David Strain

The Gospel is a message and you never will make a single disciple unless you open your mouth and preach it. It has to be proclaimed. If there's no words, there's no Gospel. You can't do the Gospel or live the gospel. You can only preach the Gospel. It's news, and it must be heralded.

But if your life does not mirror your words your hearers will run from you and they will be right to do so.

  • David Strain

Gospel Sonnets Chapter I Section II

THE second Adam , sovereign Lord of all,
did, by his Father's authorizing call,
From bosom of eternal love descend,
To save the guilty race that him offend;
To treat an everlasting peace with those
Who were and ever would have been his foes.
His errand, never ending life to give To them,
whose malice would not let him live;
To make a match with rebels, and espouse
The brat which at his love her spite avows.
Himself he humbled to depress her pride,
And make his mortal foe his loving bride.
But, ere the marriage can be solemniz'd,
All lets must be remov'd, all parties pleas'd.
Law - righteousness requir'd , must be procur'd,
Law-vengeance threaten'd , must be full endur'd,
Stern justice must have credit by the match,
Sweet mercy, by the heart the bride must catch.
Poor bankrupt! all her debt must first be paid,
Her former husband in the grave be laid :
Her present lover must be at the cost,
To save and ransom to the uttermost,

If all these things this suitor kind can do,
Then he may win her, and her blessing too.
Hard terms : indeed! while death's the first demand;
But love is strong as death, and will not stand
To carry on the suit, and make it good,
Though at the dearest rate of wounds and blood.
The burden's heavy, but the back is broad,
The glorious lover is the mighty God.
Kind bowels yearning in th' eternal Son,
He left his Father's court, his heavn'ly throne:
Aside he threw his moſt divine array,
And wrapt his Godhead in a veil of clay.
Angelic armies, who in glory crown'd,
With joyful harps his awful throne surround,
Down to the crystal frontier of the sky
To see the Saviour born, did eager fly;
And ever since behold with wonder fresh
Their Sov'reign and our Saviour wrapt in flesh.
Who in his garb. did mighty love display,
Restoring what he never took away,
To God his glory, to the law its due,
To heav'n its honour, to the earth its hue,
To man a righteousness divine, completes;
A royal robe to suit the nuptial rite.
He in her favours , whom he lov'd so well,
At once did purchase heav'n , and vanquish hell.
Oh ! unexampled love ! so vast, so strong,
So great, so high, so deep, so broad, so long!
Can finite thought this ocean huge explore,
Unconscious of a bottom or a shore ?

His love admits no parallel, for why,
At one great draught of love he drank hell dry.
No drop of wrathful gall he left behind;
No dreg to witness that he was unkind.
The sword of awful justice pierc'd his side,
That mercy thence might gush upon the bride.
The meritorious labours of his life,
And glorious conquests of his dying strife;
Her debt of doing, suffʻring , both cancell'd,
And broke the bars his lawful captive held.
Down to the ground the hellish host he threw.
Then mounting high the trump of triumph
Attended with a bright seraphic band, [blew,
Sat down enthron'd sublime on God's right - hand;
Where glorious choirs their various, harps employ;
To found his praises with consed’rate joy.
There he, the bride's strong intercessor fits,
And thence the blessings of his blood transmits,
Sprinkling all o'er the flaming throne of God,
Pleads for her pardon his atoning blood;
Sends down his holy co-eternal Dove,
To shew the wonders of: incarnate love,
To woo and win the bride's reluctant heart,
And pierce it with his kindly killing dart;
By gospel light to manifest that now
She has no further with the law to do;
That her new lord has loos'd the fed'ral tie,
That once hard bound her or to do or die;
That precepts, threats, no single mite can crave.
Thus for her former spouse he digg'd a grave;
The law fast to his cross did nail and pin,
Then bury'd the defunct his tomb within,
That he the lonely widow to himself might win .

211026 - Devotional - CC Romans Chapter 4

What are we saved from? The Wrath of God. As we learned in Romans 1

8 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

Does God require perfection to enter Heaven? Yes!

9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.11 For God shows no partiality.

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%202&version=ESV

Could someone please read Romans 3:9-10


  1. Do you think Paul’s assessment of humanity is accurate or a bit harsh? Aren’t there lots of good people in the world?

  2. What do you know about Abraham and the story Paul references here in Romans?

  3. What does the word justification bring to mind for you?

What is the bad news?

Q 152: What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?
Answer: Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty,1 goodness,2 and holiness of God,3 and against his righteous law,4 deserves his wrath and curse,5 both in this life,6 and that which is to come;7 and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.8

'The law's one lesson is this "You are not righteous!"'

The world is not as awful as it could be and humans are not completely evil, but there is nothing we think, say, or do that is not polluted by our sinful hearts. That’s the lesson of the law. Try as we may to obey God and be righteous, we will never perfectly love God or our fellow human beings.

Michael Horton: “The more clearly we recognize God’s claims in the law, the more sinful we recognize ourselves to be.”

Have you ever read or heard the Beatitudes or the whole Sermon on the Mount as a list of things we should be doing? That's a really depressing way to read "you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." If I think I've nailed it, I need to look at the rich young ruler as an example for how well this goes.

Can you imagine the uproar this caused? The Pharisees transformed Judaism into a list of things to do so people would think you are good and here comes a man claiming the same authority as the Torah and He basically says that the church leaders who have put their faith in how well they're carrying out the law are going to hell, while murders, adulterers, thieves, gluttons, liars and those who disobey their parents but have faith in Christ will see Heaven?

If you've built a religion on good behavior for salvation, it's very disruptive when someone comes along and says that behavior can only condemn.

J. Gresham Machen, in Christianity and Liberalism

Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the
logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an
impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission
boards? May it not … produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be
an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of
religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases,
regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from "controversial" matters, will
never stand amid the shocks of life.

From https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/machen/Christianity%20and%20Liberalism%20-%20J.%20Gresham%20Machen.pdf

So far from being able to answer for my sins, I cannot answer even for my righteousness. --Bernard of Clairvaux

From https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary/charles-spurgeon/psalm/143

If Paul ended his letter with Romans 3:20, we would have an overwhelmingly depressing message. But we know that there is good news, a gospel.

The Good News is actually not new news, but old news. Genesis 12:1–3

One notable aspect of this covenant is that God is the initiator. Abraham doesn’t find his way to God or somehow earn the blessing. God comes to him and bestows the promise on him: Through a descendant of Abraham, people from all nations of the earth will receive God’s blessing. This a promise for Abraham to believe, not a reward to be earned by obedience to God.

Could someone please read Romans 4:13-25

Unrighteous sinners, like Abraham and like us, have only one hope of salvation. Try as we may to obey God’s law and meet his holy standard, we will fail. Our only hope is that God would make another way for us to be righteous, because our works and good deeds will never be enough. The gospel proclaims that this precise need has been met. In the gospel, God promises eternal life with him, not through works of obedience, but through faith; the righteousness we need to stand before God without being destroyed can be received through faith.

Compare that with this statement:
23 For we labor diligently to write, to apersuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by bgrace that we are saved, after all we can cdo.
24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we akeep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.

From https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/25?lang=eng

That's actually a quote from the Book of Mormon, 2nd Nephi. It's a gentler sounding version of what the Pharisees taught, but it's still heresy and it's a common misunderstanding about Christianity. It's right up there with "God helps those who help themselves".

What is faith? - Knowledge, Assent, Trust
You have to know what Christ has accomplished and agree that it's true. That's easy. Christianity is based on a truth claim here and as we read in James 2:19 "Even the demons believe—and shudder!" - Trust is the final component. We rely on Christ's finished work and not on our ability to be righteous.

Q 21: What is true faith? - from the Heidelberg Catechism
Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word,a but also an assured confidence,b which the Holy Ghostc works by the gospel in my heart;d that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation,e are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.f

Even the faith we have is a gift, not something we generate on our own, but it's given to us by God. It's not even the strength of our faith that saves. A weak faith in a strong God is enough to save.

God gives us the righteousness we need to stand before him without being consumed by his just wrath. Righteousness is not something any person can personally attain or possess. That was the whole lesson of the Mosaic Law.

On the basis of the righteousness of Christ, received by faith, we can go before God boldly without fear, because Christ died for our sins and was resurrected for our justification.

It's not even the amount of faith that we have, or how strongly we feel faithful at any moment. It's the one in whom we put our faith that

The Puritan Thomas Watson - "A weak faith may lay hold on a strong Christ"

A weak faith may lay hold on a strong Christ; as a weak hand can tie the knot in marriage as well as a strong one. She, in the gospel, who but touched Christ, fetched virtue from him. (3) The promises are not made to strong faith, but to true. The promise does not say, he who has a giant faith, who can believe God’s love through a frown, who can rejoice in affliction, who can work wonders, remove mountains, stop the mouth of lions, shall be saved, but whosoever believes, be his faith ever so small. A reed is but weak, especially when it is bruised; yet a promise is made to it. ‘A bruised reed shall he not break.’

God gives a righteousness that is not their own to sinners through faith. God credits righteousness to our account, as it were, when we believe his promise of salvation through the atoning death of Christ

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%203&version=ESV


  1. What is God’s purpose in giving the Mosaic Law? How has God’s law impacted you personally?

  2. What is justification?

Q 70: What is justification? From the Westminster
Answer: Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners,1 in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight;2 not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them,3 but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them,4 and received by faith alone.5

  1. What is faith?

  2. Is it fair for God to justify sinners when they aren’t truly righteous? Why or why not?

  3. Is there any part of the gospel message you have questions about?

What is the Good News?

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+15&version=ESV

God calls us to Him and gives us faith in Christ. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and judged on His merit, not our own.

The gospel is not how to live your best life now, or how to avoid distractions, or how to get your life together. It is news about what Christ has done for us.

Assumed Evangelicalism:

Assumed evangelicalism believes and signs up to the gospel. It certainly does not deny the gospel. But in terms of priorities, focus, and direction, assumed evangelicalism begins to give gradually increasing energy to concerns other than the gospel and key evangelical distinctives, to gradually elevate secondary issues to a primary level, to be increasingly worried about how it is perceived by others and to allow itself to be increasingly influenced both in content and method by the prevailing culture of the day.

From http://beginningwithmoses.org/oldsite/bigger/assumedevangelicalism.htm

Faith comes by hearing God's record


Faith comes by hearing God's record
Concerning Jesus Christ the Lord;
The happy means, which heaven hath blest,
To bring us to the gospel-rest.

The joyful sound is news of grace,
Redemption of a fallen race,
Through Jesus' righteousness divine,
Which bright from faith to faith doth shine.

The promise of immortal bliss
We have in Christ, our righteousness;
By death our righteousness he bought:
Faith pleads that right, but buys it not.

True faith receives the offered good
And promise sealed with Jesus' blood;
Faith gives no title to the bliss,
But takes the Savior's righteousness.

In the Redeemer, as my head,
The covenant is established,
In him the promises are, Yea,
In him, Amen, and not in me.

210222 Devotional - What is evangelism


Almost a year ago we did a devotional on what the evangel is. It's the good news of Christ's death and resurrection to rescue us from God's wrath and declare us righteous before a holy God. That is the good news that we believe which is the defining feature of an evangelical.

So in preparing for this morning I came upon a devotional from Ligonier Ministries that I'd like to share with you. It's titled "What is evangelism?" Since we believe the evangel, the Gospel, and all of us sitting in this room are, then, evangelicals, what then does the evangelical do?

Romans 10:14-17

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Now that we have defined Evangel, let's look at what it means to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Evangel-ism refers to the preaching of the Gospel. It comes from the same Greek word for gospel (euangelion) and means, literally, “gospeling.” When we evangelize we are “gospeling” — we are spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Evangelism is one way in which we can fulfill Christ’s call to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). In biblical categories, witnessing involves making visible what is otherwise invisible.

The new testament is full of courtroom language. There is judgement, justice, guilt, confession, atonement and in Acts 1:8 the disciples are called to be Christ's witnesses to the ends of the earth. What does a witness do in a courtroom? The witness tells the story of what occurred to people who have no other way of knowing the truth of what happened.

The reality to which we bear witness is the invisible kingdom of God, and in witnessing we strive to make the Lord’s reign visibly manifest. Among the many ways we can bear witness to Jesus is through loving our fellow believers. We reveal to the world that we belong to our Savior when we love other Christians (John 13:34–35). Celebrating the Lord’s Supper proclaims visibly the Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). In preaching the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in our evangelism, we are also helping to make visible the invisible reality of Christ.

The distinction between witnessing and evangelism is important because it is easy to think we are evangelizing when all we are doing is bearing witness to the Savior.

Let's pause here and say that words are very important. In this case it's important to know the difference between a distinction and a separation. If someone distinguishes your head from your body, they're simply describing human anatomy. If someone separates your head from your body, you've suddenly got a real problem. So it's important to know that witnessing and evangelism are not separate, but they are two distinct parts of the same whole.

Giving one’s testimony is a good thing, but it is not evangelism. Testifying to the work of God in our lives bears witness to what Christ has done for us; it does not by itself give the content of the Gospel. Living a righteous life manifests the work of the Holy Spirit, but we have not evangelized our neighbor if we have never shared the Gospel with him. No one is converted by our kindness or honesty; they are brought into the kingdom of heaven only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:25–34).

God has created us with different personalities and gifts, and some of us are more adept at the verbal proclamation of the Gospel than others. Nevertheless, declaring the message of salvation through Christ is the responsibility of us all, and we must seek opportunities to preach the Gospel. Only if we confess Him before men will He confess us before the Father (Matt. 10:32–33).

Coram Deo

Do you ever sit and think about how you would share the Gospel with an unbeliever? Are you prepared to give a defense of the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15) Do those thoughts match the Good News, the evangel, of Christ's life, death and resurrection?

I'll confess, using a courtroom term there, that I carry great shame in how I poorly attempted to witness to someone once. It was a guy I'd built a relationship with over years and we had a few religious discussions until one day he just unloaded on me, how the Bible couldn't be trusted and what kind of terrible God could allow suffering in the world. I work at a church, so I should be good at this, but I found myself looking to my own experiences; how passionately I believed and how I just knew it was true because it had worked in my life. That wasn't this guy's experience, in fact he felt extremely passionate about atheism and moral codes from outside the church.

Christian experience is wonderful, but it cannot be cut off from the facts that we must bear witness to as we evangelize. We are sinful and deserve God's wrath. Christ is God and He came to earth, lived a perfect life, died to pay the debt for our sins and rose again to bring us new life. Anything a Christian does that doesn't involve those verbal statements of fact isn't good news and cannot be called evangelism.

Loving our neighbors, serving one another, even sharing how God's work in our lives are good things that we are commanded to do, and they do bear witness to the Kingdom we are citizens of, but even the best acts of mercy alone cannot bring anyone to a saving faith. God could have chosen to write the good news across the sky, but in His divine providence He chose the foolishness of preaching the Gospel and the work of the Spirit through those words as THE vehicle to bring belief to the world. As evangelicals, believers of the Gospel, we are called to preach the beauty of Christ's finished work on the cross to each other and to a broken world in desperate need of salvation. (1 cor 1:21)

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 68:11

1 Corinthians 9:16

1 Peter 1:13–25

Revelation 14:6–7

210419 Devotional - Colossians 1:1-11


1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2 To the saints and faithful brothers[a] in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.[b] He is a faithful minister of Christ on your[c] behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

It's interesting how Paul starts by establishing his credentials. He's an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. As an apostle he has received direct revelation from been sent out by Jesus to declare the good news to the world. He has the authority to bind the consciences of his readers through instruction and correction.

He has to do this so thoroughly because, at this point, Paul has not visited the church at Colossea. When Bill Parkinson sends me an email, he doesn't usually say it's from pastor Bill Parkinson, co-founder of Fellowship Bible Church. The readers may not have heard about Paul, but the title of Apostle is a big deal. Direct revelation, like Paul received, is extremely rare. When someone claims the title of Apostle by the will of God, they're either someone we should really pay attention to or a heretic.

Paul also introduces Timothy. I think this is part of Paul's discipling of Timothy.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints

Now there's some high praise! This church has a reputation of belief in Jesus Christ as the perfect, crucified, risen savior. Their knowledge of Him is reflected in their love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. That's a heck of a reputation.

Paul starts with the indicative, identifying these people as faithful believers in Christ Jesus. The apostle models this for us - no imperative of how to behave should ever come before an indicative of who we are in Christ.

So, with all of that, why is Paul writing a letter to this church? He didn't plant this church, and they haven't met him. Paper and ink are expensive in 50 AD, so what makes an apostle go through the trouble of sending an uninvited letter?

We find out later in the letter that this church does love Christ, but dangerous heresy has crept in. We know the advance of the gospel is always opposed by the enemy, and that's true here. The two heresies that have taken over Colossea are asceticism and an early form of gnosticism. Paul praises this church for its faith in Christ and love for the saints, but he's worried that bad theology could destroy both of those positive traits.

He goes into much more detail later in the book but look at how, even in his praise, he's already correcting bad doctrine.

Verse 5 - Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.

We are three sentences into the letter and Paul reminds the readers of the foundation of their faith is the good news of Christ and His work on the cross. Again, why go to the trouble of mentioning that after praising their faith? The answer is two popular heresies, Gnosticism and Asceticism, which were popular in the early church.

Asceticism teaches that the spiritual and the physical are separate and that physical things are bad, while spiritual things are good. If we can just cleanse ourselves of the created things, we'll reach a higher understanding. It sets God in opposition to creation, as if the chief end of man is to slough off his mortal coil and join the rest of the enlightened in heaven.

Gnosticism is the belief that we can acquire a higher knowledge of spiritual things on our own, apart from the Church and the Word of God. People claimed to have visions that were more important than scripture. Theologian Michael Horton describes it this way: "There are some people on the inside track. They know more than the apostles or the scriptures. They have their own direct revelation from God, and their inside track also has its own program for the redemption of creation." The gnostic claim to have special spiritual knowledge, particularly when it stands in opposition to God's word, is an offense to the Christian faith. The knowledge of the grace of God and His plan for redemption can only come through the Gospel.

This was cultural religion in the first century Asia Minor. Follow your dreams. Feel strongly enough about something and it must be true, even if it's in opposition to scripture. They didn't blatantly oppose the work of Christ on the Cross, they accepted that's how salvation worked, but they taught that you could reach higher levels of spiritual empowerment by following these extra rules they'd received through visions. That's all just behavior modification and idolatry. Totally different from our world today.

Three reasons to seek this. Abiding sin, evil and suffering in the world. Power for missions.

Verse 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

It's hard to be an ascetic and read these verses. The ascetics believe salvation is through our work of removing the physical to reveal the spiritual within us, but these verses remind us that it is not our work that saves, and God's plan isn't to remove creation, but to redeem us. We, as created creatures, are given the inheritance of saints and transferred to the kingdom of Christ, the author of our salvation. He doesn't even say that Christ made it possible for us to achieve these things, but this is all in the past tense. We have been qualified, delivered, transferred and forgiven. Nobody can give us more deliverance than we already have in Christ.

So what can we take away from 14 verses? Grace and peace. As believers in Christ, our salvation is complete. There is nothing we can improve or remove our right standing with God. Christ has taken the wrath that we deserved and credited to us His fulfilling of the law. Don't be deceived by false prophets, but listen to the right teaching of scripture and be filled with the knowledge of God's will.

There is a great danger in the christian life of seeing Christ and our being in Christ as sufficient for some but not all of our heavenly treasures

If we seek innocence, it will be found in His virgin conception. If mortification of the flesh, it is in his empty tomb. If power for living, it is found in His resurrection. If we seek the gifts of the spirit, let us find it in His anointing.

Institute 2.16.19

From Calvin's Institutes

  1. When we see that the whole sum of our salvation, and every single part of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must beware of deriving even the minutes portion of it from any other quarter. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that he possesses it;268 if we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, we shall find them in his unction; strength in his government; purity in his conception; indulgence in his nativity, in which he was made like us in all respects, in order that he might learn to sympathise with us: if we seek redemption, we shall find it in his passion; acquittal in his condemnation; remission of the curse in his cross; satisfaction in his sacrifice; purification in his blood; reconciliation in his descent to hell; mortification of the flesh in his sepulchre; newness of life in his resurrection; immortality also in his resurrection; the inheritance of a celestial kingdom in his entrance into heaven; protection, security, and the abundant supply of all blessings, in his kingdom; secure anticipation of judgment in the power of judging committed to him. In fine, since in him all kinds of blessings are treasured up, let us draw a full supply from him, and none from any other quarter. Those who, not satisfied with him alone, entertain various hopes from others, though they may continue to look to him chiefly, deviate from the right path by the simple fact, that some portion of their thought takes a different direction. No distrust of this description can arise when once the abundance of his blessings is properly known.

200511 What are we saved from?

Some months ago, before Corona, I was invited into a meeting with our web developers. They came to discover what defines us as a church to better help us with our branding. They began asking questions, clearly trying to figure out what "flavor" we are. You know what I'm talking about - we're not quite Baptist, certainly not Presbyterian, we like our worship band but not quite assembly of God style. Basically we do drums, not hymnals; jeans, not suits, coffee, not beer; Small groups, not Sunday school; smoke machines but no dancing. If we clearly communicate the answers to those questions and visitors have a pretty good idea of what to expect on Sunday morning, right?

One member of the development team briefly asked about our beliefs, which caught my attention. He asked if we were an "Evangelical Church" - heads nodded in a room of universal agreement and we moved on. I bobbed my head with the group, but it started bothering me. It takes a dozen questions to define what to expect at our church on Sunday morning, but the only answer necessary to define our basic beliefs was a word that I, embarrassingly, couldn't define for you. What, exactly, does an Evangelical believe?

So I started Googling to understand this and I wanted to share it with you today.

There's not really one defining organizational body of Evangelical leadership to define all of this, but the word evangelical carries the most important defining characteristic in it. Evangel is the root, and it comes from a Greek word meaning "good news carried by a messenger". The notion is that in ancient Greece LTE service was spotty, so they'd have a guy running around between cities carrying information. That guy, the "angelos", was the messenger and if he was a messenger carrying good news he'd be called an "euangelos".

If you're interested, I believe the opposite of an Evangelist is a dysangelist. I've got a red squiggly line underneath that word from spell check, so maybe it doesn't exist, but the internet says it does.

OK, great, so all good Christians know what the good news is. 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus the Christ died on the cross for our sins, rose again and His righteousness is now credited to us. Every one of us knows that's true, and I don't think we'd get much argument on that point from someone attending most any other Christian church. What if we could get a better understanding of good news by looking at the bad news? Kind of like when we describe our church service to a web developer, not just in things that we do but in things that we don't do. What bad news that makes the good news so good?

So the good news is that we are saved, but what are we saved from? Think about it for a moment. What is so important about the evangel that one word can define the belief system of so many churches including ours?

We're going to read a passage from Exodus 15. Right before this Israel has left their captivity in Egypt. Pharaoh changes his mind and decides to chase down the Israelites and re-enslave them. Israel has just passed through the red sea and they're looking back at the water where an entire Egyptian army just drowned. Moses and Israel sing this amazing song back to God and in the middle of it there's verse 6:

6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.

So in that example we see that God's wrath is justly turned toward Pharaoh, who wants to re-enslave the Israelites. In His perfect justice, God drowns an entire army in the sea.

In Deuteronomy 9, the Israelites are waiting at the foot of the mountain where Moses went up to receive the 10 Commandments from God. The same God who rescued them from Egypt and went before them, day and night, as a pillar of fire and a cloud. They become impatient and make the golden calf to worship.

13 “Furthermore, the Lord said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+9&version=ESV

In Verse 19, Moses describes his response to the Lord's anger and the people's sin. His description of destroying the calf is fun to read.

19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also. 20 And the Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. 21 Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+9&version=ESV

In this passage, and actually all through Deuteronomy, God is repeatedly driven to righteous fury by Israel, and He would be completely justified in destroying them. How many times did He rescue them, and how many times did they defy Him immediately after?

Our God us unchanging. His wrath against those who defy Him is the same in the Old and New Testaments.

Paul wastes no time getting there in Romans 1:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans+1&version=ESV

And who are these men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth? He tells us in Romans 3.

 What then? Are we Jews[a] any better off?[b] No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+3&version=ESV

So people who aren't righteous deserve God's full wrath, with destruction and plagues and all manner of unpleasantness. Who are these people? We are! The idolaters, the Sabbath breakers, the murders, adulterers, thieves, lairs, prideful, boastful, and those who don't love their neighbor as themselves. Any sin, of which we've probably each committed many in our hearts within the past 15 minutes, is worthy of God's wrath. If God didn't pour out that wrath against everyone who sinned against Him, He'd no longer be just. That's not just bad news, it's terrible news, right? I guess today I'm your dysangelist - your bad news messenger.

So, as we define our church as Evangelical, good news messengers, the banner we place ourselves under is that Jesus, fully God, became fully man, came to Earth and suffered like one of us yet didn't sin. He willingly took God's wrath that was meant for us on Himself and in dying paid the debt for our sins. Now He's risen, and anyone who is given the faith to believe in Him is credited with Jesus' perfect obedience.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

From https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+3&version=ESV

What are we saved from? Not ourselves, not our pride, not our bad behaviors or any political issue. The Gospel certainly speaks into those things, but that's not what it's primarily about. We are saved from God Himself and His righteous fury. What are we given instead? Perfect righteousness and adoption as sons and daughters of God. What do we have to do to earn that? Nothing, we are given the faith believe in Jesus instead of our own idolatry.

That is the evangel, and as best I can tell from a branding meeting with web developers from California, it's the single most important thing about our church.

The Dogma is the Drama


The following is copied without permission from the 1978 publishing of “The Whimsical Christian” by Dorothy Sayers. The essay below was originally published in 1949 in the book “Creed or Chaos”. I realize publishing this may be frowned upon but given the importance of the content and the impossibility of purchasing access to a copy new in 2019, I hope the violation will be overlooked.

The Dogma Is the Drama

“Any stigma,” said a witty tongue, “will do to beat a dogma”; and the flails of ridicule have been brandished with such energy of late on the threshing floor of controversy that the true seed of the Word has become well-nigh lost amid the whirling of chaff. Christ, in His divine innocence, said to the woman of Samaria, “Ye worship ye know not what” – being apparently under the impression that it might be desirable, on the whole, to know what one was worshiping. He thus showed himself sadly out of touch with the twentieth-century mind, for the cry today is: “Away with the tedious complexities of dogma – let us have the simple spirit of worship; just worship, no matter of what!” The only drawback to this demand for a generalized and undirected worship is the practical difficult of arousing any sort of enthusiasm for the worship of nothing in particular.

It would not perhaps be altogether surprising if, in this nominally Christian country, where the Creeds are daily recited, there were a number of people who knew all about Christian doctrine and disliked it. It is more startling to discover how many people there are who heartily dislike and despise Christianity without having the faintest notion what it is. If you tell them, they cannot believe you. I do not mean they cannot believe the doctrine; that would be understandable enough since it takes some believing. I mean that they simply cannot believe that anything so interesting, so exciting, and so dramatic can be the orthodox creed of the Church.

That this is really the case was made plain to me by the questions asked me, mostly by young men, about my Canterbury play, The Zeal of Thy House. The action of the play involves a dramatic presentation of a few fundamental Christian dogmas – in particular, the application to human affairs of the doctrine of the Incarnation. That the Church believed Christ to be in any real sense God, or that the eternal word was supposed to be associated in any way with the word of creation; that Christ was held to be at the same time man in any real sense of the word; that the doctrine of the Trinity could be considered to have any relation to the fact or any bearing on psychological truth; that the Church considered pride to be sinful, or indeed took notice of any sin beyond the more disreputable sins of the flesh: – all these things were looked upon as astonishing and revolutionary novelties, imported into the faith by the feverish imagination of a playwright. I protested in vain against this flattering tribute to my powers of invention, referring my inquirers to the creeds, to the gospels, and to the offices of the Church; I insisted that if my play were dramatic it was so, not in spite of the dogma, but because of it – that, in short, the dogma was the drama. The explanation was, however, not well received; it was felt that if there were anything attractive in Christian philosophy I must have put it there myself.

Judging by what my young friends tell me, and also by what is said on the subject in anti-Christian literature written by people who ought to have taken a little trouble to find out what they are attacking before attacking it, I have come to the conclusion that a short examination paper on the Christian religion might be very generally answered as follows:

Q.: What does the church think of God the Father?
A.: He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible of fulfillment; he is very angry if those are not carried out. He sometimes interferes by means of arbitrary judgments and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favoritism. He likes to be truckled to and is always ready to pounce on anybody who trips up over a difficulty in the law or is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary.
Q.: What does the Church think of God the Son?
A.: He is in some way to be identified with Jesus of Nazareth. It was not his fault that the world was made like this, and unlike God the Father, he is friendly to man and did his best to reconcile man to God (see atonement). He has a good deal of influence with God, and if you want anything done, it is best to apply to him.
Q.: What does the Church think of God the Holy Ghost?
A.: I don’t know exactly. He was never seen or heard of till Whitsunday (another term for Pentecost). There is a sin against him that damns you for ever, but nobody knows what it is.
Q.: What is the doctrine of the trinity?
A.: “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible.” Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult – nothing to do with our daily life or ethics.
Q.: What was Jesus Christ like in real life?
A.: He was a good man – so good as to be called the Son of God. He is to be identified in some way with God the Son (q.v.). He was meek and mild and preached a simple religion of love and pacifism. He had no sense of humor. Anything in the Bible that suggest another side to his character must be an interpolation, or a paradox invented by G.K. Chesterton. If we try to live like him, God the Father will let us off being damned hereafter and only have us tortured in this life instead.
Q.: What is meant by the atonement?
A.: God wanted to damn everybody, but his vindictive sadism was sated by the crucifixion of his own Son, who was quite innocent, and therefore, a particularly attractive victim. He now only damns people who don’t follow Christ or who never heard of him.
Q.: What does the church think of sex?
A.: God made it necessary to the machinery of the world, and tolerates it, provided the parties (a) are married, and (b) get no pleasure out of it.
Q.: What does the Church call sin?
A.: Sex (otherwise than as excepted above); getting drunk; saying “damn”; murder; and cruelty to dumb animals; not going to church; most kinds of amusement. “Original sin” means that anything we enjoy doing is wrong.
Q.: What is faith?
A.: Resolutely shutting your eyes to scientific fact.
Q.: What is the human intellect?
A.: A barrier to faith.
Q.: What are seven Christian virtues?
A.: Respectability; childishness; mental timidity; dullness; sentimentality; censoriousness; and depression of spirits.
Q.: Wilt thou be baptized in this faith?
A.: No fear!

I cannot help feeling that as a statement of Christian orthodoxy, these replies are inadequate, if not misleading. But I also cannot help feeling that they do fairly accurately represent what many people take Christian orthodoxy to be. Whenever an average Christian is represented in a novel or a play, he is pretty sure to be shown practicing one or all of the Seven Deadly Virtues just enumerated, and I am afraid that this is the impression made by the average Christian upon the world at large.

Perhaps we are not following Christ all the way or in quite the right spirit. We are likely, for example, to be a little sparing of the palms and hosannas. We are chary of wielding the scourge of small cords, lest we should offend somebody or interfere with trade. We do not furnish up our wits to disentangle knotty questions about Sunday observance and tribute money, nor hasten to sit at the feet of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. We pass hastily over disquieting jests about making friends with the mammon of unrighteousness and alarming observations about bringing not peace but a sword; nor do we distinguish ourselves by the graciousness with which we sit at meat with publicans and sinners. Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore – and this in the name of one who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which he passed through the world like a flame.

Let us, in heaven’s name, drag out the divine drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much worse for the pious – others will pass into the kingdom of heaven before them. If all men are offended because of Christ, let them be offended; but where is the sense of their being offended at something that is not Christ and is nothing like him? We do him singularly little honor by watering down his personality till it could not offend a fly. Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but adapt men to Christ.

It is the dogma that is the drama – not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to lovingkindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death – but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.

published with write.as


Ecclesiasticus 38:24-34

The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise.
How can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough, and that glorieth in the goad, that driveth oxen, and is occupied in their labours, and whose talk is of bullocks?
He giveth his mind to make furrows; and is diligent to give the kine fodder.
So every carpenter and workmaster, that laboureth night and day: and they that cut and grave seals, and are diligent to make great variety, and give themselves to counterfeit imagery, and watch to finish a work:
The smith also sitting by the anvil, and considering the iron work, the vapour of the fire wasteth his flesh, and he fighteth with the heat of the furnace: the noise of the hammer and the anvil is ever in his ears, and his eyes look still upon the pattern of the thing that he maketh; he setteth his mind to finish his work, and watcheth to polish it perfectly:
So doth the potter sitting at his work, and turning the wheel about with his feet, who is alway carefully set at his work, and maketh all his work by number;
He fashioneth the clay with his arm, and boweth down his strength before his feet; he applieth himself to lead it over; and he is diligent to make clean the furnace:
All these trust to their hands: and every one is wise in his work.
Without these cannot a city be inhabited: and they shall not dwell where they will, nor go up and down:
They shall not be sought for in publick counsel, nor sit high in the congregation: they shall not sit on the judges’ seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment: they cannot declare justice and judgment; and they shall not be found where parables are spoken.
But they will maintain the state of the world, and [all] their desire is in the work of their craft.

Gospel Sonnets Chapter V Section 3

By Ralph Erskine

The hurtfulness of not preaching Christ, and distinguishing duly between law and gospel.

Hell cares not how crude holiness be preach'd
If sinners match with Christ never be reach'd;
Knowing their holiness is but a sham,
Who ne'er are marry'd to the holy Lamb.
Let words have never such a pious shew,
And blaze aloft in rude professor's view,
With sacred aromatics richly spic'd,
If they but drown in silence glorious Christ;
Or, if he may some vacant room supply,
Make him a subject only by the by;
They mar true holiness with tickling chat,
To breed a bastard Pharisaic brat.
They wofully the gospel-message broke,
Make fearful havock of the Master's flock;
Yet please themselves and the blind multitude,
By whom the gospel's little understood.
Rude souls perhaps imagine little odds
Between the legal and gospel roads:
But vainly men attempt to blend the two;
They differ more than Christ and Moses do.
Moses, evangelizing in a shade,
By types the new of light approaching spread;
But from the law of works by him procliam'd,
No ray of gospel-grace or mercy gleam'd.
By nature's light the law to all is know,
But lightsome news of gospel-grace to none.
The doing cov'nant now, in part or whole,
Is strong to damn, but weak to save a soul.
It hurts, and cannot help, but as it tends
Through mercy to subserve some gospel-ends.
Law thunder roughly to the gospel tames,
The gospel mildly to the law reclaims.
The firey law, as 'tis a covenant,
Schools men to see the gospel-aid they want;
Then gospel-aid does sweetly them incline
Back to the law as 'tis a rule divine.
Heav'n's healing work is oft commenc'd with wounds,
Terror begins what loving kindness crowns.
Preachers may therefore press the firey law,
To strike the Christless man with dreadful awe.
Law-thrats which for his sins to hell depress,
Yea, damn him for his rotten righteousness;
That, while he views the law exceeding broad,
He fain may wed the righteousness of God.
But ah ! to press law-works as terms of life,
Was ne'er the way to court the Lamb a wife.
To urge conditions in the legal frame,
Is to renew the vain old cov'nant game.
The law is good when lawfully 'tis us'd,
But most destructive when 'tis abus'd.
They set not duties in the proper sphere,
Who duly law and gospel don't severe;
But under massy chains let sinners lie,
As tributaries, or to DO or DIE.
Nor make the law a squaring rule of life,
But in the gospel-throat a bloody knife.