago. When I talked with Chris he had been in seminary for a few months and was working for a para-church ministry that specializes in teaching the Bible and theology. Prior to enrolling in seminary, he had for several years been associate pastor in charge of drama and music at a church a couple of miles from me where the pulpit ministry was based on topical preaching aimed at people’s felt needs. The church had grown from very few to hundreds in a short time. 

Chris had plenty of budget money and many talented actors, singers, musicians, and other workers as resources for his ministry. Afterward, however, he said to me, “I didn’t know it when I resigned, but the following Sunday I realized that my soul was as dry and withered and empty as it could be. I had been running on the spiritual fumes of the pressure of preparation for each Sunday’s drama and music. I was so busy that I hadn’t realized I had dried up spiritually. It was because I was not hearing faithful, biblical exposition, but topical sermons aimed at felt needs. Everything was based upon marketing strategy. Only when I got away from all that did I realize that I was all be dead spiritually.” (Spiritual Disciplines, 66-67).

I visited a church in Atlanta during a vacation and listened to a sermon that was really more of a “talk.” It could easily have been given at a Kiwanis Club. My children quickly recognized that we had not heard the Word preached, but only a preacher trying to impress his hearers.

My family and I took a relative with us to another church in a southern metropolitan area. The church has a great reputation and has recently constructed a large facility to accommodate its rapid growth. When the service was over I asked the relative, who rarely attends church, what she thought. Without any kind of prompting from me, she said, “I got the feeling that they were trying to entertain me.” I thought that such a comment spoke volumes, especially coming from one is unfamiliar with “felt-needs” or mega-church thinking. The evangelical pulpit has shrunk into the mire of entertainment, thinking that it has to compete on the same level as the world, while hungry hearts are waiting to hear a word from God.

Fourth, we’ve lost our appetite fro truth, and instead would rather appeal to people’s interests or felt needs in our preaching. Rather than longing for truth to set us free or truth to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, or truth to expose the thoughts and intents of the heart, we want something to make us feel better about ourselves. We want something that does not make radical demands or us, something that does not disturb the way we’re living our lives, something that won’t challenge what we want to think or believe the truth to be. This is precisely what the apostle warned:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

On one occasion a man came up to me after a service and stated, “I’ve had everything figured out in a neat box, and your preaching challenges it. I don’t like it, but I need it.” The unfortunate thing is that his box kept getting challenged and he ran away from what he admitted that he needed. Biblical preaching will apply the truth of God’s Word so that it judges “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Unless the Spirit of God is working in a person he will have difficulty sitting under a steady diet of biblical exposition (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 for the biblical basis of this statement).

Too many fail to have interest in the content of sermons. They want only an appealing delivery so they can feel good about themselves. In contrast to this, Don Whitney has written, “And no matter how enthusiastic or passionate the presentation, it is still the content, not the physical force of delivery that determines faithfulness to the message” (Spiritual Disciplines, 65).

John Piper, who is known for books with superb content, wrote in the introduction of his book, Future Grace, one of the best statements on the need for content rather than mere appeal to itching ears. His statement concerns reading, but it is equally true of preaching:

Every book worth reading beckons with the words, “Think over what I say.” I do not believe that what I have written is hard to understand—if a person is willing to think it over. When my sons complain that a good book is hard to read, I say, “Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”

I have tried to write as I preach [and I believe he has succeeded] with a view to instructing the mind and moving the heart… [After giving the example of John Owen’s writings being difficult to grasp, yet for 300 years his twenty-three volumes are still in print and still feeding hungry souls] The lesson is that biblical substance feeds the church, not simplicity (John Piper, Future Grace [Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 1995], 16-17).

Fifth, we want the truth to be popular with everyone, enjoyed by sinner and saint alike. Yet this is foreign to both Old and New Testament teaching regarding the truth. Just look at the prophets, apostles, and teachers captured in God’s Word. Was Jeremiah’s preaching popular? Did Paul seek to “win friends and influence people” through his preaching? Did the multitudes persevere with our Lord in His declaration of truth? Paul expressed it well, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Explanation:

Perhaps a bit of amplification on precisely what is involved in biblical exposition will be helpful. It begins with understanding the text which the preacher desires to expound. I believe that the best approach on selecting a text begins with preaching consecutively through books of the Bible. That way a preacher is forced to deal with the “whole counsel of God,” and his congregation will be exposed to the breadth of biblical truth. The preacher may also deal with topics or themes, but he should always be expository in his approach; that is, he should be a mouthpiece for the text (Rediscovering Expository Preaching, 255ff.)

The preacher must diligently study the text he selects in its contextual setting. This involves a thorough study of the language and grammar used, the historical purpose of the text, the cultural factors that bear weight upon its meaning, and its connection to the balance of Scripture. Reading and meditating upon the text allows the preacher to consider its implications and truths, as well as feeding his own mind and soul with its life-giving truth. Depending upon the illuminating power of the Spirit in the study is essential. He will find that prayer must accompany his study or else he will be engaging in mere academics. He must seek to rightly explain “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), so that he arrives at a proper interpretation. The use of research tools such as word studies, commentaries, theologies, and sermons can be helpful aids to the preacher in grasping the message of the text.

Once he understands the essential message of his text, the preacher will need to organize the message of the text into salient parts for proclamation. The starting point will be development of a theme, which has been called “the essence of the sermon in a sentence,” or “the proposition,” or “the dominating theme.”At this point I have found it helpful to develop an outline, complete with points and subpoints, all of which help to amplify the dominating theme of the text. This gives structure to the sermon so that the preacher is not guilty of offering an incoherent collection of random thoughts on a text. Some preachers have the mistaken notion that if they can have a nice outline, perhaps fully alliterated, then they have done an exposition until the doctrines and principles of the text are expounded (I have been greatly helped in biblical exposition by numerous books and preachers. My thoughts in this section will reflect their influence, though it would be difficult to footnote every detail. I mention a few: Drs. Stephen and David Olford maintain ongoing, short-term preaching institutes through Encounter Ministries Biblical Preaching Institute in Memphis, Tennessee, (800) 843-2241; they have coauthored a book on expository preaching, Anointed Expository Preaching [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998]. John MacArthur’s book, Rediscovering Expository Preaching, is a superb course in sermon-building and the exercise of preaching. Bryan Chappell’s book, Christ-Centered Preaching [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1994], offers a thorough self-study approach in preaching).

The preacher’s goal should never be to impress a congregation with his great outlines! He should seek to explain and apply the text to his congregation. He will need to develop supporting thoughts that assist him in the exposition. He should use Scripture that show the relation of the theme and integrating thoughts to the whole of God’s Word. He will need to illustrate certain truths to help with the understanding process, being careful not to allow the illustration to become the sermon (I disagree strongly with my former preaching professor who taught me biblical exposition. He has changed his thinking, even to the point of implying that “illustrations are no longer just the ‘window’ to the sermon, they are becoming the ‘truth’ of the sermon…’They are being used to tell the story…Sermon points are being related to the illustration’” [Facts & Trends, vol. 39, no. 8,4]. While illustrations can be used effectively, preachers will do well to spend more time studying the text instead of trying to find the latest, clever illustration). By all means he will give attention to explaining the doctrines found in the text (Martyn Lloyd-Jones stated in many sermons that unless a preacher deals with doctrines in a text he has not dealt with the text! It is interesting that many Puritans and writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries typically highlighted the doctrines found in their expositions. The unfortunate lack of doctrinal preaching in our day has given rise to the weakened state of the Christian church throughout the world. We do well to heed the need to deal thoroughly with doctrine. I commend Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers and John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1990], as two volumes to stimulate your thinking on doctrinal preaching).

The task of proclaiming the truths of the text will demand all of the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical energies the preacher can give to this work. He must approach the proclamation of the Word prayerfully, pleading for the fulness of the Spirit to endue him with power, recognizing that apart from divine power he will flounder in the waters of his own weakness. Tony Sargent has rightly stated, “The most humbling and wonderful experience for any preacher as he enters the pulpit is to know that God is with him. The most frightening for him is to be in the pulpit and feel he is on his own” (Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing: The Preaching of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1994] 79.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones exhorts the preacher to seek the power of the Spirit for preaching God’s Word. “Seek this power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when this power comes, yield to him. Do not resist. Forget all about your sermon if necessary. Let him loose you, let him manifest his power in you and through you” (The Sacred Anointing, 57).

The Greek word for “to preach” (kerussein) referred to the responsibility given to a herald. He may have been in the service of an ancient king, serving as a herald to deliver the king’s word to the people. His chief responsibility was to faithfully proclaim the words of the one who sent him. He heralded the king’s message with authority. To deny the herald’s message was to deny the king who sent him. It is with this background that we see Paul exhorting the preacher to “herald the word” faithfully and authoritatively as one sent by the King. He must do so with clarity and passion for the message he is delivering. He must not take liberties with the King’s message, but deliver it as the King intends. This is the preacher’s job in the act of proclamation (I again commend Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers to address this subject. This book will help remind the preacher of the God-given privilege he has and how he is to carry out his role with holy passion).

BIBLICAL PREACHING IS A SERIOUS RESPONSIBILITY

The apostle gives imperative counsel for the one who preaches the Word. He is to be constant in duty, “be ready in season and out of season.” A preacher cannot let his guard down or neglect his spiritual life. He must live with a constant sense of readiness to deliver the message of God to waiting ears. Many preachers have negated their pulpit ministries by their personal lives. Their love of the world, materialism, flirtatious looks, neglected family life, and laziness have discredited the message they seek to preach. He must exercise discipline of mind and spirit to be constant in his work. Be ready in the pulpit and out of the pulpit!

The preacher must not fear being confrontational in his ministry. He will need to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” as he proclaims God’s Word and as he deals with individuals. An unbelieving woman who had come from a cult background visited our church. She approached me after a sermon on “The Bread of Life” from John 6, with some striking comments. She told me she did not understand why she kept coming back, but she felt compelled. Then she commented, “You don’t give any options.” By that she meant that the preaching has a solitary impact of demand, not a take-it-or-leave-it approach. It confronted her and gave only one option: God’s.

Confrontation is especially needed in a day when people are craving for pre-digested “applications” on the sermon that will make it “relevant” to every day life. What most people mean by “applications” is, “Give me some options so that I can pick and choose what I want to do and not feel bad about what I don’t want to do.” We need not worry about going to extremes on applications. The Holy Spirit is adequate to apply the Word to the hearts of sinners and saints alike!

The preacher has the task of delivering God’s Word “with great patience.” He is to be consistent with his exposition, faithfully delivering God’s Word week-by-week to his people. All will not appreciate the Word, nor will all respond immediately to the challenges applied by the Word proclaimed. Some may even get angry and leave. Yet the preacher is to be patient with his flock, realizing that their spiritual ears must be opened by the Holy Spirit. Some will be dealing with deep-seated sins. Others will feel mired in traditions. Still others will have a poor appetite for spiritual truth, the appetite that must be slowly cultivated. Short pastorates normally do not allow a preacher the time to develop a patient pulpit ministry.

A sermon worth listening to must have content. Content does not mean that the preacher has plenty of stories and interesting quotes. Rather, it means that the sermon deals with doctrine. The word for “instruction” in the NASB translation of 2 Timothy 4:2 is that common New Testament term didache. It is elsewhere translated as “teaching” or “doctrine.” Doctrine must never be confused with impossible-to-understand discussions by intellectuals. Good doctrine is the life of the church; it is the heart of the sermon. It is simply the “teachings” of God’s Word understood in relation to the balance of Scripture. John MacArthur wrote:

A true expository message sets forth the principles or doctrines supported in the passage. True expository preaching is doctrinal preaching (Rediscovering Expository Preaching, 288).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher in London, wrote in his Lectures to My Students:

Sermons should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter pretty nothings. Our range of subjects is all but boundless, and we cannot, therefore, be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance…[T]he true minister of Christ knows that the true value of a sermon must lie, not in its fashion and manner, but in the truth which it contains. Nothing can compensate for the absence of teaching; all rhetoric in the world is but as chaff to the wheat in contrast to the gospel of our salvation. However beautiful the sower’s basket it is a miserable mockery if it be without seed (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1990, reprint of the 1881 Passmore and Alabastor edition), 72.

After giving such clear instruction on preaching Paul warns Timothy that everyone will not want such biblical exposition:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

When this happens, does the preacher simply give people what they want? This is precisely the error of the current trend of “felt-need” preaching. The unfortunate thing is that many evangelical preachers of good standing have fallen into the trap of delivering cute sermons, warm fuzzes, feel-good messages rather than proclaiming truth. We must be conscientious of the calling of God to herald the truth, so that we do not get pulled into the vortex of congregations wanting to have their “felt-needs” met.

The preacher is not to take an opinion poll on what he should preach. While there are some exceptions, most congregations do not have enough spiritual understanding and discernment to know what they need. They will point to the direction of “felt-needs” every time, simply because they can be comfortable with that kind of preaching instead of having to deal with their own sin and the God-centeredness in true, doctrinal preaching. The problem of which Paul warns is that of falling prey to the “desire” (epithumia) of those who have no desire for enduring sound doctrine.

What is a preacher to do if the congregation cries for “felt-need” preaching? Stand firm. Remember your calling. Remember your Audience. Herald the truth. And seek to patiently instruct people in sound doctrine.

CONCLUSION

Biblical preaching is demanding work. The preacher will find himself expended int he study as he labors over the biblical texts and all the works which address them. He must recognize the adversary’s subtle temptations to neglect the study, water down the message, and appeal to the desires of unregenerate people. he faces a constant warfare, both in the pulpit and out of the pulpit. He will be stretched, challenged, criticized and attacked, while at the same time loved and appreciated by those who hunger for the truth. He must live in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to “preach the word” and “to be ready in season and out of season.”

Ron Owens has written a song particularly for preachers. I believe its message and refrain are a fitting conclusion:

We’ve a gospel to preach, we’ve a message to share—

The eternal Truth is what we declare.

It’s the power to save, it’s the Spirit sword,

It’s the heart of God, it’s the Living Word.

We must study to learn and not be ashamed

To proclaim God’s truth in the Savior’s name.

With no compromise, but consistently

We must PREACH THE WORD with integrity.

What is made by man will one day be gone,

But God’s Holy Word marches on and on.

Though the flower will fade and grass will die,

The Eternal Word ever will abide.

We must pay the price, we must take our stand

With a heart on fire and God’s Word in hand.

On the brightest day, in the darkest  hour

We must PREACH THE TRUTH in the Spirit’s power.

PREACH THE WORD! PREACH THE WORD!

Won’t you purpose in your hearts to preach the Word?

PREACH THE WORD! PREACH THE WORD!

Won’t you purpose in your heart to PREACH THE WORD?

It’s our call as His disciples to pass on what we’ve received.

Make up your mind and take the time to PREACH THE WORD!

Author: Dr. Phil A. Newton is the Senior Pastor, South Woods Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee. He is the author of Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership; Elders in Congregational Life: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Lunch; The Way of Faith; and Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals: Applying the Gospel at the Unique Challenges of Death.

Source: Adapted from Reformation & Revival: A Quarterly Journal for Church Leadership, Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 2000.

 

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James Boice Sermon: “Man, God’s Regent” – Genesis 1:28-31

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 12

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. - Genesis 1:28-31

In looking at the account of the creation of man by God in Genesis 1, we have already seen two points that are emphasized. First, man is created. This is repeated three times in verse 27, obviously for emphasis. Second, man is created in God’s image. This is repeated four times in verses 26 and 27. Following this clue to what are the most important ideas, we come next to the teaching that man was to rule over creation as God’s regent. This is mentioned twice, in verses 26 and 28.

Who is this who is to rule God’s creation? What is he like? What are his gifts? To whom is he responsible?

For the purpose of this study I want to follow the substance of an address given by Dr. John H. Gerstner, a former professor of church history at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, to the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology in 1977. His address considered five things about man as God made him. First, man was created, and he still is. Second, man was created male and female, and he still is. Third, man was created body and soul, and he still is. Fourth, man was created dominant over the animals, and he still is. Fifth, man was created holy, and he still is—not.

Created by God

We have already seen that man’s being created in the image of God involves his having a personality, a sense of morality and spirituality. But in relation to his rule over the animals, to which we have now come, man’s creation involves responsibility as well. If man were his own creator, he would be responsible to no one. But he is not his own creator. He is created by God, and this means that he is responsible to God for what he does in every area of his life and particularly for how he carries out the mandate to rule over creation. These verses record God as saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (v. 26). To man he says, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (v. 28). Dominion of any kind, but particularly dominion of this scope, implies responsibility.

Today in the western world there is a tendency to deny man’s moral responsibility on the basis of some kind of determinism. It usually takes one of two forms. It may be a physical, mechanical determinism (“man is the product of his genes and body chemistry”), or it may be a psychological determinism (“man is the product of his environment and of the earlier things that have happened to him”). In either case the individual is excused from responsibility for what he or she does. Thus, we have gone through a period in which criminal behavior was termed a sickness and the criminal was regarded more as a victim of his environment than as the victimizer. (Recently there is a tendency at least to reconsider this matter.) Less blatant but nevertheless morally reprehensible acts are excused with, “I suppose he just couldn’t help it.”

The biblical view of man could hardly be more different. As Francis Schaeffer correctly notes, “Since God has made man in his own image, man is not caught in the wheels of determinism. Rather man is so great that he can influence history for himself and for others, for this life and the life to come.” Man is fallen. But even in his fallen state he is responsible. He can do great things, or he can do things that are terrible.

God created the man and woman and gave them dominion over the created order. Consequently, they were responsible to him for what they did. When man sins, as the Genesis account goes on to show that he does, it is God who requires a reckoning: “Where are you? … Who told you that you were naked? … What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13). In the thousands of years since Eden many have convinced themselves that they are not responsible. But the testimony of Scripture is that this area of responsibility still stands and that all will one day answer to God at the judgment. “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Rev. 20:12).

People are also responsible for their acts toward others. This is the reason for those biblical statements instituting capital punishment as a proper response to murder; for instance, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6). These verses are not in the Bible as relics of a more barbarous age or because in the biblical outlook man is not valuable. They are there for precisely the opposite reason: Man is too valuable to be wantonly destroyed. Thus, the harshest penalties are reserved for such destruction. In a related way, James 3:9–10 forbid the use of the tongue to curse others because these others are also made in God’s image: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. … This should not be.” In these texts murder of another and cursing of another are forbidden on the grounds that the other person (even after the fall) retains something of God’s image and is therefore to be valued by us, as God also values him.

Male and Female

Second, man was created male and female, and it is still so. In our day many say that there are no essential differences between men and women, or that whatever differences there are, are accidental. This is understandable from those who think that mindless evolution is the means by which we have become what we are. But it is entirely incomprehensible from the standpoint of the Bible, which tells us that nothing is an accident and that sexuality in particular is the result of the creative act of God. Maleness and femaleness are therefore good and meaningful, just as other aspects of God’s creation are good and meaningful. Men are not women. Women are not men. One of the saddest things in the universe is a man who tries to be a woman or a woman who tries to be a man. “But who is superior?” someone asks. I answer: A man is absolutely superior to a woman—at being a man; a woman is absolutely superior to a man—at being a woman. But let a woman try to be a man or a man try to be a woman, and you have a monstrosity.

This is thought to deny equality before God, as if equality means indistinguishability. But this thought is neither biblical nor rational. The man and the woman are equal before God, but they are not indistinguishable. In the economy of the family (and the church), the man is to lead, protect, care for, cherish, act upon, and initiate. The woman is to respond, receive, be acted upon, bear, nurture, follow. In this the human family is a deliberate parallelism to the Trinity. We say in theology that within the Trinity the three persons are “one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” But there are also distinctions according to which the second person of the Godhead, the Son, voluntarily subordinates himself to carry out the wishes of the Father in redemption, and the third person, the Holy Spirit, voluntarily subordinates himself to the united wills of the Father and Son.

The subordination of the woman to the man in marriage is a voluntary submission. As Gerstner writes, “No woman need accept the proposal of any man. But when she enters voluntarily into holy matrimony with that man, she becomes as 1 Peter 3 demands, ‘submissive’ and ‘obedient’ to her husband.” In the same way, children are under the divine command to “obey” and “honor” their fathers and mothers. “We know from sorry experience that many of them choose not to do so, but if they do (as they are under a divine mandate to do), they must do so voluntarily. So there is in the economy of the human family, which God made in his own image, a replica of the divine Trinity itself, in which there is a proper and voluntary subordination.”

Body and Soul

Third, God made man body and soul, and he still does. There is a debate at this point between those who believe in a three-part construction of man’s being and those who believe in a two-part construction (the position Gerstner takes in the address I am following). But the debate is not as significant as it sometimes seems. All parties recognize that the human being consists at least of the physical part that dies and needs to be resurrected and the immaterial part that lives beyond death. The only question is whether this immaterial part can be further distinguished as containing, on the one hand, a soul or personality and, on the other hand, a spirit that alone relates us to God.

Here the linguistic data should be determinative, but unfortunately it is not as clear as one could wish. Sometimes, particularly in the earlier parts of the Old Testament, soul (nephesh) and spirit (ruach) are used interchangeably. But in other places, particularly in the later parts of the Old Testament, ruach increasingly comes to designate that element by which men and women relate to God, in distinction from nephesh, which then meant merely the life principle. In conformity to this outlook, “soul” is used in reference to animals, while “spirit” is not. Conversely, the prophets, who heard the voice of God and communed with him in a special sense, are always said to be animated by the “spirit” (but not the “soul”) of God. In the New Testament the linguistic data is similar. While soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma) are sometimes freely exchanged for one another, as in the Old Testament, pneuma nevertheless also expresses that particular capacity for relating to God that is the redeemed man’s glory as opposed to mere psyche, which even the unsaved man possesses (1 Cor. 2:9–16).

In this area the particular words are possibly less important than the truths they convey. Those who insist on the unity of man, nevertheless believe that he is more than mere matter. If they adhere to a two-part scheme, they recognize that there is that about him that sets him off from animals.

The body is the part we see, the part that possesses physical life. We have a body in common with every living thing.

The soul is the part of the person we call personality or self-identity. This is not a simple matter to talk about. The soul is related to the body through the brain, a part of the body. It is also related to the qualities we associate with spirit. Nevertheless, in general terms soul refers to what makes an individual unique. We might say that the soul centers in the mind and includes all likes and dislikes, special abilities or weaknesses, emotions, aspirations, and anything else that makes the individual different from all others of his species. It is because we have souls that we are able to have fellowship, love, and communication with one another.

But man does not only have fellowship, love, and communication with others of his species. He also has love and communion with God, and for this he needs a spirit. The spirit is that part of human nature that communes with God and partakes in some measure of God’s essence. God is nowhere said to be body or soul. But God is defined as spirit. “God is spirit,” said Jesus; therefore, “his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Because man is spirit (or comes to possess a spirit by means of the new birth) he can have fellowship with God and worship him.

In speaking of soul and body, Gerstner has a good insight. He notes that “the quirk of human nature in its present state, unlike its original condition, is that we have a tendency to recognize that the other person is a conscious, rational and moral soul, but that we treat ourselves as if we were merely a combination of chemicals and reactions. A boy once said to his mother, ‘Mother, why is it that whenever I do anything bad it’s because I am a bad boy, but whenever you do anything bad it’s because you are nervous?’ That is the principle. When the boy does something bad the mother recognizes that he is a spirit. He is a morally responsible individual who can be properly reprimanded for his misbehavior. But when she does the same thing … she reminds her son that she is a body of nerves and should somehow not be responsible.”

But we are responsible. The soul does have dominion over the body. Consequently, whatever our weaknesses may be, we are responsible to subordinate our fleshly desires and live for God.

Dominion Over the Animals

Fourth, man was created dominant over the animals—the point particularly stressed in these verses. Martin Luther wrote in his lectures on Genesis that in his opinion Adam in his original state was superior to the animals even in those points where they were strong. “I am fully convinced,” he said, “that before Adam’s sin his eyes were so sharp and clear that they surpassed those of the lynx and eagle. He was stronger than the lions and the bears, whose strength is very great; and he handled them the way we handle puppies.” Later on, as he begins to think of Adam’s intellectual powers, he says, “If … we are looking for an outstanding philosopher, let us not overlook our first parents while they were still free from sin.” It was with such capacities that man ruled creation.

At the present time we have this horrible situation. In his sin man either tends to dominate and thus violate the creation, subjecting it to his own selfish ends, or else he tends to fall down and worship the creation, not realizing that his debasement is brought about in the process. As the Bible describes them, the man and the woman were made “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Ps. 8:5); that is, they were placed between the highest and lowest beings, between angels and beasts. But it is significant that man is described as being slightly lower than the angels rather than being slightly higher than the beasts. That is, man’s privilege is that he is to be a mediating figure, but he is also to be one who looks up rather than down. The unfortunate thing is that when man severs the tie that binds him to God and tries to cast off God’s rule, he does not rise up to take God’s place, as he desires to do, but rather sinks to a more bestial level. In fact, he comes to think of himself as a beast (“the naked ape”) or, even worse, a machine.

Holy and Still is—Not

This brings us to the last point: God created man holy, and now he is—not. The other items we have considered remain, though they are distorted by sin in each case. Man is still a created being, though weak and destined to die. He is still male and female. He is still body and soul. He is still dominant over the animals. But man was also created holy as God is holy, and of this original righteousness not a vestige remains. Rather, as the Scriptures say, “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5).

This is why man needs a Savior. God made man upright, but he sought out his own devices. In turning each to his or her own way man brought ruin on the race. Now, not only is no one holy, none is capable even of regaining that holiness. Before the fall, to use Augustine’s phrase, man was posse non peccare (“able not to sin”). But he was also, as Augustine also faithfully declared in accordance with the Bible’s teaching, posse peccare (“able to sin”), which choice he exploited. Now he is non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”). It is as though he jumped into a pit where he is now trapped. He must remain in that pit until God by grace through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit lifts him out.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 12 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

 

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James Boice on God’s Glory Alone – Soli Deo Gloria

To him be the glory forever! Amen. – Romans 11:36

Romans 9-11 Boice 

The title of this study is not an exact translation of the second half of Romans 11:36, but I have selected it because it is the way the Protestant Reformers expressed what this verse is about and because the words, though in Latin, are well known. Soli Deo Gloria means “To God alone be the glory.” Soli Deo—“to God alone.” Gloria—“the glory.” These words stand virtually as a motto of the Reformation.

The Reformers loved the word solus (“alone”).

They wrote about sola Scriptura, which means “Scripture alone.” Their concern in using this phrase was with authority, and what they meant to say by it was that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority—not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. These other sources of authority are sometimes useful and may at times have a place, but Scripture is ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities differ from Scripture, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected, rather than the other way around.

The Reformers also talked about sola fide, meaning “faith alone.” At this point they were concerned with the purity of the gospel, wanting to say that the believer is justified by God through faith entirely apart from any works he or she may have done or might do. Justification by faith alone became the chief doctrine of the Reformation.

The Reformers also spoke of sola gratia, which means “grace alone.” Here they wanted to insist on the truth that sinners have no claim upon God, that God owes them nothing but punishment for their sins, and that, if he saves them in spite of their sins, which he does in the case of the elect, it is only because it pleases him to do so. They taught that salvation is by grace only.

There is a sense in which each of these phrases is contained in the great Latin motto Soli Deo Gloria. In Romans 11:36, it follows the words “for from him and through him and to him are all things,” and it is because this is so, because all things really are “from him and through him and to him,” that we say, “To God alone be the glory.” Do we think about the Scripture? If it is from God, it has come to us through God’s agency and it will endure forever to God’s glory. Justification by faith? It is from God, through God, and to God’s glory. Grace? Grace, too, has its source in God, comes to us through the work of the Son of God, and is to God’s glory.

Many Christian organizations have taken these words as their motto or even as their name. I know of at least one publishing company today that is called Soli Deo Gloria. It is also an appropriate theme with which to end these studies of the third main (and last doctrinal) section of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Indeed, what greater theme could there be? For what is true of all things—that they are “from” God, “through” God, and “to” God—is true also of glory. Glory was God’s in the beginning, is God’s now, and shall be God’s forever. So we sing in what is called the Gloria Patri.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son

and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now

and ever shall be:

World without end. Amen.

Haldane’s Revival

At the beginning of this series—in volume 1, chapter 2—177 studies ago, I mentioned a revival that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, under the leadership of a remarkable Scotsman named Robert Haldane (1764–1842). He was one of two brothers who were members of the Scottish aristocracy in the late eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. His brother, James Haldane (1768–1851), was a captain with the British East India Company. Robert was the owner of Gleneerie and other estates in Perthshire. When he was converted in the decade before 1800, Robert sold a major part of his lands and applied the proceeds to advancing the cause of Jesus Christ in Europe. James became an evangelist and later an influential pastor in Edinburgh, where he served for fifty-two years.

In the year 1815, Robert Haldane visited Geneva. One day when he was in a park reading his Bible, he got into a discussion with some young men who turned out to be theology students. They had not the faintest understanding of the gospel, so Haldane invited them to come to his rooms twice a week for Bible study. They studied Romans, and the result of those studies was the great Exposition of Romans by Haldane from which I so often quote.

All those students were converted and in time became leaders in church circles throughout Europe. One was Merle d’Aubigné, who became famous for his classic History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century. We know the first part of it as The Life and Times of Martin Luther. Another of these men was Louis Gaussen, author of Theopneustia, a book on the inspiration of the Scriptures. Others were Frédéric Monod, the chief architect and founder of the Free Churches in France; Bonifas, who became an important theologian; and César Malan, another distinguished leader. These men were so influential that the work of which they became a part was known as Haldane’s Revival.

What was it that got through to these young men, lifting them out of the deadly liberalism of their day and transforming them into the powerful force they became? The answer is: the theme and wording of the very verses we have been studying, Romans 11:33–36. In other words, a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty.

We know this because of a letter from Haldane to Monsieur Cheneviere, a pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church and Professor of Divinity at the University of Geneva. Cheneviere was an Arminian, as were all the Geneva faculty, but Haldane wrote to him to explain how appreciation of the greatness of God alone produced the changes in these men. Here is his explanation:

There was nothing brought under the consideration of the students of divinity who attended me at Geneva which appeared to contribute so effectually to overthrow their false system of religion, founded on philosophy and vain deceit, as the sublime view of the majesty of God presented in the four concluding verses of this part of the epistle: Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. Here God is described as his own last end in everything that he does.

Judging of God as such an one as themselves, they were at first startled at the idea that he must love himself supremely, infinitely more than the whole universe, and consequently must prefer his own glory to everything besides. But when they were reminded that God in reality is infinitely more amiable and more valuable than the whole creation and that consequently, if he views things as they really are, he must regard himself as infinitely worthy of being more valued and loved, they saw that this truth was incontrovertible.

Their attention was at the same time directed to numerous passages of Scripture, which assert that the manifestation of the glory of God is the great end of creation, that he has himself chiefly in view in all his works and dispensations, and that it is a purpose in which he requires that all his intelligent creatures should acquiesce, and seek and promote it as their first and paramount duty.

A testimony like that leads me to suggest that the reason we do not see great periods of revival today is that the glory of God in all things has been largely forgotten by the contemporary church. It follows that we are not likely to see revival again until the truths that exalt and glorify God in salvation are recovered. Surely we cannot expect God to move among us greatly again until we can again truthfully say, “To him [alone] be the glory forever! Amen.”

To Him Be the Glory

Romans 11:36 is the first doxology in the letter. But it is followed by another at the end, which is like it, though more complete: “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:27). It is significant that both doxologies speak of the glory of God, and that forever. Here are two questions to help us understand them.

1. Who is to be glorified?

The answer is: the sovereign God. For the most part, we start with man and man’s needs. But Paul always started with God, and he ended with him, too. In fact, the letter to the Romans is so clearly focused on God that it can be outlined accurately in these terms. Donald Grey Barnhouse published ten volumes on Romans, and he reflected Paul’s focus in the titles for these ten volumes, all but the first of which has God in the title. Volume one was Man’s Ruin. But then came God’s Wrath, God’s Remedy, God’s River, God’s Grace, God’s Freedom, God’s Heirs, God’s Covenants, God’s Discipline, and God’s Glory. We say with Paul, “To God be the glory forever! Amen.”

2. Why should God be glorified?

The answer is that “from him and through him and to him are all things,” particularly the work of salvation. Why is man saved? It is not because of anything in men and women themselves but because of God’s grace. It is because God has elected us to it. God has predestinated his elect people to salvation from before the foundation of the world. How is man saved? The answer is by the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus, the very Son of God. We could not save ourselves, but God saved us through the vicarious, atoning death of Jesus Christ. By what power are we brought to faith in Jesus? The answer is by the power of the Holy Spirit through what theologians call effectual calling. God’s call quickens us to new life. How can we become holy? Holiness is not something that originates in us, is achieved by us, or is sustained by us. It is due to God’s joining us to Jesus so that we have become different persons than we were before he did it. We have died to sin and been made alive to righteousness. Now there is no direction for us to go in the Christian life but forward. Where are we headed? Answer: to heaven, because Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for us. How can we be sure of arriving there? It is because God, who began the work of our salvation, will continue it until we do. God never begins a work that he does not eventually bring to a happy and complete conclusion.

“To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

The great Charles Hodge says of the verse we are studying;

Such is the appropriate conclusion of the doctrinal portion of this wonderful epistle, in which more fully and clearly than in any other portion of the Word of God, the plan of salvation is presented and defended. Here are the doctrines of grace, doctrines on which the pious in all ages and nations have rested their hopes of heaven, though they may have had comparatively obscure intimations of their nature. The leading principle of all is that God is the source of all good, that in fallen man there is neither merit nor ability, that salvation, consequently, is all of grace, as well satisfaction as pardon, as well election as eternal glory. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen.

So let us give God the glory, remembering that God himself says:

I am the Lord; that is my name!

I will not give my glory to another

or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 42:8

and

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.

How can I let myself be defamed?

I will not yield my glory to another.

Isaiah 48:11

People Who Give God Glory

What of the objections? What of those who object to the many imagined bad results of such God-directed teaching? Won’t people become immoral, since salvation, by this theory, is by grace rather than by works? Won’t they lose the power of making choices and abandon all sense of responsibility before God and other people? Won’t people cease to work for worthwhile goals and quit all useful activity? Isn’t a philosophy that tries to glorify God in all things a catastrophe?

A number of years ago, Roger R. Nicole, professor of systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Divinity School in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, and now at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, answered such objections in a classic address for the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (1976), basing his words on an earlier remarkable address by Emile Doumergue, a pastor who for many years was dean of an evangelical seminary in southern France. Nicole’s address was likewise titled “Soli Deo Gloria.” The quotations below are from his answers to three important questions.

1. Doesn’t belief in the sovereignty of God encourage evil by setting people free from restraints? Doesn’t it make morality impossible?

“I suppose one could proceed to discuss this in a theological manner—to examine arguments, consider objections, and line up points in an orderly disposition. I would like, however, instead of going into a theological discussion, to challenge you in terms of an historical consideration. In the Reformation, there was a group of men who made precisely these assertions. Over against the prevailing current, they said that man is radically corrupt and is therefore totally unable by himself to please God. He is incapable of gathering any merits, let alone merit for others. But did these assertions damage morality? Were these people a group of scoundrels who satisfied their own sinful cravings under the pretense of giving glory to God? One does not need to be very versed in church history to know that this was not so. There were at that time thefts, murders, unjust wars. Even within the church there was a heinous and shameful trafficking of sacred positions.

“But what happened?

“These people, who believed that man is corrupt and that only God can help him, came forward like a breath of fresh air. They brought in a new recognition of the rights of God and of his claim upon the lives of men. They brought in new chastity, new honesty, new unselfishness, new humbleness, and a new concern for others. “Honest like the Huguenots,” they used to say. … Immorality was not promoted; it was checked by the recognition of the sovereignty of God.

“ ‘That is impossible,’ some say. Yet it happened.”

2. Doesn’t belief in the sovereignty of God eliminate man’s sense of responsibility and destroy human freedom? Doesn’t it destroy potential?

“Again, rather than going into the arguments of the matter, let us merely examine what happened in the sixteenth century when the sovereignty of God was asserted. Did the people involved allow themselves to be robbed of all initiative? Were they reduced to slavery under the power of God? Not at all! On the contrary, they were keenly aware of their responsibility. They had the sense that for everything they were doing, saying and thinking they were accountable to God. They lived their lives in the presence of God, and in the process they were pioneers in establishing and safe-guarding precious liberties—liberty of speech, religion and expression—all of which are at the foundation of the liberties we cherish in the democratic world.

“Far from eclipsing their sense of freedom, the true proclamation of the sovereignty of God moved them toward the recognition and expression of all kinds of human freedoms which God has himself provided for those whom he has created and redeemed.

“ ‘It is impossible that this should happen,’ we are told. Perhaps! But it happened.”

3. Doesn’t commitment to God’s sovereignty undercut strenuous human activity? Doesn’t it make people passive?

“We may make an appeal to history. What did these people—Calvin, Farel, Knox, Luther—what did they do? Were they people who reclined on a soft couch, saying, ‘If God is pleased to do something in Geneva, let him do it. I will not get in his way’? Or, ‘If God wants to have some theses nailed to the door of the chapel of Wittenberg Castle, let him take the hammer. I will not interfere’? You know very well that this is not so. These were not people lax in activity. They were not lazy. Calvin may be accused of many things, but one thing he has seldom been accused of is laziness. No, when the sovereignty of God is recognized, meaningfulness comes to human activity. Then, instead of seeing our efforts as the puny movements of insignificant people unable to resist the enormous momentum of a universe so much larger than ourselves, we see our activity in the perspective of a sovereign plan in which even small and insignificant details may be very important. Far from undermining activity, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God has been a strong incentive for labor, devotion, evangelism and missions.

“ ‘Impossible!’ Yet it happened.”

God’s Blessings for Our World

Nicole continues: “In the first century the world was in a frightful condition. One does not need to be a great authority on Roman history to know that. There were signs of the breakdown of the Roman Empire—rampant hedonism and a dissolution of morals. But at that point God was pleased to send into the world that great preacher of the sovereignty of God, the apostle Paul, and this introduced a brand new principle into the total structure. The preaching of Paul did not avert the collapse of the Roman Empire, but it postponed it. Moreover, it permitted the creation of a body of believers that persisted through the terrible invasions of the barbarian hordes, and even through the Dark Ages. …

“In the sixteenth century … the church had succumbed to deep corruption. It was corrupt ‘in its head and members.’ In many ways it was a cesspool of iniquity. People did not know how to remedy the situation. They tried councils, internal purges, monastic orders. None of these things seemed to work. But God again raised up to his glory men who proclaimed the truth of his sovereignty, the truth of God’s grace. In proclaiming this truth they brought a multitude of the children of God into a new sense of their dependence upon and relationship to Christ. In proclaiming this truth they benefited even the very people who opposed them in the tradition of the church. They are small, these men of the Reformation. They had little money, little power and little influence. One was a portly little monk in Germany. Another was a frail little professor in Geneva. A third was a ruddy but lowly little man in Scotland. What could they do? In themselves, nothing. But by the power of God they shook the world.

Radically corrupted, but sovereignly purified!

Radically enslaved, but sovereignly emancipated!

Radically unable, but sovereignly empowered!

“These men were the blessing of God for our world.”

“To God alone be glory!” To those who do not know God that is perhaps the most foolish of all statements. But to those who do know God, to those who are being saved, it is not only a right statement, it is a happy, wise, true, inescapable, and highly desirable confession. It is our glory to make it. “To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

 SOURCE: James Montgomery Boice. Expositions on Romans. Volume 3. God and History (Romans 9-11). Chapter 179, “Soli Deo Gloria” based on Romans 11:36.

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: James Boice “The First Five Days of Creation” – Genesis 1:3-23

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 10

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. - Genesis 1:3-23

Creation is one form of God’s self-revelation and therefore a means by which we may come to know him. But, as Calvin points out in the introduction to his commentary on Genesis, our eyes are not “sufficiently clear-sighted to discern what the fabric of heaven and earth represents,” and therefore we need the Scriptures to view creation rightly. “If the mute instruction of the heaven and the earth were sufficient, the teaching of Moses would have been superfluous” John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. John King. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,, 1948, 62).

Having looked at the creation account through the various modern systems of interpretation, we therefore now turn to the account for the emphasis God himself puts on his creative activity.

There are three main teachings. First, God himself—the true, sovereign, wise, and personal God—stands behind creation. Second, the work of this true, sovereign, wise, and personal God was an orderly work. Third, the creation was and is good, because it is the work of the God who is not only true, sovereign, wise, and personal but also morally perfect. Each of these points has implications for the way we are to relate both to God and his creation.

In the Beginning

The most obvious point is that God stands at the beginning of all things and is the One through whom all came into existence. We have noticed this in studying the first sentence of the chapter. When the Bible begins by stating “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” it is evident that we are directed first and primarily to the God who stands behind everything.

We also have this emphasis in the account of the first five days. Grammatically speaking, there is only one subject in all these verses: God himself. Everything else is object. Objects are acted upon. Light, air, water, dry land, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, fish, birds, land animals—all are objects in a creative process where God alone is subject. In these verses we are told that God “saw” (vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), “separated” (vv. 4, 7), “called” (vv. 5, 8, 10), “made” (vv. 7, 16, 25), “set” (v. 17), “created” (vv. 21, 27), and explained to the man and woman what he had done (vv. 28–30). Moreover, before that, God spoke (vv. 3, 6, 9, 14, 20), as a result of which everything else unfolded.

We should note a number of things. First, in the Hebrew of this chapter the name for God is Elohim. This is a plural word. It is used as if it were singular—that is, with singular verbs and (usually) with singular pronouns referring back to it—to indicate that there is but one God only. But the fact that it is plural also suggests that there are plural dimensions to God’s being. We must acknowledge that this in itself does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. There is such a thing as a plural of greatness in the Hebrew language. Nevertheless, on the basis of the later revelation, particularly in the New Testament, we are right in seeing a preparation for that fuller revelation here. In John 1 we have a reference to the start of Genesis that goes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (vv. 1–2). The Word is Jesus, as verse 14 shows. So John is saying that Jesus was with the Father and was acting with him in the original work of creation. In verse 3 John says specifically, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).

In Genesis 1:26 we find God saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”—one of the places where a singular pronoun does not occur. In Genesis 3:22 we find, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”

This is all very significant, because, when we recognize that the members of the Trinity are here at the beginning of creation, having existed before anything else, then the elements that we associate with the Trinity—love, personality, and communication—are seen to be eternal and to have eternal value. This is the biblical answer to man’s fear of being lost in an impersonal and loveless universe.

The second thing we note about these first biblical statements concerning God is that God brought the universe into existence by speaking (“And God said”). This shows the importance of verbal or propositional revelation. There has been a tendency in some contemporary theological circles to deny the importance of words on the basis that what is really important are acts, particularly the acts of God in history. This has implications for one’s assessment of the Bible, for in such a scheme the very words of the Bible lose importance and the Bible becomes only a more or less accurate pointer to what God has done historically. It has implications for the Christian life, because the emphasis falls on what God is doing rather than on what God has commanded. It even has implications for an understanding of history, for God is seen to be present wherever things are happening regardless of whether this accords with his written record of his nature and ways.

The creation account is a warning against this unbiblical and ultimately destructive approach. It is true that there can be a type of preoccupation with words that keeps one from actually coming to grips with the God who spoke them. But this is a far less common error in our day than cutting one’s self free from the written revelation. Which came first, the word or the deed? Many today say, “Deed.” But this is a distortion, as Genesis shows. God’s acts are of great importance. The creation account is full of them. But it is wrong to say that the deed comes first. Rather, the word comes first, followed by the deed, followed by a further revelation in words to interpret the deed spiritually. This means that a hearty emphasis on the Word of God is both biblical and mandatory, if one is to appreciate the acts of God prophesied, recorded, and interpreted in the Scriptures.

The third thing about this emphasis on God’s being behind creation is that when we are pleased with creation, as we should be, our praise should be directed to God, who made all things, and not to creation itself. This is the first great dividing point between the religion of the Bible and most pagan religions. Pagans worship the object, sometimes the “spirit” or “god” perceived to be in or identical with the object. But the Christian looks beyond the object to the God who made it and praises him. This gives him an understanding of the object that the pagan, for all his devotion to things, does not have. The Christian understands why the object is there, why it has the form it has, and (to some extent) what his responsibility toward it is. He is delivered from fear or excessive veneration of the object, on the one hand, and an unmerited scorn or disregard of it, on the other.

Can we not say also that God is to be praised as Creator even before he is praised as Redeemer? We see this in an interesting sequence of those hymns of praise recorded in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation. The fifth chapter contains three hymns of praise to Christ for his work of redemption. But there is also the great hymn of chapter 4:

You are worthy, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they were created

and have their being.

verse 11

In this hymn God is praised as Creator. It is significant that even before that, in verse 8, he is praised simply for being:

Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

As Francis Schaeffer says, “Our praise to God is not first of all in the area of soteriology. If we are being fully scriptural, we do not praise him first because he saved us, but because he is there and has always been there. And we praise him because he willed all other things, including man, into existence” Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 27).

When Schaeffer says that “God willed all things, including man, into existence,” he introduces the fourth thing that should be especially noted about God’s being behind all creation: We are part of that creation, have been made by God, and therefore owe him our total and unfeigned obedience and devotion. As Calvin says, “After the world had been created, man was placed in it as in a theatre, that he, beholding above him and beneath the wonderful works of God, might reverently adore their Author.” Moreover, “all things were ordained for the use of man, that he, being under deeper obligation, might devote and dedicate himself entirely to obedience towards God” (Calvin, Genesis, 64-65) We have not done this, of course. We have rebelled against God and are therefore in need of a redeemer. But having been redeemed and having been given a new nature according to which we have now become “new creatures” in Christ, we are enabled to worship and serve God properly.

An Orderly Unfolding

God’s standing behind all things is not the only point of the creation account. These verses also teach that creation was according to an orderly unfolding of the mind and purposes of God. That is, it was a step-by-step progression marked by a sequence of six significant days.

We have already seen that the length of time covered by these days may be an open question. Creationists insist that the days cover a literal twenty-four hours, but this is not necessarily the case. Sometimes the word “day” is used with broader meaning, even by Moses. It can mean a period of indefinite duration. The evidence of geology suggests to most people that the periods corresponding to the days of Genesis were long. However, questions like these, while interesting and necessary, obscure the equally valid and even more valuable point that creation, however long it took, was a deliberate and orderly unfolding of God’s purposes. God is a God of order, not chaos. He is a God of purpose, not chance. It follows that we should also be creatures of order and purpose. Instead of attempting to tear down, as Satan does, we should attempt to build up according to the pattern God gives in Scripture.

A Moral Pronouncement

There is a third point to the Genesis account of creation: God’s moral pronouncement on what he has done. It appears in the repeated phrase “and God saw that it was good” (vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25; cf. vv. 3, 31). This pronouncement is not made because we can point to an object and say pragmatically, “That thing is useful to me and is therefore good to me.” God’s pronouncement on the goodness of creation came even before we were made. The pronouncement is made because the object is good in itself. As Schaeffer says, this means that a tree is not good only because we can cut it down and make a house of it or because we can burn it in order to get heat. It is good because God made it and has pronounced it good. It is good because, like everything else in creation, it conforms to God’s nature.

Schaeffer writes of this divine benediction: “This is not a relative judgment, but a judgment of the holy God who has a character and whose character is the law of the universe. His conclusion: Every step and every sphere of creation, and the whole thing put together—man himself and his total environment, the heavens and the earth—conforms to myself” (Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 55).

It is not only in its pristine state, that is, before the fall of man, that the earth and its contents are pronounced good. The initial blessing of God recorded in Genesis 1 is repeated later even after the fall. For example, it is repeated in God’s covenant with the human race given at the time of Noah. In that unilateral covenant God says, “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. … I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gen. 9:9–10, 13). Here God’s concern is expressed, not just for Noah and those of his family who were delivered with him, but for the birds and the cattle and even the earth itself. Similarly, in Romans 8 there is an expression of the value of creation in that God included it in his promise of that future deliverance for which it as well as the race of men and women wait: “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (v. 21).

The value of creation, declared good by God, brings us to a natural conclusion: If God finds the universe good in its parts and as a whole, then we must find it good also. This does not mean that we will refuse to see that nature has been marred by sin. Indeed, the verses from Genesis 9 and Romans 8 are inexplicable apart from the realization that nature has suffered in some way as a result of man’s fall. It is marred by thorns, weeds, disease. But even in its marred state it has value, just as fallen man also has value.

First, we should be thankful for the world God has made and praise him for it. In some expressions of Christian thought only the soul has value. But this is not right, nor is it truly Christian. Actually, the elevation of the value of the soul and the debasement of the body and other material things is a Greek and therefore pagan idea based on a false understanding of creation. If God had made the soul (or spirit) alone and if the material world had come from some lesser or even evil source, this would be right. But the Christian view is that God has made all that is and that it therefore has value and should be valued by us because of this origin.

Second, we should delight in creation. This is closely related to being thankful but is a step beyond it. It is a step that many Christians have never taken. Frequently Christians look on nature only as one of the classic proofs of God’s existence. But instead of this, the Christian should really enjoy what he sees. He should appreciate its beauty. He should exult in creation even more than the non-Christian, because in the Christian’s case there is a corresponding knowledge of the God who stands behind it.

Third, we should demonstrate a responsibility toward nature, meaning that we should not destroy it simply for the sake of destroying it but rather should seek to elevate it to its fullest potential. There is a parallel here between the responsibility of men and women toward the creation and the responsibility of a husband toward his wife in marriage. In each case the responsibility is based on a God-given dominion (though the two are not identical). Of marriage it is said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27). In the same way, men and women together should seek to sanctify and cleanse the earth in order that it might be more as God created it, in anticipation of its ultimate redemption. This does not mean that the universe cannot be used by man in a proper way. A tree can still be cut down to make wood for a home. But it will not be cut down simply for the pleasure of cutting it down or because it is the easiest way to increase the value of the ground. In such areas there must be a careful thinking through of the value and purpose of the object, and there must be a Christian rather than a purely utilitarian approach to it.

Finally, after he has contemplated nature and has come to value it, the Christian should turn once again to the God who made it and sustains it moment by moment and should learn to trust him. God cares for nature, in spite of its abuse through man’s sin. But if he cares for nature, then he also obviously cares for us and may be trusted to do so. This argument occurs in the midst of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in which he draws our attention to God’s care of the birds (animal life) and lilies (plant life) and then asks, “Are you not much more valuable than they? … If … God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:26, 30) (Parts of this sermon are drawn from Boice, The Soveriegn God, 205-15).

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 10 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in James Montgomery Boice, Sermons

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: Views of Creation – Evolution – Genesis 1:1-2 by Dr. James M. Boice

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, he received more abuse than perhaps any modern scientist. To be sure, even Einstein originally objected to Slipher’s discovery of an expanding universe. He wrote, “This circumstance irritates me” (Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 28). Others also objected. But none of these heaped personal abuse on Slipher. Darwin, by contrast, was greeted with: “Rotten fabric of speculation. … Utterly false. … Deep in the mire of folly [and] … I laughed till my sides were sore” (Jastrow, Until the Sun Dies, 19). The remarkable thing, however, is that the theory that became the laughing stock and then eventually the battleground of the second half of the nineteenth century has now become widely accepted, not only by scientists but also by a wide variety of people from most walks of life.

This is not to say that evolution is the only theory going. It is merely the dominant view today and is therefore the one with which any discussion of the theory of origins should start. Actually, our discussion in this and the following sermons is going to take us over five competing theories: 1) atheistic evolution, 2) theistic evolution, 3) the so-called “gap theory” popularized by C. I. Scofield, 4) six-day creationism, and finally 5) progressive creationism. We are going to see what each of these theories has to commend it and then also explore its weaknesses.

Let us say at the beginning that a final answer as to how the universe came into being may not be attainable now. We may exclude some possibilities, both as Christians and as scientists. As Christians we may exclude even more. But this still falls short of a full answer to the “how.” Indeed, even taking the explanations of origins in the order proposed above does not necessarily imply that the latter positions are better than the earlier ones. They are taken in this order simply because they have appeared in this order historically.

The Evolutionary Theory

We begin by noting that in spite of the association of evolution with the name of Charles Darwin, evolution itself is nothing new. It existed among the ancient Greeks, for example. Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Epicurus, and Lucretius were all evolutionists. So also was Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), who believed in a complete gradation in nature accompanied by a perfecting principle. This was imagined to have caused gradation from the imperfect to the perfect. Man, of course, stood at the highest point of the ascent.

Again, there were evolutionists in more modern times before Darwin. Some early precursors were Francis Bacon (1561–1626), René Descartes (1596–1650), and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). The first biologist to make a contribution to evolutionary thought was George Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788), the French naturalist. Another was Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), the grandfather of Charles Darwin. The first fairly complete theory of evolution was by Chevalier de Lamarck (1744–1829), who became a professor in zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and later popularized his views in Philosophie Zoologique.

It was Charles Darwin, however, who rightly captured the world’s attention. His theory was developed to a degree that none of the others were and, perhaps even more importantly, it was supported by an impressive array of observations collected initially on the world-encircling tour of the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin’s theory may be arranged in these postulates and conclusions.

Postulate number one: variation. There are variations within individuals of the same species.

Postulate number two: overproduction. In most cases, more individuals are born to a species than can possibly survive to maturity.

Conclusion number one: struggle for existence. In order to survive individuals must compete with other members of the same species.

Postulate number three: survival of the fittest. In a competitive environment only those individuals best fitted to survive will survive.

Postulate number four: inheritance of favorable characteristics. Fit individuals pass their “good” characteristics to their descendants.

Final conclusion: New species arise by the continued survival and reproduction of the individuals best suited to their particular environment (This summary of Darwin’s theory is taken from John W. Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution. St. Louis, Concordia, 1970, 34-35).

What has happened to this theory in the one hundred or so years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin? For the most part it is still held, though much work has been done in the one area that presents a flaw in the argument. As anyone can see, the chief mechanism of evolution according to Darwin’s theory is “natural selection,” the impersonal preference given to a certain variation in a species permitting one individual rather than another to survive. This is supposed to explain how the variety of forms we know came about. But this is precisely what it does not do. Natural selection may explain how certain individuals have more offspring than others and therefore survive, or survive and have offspring while other less favored individuals do not. But it does not tell us how there came to be the various organisms or “good” characteristics of organisms in the first place.

Thomas Bethell, editor of the Washington Monthly, has written of this problem in an article for Harper’s Magazine. He observes, “There is, then, no ‘selection’ by nature at all. Nor does nature ‘act’ as it so often is said to do in biology books. One organism may indeed be ‘fitter’ than another from an evolutionary point of view, but the only event that determines this fitness is death (or infertility). This, of course, is not something which helps create the organism, but is something that terminates it” (Harper’s Magazine, February 1976, 70-75).

To deal with this problem evolutionists have come to speak of mutations as the primary source of variations. This was proposed first by a Dutch botanist, Hugo de Vries, in a work entitled Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation (1905). It has since been suggested that mutations are caused by cosmic radiations, the latter being perhaps far more intense than in modern times.

The Fossil Record

What are we to say of Darwin’s theory? We must begin by noting that there is no question on the part of any informed thinker or writer that there are varieties within a given species. This is simply to say that all individuals are not alike. Some are tall, some short. Some are strong, others weak, and so on. The question is whether these acknowledged variations are sufficient to account for the development of entirely different species and, second, whether such development has in fact occurred. (The possibility of the development of species in this manner does not prove that this is the way it happened.)

At this point we have to turn to the evidence for evolution, and when we do we must acknowledge that the only true historical evidence is the evidence of fossils. There are other things that might be seen as supporting evolution: the possibility of classifying organisms from the simple to the more complex, similarities of structure in “related” species, the existence of vestigial organs (that is, organs like the human appendix for which no present function is known), similar blood types between some species. But these are all circumstantial arguments, and in some cases they are also ambiguous (See Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, 120-73). The only truly historical evidence—evidence that evolution has actually occurred—is fossils.

The fossil remains may be evidence of evolution, but what is not adequately said today is that they do not prove evolution and are in fact highly questionable when applied to evolutionary theory. Let us begin with positive statements. First, although very fragmentary, the fossils do lend themselves to a historical sequence in which the more simple forms of life may be dated earlier (because found in older rock) and more complex forms of life may be dated later. Thus, although the very ancient dates given may be wrong, it does seem that algae, protozoa, and sponges came first. After that are fish, reptiles, and amphibians, then the land animals, including the dinosaurs. Finally, there are the animals we know today, and then man. Another positive statement is that some species have become extinct, the dinosaurs being the most notable example. The combination of these two sets of observations suggests that new forms of life develop and that others become extinct—according to Darwin.

But it is not that simple. There are problems in fitting the fossil record into an evolutionary system. Moreover, these are so great as to bring the entire theory into question.

For example, if evolution is true, what we should expect to find in the fossil record is finely graded and generally continuous development from the simplest forms to the higher forms. Although this is often claimed for the fossil record, it is not what is in fact found when we study it closely. Certainly there are simpler forms in (presumably) earlier rocks. Higher forms (like man) come relatively late. But there are no gradual developments. On the contrary, the major groups appear suddenly, and there is little or no evidence of transition. Everett C. Olson, a well-known evolutionist, mentions this difficulty: “More important, however, are the data revealed by the fossil record. There are great spatial and temporal gaps, sudden appearances of new major groups, equally sudden appearances of old, including very rapid extinctions of groups that had flourished for long periods of time. There were mass extinctions marked by equally simultaneous death of several apparently little associated groups of organisms. At the time the record first is seen with any real clarity [in Cambrian rock strata], the differentiation of phyla is virtually complete. As far as major groups are concerned, we see little clear evidence of time succession in differentiation with the simpler first and the more complex later” (Everett C. Olson, “The Role of Paleontology in the Formation of Evolutionary Thought,” Bioscience 16, 1966: 39. Quoted by L. Duane Thuman, How to Think about Evolution & Other Bible-Science Controversies (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1978, 103. Thuman discusses the problems raised by the fossil record at some length, as do also J. Kerby Anderson and Harold G. Coffin, Fossils in Focus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977).

It may be argued at this point—indeed, it is argued by evolutionists—that the fossil record is simply incomplete, that if fossils for every prior form of life existed, such gaps would be filled. But in a hundred years of study the tendency has not been this way, and it is hard to convince oneself today that this will yet happen. It is not just a question of several missing links. There are hundreds of missing links. Moreover, the grouping of major species in certain past periods of earth’s history works strongly against this argument. Christians can argue, even if they cannot fully prove, that special creation is a far better explanation.

A second major problem with the use of fossils to support evolution is the subjective nature of arranging fossil histories. It might be argued by one who has seen the difficulty just mentioned that there is nevertheless evidence for development within one of the ancient time periods, even if not from one to the other. The supposed development of the horse from the Eocene period to modern times is an oft-cited example. During 60 million or so years the horse is supposed to have increased in size, lengthened its limbs, reduced and then eventually discarded toes, and become a grazer. Many museums have skeletons or pictures that are supposed to represent this development. But the fossils do not prove this development. They may suggest it, and the development they suggest may in fact be right. But there is still no evidence that one supposed form of the horse gave place to another. In actuality the skeletons may have come from similar but otherwise unrelated animals. Moreover, even if the fossils of these horselike animals prove a development, it is still not an example of the development of new species but only of a change within a species.

Mutations

Another area of difficulty for evolution is the mechanism used to explain the emergence of significant variations in the species, chiefly mutations (sudden unexpected changes brought about by otherwise unexplained alterations in the organism’s genes). This was the solution to the problem of “newness” proposed by Hugo de Vries. De Vries did his work with the evening primrose, a weed that he found in a potato field. He bred this plant over a period of several generations in the course of which he noticed a number of abrupt changes that he called mutations. He concluded that these were developments of such magnitude that the process itself could explain the emergence of new species.

Unfortunately, the new “species” of de Vries were not new species but simply varieties within the same species. Moreover, they were not produced by mutations in the sense of that word today but rather by breeding out recessive characteristics. In other words, de Vries produced nothing that was not in the plant originally.

De Vries’s failure does not entirely discredit the theory, however, for mutations do occur and can be passed down from generation to generation. The question is whether these mutations are sufficient to account for new species. Are they? Many evolutionists would say yes at this point. But it is important to note that no one has as yet demonstrated this to be so. In fact, there is important evidence to the contrary. Walter Lammerts is a rose breeder from southern California and the author of the books Why Not Creation? and Scientific Studies in Creation. He tells of attempts to breed roses with more petals or less petals, using every imaginable technique including radiation. He acknowledges that it is possible to use radiation to create roses with a significant increase in petals. But here is the point: there is a limit beyond which the increase in petals apparently will not go. If a rose has forty-four petals, for example, it may be reduced to thirty-two or increased to fifty-six. But that is all. Moreover, if the hybrid rose is left to mix with others from that point on, it does not retain its new characteristics but soon loses them. In fact, all the hybrid roses we have would soon turn to wild roses if left to them-selves—because they are bred from the wild roses originally. And if that in itself is not enough to cast doubt on the theory, there is the fact that the “improved” roses did not attain their improved form naturally but rather through the concentrated and prolonged efforts of Lammerts and other breeders. In other words, even in so limited a matter as this there is need for a design and a designer, a planner and a plan (For a fuller discussion of mutations as a possible mechanism for evolution see Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, 256–91).

The Crucial Areas

An essay such as this can only begin to suggest a few of the problems the theory of evolution poses. But even in such a short study, concentrating on the basic scientific evidence for and against evolution, we can hardly pass over the far greater and (from the point of view of the Christian) unsolvable problems that exist where the crucial points of evolution are concerned. There are four of them.

First, even were we to grant the truthfulness of the evolutionary system as currently put forth, we still have the problem of the origin of the matter from which the later forms sprang. Evolution implies matter by the very meaning of the word, for in order for something to evolve there must be something there in the first place to evolve, and that first something cannot evolve but rather must be either eternally present or created. Since the eternity of matter is today increasingly untenable, as we saw in a previous study, we must have God as Creator. And this obviously nudges us toward the Christian position, whatever our opinions of a greater or lesser degree of evolutionary development may be.

Second, there is the form of matter. We may speak of “mere” matter as if it were a simple irreducible entity, but we do not actually know of any such “simple” matter and cannot in fact even conceive of it. Everything we know, however simple, already has a form—generally a highly complex form. Even hydrogen, the basic building block of everything according to astrophysics, is not simple. It has a proton, neutron, and electron, all operating according to fixed laws. Where did this fixed form and laws come from? They did not evolve. They are in matter to start with.

Third, there is the emergence of life. This is a complex problem, and much has been done to develop laboratory models according to which life could have arisen on earth during the early ages of the planet. The most acceptable model is a three-stage process involving: 1) the origin of bio-organics (amino acids, sugars) from inorganic compounds (hydrogen, water, ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane); 2) the origin of biopolymers (large molecules such as proteins) from the bio-organics; and finally 3) the origin of primordial life (simple plant or algaelike cells) from the biopolymers. But this is an extremely complex process, even assuming that this is how life came about, and therefore has an extremely low level of probability. True, scientists have achieved the first two of these stages in carefully controlled laboratory experiments. But the crucial third stage is elusive. And even in the second stage, the polymers seem to deteriorate faster than they would normally be created in anything approaching a natural environment. Again, it is not a matter of a single event of low probability. It is a matter of a long series of events, each with a very small probability, so that, as one writer says, “for all practical purposes the probability of this series of events may safely be regarded as zero” (Donald England, A Christian View of Origins. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972, 97).

Two scientists, who nevertheless believe in the spontaneous generation of life, write, “The macromolecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area, all is conjecture. The available facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this planet” (D. E. Green and R. F. Goldberg, Molecular Insights into the Living Process. New York: Academic Press, 1967, 407. Quoted by England, Christian View, 94. England discusses the problems with a theory of the spontaneous generation of life on pp. 33–100).

The fourth of the truly great problems for an atheistic theory of evolution is the emergence of personality in man, or to be more specific, the emergence of the soul, spirit, or God-consciousness. What caused non-man to become man? One writer asks, “Where did the soul of man come from? Why is it that the highest and best animals are unable to pray? They are unable to communicate in a rational way. They are unable to do the things that man is able to do. The lowest type of man upon the face of the earth is far higher than the highest of the animals, because he has the capacity to worship God and can be brought to be a child of God, able to live in the glory of God through Jesus Christ, and that is true of none of the animals.” This writer concludes, “I am not ashamed to say that I believe in the first chapter of Genesis, but I should be ashamed to say that I held to any form of evolution” (E. J. Young, In the Beginning, 56–57).

Why Evolution?

I conclude with this question. Why is it, if the theory of evolution is as weak as it seems to be, that it has the popular appeal acknowledged at the beginning of this sermon? Why is it that evolution is today’s dominant view and not one of the other views mentioned? I think there are four answers, three of which I want to put in the form of statements and one of which I want to put in the form of a question.

The statements are these.

First, according to evolution, everything—absolutely everything—is knowable, and this has obvious appeal. Everything comes from something else, and we can trace the developments back. It is a closed system. There is no need for anything outside. Above all, there is no need for God who by the very definition of that word is One who is unknowable and who does not need to give an account of himself.

Second, according to evolution, there is one explanation for everything. Everything evolves: matter, life, ideas, even religion. We can project this framework from our own small world throughout the universe.

Third, and this is perhaps the chief reason, if creation of the world by God is eliminated (as many clearly wish to do), evolution is the only other option.

On the basis of those three statements I now ask my question: Is it not possible, then, that in the last analysis the appeal of evolution is in its elimination of God and its exaltation of man? In this system man does not merely become the highest point of creation, which Christians would themselves willingly affirm. He becomes the god of creation. Consequently, to challenge evolution is to blaspheme against man, and blasphemy against man is the sin for which there is now no pardon. Algernon Charles Swinburne gives expression to this spirit in his Hymn of Man.

But God, if a God there be, is the

Substance of men which is Man.

Thou art smitten, thou God, thou art smitten;

Thy death is upon thee, O Lord.

And the love-song of earth as thou diest

Resounds through the wind of her wings—

Glory to Man in the highest!

For Man is the master of things.

Is man the master? If he is, then he can go his way and devise any theory of origins he chooses. But if he is not—if there is a God—then he is the creation of this God and owes this God allegiance.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 5 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 

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Dr. James M. Boice on the Importance of God’s Wrath in The Gospel

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” – Romans 1:18

“The Angry God” – A Biblical Exposition of Romans 1:18 – Dr. James M. Boice

Today’s preaching is deficient at many points. But there is no point at which it is more evidently inadequate and even explicitly contrary to the teachings of the New Testament than in its neglect of “the wrath of God.” God’s wrath is a dominant Bible teaching and the point in Romans at which Paul begins his formal exposition of the gospel. Yet, to judge from most contemporary forms of Christianity, the wrath of God is either an unimportant doctrine, which is an embarrassment, or an entirely wrong notion, which any enlightened Christian should abandon.

Weakness of Contemporary Preaching

Where do most people begin when making a presentation of Christian truth, assuming that they even speak of it to others? Where does most of today’s Christian “preaching” begin?

Many begin with what is often termed “a felt need,” a lack or a longing that the listener will acknowledge. The need may involve feelings of inadequacy; a recognition of problems in the individual’s personal relationships or work or aspirations; moods; fears; or simply bad habits. The basic issue may be loneliness, or it may be uncontrollable desires. According to this theory, preaching should begin with felt needs, because this alone establishes a point of contact with a listener and wins a hearing. But does it? Oh, it may establish a contact between the teacher and the listener. But this is not the same thing as establishing contact between the listener and God, which is what preaching is about. Nor is it even necessarily a contact between the listener and the truth, since felt needs are often anything but our real needs; rather, they can actually be a means of suppressing them.

Here is the way Paul speaks of a felt need in another letter: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). “What their itching ears want to hear” is a classic example of a felt need. In this passage the apostle warns Timothy not to cater to it. Obviously he himself did not structure the presentation of his gospel around such “needs.”

Another way we present the gospel today is by promises. We offer them like a carrot, a reward to be given if only the listener accepts Jesus. Through this approach, becoming a Christian is basically presented as a means of getting something. Sometimes this is propounded in a frightfully unbiblical way, so that what emerges is a “prosperity gospel” in which God is supposed to be obliged to grant wealth, health, and success to the believer.

We also commonly offer the gospel by the route of personal experience, stressing what Jesus has done for us and commending it to the other person for that reason.

The point I am making is that Paul does not do this in Romans, and in this matter he rebukes us profitably. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it like this:

Why is he [Paul] ready to preach the gospel in Rome or anywhere else? He does not say it is because he knows that many of them [the Romans] are living defeated lives and that he has got something to tell them that will give them victory. He does not say to them, “I want to come and preach the gospel to you in Rome because I have had a marvelous experience and I want to tell you about it, in order that you may have the same experience—because you can if you want it; it is there for you.”

This is not what Paul does.… There is no mention here of any experience. He is not talking in terms of their happiness or some particular state of mind, or something that might appeal to them, as certain possibilities do—but this staggering, amazing thing, the wrath of God! And he puts it first; it is the thing he says at once (D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 1, The Gospel of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, p. 325).

The reason, of course, is that Paul was God-centered, rather than man-centered, and he was concerned with that central focus. Most of us are weak, fuzzy, or wrong at this point. Paul knew that what matters in the final analysis is not whether we feel good or have our felt needs met or receive a meaningful experience. What matters is whether we come into a right relationship with God. And to have that happen we need to begin with the truth that we are not in a right relationship to him. On the contrary, we are under God’s wrath and are in danger of everlasting condemnation at his hands.

Wrath: A Biblical Idea

There is a problem at this point, of course, and the problem is that most people think in human categories rather than in the terms of Scripture. When we do that, “wrath” inevitably suggests something like capricious human anger or malice. God’s wrath is not the same thing as human anger, of course. But because we fail to appreciate this fact, we are uneasy with the very idea of God’s wrath and think that it is somehow unworthy of God’s character. So we steer away from the issue.

The biblical writers had no such reticence. They spoke of God’s wrath frequently, obviously viewing it as one of God’s great “perfections”—alongside his other attributes. Says J. I. Packer, “One of the most striking things about the Bible is the vigor with which both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath.” Arthur W. Pink wrote, “A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God than there are to His love and tenderness” (J.I Packer. Knowing God. Downers Grove, ILL.: IVP, 1973, pp.134-35; A.W. Pink. The Attributes of God. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975, p. 82).

In the Old Testament more than twenty words are used to refer to God’s wrath. (Other, very different words relate to human anger.) There are nearly six hundred important passages on the subject. These passages are not isolated or unrelated, as if they had been added to the Old Testament at some later date by a particularly gloomy redactor. They are basic and are integrated with the most important themes and events of Scripture.

The earliest mentions of the wrath of God are in connection with the giving of the law at Sinai. The first occurs just two chapters after the account of the giving of the Ten Commandments: “[The Lord said,] ‘Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger [wrath] will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless’” (Exodus 22:22-24).

Ten chapters later in Exodus, in a very important passage about the sin of Israel in making and worshiping the golden calf (a passage to which we will return), God and Moses discuss wrath. God says, “Now leave me alone so that my anger [wrath] may burn against them and that I may destroy them.…” But Moses pleads, “Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people” (Exodus 32:10-12).

In this early and formative passage, Moses does not plead with God on the grounds of some supposed innocence of the people—they were not innocent, and Moses knew it—nor with the fantasy that wrath is somehow unworthy of God’s character. Rather Moses appeals only on the grounds that God’s judgment would be misunderstood and that his name would be dishonored by the heathen.

There are two main words for wrath in the New Testament. One is thymos, from a root that means “to rush along fiercely,” “to be in a heat of violence,” or “to breathe violently.” We can capture this idea by the phrase “a panting rage.” The other word is orgē which means “to grow ripe for something.” It portrays wrath as something that builds up over a long period of time, like water collecting behind a great dam.

In his study of The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Morris notes that apart from the Book of Revelation, which describes the final outpouring of God’s wrath in all its unleashed fury, thumos is used only once of God’s anger. The word used in every other passage is orgẽ. Morris observes, “The biblical writers habitually use for the divine wrath a word which denotes not so much a sudden flaring up of passion which is soon over, as a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature” (Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955, pp. 162, 163).

John Murray describes wrath in precisely this way when he writes in his classic definition: “Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness” (John Murray. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1968, p. 35).

We find this understanding of the wrath of God in Romans. In this letter Paul refers to wrath ten times. But in each instance the word he uses is orgẽ, and his point is not that God is suddenly flailing out in petulant anger against something that has offended him momentarily, but rather that God’s firm, fearsome hatred of all wickedness is building up and will one day result in the eternal condemnation of all who are not justified by Christ’s righteousness. Romans 1:17 says, on the basis of Habakkuk 2:4, that “the righteous will live by faith.” But those who do not live by faith will not live; they will perish. Thus, in Romans 2:5 we find Paul writing, “Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Wrath Revealed

But it is not only a matter of God’s wrath being “stored up” for a final great outpouring at the last day. There is also a present manifesting of this wrath, which is what Paul seems to be speaking of in our text when he says, using the present rather than the future tense of the verb, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” How is this so? In what way is the wrath of God currently being made manifest?

Commentators on Romans suggest a number of observations at this point, listing ways in which God’s wrath against sin seems to be disclosed. Charles Hodge speaks of three such manifestations: “the actual punishment of sin,” “the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery,” and “the voice of conscience” (Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Romans. Edinburgh and Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972, p. 35. Original edition – 1935).

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones lists “conscience,” “disease and illness,” “the state of creation,” “the universality of death,” “history,” and (the matter he thinks Paul mainly had in view) “the cross” and “resurrection of Christ” (Lloyd-Jones. Romans: An Exposition of Chapter One, pp. 342-350).

Robert Haldane has a comprehensive statement:

The wrath of God … was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterward by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven, but especially by the reign of death throughout the world. It was proclaimed by the curse of the law on every transgression and was intimated in the institution of sacrifice and in all the services of the Mosaic dispensation. In the eighth chapter of this epistle the apostle calls the attention of believers to the fact that the whole creation has become subject to vanity and groaneth and travaileth together in pain. This same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes his glory, also proves that he is the enemy of sin and the avenger of the crimes of men.… But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in his sufferings and death in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of his displeasure against sin (Robert Haldane. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. MacDill AFB: MacDonald Publishing, 1958, pp. 55, 56).

Each of these explanations of the present revelation of the wrath of God is quite accurate. But in my opinion Paul has something much more specific in view here, the matter that Charles Hodge alone mentions specifically: “the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery.” This is what Paul goes on to develop in Romans 1. In verses 21 through 32 Paul speaks of a downward inclination of the race by which the world, having rejected God and therefore being judicially abandoned by God, is given up to evil. It is set on a course that leads to perversions and ends in a debasement in which people call good evil and evil good. Human depravity and the misery involved are the revelation of God’s anger.

A number of years ago, Ralph L. Keiper was speaking to a loose-living California hippie about the claims of God on his life. The man was denying the existence of God and the truths of Christianity, but he was neither dull nor unperceptive. So Keiper directed him to Romans 1, which he described as an analysis of the hippie’s condition. The man read it carefully and then replied, “I think I see what you’re driving at. You are saying that I am the verifying data of the revelation.”

That is exactly it! The present revelation of God’s wrath, though limited in its scope, should be proof to us that we are indeed children of wrath and that we need to turn from our present evil path to the Savior.

Turning Aside God’s Wrath

Here I return to that great Old Testament story mentioned earlier. Moses had been on the mountain for forty days, receiving the law. As the days stretched into weeks, the people waiting below grew restless and prevailed upon Moses’ brother Aaron to make a substitute god for them. It was a golden calf. Knowing what was going on in the valley, God interrupted his giving of the law to tell Moses what the people were doing and to send him back down to them.

It was an ironic situation. God had just given the Ten Commandments. They had begun: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:2–6). While God was giving these words, the people whom he had saved from slavery were doing precisely what he was prohibiting. Not only that, they were lying, coveting, dishonoring their parents, committing adultery, and no doubt also breaking all the other commandments.

God declared his intention to judge the people immediately and totally, and Moses interceded for them in the words referred to earlier (Exodus 32:11–12).

At last Moses started down the mountain to deal with the people. Even on a human level, quite apart from any thought of God’s grace, sin must be judged. So Moses dealt with the sin as best he knew how. First he rebuked Aaron publicly. Then he called for any who still remained on the side of the Lord to separate themselves from the others and stand beside him. The tribe of Levi responded. At Moses’ command they were sent into the camp to execute the leaders of the rebellion. Three thousand men were killed, approximately one-half of one percent of the six hundred thousand who had left Egypt at the Exodus (Exodus 32:28; cf. 12:37—with women and children counted, the number may have been more than two million). Moses also destroyed the golden calf. He ground it up, mixed it with water, and made the people drink it.

From a human standpoint, Moses had dealt with the sin. The leaders were punished. Aaron was rebuked. The allegiance of the people was at least temporarily reclaimed. But Moses stood in a special relationship to God, as Israel’s representative, as well as to the people as their leader. And God still waited in wrath on the mountain. What was Moses to do?

For theologians sitting in an ivory-tower armchair, the idea of the wrath of God may seem to be no more than an interesting speculation. But Moses was no armchair theologian. He had been talking with God. He had heard his voice. He had receive his law. Not all the law had been given by this time, but Moses had received enough of it to know something of the horror of sin and of the uncompromising nature of God’s righteousness. Had God not said, “You shall have no other gods before me”? Had he not promised to punish sin to the third and fourth generation of those who disobey him? Who was Moses to think that the judgment he had imposed would satisfy a God of such holiness?

Night passed, and the morning came when Moses was to ascend the mountain again. He had been thinking, and during the night a way that might possibly divert the wrath of God had come to him. He remembered the sacrifices of the Hebrew patriarchs and the newly instituted rites of the Passover. God had shown by such sacrifices that he was prepared to accept an innocent substitute in place of the just death of the sinner. God’s wrath could sometimes fall on the substitute. Moses thought, “Perhaps God would accept.… ”

When morning came, Moses ascended the mountain with great determination. Reaching the top, he began to speak to God. It must have been in great anguish, for the Hebrew text is uneven and Moses’ second sentence breaks off without ending (indicated by a dash in the middle of Exodus 32:32). This is the strangled sob welling up from the heart of a man who is asking to be damned if his own judgment could mean the salvation of those he had come to love. The text reads: “So Moses went back to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Exodus 32:31–32). Moses was offering to take the place of the people and accept judgment on their behalf.

On the preceding day, before Moses had come down from the mountain, God had said something that could have been a great temptation. If Moses would agree, God would destroy the people and start again to make a new Jewish nation from Moses (Exodus 32:10). Even then Moses had rejected the offer. But, after having been with his people and being reminded of his love for them, his answer, again negative, rises to even greater heights. God had said, “I will destroy the people and save you.”

Now Moses replies, “Rather destroy me and save them.”

Moses lived in the early years of God’s revelation and at this point probably had a very limited understanding of God’s plan. He did not know, as we know, that what he prayed for could not be. He had offered to go to hell for his people. But Moses could not save even himself, let alone Israel. He, too, was a sinner. He, too, needed a savior. He could not die for others.

But there is One who could. Thus, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). That person is Jesus, the Son of God. His death was for those who deserve God’s wrath. And his death was fully adequate, because Jesus did not need to die for his own sins—he was sinless—and because, being God, his act was of infinite magnitude.

That is the message Paul will expound in this epistle. It is the Good News, the gospel. But the place to begin is not with your own good works, since you have none, but by knowing that you are an object of God’s wrath and will perish in sin at last, unless you throw yourself upon the mercy of the One who died for sinners, even Jesus Christ (Material in this article sometimes closely parallels the chapter on “The Wrath of God” in James Montgomery Boice. Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986, pp. 246–255).

 About the Author:

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. The article/sermon above was adapted from Chapter 14 in Dr. James Montgomery Boice. The Boice Commentary Series: Romans Expositions vol. 1: Justification by Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005 (reprinted).

 

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May 7th in Christian History – Dr. James M. Boice and Elisha A. Hoffman

Series: On This Day In Christian History

 Dr. James Montgomery Boice: “He Realized His Boyhood Dream”

As a boy, James Montgomery Boice attended Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia with his family. He loved his pastor, Donald Grey Barnhouse, and he was an avid listener to Barnhouse’s radio program, The Bible Study Hour. At the age of twelve Boice decided he wanted to become a minister. Little did he know how closely he would follow in his beloved minister’s footsteps (Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia pictured left).

Boice attended Harvard, where he received a degree in English literature. There he met his future wife, Linda Ann McNamara, at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She received a master of arts from Harvard, and they shared a dream of creating a Christian college preparatory school for needy inner-city youth.

After Harvard, Boice went to seminary top prepare himself for becoming a minister. He then married Linda, and they moved to Switzerland so Jim could study at the University of Basel. After he received his doctorate, they settled in Washington, D.C., where he worked for the magazine Christianity Today.

In 1968 Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, the church of his youth, called him to be their pastor. In 1969 he also became the speaker for The Bible Study Hour. Boice continued Barnhouse’s legacy of providing clear, intellectual, heartfelt expository preaching to the Tenth Presbyterian congregation. Under Boice’s leadership the church grew in numbers, budget, and outreach programs. The church became ethnically diverse and intensely missions focused. Many of its ministries grew out of inner-city location: ministries to internationals, HIV positive individuals, inner-city youth, women with crisis pregnancies, and the homeless. Jim and Linda achieved their dream of a Christian college preparatory school for needy inner-city youth with the creation of City Center Academy, which was started and run by Tenth Presbyterian. Despite the lack of parking in its downtown location , the church has well over a thousand members.

In the 1970’s Boice started the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, which spawned many similar conferences in cities throughout the country. In 1977 he founded the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, a topic on which he frequently wrote. In all he wrote or contributed to more than sixty books. Under Boice’s leadership Tenth Presbyterian left the Presbyterian USA in 1981 and joined the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that conformed more closely to the church’s Reformed theological beliefs.

On Good Friday 2000, two hours before he was to preach, Dr. Boice learned that he had an aggressive form of liver cancer. His prognosis was not good.

Jim Boice (pictured on left) mounted the pulpit of Tenth Presbyterian for the last time on Sunday, May 7, 2000. He announced to his stunned congregation that he was rapidly dying of cancer. He said to them: “Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to perform miracles—and he certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place…Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you thin of God glorifying himself in history and you say, “Where in all of history has God most glorified himself?’ the answer is that he did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though he could have…And yet that’s where God is most glorified.”

On June 15, 2000, at the age of sixty-one, James Montgomery Boice died peacefully in his sleep, just eight weeks after his diagnosis.

Reflection:

How do you think you would react if you were given news of your impending death?

Dr. Boice’s inclination was not to pray for a miracle but rather to pray that Christ be glorified in his death.

What is your reaction to what Dr. Boice told his congregation?

“While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.” – Romans 14:8

Author’s of the Article Above: Mike and Sharon Rusten are not only marriage and business partners; they also share a love for history. Mike studied at Princeton (B.A.), the University of Minnesota (M.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Th.M.), and New York University (Ph.D.). Sharon studied at Beaver College, Lake Forest College, and the University of Minnesota (B.A.), and together with Mike has attended the American Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College). Mike and Sharon have two grown children and live in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This article was adapted from the May 7th entry in their wonderful book The One Year Book of Christian History, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2003.

Elisha A Hofman: “I Must Tell of Jesus”

Many New Testament promises have corresponding verses in the Old Testament that reinforce their power. When Peter, for example, said, “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him” (1 Peter 5:7), he was but restating David’s words in Psalm 55:22: “Our Lord, we belong to you. We tell you what worries us, and you won’t let us fall.”

Elisha A. Hoffman loved those verses. He was born May 7, 1839 in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. His father was a minister, and Elisha followed Christ at a young age. He attended Philadelphia public schools, studied science, and then pursued the classics at Union Seminary of the Evangelical Association. He worked for 11 years with the association’s publishing house in Cleveland, Ohio. Then, following the death of his young wife, he returned to Pennsylvania and devoted 33 years to pastoring Benton Harbor Presbyterian Church.

Hoffman’s pastime was writing hymns, many of which were inspired by pastoral incidents. One day, for example, while calling on the destitute of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, he met a woman whose depression seemed beyond cure. She opened her heart and poured on him her pent-up sorrows. Wringing her hands, she cried, “What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?” Hoffman knew what she should do; for he had himself learned the deeper lessons of God’s comfort. He said to the woman, “You cannot do better than to take all your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.”

Suddenly the lady’s face lighted up. “Yes!” she cried, “That’s it! I must tell Jesus.” Her words echoed in Hoffman’s ears, and he mulled them over as he returned home. He drew out his pen and started writing, I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! / I cannot bear my burdens alone; / I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! / Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

Hoffman lived to be 90, telling Jesus his burdens and giving the church such hymns as What A Wonderful Savior, Down at the Cross, Are You Washed in the Blood?, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and a thousand more.

The Scriptures say, “God opposes proud people, but he helps everyone who is humble.” Be humble in the presence of God’s mighty power, and he will honor you when the time comes. God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him. 1 Peter 5:5b-7

About the Author: Robert J. Morgan, is the pastor of Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of the best-selling Then Sings My Soul, From This Verse, Red Sea Rules, and On This Day - this article was adapted from the May 7th entry in this excellent book. He conducts Bible conferences, parenting and marriage retreats, and leadership seminars across the country.

 Significant Events on This Day:

1274: The Council of Lyons II met. The council was supposed to promote plans to reunite the Eastern and Western Churches, but nothing came of it.

1794: French revolutionaries proclaimed the worship of a “supreme being,” a Deist god.

1823: A group of Russian Orthodox missionaries left Irkust to evangelize the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.

1844: Protestants burned dozens of Irish Catholic homes and the St. Augustine Church in Kensington, a suburb of Philadelphia. The action was in retaliation for the killing of one of their own by a Catholic the day before during an ill0advised rally in the Irish streets. Protestants were outraged that Catholics would not participate in school Bible reading (the Catholics believed that Church leaders, not individuals, should interpret Scripture). In defense of their property, Catholics killed several more Protestants as the riot progressed.

1859: Guido Verbeck and his bride, Maria, destined for Shanghai, sailed from New York aboard the Surprise. With them were Rev. and Mrs. Brown and the medical missionary Duane B. Simmons and his wife. Verbeck was so notable a missionary that the Japanese honored him highly.

A. Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves edited This Day In Christian History. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications Inc., 2005. The events above were adapted from the entry for May 7th.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Cancer, Church History

 

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