Friday, November 29, 2013

true knowing

In addressing true knowledge, John Piper in Think, speaks to Paul's words in 1 Cor 8.1-3:

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

True Knowing Loves People

So the crucial question is: “What would turn this imagined knowing into true knowing?” In other words, what does  it mean to know as one ought to know? To think as one ought to think? The answer is in the text before and behind.

Before, Paul had said love builds up (v. 1). That implies that any knowledge that does not stand in the service of love is not real knowing. It is prostituted knowing. It’s as though God put surgical tools in our hands and taught us how to save the sick, but we turned them into a clever juggling act while the patients died. Knowing and thinking exist for the sake of love—for the sake of building people up in faith. Thinking that produces pride instead of love is not true thinking. We only imagine that we are thinking. God does not see it as thinking. It’s not surgery; it’s juggling.

True Knowing Loves God

In seeking to understand what verse 2 means by saying we do “not yet know as [we] ought to know,” I said that the answer is in the text before and behind. We just saw it before in verse 1: “Love builds up.”

Now behind (in v. 3): “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Paul virtually equates knowing as we ought to know with loving God. In connection with verse 1, he makes loving people the criterion of true knowing. And in connection with verse 3, he makes loving God the criterion of true knowing.

Now we see the link between this text and the point of chapter 6 on loving God with all our mind. That’s what the mind is for. And here Paul is saying that loving God is what you are doing when you “know as [you] ought to know.” In his view, thinking and knowing are given to us by God for the purpose of loving God and loving people.

Being Known Is Beneath Knowing

But in verse 3 Paul does not simply relate loving God to knowing as we ought to know. He says, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” What is the point of saying, “He is known by God”? This is parallel to Galatians 4:9: “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world?” Deeper than knowing God is being known by God. What defines us as Christians is not most profoundly that we have come to know him but that he took note of us and made  us his own.

Being known by God is another way of talking about election— God’s freely  choosing us for himself, in spite of our not deserving it. It’s the kind of knowing referred to in Amos 3:2: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” God had chosen Israel as his people, though they were no better than any others.

What Paul is doing when he says, “If anyone loves God, he is known by God,” is reminding the proud Corinthians that loving God, not loveless knowledge, is the sign of being among the elect.2 He is reminding them that everything they have is owing to God’s free and sovereign initiative. It’s the same as what he had said earlier: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). The point of verse 3 is that “if a man loves God, this is a sign that God has taken the initiative.”

from, through, and to

John Piper in Think:

Colossians 1:15–17: [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

So we learn that Christ made all things and holds all things together “for himself.” “All things were created through him and for him.” “For him” does not mean that Christ had deficiencies that he had to create the world to supply. It means that his complete self-sufficiency overflowed in the creation of the world so that the world would display the greatness of Christ.

... All things not only belong to Christ, but all things display Christ. Human beings exist to magnify his worth in the world. Our worth consists of our capacity to consciously make much of his worth. [Our goal] cannot be expressed with man as the end point. Christ is the end point. All things are “from him and through him and to him” (Rom. 11:36). “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Ps. 115:1).

... Jonathan Edwards not only sums up the ultimate purpose of God to glorify himself in creation but also shows how God accomplishes that self-exaltation in such a way that it becomes love and not megalomania. Here is how Edwards says it, and with this he opens the door for [us] to be unshakably joyful and radically God-exalting in the very same act: 

God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: 1. By appearing to . . . their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself. . . . God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. . . . He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.

intellectual insurrection

John Piper in Think:

We love God more fully when we see his glory more fully. That glory is revealed supremely in Jesus Christ and the history of redemption recorded in the Bible. But his glory is also revealed in all that he has made (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:19–21). And that revelation through nature includes the revelation of Jesus Christ, because “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” ( John 1:3). That was spoken of the Son of God, who in the fullness of time “became flesh and dwelt among us” ( John 1:14).

The  apostle Paul worshiped Christ for the same reason: “All things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). All the natural world was created through and for Jesus. This is a spectacular statement. Every scholar who devotes himself to observing the world should think long and hard about the words “All things were created . . . for Christ.” Surely, the least we can say is that this means all thinking—all scholarship—of every kind exists ultimately to discover and display the glory of God, that is, the glory of Jesus Christ, in his Word and in his world. Let every reference to God in the rest of this chapter be heard as a reference to all the persons of the Trinity.

Therefore, the task of all Christian scholarship—not just biblical studies—is to study reality as a manifestation of God’s glory, to speak and write about it with accuracy, and to savor the beauty of God in it, and to make it serve the good of man. It is an abdication of scholarship when Christians do academic work with little reference to God. If all the universe and everything in it exist by the design of an infinite, personal God, to make his manifold glory known and loved, then to treat any subject without reference to God’s glory is not scholarship but insurrection.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

joy in strange fire

Once again the words of John Piper help me set my mind right. In his book Think, he reminds us that Jesus only rejoiced two times in the Gospels (Jn 11.14-15; Lk 10.21). In John He rejoice in that by not being there to save Lazarus's life, the faith of the disciples would be strengthened. In Luke it was in hiding and revealing. What was hidden from some and revealed to others? It was the gospel of the Kingdom. Interestingly it was hidden in spite of the mighty works done by the seventy sent out to preach. None were Apostles or authors of Scripture. And yet they performed signs and wonders understood only to those that Jesus chose to reveal it to.

So it is in that context that I also rejoice. Jesus is somehow pleased to not reveal the Gospel of the Kingdom to John MacArthur and company while He does so to others.

Piper continues:
Now we are in a position to answer the question, Why does God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit1) rejoice in hiding himself from “the wise and understanding” and revealing himself to “little children”? To see the answer most fully, we need to realize that God’s joy is ultimately in the display of his own glory—especially the glory of his grace.2 In Isaiah 2:17, the prophet says, “The haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” God’s goal in the history of redemption is to humble the suicidal pride of man and exalt the glory of his grace in the Christ-exalting worship of his people. Therefore, he takes pleasure in everything that contributes to this. 
Therefore, God delights in revealing himself to “little children” because this highlights God’s all-sufficiency rather than man’s. The “little children” despair of self-sufficiency and look away from their helplessness and sinfulness to the grace of God in Christ. Therefore the motive of God to reveal himself to such ones is that it displays more clearly the beauty and worth of his grace. The heart of these “little children” magnifies the grace of God, while the heart of “the wise and understanding” magnifies man’s selfdetermination and self-sufficiency. Therefore God’s joy in displaying the glory of his grace is the reason he rejoices in revealing that glory to “little children.” 
On the other hand, he hides it from “the wise and understanding” because if they came to know God without becoming “little children,” the glory of God’s grace and the power of the cross of Christ would be obscured. It would not be plain that the “wise ones” were utterly dependent on God for their wisdom and their salvation. They would boast that by their own wisdom and resourcefulness they found God. To such ones Jesus says, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).
And here I am humbled having not realized the Gospel of the Kingdom through any means of my own, but solely by the grace of God.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

image of god

Ravi Zacharias on the image of God:

This first thing I want to remind you of this, is that we are told according to the Scriptures, prior to the resurrection story, that God is the author of human essence. God is the author, in the essential nature of our humanity. We didn’t come into being by accident. We just didn’t suddenly appear unconcieved or without any purpose in mind, but that God Himself is the designer and brought us into existence.

The Psalmist says, ‘When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the sun and moon and the stars which you have made. What is there in man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you visit him?’ (Ps. 8:3-4) This fact of our creation is a vital source in enabling us to understand what it means to be human. It’s a vital source, giving us the generality of our essence, created in the image of God.

Some of you have probably heard me mention the simple conversation between Jesus and the one who was questioning him, trying to pit him against Caesar. And he looked at Jesus and he said, ‘Is it alright to pay taxes to Caesar?’ (Mark 12:14-17) The one question I wish so desperately Jesus had answered differently—then on April 15 you could be godly and rebellious at the same time. Jesus, so brilliant in his response, he says, ‘Give me a coin.’ And he took the coin and he says, ‘Whose image do you see on this?’ The man says, ‘Caesar.’ Jesus says, ‘Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and give to God that which is God’s.’ The disingenuousness of the questioner is noticed in the fact that he did not come back with a second question. He should have said, ‘What belongs to God?’ And Jesus would have said, ‘Whose image is on you?’

Give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar; give to God that which belongs to God. God’s image is on you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

stott on prophecy

Thanks to Adrian Warnock for pointing to the following by John Stott (a cessationist) on spiritual gifts [emphasis mine]:

If God’s gospel is the first measure by which we should evaluate ourselves, the second is God’s gifts. In order to enforce this, Paul draws an analogy between the human body and the Christian community. As one body, each member belongs to all the others. That is, we are dependent on one another, and the one-anotherness of the Christian fellowship is enhanced by the diversity of our gifts. This metaphor of the human body, which Paul develops in different ways in different letters, enables him here to hold together the unity of the church, the plurality of the members and the variety of their gifts. The recognition that God is the giver of the gifts is indispensable if we are to form a sober estimate of ourselves.

Serve Through Giftedness: Romans 12:6-8.

[6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; [7] if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; [8] the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. [ESV]

[6-8] We have different gifts, Paul continues, according to the grace given to us. Just as God’s grace had made Paul an apostle [3], so His grace bestows different gifts on other members of Christ’s body. Paul proceeds to give his readers a sample of seven gifts, which he urges them to exercise conscientiously for the common good. He divides them into two categories, which might be called speaking gifts (prophesying, teaching and encouraging) and service gifts (serving, contribution, leading and showing mercy). The first gift Paul mentions here is prophecy, that is, speaking under divine inspiration. In Ephesians 2:20 apostles and prophets are bracketed as the foundation on which the church is built. In this Ephesians’ verse prophets are likely to be the biblical prophets, including those New Testament authors who were prophets as well as apostles, such as Paul and John. In two other lists of gifts [1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11], however, prophets are placed in a secondary position to the apostles, suggesting that there was a lesser prophetic gift, subsidiary to that of the biblical prophets. Words spoken by such prophets were to be weighed and tested [1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:19ff; 1 John 4:1], whereas the apostles were to be believed and obeyed, and no sifting process was deemed appropriate or necessary in their case. Another difference seems to have been that prophets spoke to a local situation, whereas the authority of the apostles was universal. The point of distinction was that the inspiration of the apostles was abiding, whereas the inspiration of the prophets was occasional and transient. It is in the light of these differences that we should understand the regulation which Paul here places on the exercise of the prophetic gift: in proportion to our faith. Some think that this is a subjective restriction, namely that the prophet should speak only so long as he is sure of his inspiration; he must not add any words of his own. But it is more likely to be an objective restriction. In this case we should note that faith has the definite article in the Greek, and we should translate the phrase ‘in agreement with the faith’. That is, the prophet is to make sure that his message does not in any way contradict the Christian faith. The remaining six gifts are more ordinary. Serving is the generic word for a wide variety of ministries. So whatever ministry gift people have been given, they should concentrate on using it. Similarly, teachers should cultivate their teaching gift and develop their teaching ministry. This is arguably the most urgently needed gift in the worldwide church today, as hundreds of thousands of converts are pressing into the churches, but there are few teachers to nurture them in the faith. Four more gifts are included in verse 8. The word translated exhorts is a verb with a wide spectrum of meanings, ranging from encouraging and exhorting to comforting, conciliating or consoling. This gift may be exercised from a pulpit or platform, or through writing, but more often it is used behind the scenes in encouraging someone, or in offering friendship to the lonely and giving fresh courage to those who have lost heart. Next, personal giving is to be done in generosity or without grudging, with sincerity, without ulterior motives. To show mercy is to care for anybody who is in need or in distress. Moreover, mercy is not to be shown reluctantly or patronizingly, but cheerfully.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

wilson and warnock on macarthur

This is very worth listening to. The sad tragedy of John MacArthur and TeamPyro is clear. Doug Wilson does an excellent job although I disagree with his thinking. While his arguments are great, I think he argued against the wrong points.


William Temple Fellowship with God:

The act of God which He wrought at the Incarnation did not end with the Ascension; the Coming of the Spirit in the fulness of His power was and is an integral part of it. If you sever Jesus of Nazareth from the Church and His work through His Spirit in the Church, you make the claim that He is divine a fabulous myth and the doctrine of Atonement both immoral and grotesque.

The Gospel can only be the means of reconciling and uniting us to God the Father, if the Son is God and the Holy Ghost is God. Omit any part of the Christian conception of God, and the rest at once becomes irrational and futile. The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity is not a piece of mystery-mongering for the creation of awe in bewildered minds; it is the brief summary statement of Christian people’s experience of God.

more faith

Glenn Davis posts:

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Heb 11:1 NLT

Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing Christ’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning. Faith is the firm, solid confidence that God will be steadfast to his promises and true to his Word. Faith holds God’s Word as an absolute conviction in our hearts even though we cannot physically see God or his promises. Faith is not blind nor is it a leap into the dark nor a wish upon a star. Faith is believing what God has said and basing your entire life upon it.

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive our sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on our lives, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over us.
True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation. The Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 21

Saturday, November 23, 2013

divinity of christ

A.T. Robertson in The Divinity of Christ:

Faith in Jesus is faith in God who sent Him. Seeing Jesus is seeing God. His mission is to bring light to set men free from darkness. Obedience to Christ is the way to escape judgement. Rejection of Christ is rejection of God. He has the Father’s commandment which brings life eternal. All of these things Jesus had spoken at other times and they occur here and there in the Gospel of John before this period. Now Jesus summed the case up between Him and the world which was rejecting Him. There is no escape from the issue of Jesus. He confronts every man in all the world through all the ages. He challenges every man today. What think you of Jesus the Christ? What will you do with Jesus the Savior? What shall Jesus the Judge do with you?

Friday, November 22, 2013


George Ladd in The Presence of the Future:

The mystery of the Kingdom is the coming of the Kingdom into history in advance of its apocalyptic manifestation. It is, in short, ‘fulfillment without consummation.’

3 ways to be a spiritual leader

Diane Comer posted He's Not Your Prince Charming: What Women Really Want #1. While written for men to understand how to be a spiritual leader to their wife, I think it applies to all in the Kingdom.

Three Ways To Be A Spiritual Leader:

1. Initiate

What your women are hoping for more than anything else, is so simple it’s almost laughable. They want you to understand their need to be led. Not dominated. Not preached at. Just gently and consistently led back to centering their hearts on Jesus. They’ve grown weary from feeling like they’re always the ones to lead the way back to God.

They want you to say:

“Let’s go to church tomorrow…”

“This morning I was reading in my Bible…”

“That message really spoke to me about…”

To a woman, that is spiritual leadership. When you take the initiative, when you make the suggestion, when you say it first… something inside of her falls more deeply in love with you. A woman admires a man who alerts her to focus on God. Respect grows, not because you’re perfect, but because you recognize who is and you love her enough to point her back to Jesus.

2. Remind

Your women are smart. They know better than to think you can meet their every need and want and expectation. They know what you sense- that they’re needy, achingly so. It is the plague of every woman. And your women know that only Jesus can fill that emptiness.

Still, we forget… every day we forget.

And that’s when a woman becomes crabby or whiny or short-tempered or demanding.

What a woman really needs from you is simply a reminder. Bring the conversation back to Jesus. Remind her that He is taking care of her. Point out His faithfulness in her past. That He will not fail her now. That He loves her more than she can possibly know.

If you do this, and you’re nice about it, you will see immediate relief. She’ll sigh. Her shoulders will relax. She’ll nod her head and look up to you and be filled with gratitude. Because she knows… and agrees… and forgot. Again.

3. Pray

This is the big one. The hard one. Yet the one thing every woman will recognize as the ultimate spiritual leadership. You don’t have to pray long. You don’t have to pray first thing every morning or last thing every night. All you really need to do is grab her hand when she’s worried or frightened or feeling something she shouldn’t. Just hold her close and bring her to the Father. Out loud. By doing that you are showing your wife or girlfriend that you love her enough to bring her to the One who can fix everything. Yes, you are strong, yes you can solve most things… but by leading her into the presence of the One who is fully in charge, she sees you as the ultimate loving leader. Her relief and peace of heart will be palpable.

That, my dear sons, is what spiritual leadership looks like.

You don’t have to be eloquent or perfect. No theology degree required. All you need is an awareness of Jesus and the boldness to bring the woman you love to Him.

So simple. So very hard to actually do.

But I guarantee you this- if you will do these three things:

If you will initiate and remind and pray with her… she will respond.

She can’t help it. A woman’s feelings of love and attraction are so tied to her feelings of respect that she cannot separate the two. And nothing elicits the respect of a Jesus-following woman like a man who is bold enough to grab her hand and say, with Paul,

“Follow me, as I follow Christ.” (1Cor 11:1)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

days left

Yesterday was the 52nd anniversary of my emergence from the womb. Each year I number my days (Psa 90.10) so that I might have wisdom (Psa 90.12). As of 20 November 2013, I have lived 18993 days. If I live until 70, I have only 6574 left. If I am very fortunate, I will live 10227 more days. Statistics however predict 8035.

i'm there

Ray Ortlund posts:

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20

There am I, not only I will be there, but I am there; as if he came first, is ready before them, they shall find him there.”

Matthew Henry, Commentary (McLean, n.d.), V:262. Italics original.

The Lord isn’t saying, “If you show up, so will I.” He is saying, “If you gather to be with me, I’m already there, waiting for you, ready and eager to be with you. I will so not withhold myself from my seeking friends.”

glory of the cross

Charles Spurgeon “Jehovah-Jireh” in Human Depravity and Divine Mercy: Sermons on Genesis:

We want the fact of substitution to strike us, and then the cross will grow sublimely great. In vision I behold it! Its two arms are extended right and left till they touch the east and west and overshadow all races of men; the foot of it descends lower than the grave, till it goes down even to the gates of hell; while upward the cross mounts with a halo round about it of unutterable glory, till it rises above the stars, and sheds its light upon the throne of the Most High.

Atonement is a divine business; its sacrifice is infinite, even as the God who conceived it. Glory be to his name for ever! It is all that I can say. It was nothing less than a stretch of divine love for Jesus to give himself for our sins. It was gracious for the Infinite to conceive of such a thing; but for him to carry it out was glorious beyond all. 

who is edified

Sam Storms analyzes what Paul says about tongues:

Look closely at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:3-5.

“On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (1 Corinthians 14:3-5).

Some argue that Paul was being sarcastic in verse 4, intending to censure or rebuke as selfish anyone who desires to be edified by the use of this gift. But the edifying of oneself is not a bad thing. It simply isn’t the primary point of the kind of public meeting Paul had in view. We study the Bible to edify ourselves. We pray to edify ourselves. We listen to sermons to edify ourselves. Countless Christian activities are an effective means of self-edification. I hope that your motivation in reading this article is to edify yourself by increasing your biblical understanding of spiritual gifts! If there are any lingering doubts, Jude 20 commands us to edify ourselves by praying in the Spirit!

Every gift of the Spirit in some way or degree, either directly or indirectly, edifies its user. This is not evil unless self-edification becomes an end in itself. If your spiritual gift serves to increase your maturity, heighten your sensitivity, expand your understanding, and intensify your zeal, all the better for the body of Christ! In this way self-edification is simply an intermediate step to the growth of others in the church. Why would anyone object to that? I’m sure Paul wouldn’t.

Also, if self-edification from tongues-speech were wrong, Paul would not have encouraged its use in verse 5a. And uninterpreted tongues were what Paul had in mind, for he contrasted them with prophecy, insisting that the latter is better suited to edify others (unless, of course, the tongues-speech is interpreted, v. 5b).

Some may wonder how mysteries that are not understood even by the speaker can edify. The answer, at least in part, lies in verses 14-15. There Paul says

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15).

As Gordon Fee points out,
“Contrary to the opinion of many, spiritual edification can take place in ways other than through the cortex of the brain. Paul believed in an immediate communing with God by means of the S/spirit that sometimes bypassed the mind; and in verses 14-15 he argues that for his own edification he will have both. But in church he will have only what can also communicate to other believers through their minds” (Commentary on First Corinthians, 657).
My hope is that cessationists will, therefore, cease appealing to the spurious argument that self-edification is sinful or selfish. As noted earlier, if it is, they should repent for ever having read this article (or any other!) in the first place.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

a thousand witnesses

John Calvin on securing salvation:

Some of our adversaries have preposterously asked, How can men be certain of their salvation if it lies in the secret counsel of God? I have replied in these statements, which are the truth. Since the certainty of salvation is “set forth” unto us in Christ, it is useless, and not without dishonour to Christ Himself, to pass over this fountain of life, which is thrown open that men may draw out of it, and to labour and toil in vain to draw the water of eternal life out of the hidden abysses of the mind and counsel of God! Paul testifies, indeed, that we were “chosen before the foundation of the world,” but it was “in Christ.”

Let no one, then, seek confidence in his own election of God anywhere else than “in Christ,” unless, indeed, he would blot out, and do away with, the “book of life” in which his name is written. God’s adoption of us “in Christ” is for no other end than that we should be considered His children…

Hence Christ, when dwelling on the eternal election of His own in the counsel of the Father, points out, at the same time, the ground on which their confidence may safely rest; where He says, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word” (John xvii. 6). We see here that God begins with Himself, when He condescends to choose us and give us to Christ. But He will have us begin with Christ, if we would know that we are numbered among His “peculiar people”…

If your doctrine and argument be true, says Pighius, that all the elect are thus secure in the hand of Christ “unto the end,” the condition of salvation on which Christ Himself lays down is proposed in vain, where He says, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. x. 22). Here, everyone must confess, that my opponent prevaricates. He had undertaken to prove that our confidence of our salvation could not consistently stand with our election of God. But now, his reasoning draws us away from that point, and leads us to prove that the former necessarily stands on the latter.

I thus find myself so perpetually tossed to and fro by the billows of this man’s violent attacks, that scarcely a moment passes in which I am not in danger of being drowned. But, as God ever upholds His elect to prevent them from sinking, I feel quite confident that I shall stand against all my adversary’s incessant storms. When Pighius asks me how I know that I am elected, my answer is, “Christ is, to me, more than a thousand witnesses.” For when I find myself engrafted into His body, my salvation rests in a place so safe, secure and tranquil, that it is as if I already realised it in heaven. (Calvin’s Calvinism, 132-133, 137)

macarthur fail

Another voice of reason speaks out on the John MacArthur error. The following is from the every clever Brendt Waters.

The following article will be published in pieces. Upon its completion, this disclaimer will be removed.

Sometimes, a good indicator that you’re on the right track can be found in the weak arguments of your detractors. That is not to say that one should ascribe to a point of view simply because the opposite view is presented poorly – if that were true, then every lousy sermon ever preached would be an indication that we should all abandon Christianity. To follow such an idea would be logically fallacious.

And speaking of “logically fallacious” …

In the aftermath of the Strange Fire conference, blogger Tim Challies presented to his readers the opportunity to ask questions directly to John MacArthur about the conference and the ideas around which it revolved. This was a welcome occurrence to me, as many of the objections made to MacArthur’s ideas received responses from his supporters who assured us (or sometimes derisively stated) that “that’s not what he meant.”

Even when it came time for the conference, important clarifications of MacArthur’s promotional statements – the alleged misunderstanding of which had been festering for months – were not given by MacArthur, but were relegated to the second day of the conference and addressed by one of his subordinates. The faux omniscience of the supporters was tiresome and the conference relegation of the issue was troubling, so I was glad that we were finally going to get our information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” if you will.

Let’s Get Contentious Right Out of the Gate

Challies passed along a subset of the reader questions to MacArthur, and a few days later posted responses to the first batch of questions. One thing jumped out at me immediately: the title (“John MacArthur Answers His Critics”) frames the exchange as being contentious; as though any question posed about the topic – even a position-neutral question like a request for elaboration on the Scriptural grounds of cessationism – is asked with a jaundiced eye and ulterior motive. Such a martyr’s complex – viewing any question as an attack – often indicates a lack of surety of one’s position. Now, the reader might be able to chalk this up as just a poor word choice on Challies’ part; except that MacArthur engages in the same unfortunate view in his very first response to what was a common question:
Challies: Why did you choose not to invite one of the best of the reformed continuationists to speak at your event and to defend his position? Wouldn’t that have strengthened the cessationist arguments while also showing an earnest desire for unity? 
MacArthur: Our decision not to host a debate at the Strange Fire Conference was intentional.
Did you catch that? Challies said nothing about a “debate”, and yet that’s the idea to which MacArthur went directly. Ostensibly, in MacArthur’s view, any alternative viewpoint (on what he later agrees – sort of – is a “secondary issue”) could only be presented in the form of debate.

Gifts, Schmifts – This Is Just Plain Wrong

And therein lies the second thing that jumped out at me: a response displaying the weaknesses of MacArthur’s statements need not rely on any particular pneumatological beliefs, but can simply be based on the logical fallacies with which MacArthur’s responses are rife. And this is the angle from which I wish to approach the remainder of this article.

It is of little value at this point to give an argument for my position. But the arguments for the opposite position are so “full of fail,” that they can be noted from a neutral position. Again, MacArthur’s logical fallacies are not – in and of themselves – reason to abandon cessationism and embrace continuationism. But when a person is regarded (by his own supporters) as a poster child for a cause, or takes it upon himself to “sound a trumpet blast” about an issue, he would do well to be sure that his arguments are sound. Otherwise, it becomes tempting for those on the other side to ask, “This is the best you’ve got?”

Most of my observations will contain some level of spiritual content – this isn’t a cold logical analysis – and some issues may not be logical fallacies in the traditional sense of the word, but (as I said before) none need rely on any particular view about the Holy Spirit and his work.

God’s A Big Boy

In further defining the purpose behind the conference, MacArthur states:
Because the honor of the Holy Spirit is at stake, we were convinced that we could not remain silent.
Take a minute to bask in the narcissism of such a statement. God needs us to defend his honor? Really? Acts 17:25 tells us (emphasis mine):
Nor is [God] worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
I keep getting the image of John MacArthur as Dudley Do-Right, saving the helpless Holy Spirit’s Nell Fenwick from the clutches of Snidely Whiplash (to be honest, I’m not sure who plays Whiplash’s role as MacArthur cast so many for it). I’m not sure which is more offensive: MacArthur exalting himself to be God’s defender or his demeaning of the Holy Spirit to someone who “needs anything” – a more interesting viewpoint for someone of a Reformed faith (which prizes God’s sovereignty).

Recently in church, we were studying the passages about Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane. Regarding when Peter cut off Malchus’ ear (Luke 22:50-51), our pastor took the idea on a metaphorical turn and noted:
Sometimes when we try to defend the truth, we cut off people’s ears. Fortunately, though, Jesus can still heal them.
There were a lot of ears lying around Sun Valley last month. I pray Jesus heals them.

Tweet Much?

Back on his false conflation of opposing views being expressed as solely in the form of debate, MacArthur says:
Debates are rarely effective in truly helping people think carefully through the issues, since they can easily be reduced to sound bites and talking points.
Given the fact that the social media director for Grace To You posted 50 “sound bites and talking points” from the conference onto the conference’s Twitter page, such a statement seems mildly disingenuous.

Truth – As Defined by Me

MacArthur goes on to state:
By contrast, a clear understanding of biblical truth comes from a faithful study of the Scriptures.
I can only assume that this means that a presentation of another viewpoint would muddy people’s “understanding of biblical truth.”

In the words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

Not in My Backyard

Can you believe we are still on MacArthur’s first response? He goes on:
I also expect continuationists to respond in writing to the things I have written in the book. I welcome that kind of interchange. It allows people to think carefully, over a prolonged period of time, about the arguments on both sides of the issue. It has always been through the written word that theological disputes like this have been grappled with in church history. That requires the kind of devotion and effort that brings serious discussion to the fore. I have taken those pains in [the book], and would hope that others would interact on that same level.
First, I would respond, “hence this article.”

But this is still very disturbing. He “welcome[s] that kind of interchange,” but only on certain terms. And apparently, those terms do not include at his conference. Men who he “appreciates”, for whom he is “truly grateful”, who have made “extensive contributions … to the truth and life of the church” were not welcome to give their viewpoint at the conference.

Now, it is perfectly understandable, if one is hosting a conference that is solely in the defense of cessationism, that no continuationists would be invited to speak. But this conference was not heralded as a defense of cessationism – the subtitle of the conference was (emphasis mine) “Truth Matters.” Further, variations on the word “truth” and related concepts were repeatedly stated at the conference. The conclusion is obvious – a secondary issue has been elevated to the status of absolute truth.

Use ‘em When It’s Convenient

Challies asks (finally, we’re on to the second question):
There are some matters the Bible makes absolutely clear (e.g. You must trust in Christ alone for your salvation) and some things that continue to perplex us so that even genuine, Bible-loving Christians can disagree on them (e.g. baptism and the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit). Why does God allow questions like these to remain unclear to us? Why are you taking such a strong stand on what is really just a secondary issue?
MacArthur begins by quoting an article that Thabiti Anyabwile wrote during the conference. MacArthur quotes pieces from the article and then affirms them all:
First, we have to admit that there’s a correct and an incorrect position on this issue. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong. … Second, we have to admit that how we view this issue substantially impacts the nature of the Christian life. It matters. It’s not an inconsequential idea. Someone worships God appropriately, someone doesn’t. … Third, we have to admit that this issue practically impacts Christian worship and fellowship. It’s not only a private matter, but a corporate one as well.
Now, whether one agrees with those ideas or not (and I largely don’t – more on that in a bit), I find it very interesting that MacArthur conveniently leaves out Anyabwile’s fourth point:
Fourth, we have to admit the Bible does not answer the issue compellingly. Or, better, in our fallen reading of the Bible someone – perhaps everyone – is not understanding and applying what we ought.
Kinda vital to the point, don’tcha think? But it doesn’t fit MacArthur’s rubric (which we’ll see later) and so it is discarded.

We Interrupt This Program

I want to take a moment to look at Anyabwile’s article. He expounds on each of the points that MacArthur quoted, and I wish to address them. Obviously, I can’t say with absolute certainty that MacArthur agrees with the full text, but I don’t really see why he wouldn’t. For the sake of clarity, I will underline the portions that MacArthur quoted.
First, we have to admit that there’s a correct and an incorrect position on this issue. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong. The outcomes are non-correspondent. The thing can’t be “A” and “not A” at the same time in the same way. Those who are wrong are teaching error. … 
Second, we have to admit that how we view this issue substantially impacts the nature of the Christian life. It matters. It’s not an inconsequential idea. Someone worships God appropriately, someone doesn’t. Someone walks with God in a way that pleases Him, someone doesn’t.
Both of these points fly in the face of Romans 14:1-13, in which Paul states that the non-essentials don’t matter in the long run. When he asks (in verse 10):
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?
One can almost hear a subtext of “What are you – stupid or something?” Paul also states that if we try to push our beliefs about such issues on others, then we are wrong. If this is truly a secondary issue, it is not binary (as Anyabwile suggests).

It’s also over-elevating of the human capacity for understanding to imply that all secondary issues can be sufficiently grasped. Regarding disagreements that I have with my friend, Chris, over the non-essentials, I once wrote:

If I had to bet, I’d say that when we get to heaven … one of four things is going to happen:
  1. We’ll find out that I was wrong.
  2. We’ll find out that Chris was wrong.
  3. We’ll find out that we both were wrong.
  4. We’ll find out that we both were right, but our finite brains couldn’t grasp the paradox.
Anyabwile goes on:
Third, we have to admit that this issue practically impacts Christian worship and fellowship. It’s not only a private matter, but a corporate one as well. If we want to apply what we think the Bible teaches regarding gifts, it’s going to have a material impact on who we can actually worship with. It’s like baptism. We will either limit it to professing believers or we will include covenant children. But we can’t do both. Our decision about practicing or not practicing some secondary-but-important issues affects who can belong to our churches and what we’ll do when we gather. We may continue personal friendships (and we should), but we’ll find it difficult to continue corporate fellowship.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 15 years more than anything else, it’s that “worship” and “fellowship” aren’t restricted to 90 minutes on Sunday mornings. Now Anyabwile does use the word “corporate,” but he uses it sloppily. If by “corporate,” he means that which occurs on Sunday mornings, then he presents a false dichotomy by implying that my personal beliefs (“private”) and the beliefs of my local ecclesia (“corporate”) are the sum total of my existence. But if, on the other hand, he uses “corporate” to mean “anything not private,” then he is implying that neither worship nor fellowship occurred at the Strange Fire conference as both a paedobaptist (R. C. Sproul) and a credobaptist (John MacArthur) spoke at the same conference.

We Now Return You …

Having ripped into Anyabwile’s article, I must say that I agree with his final point, which I’ll now quote in fuller length:
Fourth, we have to admit the Bible does not answer the issue compellingly. Or, better, in our fallen reading of the Bible someone – perhaps everyone – is not understanding and applying what we ought. From what I can tell, everyone in this discussion believes the Bible is sufficient for matters of doctrine and devotion. I see people of varying perspectives affirming that. But if the Bible were as clear to everyone as we’d like, we wouldn’t be having the conversation. So, it seems we’ve got to interrogate ourselves about (a) whether we’re reading the Bible with a squint, such that things that ought to be seen lose focus, and/or (b) whether the Bible really intends to tell us all the things we desire on this topic.
This epistemic humility seems to contradict Anyabwile’s first point, but I quote it more so to show how very much it stands in opposition to what MacArthur states:
I don’t think, however, that this issue is unclear in Scripture.
The disagreement with Anyabwile is clear on that statement.

MacArthur goes on:
The fact that Christians disagree on what the Bible teaches does not mean that there is a lack of clarity in Scripture, but rather in Christians.
This is another false dichotomy. It assumes that Christian disagreement over a Bible passage is automatically a problem and seeks to assign blame. This stands in strong contrast to Anyabwile’s statement that maybe the Bible doesn’t “[intend] to tell us all the things we desire on this topic” (emphasis mine).

MacArthur goes on:
The Word of God is our authoritative rule for faith and practice—meaning that it is perfectly sufficient for teaching sound doctrine and governing right living.
Now, in and of itself, I have no problem with this statement. However, the oft-misinterpreted passage (2 Timothy 3:16-17) implies that Scripture is sufficient. But it doesn’t imply that it is sufficiently clear (to our human standards). While I’m not sure that the implication is in MacArthur’s statement, it has become abundantly clear that many of his followers believe that if one does not believe in cessationism, then one does not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. This is, at best, a tiresome canard.

– to be continued (pun very much intended) –

agree with husband?

Interesting post by Doug Wilson on when a woman should not agree with her husband.

The apostle Peter was pretty clear about our duty to submit to our political rulers.
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
In the first place, we should do what he says. In the second place, we should remember that Peter was no hypocrite, and he is the same man who broke out of jail (Acts 12:7-11), and in a fashion that caused the guards to lose their lives, and who disappeared from the book of Acts a wanted man (Acts 12:17).

This is why we compare Scripture with Scripture — not to catch out inconsistencies in God’s Word, but rather to catch the places where we may have jumped to conclusions about what one passage in isolation might mean.

In this fallen world, no human authority should be absolute. No human authority can be absolute, and to make the attempt to treat it as such is disobedience to God. Because our duty is never to disobey God, this means that we sometimes have the duty of disobedience down here. Now God has established three governments among men — that of the church, the civil magistrate, and the family. Each one of them has genuine authority, and in each case the limits of that authority are established by God. This means that we must disobey sometimes in each one of these areas.

In conservative theological circles, the government where we most commonly overlook this is the government of the family. If we teach the headship of the husband (and we do, without apology), and we also teach the submission of the wife (which we also do, again without apology), it is easiest thing in the world for critics of headship and submission to claim that we are saying that men are somehow absolute, and their rule in the home to be unquestioned.

This is far from the truth, and here is an example, taken from the early chapters of Acts.
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (Acts 5:1-11).
Now what was the sin of Sapphira here? Why did she lose her life? The sin she committed here, in Peter’s words, was the sin of agreeing with her husband. And when she came in to speak with Peter, not knowing her husband was dead, her moral duty at that point was to expose her husband by confessing the sin.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

piper's points

John Piper on the 5 points:

 “I have found … that people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.”

  1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
  2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
  3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
  4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
  5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

In short, here is how he explains each of the points:

  1. Total Depravity: Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us slaves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior.
  2. Unconditional Election: God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace that was given through his Son Jesus before the world began. By this act, God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.
  3. Limited Atonement: The atonement of Christ is sufficient for all humans and effective for those who trust him. It is not limited in its worth or sufficiency to save all who believe. But the full, saving effectiveness of the atonement that Jesus accomplished is limited to those for whom that saving effect was prepared. The availability of the total sufficiency of the atonement is for all people. Whosoever will—whoever believes—will be covered by the blood of Christ. And there is a divine design in the death of Christ to accomplish the promises of the new covenant for the chosen bride of Christ. Thus Christ died for all people, but not for all in the same way.
  4. Irresistible Grace: This means that the resistance that all human beings exert against God every day (Rom. 3:10-12; Acts 7:51) is wonderfully overcome at the proper time by God’s saving grace for undeserving rebels whom he chooses freely to save.
  5. Perseverance of the Saints: We believe that all who are justified will win the fight of faith. They will persevere in faith and will not surrender finally to the enemy of their souls. This perseverance is the promise of the new covenant, obtained by the blood of Christ, and worked in us by God himself, yet not so as to diminish, but only to empower and encourage our vigilance; so that we may say in the end, I have fought the good fight, but it was not I, but the grace of God which was with me (2 Tim. 4:7; 1 Cor. 15:10).


The error continues to flow unabated from the John MacArthur and Co. camp. Today Dan Phillips tries to dress up the evil behind the error but fails miserably. We should however heed the last part off Phillips' words, i.e., "cling to God's Word, we must preach that Word... and so, only, can we avoid stoking (or roasting in) Strange Fire" for this is what I contend is the sad direction MacArthur and company are headed. They have embraced a dead idol and need to return to the God of Glory.

Their arrogance has reached new heights and I'm afraid judgement is not far behind. Here is John MacArthur:
I do believe there are sincere people within the Charismatic Movement who, in spite of the systemic corruption and confusion, have come to under- stand the necessary truths of the gospel. They embrace substitutionary atonement, the true nature of Christ, the trinitarian nature of God, biblical repentance, and the unique authority of the Bible. They recognize that salvation is not about health and wealth, and they genuinely desire to be rescued from sin, spiritual death, and everlasting hell. Yet, they remain confused about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the nature of spiritual giftedness. 
As a result, they are playing with strange fire. By continually exposing themselves to the false teaching and counterfeit spirituality of the Charismatic Movement, they have placed themselves (and anyone under their spiritual care) in eternal jeopardy. For true believers, the Charismatic Movement represents a massive stumbling block to true spiritual growth, ministry, and usefulness. Its errant teachings regarding the Holy Spirit and the Spirit-inspired Scriptures perpetuate immaturity, spiritual weakness, and an unending struggle with sin. A parallel exists between those Christians who are trapped in the modern Charismatic Movement and the true believers who were part of the Corinthian church in the first century.

the gospel in 3 perspectives

An interesting way to process aspects of the Gospel ...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

know you are saved

1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13)

“I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: when we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place.

The gospel, by its very nature, produces assurance. Because the gospel proclaims “Jesus in my place,” my assurance does not depend on how well or how much I have done. It depends on whether or not I rest in his finished work. So the question is not, “Can I remember praying a prayer?” or “Was my conversion experience really emotional?” The important question is, “Are you currently resting on Jesus as the payment for your sin?

A lot of Christians get caught up looking for assurance to a prayer they prayed 2 years, 5 years, or 30 years ago. But John does not say, “I write these things to you who prayed the sinner’s prayer.” He writes to those who believe. The point is not the prayer you prayed, but the present posture you are in.

2. You have a new nature. (vv. 16–18)

If you have been born of God you have been given a new nature. And that comes with new desires. So you do not “keep on sinning,” as John writes, because you have new desires. As an earthy way to think about this, you might imagine some vomit on the ground. None of us would require a list of rules keeping us from eating it. Why? Because we find it disgusting. Now, a dog has a totally different nature, with different desires. A dog would find that vomit as appetizing as we find it disgusting.

This is how God changes us: not by browbeating us with rules, but by giving us a new heart. You no longer love dishonesty and hatefulness and immorality like you used to. You do not avoid them because of threats from God, but because these things start to make you sick.

Of course, this does not mean that you become immediately perfect, or that you no longer struggle with sin. But you stop engaging in sin willfully and defiantly. You cannot love God and love the things that grieve him. You cannot have a mouth that sings praise to Jesus with a life that openly crucifies him. It is not your mouth that best reflects your love for God; it is your life.

And when you do start to go back toward your sin—which we all do!—Jesus protects you and renews you (v. 18). In fact, one of the signs that your salvation is genuine is that even though you fall, you never permanently fall away. God brings you back, again and again. As Proverbs says, “The righteous man falls seven times, and rises again” (Prov 24:16).

Your new nature is not demonstrated by never falling, but by what you do when you fall. Salvation does not means sinless perfection, but it does mean a new direction.

the errors of john macarthur

For decades now John MacArthur and company have taught error but his arrogance, illogic, and divisiveness have reached new heights with his book/conference Strange Fire. Here is Tony Reinke's summary of John Piper's take on the matter:

One month ago, John MacArthur hosted a conference titled “Strange Fire.” The conference opposed the so-called “prosperity gospel” and with it the excesses of “charismania.” But somewhere along the way all things charismatic and continuationist got swept up into the conference conversation, too, igniting a strange online conflagration of its own.

The conversation prompted a variety of questions from listeners of the Ask Pastor Johnpodcast. Before boarding a flight for the Middle East, John Piper agreed to field a few of the questions, particularly:
  • If you’re a continuationist (believing the supernatural gifts of the Spirit continue still today), why doesn’t this show up more often in your ministry?
  • Why do you not seem persuaded enough to advocate that others pursue the gifts of tongues and prophecy today?
  • How do you define contemporary prophecy?
  • Are there charismatic abuses that need to be addressed?
Open, Cautious, or Advocate?

At the conference, Piper was characterized as open to the gifts but not advocating for them or encouraging others to pursue the gifts themselves. This is a misunderstanding, says Piper. “I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, ‘earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, ‘earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ I want Christians today to obey those texts.”

And Piper seeks to obey those texts himself. “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens.”

But has Piper advocated for gifts like prophecy enough over his decades of pastoring and writing? “My effort to prioritize may be imperfect, but my answer is that I try to live up to what I see in the text and advocate for it as I see it in relation to all the other things that I preach on.”

A sampling from his ministry shows Piper’s consistency both in his definition of prophecy and in his encouragement that others pursue the gift (see resources from 1981, 1990, 1991,2004, and 2013).

What Is Prophecy Today?

Piper’s view on prophecy raises another question. If MacArthur believes the gift of prophecy has ceased, what exegetical proofs would Piper argue to the contrary?

Four crucial texts came to Piper’s mind. First, 1 Corinthians 14:29 seems to indicate New Testament prophecy endures in the church age, but not as a prophecy that’s on the same level of authority as Scripture. It’s fundamentally a different type of prophecy.

Second, 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21 makes the same point. This passage indicates that the discernment of prophesy in the local church takes on a different shape. “You are not choosing between people here [false prophet/true prophet], it seems to me, like in 1 John 4:1. Rather, you are choosing between what they say [true prophecy/false prophecy], which you would not do if they spoke with infallible, inerrant Scripture-quality authority.”

“The issue here is that some in the church are despising not the prophets, but the prophecies. Now why would that be? Probably because they are sometimes whacko.Despise is a very strong word. Paul says, ‘don’t despise.’ So somebody in the church at Thessalonica is saying, ‘Look. You told us that prophecy is a gift from God. Frankly, we do not like what we are hearing, because it is stupid. It is weird. They are saying things that are off the wall.’ And so they tend to despise them. And Paul seems to be trying to keep the people from throwing the baby of true prophecies out with the bathwater of weird ones.”

Third, 1 Corinthians 11:4–5 encourages prophecies from women in the church. Said Piper, “I don’t see how women prophesying in the assembly fits with an infallible Scripture-level authority when Paul forbids that kind of authority to be exercised over men by women in the church in 1 Timothy 2:12. So the fact that women are encouraged to do this, and yet women are told not to exercise authority over men, says to me that we have got something going on here besides what is Scripture-level authority.”

The fourth text, 1 Corinthians 13:8–10, is “a pretty clear argument, I think, that the gift of prophecy and tongues will continue until Jesus comes back. And it seems to me that the reason they pass away, it says, is precisely because they are imperfect; they are not Scripture-level authority. Verse nine says we prophesy ek meros (Greek for ‘in part’), just like a little child trying to reason and think and talk. And when he grows up and becomes a man in the age to come, he won’t need that kind of help anymore.”

These few texts don’t settle all the issues, but they do combine to establish a legitimate exegetical basis for an ongoing gift of prophecy, distinguished from Scripture-level authoritative prophecy, a unique channel of prophecy to be discerned and then embraced in the healthy local church.

Charismatic Abuses?

Looking more broadly at the Church today, Piper was eager to address charismatic abuses and excesses (charismania). “But,” he began, “we really need to keep in mind that every charismatic abuse has its mirror image in non-charismatic abuses. Nothing I am going to say is unique to charismatics. In some of these cases, the non-charismatic church is more guilty than the charismatic.”

He addressed four abuses in particular: doctrine, emotion, discernment, and finance.

Doctrine Abuses

“There are many doctrinal abuses in the charismatic church where experience is elevated above doctrine, and doctrine is made minimally important. I think that is a huge defect in many charismatic churches. The fear is this: if you try to study the Bible with a view to assembling a coherent view of doctrine, you are going to quench the Spirit, and you won’t have as much vitality in your heart, because the mind and the heart are at odds with each other. That is a mistake, I think, and it is an abuse of experience to make it the enemy of — or the alternative to — doctrine.”

He shared a firsthand example. “I have been in prophetic meetings with charismatic groups where the Bible was treated like the priming of the pump for phenomena. So what you really want in this room is some fireworks: you want somebody to fall down, or somebody to laugh, or somebody to tremble, or somebody to raise their hands, or somebody to hear a word of extraordinary prophecy like, the man in the red shirt is going to Argentina next week, and nobody could know that, but the prophet. You want all that stuff to happen. And so what do you do with the Bible? You use it like pouring water into a pump. And everybody knows you don’t care about the text, you don’t care about this sermon; you are using the sermon to get us ready for the fireworks at the end. Wherever I saw that happening, I knew we were in trouble. I knew that no matter what kind of fireworks were coming they were going to be skewed and misused because the speaker, the one in charge, was not God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated.”

Emotion Abuses

Second, Piper addressed emotional abuses.

True prophecy is displayed not in emotional madness, but in orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:29). “If you are a true prophet, if you have got the Holy Spirit, if you are real, . . . you can sit down and wait your turn. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience, and kindness, and meekness, and thankfulness, and self-control. So sit down Mr. Prophet and wait your turn.

“And I think there are a lot of people who don’t think that way. They don’t think that biblically informed principles of good behavior can trump the ecstasies of a person who is, say, speaking in tongues or prophesying,” he said. “Application of the Word governs life in the church, not the emotional sway of some strong person in the moment.”

Both these doctrinal and emotional abuses can be flipped around.

“Think of all the doctrinal errors in the history of the Church. Those weren’t charismatics, by and large. Think of all the dying mainline churches today with all their moral and doctrinal aberrations. These aren’t charismatics. And think of the emotional deadness in thousands of non-charismatic evangelical and mainline churches. Those are deadly emotional abuses. And we just need to remember that if we target the charismatic church because of things that are happening there doctrinally and emotionally, let’s remember the mirror images which are equally deadly, that are happening among non-charismatic churches as well.”

To reiterate this second point, Piper said, “There are emotional abuses in the non-charismatic church, namely the absence of emotion, which is probably more deadly than the excesses.”

Discernment Abuses

Another abuse is a failure to differentiate genuine prophecies from hollow ones. This helps explain why Paul says, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21).

“That is very strong language,” commented Piper. “And I think it is because some of those folks were claiming to speak for God, and it resulted in foolishness. They weren’t speaking for God. And it resulted in an emotional pushback in the church. The church said, ‘We don’t want that.’ And Paul was trying to rescue prophecy from a broad brush sweeping it away entirely by saying, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. Discern what is good here and discern what is bad here. Don’t throw it all away. Make distinctions in the various claims to hold it fast.’”

Again, Piper shared from experience. “I have been prophesied over numerous times, and two of them were just whacko. It was so hard in those [early ministry] days to take prophecy seriously. I resonated with the folks who were starting to ‘despise prophecies.’

“A lawyer one time prophesied over me when my wife was pregnant and said: ‘Your fourth child is going to be a girl, and your wife is going to die in childbirth.’ And that lawyer with tears told me that she was sorry she had to tell me that. So I went home and I got down on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, I am trying to do what you said here in 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21. And frankly, I despise what that woman just said.’ It proved out that my fourth child was a son, and I knew as soon as he came out that that prophecy was not true, and so I stopped having any misgivings about my wife’s life. She is still with me now thirty years later. That’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy.”

This failure to discern prophecies within charismatic churches tempts others to simply dismiss all prophecies outright.

Finance Abuses

Finally, there are financial abuses. The key text here is 1 Timothy 6:5. Some false teachers within the charismatic movement “imagine that godliness is a means of gain.”

“So it is possible to have a teaching gift or a healing gift, some kind of a remarkable gift that is so popular you make millions of dollars. And you start feeling entitled to all the lavish clothes, lavish cars, lavish houses, lavish jets, and lavish hotel accommodations, turning godliness into a means of gain, and justifying it by the fact that you are so gifted and so many people are benefiting from what you say. To whom Paul would say: ‘But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (1 Timothy 6:9).

“My alternative is to preach ‘Christian Hedonism’ that says: pursue contentment in God, not in things. ‘But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content’ (1 Timothy 6:6–8).”

But this abuse, too, can be flipped. “We tend to think of charismatics when we think of people abusing finances in this way. All you have to do is listen to the Twittersphere to know that is not the case. There are just as many non-charismatic leaders who are using their status as an effective spiritual leader to make a lot of money, and accumulate a lot of money, and look like they have a lot of money. And I want to say that there are a lot of simple, honest, humble charismatic pastors living on modest salaries who are less guilty than many non-charismatics when it comes to financial abuses.”

Not on a Warpath

On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”