Monday 29 August 2016

The Late J. Alec Motyer: 1924-2016

A few days ago the minister, theologian and shepherd of souls Rev J. Alec Motyer went on ahead to heaven. He died on August 26th 2016, but for many he may not be overly known about. Rev Alec Motyer was ordained in the Church of England and was probably the foremost Evangelical theologian in their denomination fold during the last half of the last century, in my opinion. While I am no expert on all of Motyer's works, I can confidently say that he was a theological mind committed to the infallibility of Scripture, one of the first order.

The influence of Motyer upon myself has been primarily his commentary on Isaiah which is by far the best commentary on my shelf on this most important Old Testament book. Isaiah is replete in citations in the Book of Romans and elsewhere in the New Testament, therefore a comprehensive understanding of this book is pivotal to grasping the gospel. I believe that there is also a daily devotional on Isaiah by him, which many have found most useful. While Motyer wrote other commentaries, this one on Isaiah is perhaps his life's work. I cannot commend it highly enough!

I did not know Alec Motyer personally, but I know two men who trained under him at Trinity College, Bristol and they were marked for life with a deep love for Holy Scripture. They have both served as faithful ministers of the Word of God in the church for decades. Does a love for the Scriptures also infuse your soul? This is what Geoff Thomas wrote about Motyer on the Banner of Truth website (

Now retired as principal of Trinity College in Bristol, England, Motyer has spent his professional career studying the Bible. However, he learned to love the Scriptures at his grandmother’s knee in Ireland. “Grandma was, in worldly terms, a comparatively uneducated lady,” Motyer says, “but she was a great Bible woman. Biblical studies have simply confirmed that which I learned from Grandma – that the Bible is the Word of God – and made it a coherently held position.”
He adds, “I had a conversion experience when I was 15, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love the Word of God.”

Motyer loved "all of Scripture" I believe, but he was specially gifted to make the connection across Scripture. Justin Taylor ( has commented on the life of Motyer in recent days and he makes this helpful observation:

I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church (I can’t remember if R. C. posed it to him or someone from the audience). After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their “testimony” to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:

We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator—the one who stands between us and God—came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.

Then Dr. Motyer concluded: “Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.”

It is a delight for me to give honour to a spiritual father of the calibre of J. Alec Motyer. How should we respond? We should pray for the Lord to send out labourers into his harvest and to include a new generation of men of the calibre of humility and giftedness as J. Alec Motyer.

Monday 22 August 2016

Christian Triathletes

With the closing of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, here is a Bible knowledge question. Which three Graeco-Roman sports are in the New Testament? The answer interestingly is running, wrestling and boxing. I have preached on these three sports and their spiritual parallel over this Summer, including at our Christian Young People's camp. Have you ever considered that you were enrolled into these three sports, spiritually speaking, from the day you were converted, that is if you are a Christian?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2.

There are three things to consider. First, we are to dress for action which means to run light, that is without "weights" or the "sin which clings so closely". The latter refers to original sin which always presses us and to tempt us into sin, but we must not succumb. Second, "let us run" means we are not competing against fellow Christians but we are to run and encourage one another; the "us" is plural. Third, a key word is "endurance and indeed "endure or endurance" is found three times in the first three verses of Hebrews chapter 12. How do we learn endurance? It is by enduring. Do you pray that your spiritual ability to endure would glorify God?

The aim of this sport is to win by strength and by deceiving your opponent to get them onto the floor. One cannot die wrestling, though you can get bruises, wounds and become winded. Christianity is not easy and we should expect bruises but have a forgiving spirit for those who hurt us, while recognising that we also hurt others.

However, this sport is used in reference to the "schemes of the devil" against the church and we we must wrestle to win and not quit.

Ephesians 6:10-13 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm".

The primary action required here is to "stand". If you get wrestled to the ground then get back up and keep standing. Be encouraged O Christian to endure and to stand and to keep standing.

This is a sport which I knew little of until I noticed this sport in the New testament. I have discovered that there is a lot of skill required in this sport.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified 1 Cor 9:24-27.

Chapter nine of First Corinthians is a chapter filled with questions by Paul the apostle. Asking the right questions is a very important teaching method and all are skilled teachers are good at asking the right questions. However, did you notice here the connection to boxing. Boxing; what a sport! It is a sport which was fist fighting and in New Testament times I am told there was just one round where you boxed until your opponent could not respond.

Paul uses boxing in two main ways. First, he says "I do not box as one beating the air". Paul served and lived his Christian life with purpose, with deliberate aims and so must we. Second, he turns on himself and he says that he "disciplines his own body" which is what all olympians do. The whole life of an olympian is subjected to the final goal of winning a gold medal and likewise the whole life of a Christian should be in subjection to the aim of finishing your Christian life for the glory of God. Is that how you live your life?

This blog post is a brief introduction to three metaphors for the Christian life which are rich, extended and worthy of further meditation. However, though these metaphors extend to the Christian life that is sanctified, they first point to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who ran, wrestled and boxed with perfect success. He ran his race to the cross and purchased a perfect redemption, he wrestled against the schemes of the devil and Jesus Christ prevailed. He also boxed with aim and everything he did defeated false teaching and in redemption the LORD Jesus Christ defeated sin, death and Satan. The Lord Jesus Christ is our real sporting hero, one that has eternal spiritual consequences when we put our trust in him for salvation.

Friday 12 August 2016

The Church must reject all Unbiblical and Extra-Biblical Revelations

“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it" (deuteronomy 12:32).

"Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:5–6).

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).

One of the prime reasons for the LORD's judgments upon the people of God has been, is and will continue to be for the sin of covenant unfaithfulness. One of the ways that this happens is by a turning away from the written infallible Word of God. For example King Solomon either neglected the written Scriptures or he wilfully denied them by multiplying wives and with that with foreign wives. Judgment came and a rejection of God's Word, it always does. In Jeremiah 1:16 the LORD teaches Jeremiah that judgment is coming upon the house of God because of their "evil in forsaking me" (1:16).

How about sections of the church today? A serious error has crept into sections of the professing Protestant church in accepting unbiblical revelations and even more serious is a quest for unbiblical revelations. The Canon of holy Scripture is complete and there are no more revelations from heaven. The Holy Spirit is powerfully active in raising up preachers to proclaim the written Scriptures and to expound them, to convict of sin, to bring about the miracle of the new birth and to teach people to walk in God's ways.

However, in what ways has revelation ceased?

1. There are no more apostles. This office ceased with the death of the last apostle who was John.

2. There are no more prophets. This office ceased by the end of the New Testament apostolic era.

3. There are no longer extraordinary gifts of men who perform miracles likes Moses, Elijah or the apostles. Though the apostles did not operate on the level of the LORD Jesus Christ and in the Book of Acts, the supernatural signs begin to wane as the church got established.

4. There is no such thing as people being taken to heaven to have visions of heaven.

5. The last person to have a direct revelation of the Lord Jesus was John the apostle on the Isle of Patmos. How did he respond? Revelation 1:17 "When I [John the apostle] saw him [the glorified and ascended Lord Jesus Christ], I fell at his feet as though dead". There are some people today who claim to meet Jesus Christ and it is in a most casual way. However, it is false. He does not reveal himself to people outside of Scripture and that includes to people of other faiths. Some Christians get excited about supposed claims of Muslims having visions of Jesus Christ. We have no biblical evidence that this is a method that the LORD will ever use and yet some naively accept such claims and some Christians get very excited at such possibilities.

6. Supernatural tongues have ceased. However the tongues on the Day of Pentecost were unique, where men spoke the gospel in languages they had never learned. This is not found today and it certainly is not the Pentecostal gift of tongues today which is nothing short of speaking "gibberish", possibly as some sort of soul-excitement. I do not doubt the experience of speaking in tongues, but I doubt its validity and I assert that it has no biblical basis whatsoever. In the New Testament "tongues" were simply languages and if someone spoke in Latin to a Greek congregation, then the apostles insisted that it must be translated so that all could learn and understand.

In conclusion, with this short blog post, let me finish with the words of John Owen. Owen had to contend with the Quakers who became obsessed with extra-biblical revelations and he taught helpfully that: "If their private revelations agree with Scripture, they are needless, and if they disagree, they are false".

Monday 1 August 2016

The Historic Adam: Holding Fast to Basic Truths

I can no longer assume that Christians hold to the most basic Christian doctrines. A friend and I were discussing the matters of Creation and the historic understanding of Adam, last Lord's Day evening. As we fellowshipped together I mentioned to him about the defective views of the late Rev John Stott on these matters. Stott is revered to be one of the greatest Anglican theologians of recent decades, however his views on Creation and Adam are to be rejected. Now many people will be aware that Stott promotes an intellectually credible view, but it is one that seeks to mix a confused idea of Creation with evolution.

Where does Stott teach these things? It is in his commentary of all places on the Book of Romans and on the fifth chapter of Romans where Paul the apostle teaches that there are only two heads of the human race: Adam or the Lord Jesus Christ. However, Stott takes the opportunity in commenting on this chapter to digress and to promote his flawed views on Adam. What does he say?
These are excerpts from John Stott "The Message of Romans", IVP, 1994, pp 162-166.

1. He makes an unwarranted statement on the historicity and death of Adam: "The narrative itself (Genesis chapters 1-2) warrants no dogmatism about the six days of creation, since its form and style suggest that it is meant as literary art, not scientific description" (p 163).

2. Without biblical warrant he then asserts that "the evidence of Genesis 2-4 is that Adam was a neolithic farmer" (p 163). He then extends his narrative to claim that the earth was filled with pre-adamic hominids (up to 2 million years before Adam) who became Adam's contemporaries (p 164).

Now once the biblical narrative is rejected, which Stott does, in a way that can only be described as Liberalism; to assert that these chapters of Genesis are "literary art", then flawed logic has to be used to counter-act the biblical narrative.

3. Almost unbelievably, Stott suggests: "Adam, then, was a special creation of God, whether God formed him literally 'from the dust of the ground' ... or whether this is a biblical way of saying that he was created out of an already existing hominid" (p 164). What literary fantasy, one without any biblical warrant! But wait for it, it gets worse.

4. He claims that death already pre-existed Adam in "the cycle of blossom, fruit, seed, death and new life was established in the created order" (p 165). He asserts that animal death existed too. Therefore Adam's fall was: "Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate waits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal" (pp 165-166).

For a pastor-theologian which Stott was, his false interpretation of Genesis 1-3, Creation, Adam and the Fall is shocking in my opinion. However, it means that followers of Stott may well have bought into this narrative and we should ask people plainly: What is your view of Creation, the length of days, the historicity of Adam and the Fall? In the case of John Stott he denies the day length and ends up with a false account of the origins of all things. He exalts the supposed evidence of The Natural History Museum in London, above the Bible.

Here is the plain historic account, not one of literary art, but of the unfolding events as historically recorded in Genesis chapters 1-5.

Genesis 2:1-3 "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation".

Genesis 2:16-17 "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.

Genesis 5:1-5 "This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died".

Let us hold fast to the truth, refute error and do not assume that God's people hold to an orthodox view of Creation, Adam and the fall. John Stott did not. May our Lord's grace uphold us in the face of virulent unbelief, atheism and liberal currents.