Saturday 22 December 2018

New Covenant Theology: Weighed and found wanting by Kevin McGrane

This book called "New Covenant Theology: Weighed and found wanting" is a welcome publication. I aim to write a review on this book and I have read it through once so far. This publication exposes an unwelcome theological error: a branch of anti-nomianism. New Covenant theology has gained huge traction in the last decade, especially in Baptist circles, and it has had a devastating impact. Why? Its teaching leads people away from a historic and confessional church position.

New Covenant theology is at its heart, a non-confessional position, regarding the use of the law for the church and Christians. Therefore, Confessions have to be sidelined when you hold this theology, because all Reformed Confessions uphold a biblical and balanced view of the law of God.

My favourite chapter in the book was Chapter 6: "Replacement Lawgiver, Replacement Law". My aim here is not to write a review of this book, but to simply commend this book, as one that you may want to order online and read over Christmas or early in the new year.

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Predestination and Public Worship

Predestination, when it is rightly understood as framed by Holy Scripture, it has many lines of application. If we understand for example Acts 4:28 and connect this with Ephesians 1:4, then public worship will not be used as a tool to attract people to the church.

Acts 4:27-28 reads "for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place". Therefore what happened to Jesus was decided in advance by the heavenly Father (predestination defined). Similarly there are a fixed number of people whom the Lord will save, and they have been chosen in eternity.

Ephesians 1:4-5 "even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will".

These truths are stable and unchanging. They can guard us from a numbers and results driven approach to the church. Numbers are not our primary focus, but faithfulness to biblical principles in public worship and also in expounding and hearing the truth of Holy Scripture. When results come we will be quick to divert attention to ourselves and instead give credit and praise to the glorious grace of God (Ephesians 1:6, 7, 12).

A fresh meditation on the truth and doctrine of predestination can grant us all fresh spiritual rest and renewed spiritual stability. We want the church to be outward moving and evangelistic, while always being rooted in the doctrine of predestination. This guards us from worldliness and worldly methods in order to gain success. True success and genuine kingdom growth, only comes from the head of the church who is the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18).

My desire is that predestination could be freshly discussed and considered as to how its truth can be relevant in application to the church at this time.

Monday 17 December 2018

Predestination and the Atonement stand together.

At the heart of the debate at the Synod of Dort, the truths of predestination and the atonement belong together. To fail to understand and accept the doctrine of predestination will always lead to a defective and unbiblical view of the atonement. This is why the following verses on predestination MUST be read, discussed, preached upon and taught to the church.

Acts 4:28
1 Corinthians 2:7
Romans 8:29
Romans 8:30
Ephesians 1:5
Ephesians 1:11

This is the definition of the doctrine of predestination from the Westminster Confession of Faith (3:6):

As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified,6 and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

The connection between predestination and the atonement is unmistakeable. The Trinity did not simply make salvation available but a definite number of people were definitely purchased and in due season brought to Christ.

Matthew 1:21 "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The heartbeat of redemption is the cross of Jesus and his sufferings at Golgotha. Let us read, study and discuss the atonement and here are some books to help us do just that.

Hugh Martin, The Shadow of Calvary.

Hugh Martin, The Atonement.

Frederick Leahy, The Cross He Bore.

Alec Motyer, Commentary on Isaiah (Read 52:12-53:12).

The Westminster Confession, Chapter 8 *Of Christ the Mediator".

Thursday 13 December 2018

When was the last time you heard someone mention "predestination"?

The very word "predestination" can be a conversation stopper. It is a truth that is like "smelling salts" and it often provokes a sharp reaction, especially from those who are opposed to the very idea that Almighty God rules over all. In the light of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort next year, the word "predestination" is coming to the surface again and this is helpful and necessary.

One's view about predestination often reveals our individual understanding of the Scripture, of the character of God, of salvation and of our needed thankfulness for the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. So, what is your understanding of predestination?

The Greek word is found six times in the New Testament and we will summarise now each occurrence and give a brief explanation.

1). 1 Corinthians 2:7 "But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed [predestined] before the ages for our glory". Here the word is translated as decreed, but elsewhere in the NT it is treated as the word predestined [prooriz┼Ź). It means to "determine beforehand" and here in 1 Cor 2:7 it is reference to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus by the rulers of that age. The death of Jesus was no mere accident of history. Surely no serious evangelical Christian would disagree with that.

2). We find the same truth and idea in Acts 4:28 but let's also hear the verse before to understand the context: "... for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place".

Again, the purpose of God was planned before hand, indeed it was in eternity that the Son of God was decided by the Father, to be the lamb slain (Revelation 13:8).

3). Romans 8:29 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers". This verse begins what William Perkins called the Golden Chain of salvation. Note the first link is whom he foreknew, he then predestined, therefore the very act of the Lord's predestination took place in eternity, before time and before the Creation.

4). Romans 8:30 "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified".

Predestination means to simply decide beforehand the future eternal destination of every individual person in eternity. Some are predestined to be saved, by grace, and some are left in their sins. Here comes the offence for some people then. If it is God who chooses people to be saved and not us, then people get angry about the free will of man, but at heart that idea, is to then rebel against the teaching of Holy Scripture, and therefore to rebel against God himself.

5). "In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will" Ephesians 1:5.

Again, this reference is in relation to the church and who constitutes the true church. It is those who are predestined for eternal life.

6). "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will" Ephesians 1:11.

So, this little, but powerful word called "predestined" is a central spoke in the wheel of biblical revelation. Let's start discussing predestination with one another again and to rejoice in this liberating truth.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Re-discovering the meaning of TULIP

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

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

T Total Depravity

U Unconditional Election

L Limited Atonement

I Irresistible Grace

P Perseverance of the Saints

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

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

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

Monday 3 December 2018

Creation Ministries International

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

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

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

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

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

Creation Ministries International have a very useful website ( and they did two presentations for us in Sheffield:

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

II. Dinosaurs and dragons.

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