Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Re-discovering the meaning of TULIP

Do you know what the acronym TULIP means? It is the English version of remembering the essence of the settlement at the Synod of Dort. This was where an Arminian approach to salvation, Scripture and life was rejected. Though TULIP does not perfectly fit the Canons of Dort, it has proved remarkable effective to uphold the truth of Scripture in the English speaking world.

There were five points proposed by the supporters of Arminius. TULIP stands for this to rebuff those points which are biblically false. Though Calvinism is more than TULIP, it is not less than TULIP.

T Total Depravity

U Unconditional Election

L Limited Atonement

I Irresistible Grace

P Perseverance of the Saints


I remember working through the Scripture and the force of logic offered by the teaching of TULIP and it revolutionised my thinking, my direction of travel as a Christian and my understanding of the Triune God. Do you understand TULIP? Have you worked through each of these five points? Do you have a biblical framework to understand these five points? What difference does it make to your life by grasping these points?

I intend to expound these points on this Blog as part of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort next year, but also to help people in their spiritual journey. If you want some helps, then Read Romans 9, John 6 and 10 as a starter. Perhaps Romans chapter 9 is one of the least preached chapters in the church. Here is a taster from this chapter of Holy Scripture:

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:15-18.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Creation Ministries International

Last week, at Sheffield Presbyterian Church, we had a mission emphasis week. This included an ongoing Christianity Explored course, a day of outreach in the city centre with a team of 7, which included street preaching, but also two meetings at Hill Top Chapel (home of Sheffield Presbyterian Church) with Creation Ministries International.

The plain truth concerning God as Creator has been under attack for about 150 years, however evangelical Christians today, they often do not see the truth about Creation to be important. It is traded off as a half way point with evolution, in order to attempt to make a compromise between what is in reality two mutually exclusive world views: biblical Creation and evolution. The teaching of Holy Scripture is clear:

Genesis 1:31-2:3
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Exodus 20:8-11
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


The LORD God created everything out of nothing, in the space of six literal days, which then implies a young earth.

Creation Ministries International have a very useful website (www.creation.com) and they did two presentations for us in Sheffield:

I. The age of the earth and its relevance to the gospel.

II. Dinosaurs and dragons.

Both were immensely useful, stimulating, encouraging and thought provoking presentations, of a simple view of biblical Creation. Do check out their website, especially if you are unclear on matters concerning Creation.

Monday, 19 November 2018

"Endure hardship": the example of Paulus Schneider in WW II

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

At a recent ordination service, I preached on 2 Timothy 4:1-5. The headings were: what, why and how? The last heading was 'how should ministers perform their task?' and I preached this in reference to 4:5. In this blog post I have in mind the phrase "endure suffering" which could also be translated "endure hardship". In our very comfortable Western world, this idea of hardship is almost never mentioned during sermons or in the church generally. But we must mention this truth, so that Christians can understand that the way of discipleship is never easy.

Endure suffering [afflictions] kakopatheĊ — suffer hardship, persevere.

It is not excitement that the life of the Christian is all about. Excitement comes and excitement goes! Living under the Word of God is about walking by faith instead and that includes hardship. Excitement comes and goes, but we must perform our task as ministers by faith. Hebrews 11 teaches us that we endure as seeing him who is invisible. That is how Moses was able to stay on course. This is especially the case during the times of trial, persecution, criticism, obstacles, difficulties, setbacks, and for some even martyrdom.

The example of Pfarrer (German equivalent of minister or Rev) Paulus Schneider, the first martyr in Nazi Germany. He was a German opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Paulus Schneider was installed as a minister in May 1934 at the age of 36. He had been in his pastorate for only a few weeks when he signed the Barmen Declaration, something against Nazi principles and state interference in the church. In his second pastorate, just after the birth of his sixth child, on May 31st 1937 two Gestapo agents burst into his study and arrested him. He was forbidden to preach in his church when he was released. What should he do? He returned to his church in Dickenschied and in the morning he preached on Psalm 145:15-21. The very act of preaching wrote Don Stephens led to the loss of all he held dear. (p 58, "War and Grace” by Don Stephens, published by EP). He was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp and despite continuing to preach in prison, he was killed by the Nazis in prison by lethal injection, at the age of 41 and his wife was only 35.

“Endure hardship”, both large and small and count it a joy. Any minister or Christian who is faithful to the LORD, you will face then, criticism, conflict, mis-understanding and there will be tears of various kinds. None the less the Word of God will bear fruit if you remain faithful to proclaim it or live it.

Samuel Rutherford once said: “You will not get to steal quietly to heaven, in Christ’s company, without a conflict and a cross”.

Monday, 12 November 2018

2019 is the 400th Anniversary of the Synod of Dort

How many have heard of the Synod of Dort? This synod took place in The Netherlands between the 13th November 1618 and 9th May 1619. This Synod convened in Dordrecht in the Low Countries, in order to settle the theological dispute with the disciples of Jacobus Arminius (known as Arminianism).

Next year is the 400th anniversary of this important Synod. May we learn more about its history, events and the theology of the settlement of this international Synod. If you would like some books to look at, here are some:

S. M. Houghton, Sketches of Church History.
John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

The fact that I am struggling to find books to recommend on this subject, teaches us about the impoverishment in our church history on this subject. 1619 will change that I think, with a range of new books coming out, I am sure then, on the subject of the Synod of Dort.

The production of the Canons of Dort was one of the legacies of this church Synod. The main points of doctrine are:

1. Divine Election and Reprobation

2. Christ's Death and Human Redemption Through it

3. Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way it Occurs

4. The Perseverance of the Saints

If you want to read more here is a weblink: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/canons-dort

Monday, 5 November 2018

"The power of the printed page".

Despite many spiritual challenges in the UK over recent decades, one really wonderful and yet quiet revolution has been, the growth of quality evangelical and Reformed books, since the 1950's. The arrival of the Banner of Truth in the 1950's and then the almost global explosion of quality Reformed and evangelical literature, has been amazing. While it is true that not all books are of a high quality doctrinally, the emergence of such quality Reformed books is remarkable.

The kingdom of God is bigger than the English language, but English has more materials available in it today, than any other language in the history of the church. Do we recognise and appreciate this? Are we thankful for this?

Christianity is more than about reading, but it is not less than that. There is a danger of people filling their heads with knowledge for the sake of it and then leaning upon that, rather than upon the Lord himself. However, there is real power in the printed page of Christian literature.

"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments". 2 Timothy 4:13.

How can we respond as Christians to this Reformed literature revolution?

1). In the midst of discouragements, give thanks for all of this.
2). Seek to improve your own reading habits beyond the Bible. Find ways as families to switch from technological feeding via the internet primarily, to the written page with great Christian books.
3). Seek to encourage others to read good wholesome Christian books that you have benefited from.
4). Encourage your church to have a book of the quarter, recommended by the pastor to get Christians reading
5). If opportunities arise, how about starting a book table at events. I have been selling good Christian and Reformed books for years. I contact publishers and get good prices and pass them on to people buying. We want Christians to read, read, read!
6). If you have the financial resources, how about buying a stack of a book that you believe is powerful and give them away as gifts. Generosity is part of being a Christian and giving should be natural for us as Christians.
7). Pray for Christian publishing houses like EP, Banner, Reformation Heritage and others. Christian printing is a labour of love and these publishers need prayer.

Monday, 29 October 2018

"Uniting as Christians" and "not dividing" over literal translations of the Bible in English

We all acknowledge that non-literal translations of the Bible exist, and therefore not all translations can be validly used in public worship. This would include "The Message" or the German People's (Volk's) Bible which should not be used public (and I would say also privately). These loose translations do not even attempt to be faithful to the original Greek or Hebrew text.

However, there are a number of literal Bible translations which seek to be faithful to the original manuscripts of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Sometimes people get heated over the use of their favourite Bible translations. Literal translations in English would include, in my opinion, the King James, the New King James, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version and the New International Version (excluding the 2011 NIV edition, which deliberately seeks to feminise its translation work-- see my blog post on this, on this blog by using the search engine).

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1 "Of Holy Scripture", 1:8:

1:8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the common language of every nation unto which they come1 that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

Our Confession makes plain that the original manuscripts "being immediately inspired of God, and by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic". This is a wonderful statement. There are several streams of New Testament Greek manuscripts from North Africa, late Byzantine and others. We do not yield that one stream is better than any others, because that would be to go against our confession of faith and to undermine our confidence the Lord's providence.

Let us encourage Christians to read their Bibles with confidence and let us seek to build up the unity of the faith and not seek to undermine anyone's confidence in the precious Bible that we hold. After over 25 years I have seen much "heat" at times over English Bible translations. May the grace of Christ help us to walk humbly together in unity and love and to all seek together to know the Lord better, as we walk in the light of His Word.

Friday, 26 October 2018

God's gospel of mercy and grace to ex-Nazi leaders in 1946

We must never lose sight of a sense of awe and wonder at the gospel of God's free grace. Paul the apostle, late in his life writes to Titus and the letter oozes with an emphasis on the lovingkindness towards him and others through the gospel. Do you have that sense of thankfulness and appreciation to the LORD for the forgiveness of sins? A wonder and awe towards the LORD for saving you personally is a mark of genuine Christianity. Listen to Paul in Titus 3:4-8.

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works".

In recent months, my wife and I have been reading a wonderful book written by Don Stephens called "War and Grace: Short Biographies from the World Wars" published by EP. It is the last chapter I would like to mention, one which I found tearful and thrilling. It is called Henry Gerecke, chaplain to the Nazi war criminals. It is about his work as a chaplain in Nuremberg, Allied Occupied Germany (then) from early November 1945 to the 16th November 1946. During this time he ministered the gospel for a year, to some of the top Nazi leaders who were by this time imprisoned. 11 were eventually condemned to death by hanging (Hermann Goering cowardly committed suicide but would otherwise have also hung among the other 10). However, the story of some of the Nazi leaders coming to a genuine faith is awesome.

Over that year of chaplaincy work by the Lutheran pastor, 8 former Nazis were carefully examined and admitted to the Lord's Supper by the chaplain. The chaplain was not interested in mere hollow professions and he was not a man impressed by 11th hour phoney reformations. The Nazi leaders who professed genuine faith were 8 in total and they were:

Fritz Sauckel: Once head of labour supply
Baldur von Shirach: once head of Hitler youth
Hans Fritzsche: part of Goebels' propaganda machine
Albert Speer: minister of armaments
Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel
Admiral Raeder
Joachim von Ribbentrop, former Nazi foreign minister
Field Marshall Kesselring

If you want to learn more, you must buy the book. But one excerpt is from the profession of faith by von Ribbentrop. He responded slowly to the gospel through the chapel services and cell visits. Gerecke believed that he had put all his trust in Christ. At his death by hanging, his last words were: "I place all my confidence in the lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul". Then he turned to Gerecke the chaplain and said "I'll see you again" (page 269).

How about you? Who are you trusting in for salvation? We all need the Saviour. We leave the judgement of people's lives to the Lord, but we are assured from the Scriptures, that the only door into heaven is through dependence upon the mercy of Christ.

Acts 17:30-31 "... but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”