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Where is the Best Place to Go When You Need Encouragement and Hope?

“The Encouragement of the Scriptures”

By Dr. James Montgomery Boice

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4 (pictured at left – the Alps in Switzerland – James Boice received his Doctorate in Theology in Basel, Switzerland)

A number of years ago a German theologian named Juergen Moltmann wrote a book entitled The Theology of Hope. His point, which meant a great deal to Bible scholars at the time, was that eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) should not be an appendix to Christian theology—something tacked on at the end and perhaps even dispensable to Christian thought—but should be the starting point of everything. He said that it is confidence in what God is going to do in the future that must determine how we think and act now.

I am not sure that is entirely right. I would call the cross of Christ, not eschatology, the center, arguing that we must take our ideas even of the future from the cross. But Moltmann was correct in stressing that hope is important for living well now. To have hope is to look at the future optimistically. So to some extent a person must have hope to live. The Latin word for hope is spes, from which the French derived the noun espoir and the Spanish, esperanza. But put the particle de in front of those words, and the resulting word is despair, literally “without hope.” People who despair do not go on. When John Milton wanted to depict the maximum depth to which Satan fell when he was cast out of heaven, he has him say to the other fallen spirits in hell, “Our final hope is flat despair.”

How can any sane person have hope in the midst of the desperate world in which we live? The frivolous can, because they do not think about the future at all. Thinking people find the future grim. Winston Churchill, one of the most brilliant and influential people of his age, died despairing. His last words were, “There is no hope.”

Our text says that a Christian can have hope and that the way to that sound and steadfast hope is through the Bible.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends—the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion—make their way down a yellow brick road to find their future. Our text likewise gives us a road to hope. That road leads first through teaching, second through patient endurance, and third through encouragement. The text says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

The Teaching of the Scriptures

The first and most important stop along this important road leading to hope is teaching, because it is through the teaching of the Scriptures that the other elements, endurance and encouragement, come. Christianity is a teaching religion, and our text is the Bible. It is true that those whose minds have been enlightened by the Bible often go on to learn in other areas too. Some of the greatest scholars in the world have been Christians, and many have traced their love of learning to their Christian roots. Moreover, wherever the gospel has gone throughout the world, schools and colleges and other institutions of higher learning have gone with it. Still, Christians maintain that however much a person may come to know in other areas, if he or she does not know what God has revealed about himself and the way of salvation in the Bible, that person is ignorant and remains a great fool.

Paul said of the Gentile Christians at Ephesus, among whom there must have been many learned persons, that before they had been taught about Jesus and had received him as their Savior, they were “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). They may have been educated, but they were ignorant of the things that matter most. After they had been taught and came to faith in Christ, however, they had hope of “the riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints,” which was future, and “his incomparably great power for us who believe,” which was present (Eph. 1:18–19).

Our text in Romans is about the teaching of the Scriptures and tells us at least three important things about the Bible:

(1) The Bible is from God. When Paul says that everything written in the past “was written to teach us,” he is not saying that when Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, he did so intending that the church in future ages might be blessed by his writings, or that David wrote the psalms so that we might profit by them. His point is that God caused the human writers of the Bible to write as they did, because what he had in mind was the edification and encouragement of his people through the ages, whether or not the human writers understood this.

This also flows from the context. We remember that Paul has just quoted Psalm 69:9, applying it to Jesus Christ, whom he brought forward as an example for our right conduct. Some may object, “How can you imagine that David was writing about Jesus Christ, who was born so many hundred of years after his own age, or that this has anything to do with us?” Paul is answering, in effect, as F. Godet suggests, “If I thus apply this saying of the psalmist to Christ and ourselves, it is because, in general, all Scripture was written to instruct and strengthen us.”

Of course, many other verses say the same thing. Peter wrote, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21).

Similarly, Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). The reason the Scriptures are so valuable is that they are unlike other books written by mere human beings. They are from God; therefore they have the authority and power of God within them. Besides, God has promised to bless them to the ends for which they have been given (Isa. 55:10–11).

(2) Everything in the Bible is for our good and is profitable. The second important teaching about the Scriptures in Romans 15:4 is that all Scripture is for our good and is profitable. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful.…” In our text he uses the words “everything that was written,” but he means the same thing in both passages.

This is not an endorsement of every piece of ancient literature, as if the words “everything that was written in the past” refer to the writings of the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans. Paul is not writing about secular literature, but about the writings that are “God-breathed.” Other books may instruct and even charm us wonderfully, but only the Bible gives us a sure ground for hope, since only it speaks with full authority and trustworthiness about what God did to save us from sin and give us eternal life.

Paul’s statement is, however, an endorsement of all of the Bible. That is, he is informing us that “all Scripture … is profitable” and “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.”

Some critics of the Bible have found things in it that they do not like and have therefore argued either that the Bible is from men only, not from God, or that it is a mixture of the two—some parts being from God and some from man. The parts that are from God are then regarded as authoritative, but the parts said to be from human beings only are discarded as error-prone and nonauthoritative. This is a convenient way of pretending to submit to the Bible’s authority while at the same time avoiding anything in the Bible that is convicting or contrary to the critic’s thought. This is not the Bible’s teaching. It is not historic Christianity. The Bible teaches that everything in it is the true Word of God and that it is binding upon the minds and consciences of all persons. Therefore, if we are being led by God’s Holy Spirit, we will conform our thoughts and actions to whatever we find in his Word.

(3) Nothing in the Bible is without value. Paul’s third point is that not only is everything in the Bible for our good and profitable, but nothing that is in the Bible is without value.

John Calvin was strong in this conviction: “This notable passage shows us that the oracles of God contain nothing vain or unprofitable.… It would be an insult to the Holy Spirit to imagine that he had taught us anything which it is of no advantage to know. Let us also know that all that we learn from Scripture is conducive to the advancement of godliness. Although Paul is speaking of the Old Testament, we are to hold the same view of the writings of the apostles. If the Spirit of Christ is everywhere the same, it is quite certain that he has accommodated his teaching to the edification of his people at the present time by the apostles, as he formerly did by the prophets.”

Patient Endurance

The second checkpoint we must pass along the road to hope is endurance, which some versions of the Scriptures translate patience (King James Version), perseverance (New American Standard Bible) or even patient endurance, since the word involves both passively accepting what we cannot change and actively pressing on in faithful obedience and discipleship. This word (hypomonê) occurs thirty-two times in the New Testament, sixteen times in Paul’s writings, six of which are in Romans.

Is Paul saying that endurance comes from the Bible—that is, from knowing the Bible? I raise that question because a detail of the Greek text provokes it. Paul uses the word for through (dia) twice, once before the word endurance and once before the word encouragement (the New International Version omits it the second time). According to the strictest rules of Greek grammar, that should mean that endurance is separated from encouragement with the result that the words “of the Scriptures” should be attached to encouragement only. In other words, Paul would be saying that it is through our own personal enduring as well as through the encouragement that we have in studying the Bible that we find hope.

Leon Morris is a fine Greek scholar, and he is led to this position by his grammatical sensitivity. “[Paul’s] construction seems to show that only encouragement is here said to derive from the Bible,” he says.

In my judgment this is a place where it may be wrong to read too much into a fine point of grammar. Grammatically Morris is right. But in terms of the flow of thought it is hard to suppose that Paul is not thinking of the role the Scriptures have in producing endurance too. For one thing, he links the two ideas together in verse 5, saying, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement.… ” Again, in verse 4 both terms follow Paul’s opening words about the use of the Scriptures for teaching: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that…” Or again, even apart from what Paul is saying, elsewhere we are taught that endurance comes from reading how God has kept and preserved other believers even in terrible circumstances.

James wrote, “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10–11). He is saying that we learn to endure by reading about the way God helped others before us.

Although they recognize the grammatical issue, a large number of other writers nevertheless see the matter as I have outlined it here. Among these are John Murray, Charles Hodge and F. Godet.

Encouragement

The third checkpoint along the road to hope is encouragement, which also comes to us through Scripture. Encouragement (paraklêsis) is found twenty times in Paul’s writings out of twenty-nine occurrences in the whole New Testament. It occurs three times in Romans.

The interesting thing about this word is that it is virtually the same one Jesus used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit among believers, saying, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7; see 14:26; 15:26), and that the apostle John used to describe the work of Jesus himself: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). The word Counselor and the phrase “one who speaks … in our defense” translate the same Greek word paraklêtos, which is also sometimes translated advocate. The literal meaning is “one who comes alongside of another person to help him or her,” to back the person up or defend him. So together the passages teach that Jesus himself does this for us, the Holy Spirit does it, and the Scriptures do it too. Indeed, it is through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit chiefly does his work.

The end result of this is hope. In our text the article is present before the word hope (“the hope”), meaning the Christian hope. This is not just optimism that Paul is writing about, not a hope founded on something the world thinks possible. Also, the verb have is in the present tense, meaning that hope is a present possession. As Calvin says, “The particular service of the Scriptures is to raise those who are prepared by patience and strengthened by consolation to the hope of eternal life, and to keep their thoughts fixed upon it.”

An Example from History

But enough analysis! If we are to travel the road of endurance and encouragement to hope by learning from the Scriptures, we should study how it actually works.

There are hundreds of examples of this in the Bible, of course, but let’s examine the familiar story of Joseph. Joseph was the next-to-youngest son of Jacob, and he was favored by his father because he was born of his much-beloved wife Rachel and also perhaps because he was an extraordinary young man. His brothers hated him for his virtue so they threw him into a cistern and then sold him to Midianite traders who were on their way to Egypt. Joseph was just seventeen years old. In Egypt he became a slave of a rich man named Potiphar. Joseph served the man well, and he was placed in charge of his entire household. Then Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and tried to seduce him. When Joseph refused to sleep with her, the proud, angry woman denounced him falsely to her husband, and Joseph was thrown into prison.

Joseph languished in prison for two years. Once when he had correctly and favorably interpreted the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer, predicting that he would be taken from the prison where he too had been confined and restored to his previous position, Joseph asked the man to remember him when he was released and speak a good word to Pharaoh to get him out of prison. But the cupbearer forgot.

The years dragged on. One day God gave a dream to Pharaoh. No one in the palace could interpret it, but the cupbearer remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams and told the king about him. Pharaoh sent for the young man, and Joseph interpreted the dream, predicting seven years of prosperity to be followed by seven years of severe famine. He recommended that the king appoint a wise man to save grain during the good years so that the people would not starve when the years of scarceness came.

You know the story. Pharaoh appointed Joseph to the task. Joseph served well. The land was saved, and in time, when the famine drove Joseph’s wicked brothers to Egypt to buy grain, God used Joseph to bring the brothers to repentance. The family was reconciled, and Jacob moved all of them to Egypt, where the people stayed and prospered for many years.

The climax of this great story comes in the final chapter of Genesis, when Jacob dies and the brothers come to plead with Joseph not to take revenge on them. They had completely misunderstood him. He had no intention of doing any of them any harm. “Don’t be afraid,” he exclaimed. “Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:19–20). The story teaches that God is sovereign even in such terrible circumstances as those that overtook Joseph. And from it we learn to trust God’s sovereignty, endure in hardship, be encouraged, and so grow strong in hope.

I have picked this particular story because of Psalm 105, which refers to it. It may have been written by King David, but whoever the writer was, he was a man who needed encouragement. He found it in Joseph’s story:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.…

He [God] called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food;

and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave.

They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons,

till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.

The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free.

He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed,

to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom. – Psalm 105:1, 16–22

This writer clearly knew that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Do you know that? If you do, you will study what God has spoken and move ahead boldly for him and with hope.

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. He is the author of numerous Bible expositions and one of my favorite Systematic Theologies called Foundations of the Christian Faith. The article above was adapted from James M. Boice. Romans, vol. 4. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991, 1803-1809).

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“How Can I Become a Christian?” By Dr. James Montgomery Boice

The ABC’s of Salvation

How does a person become a Christian? There are three points—two things we must believe and one thing we must do. They are as simple as ABC.

A stands for “admit.” We must admit that we are sinners and that we are therefore under God’s judgment.

B stands for “believe.” We must believe that God loves us in spite of our sin and that he has acted in Jesus Christ to remove sin and restore us to himself.

C stands for “commit.” This is an act of faith by which we give up trying to run our own life and instead place ourselves in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us and rose again.

Admitting Sin

First, God demands that we admit without reservation that we are sinners and that we should therefore be separated from his presence forever. We are in rebellion against him, either consciously or unconsciously, and we deserve not grace but judgment.

Sin is an everyday experience and the number one problem of mankind. What is more, they recognize that the Bible everywhere insists upon this.

The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin,” wrote Paul in the book of Galatians (Gal. 3:22).

In 1 Kings, chapter 8, King Solomon declared, “There is no one who does not sin” (v. 46).

Psalm 143:2 says, “No one living is righteous before you.”

Isaiah observed, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isa. 53:6).

In the first letter of the apostle John, we are admonished, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (I John 1:10).

This is also the burden of the first chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans, where we find the doctrine of the universality of man’s sin stated in its most comprehensive form.

According to the first three chapters of Romans there are three types of people.

The first type is what we would call hedonists, those whose basis for life is materialism. Paul discusses them in Romans 1:18-32. Hedonists have determined to live for their own enjoyment and for whatever pleasures they can find. “Why is this man a sinner?” Paul asks. “He is a sinner because he is on a path that is leading him away from God and therefore away from any real beauty, truth or inner satisfaction.” As Paul describes it, this path is marked by empty imaginings, darkened intellects, a profession of wisdom by one who is actually foolish and, finally, a perversion of the worship of God which leads to a final debasement (vv. 21-23).

The second type of person, the type discussed in Romans 2:1-16, is what we would call a moral man. In Paul’s day, this was the Greek philosopher or professor of ethics. In our day, it would be anyone who has high ethical standards but who does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. Why does God consider this person a sinner? The answer has two parts. First, he is a sinner because he has come short of God’s standard of righteousness. God’s standard is perfection. It is the standard of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only perfect man who ever lived. All fall short of it. Second, he is a sinner because he falls short of his own standards no matter how high or low they may be.

What is your standard of morality? You may say, “My standard is the Sermon on the Mount. Isn’t that a good standard?” Yes, that is a good standard; but the question is: Do you live up to it? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Are you perfect? Of course not! In that case, you are condemned by the standard of your own choosing.

You may not like that conclusion, or course. So you may say, “Well, I’ll just lower my standard and make it the Golden Rule—‘In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.’” Do you keep that standard? Do you always do to other people all that you would like done by them to yourself? Once again, the answer is no! The point is that all of us are condemned by whatever standard we erect, for none of us is able to live up to even the lowest standards of morality. We are all sinners, and deep within we know it.

There is one more type of person. Paul describes him in Romans 2:17-29. This is the man who would admit most if not all of what Paul has been saying and yet who would attempt to escape the conclusions by pleading his religion. “I have been baptized,” he would say. “I am confirmed. I have given large sums of money to the church’s support and have served on its committees.”

“Good for you,” Paul answers. “But you are still a sinner, because God’s requirement of perfection includes a change of the heart, and none of the outward things of religion—church membership, the sacraments, service or stewardship—can do anything about this most basic problem.” At the end of this section of Romans Paul sums his teaching up by saying, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is not one who does good, not even one” (Rom 3:10-12).

 Believing on Jesus

The second point to becoming a Christian is to believe that God loves you in spite of your sin and that he has acted in Jesus Christ to remove that sin and to begin to make you perfect once more by conforming you to Christ’s image.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

In the Bible, there are three great terms for what God does in salvation. The first is propitiation, a word that occurs in Romans 3:23-26, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 (the NIV translates this as sacrifice of atonement”). Propitiation is the act of performing a sacrifice by which the wrath of God against sin is averted. It refers to what Jesus accomplished in relation to God by his death.

Propitiation presupposes the wrath of God. Right here many modern thinkers would stop, arguing that the term should not be used. “We can understand,” such a person might say, “how the idea of propitiation would be appropriate in paganism where God was assumed to be capricious, easily offended and therefore often angry. But this is not the biblical picture of God. According to the Christian revelation, God is not angry. Rather, he is gracious and loving. Moreover, it is not God who is separated from us because of sin, but rather we who are separated from God.” Those who have argued this way have either rejected the idea of propitiation entirely, considering its presence in the Bible to be merely a carry-over from paganism, or they have interpreted the basic Greek word for propitiation to mean, not Christ’s propitiation of the wrath of God, but rather the covering over or expiation of our guilt by his sacrifice.

We must be appreciative of those who have distinguished the pagan idea of propitiation from the Christian idea. For it is quite true that God is not capricious. We do not propitiate him in order to keep in his good graces, for God is a God of grace and love.

Still, this is not the whole of the matter. In the first place, we do not want to forget what the Bible tells us about God’s just wrath against sin in accordance with which sin will be punished either in Christ or in the person of the sinner. We may feel that the wrath of God and the love of God are incompatible. But this is not the biblical perspective. Rather, the Bible teaches that God is wrath and love at the same time. What is more, the wrath is not just a small and insignificant element that somehow is there alongside the far more significant and overwhelming love of God. Actually, it is a major element that may be traced all the way from God’s judgment against sin in the Garden of Eden to the final cataclysmic judgments prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

Second, although the word “propitiation” is used in biblical writings, it is not used in precisely the same way it is used in pagan writings. In pagan rituals, sacrifice was the means by which man placated an offended deity. But in Christianity, it is never the man who takes the initiative or makes the sacrifice, but God himself who out of his great love for the sinner provides the way by which his own wrath against sin may be averted. Moreover, he is himself the way—in Jesus. This is the true explanation of why God is never the explicit object of the propitiation in the biblical writings. He is not the object because he is, even more importantly, the subject. In other words, God himself placates his wrath against sin so that his love may go out to embrace and fully save the sinner.

The second great term for God’s work of salvation is redemption. Redemption speaks of what Jesus Christ did for us in salvation and of what it cost him to do it. It also occurs in Romans 3:23-26, and in many other places.

The Greek word translated as “redeem,” “Redeemer” or “redemption” in our Bibles has to do with loosing someone’s bonds so that, for example, a prisoner becomes free. At times it was used of procuring the release of a prisoner by means of a ransom. Spiritually, the idea is that, though we have fallen into desperate slavery through sin and are held as by a cruel tyrant, Christ has nevertheless purchased our freedom from sin by his own blood. He paid the price to free us.

We have what is perhaps the greatest biblical illustration of redemption in the story of Hosea. Hosea was a minor prophet whose marriage was unfortunate from a human viewpoint, for the woman proved unfaithful to him. But it was a special marriage from the viewpoint of God. God had told Hosea that the marriage would work out in this fashion. Nevertheless, he was to go through with it in order to provide an illustration of how God loves his people, even when they prove unfaithful by committing spiritual adultery with the world and its gods. The marriage was to be a pageant in which Hosea was to play the part of God and his wife would play the part of unfaithful Israel.

The climax comes at the point at which Gomer fell into slavery, probably because of debt. Hosea was told to buy her back as a demonstration of the way by which the faithful God loves and saves his people. Slaves were always sold naked in the ancient world, and this would have been true of Gomer as she was put up on the auction block in the city of Samaria. She apparently was a beautiful woman. So when the bidding started the offers were high, as the men of the city bid for the body of the female slave.

The bidding was competitive. But as the low bidders dropped out, someone added, “Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel of barley.” “Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley,” said Hosea. The auctioneer must have looked around for a higher bid and seeing none, would have said, “Sold to Hosea for fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley.” Now Hosea owned his wife. He could have killed her if he had wished. He could have made a public spectacle of her in any way he might have chosen. But instead, he put her clothes back on her, led her away into the anonymity of the crowd, and demanded love of her while promising the same from himself. Here is the way he tells it. “The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin-cakes.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethech of barley” (a “shekel” was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams; a “homer” was about 6 bushels or 220 liters; a “lethech” was about 3 bushels or 110 liters).

Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you’” (Hos. 3:1-3). Hosea had the right to demand what she had formerly been unwilling to give. But as he demands it he promises love from himself. For it is thus that God loves all who are his true spiritual children.

The third word for describing God’s work in salvation is justification, the central doctrine of Christianity. Why is it central? Because justification by faith is God’s answer to the most basic of all religious questions, namely, “How can a man or woman become right with God?”

We are not right with him in ourselves; this is what the doctrine of sin means. Sin means that we are in rebellion against God, and if we are against God we cannot be right with God. We are all transgressors. The doctrine of justification by faith is the most important of all Christian doctrines because it tells how one who is in rebellion against God may become right with him. It says that we may be justified by the work of Christ alone received by faith, and not by our own works-righteousness.

Paul puts it like this: “All who believe . . . are justified freely by his [that is, God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22-24); “A man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (v. 28); “To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). These verses teach that justification is God’s work and that it flows from God’s grace.

The Christian doctrine of justification is, therefore, actually God’s declaring the believing individual to be righteous, not on the basis of his own works or irrespective of works, but on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice. In justification, God declares that he has accepted the sacrifice of Christ as the payment of our debt to the divine justice and his imputed Christ’s righteousness to us in place of the sin.

Paul’s own conversion is an illustration of these points. He was not a hedonist; far from it. He was better than that, having effected in his life a combination of the second and third types of men he described in the opening chapters of Romans. He was religious and moral, and he trusted for his salvation to what he could achieve in these areas. He tells about it in Philippians 3:4-8: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

What Paul is saying is that in the days before he met Christ, he had something like a balance sheet in his life. It had assets and liabilities, and he thought that being saved consisted in having more in the column of assets than in the column of liabilities. Moreover, he thought there were considerable assets, some inherited and some earned. Among the inherited assets was the fact that Paul had been born into a Jewish family and had been circumcised according to Jewish law on the eighth day of life. He was a pure-blooded Jew, born of Jewish parents (“a Hebrew of Hebrews”). He was also an Israelite, that is, a member of God’s covenant people. Moreover, he was of the loyal tribe of Benjamin. Then, too, Paul had advantages that he had won for himself. In regard to the law, he was a Pharisee, the most faithful of all Jewish sects in adherence to the law. Moreover, he had been a zealous Pharisee, which he had proved by his persecution of the infant church.

These were real assets from a man’s point of view. But the day came when Paul saw to what these amounted in the sight of the righteous God. It was the day Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Before that time, Paul thought he was attaining righteousness by keeping the law. But when he saw Christ, he discerned that these acts of righteousness were actually like filthy rags. Before this, he had said, “As for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Now he said, “I am the worst of sinners,” and he rejected any attempts to justify himself. He turned to God who on the basis of Christ’s death freely justifies the ungodly. So far as his balance sheet was concerned, Paul recognized that all he had accumulated as an asset was in reality not an asset at all. It was a liability, for it had kept him from Christ. This is where he placed it. He called it “loss.” Then, under assets he entered: “Jesus Christ alone.”

It is the glory of the Christian gospel that when a person who has been made alive by God turns from his own works, which can only condemn him, and instead by faith embraces the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, God declares his sins to have been punished at Calvary and imputes the righteousness of Christ to his account.

Commitment

Finally, there must be an act by which you actually commit yourself to Christ. Or, to put it another way, you open the gate of your heart and admit him. This does not mean that you are responsible for your own salvation. If you do open the door, it is only because Christ is there beforehand moving you to do it. Still, from your own point of view, the act itself is absolutely indispensable.

What matters is the reality of your own personal commitment to Jesus. Are you a Christian? That is the question. Is it real? The answer to that question does not depend upon your good works but rather upon your relationship to the Savior. Have you asked Jesus Christ to be your Savior?

You must say,

“Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am a sinner and stand under your judgment, that I deserve nothing, that I have no claims upon you. Nevertheless, I believe that you love me and died for me, and that now by grace I can stand before you clothed in your righteousness. I commit my life to you. Receive me now as one of your followers.”

This has been the heart of Christian experience. It has been embodied in many of our hymns. One of them says:

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to thee for dress,

Helpless, look to thee for grace;

Foul, I to the Fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

 Rock of ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in thee.

If you will pray that prayer, God will wash you, and he will give you that righteousness which is above anything you can personally attain.

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. He is the author of numerous Bible expositions and one of my favorite Systematic Theologies called Foundations of the Christian Faith. The article above “How To Become a Christian?” was adapted from Chapter One in the book How to Live the Christian Life, Chicago: Moody Press, 1982.

 

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Dr. James M. Boice on “Whatever Happened To God?”

A Strong Call To Reformation in Our Churches By Dr. James Boice

In any discussion of reformation in doctrine one must come to the realization that the real problem of our time is that there is hardly any doctrine at all to reform. So when we talk about reformation we must focus on a recovery of theology, period. Certainly in the liberal churches there is a lack of exposition of Scripture and sound doctrine, and unfortunately, this is rapidly becoming the case in evangelical circles as well.

Now you might ask which doctrines are missing? I argue that primarily what we need is a recovery of the doctrine of God. You have to have some kind of starting point and that’s the point where I think we should begin. People have lost any real sense of the fact that when we come to church we come to worship and learn about God. Years ago I spoke at a conference and my topic was on a number of the attributes of God. Later I got some feedback from a gentleman who was listening to my presentation. He had been in the church for thirty years, and in fact was now an elder, and that was the first time that he ever heard a series of messages on the attributes of God. And after hearing this his friend asked him, ‘Well, whom did you think you were worshiping all that time?’ But he hadn’t really thought about those things and I’m convinced that we have literally thousands of people in our churches today who really seldom, if ever, think about who it is they are worshiping, if they think about God at all.

Now, I think there are some reasons for this. One reason is the terrible impact of television on our culture which has produced a virtually mindless age. Television is not a medium which shares information well, it is primarily an entertainment medium. It puts pictures on the screen onto which people project their own aspirations and desires, and because it works so powerfully and is so pervasive it has the tendency to transform anything it touches into entertainment, and it does it very quickly. One of the most significant books I’ve read in the last few years in terms of what is actually happening to the mind is Neil Postman’s, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show-Business. It’s not that entertainment itself is bad. But television is most damaging when it tries to be serious. So when you put news on TV, you get brief little sound bites encased in slick images, and this is not really information, it is entertainment.

This happens to politics, it happens to education, and according to Postman, it happens to religion. Postman even raises the question of what one loses when one puts religion on television. It is obvious what there is to gain: a mass audience, money. But what do you lose? He argues you lose everything that is important: tradition, creeds, theology, etc. And he says above all, you lose a sense of the transcendent. And what he means is that you lose a sense of the presence of God. When Christians meet together to worship God, whether it is in a cathedral or a simple chapel, typically there will be prayers and open Bibles for the study of God’s Word. There is a sense that God is present in these activities. And you lose that when religion is put on TV. All you have on television is the picture of the star of the show who is the ‘entertainer.’ Postman says God necessarily, in that kind of medium, comes out second banana. And when the preacher becomes the star of the show he begins to think and act as if he is a Hollywood star then you have the kind of tragedies that we’ve seen in the industry. Postman has a very serious comment at this point. He says, ‘Now, I’m not a theologian and maybe I don’t have the right word for it, but I think the word for it is ‘blasphemy.”

All of this would be irrelevant if it were not for the fact that all this has a significant impact on our churches. So just as God is absent from televised religion, there is tremendous pressure to push him out of our church services in favor of a more upbeat entertainment-oriented Sunday morning visit. We do all kinds of things to fill in that vacuum, but as Augustine said, “we are made for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.” In my judgment, we have a hollow core at the heart of evangelicalism, and that is the cause of all the restlessness.

 The Sovereignty of God

If we want to recover the doctrine of God we have to recover the attributes of God, and one attribute that is sorely missing in our time is the attribute of God’s sovereignty. What happens in the Christian world if you don’t give attention to the sovereign God? Human sovereignty comes in to take the true God’s place. Idols always replace the true if the true is not kept there. So you have human beings becoming sovereign in their own estimation in a variety of ways.

Theologically: we are the ones who elect God rather than God electing us.

Programmatically: we are the ones who determine what should be done in our worship rather than following the statements of Scripture.

In this sort of business God gets relegated to the sidelines, we really don’t need him. But really, when you think about it, this is secularism.

I think the best illustration of this in the Bible is the story of Nebuchadnezzar when he stood on the roof of his palace in Babylon and he looked over that magnificent city with its famous hanging gardens and he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ That is probably the best statement in all of literature of what we call secular humanism, because he is claiming that the world he observed was of him, by him and for his own glory. But the sad thing is that it is not just secular humanism, but is becoming ‘evangelical’ humanism as well. If we’re the ones who conceive of what should be done and we’re the ones who accomplish it by our skills, whatever they may be, often without prayer (because we are not a prayerful people), then I guess the glory should go to ourselves. So we find ourselves right back where Nebuchadnezzar was, right around the time God judged him with insanity. And as I look at the evangelical world I’d say a lot of it is insane. In addition, Nebuchadnezzar was driven out to live with the animals to behave in a bestial way. And when I read the polls that tell me that evangelicals behave virtually no different from their secular counter-parts, and I recognize the bestial manner that the world around us is behaving, I think that maybe the judgment of Nebuchadnezzar has come home to us as well.

Fortunately, Nebuchadnezzar got the message. For his final testimony reads:

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’ …Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Dan 4:34-35, 37)

God is not only able to humble them. He does humble them, and perhaps that ought to be a good starting point for renewal in our churches. We evangelicals need it especially.

The Holiness of God

If there is any doctrine that rivals God’s sovereignty in importance it is the holiness of God. But do we have any sense or appreciation of the holiness of God in our churches today? David Wells writes that God’s holiness weighs ‘lightly upon us.’ Why? Holiness involves God’s transcendence. It involves majesty, the authority of sovereign power, stateliness or grandeur. It embraces the idea of God’s sovereign majestic will, a will that is set upon proclaiming himself to be who he truly is: God alone, who will not allow his glory to be diminished by another. Yet we live in an age when everything is exposed, where there are no mysteries and no surprises, where even the most intimate personal secrets of our lives are blurted out over television to entertain the masses. We are contributing to this frivolity when we treat God as our celestial buddy who indulges us in the banalities of our day-to-day lives.

Perhaps the greatest problem of all in regard to our neglect of God’s holiness is that holiness is a standard against which human sin is exposed, which is why in Scripture exposure to God always produces feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment and terror in the worshiper. These are all painful emotions, and we are doing everything possible in our culture to avoid them. One evidence of this is the way we have eliminated sin as a serious category for describing human actions. Karl Menninger asked the question years ago with his classic book, Whatever Became of Sin? He answered his own question by arguing that when we banished God from our cultural landscape we changed sin into crime (because it is now no longer an offense against God but rather an offense against the state) and then we changed crimes into symptoms. Sin is now something that is someone else’s fault. It is caused by my environment, my parents or my genes.

But once again, this is not simply a problem outside the church. We too have bought into today’s therapeutic approach so that we no longer call our many and manifold transgressions sin or confront sin directly, calling for repentance before God. Instead we send our people to counselors to work through why they are acting in an ‘unhealthy’ manner, to find ‘healing.’

David Wells claims that ‘holiness fundamentally defines the character of God.’ But ‘robbed of such a God, worship loses its awe, the truth of his Word loses its ability to compel, obedience loses its virtue, and the church loses its moral authority.’ It is time for the evangelical churches to recover the Bible’s insistence that God is holy above all things and explore what that must mean for our individual and corporate lives. To begin with we need to preach from those great passages of the Bible in which people were exposed to God’s awe-inspiring majesty and holiness. If nothing else, we need to preach the Law without which preaching the Gospel loses its power and eventually even its meaning.

Reformation in Worship

John R. W. Stott has written a book on some essentials of evangelical religion in which he affirms “that true worship is the highest and noblest activity of which man, by the grace of God, is capable.” But that highlights our weakness, namely, that for large segments of the evangelical church, perhaps the majority, true worship is almost non-existent.

A. W. Tozer, a wise pastor and perceptive Bible student, saw the problem nearly fifty years ago. He wrote in 1948, “Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”

It is not unusual to read in books dealing with worship that worship is hard to define, but I do not find that actually to be the case. I think it is very easy to define. The problems-and there are many of them-are in different areas.

To worship God is to ascribe to Him supreme worth, for He alone is supremely worthy. Therefore, the first thing to be said about worship is that it is to honor God. Worship also has bearing on the worshiper. It changes him or her, which is the second important thing to be said about it.

William Temple defined worship very well:

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,

to feed the mind with the truth of God,

to purge the imagination by the beauty of God,

to open the heart to the love of God,

to devote the will to the purpose of God.”

In defining worship, William Temple also gives us a good description of the true godliness throughout the Christian life.

John H. Armstrong is editor of a journal called Reformation and Revival, and he devoted the 1993 winter issue to worship. In the introduction Armstrong calls what passes for the worship of God today ‘Mc-Worship,’ meaning that worship has been made common, cheap or trivial. What is the problem? Why is so little of that strong worship that characterized past ages seen among us? There are several reasons.

First, ours is a trivial age, and the church has been deeply affected by this pervasive triviality. Ours is not an age for great thoughts or even great actions. Our age has no heroes. It is a technological age, and the ultimate objective of our popular technological culture is entertainment.

I argue that the chief cause of today’s mindlessness is television, as I discussed earlier. Because it is so pervasive-the average American household has the television on more than seven hours a day-it is programming us to think that the chief end of man is to be entertained. How can people whose minds are filled with the brainless babble of the evening sitcoms have anything but trivial thoughts when they come to God’s house on Sundays morning if, in fact, they have thoughts of God at all? How can they appreciate his holiness if their heads are full of the moral muck of the afternoon talk shows? All they can look for in church, if they look for anything, is something to make them feel good for a short while before they go back to the television culture.

Second, ours is a self-absorbed, man-centered age, and the church has become sadly, even treasonously, self-centered. We have seen something like a Copernican revolution. In the past true worship may not have taken place all the time or even often. It may have been crowded out by the ‘program,’ as Tozer maintained it was in his day. But worship was at least understood to be the praise of God and to be something worth aiming at. Today we do not even aim at it, at least not much or in many places.

Pastor R. Kent Hughes, the former Senior Pastor of the College Church in Wheaton, is on target when he says, “The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today’s Christendom is that worship is primarily for us-to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance.”

From this perspective preaching becomes a homiletics of consensus-preaching to felt needs-man’s conscious agenda instead of God’s. Such preaching is always topical and never textual. Biblical information is minimized, and the sermons are short and full of stories. Anything and everything that is suspected of making the marginal attender uncomfortable is removed from the service, whether it be a registration card or a ‘mere’ creed. Taken to the nth degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self-centeredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terribly corrupts one’s theology.

As I have been arguing all along, we are oblivious to God. In recent years, as I have traveled around the country speaking in various churches, I have noticed the decreasing presence and in some cases the total absence of service elements that have always been associated with the worship of God. These desperately need to be recovered.

Whatever Happened to Prayer?

It is almost inconceivable to me that something that is called a worship service can be held without any significant prayer, but that is precisely what is happening. I mean really, what do you go to a church service for if it is not to pray? And yet, you can go to evangelical services filled with thousands of people and hear virtually no prayers at all. There is usually a very short prayer at the beginning of the service and another prayer at the time the offering is received. But longer prayers-pastoral prayers-have all but vanished. Whatever happened to the ACTS acrostic in which ‘A’ stands for adoration, ‘C’ for confession of sin, ‘T’ for thanksgiving, and ‘S’ for supplication? Now and then a few supplications are tacked onto the offering prayer, but most all other prayers have been thrown out. How can we say we are worshipping when we do not even pray?

The Reading of the Word

The reading of any substantial portion of the Bible is also vanishing. In the Puritan age ministers regularly read one long chapter of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament in every service. In some services I’ve attended there are no Scripture readings at all, other times it is a reading of only one or two verses. Sometimes it just precedes the sermon and very often it is only a pretext because the sermon has nothing whatsoever to do with the passage. I’m not talking about liberal churches, mind you. I’m talking about the lack of Scripture readings in our evangelical churches. We must again recover the apostle’s command to ‘devote [ourselves] to the public reading of Scripture’ (1Tim. 4:13).

The Exposition of the Word

In this television age of ours, preachers are expected to be charming and entertaining. And so your sermons have to be shortened because people have short attention spans, they are funny if they can be, and you have to eliminate any theological material that would cause people to think, and you most certainly do not bring up negative theological material like sin because that makes people feel uncomfortable. Preachers want to be liked, and in order to be liked today you have to be entertaining. I am reminded of Jesus’ harsh words to the Pharisees about wanting to be popular, seeing the smiles from the folks in the market place. As our Lord said, ‘They have their reward.’ But for pastors who are looking for more than smiles, and parishioners who are looking for more than to have their ears tickled, our Lord gave a very simple explanation of what the exposition of the Word is really all about. ‘You search the Scriptures thinking that in them you have eternal life: yet these are they which testify of me’ (John 5:39). The preaching of God’s Word is about Christ, and him crucified. This central message is food for our souls. But we are settling for junk food.

Confession of Sin

Who confesses sin today-anywhere, not to mention in church as God’s humble, repentant people? It is not happening, because there is so little awareness of both God and sin. Instead of coming to church to admit our transgressions and seek forgiveness, we come to church to be told that we are really all right, we want to be affirmed.

Hymns

One of the saddest features of contemporary worship is that the great hymns of the church are on the way out. They are not gone entirely, but they are going. And in their place have come trite jingles that have more in common with contemporary advertising ditties than the psalms. Now, not all of them are bad and I would even argue that there is a place for some of them, like when you’re having a fun night with the Jr. High. But what place do they have in serious worship? The problem here is not so much the style of the music, though trite words fit best with trite tunes and harmonies. Rather it is with the content of the songs. The old hymns expressed the theology of the church in profound and perceptive ways and with winsome memorable language. Today’s songs reflect only our shallow or non-existent theology and do almost nothing to elevate one’s thoughts about God.

Worst of all are songs that merely repeat a trite idea, word or phrase over and over again. Songs like this are not worship, though they may give the churchgoer a religious feeling. They are mantras, which belong more in a gathering of New Agers than among the worshipping people of the triune God.

Reformation in The Church

The disaster that has overtaken the church in our day in regard to worship is not going to be cured overnight. But we ought to make a beginning, and one way to begin is to study what Jesus said about worship. He had been traveling with his disciples and had stopped at the well of Sychar while the disciples went into the city to buy food. A woman came to draw water and Jesus got into a discussion with her. As the discussion progressed he touched on her loose moral life, revealing his insight into her way of living, and she tried to change the topic by asking him a religious question. ‘Sir,’ she said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem’ (John 4:20).

Jesus’ answer is the classic biblical statement of what worship is all about: ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth’ (vv. 21-24). There are several important things about this.

First, there is but one true God, and true worship must be of this true God and none other. This is the point of Jesus saying that the Samaritans did not know whom they were worshipping but that the Jews did, that ‘salvation is from the Jews.’ He meant that the true God is the God who had revealed himself to Israel at Mount Sinai and who established the only acceptable way of worshipping him, which is what much of the Old Testament is about. Other worship is invalid, because it is worship of an imaginary god.

We need to think about this carefully because we live in an age in which everyone’s opinion about anything, especially his or her opinion about God, is thought to be as valid as any other. That is patently impossible. If there is a God, which is basic to any discussion about worship, then God is what he is. That is, he is one thing and not another. So the question is not whether any or all opinions are valid but rather what this one true existing God is like. Who is he? What is his name? What kind of a God is he? Christianity teaches that this one true God has made himself known through creation, at Mount Sinai, through the subsequent history of the Jewish people, and in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. In addition, he has given us a definitive revelation of what he is like and what he requires of us in the Bible. So that is the point at which we start. There is one God, and he has revealed himself to us. That is why there can be no true worship of God without a faithful teaching of the Bible.

Second, the only way this one true God can be truly worshipped is ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Jesus was indicating a change in worship when he said this. Before this time worship was centered in the temple at Jerusalem. Every Jew had to make his way there three times annually for the festivals. What took place in the local synagogues was more like a Bible school class than a worship service. But this has been changed. Jesus has come. He has fulfilled all that the temple worship symbolized. Therefore, until the end of the age worship is not to be by location, either in Jerusalem or Samaria, but in spirit and according to the truth of God.

Worship should not be confused with feelings. It is true that the worship of God will affect us, and one thing it will frequently affect is our emotions. At times tears will fill our eyes as we become aware of God’s great love and grace toward us. Yet it is possible for our eyes to fill with tears and for there still to be no real worship simply because we have not come to a genuine awareness of God and a fuller praise of God’s nature and ways.

True worship occurs only when we actually meet with God and find ourselves praising him for his love, wisdom, beauty, truth, holiness, compassion, mercy, grace, power, and all his other attributes.

Reformation in Life

Surveys of contemporary Christian conduct tell us that most Christians do not act significantly different from non-Christian people. This is not surprising since little contemporary preaching teaches anything that might actually make a difference. But we obviously should be different, at least if we take the Bible seriously. Christians are to be the new humanity, a community of those who “love…God, even to the contempt of self’ as opposed to those who ‘love…self, even to the contempt of God” (Augustine).

Where should we start? The scope of this subject is analogous to that of the reformation of the church in doctrine with which this article began. I asked what doctrines needed to be recovered, and I answered ‘all the major doctrines of all the creeds.’ Here I ask, what areas of Christian life and conduct need to be recovered, and the answer is: all areas of life both for ourselves as individuals and the church. We need the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and the ethical teaching of the epistles. It is all needed. In short, we need to recover what it means to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ and to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ since ‘all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’ (Matt. 22:37-40). We need to live out our faith, not to obtain grace, but because we have obtained God’s grace in Christ.

To God Alone Be Glory

This article began with God, and it is appropriate that it end with God, too, for a recovery of the sense of the reality, presence, will and glory of God is what it is about. It is significant that Paul’s conclusion to the great doctrinal section of the book of Romans ends with a doxology. The last words are: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom. 11:36).

Moreover, after the closing application section of the letter, the entire epistle ends similarly: “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:27).

I would argue that the reason the evangelical church is so weak today and why we do not experience renewal, though we talk about our need for it, is that the glory of God has been largely forgotten by the church. We are not likely to see revival again until the truths that exalt and glorify God in salvation are recovered. How can we expect God to move among us until we can again truthfully say, ‘To God alone be the glory’?

The world cannot say this. It is concerned for its own glory instead. Like Nebuchadnezzar, it says, ‘Look at this great Babylon I have built by my power and for my glory.’ Arminians cannot say it. They can say, ‘to God be glory,’ but they cannot say, ‘to God alone be glory,’ since Arminian theology takes some of the glory of God in salvation and gives it to man. Even those in the Reformed camp cannot say it if what they are chiefly trying to do in their ministries is build their own kingdoms and become important people on the religious scene. We will never experience renewal in doctrine, worship and life until we are honestly able to say, ‘to God alone be glory’ in all that we do.

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, true, inescapable, necessary and highly desirable confession.

 

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. He is the author of numerous Bible expositions and one of my favorite Systematic Theologies called Foundations of the Christian Faith.

©1996, 1999 Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

 

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Book Review: Come To The Waters by James Montgomery Boice

Be Blessed By Boice’s Best From the Bible

I am a teaching pastor who was deeply grieved by the earth’s loss (Heaven’s gain) of *Dr. James Montgomery Boice just over a decade ago to cancer. He was a gifted theologian who happened to pastor a large church in Philadelphia where he faithfully preached the Bible expositionally for over thirty years. I have read all of his published books – most of which are sermons – and what’s great about this book is that it compiles the best of most of his published works and some unpublished works that the editor was able to find at the Princeton Theological Library.

Organized from January to December and from Genesis to Revelation this daily devotional is like getting the best of Boice from the Scriptures every day – sort of like a mini sermon – but packed with solid theology, exegesis, and life application. For Boice fans this book is a “must have” and hopefully for those of you who have never been exposed to Boice – you will not only “come to the waters” in this book – but go deeper into the waters of the plethora of Boice’s books and be blessed in your pursuit of the knowledge of and reflection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks and Kudos to the editor for giving us more Boice, so we can get more of Jesus in our lives!

 

*Dr. James Montgomery Boice, just 8 weeks after being diagnosed with a fatal liver cancer, died in his sleep on June 15, 2000. The senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, he was a world-famous Bible teacher, author, and statesman for Reformed theology. He informed his congregation of 32 years of his condition on May 7, proclaiming his complete confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness.

In the past 72 years, historic Tenth Presbyterian Church has had two senior pastors, Donald Grey Barnhouse and James Montgomery Boice. Founded in 1828, the church itself predates their tenure by another hundred years. Tenth Presbyterian Church lies in the very heart of the city and today has about 1,200 members.

James Montgomery Boice accepted the position as senior pastor in 1968, and was the teacher of the Bible Study Hour since 1969 and the more recent God’s Word Today broadcast as well. Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Basel, Switzerland. He had written or contributed to nearly 50 books, including Foundations of the Christian FaithLiving by the Book, and exegetical commentaries on Genesis, Psalms, Acts, and Romans.

He was no less involved in the preserving of the fundamentals of the faith than his predecessor, Dr. Barnhouse. In 1985, Boice assumed the presidency of Evangelical Ministries, Inc., the parent organization of the Bible Study Hour, Bible Study Seminars, Bible Studies magazine, and other teaching ministries. In 1997, Evangelical Ministries merged with Christians United for Reformation and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, taking the latter as the new organization’s name, and Dr. Boice assumed the presidency. In 1997, he was a founding member of, and chaired, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.

Of particular concern to Boice was the matter of the church and her relationship to and engagement of society. His recent book, Two Cities, Two Loves, maintains that Christians are citizens of the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of heaven and that they have responsibilities in each. He urged Christians to “participate in secular life rather than merely shoot from the sidelines at secular people.”

Dr. Boice is survived by his wife, Linda, and three daughters. Characteristic of his ministry was his pushing Christians to commit themselves to staying in one place. He lived what he preached, committing to the church and his downtown neighborhood for 30 years. A gifted pastor and leader, he turned down many attractive opportunities in order to build a sense of permanence and belonging. And he urged his parishioners to do the same.

 

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The World’s Theology and Where it Leads

“The world’s theology is easy to define – man is basically good – no one is really lost – Jesus is not necessary for salvation… Hell is full of human righteousness.” – James Montgomery Boice

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Quotes

 

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