Monday 24 October 2011

Have you ever read the Whole Bible?

My own personal conviction is that the Bible is unique, it is God's only word to humanity that is infallible, authoritative and without error. The Bible is my greatest personal possession and yet as a young Christian I remember wanting to read the whole Bible and yet not knowing how to do it. Have you ever tried to read the whole Bible and given up frustrated?

First of all I tried to read the whole Bible in a year, by using one of those daily reading plans and I could not wait for the 1st January, 1991 to arrive. At the time I had a very pressured and busy career and unfortunately by the middle of January I was so far behind that the backlog to catch up was almost impossible. I found myself speed-reading out loud but I was taking nothing in and I gave up. I also tried to read the Bible by beginning at Genesis and again I think I got as far as Leviticus and then I gave up. Here I was a Christian, one who was convinced that the Bible contained the greatest spiritual treasure, but somehow it remained like a 'locked treasure box' to me. What was the answer?

Following a time of 'racking my brains', I came up with a plan, one that has helped me for years and I hope that this may help some of you. I decided that reading with a strict plan did not work for me. This was because some days I had more time to read than others. My plan needed to be flexible, interesting and driven by my hunger. I found the contents list of Bible books and I asked myself, 'which book of the Bible would I like to read first?'. I think that it may have been Haggai, and it is only two chapters long so I raced through it and I could not wait to get to the next book. I read it and ticked off the book on the contents list. I was single at the time and I was determined to read the whole Bible, when I had the time at least. Working my way through, I ended up reading the whole Bible in about 8-9 months and I can honestly say that by doing so I was never again the same person. Why? God's word is life-changing! I have followed this plan many times and sometimes It has taken me two years to read the whole Bible and I do not read the whole Bible all the time. This pattern has worked for me and I submit this to you as an option.

May we all demonstrate an unwavering commitment to God's word, to read it, to memorise it, to meditate on it and to believe it!
Here are some precious truths from Psalm 119.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word (119:9).

I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (119:16).

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens (119:89).

Tuesday 18 October 2011

'The Books of Moses Revisited' by Paul Lawrence

I would like to take this opportunity to commend a new book that has just been published by Wipf and Stock ( It is available directly through the publisher but also via Amazon directly in the coming time. I met Paul briefly in connection to some Bible translators meetings back in 2006 (not that I am a translator) and he has been working on this important book for quite a while, in order to refute an entrenched theological position on Old Testament studies called 'The Documentary Hypothesis'. This hypothesis, and this is what it is, basically denies that the authorship of the first five books of the Bible should be attributed to Moses. Paul Lawrence ably refutes this hypothesis but also in the process he offers some very helpful material on OT Hittite treaties and covenants. This how the publishers describe the book:

Who wrote the first five books of the Bible? Does it really matter who did? The Books of Moses Revisited explores this question by comparing the covenants of Exodus/Leviticus and Deuteronomy with the inter-state treaties of the late second millennium BC. Some compelling similarities come to light, both in the pattern adopted and in many small details. Lawrence clearly demonstrates this with many examples and diagrams, yet without assuming that readers possess a detailed knowledge of ancient history and linguistics. Despite the entrenchment of the widely held theory—the so-called Documentary Hypothesis—that the first five books of the Bible were the product of an anonymous editor living many centuries after Moses, this book argues that the first five books of the Bible bear many hallmarks of being late second millennium BC compositions and that Moses should not be ruled out as being the author. The book also explores how several ancient texts—the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey—were transmitted in antiquity and suggests that a similar process also lies behind the transmission of the first five books of the Bible.

My aim in publicising this book is manifold but one reason is that Christians need a closer relationship to the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament is identical to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. This book can enrich the church, refute false ideas, provide valuable historical material to the Old Testament scriptures and in way that is accessible. I commend this book, most especially for ministers of the gospel.

Then he [the Lord Jesus Christ] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24: 44-50.

Preachers need to be thoroughly equipped in the Old Testament scriptures in order to be able to competently proclaim the gospel!

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Atonement (Part 3)

This blog post continues our mini-series on the atonement. Even though I firmly hold to the idea of limited atonement or rather definite atonement, I maintain that we should think simply of 'the atonement' because there is only one atonement. It is that which was made and purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ. In this post I would like us to consider the settled wisdom on the matter of the intent and extent of the atonement as laid down by the Synod of Dordrecht (1618-19). This Synod met in The Netherlands (for about 6 months to discuss these matters) as a result of the false teaching being spread by the dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (he had already died in 1609) and his followers. Arminianism in its various forms argues for the freedom of man's will and that our Lord Jesus made salvation available to all by his death, but that man or indeed woman, must choose Christ if they are to obtain eternal life. These ideas which are dominant in the Western church today, were seen to be a contradiction to the work of reformation, a step back towards popish works-based righteousness and a perversion of the Apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42).

This Synod according to S. M. Hoghton (Sketches from Church History, Banner of Truth, 2001) states that there were delegates from The Netherlands, England, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland ... and in 93 canons the chief points of the doctrine of the Reformed Churches were made clear (143)'. Therefore we should never neglect church history by arrogantly thinking that we are the first to wrestle with a particular doctrinal or pastoral problem. Woe to the church that rejects a thoroughgoing appreciation of church history. So, what did they conclude on the atonement of our Lord? Below are pasted the articles on the atonement made by this Synod.

The Synod of Dordt: Second Head of Doctrine –The Death of Christ and the Redemption of Man by It

God is not only supremely merciful but also supremely just. And as He Himself has revealed in His Word, His justice requires that our sins, committed against His infinite majesty, should be punished not only in this age but also in the age to come, both in body and soul. We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is made to the justice of God.

We ourselves, however, cannot make this satisfaction and cannot free ourselves from God’s wrath. God, therefore, in His infinite mercy has given His only Son as our Surety. For us or in our place He was made sin and a curse on the cross so that He might make satisfaction on our behalf.

This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.

This death is of such great value and worth because the person who submitted to it is not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for these qualifications were necessary for our Saviour. Further, this death is of such great value and worth because it was accompanied by a sense of the wrath and curse of God which we by our sins had deserved.

The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe.

That, however, many who have been called by the gospel neither repent nor believe in Christ but perish in unbelief does not happen because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, but through their own fault.

But to those who truly believe and are by the death of Christ freed from their sins and saved from perdition, this benefit comes only through God’s grace, given to them from eternity in Christ. God owes this grace to no one.

For this was the most free counsel of God the Father, that the life-giving and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect. It was His most gracious will and intent to give them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation. This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which He confirmed the new covenant) should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and were given to Him by the Father. God further willed that Christ should give to them faith, which, together with other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He acquired for them by His death; that He should cleanse them by His blood from all sins, both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that He should guard them faithfully to the end and at last present them to Himself in splendour without any spot or wrinkle.

This counsel, proceeding from eternal love for the elect, has from the beginning of the world to the present time been powerfully fulfilled, and will also continue to be fulfilled, though the gates of hell vainly try to frustrate it. In due time the elect will be gathered together into one, and there will always be a Church of believers, founded on the blood of Christ. This Church shall steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as Her Saviour (who as bridegroom for his bride laid down His life for her on the cross) and celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.

The link to the complete Canons of Dordt is:

Summary by Kevin Bidwell

There are three points I would like to draw in conclusion. Notice that under Article 3 it is asserted that the 'death of Christ has infinite value' The value of the atonement is not limited in any sense, it is of infinite value and worth. In Article 5, the conclusion is therefore, that the gospel should be proclaimed 'universally and without discrimination'. Thirdly, in Article 8, it is made very clear that the atonement is efficacious to extend to all the elect.

While I value the English reformed view of the five points of Calvinism (known as TULIP), I think we need to be aware that this acronym probably misses out some vital points of doctrine made by the Synod of Dordt and a fresh return to these historic canons could invigorate the whole churches worship, evangelism and preaching!

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Always be Prepared to Improve your Preaching!

I intend to continue the series on the atonement but I am just catching up on some work following an intense time preaching overseas. We should always be open to constructive criticism for our preaching, at least for those who are set apart by the church for this most important task. While being away, I received some helpful feedback and I evaluated my own style and method for preaching and a number of practical things have emerged that I need to work on. In explaining these things, I hope that it will help some people.

Reading Scripture

I need to work on reading the scripture as part of the public worship service; in a way that it is less hurried, more clear, and with better intonation at the right places. We need to recognise that we are reading God's inerrant word and the public reading of the scriptures is important. The hearing levels of the congregation may vary and it may also include those with hearing impediments. I am working on trying to get eye contact with the congregation at certain parts of my reading also so that I can keep connected with the congregation. A clear, interesting and lively reading style is desirable.

Looking at the Congregation when Making a Main Point

Preaching should include a persuasive element and I have picked up a bad habit which is looking down at my notes when making a main point. A friend who is a lawyer pointed this out to me graciously and I am endeavouring to persuade men with the precious gospel when making an important point. I think that I was more concerned in getting out the information and reading my notes for my next point. Do you also do this? Listen to Paul the apostle:

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (ESV) and the KJV translates 2 Cor 5: 11 as Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. The fear of God should lead to persuasive preaching. Is your preaching persuasive or is there room for improvement in this area?

Printing my Notes Using Larger Line Spacing

I have just begun to print off my notes on 1.5 spacing rather than single spaced. This means that I can find my place better in the pulpit, rather than straining to get back to where I left off. I may move to double spaced but for now 1.5 space seems to do the job.

These are just a few points that I am currently working on to better my preaching for the glory of God! I value the prayer of people reading this blog for myself, one who genuinely considers himself in great need of the grace of God. As Paul also said: Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor 2: 16).