Wednesday 30 December 2015

The Writings and Sermons of Rev John E. Marshall

Have you ever heard of John E. Marshall? For most Christians the answer will be a resounding "no!". Let me introduce this lesser known both gospel minister, one from the 20th Century and just into the 21st Century (he died on the 29th August 2003). A faithful pastor and preacher.

I was introduced to his writings some months ago by a fellow minister in the same denomination as I serve. He pointed me to a valuable essay called "The Puritan Woman" by Marshall and this essay is found in a book published by the Banner of Truth called "John E Marshall: Life and Writings". It includes a biographical sketch of the man who ministered in the same church for over 40 years (Alexandra Road Congregational Church, Hemel Hempstead, UK).

Over the Christmas break, I read the transcript of his last sermon that he preached at the Banner Ministers Conference in Leicester called "Slaying Giants: A Sermon on 1 Samuel 17:42-47). I then read another transcribed sermon in his writings called "The Prophet Balaam". What struck me was that these sermons were distilled wisdom from a man of God who had walked with God over decades. How we need the wisdom of seasoned men of God in the church in our own day!

If you are interested in listening to sermons by this man, there is a website and the address is:

1 Corinthians 4:15 "For though you have countless (ten thousand) guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel".

Though I never met John Marshall, my impression is that he was a spiritual father in the church and how we need such men. Let us pray for the Lord to raise up quality men who are valiant-for-the-truth in our own generation.

Monday 21 December 2015

A Living Tribute to Graham and Pauline Watson

So often men and women in the Christian church are left wondering 'what contribution do I really make to the advancement of the gospel?'. Oftentimes biographies are sold in their 1000's, giving testimony of men and women who were really pioneers in many fields, including those of almost genius status, men such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones or Charles Haddon Spurgeon. However, let me encourage you as I tell you of a couple who have been used mightily in my life, in order to encourage you in your service of Christ our Saviour.

I was baptised as an infant in March 1965, though my parents were only nominal Christians and very nominal attenders of the nearby Church of England congregation. Some friends of my parents, during my late teenage years were a couple called Graham and Pauline Watson; they were born again Christians. They began to challenge my parents on all kinds of fronts. My mum and dad would reply to them "I am just as good a Christian as you are" to which they boldly replied "No, you are not and you are not true Christians either", to which reply they were utterly shocked. This shook their self-righteousness to the roots and from that moment the Lord began to guide them to the path of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. They were converted when I was 21 years of age and Graham and Pauline were instrumental in their conversion also.

In January 1986, just after my 21st Birthday, I was really facing a significant challenge in my life while studying at University. My grandma used to get me as a boy to get on my knees before I went to bed to give thanks to the Lord, even though I struggled to know what to pray. This action by my grandma connected me with the Living God, though I did not realise it at the time. In this time of crisis in my life, at the age of 21, I fell on my knees privately and I called out in my room to the unknown God.

What happened next, you may ask? All I can say is that I got off my knees believing in Jesus Christ and wanting to read the Bible. At that stage in my life, I would have had no idea where I could have got a Bible. The friends of my mum and dad, Graham and Pauline Watson, were thinking to themselves, 'what do we buy this godless student for his 21st Birthday?". They sent me a Bible in the post and it came 2 days after I had prayed. I was assured then that God existed that He had heard my prayer; the arrival of the Bible was a momentous event in my life and key to my becoming a Christian. Little did they know then that later on by God's mercy, I would become an evangelical Presbyterian minister (in Sheffield and with EPCEW).

What is the lesson? I have given this testimony in many parts of the world and most recently in the USA. Each time I tell this story God is glorified, the church are edified and people rejoice. This is all because one couple sent me a Bible through the post. This blog is a living tribute to Graham and Pauline who now live in Conwy in North Wales. Who knows what small acts of service you may perform which actually may be used above and beyond anything you could dream or ask? I urge you to continue to be faithful to the Lord, my friend! In closing, look at the biblical example of Ananias who helped Paul the apostle for similar encouragement. He is mentioned here and we never hear of him again.

"So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened" Acts 9:17-19.

Monday 14 December 2015

Stanley Gower: A Westminster Divine's Approach to Christmas

"To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled", Titus 1:15.

It is interesting to me, how so many views are propounded as to how Christians should respond to Christmas. Sadly, in the West, this time of the year has descended to a secular feast of materialism, peppered with Santa Claus narratives and a good helping of Christmas specials on the TV. Turkey may abound, but do people understand the message of Christmas? "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" John 1:14.

While as Christians, we may well want to distance ourselves from the wordiness exhibited at this time of the year, we should consider how we can approach Christmas sensibly. Rev Stanley Gower was the founding minister of Hill Top Chapel, Sheffield and he became a Westminster divine. Following his time in Sheffield, he served as a minister in Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire and during this time he was accused by the liturgical and Arminian officials of the Church of England. Here are the a list of charges brought against him:

I. He reads the confession, but altogether neglects [to read] the absolution.
II.He seldom or never reads the Lord’s Prayer.
III. He never reads the Litany [these were liturgical petitions read by the leader with fixed responses
by the congregation].
IV. He seldom reads the [Ten] Commandments and neglects to read them at communion.
V. He does not permit people to stand at readings from the gospels or to bow at the name of Jesus.
VI. In his sermons he dissuades people from kneeling in prayer when they enter the church.
VII. He asserts that it is not the church building that is holy, but it is when the ordinance of God is
performed, that is of itself holy.
VIII. He seldom or never wears the surplice [a white linen cassock as worn by clergy or choristers]
nor baptises with the sign of the cross.
IX. The communion table has no rail and it is brought from the altar at the east end of the church
into the body of the church
X. He did not follow the liturgical calendar or read common prayers for set days, except Christmas
and New Years day.
XI. He does catechise the youth that are aged 14-15 upon previous sermons with questions and answers.

All of these charges reveal something of the theology of moderate Presbyterian and puritan convictions prior to the Westminster Assembly (1643-52). Did you notice charge X refers to the liturgical calendar and Christmas? Christmas and New Years Day were two times when Stanley Gower broke his normal pattern of expositional preaching on the Lord's Day to preach obviously topical sermons at Christmas.

Sometimes I have read articles which assert that all the puritans were against Christmas of any kind. This is not true though, it may be an emotive assertion to foster a kind of fear of so-called Paganism. Christmas has never been a pagan celebration by the church but it afforded the church the opportunity to place special emphasis upon the conception and birth of Jesus, as Easter affords the opportunity to place emphasis on the death and resurrection of God's Son.

I have to confess that though we will have a service on Christmas Day, I do not walk the room wishing people a happy Christmas, neither do I follow the Church of England liturgical or church calendar. Let us make use of the season for the glory of God and give room for conscience regarding the giving of presents, Christmas trees and other matters.

The Nicene Creed states:
I believe ... in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

Monday 23 November 2015

The Book of Jeremiah: A Word for our Times

We had a conference in Sheffield recently and one of the main themes was the Book of Jeremiah. What a treasure trove this book is. It is full of the gospel and gospel promises for the coming Christ, as well as revealing the right way to God; the One who is the "fountain of living waters" (Jer 2:13).

The Book of Jeremiah has probably been under the shadow of Isaiah in the recent church, in a similar way that Hebrews has probably been under the shadow of Romans. However, in the church we need the whole counsel of God and this includes teaching from all Scripture. This includes reading and preaching from Bible books such as Jeremiah, Song of Songs, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezekiel, 2 Thessalonians and Job. Of course we do not underestimate the great usefulness of the most commonly preached Books of the Bible, but we need a full biblical diet for the church to grow to maturity.

Have you ever considered that in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, that some people compared him to Jeremiah? As Jeremiah exposed the sins of Judah, Jesus exposed the sins of Judah. As Jeremiah predicted the downfall of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews, so did Jesus perfectly predict the overthrow of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews from the land they had lived in. Hear Matthew 16:13-14 "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets".

It is interesting that there are not many commentaries on the Book of Jeremiah. I have John Calvin, Matthew Henry and some other selections on this book. I know that there are others, but the content of Jeremiah's teaching has been a neglected subject. Given the rise of apostasy, deception, false teachings, open and defiant sin against God's moral law in the West, it is probably time for this book to be preached again. When I last read the book of Jeremiah, I was so gripped, I could hardly put it down. How about reading the book again? For those who are teaching elders in God's church, how about considering preaching from this book, even it is simply for occasional sermons?

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians 6

Recently, I had to preach in a church family conference. One of my sermons I preached was on Ephesians 6:10-11 and the title was "Stand against the schemes of the devil". Those verses are:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil".

In my preparation I read sermons by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones on these very verses. He preaches around 15 sermons on this phrase "the wiles (schemes) of the devil". He is most helpful and you can sense his previous vocation as he applies the Word of God. He used to be a diagnostic physician and he was very gifted in that profession, however, the Lord called him to preach instead, but those previous skills shine through his preaching at this point most helpfully. We need to grow in our discernment as to what may be sin, our flesh, the world or a scheme of the devil.

I highly recommend these sermons because the professing evangelical and reformed church often suffer from two extreme positions, both of which are unbiblical.

1). To live as if the devil either does not exist or that he is of no consequence. This attitude is never found in the pages of the New Testament. While we love the sovereignty of God as a truth, we must not downplay the schemes of the devil, which are used to outwit Christians and the church.

2). Another problem is where Christians blame the devil for everything. This is unbalanced and it is not biblical. Sometimes, when something goes wrong, like the car breaking down, some professing Christians immediately blame Satan. This is misplaced zeal.

However, this teaching by Paul the apostle is needful for the church and it deserves further mention: "Stand against the schemes of the devil". Just like an army officer recruit needs to be trained in warfare and the tactics in war, so the church need to be aware of the many schemes of the devil. The devil is subtle (Genesis 3:1) and I hope that these sermons which are published by the Banner of Truth, especially the volume on chapter 6, will be of great profit to you.

Friday 13 November 2015

The Church Needs Experimental/Experiential Preaching

There is such a need for sound preaching in the church. Preaching is God's primary instrument for the spread of the gospel and the edification of the church. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and 2 are just a selection of the Bible's view on this matter. Paul writes: "But we preach Christ crucified" and "it pleased God through the folly of what we preach", 1 Cor 1:21, 23.

However, this blog post is taking it as a given, regarding the importance of preaching, but I want to contend for the need for experiential or experimental preaching. It has long been contended that we need experiential doctrine for the church. In other words, we do not simply mentally assent to the truths of the Bible, but they must become ours by experience, by the working of the Holy Spirit. Now, as ever on all biblical truths, there are twin dangers. Here again we face two opposites, something which affects the church. The first is where people are driven to the priority of personal experience, beyond what is written in Scripture ("I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another" 1 Cor 4:6). The Quakers in the 17th Century were such an example. Today, we have all kinds of groups who teach that all that really matters is our personal experience. However, a valid question is "are you religious experiences legitimate?". "Test the spirits" wrote John the apostle in 1 John 4:1.

The second error is a dry arid rejection of a personal Christian experience. This attitude tends to think that preaching is simply dispensing biblical truths, and it cares little whether the teaching is understood and received. It emphasises historic truths and is sometimes even afraid of mentioning personal experience. In some cases there can be an ardent fear of any personal experience whatsoever. However, Jesus said to Nicodemus "You must be born again" (John 3:7), therefore we expect the gospel to impact and change lives.

I am having to paint with broad brush strokes in this blog post, but this is so that people can begin to think again regarding the matter of preaching. We need to think through a theology of preaching. Preaching is God addressing his people through ordained men who have been set apart for this task. Paul states that: "We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us" 2 Cor 5:20. Are you conscious that through the preaching of sound doctrine, out of the Scriptures, that God is making his appeal to you? This is a very high view of preaching and one that needs to recovered. However, our theme is the need for experiential preaching and I want to give a list of some pertinent features of this biblical model of such preaching.

1. Preaching has to be out of the Scriptures.
2. Preaching must be in accord with sound doctrine.
3. Preaching seeks to be serious minded and warm-hearted.
4. Preaching must be reverent, but also joyful (without seeking carnal humour or levity).
5. Preaching must inform the mind, but also touch the hearts of the whole congregation: Men, women, boys and girls.
6. Preaching should be aim for changed lives, without being moralistic.
7. Preaching should balance doctrine and application; application that is from the text, should be searching, but also heart-warming.
8. Preaching should connect with the congregation. We must not preach over people heads.

Three examples of experiential preaching in my opinion are Ted Donnelly, Iain D Campbell (Got sermon audio to listen to them) and in previous generations John Calvin. Suffice to say, there is much I could write on this topic. There is yet more to say on this subject and I value comments from readers, in order to explore and open up this discussion.

Two books for recommendation:

Archibald Alexander, "Thoughts on Religious Experience".
Stuart Olyott, "Something must be Known and Felt".

"What then has become of the blessing that you felt" Galatians 4:15.

Monday 2 November 2015

What are your core values as a Christian?

We all hold inner-values. They are held either consciously or unconsciously, but "core values" shape the way we live our lives. We all have priorities and our use of our time, our money and our passions reveal those priorities. The question to ask and to examine ourselves with is: "do my priorities reflect those of the Scriptures and of my being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?". This blog post is intended to be pastoral, in that I want all my readers to ask themselves what their core values are; then secondly to ask if they are biblical. You could even get a sheet of paper and write them down if that helps you.

I want to be frank and transparent in this blog post as I reveal to you my own "core values". These are what shape my daily decisions daily and they form, as it were, a "spiritual compass" for all I do, and with that for my family and all people that I interact with.

My core values are:

1) Seeking first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)

2) Pursuing godliness and contentment (1 Timothy 6:6). This is because the Scripture explains that this is great gain. Aiming for and pursuing godliness and in being spiritually content through the many seasons we walk through, are highly desirable Christian qualities in my opinion.

3). Being committed to the church. Ephesians 5:25 "Christ loved the church and gave himself for her".

These core values are actually my reference points for success or failure in my life. My aim is not be successful in the world's eyes or in the eyes of other Christians, but it is to please the Triune God. These core values are deeply embedded in my whole being. The third core value has become very important to me and this is not because I am a minister of the gospel. Loving the church and giving yourself for her, is an attribute of the Lord Jesus and if I am to walk in his footsteps, then I will want to do the same.

Do you love the church and seek to give yourself for her? I am married with children and our whole household are served by me as their husband and father with these core values. In my view as a dad and husband, I want them to hold not so much my priorities, but the Lord's.

These priorities and core values are: Seeking God first, godliness and giving myself for the church. What are your "core values"? Why not ponder on this, write them down and ask yourself if they are shaped by Scripture or other things instead? Ask yourself if you need to change your core values if they are not in harmony with the explicit revealed will of God in holy Scripture.

Monday 26 October 2015

The Eternal Generation of the Son: Defending and Upholding this Doctrine

Paul the apostle wrote to the Philippians about his concern for the gospel. He explained that he was committed to the "defence and confirmation of the gospel" (1:7) and that he believed that he was in prison for the "defence of the gospel" (1:16). Gospel truths need constantly defending and to be confirmed in the church by the church.

This is undoubtedly true regarding the doctrine of the Trinity. The trinitarian truth about the Christian God suffers neglect in the Western church for a range of reasons. One of the reasons is the lack of commitment to the historic creeds and confessions of the church. The Nicene Creed is one of the most important creeds for the doctrine of the Trinity. But, how many church members know this creed and ever hear it taught, confessed or explained?

At the heart of this creed is the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. The Nicene Creed States:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:
Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

The phrases in this Creed, such as we believe in the "only-begotten .. begotten of the Father before all worlds" is the eternal generation of the Son which explains the relationship between the Father and the Son. This truth is faithful to the teaching of Scripture and it has been carefully worked out and defended against Arians and other heretical teachers in the history of the church. However, it appears that there are fresh contemporary evangelical voices who are challenging this doctrine. By doing so, they reveal their lack of historic understanding of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Robert Letham who is one of the foremost Reformed theologians on the Trinity today, explains that this doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is the "cement" what holds our doctrine of the Trinity together. If we remove the cement what will we be left with? A set of loose bricks or stones which can easily be disregarded, metaphorically speaking. If Bob Letham is right, then the stakes are high with this particular doctrine.
Let me cite the Westminster Confession of Faith on the Trinity on this matter:

"In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God
the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: the Father is of none, neither begotten, not
proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit eternally proceeding from
the Father and the Son" (WCF 2:3).

Here is the beginning of some biblical proof of this divine mystery:

John 1:14,18 From the New American Standard Version: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth ... No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him".

I very much appreciate the ESV translation, but on this point they have erred in translating the Greek word in the text here as the "only Son" instead of the "only begotten". This obscures this truth and enforces the need for ministers to be trained in Greek and Hebrew.

There will be some people reading this blog post who have never heard of the doctrine I am talking about. However, the eternal generation of the Son needs to be spoken of again and I hope this blog post can stimulate further discussion. A good book to read on this subject is Kevin Giles "The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology" or Robert Letham "The Holy Trinity".

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Some Top 5 books from Evangelical Press

I am a involved with Evangelical Press and they are publishing some excellent books. Here are 5 to consider and maybe for buying as presents for people.

1. J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings from all Four Gospels (Soft Tone Buffalino)

2. Guy Prentiss Waters, Acts Study Commentary

3. Hugh Latimer, Bitesize Biography by Richard M. Hannula

4. Stuart Olyott, Something Must be Known and Felt: A missing Note in Christianity

5. J. Gresham Machen, Bitesize Biography by Sean Michael Lucas.

These can all be obtained online and we use the book distributors called 10 Of Those for our EP books and their website is:

Friday 16 October 2015

Daily Dose of Hebrew

The organisers of the daily dose of Greek have now begun with Hebrew. Here is the link to subscribe:

I have only just subscribed so I cannot vouch for the quality, but I expect that it will be helpful resource for many to keep our Hebrew refreshed, improving and sharpened. Enjoy!

"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" 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Reformation Christianity for Today 2015

Dear all,

The Summer is past and we are now planning for this upcoming conference. Its aim has always been to be on a personal level to strengthen men who are on a Reformed pilgrimage. It has never been our intention to keep this going just for the sake of it, but this years theme is “Preaching and Preachers: With an especial emphasis on the Book of Jeremiah”. I believe it should be a meaningful time together.

The dates: Friday 6th and Saturday 7th November 2015

The aims are fourfold:

1). To help men who may be considering a call to the ministry of teaching elder
2). To equip men who are on a trajectory already for preaching
3). To build up men who are already ordained ministers, elders or deacons
4). This is also open to men who are wanting to grow in their theology.

The venue will be Hill Top Chapel, Attercliffe Common (Don Valley), Sheffield, S9 2AA (the home of Sheffield Presbyterian Church). Please feel free to forward this to men who may be interested also and please email me if you would like to come.

If you need local accommodation there are two good priced hotels nearby:

There will be a nominal cost for the conference to cover the meals and there will be an excellent book table to buy new books at very good prices.

More information will follow but please let me know your intentions if you are coming, spread the word and let people know. David Gilbert will be most instructive for us I believe with his preparation on the Book of Jeremiah.

Warmly and in the gospel,

Kevin Bidwell
07954 546487

RCT 2015 Programme
Reformation Christianity for Today 2015 Programme

Theme: “Preaching and Preachers (with an emphasis on the Book of

Friday 6th November

9.45am Arrival: Tea/Coffee
10.15am: Introduction
10.30am: The three ingredients for preaching: Kevin Bidwell
11.00am: Jeremiah’s Call: David Gilbert
12.15pm: Sermon
12.45pm Lunch
2.30pm: TBC
4.00pm Tea/Coffee
4.30-5.30: The Book of Jeremiah: The use of questions, metaphors and illustrations
6.00 Evening Meal at a restaurant or carvery
7.30-9.00pm Jeremiah’s Message (David Gilbert)
9.00-9.30pm: Ben Hutton sermon

Saturday 7th November

8.30 Breakfast
9.30am Sermon: TBC
10.00am: Jeremiah’s Preaching: David Gilbert
11.15am Tea/coffee
11.45am A sermon feedback discussion using preaching feedback forms
12.15: Closing sermon
12.45pm Lunch

(Some items may be subject to change).

Rev David Gilbert is the minister of Grace Presbyterian Church, Douglasville,

Monday 5 October 2015

Walking through "every wind of doctrine"

Ephesians 4:13-14 "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes".

The presence of "winds of doctrine" blowing across the church and the lives of individuals is a given, as Paul writes. The question for us is; will we respond like children or with mature manhood? There are certain structural elements to every wind of doctrine as taught by Paul the apostle.

1. They toss the spiritually immature (children) to and fro by the waves. Having lived on a ship for two years I am keenly aware how strong winds stir up waves on the surface of the ocean. Likewise, winds of doctrine do the same, they stir up waves, but eventually calm is restored and the wind and waves pass.

2. The winds of doctrine are various kinds of unstable and false teachings, always based on the Bible, though they are not sound doctrine. They are devised by human cunning. Man is sinful to his core and sinful man in his sinful cunning devises false doctrines which de-stablilise the spiritually weak and immature.

3. Winds of doctrine are craftiness in deceitful schemes. I doubt that any Christian can say that they have never been carried away by deceitful schemes. Winds of doctrine may come in a guise of godliness and zeal, but they simply disturb the peace of the church.

What is the answer then as to how we respond to winds of doctrine?

Ephesians 4:1-3 "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace".

Sound doctrine urges us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called ...

With all humility
With patience
Bearing with one another in love
Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Sin makes us ever so prone to be unbalanced and the devil exploits this weakness. The devil seeks to isolate us from walking in committed fellowship with the church and other Christians. Are you ensnared with winds of doctrine? Do you seek out internet teachings at the expense of solid food provided by local ministers? Are you anchored in a local congregation with other stable and mature Christians, so that when the winds of doctrine blow, you can walk through them together?

The answer to every wind of doctrine is to keep walking after the Lord Jesus, sticking to the ancient paths and the winds will cease at some stage. That is, until the next wind of doctrine blows, but by then, you will hopefully have learned how to keep on your feet, spiritually speaking that is.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Crisis Pregnancy Advice Centre (Sheffield)

A Crisis Pregnancy Advice Centre (CPAC) is being established in Sheffield. This is to minimise regret among women by giving women vital information and a Christian worldview to prevent abortion. There are currently around 200,000 abortions in the UK each year and it is growing. That means 1,000,000 human beings are being killed every 5 years and almost all of them are for social reasons not medical reasons. This is a shocking 550 abortions per day (around 23 every hour) in the UK. Something must be done about this!

On Saturday 17th October we have our first fund-raising dinner which will give vital information of this future work. The details are on the CPAC website. If you would like to come to this then the deadline is to inform us by Friday 9th October 2015. Please visit the website also:

Please email us if you would like to come to the fund raising dinner or if you would like to know more information for prayer or support.

The email is:

Psalm 139:13-16 "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them".

Tuesday 29 September 2015

"The Flow of the Psalms" by O. Palmer Robertson

This new book by the publisher Presbyterian and Reformed seeks to discover the structure and the theology of the Book of Psalms. It is a fresh and in many ways a unique contribution to the field of study of the Psalter. It is universally agreed that the Psalter is formed from five books and these were collated over around a 500 year period. This stems from the time of king David until the return from exile in Babylon.

Robertson seeks to bring out the reason for the topical arrangement of the Psalter in a most enlightening and pastorally helpful way. He summarises the major themes of the five books as such.

Book 1 (Psalms 1-41): Confrontation
Book 2 (Psalms 42-72): Communication
Book 3 (Psalms 73-89): Devastation
Book 4 (Psalms 90-106): Maturation
Book 5 (Psalms 107-150): Consummation

It is beyond the scope of this blog to say much more, but I unreservedly commend this book.

One final comment is that Palmer brings out that Psalm 1 and 2 are pillars through which we enter into the temple of the Psalter. Most scholars agree that Psalms 1 and 2 are foundational, but we must see that their teaching is foundational to Christian discipleship.

The Christian disciple must love all of God's teaching (Torah) as in Psalm 1, but also love God's Son as revealed in Psalm 2. Does this describe you?

Psalm 1:1-2 "Blessed is the man ... but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night".

Psalm 2:12 "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him".

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Listen to Sermons by Rev Dr Peter Naylor on Deuteronomy

Recently, I was part of a commission of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales for the installation of a new minister in Durham Presbyterian Church. A minister of one of the EPCEW congregations called Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Cardiff gave the charge to the incoming minister, which was excellent for this installation and it was good for every minister to hear this charge. Rev Dr Dr Peter Naylor, Immanuel's minister gave the charge which emphasised Deuteronomy 1:5 and the need for plain explanations of the truth by all Christian ministers of the gospel.

Rev Dr Peter Naylor is a Hebrew scholar, but he is more than that, he is a faithful shepherd of souls and a Christian minister. He has just begun a new series on explaining the Book of Deuteronomy and it is outstanding. I have just listened to the opening sermon on Deuteronomy 1:1-8, 10:12-22. I would urge every serious minded Christian to listen to this.

The whole series can be heard on this link:

We need to know what preaching should be and Peter explains this from Deuteronomy 1:5, which reads: "Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying ...".

The key word is "explain" which means "to make plain".

How should the people of God respond?: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

The truth for the people of God is not "what would I like to do?" but the Lord God asks "what does the Lord God require of you? The first aspect is that we are to "fear the LORD your God", we are to reverence him.

I am confident that if you can find the time to listen to these sermons that they will profit you immensely. Enjoy!

Monday 14 September 2015

Godly Reformed Piety means "hungering and thirsting for Righteousness"

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" Matthew 5:6.

Two themes are important for healthy Christianity: first a pursuit of godly piety (something not spoken of or discussed as often as it should be); second, the emphasis given here by the Lord Jesus Christ of spiritual satisfaction. This is to spring from being one who "hungers and thirsts for righteousness". Does this describe you? Do you understand what Jesus Christ means? Do you pray for what Jesus teaches here?

There are five important components to this Bible verse.

1. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity who became man, who is teaching here. Therefore we should sit up, listen and learn to what he says.

2. This Beatitude frames a description of the blessed person (one of 9 Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5).

3. This beatitude describes a spiritual condition which is to "hunger and thirst" and this is paralleled to our daily experience of the common daily exercise of eating and drinking everyday food. We all understand that no matter how much a delicious meal we may eat today, tomorrow we will have a renewed hunger for more water and food. It does not go away, except in times of sickness or ill health.

4. The little word "righteousness" is often over-looked in this verse. Righteousness is to be the daily and lifelong pursuit of the blessed man. We will come back to this in a moment.

5. This person who will be satisfied. To daily hunger and thirst for righteousness is the path to lasting spiritual satisfaction.

This all adds up, in order to aid us to know how to pray for ourselves and our families, in a way that we know that our God will answer. To turn around Matthew 5:6 into a prayer, this is a sure path and guide to heaven.

What a grand theme this word is! It is beyond the scope of this small blog post to fully unfold and unpack the meaning of this word. First this word righteousness is primarily bound up with the person of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of justification. We observe that three times in the Book of Acts that the Lord Christ is described as the "Righteous One" (Acts 3:14, 7:52, 22:14). Therefore, we are to hunger and thirst for this aspect of our Saviour and Redeemer, while noting that Righteousness is bound up with the person and work of the Christ, not least his atonement made upon the cross.

Second and in addition, a further aspect of "Righteousness" is that we as Christians should seek to live lives that please our Saviour, and that we hunger and thirst to live righteously as well. Paul prayed that the church in Philippi, so that they would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness" and again for the Colossians he prayed that they would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord". We must never assume that everything we do is walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. To assume this is what is called self-righteousness. Daily we must be renewed in repentance and faith.

This truth regarding "Righteousness" in this verse is most helpfully and precisely summarised in the Westminster Confession (11:2), in what is one of my favourite statements in the Confession:

"Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love".

These are two sides of the same coin metaphorically and we should hunger and thirst for both. However, it is a sinner finding their rest in Christ for salvation that is the wellspring of eternal satisfaction. What a glorious gospel it is!

May we all grow to hunger and thirst for righteousness, for the glory of God.

Further Reading

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.
Thomas Watson, "The Beatitudes".

Monday 7 September 2015

A Contemporary Phenomena: The Quest to be Contemporary

Two things seem to be common today, among what is broadly labelled as evangelicalism in the United Kingdom. The first is the over-use of the word "contemporary"; the second is a doctrinal downgrade among those church congregations that pursue a so-called "contemporary approach". It is amazing how such a fluid word as the word "contemporary" has fuelled a reformation upon British evangelicalism. Due to its fluid nature, I can only offer my opinions and observations, while attempting to be guarded from personal bias or undue hyperbole.

What does the word "contemporary" mean?

According to one dictionary, it means "living or occurring at the same time" or belonging to or occurring in the present". This is a rather bland and open-ended word then, one that offers little help to define what it means when a church sets out to be contemporary. It is not a word found in the Bible but neither is the word Trinity. However, while the truth of the Trinity is found in Scripture, we do not find the apostles, much least the Lord Jesus Christ, pursuing to be contemporary in their approach to the church or missions.

My impression is that when a church pursues a "contemporary approach", that it mainly means a new worship style with a band, new songs and a relaxed style or should we say friendly church style, in what used to be called "seeker sensitive" approaches.

What kinds of churches seem to pursue this contemporary approach?

My estimation is that this is primarily generated from two directions in England. The evangelical Anglicans seem to have adopted a contemporary style which is broadly the old charismatic church style of worship, but without tongues or prophecies. However, I would contend that both styles, the old charismatic and the new contemporary suffer from the same problem; they are both Arminian fundamentally. That is in placing the tastes of mankind above the instructions of the Lord from Scripture. Have we ever read of Paul adopting a band in the churches in the book of Acts? Hmmm ... pause for reflection needed!

Another wing of the church badly affected by this new "contemporary approach" are what were once conservative evangelical Baptist churches. A new generation of leaders have emerged, many of whom did not like the perceived "stuffy" style of their forefathers and they have set out to reshape the church along contemporary styles of music and practice, and with success, increased growth and a happy atmosphere. But growth alone, though it cannot be ignored, can never be the only measure for success.

What else has changed with this contemporary approach?

There have also come changes to doctrine and practice as well. There seems to have been a chain of events. For many a dislike of the Christian Sabbath, has then led to questions about the whole use of the moral law. Once this happens, then these emerging leaders are on a collision course with all the Reformed Confessions, because these all hold a high place for the moral law and they assert that the Ten Commandments are morally binding for all (I wholeheartedly agree with the Reformed Confessions on this point). This then means a downplaying or an ignoring of the Reformed Confessions and often a simple Statement of Faith is adopted. By then the change is on!

To be contemporary provides a fluid and changing mandate to not look out of place with society and this can include the emergence of women leaders, womens Bible studies and women elders. To be contemporary often means that women must play a full role in the church, even if the Bible offers different advice. By this point, liberalism has entered the church, often without a protest and for some without noticing. Becoming liberal is not true of all churches who pursue a "contemporary approach", but then how long will it take until it does?

In conclusion, may we all return to the "ancient paths" that Jeremiah spoke of and first and foremost may we return to measure everything against the standard of Scripture.

Romans 4:3 "For what does the Scripture say?"

Jeremiah 6:16 'Thus says the Lord "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, "We will not walk in it" '.

Friday 4 September 2015

Are you a Student who is Coming to Sheffield and Looking for a Church?

Sheffield Presbyterian Church warmly invites students to our congregation. We are committed to the confessions of the Reformed faith which means that we take the importance of preaching seriously. We desire to be (though we surely fail at times) warm-hearted and serious minded about the Christian faith and the way we live our lives.

It is important as a student that you do not simply follow the crowd and only choose a church because you like a particular music style or simply because everyone else goes there. We have students every year and current we have students from Hallam University and Sheffield University who are doing undergraduate courses, masters degree courses and PhD research. The primary marks of a true church are the preaching of pure doctrine, the right administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper and also that a church seeks to be disciplined in its organisation and care of church members.

Our website is:

Feel free to listen to some of our sermons online and here is a link:

There is a contact page on our website also if you would like to know more about us.

Our services are at 11.00am and 5.00pm on the Lord's Day.

Kevin Bidwell
Minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church

Monday 31 August 2015

Book Review: Ed Shaw, “The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-sex Attraction”

Ed Shaw, “The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-sex Attraction”, Nottingham: IVP, 2015.

This book comes with a foreword by Vaughan Roberts and fourteen other commendations at the front. The breadth of Christian leaders which celebrate this publication, includes Dan Strange of Oak Hill; Terry Virgo, the founder of New Frontiers (Virgo claims to be an apostle!); four female “church leaders”; and the Bishop of Winchester.

Ed Shaw is an Anglican minister currently working with a new church plant called Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol. He is very open in this book, in that he explains that he is same-sex attracted to “beautiful men” (p 31). He seeks to handle this sensitive subject pastorally and from an evangelical perspective. The opening chapter is called “The Plausibility Problem” which paints two fictional scenarios of two separate same-sex attracted (SSA) individuals called Peter and Jane. Both of them end up embracing a liberal Christian position and living in same-sex relationships. Shaw explores how we can prevent professing SSA Christians from leaving the evangelical church.

He contends that just citing proof-texts on homosexuality to such situations is an insufficient response and that this is an approach that lacks credibility today. He asserts that the evangelical church need a more robust approach and he seeks to offer a way forward, part of this is to suggest celibacy as a vibrant Christian lifestyle, one that can plausibly be without crippling frustration.

He approaches this “plausibility problem” by offering nine chapters, to handle what he perceives as “missteps” by the church in caring for SSA professing Christians. The author works hard to create “space” in the contemporary evangelical church for SSA Christians, and indeed chapter 8 on “Celibacy” was one of the best chapters. However, this book offers insufficient biblical exegesis and careful thought beyond the author’s own experience. This is a highly sensitive subject, one which needs handling with biblical thoroughness.

It is a tenuous foundation when we mainly present broad-based solutions for what is a complex and sinful world and this is what this book does in many ways. The author left me with unanswered questions, such as: Why is the book light on answering key questions exegetically?; Why does Shaw cite female ministers and Roman Catholic writers to support his arguments? (pp 24-25, 74, 88, 92, 114); Why are the words lust and sin avoided in describing SSA temptations?; Is it legitimate for a Christian minister to hold office, be open as a SSA man, and still meet the biblical qualifications of eldership?

The primary value of this book for the evangelical church is perhaps a stimulus and much-needed catalyst for the church in the coming years, to think through their care of SSA people. That is to find a spiritually healthy way that is intentional, diligent and biblical. However, considering the breadth of endorsements and authors cited in this book, we also need to revisit the question: “what is an evangelical?”.

Monday 24 August 2015

The importance of physical rest and holidays as a Christian

Mark 6:31 "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat" (KJV).

Someone once said to me years ago about this Bible verse with respect for the necessity of physical and mental rest: "If you do not come apart, you will come apart". Some people are workaholics and thankfully I am not one of them. I was a workaholic once, when I worked for a very pressured, yet successful corporation and I resolved when I became a Christian to never to become a workaholic again. Taking rest is essential for Christians, families, husbands, wives, and children. What I am talking about primarily in this blog post is appropriate holidays.

My primary aim in writing this blog a number of years ago was to "sow seeds" to move people in a more biblical and Reformed direction. This continues to be my primary aim. However, what has become ever more clear me to me in the succeeding years is that due to sin, it is hard for all of us to live balanced lives. For example excess "zeal without knowledge" (Romans 10:2) can lead any of us to holding imbalanced doctrines. Though we may hold to Calvinistic or confessional truth, this does not mean that we hold all truths with biblical balance or that we practice all truth with balance. We can easily and unknowingly be out of harmony with Scripture.

Taking holidays is part of the sabbath rest principle that is found in Scripture is therefore a good, wholesome and biblical practice. This kind of holiday I am mentioning is beyond the norm of the weekly Sabbath rest, especially for ministers because our Lord's Days can be very busy and simply having a day off during the week does not compensate for a proper holiday. Quite often for myself over the years, it takes me 5-6 days to fully unwind mentally when on holiday. If Jesus called his disciples to "come apart" may we ensure that we do not walk in disobedience by acting in a way beyond our master by failing to take appropriate rest. Someone also warned me years ago about the importance of "listening to your body".

Enjoy your holidays, take your Bible with you and some good wholesome Christian books as well, while enjoying nature, swimming and whatever else!

Monday 17 August 2015

Book Review: The NIV Proclamation Bible (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013).

The dust jacket of this newly updated NIV Bible asserts that this is “the clearest and most accurate modern English Bible translation”. The NIV was first published in 1978, updated in 1984, and again in 2011; therefore one may ask, “why are further significant revisions needed?”. It is assumed by the NIV translation team that there has been a shift in the English language, which apparently required (in 2011) a gender inclusive translation to reflect “common” English (p ix). Where necessary, it refers to “they/them/their” instead of “he”. However, in taking time to read this translation for review and while comparing it with the original biblical languages, I have asked myself this question many times: “Is the English language changing or are the theological views of the translators changing?”.

This project has now been taken up by Hodder & Stoughton, with the help of an editor Lee Gatiss (the director of the Anglican Church Society) and consultant editors. In addition, a cast of well known church leaders have written Bible notes to support this translation. There are three aspects to the NIV Proclamation Bible for serious and careful consideration. First is the accuracy of the translation itself; second are the summaries of the message of each Bible book (with notes on other major Bible themes) by a prominent pastor or scholar (men and women interestingly!); and third the extent of the wholehearted endorsements from within the English speaking evangelical world.

There is the need for further treatment of this subject, however this review understandably, can only “paint with broad brush strokes”. In reference to the gender inclusive nature of this translation, the most prominent shift is from the word “brothers” in the NT Epistles to “brothers and sisters” instead (1 Cor 1:10, 11, 26; 2:1; 3:1 as a sample). For consistency, this theme is “rolled out” across the NT, including the introduction of Galatians where Paul writes “and all the brothers and sisters with me” (1:1); thus implying Paul’s travelling team included men and women, which it did not. Similarly, while in prison with his male co-workers in writing to the Philippians, the NIV mistakenly reads at the end of the Epistle “the brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings” (Phil 4:21).

There is a subtle shift in theological intent in this translation. Let me cite a stark example. In 1 Timothy 2:12 we read: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man”. This nuanced thought now suggests doctrinally, that a woman must not “assume authority over a man”, but that it can be given her by men. Thereby opening the door for gender equality in ministry, the public reading of Scripture and church governance. I contend that such changes to the Scripture open the way for a doctrinal drift, rather than reflecting an English language shift.

An area of further concern was when I read 1 Timothy 3 and the qualifications for elders and deacons. With a “stroke of the pen”, the editors undermine the office of deacon by asserting in the footnotes that the “word deacon refers here to Christians designated to serve with overseers/elders” such as Romans 16:1, Philippians 1:1. The bold step is made to translate Romans 16:1 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae”. The way is deliberately opened for a multiplicity of ways for women to exercise ministry and governance, while failing to uphold the biblical difference between the office of deacon and diaconal work.

While the summaries of each Bible book are quite helpful, the quality of contributions is uneven. There is a standard format required by the editors and this includes three commentary suggestions for each Bible book. The late John Stott appears as one of the most frequently cited, but questions arise when Mark Meynell recommends N. T. Wright on “Philemon” (p 1319). Is N. T. Wright really a safe and reliable evangelical teaching guide for the church?

I cannot write this review without noting that a number of women have been asked to write contributions to the Bible book introductions. The editors and endorsers of this NIV Proclamation Bible are clearly signalling their aim, one which is to give women the responsibility to teach “brothers and sisters” doctrine in the church. This drift is now upon us in the evangelical world.

Finally, the breadth of high profile evangelical endorsements means that this translation will quickly gain acceptance and be used by preachers, as well as become a popular pew Bible, most especially, but not exclusively in evangelical Anglican circles (and by The Proclamation Trust). The four primary endorsements (p ii) are from Timothy Keller of New York, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen, Wheaton College pastor Joshua W. Moody and Carrie Sandom, associate minister for women and pastoral care at St John’s Tonbridge Wells.

In conclusion, there is a great need for ministers to be equipped in the biblical languages to be able to scrutinise assertions that will be made in the years ahead, because this translation signals a subtle but seismic evangelical shift. The question to be contended is: “Is it a shift in a biblical direction or not?”. This reviewer is disappointed at the wide-scale “wind of change” towards an egalitarian model for church ministry and governance, one which does not have biblical, historic or theological warrant in my opinion. For churches seeking to use a new translation, I suggest that they look elsewhere, than to adopt this Bible.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Promoting the book called "Engaging with Keller"

This book was published in 2013 but it is far from out of date. It carries endorsements from R. Scott Clark and Ian Hamilton. Tim Keller has been invited to two conferences in England this year and he continues to exert a significant influence upon evangelical thinking in the English speaking world.

Though I am one of the contributors in this book (my essay is called "Losing the Dance: is the 'divine dance' a good explanation of the Trinity?"), I am unashamed in commending this book to as wide an audience as possible. Kellerite contextual approaches to the church, theology, preaching and worship abound. The church must be guarded against unbalanced doctrine. This does not mean that all that Tim Keller does is wrong, however there are significant flaws in his theological system.

Our supreme guide in the church is Holy Scripture and the right interpretation. Listen to Acts 8:30-31 'So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him'.

There are two key questions in this passage.

1). Do you understand what you are reading?

2). How can I unless someone guides me?

Our source of authority is Holy Scripture but we need reliable teachers to guide us. The book "Engaging with Keller" strengthens the church to engage with doctrine. For the first essay by Iain D. Campbell called "Keller on 'Rebranding' the doctrine of Sin", the book pays for itself.

Buy it and pass it on to others.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Maintaining and Developing a Sense of "Awe" at the Glorious Gospel

I considered calling this blog post "the Amazing Grace of the Glorious Gospel", but I went with the above title, though both would communicate something of what I hope to explain. In all of our pursuit for the soundness of doctrine, and we must pursue this, we must ensure also that we do not lose sight of a sense of "awe" at our God, the gospel and his work of grace in our lives.

Romans 3:24 "And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus".

Hebrews 12:28 "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire".

Firstly, we must not lose sight of our sense of awe and gratitude for God in saving us, justifying us (declaring us no longer guilty in God's sight based on the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ) and in redeeming us. There is a great danger for all of us, that we can fall into a measure of self-righteousness and pride the longer we go on in the Christian life. As we grow in sanctification, may we not forget what we once were. We so easily forget what we once were as Christians, many of us often forget that we were once muddled in our thinking and our way of life, but the Lord perseveres with us and he changes our lives.

Paul had to remind the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 6:9-11 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God".

Therefore, may we be reminded what we once were: "And such were some of you"; to guard against pride and to be renewed in our amazement and "awe" of God's purposes for us through the gospel.

Secondly, Hebrews teaches us that there is an "acceptable worship", which means that it is possible to approach the Lord in the church with unacceptable forms/elements of worship. This would deserve a whole article in itself, however Chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession of Faith explains the right elements of worship. Hebrews 12:28 asserts that true and biblical worship should be marked with "reverence and awe". While it is common to talk about a lack of reverence in public worship in some Christian circles, it is almost never heard that there was a lack of "awe".

Our churches may be Reformed in their approach to God using the biblical elements of worship, there may be a sense of reverence and yet there could well be lacking a sense of "awe". It would seem probable, in the light of Hebrews 12:28, that "reverence and awe" need to be considered together. They are naturally different Greek words and "reverence" emphasises something of the fear of God while "awe" emphasises fear, but also wonder in the knowledge of the Lord's attributes. We may stand at the bottom of the Alps and say that the "mountains were awesome". Have we lost a sense of awe in our public worship in the West? Surely a fresh emphasis on the Three Persons of the Trinity will help us in our worship, but this is not all that is needed.

In all of our pursuit for spiritual growth, for doctrinal knowledge, in reading theological books, in our personal devotions, may we pray for both reverence and awe of our God, in equal measure. May we wait and see how our Lord will answer such a prayer. Surely a sense of "awe" is much needed for the church in the West in our time.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Recovering the Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) was one of the primary documents produced by the Westminster Assembly. The WCF was first published in 1646 in English, but since then it has travelled around the world and it has been translated and used by Church denominations in many languages. Why? Well, as Psalm 100:6 reminds us that "God's truth (also translated faithfulness) endures to all generations". Truth is eternal and so are biblical doctrines, such as justification, when they are grounded in Scripture as their expression. There is a rich enduring quality of the truth in the WCF.

The WCF was designed to codify and put in writing a summary of the Apostles's Doctrine for the church to subscribe to and adhere to. The Westminster Assembly cleared matters concerning the church's doctrine, but also in matters of worship and church government.

What are some of the significant reasons for recovering the Westminster Confession of Faith?

1. Its expression of biblical doctrines is outstanding. We could say, it is "without peer" as John Murray believed. Its contact within a church enriches us, so that we can express much better, biblical truth.

2. It provides a standard by which preachers and church office holders are to be trained, examined and ordained. If we do not have the WCF, then what will we use instead? It was not uncommon at the time of Charles Haddon Spurgeon for church's to replace a commitment to a Reformed Confession with a 8-10 point Statement of Faith. A doctrinal minimalism which asserts simple truths in matters such as the Trinity, Scripture, the church, baptism and so forth. However, a Statement of Faith is wholly insufficient for the church in my view. You cannot call yourself a Reformed Church if you only hold a Statement of Faith. You cannot call yourself a Reformed church if the ministers and elders are not bound to uphold a Reformed Confession. The church needs to be protected and a robust and enthusiastic commitment to the WCF goes a long way for this to happen.

3. The WCF is an open document, therefore, if a church subscribe to it, they can hold preachers and office bearers accountable. This is important to "walk in the light" before people. One person said during membership classes at Sheffield Presbyterian Church, that they had been in a church for 6 years before they really found out what the pastor really believed. He had obviously kept his "cards close to his chest". When we subscribe fully to the Westminster Confession, everything is out in the open.

4. The WCF provides a platform for church unity and stable church government. If all the elders confess the WCF, it builds harmony and unity, not division.

5. It provides security for church members. They know what is the basis of the church, something that is often not made clear to church members.

Would you like to know more about congregations committed to the Westminster Confession of Faith? If so, do contact us through the church website ( However, this is not my main point for writing this blog post. My main aim is exactly and unashamedly what this blog title says. My aim is for a recovery of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Ps For further reading: G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith (P & R).

R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession, (P & R).

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Why should "preaching" always be called "preaching" in and for the church?

Over the years, since I have been converted, I have observed that many sections of the professing Christian church have sought to rename and rebrand the act of "preaching". It is as if everything needs to be revisited every generation to attempt to improve the "state of play", but is the Bible the source of these changes? Words are important, just ask any government, lawyer or marketing company. Words frame action. For example, sometimes preaching is rebranded as "sharing" or a more popular notion is that of giving "talks". But, do these phrases produce a different mode and style of communication for the church?

If we look briefly at the five commissions given by the head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ in the four Gospels and Acts, we will discover what are the commands he has given for his church.

1. To teach (Matthew 28:19)
2. Proclaim (Mark 16:15)
3. Proclaim (Luke 24:47)
4. Feed my sheep (21:17)
5. You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)

Therefore, the primary actions in making known the truth of the gospel and to feed God's sheep is through teaching, which is explanation with clarity, and preaching which is declarative. Preaching conveys the idea of authority, it is a message from God to be heralded, to be proclaimed and then to be received by the hearers. There is a judgment from God upon those who persist in refusing the call of the preached gospel, which is to repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). For those who refuse to repent, they will die in their sins and endure eternal punishment from God Almighty.

My question is: Why would we want to exchange the language of the Lord Jesus, that of "preaching and teaching" for very different words. Jesus did not say to his church "go into all the world and "give talks" or go and "lead discussion groups" or go and "share my love". He could of, but he did not.

Perhaps the issue is bound up with authority and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and his written Scriptures. I do not believe that anything can substitute the act of preaching of the gospel, for the benefit of the church and of the world. Nothing else truly satisfies the inner-desires of sheep than the preaching of sound doctrine. We thank God for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, but they must always be accompanied with preaching and teaching. Do you go to a church that is committed to preaching? If not, are you really being fed spiritually? May we pray to the Lord of the harvest that he would send forth labourers who would "preach in season and out of season" (Matthew 9:38 and 2 Timothy 4:2).

Monday 29 June 2015

Ministers, elders, deacons and all Christians should read books on the atonement

Why do I say this? It is because the crowning point of biblical revelation and also of redemption, is indeed the atonement purchased for sinners by Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross, was what kept the apostle Paul focussed. Listen to him as he writes to the Corinthians.

"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Co 2:2).

We can study many things and indeed we should, but the atonement of Christ should have pre-eminence. This should be the "prince of subjects" for all churches and Christians and oh how Satan seeks to obscure the message of the "old rugged cross" in and through the church.

There can be many things in the "shop window" as it were metaphorically of the church, but the main item should be the message of Jesus Christ, him crucified and risen from the dead. Read 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Philippians chapter 2, Galatians chapter 3:1, Ephesians chapter 2. Whatever the pastoral problem for Paul, his answer was the same, it was to get the churches to consider the crucifixion of Jesus. Not a brief gaze, but what was summed up by Isaac Watts "When I survey the wondrous cross ...". We must survey the wondrous cross, time and time again.

Preachers especially MUST read books on the atonement to keep their preaching "on target". Here are a number of suggested books to be read on the atonement.

Hugh Martin, "The Atonement".
George Smeaton, "Christ's Doctrine of the Atonement".
Frederick Leahy, "The Cross he Bore".
John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied".

May our Lord aid us to boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14).

Friday 26 June 2015

Racism and Ethnic Divisions have no Place in "the household of God"

The recent events of the hate killing in Charleston, South Carolina, have really brought a plethora of issues to the surface for discussion. My blog is not for political comment, though I will be prepared to speak out as a minister of the gospel, when the British government cross biblical lines. However, our concern as Christians should be for the household of God. I have deliberately used the metaphor "the household of God" because this stresses the family aspect of the church. Paul uses this metaphor in 1 Timothy 3:15 "if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth". Peter reminds us in a sobering way that the church must examine herself because "For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).

There are several matters to address.

1). Any form of racism in the church is a sin and perhaps one of the most heinous and deceptive of sins. It is most heinous when anyone appeals to the Bible, the "Book of Truth" to suggest that anyone of a particular skin colour is inferior to another or worse still to suggest that they are sub-human, normally to "white people". There has been a most wicked teaching put forward in South Africa and parts of the USA which suggest that black people are the "seed of Ham" who was under God's curse. There is not the slightest biblical evidence for this.

Genesis 1 is clear that all are made in the "image of God" and likewise "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 3:23). It is essential and fundamental to the Christian gospel to accept these two propositions. To do otherwise is to tamper with the gospel, of which Paul pronounces in Galatians 1 a most serious judgment. "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:9).

2). Many attempts are made to reach out to specific people groups or social groups and what has emerged are often unbiblical expressions of Christianity. Convenience and social factors have overtaken the apostolic biblical imperative. It is not uncommon to have in the UK, churches based on a particular race such as "Chinese churches", "Nigerian churches" and so forth. I have heard that in The Netherlands there have been attempts to establish so called "Youth churches"; where only 16-23's are encouraged to attend. And in the USA there are "Biker churches" and who knows what else?

Why are these wrong? It is because the New Testament forbids us to divide up the body of Christ. The Lord's Supper involves the breaking of a single loaf which is then to be distributed to the many. Our communion in the church is affected when the body is divided. A local congregation should represent the various social, racial, ethnic and Christian people in a given area. When Sheffield Presbyterian Church was planted, our deceased minister Rev Brian Norton exhorted me that this church plant should represent all peoples and that it should not become a "Reformed club".

Listen to some of the New Testament teaching on this matter.

Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all".

Galatians 3:28-29 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise".

1 Corinthians 1:12-13 "What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?".

3. The composition of churches should be for all peoples. We should never allow the body of Christ to be divided up! We must hold firm at this point, though it will be challenging to our convenience and preferences, due to sin, social factors and other things. We must labour diligently in every nation, to please our Lord Jesus Christ who is the head of the church. The verses just cited teach against the church being divided due to race, social position, personal preference for our favourite preacher and so forth. Paul, Peter and Apollos all preached the same message. However, this issue I am raising is not about maintaining unity where there is clear doctrinal error.

The challenge of a blog post is that I simply get the chance to introduce topics generally, which then need further reflection. I hope that we can reflect more on these matters raised here and that we remember the exhortation of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything".

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Learn to Preach by Watching Excellent Preachers Preach

In recent days we have had the preacher Rev Iain D. Campbell preaching in Yorkshire. Iain is a very experienced preacher, a Presbyterian minister from the Isle of Lewis with the Free Church of Scotland. He held two fine sessions at the Yorkshire Reformed Ministers Fraternal. On the Monday night he preached at Sheffield Presbyterian Church. Though I could mention the many comments that he made on "preaching" which was the substance of his talks at the ministers fraternal, ultimately we learn what preaching is by listening to fine preaching.

It was said of William Grimshaw of Haworth I believe, the fellow minister and friend of George Whitfield, that we as Christians should "read the best books, keep the best company and hear the best men". He meant by "hearing the best men" to hear the finest and most competent preachers. Iain D. Campbell preached a majestic sermon on Christ from the prologue of John's Gospel. I would love as many people as possible to listen to it, so here is the link.

For those who are preachers, may this sermon help us to become better preachers. For those who are not preachers but Christians, may it help us all to become better Christians, ones who live our lives worthy of the gospel.


Paul the apostle said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God".

Ps I say watching because you cannot learn the "art" of preaching just by listening to sermons online. Preaching is firstly a live event which involves listening and watching with our intent on believing and doing the Word preached.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Using the Search Engine on this Blog-Part 2

In the busyness of life, it is not always easy to write fresh material for this blog. However, writing this blog continues to be a joy to do so. At the same time, there are many resources available on this blog from the past that can answer many questions people may have today.

Quite often, many people have the same questions or similar questions when they are growing in the Lord or when they are on a Reformed pilgrimage. With the current state of affairs in the church in the West, when people encounter Reformed doctrines, it means one of two things. Firstly, they may have to learn things that they have never come across before, or secondly and perhaps more difficult, is that they may have to relearn some things. Either way, may we all continue with a teachable spirit all of our days.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20:“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. Note the phrase "teaching them to observe all things": this can only happen in a way that bears fruit, if the hearers are teachable. Therefore, one of the marks of a genuine disciple of the Lord Jesus is that they are teachable. Let us ask ourselves: Am I teachable?

Here are some topics that could get you started in order to use the search engine on this blog:

The Church and the Law of God

The Majesty of the Book of Hebrews

What is Replacement Theology?

Preaching Clear Sermons

The Marks of the Church

A Covenantal View of Baptism

Enjoy browsing!

Monday 1 June 2015

Book Review: "Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms"

David P. Barsinger, “Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture”, Oxford: OUP, 2014.

If you are interested in preaching or the theology of Jonathan Edwards, methods in biblical exegesis or the Psalms, then this book will interest you. It is well researched and well written. The author arranges his material around seven key topics in relation to “Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms”. These are “The Psalter in Edwards’ World”; “God and Scripture”; “Humanity and Sin”; “Christ”; “Spirit and Gospel”; “Christian Piety” and “Church and Eternity”. Each of these chapters are full of Bible citations which make this compendium devotional as well as theological and redemptive-historical.

The introduction is the opening chapter and this reminds us of the importance of an inclusive Psalmody position for public worship. How many evangelical congregations sing metrical psalms in every service? Why are they not sung? This impoverishes the church on a number of levels and while Edwards’ also sang hymns in his congregation, the Psalter had a prominent place in worship. Edwards had several key emphases in his preaching and one of them was a redemptive-historical vision of Scripture (p 21, 25-28). This is the sub-theme of this book but it does not focus exclusively on a redemptive-historical approach to the Psalms.

This book has great merit in being a future reference point to exegesis and insights into portions of the Psalms and how they should be rightly understood. The Scripture index at the back can be used for further research by readers. Edwards materials are primarily extracts from sermons, he was a working minister first and foremost. Gleanings from his approach to Psalm portions with a rich Christological, Trinitarian and redemptive-historical flow would be enriching to inform the preacher in his sermon preparation.

For example Chapter 2 “God and Scripture” begins by citing one of Edwards’ favourite verses from the Psalms, 115:1 “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”. David P. Basinger not only gives helpful clues to Edwards’ thought on the glory of God but also three theologians for whom he was indebted; Edwards appreciated the writings of Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole and John Trapp (p 80). Perhaps the reading of Jonathan Edwards works along with these three other authors could greatly enrich the contemporary church’s preaching, ministry and piety. Barsinger’s contribution may not be a best-seller but it is a worthy and valuable contribution for the Christian church.

May 2015

Monday 25 May 2015

Is the Bible wrong regarding "same-sex marriage"?

Recent days have seen the citizens of Southern Ireland decide by popular vote to endorse "same-sex marriage". The BBC in the UK have revelled and delighted in this outcome, they have reported it as another seeming endorsement of this new social position in the West. What are the implications of such a trend in society? Does this "new morality" question the authority of the Bible on its revealed position on this subject?

The West historically have used the Bible as its baseline for morality, but on a national political level in the UK, this is no longer the case. Therefore, huge issues arise as to what is morally right or otherwise today. The UK has entered into a new season of subjective and relative moralism which is open to serious question. While the UK and Ireland actively promote "same-sex marriage" along with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender agenda, they now actively intimidate and take to court anyone who disagrees with their new laws. It seems that the UK now behaves more like a democratic dictat than a free democracy. Confusion abounds among British politics and British society. Just look at the Asher's bakery ruling in Northern Ireland recently.

While the UK government and British society now rejoice in the pushing of boundaries so that all sexual restraints are being removed, the same groups seem to be silent on the ethical issues of abortion, IVF morality and other such things. In the UK every year around 200,000 babies are murdered either by surgical removal or chemical induced death of the infant. This is surely the result of a sexually promiscuous society who want the benefits of sex without the fruits and it prefers to murder instead of caring for legitimate offspring.

While there is uncertain moral chaos in British society, the Bible's message is unchanging. The Bible is God's unique revelation to teach humanity about the the one True God himself and also it teaches the truth about the sinful state of humanity. The Bible is contemporary and absolutely up to date. The problem is not with the Bible's view of marriage which is clear, the problem lies with sinful man, one who is determined to get his own way and to suppress any knowledge of God to legitimise his own actions.

Romans 1:18 teaches that: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth". People in the West will therefore increasingly seek to silence the teaching of the Bible because they cannot tolerate voices of disagreement. Paul the apostle writes in Romans 1:26 and he calls Lesbian and Gay actions as "dishonourable passions" ... "for their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error" (Romans 1:26-27).

Is the Bible wrong regarding "same sex marriage"? No, the Bible is truthful. No, the Bible disagrees with the LGBT agenda. Does this mean that God is unloving? Absolutely not because God is love and a human being can never understand true love until they meet their Creator and recognise that "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son". Love is not a subjective worldly ideal, but it is based on truth. The God of the Bible is the Creator of all humanity and every human being will give an account to Him after they have died.

The real question then for all of us to consider is: Will I be ready after I have died, to give an account of the deeds which I have done in the body? This account will be made before the God of the Bible and it has been appointed to the glorified Lord Jesus Christ to be the judge. Will he deliver a verdict of everlasting punishment to you or the promise to enter into eternal life? The latter is based upon repentance from sin and belief in the gospel, that is belief that Jesus died for your sins and that he was raised from the dead.

Monday 18 May 2015

Have we lost holiness in student ministry?

Can you imagine the impact upon a Reformed Christian minister, when students who are members in your church, begin to complain about worldliness among Christians on the University Campuses? You cannot deny then, that there must be some kind of problem, when people aged 18-22 years old begin to dissent at such a mixture of Christianity and worldliness. In recent years, this has been a persistent and consistent comment from student Christians in some Reformed congregations. Is that your experience in your part of the UK? That is that, among Christian Union’s and professing Christian students and young people, that there is a growing worldliness at the expense of holiness. Where does this problem originate from? Where has an emphasis on biblical holiness gone and why? Hopefully, this all too brief article will provoke some thought, stimulate prayer and motivate some action to change the status quo.

The world’s message in this generation places great emphasis upon personal satisfaction, happiness and enjoyment. This mantra affects all Christians and churches to varying degrees. It can especially impact those groups who desire to reach out to non-Christians, but in doing so, they may unwittingly capitulate to using worldly methods and pursue a subtle, yet worldly approach to reach the world. But this should not be so among the people of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the alone head of the church spoke plainly: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13).

It is my contention that there is a threefold problem among student ministry in the UK, one that is also shared by the wider evangelical church. This unwelcome situation can be exacerbated if churches seek to draw large numbers of university students without clear doctrinal and lifestyle standards. What are the root problems behind this sidelining of holiness?

Problem 1. When evangelism drives the student agenda, to such a point that little else in the teaching of Scripture is given much emphasis, not least holiness and godliness.

Problem 2. The spread of evangelical teaching that never mentions the Ten Commandments or in fact one that actually denies that the Ten Commandments are the rule for Christian living. This is found especially among the proponents of the so-called new covenant theology, but the unfortunate by-product can be the exclusion of an emphasis on holiness.

Problem 3. Perhaps the first step to problem-solving is recognising that there is a problem in the first place. This perceived problem of the absence of an emphasis on biblical holiness, may be as simple as “having dropped off the agenda”. Whatever the case, it needs putting back on the agenda for students and the wider church.

The Lord Jesus was and continues to be, the church’s model for perfect holiness. Therefore, to make disciples of students, this must include teaching on this subject, along with insightful application. Young Christian men and students share with me how prevalent internet pornography is being viewed among their peers. No doubt other age and people groups also fall prey to this sin as well. Is the church addressing the issue of internet pornography as well as many other contemporary sins? It is not uncommon for professing Christian students to frequent nightclubs and in my opinion, this is to play with sin and temptation. Jesus taught us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. In such a student culture, I find it hard to believe that high levels of sexual purity can be maintained.

Furthermore, how would people committed to other religions perceive such forms of Christianity? Can you imagine a pious Muslim observing Christian students behaving like the world and then being told of the exclusive claims of the gospel? They may rightly object to such manifest inconsistency. Paul the apostle wrote to the younger Timothy to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22); now that will preach among young people! Paul sadly at the end of the same letter reported that “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (4:10). This stark warning should show us the incompatibility of loving this present world and the claiming to hold to the gospel, because human souls are in the balance.

What is the way forward and how can we address this situation?
Firstly, we must pray about this matter and ask our Lord to help. James 4:2 is an encouragement and a rebuke and it is memorable in the KJV: “Yet ye have not, because ye ask not”.

Secondly, we could discuss this with our ministers and elders in order that they can “weigh and test” how best to proceed, if indeed they perceive a similar problem and how they locally may recommend advancing the cause of holiness and godliness.

Thirdly, for those who have access to UCCF staff, you could contact them for a meeting to determine how they assess the situation. You could request that from within the Christian Union network, that the doctrinal subjects of holiness and godliness be included for discussion nationally, locally and at student house parties (a weekend away for Christian students).

There has been a helpful book written recently by Kevin DeYoung called “The Hole in our Holiness” and this could be further reading on this subject. In addition, Ephesians Chapters 4 to 6 and Colossians Chapters 3 and 4. DeYoung spoke at a recent Banner Youth Conference at Leicester and he said: "To obey Christ is not legalism, it is Christianity” and again he declared that "to fight against sin is to fight for your joy, not against it”. Is that your desire to obey Christ and to fight against sin? May we we take up this cause for ourselves, others and future generations. May the very words “holiness” and “godliness” become as commonplace in contemporary Christian vocabulary as “evangelism” or the much used new buzz word “missionalism”.

Rev. Dr Kevin Bidwell is the minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church (which is part of EPCEW) and their website is

Using the Search Engine on this Blog

Doing this blog is a little bit of a spiritual hobby. I have so many people who contact me with many questions and I seek to answer some of them on this blog. Hopefully, it points people in a good and right direction towards a better understanding of biblical and Reformed doctrine and practice.
If you use the search engine, there are articles from around 2008 I believe, so there is a lot of material. Here are a few words that you could use on the search engine:

John Calvin

Women Bishops

Charismatic influences

John Owen


Book Reviews

I do hope that this blog can serve many people for the glory of God.

Kevin J. Bidwell

Saturday 9 May 2015

Beware of the Marcionites!

Marcionites: What are they?. It may sound like a strange group of aliens, but in fact Marcion was a Second Century heretic, one whom the church deemed to hold utterly false views. Therefore, Marcionites are those who adopt his teaching. So, what did he believe?

1. That the God of the Old Testament was different to the God of the New Testament.

2. He had a reduced Bible canon so that he only endorsed and used Luke's Gospel and the letters of Paul. He apparently edited out OT quotes from Paul's letters as well.

Paul wrote something against people like Marcion before he died in 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".

Now every heresy keeps appearing and contemporary Christianity faces the Marcion teaching in one form or another today. How many Christians do you know who think that the God of the OT is different to Jesus and the God of the NT? This is not new thinking, because Marcion thought this, but this is indeed false thinking. How many churches today only preach from (or mainly from) the New Testament and virtually neglect the Old Testament for public reading and public preaching on the Lord's Day? We must beware of contemporary Marcionites! (this is why church history is so important, because there is "nothing new under the sun".).

The Lord Jesus cited many books of the Old Testament, as did the Apostles. Peter cited the Book of Joel and the Psalms on the Day of Pentecost; James cited the prophet Amos at the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15. When was the last time you heard teaching from the Books of Amos or Joel?

The church and individual Christians need a fresh connecting of the Old Testament Scriptures with the New Testament Scriptures. They are both the product of the one mind of the one God brought to us by the one Holy Spirit. I sometimes wonder if in our printed Bibles, that the sheet of paper between the OT and the NT subliminally inserts a wall in people's minds between the OT and the NT. Let us love, read, preach and meditate upon all 66 Bible books.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Do not underestimate the danger and power of sin

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

The heart is never being more deceitful than when it downplays sin. False teaching is never more prevalent and dangerous as when it downplays sin. It is utterly false to think that a Christian can be forgiven of their sin and then rarely have to wrestle with sin. There is the urgent need for the recovery of an emphasis on biblical and reformed piety in the life of the church with a delighting in subjects such as holiness and godliness. Is holiness and godliness a pursuit in your church, your family and your life? It should be!

Satan also wants to deceive the church that "all is well" and to downplay the danger of sin. The Garden of Eden warns us as with a huge red road sign, as if to say "Beware, Sin Kills!".

Thomas Brooks writes in his excellent little book "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices", that "sin is a plague, yea, the greatest and most infectious plague in the world" (page 31). In addition, he rightly warns "It is our wisest and our safest course to stand at the farthest distance from sin; not to go near the house of the harlot, but to fly from all appearance of evil (Proverbs 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:22).

For ministers to fail to warn against sin is therefore to do Satan's job and to expose the church to darkness. Paul wrote to Timothy to "flee these things" in references to lusts and sins and instead to exhort him to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11). Sometimes, professing Christian university students in the UK, wrongly think that they can play with the world and go to nightclubs. Be warned O Christian; to play with the world is to "play with fire", and it is to lead people into the danger of sin. Never downplay the danger of sin!

True biblical and reformed churches will warn against sin. We must warn people in a loving and firm way, but we cannot be silent of the danger of sin. We must not be afraid, but instead we should courageously take up the whole armour of God and fight the good fight of faith (Ephesians 6).