Saturday, 31 December 2011

Do you need God's Wisdom in 2012?

Hopefully your answer to this question is a resounding "Yes!". The Book of James teaches us that there are only two kinds of wisdom and these are 'earthly wisdom' or 'heavenly wisdom' (James 3: 13-18). In order to walk in wisdom we need to live in the light of God's revelation found in the Bible and over the years I have grown to love the Book of Proverbs. In this Bible book we have 31 chapters of heavenly wisdom and almost all topics for life are covered. Do you need wisdom in raising children, your marriage, your vocation? You will find something of great benefit for many areas of your Christian life in the Book of Proverbs.

The Book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, therefore it lends itself well for a chapter to be read each day of January where there are 31 days. There are also 31 days in March, May, July, August, October and December. Now, of course it does not mean that we can only read this book in months with 31 days, but this gives a good way to start 2012. As a family we intend, God willing, to read a chapter of Proverbs after our evening meal, when we have a time of family worship. Why not do the same with your family and begin with this year with a time of family worship after your evening meal and maybe use the Book of Proverbs as a source of wisdom for 2012?

Here are three exhortations from the Book of Proverbs:

My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. Proverbs 3:21-23.

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33.

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Take Some Time out for Devotional Reading over Christmas.

This post is intended to be one of pastoral encouragement. We live in a busy world, at least for those who live in Western nations that are driven by the need for a successful economy. Therefore, it is especially needful to utilise certain times to ensure that we are spiritually recharged. The Christmas holiday period is often a time of spiritual refreshment for myself, a time during which I can can give to extra prayer but also to reading. Reading that is for my own soul, not simply reading that is for the necessity of a specific purpose. I would like to encourage you all, to take time out during this Christmas holiday to feed your own soul with good reading and personal prayer.

Let us listen to the counsel of scripture on these matters and then I would like to recommend some books for reading, especially for anyone who may not be sure which book to buy or pick up to read.

And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 31:10-13.

The first thing that we must consider is to take timeout to read the scriptures. No second-hand remembrance of the scriptures is sufficient. However when Paul was in prison he also asked for additional reading as well. Listen to his Second Letter to Timothy (4:13): 'When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments'.

Additionally with respect to prayer let us heed the imperative of the Lord Jesus Christ from Matthew's Gospel 6:6 'But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you'.

Here are some books to consider reading, maybe over this Christmas season.

Among God's Giants by J. I. Packer (this is only available second hand as far as I am aware).

Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Institutes of the Christian Religion: Volumes 1 and 2 by John Calvin

Jerusalem's Glory by Thomas Watson

A Commentary on John's Gospel by William Hendriksen

Sermons on Romans by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Evangelicalism in Crisis ... Again!

In contemplating this blog post, I decided to call it 'Evangelicalism in Crisis ... Again'; for a good reason. The contemporary trends in evangelicalism are no surprise for those who know church history, therefore the addendum, 'again' is necessary. It appears that the second law of thermodynamics seems to come into play in every generation. This law of entropy teaches us, that the natural tendency is towards chaos and disorder. This is the opposite of what God did in Creation in Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 (as an aside, it is observable that the theory of evolution contradicts natural laws, however for those determined to pursue a godless theory, suppressing this truth does not seem to matter!).

How does this apply to the church? In my limited experience across the UK, I hear repeated echoes of the need to reinvent the 'church wheel'; in terms of how we do church. The apparent anguish is caused by not seeing the nation evangelised. Evangelism when it drives the agenda will often lead to wholesale changes in the church. Evangelism does not drive the agenda, Jesus Christ the head of the church drives the agenda (Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, 5:23). One of the buzz words currently used to describe the need to change things is 'missionalism'. This rather nebulous term is often a smokescreen to drive unlimited changes to the traditional understanding of the church. Well, what is the real problem?

My observation is that the root problem is Christians and Christian leaders who lose a grip on the authority and sufficiency of scripture. In discussing with people who promote such new ideas, they commonly make only loose references to scripture and instead views are put forward about such things as 'context', the 'need to be contemporary' or 'connecting with this generation'. After over two decades of following the Lord Jesus Christ, it is my firm conclusion that the gospel is counter-cultural in every age and every generation. Therefore to seek to connect with a current generation can open the door for worldly methods into the church.

Here are four questions to be asked and answered by every professing evangelical.

1. Does the New Testament teach a clear apostolic pattern for the church, one that is reproducible in every generation?
2. Does the New Testament teach a clear pattern for the ingredients of biblical worship?
3. Does the Bible teach the doctrine of the Christian Sabbath, a day set apart for worship, rest and fellowship (with God and man)?
4. Does the New Testament teach a clear pattern for church government?

Can you imagine applying for planning permission to build an extension on your house and telling the council that the architect has no plans? Then you go on to explain to the council that you want to go on a journey to explore the right way forward as you build. Silly as it seems this is how many contemporary church leaders approach the church. By abandoning the historic paths that are committed to preaching, the right administration of the sacraments and a well-ordered church where feeding and caring for the sheep is the main priority, new agendas call for unbiblical changes.

Here are some verses that I have found helpful over the years, especially when faced with new calls, for new methods, for the church to adapt if she is to be supposedly successful.

'And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us' Ecclesiastes 1: 9-10.

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

Let us test all things and use church history as a compass to make sure that we have not lost our way, or worse still to endorse methods that contradict the Lord Jesus Christ, the alone head of the church!

Monday, 28 November 2011

"Forever with the Lord"

Recently I was informed that a good friend was in the last stage of terminal cancer. He is a fine Christian man and I was able to speak to him over the telephone to encourage him in these remaining weeks before he goes to his eternal reward. We have been learning a new hymn in Sheffield Presbyterian Church, one that was written by a man who spent most of his life in Sheffield. The hymn is 'Forever with the Lord' and the man is James Montgomery. As I discussed the realities of eternal life that only comes through Jesus Christ our Lord, with my friend, we discussed the words of this hymn; they seemed to give him great hope and confidence in the biblical promises of the New Jerusalem!

Here is the first verse of the hymn:

‘FOR ever with the Lord!’’
Amen, so let it be!
Life from the dead is in that word,
’’tis immortality.
Here in the body pent, absent from Him I roam,
yet nightly pitch my moving tent a day’’s march nearer home.

The last line is humbling but also thrilling. If you are a Christian who is reading this blog post then you should be encouraged to know that you are 'a day's march nearer home'. This last phrase is the title of a new autobiography edited by Iain Murray on the life of J. Graham Miller (J. Graham Miller, 'A Day's March Nearer Home: Autobiography of J. Graham Miller', edited by Iain Murray, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2010).

Later in this hymn, in the last verse, we read:

So when my latest breath shall rend the veil in twain,
by death I shall escape from death, and life eternal gain.

Hopefully, this hymn can pastorally help us all to overcome the fear of death because James Montgomery the author (1771-1854) has longed since escaped death but it is through death that we must enter the true promised land of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. If anyone is interested in the life of James Montgomery there is a good short biography that is published by DayOne Publications. Paul S. Taylor 'James Montgomery: A Man for all People', 2010. There is a providential link with Montgomery and who lived and worked in Sheffield for most of his life. There is a statue to honour the man's life outside Sheffield Cathedral in Sheffield's city centre.

Let us all heed the exhortation and warning from the last chapter of the last book in the Bible, the Book of Revelation.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev. 22:12-17)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Atonement in its Application

Every time I come to do a blog post on this atonement series, I am keenly aware that we are just 'scratching the surface'. However, I can offer some pointers for more study. One of the grand atonement passages in the New Testament has to be Romans 3: 21-26. Regarding this passage, the commentator Leon Morris writes that it is 'probably the most important single paragraph ever written, Paul brings out something of the grandeur of Christ's saving work' (Leon Morris, 'The Epistle to the Romans', Leicester, Eerdmans, 1988, p 173). With this comment in mind, it would take weeks to fully expound this passage, but there are several threads regarding the atonement that need to be understood and applied.

Here are four themes:

1. The Righteousness of God (3:21)

2. Faith in Jesus Christ (3:22)

3. A Propitiation (3:25)

4. By his Blood (3:25)

Here we notice that these grand themes handle what Paul has explained to be the twin subjects that are revealed in the gospel of God: These are the righteousness of God and the wrath of God (Romans 1: 1 and 16-18). It is Christ's propitiation that satisfies the wrath of a holy and righteous God. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus averts the wrath of God upon those who justified by faith. Notice also that the object of our faith needs to be the person of Jesus, but it must also be in the blood of Jesus. Perhaps the significance of the blood of Jesus is downplayed at times to our detriment; the shedding of Christ's blood is central to the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26: 28).

Now, if we want to understand the atonement we need to understand the Book of Romans and here are some commentaries that I recommend.

Leon Morris 'The Epistle to the Romans', referenced above.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 'Sermons on Romans, especially Romans 3-4), Edinburgh: Banner of Truth.
John Murray, 'The Epistle to the Romans, Volumes 1 and 2', Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.

Further additional reading includes;
John Murray, 'Redemption Accomplished and Applied', Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1961.

Now in terms of application; for those who are involved in preaching and the leading of the people of God in public worship, every stage of our ministry should be magnifying Jesus Christ, the mediator. In terms of personal devotions we need to be reminded that the atonement of our Lord is perfect, it is complete and nothing can be added to it or taken away. We need to lean on the merits of Jesus Christ, and Him alone for salvation!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Reflections on a Recent Reformed Conference

Last weekend (11th and 12th November 2011) we had our fourth conference for men who want to explore reformed doctrines and practice. We set out in 2008 with around a dozen men and it was called 'A Defence of Calvinism'. Each year men have expressed that they have profited the time together so much, that they wanted another conference the following year. So far there have been attendees from England, Wales, Scotland, The Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. This year we decided to change the name to 'Reformation Christianity Today' because we want to anchor historic truths in todays world. In other words, looking backwards so that we can look forwards. While we are all so thankful for the work of Luther, Calvin, Bucer and others who have gone before us, the work of ongoing reformation continues in our own generation.

This year has been perhaps our best time so far. There were 18 men registered and there were some excellent sessions by Rev. Brian Norton, the minister of Durham Presbyterian Church on 'Reformed Worship' and a 'Reformed Understanding of the Lord's Supper'. I think that it will take me several months to work through the many helpful theological threads which were positively presented and we all have left with a larger and richer vision of biblical worship and the Lord's Supper. There were devotions given by Andrew Graham (minister of Bradley Road Evangelical Baptist Church, Wrexham) from the Book of Jude and Phil Baiden (minister of URC Church, Doncaster) on Psalm 27; 'The Psalms, an Anatomy of the Soul'. It was a delight to sing Psalms and solid hymns during each session and for some it was a new experience to discover that the Psalms can be sung as well as read.

Time does not permit me to expound further on the details of the sessions but my overall impression is one of thankfulness to our sovereign Lord. My perception is that our Lord is recovering ancient truths to these men, some of whom are under the age of 30 years old. Even though this little conference may appear small in the eyes of some, may we be thankful for men who want to serve the next generation, not with that latest church fads and church growth models, but with historic truths, as prophesied in Psalm 100:5.

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

These are the words of Hugh Latimer to Nicholas Ridley as they were about to be martyred, burned alive, for their Protestant faith: “Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as, I trust, will never be put out.”

If you are interested in the conference for next year (November 2012, Lord willing and to be confirmed) then please email Andrew Graham:

Monday, 7 November 2011

Atonement in the Westminster Standards: Part 4

In this mini-blog series that I have been running on the atonement, one of the aims has been to consider the doctrine of the atonement within the Westminster Standards. However, this was an over-ambitious desire because such a task would require extensive research. Instead, I will offer some general pointers for those who would like to study the atonement in more detail using the Westminster Standards.These Standards comprise a Confession of Faith along with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The organising principle is quite different to the Canons of Dordt; while the respective theological content would be harmonious, the way it is expressed and organised is different.

Personally, I consider the Westminster Standards to be the best explanation of the Christian faith in the English language. The Westminster Confession devotes the whole of Chapter 8 to ‘Of Christ the Mediator’ (with 8 succinct points) and John Murray once wrote that this is ‘one of the most remarkable chapters for fulness of doctrine and condensation of expression’. This comment comes from an essay on ‘The Importance and Relevance of the Westminster Confession’ where he explains that the ‘Westminster Assembly had the advantage of more than a century of Protestant creedal formulation’ and that it is the ‘last of the great Reformation creeds’. Furthermore, he summarises that: ‘No creed of the Christian Church is comparable to that of Westminster in respect of the skill with which the fruits of fifteen centuries of Christian thought have been preserved, and at the same time examined anew and clarified in the light of that fuller understanding of God’s Word which the Holy Spirit has imparted'. These quotes are from: John Murray, ‘The Importance and Relevance of the Westminster Confession’ in Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 1, Claims of Truth, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001, 317 and 320.

W. Robert Godfrey has some important comments in his writing on ‘The Larger Catechism’: ‘The Larger Catechism is a mine of fine gold theologically, historically and spiritually (129)’; The Larger Catechism is ‘not at all a difficult document to read and understand. In fact it is simpler in its statements than the Confession (138)' ’; The Catechism uses ‘the covenant as the organising principle of this doctrine [the person and work of Christ] (139)’; ‘the two-covenant theology of Westminster is the best understanding of the structure of biblical revelation and the best key to understand the work of Christ (140)’. These quotations are from: “The Westminster Larger Catechism,” in To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the Westminster Assembly. Edited by John L. Carson and David W. Hall. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994).

Now, for those who would like to study the doctrine of the atonement using the Westminster Confession of faith, then I recommend that they begin with Chapter 3 'Of God's Eternal Decree'. These eight points of doctrine are rich and they need careful reading, but in essence they affirm from scripture that 'some men are predestined for everlasting life and others to everlasting death'. The Westminster divines are pastorally wise though to teach that the 'doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care'. The next chapter to understand the atonement of Christ has to be Chapter 6 'Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof'. This chapter outlines fully that man is utterly sinful and incapable of salvation, in fact fallen man is 'wholly inclined to all evil'. Then, I suggest that you read Chapter 9 'Of Free Will'; the conclusion of this chapter is the same as that of Calvin and Luther (The Bondage of the Will) in that mankind has 'lost all ability of will to any spiritual good ... and are dead in sin'. This chapter slays all Arminian thinking and rightly so because salvation is wholly of God's free grace.

For a further study of the atonement and the benefits of redemption, a good read of chapters 7 and 8 'Of God's Covenant with Man' and 'Of Christ the Mediator', should be followed by the chapters 10-17, effectual calling to the perseverance of the saints. I hope that my blog readers are prepared to work hard because all true disciples should desire the riches of Christ but these jewels need to be mined out.

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23.

How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard. Hebrews 2:3.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Have you ever read the Whole Bible?

My own personal conviction is that the Bible is unique, it is God's only word to humanity that is infallible, authoritative and without error. The Bible is my greatest personal possession and yet as a young Christian I remember wanting to read the whole Bible and yet not knowing how to do it. Have you ever tried to read the whole Bible and given up frustrated?

First of all I tried to read the whole Bible in a year, by using one of those daily reading plans and I could not wait for the 1st January, 1991 to arrive. At the time I had a very pressured and busy career and unfortunately by the middle of January I was so far behind that the backlog to catch up was almost impossible. I found myself speed-reading out loud but I was taking nothing in and I gave up. I also tried to read the Bible by beginning at Genesis and again I think I got as far as Leviticus and then I gave up. Here I was a Christian, one who was convinced that the Bible contained the greatest spiritual treasure, but somehow it remained like a 'locked treasure box' to me. What was the answer?

Following a time of 'racking my brains', I came up with a plan, one that has helped me for years and I hope that this may help some of you. I decided that reading with a strict plan did not work for me. This was because some days I had more time to read than others. My plan needed to be flexible, interesting and driven by my hunger. I found the contents list of Bible books and I asked myself, 'which book of the Bible would I like to read first?'. I think that it may have been Haggai, and it is only two chapters long so I raced through it and I could not wait to get to the next book. I read it and ticked off the book on the contents list. I was single at the time and I was determined to read the whole Bible, when I had the time at least. Working my way through, I ended up reading the whole Bible in about 8-9 months and I can honestly say that by doing so I was never again the same person. Why? God's word is life-changing! I have followed this plan many times and sometimes It has taken me two years to read the whole Bible and I do not read the whole Bible all the time. This pattern has worked for me and I submit this to you as an option.

May we all demonstrate an unwavering commitment to God's word, to read it, to memorise it, to meditate on it and to believe it!
Here are some precious truths from Psalm 119.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word (119:9).

I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (119:16).

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens (119:89).

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

'The Books of Moses Revisited' by Paul Lawrence

I would like to take this opportunity to commend a new book that has just been published by Wipf and Stock ( It is available directly through the publisher but also via Amazon directly in the coming time. I met Paul briefly in connection to some Bible translators meetings back in 2006 (not that I am a translator) and he has been working on this important book for quite a while, in order to refute an entrenched theological position on Old Testament studies called 'The Documentary Hypothesis'. This hypothesis, and this is what it is, basically denies that the authorship of the first five books of the Bible should be attributed to Moses. Paul Lawrence ably refutes this hypothesis but also in the process he offers some very helpful material on OT Hittite treaties and covenants. This how the publishers describe the book:

Who wrote the first five books of the Bible? Does it really matter who did? The Books of Moses Revisited explores this question by comparing the covenants of Exodus/Leviticus and Deuteronomy with the inter-state treaties of the late second millennium BC. Some compelling similarities come to light, both in the pattern adopted and in many small details. Lawrence clearly demonstrates this with many examples and diagrams, yet without assuming that readers possess a detailed knowledge of ancient history and linguistics. Despite the entrenchment of the widely held theory—the so-called Documentary Hypothesis—that the first five books of the Bible were the product of an anonymous editor living many centuries after Moses, this book argues that the first five books of the Bible bear many hallmarks of being late second millennium BC compositions and that Moses should not be ruled out as being the author. The book also explores how several ancient texts—the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey—were transmitted in antiquity and suggests that a similar process also lies behind the transmission of the first five books of the Bible.

My aim in publicising this book is manifold but one reason is that Christians need a closer relationship to the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament is identical to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. This book can enrich the church, refute false ideas, provide valuable historical material to the Old Testament scriptures and in way that is accessible. I commend this book, most especially for ministers of the gospel.

Then he [the Lord Jesus Christ] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24: 44-50.

Preachers need to be thoroughly equipped in the Old Testament scriptures in order to be able to competently proclaim the gospel!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Atonement (Part 3)

This blog post continues our mini-series on the atonement. Even though I firmly hold to the idea of limited atonement or rather definite atonement, I maintain that we should think simply of 'the atonement' because there is only one atonement. It is that which was made and purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ. In this post I would like us to consider the settled wisdom on the matter of the intent and extent of the atonement as laid down by the Synod of Dordrecht (1618-19). This Synod met in The Netherlands (for about 6 months to discuss these matters) as a result of the false teaching being spread by the dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (he had already died in 1609) and his followers. Arminianism in its various forms argues for the freedom of man's will and that our Lord Jesus made salvation available to all by his death, but that man or indeed woman, must choose Christ if they are to obtain eternal life. These ideas which are dominant in the Western church today, were seen to be a contradiction to the work of reformation, a step back towards popish works-based righteousness and a perversion of the Apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42).

This Synod according to S. M. Hoghton (Sketches from Church History, Banner of Truth, 2001) states that there were delegates from The Netherlands, England, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland ... and in 93 canons the chief points of the doctrine of the Reformed Churches were made clear (143)'. Therefore we should never neglect church history by arrogantly thinking that we are the first to wrestle with a particular doctrinal or pastoral problem. Woe to the church that rejects a thoroughgoing appreciation of church history. So, what did they conclude on the atonement of our Lord? Below are pasted the articles on the atonement made by this Synod.

The Synod of Dordt: Second Head of Doctrine –The Death of Christ and the Redemption of Man by It

God is not only supremely merciful but also supremely just. And as He Himself has revealed in His Word, His justice requires that our sins, committed against His infinite majesty, should be punished not only in this age but also in the age to come, both in body and soul. We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is made to the justice of God.

We ourselves, however, cannot make this satisfaction and cannot free ourselves from God’s wrath. God, therefore, in His infinite mercy has given His only Son as our Surety. For us or in our place He was made sin and a curse on the cross so that He might make satisfaction on our behalf.

This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.

This death is of such great value and worth because the person who submitted to it is not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for these qualifications were necessary for our Saviour. Further, this death is of such great value and worth because it was accompanied by a sense of the wrath and curse of God which we by our sins had deserved.

The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe.

That, however, many who have been called by the gospel neither repent nor believe in Christ but perish in unbelief does not happen because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, but through their own fault.

But to those who truly believe and are by the death of Christ freed from their sins and saved from perdition, this benefit comes only through God’s grace, given to them from eternity in Christ. God owes this grace to no one.

For this was the most free counsel of God the Father, that the life-giving and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect. It was His most gracious will and intent to give them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation. This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which He confirmed the new covenant) should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and were given to Him by the Father. God further willed that Christ should give to them faith, which, together with other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He acquired for them by His death; that He should cleanse them by His blood from all sins, both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that He should guard them faithfully to the end and at last present them to Himself in splendour without any spot or wrinkle.

This counsel, proceeding from eternal love for the elect, has from the beginning of the world to the present time been powerfully fulfilled, and will also continue to be fulfilled, though the gates of hell vainly try to frustrate it. In due time the elect will be gathered together into one, and there will always be a Church of believers, founded on the blood of Christ. This Church shall steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as Her Saviour (who as bridegroom for his bride laid down His life for her on the cross) and celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.

The link to the complete Canons of Dordt is:

Summary by Kevin Bidwell

There are three points I would like to draw in conclusion. Notice that under Article 3 it is asserted that the 'death of Christ has infinite value' The value of the atonement is not limited in any sense, it is of infinite value and worth. In Article 5, the conclusion is therefore, that the gospel should be proclaimed 'universally and without discrimination'. Thirdly, in Article 8, it is made very clear that the atonement is efficacious to extend to all the elect.

While I value the English reformed view of the five points of Calvinism (known as TULIP), I think we need to be aware that this acronym probably misses out some vital points of doctrine made by the Synod of Dordt and a fresh return to these historic canons could invigorate the whole churches worship, evangelism and preaching!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Always be Prepared to Improve your Preaching!

I intend to continue the series on the atonement but I am just catching up on some work following an intense time preaching overseas. We should always be open to constructive criticism for our preaching, at least for those who are set apart by the church for this most important task. While being away, I received some helpful feedback and I evaluated my own style and method for preaching and a number of practical things have emerged that I need to work on. In explaining these things, I hope that it will help some people.

Reading Scripture

I need to work on reading the scripture as part of the public worship service; in a way that it is less hurried, more clear, and with better intonation at the right places. We need to recognise that we are reading God's inerrant word and the public reading of the scriptures is important. The hearing levels of the congregation may vary and it may also include those with hearing impediments. I am working on trying to get eye contact with the congregation at certain parts of my reading also so that I can keep connected with the congregation. A clear, interesting and lively reading style is desirable.

Looking at the Congregation when Making a Main Point

Preaching should include a persuasive element and I have picked up a bad habit which is looking down at my notes when making a main point. A friend who is a lawyer pointed this out to me graciously and I am endeavouring to persuade men with the precious gospel when making an important point. I think that I was more concerned in getting out the information and reading my notes for my next point. Do you also do this? Listen to Paul the apostle:

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (ESV) and the KJV translates 2 Cor 5: 11 as Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. The fear of God should lead to persuasive preaching. Is your preaching persuasive or is there room for improvement in this area?

Printing my Notes Using Larger Line Spacing

I have just begun to print off my notes on 1.5 spacing rather than single spaced. This means that I can find my place better in the pulpit, rather than straining to get back to where I left off. I may move to double spaced but for now 1.5 space seems to do the job.

These are just a few points that I am currently working on to better my preaching for the glory of God! I value the prayer of people reading this blog for myself, one who genuinely considers himself in great need of the grace of God. As Paul also said: Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor 2: 16).

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Reformation Christianity for Today Conference: 2011

This is now our fourth conference at Bawtry Hall which is a study conference for men who want to find out more about reformed theology and it's practice. It is held over two days and each year the attendees have expressed their earnest desire for another one each following year.

Reformation Christianity for Today 2011

Conference Programme

Friday 11th November 2011

9:45am Arrival, & Tea and Coffee

10:15am Session 1

Devotion: Andrew Graham

The Three ‘R’s’ of Biblical and Puritan Evangelism (Ruin, Redemption and Regeneration, incorporating a look at some of Toplady’s Hymns): Kevin Bidwell

12:30 Lunch

2:30-5:30pm Session 2

Reformed Worship: Brian Norton

6pm Evening Meal

7:30-9. 30pm Session 3

Preaching: The Analysis of a Sermon by Samuel Davies (Romans 9: 22-23)

Saturday 12th November 2011

9.30-12.30, Session 4 (Coffee Break around 10:45am)

Greek Exegesis: Romans 3: 21-26 (Dominik Frank)
The Lord’s Supper: Brian Norton

1pm Lunch

The Saturday afternoon we will have time to relax and a game of five-a-side football may be organised.

4.00-6.00pm Session 5

Psalm 100: With Some Insights from the Hebrew Text (Kevin Bidwell)

6.00 pm Evening Meal

A Summary of Some of the Men who will be Bringing Papers

Kevin Bidwell is the minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church.

Andrew Graham is the conference administrator and he is the minister of Wrexham Evangelical Baptist Church.

Dominik Frank is training for the Lutheran ministry at the University of Tübingen, Germany.

Brian Norton is the minister of Durham Presbyterian Church. Brian was a member of Westminster Chapel during the ministry of the late Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

If You Would Like More Information

The conference administrator is Andrew Graham. If you are a member of a church and in good standing where you worship, then you are welcome to attend. Please contact Andrew at: or phone him on 07546 592 435

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Atonement (Part 2)

This is the second post which handles some questions regarding the atonement. Following discussion with a fellow-minister, I have called this post 'atonement' and not 'limited atonement' because there is only one truth on the atonement from the scriptures. Let us look further to see what that the Bible's teaching is.

There are three main systems concerning the atonement: 1. Universalism which teaches that all mankind will be saved in the end. 2. Arminianism which holds a type of self-salvation and we may say that it is a halfway house between Pelagius and Augustine. 3. Calvinism which declares that God alone is the author of salvation from beginning to end.
But how do we judge these different systems? The answer has to be the scriptures, not what we feel to be right or what we have been traditionally taught. Every generation needs to return to first principles to understand why we believe certain things.

I intend to deal with the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism regarding salvation and the atonement here, but universalism is gaining some ground, surprisingly, among some evangelicals. However, the Bible condemns this position outright and therefore it must be pseudo-evangelicals who have completely lost their bearings and their grip on scripture to foster such false notions of God and the truth. All will not be saved, but sinners and law-breakers will spend eternity under the wrath of God. Listen to the teaching of the Lord Jesus:

'Then he will say to those on his left [the goats] 'Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" ' Matthew 25: 41. But, for now, let us contrast the two systems of Arminianism and Calvinism.

The Five Points of Arminianism

1. Free will or human ability
2. Conditional election
3. Universal redemption or a general atonement
4. The Holy Spirit can be effectually resisted
5. Christians can fall from grace and lose their salvation

Arminianism in all its various forms, one which is probably mainstream today, teaches that God has provided salvation through Christ's death for 'all' but we have to choose Jesus in order to be born-again, to be saved. The final deciding factor in salvation is the individual person who chooses Christ by their free will. This in effect leaves God standing on the sidelines, seeing who will be saved but not effectually ordering the events of life. For me personally this is a step towards Atheism. Atheism believes that life is ordered by random events without purpose and while Arminianism does not explicitly teach this, it is a step in that direction. Over many years I have looked at the subject from every angle, having once held Arminian views myself, in ignorance, and my firm conclusion is that the Bible firmly repudiates the Arminian system.

The Five Points of Calvinism

1.Total Depravity or Total Inability
2. Unconditional election
3. Particular redemption or limited atonement
4. The efficacious call of the Spirit or irresistible grace
5. The perseverance of the saints

This was the discussion of the Synod of Dordrecht in 1618-19 and they condemned Arminianism as teaching that is false. Calvinism teaches that man by his fall is dead in in sin and therefore they are incapable of responding to God, unless the Lord by his free grace makes them willing by regenerating that person. Being made alive and being raised from the dead spiritually is God's act of mercy. It is not man's will that chooses but God's will and when God saves, he saves eternally on the basis of the atoning death of his son who redeemed those whom God the Father has chosen.

Here is some homework for those who want answers from the Bible to compare these two systems. Read John 6: 22-71, 10:1-30; Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:1-10; Romans 9: 6-24. Calvinism is taught in the whole Bible and it is not a system based on a few proof texts. Often the big 3 proof texts for Arminians are: John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. Compare the Arminian proof texts with the passages I have given you for Calvinism and let us compare scripture with scripture.

Here are two concluding verses for this blog post, ones which defend a calvinistic view of the atonement:

John 10:11 'Jesus said 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep'. Note it is for the sheep not sheep and goats!

Ephesians 5: 25 'Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her'.

Ps A good book is Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Limited Atonement (Part 1)

This short series of blog posts is in response to a request made on one of my blog articles. It was a request to explain the doctrine of limited atonement. This doctrine handles the redemption of Christ and it considers the intent of the Triune God in the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many voices contend today that doctrine is not important but these kind of claims are totally unbiblical. Our view of the atonement impacts the message that we preach, the way we approach worship, evangelism, missions and the methods that people employ to build churches. Therefore let us consider this sobering subject most seriously.

The apostles all considered that God's purpose in the atonement was something central to Christianity and it must not be neglected or usurped by the latest wind of doctrine. Listen to the apostle Paul:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Cor. 2: 1-2.

There has been much debate concerning the Person of Jesus and also the work of Christ Jesus and we would fully expect sinful men, Satan and the worldview of the inhabitants of this world to 'muddy the waters'. However, the church must be clear minded concerning this subject. In essence, much of the discussion boils down to one simple question, even though there are many threads. The question is this: Who has the casting vote regarding the salvation of a sinner: Is it the sinners free will to choose the gospel or is it God's free grace to choose the sinner? It cannot be both and we need to examine ourselves and ask two further questions: How do I answer the preceding question? and secondly, what does the Bible teach concerning the answer to this question?

The coming blog articles will attempt to cover these topics, Lord willing.

* Two Systems Contrasted: Arminianism and Calvinism.
* The Synod of Dordt's Answer to Limited Atonement.
* The Answer of the Westminster Confession on this Matter.
* How should the biblical doctrine of limited atonement be applied practically?

One final comment is that the doctrine of limited atonement is sometimes called particular redemption or definite atonement. As a taster for the coming weeks, let me suggest that you read the sermon of the Lord Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum, recorded in John 6: 22- 71. One of the statements made by our Lord was this:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44).

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Christian Race is a Marathon

Too often people forget that the Christian life is a marathon. Expectations sometimes get shattered, sometimes people view the Christian life with rose-tinted spectacles and disappointment can creep in, but we must never forget that God always remains faithful. Let us listen to the pastoral counsel of the Book of Hebrews (12:1-2):

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Christian life is a race, it is a marathon and it requires endurance. Someone once wisely said, that the only way to learn endurance is to endure. Ecclesiastes 9:11 reminds us similarly:

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

We need to pray for several things because 'the race is not for the swift'. It is not speed that counts in the Christian race but patience, steadfastness and endurance. We should pray for God's grace to remain faithful and consistent during seasons of disappointment. Attending public worship on the Lord's Day is not an optional extra for Christians, it is the command of God. We should also pray that we would finish our Christian race well and ask the Lord to help us in this. Sadly, one wise minister told me once that 'few men finish well'. This is sobering but let us 'look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith'.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

"The Church as the Image of the Trinity": A Critical Evaluation of the Ecclesial Model of Miroslav Volf

After a good number of recent years of theological research, I am thankful to the Lord that a door has opened for my PhD to be converted into a book format for publication. I sincerely desire that this book will be used for the glory of God, but also as a necessary corrective against politically correct, yet often biblically erroneous theologies, ones that all too commonly pervades theological departments in Universities in the Western world. The publishers summary on the back cover reads:

A resurgence of Trinitarian interest gained momentum in the twentieth century and it is showing little sign of abating in the twenty-first century. This research endeavours to critically evaluate Miroslav Volf’s ecclesial model for “the church as the image of the Trinity,” one which he presents with the English title, After Our Likeness. Volf proposes a social doctrine of the Trinity, one that is heavily influenced by the theological writings of Jürgen Moltmann, and he puts forward that this non-hierarchical Trinity should be reflected in the structures and theology of the church. If Volf is correct, then a radical reshaping is needed for the church to conform to an egalitarian pattern, one that is “after the likeness” (Gen 1:26) of an egalitarian God.
In this critical examination, Kevin J. Bidwell begins by stating the theological influences that are pertinent to Volf’s thesis in After Our Likeness and the assumptions that undergird and inform his whole theological paradigm. An important theological excursus is offered to assess the theology of John Smyth, the first English Baptist, who is Volf’s representative figure for the location of his own ecclesiology, the Free Church. A critical analysis follows of Volf’s engagement with his two chosen dialogue partners who represent both Western and Eastern theological traditions: Joseph Ratzinger and John D. Zizioulas.
Volf presents five theses for “the church as the image of the Trinity,” which could be labeled as Volf’s Free Church in the image of Volf’s revised doctrine of the Trinity. This monograph offers extensive insight into the contemporary debate on the doctrine of the Trinity, but it also assesses many aspects of ecclesiology from both Eastern and Western perspectives.

If you would like to get hold of a copy the link on Amazon is:

It is available as a book or a kindle format. Another link is the Book Depository which is:

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Book Review. Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett.

J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett
Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2010, 238pp, paperback,
ISBN: 978 0 8010 6838 6

J. I. Packer needs little introduction; his co-author Gary A. Parrett was one of Packer’s former students at Regent College, Canada, and he is now professor of educational ministries and worship at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the USA.

This book’s ‘Introduction’ (9-19) outlines the reason for these two men teaming together in this noble project, one that seeks to recover the practice of catechesis in the church. Their vision ‘assumes the existence of authoritative truth that needs to be taught’ (11). Every reader concerned about the rise of liberalism and doctrine-less Christianity within evangelicalism, will resonate with this book’s analysis, concerns and assessment of a widespread problem. The authors do not underestimate the challenge and they incisively write that there is a ‘resistance to authoritative instruction within the Christian community’ and that too often ‘today’s agenda is learning Bible stories rather than being grounded in truths about the Triune God’ (11).

This book contains an introduction, followed by ten chapters which argue for the recovery of doctrinal instruction, as something that has practical ramifications for the church. The first chapter ‘Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way’ contends that catechesis is derived from one of the NT words for teaching, katēcheō (Luke 1:3-4, Acts 18:25, for example). Their definition is: ‘Catechesis is the church’s ministry of grounding and growing God’s people in the Gospel and it’s implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight’ (29). They helpfully outline that instruction can be for ‘seekers’, for children or baptismal preparation, and the ongoing teaching of believers (29). The second chapter, ‘Catechesis Is a (Very!) Biblical Idea’, is excellent, in that it spells out for the target audience, evangelical Protestants, that catechesis is not only biblical, but that it is a biblical imperative (50).

The third chapter is ‘The Waxing and Waning of Catechesis’. The authors comment that ‘within evangelical circles, conservative Presbyterians and other Reformed believers probably represent the only major groups that have regular acquaintance with the notion of catechesis’ (33). They pinpoint part of the waning of doctrinal instruction in the church to the rise of the Sunday school model for the teaching of children (71-72). They highlight that Baptists and other denominations would commonly reject reformed catechisms because they taught a different view on baptism, one that upheld that the infants of the members of the visible church are to be baptised (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 95). They propose that catechetical instruction was unfortunately replaced with a form of biblical moralism, one that lacks doctrinal content. This analysis is searching and it is a much needed exposé of a contemporary weakness, one that needs to be addressed within evangelicalism.

Some of the later chapters are perhaps too technical in their handling of this subject and their ecumenical approach, and sympathy with the Roman Catholic Church, most notably in Chapter eight, mars, what is otherwise a much-needed book; one that is highly recommended for ministers, elders and Sunday school teachers.

The recovery of catechesis to enable Christian’s and churches to know their faith well is undoubtedly counter-cultural and those churches that seek to be contemporary at the expense of a historic appreciation of the church would do well to listen to what this book suggests.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

What do you Look for, when you are Looking for a Church?

This is a very important question, one that most often reveals our priorities or even the spiritual temperature of our Christianity. Maybe before you read on, with this blog article, you should pause for a few minutes, get a pencil and paper and write down a list of the things that are important to you when looking for a church.

If you have not made this list, perhaps do so later and examine what you have put down, and ask yourself if your list would match what the NT apostles would counsel you with, were you to live in First Century Corinth or Jerusalem. In talking to people I find it fascinating, illuminating but sadly quite often discouraging to hear what people are looking for when they seek out a church. It can include things such as a church in their own community, a church with a good range of activities for their children, a place where lots of students go, a church with a high quality 'praise band' and so on. However, are these the first priorities that our Lord Jesus Christ would expect his disciples to be looking for?

At the time of the reformation, the Christian church in the face of spiritual abuses, Roman Catholic idolatry and indulgences, they had to ask some hard questions as to what represented the marks or distinguishing features of a true church. In the light of Scripture they concluded that there are two to three marks of a true church. These are:

1. The preaching of pure doctrine.
2. The right administration of the sacraments (there are two only and these are baptism and the Lord's Supper)
3. Church discipline (this means a well-ordered church with discipline for members on moral and doctrinal matters).

Sadly, such distinguishing marks are rarely understood by many Christians or they are not sought for, when people look for a church. I have read a book recently on the church, one that seeks a so-called 'missional' approach to church, but this missional church does not consider that preaching, that is the public proclamation of pure doctrine, as something that is necessary for the advance of the church and the gospel. They claim to be gospel driven without gospel preaching that is public, propositional and filled with pure doctrine. Perplexing, but all too common!

In closing, let us hear the words of holy Scripture:

Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded his apostles: 'That repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations (Luke 24:47)'.

Paul told the church at Corinth that: 'For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:23)'.

Maybe some of us need to reevaluate what to look for when seeking a church. Certainly the preaching of pure doctrine is essential to our spiritual well-being and if this is not found in our neighbourhood then we need to be prepared to travel rather than commit ourself to a church which may be less-than-best for God's people!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Are you Looking for a Church in Sheffield?

Maybe you are coming to Sheffield to study at one of our Universities or perhaps you are looking for a church that is committed to biblical preaching. We would like to warmly invite you to come and worship with us at Sheffield Presbyterian Church.

We are a new church plant of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales and we were formally constituted in April 2011. As such we are not huge, but we are enthusiastic concerning the gospel of God and our sense of mission in our world, the North of England. There are a number of values that we consider essential in order for a church to be healthy.

Firstly, we are wholeheartedly committed to doctrinal preaching in order to feed the sheep and to evangelise the lost. We are a confessional church and this means that we uphold the Bible as having supreme authority over the church and our subordinate standards for doctrine are the Westminster Standards. We believe that holding to a historic church confession gives the church stability, like an anchor, and this means that we are connected to God's church historically but also geographically.

Secondly, we believe that our public worship should be ordered so that it is God-centred, focussing on simplicity with reverence, but also great joy at what our God has done in and through the mediator Jesus Christ. In an age where so many churches compete as to who has the best music band, we may seem a little different. However, we explain that our principles are firmly rooted theologically from the Bible's commands as to how God is to be worshipped. We maintain that simplicity marked the New Testament pattern of worship. The ingredients of our public worship includes the reading of the Scriptures, public prayer, the preaching of the Word of God, the singing of Psalms and hymns, with our worship beginning with a call to worship and closing with a benediction.

We have members who testify that they wish that they had found confessional presbyterianism 20 years ago. Our desire is to feed God's sheep, to care for them and to be faithful to the Lord. Confessional presbyterianism has a long history in Sheffield which goes back to at least to the seventeenth century. Presbyterianism was recovered through the Genevan reformation but it is a pattern which, we believe was established by the apostles and set in motion by the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church.

Our church website is

We warmly invite you to worship with us on the Lord's Day at 11.00am and 4.00pm and the details of our meeting place can be found on the website.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Paying Tribute to a Living Church Historian: Iain Murray

Iain Murray, one of the founders of the Banner of Truth, has produced a range of excellent of writings. He has written many books and he is an excellent church historian; I would like to draw your attention to three books particularly. These are Evangelicalism Divided, Revival and Revivalism and his biography on Jonathan Edwards.

His biography on Edwards gave me a 'sense of God' unlike most other books. I often write comments at the front of the book and this is what I wrote in November 2005 after I had read it. 'An excellent biography that stirs me to greater holiness, dedication to study, and preaching ... this stirs up my zeal for God, theology, revival and missions'.

Revival and Revivalism became for me one of those books that marks a turning point in your pilgrimage. Murray nails the issues of our our day by returning to church history, especially 'The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858'. The philosopher George Santayana stated that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and Murray applies this for the church's profit in his books.

Revival and Revivalism is a monument to biblical truth and I urge all Christian leaders, preachers and elders to read it with a pen or pencil in their hand, in order to underline every dynamic truth that applies to their current situation.

The last of the three books is not least, but it is probably least read. It is Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Change in the Years 1950 to 2000. I have so many markings highlighted in this book, one that I read twice, it is hard to know where to begin. This book highlights the many inroads of liberal thinking into the current so-called 'evangelical' world. It is gracious but firm and it being read by many more people could possibly rescue many from an evangelical collapse that continues unnoticed in the absence of good confessional churches.

Murray writes: 'If we sacrifice the truth today for short term influence we cannot guarantee what our conduct will be tomorrow. When the day to fight is postponed the very will to fight may go from us (p 249)'.

We need to pause and think about this comment and better still go and buy these books, read them and and let church history deliver us all from many errors!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Is it OK to Evaluate Tim Keller's Approach to Scripture?

In the last 3-4 years I have been surprised how many people are influenced by Tim Keller. I say surprised because I had not read much by him and this left me understandably ignorant and a little non-plussed. Having first met the Lord in 1986, I have grown weary of the latest bestsellers, the latest hot names in the Christian world, and the latest methods in 'how can your church be successful?'. It may sound uninteresting but the ancient paths work best because they steadfastly seek to glorify God and do not need to change to pander to the next generations desires.

What has caught my attention though, has been that when I speak to people, especially Christian ministers who hold Tim Keller in high esteem, is that they often rave about Keller's preaching. One man described him to me as being 'outstanding' and probably the best he had ever heard. Recently, I took time to listen to Keller's sermon on the Trinity where he expounds the baptism of Jesus of from Mark's Gospel (1:9-13). The link is:

Was I surprised? Well I would have been had I not read all of his books in the last year. He begins with the Bible passage and then makes quantum leaps to interpret the baptism of Jesus as a 'divine dance' between the three persons of the Trinity. His method of handling the Bible left me quite simply 'scratching my head'. Where does this 'divine dance' suddenly spring from regarding this passage? It could appear as mystifying at best or at worst to be a form of biblical eisegesis (an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text). In short, the lesson remains. No matter how successful someone is, we must not put them on a pedestal where they are beyond critical evaluation. (We are not talking about having a critical spirit which is always unhelpful.)

The apostolic injunction remains concerning all of us:

But test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21) Testing everything, includes testing our favourite preachers also, in the light of Scripture!

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Theology of the Hymns of Augustus Montague Toplady

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-78) was a preacher. Most of the best hymn writers were. Toplady was an ordained Anglican minister before he left to become the preacher at the French Calvinist Church in London in 1775. What is particularly striking about many of the hymns that he wrote is that they are filled with tremendous biblical theology. Toplady was a thoroughly convinced Calvinist and here is a brief selection of some of his hymns.

The classic for which Toplady is known is 'Rock of Ages' and look at the theology of these words which affirm the doctrine of justification by faith, through trusting in the merits of Christ alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Toplady clearly believed and preached the truth displayed in Romans 3:24 'and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus'. The question is 'do we?'.

Toplady's 'A Debtor to Mercy Alone' is another classic; it is because the words are saturated with the 'apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42)'. He knew our just deserve outside of the gospel is the wrath of God as he pens:

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

In the mind of Toplady, God's covenant mercy alone, saves us from the deserved wrath of God. Paul states in Romans 1:17 and18 that there are two things revealed in the gospel; the righteousness of God and the wrath of God.

For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed ... For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

We need to pray for the recovery of these twin truths in the preaching of the gospel in churches.

Finally a Toplady hymn (actually it was altered by him but written by John Bakewell) that is not so well known is 'Hail, Thou Once Despisèd Jesus!'. The words of this hymn fill our minds with thoughts concerning the precious atonement made by our Lord Jesus Christ. The second verse should thrill the heart of every Christian.

Paschal Lamb, by God appointed, all our sins on Thee were laid;
by almighty love anointed, Thou hast full atonement made:
all Thy people are forgiven through the virtue of Thy blood;
opened is the gate of heaven; peace is made for man with God.

For those men who are involved in preaching the gospel, may we all make sure that we keep Jesus Christ and him crucified as central to the theme of our preaching and sermon preparation.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ

Jonathan Edwards describes the incarnation in ‘The History of Redemption’ in these terms: ‘Christ's incarnation was a greater and more wonderful thing than ever had yet come to pass. The creation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great as the incarnation of Christ. It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for the Creator himself to become a creature.1

To hold a wrong view of the incarnation is to err regarding the atonement. Therefore in contemplating our subject, great care is needed, great joy is to be expected, and great shall be the praise of the redeemed, when they worship the risen and glorified Lamb of God in the New Jerusalem.

We must not regurgitate the same familiar phrases concerning our Lord week after week in the ministry of preaching. Paul the apostle said that he determined to know nothing among the Corinthians except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Could the same be said of us among our flocks and in our preaching? Do we search the scriptures to gain fresh insights into Christ’s person and his work? This is why Christology is so vital to health of the church and the work of the gospel.

Matthew’s Gospel makes it irrefutably clear that the incarnation of Christ Jesus did not produce ‘a diluted form of God’. Our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood (this is a quotation from the Creed of Chalcedon).

Matthew introduces our Lord to be the Son of David and the Son of Abraham: He is God’s appointed king to fulfill all the biblical covenants and our Lord’s favorite title in speaking of himself is probably ‘Son of Man’. In healing the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), Jesus openly explains his authority, in that he can do what God alone can do. Namely to forgive sins. The Son of Man is fully God and fully man. Again we meet the doctrine of the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ as Chalcedon states.

[The] two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence.

The Incarnation and Preaching

Our aim must be to fill the hearts and minds of the worshippers of the Triune God with a rich knowledge of Christ Jesus. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:18:
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Preaching is the high point of worship in the reformed tradition and therefore we need to study hard to ensure that Christ Jesus is centre stage but it must be Jesus without confusion, without notions that lead to error, without division from the Triune God. This is why the Creed of Chalcedon is so helpful and why our historic creeds and confessions must not be neglected.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Bitzer was a Banker!

A Christian Minister pointed out to me last week an article in a chapter of a book by John Piper called 'Bitzer was a Banker!'. Piper's aim is to encourage but also rebuke the church and preachers who pay little attention to the biblical languages for their ministry. Here is an excerpt of what Piper writes.

His name was Heinrich Bitzer. He was a banker. A banker! Brothers, must we be admonished by the sheep as to what our responsibility is as shepherds? Evidently so. For we are surely not admonishing and encouraging each other to press on in Greek and Hebrew. And most seminaries, evangelical as well as liberal, have communicated by their curriculum emphases that learning Greek and Hebrew may have some value for a few rare folk but is optional for the pastoral ministry.

I have a debt to pay to Heinrich Bitzer, and I would like to discharge it by exhorting all of us to ponder his thesis: "The more a theologian detaches himself from the basic Hebrew and Greek text of Holy Scripture, the more he detaches himself from the source of real theology! And real theology is the foundation of a fruitful and blessed ministry".

The two sources for these quotes are: John Piper, Brothers, We are not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry and Heinrich Bitzer, ed., Light on the Path: Daily Scripture Readings in Hebrew and Greek.

May we all take seriously the need for the recovery of the biblical languages for the evangelical and reformed church. Let us pray for this!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Some Books that have Helped Me.

Last Monday, we were on a walk in Durham with people from three churches in EPCEW: from Durham, Gateshead and Sheffield. One man asked me 'what books had influenced me over the years?' and it got me thinking again regarding some excellent books that were really guiding lights at certain junctures in my own reformed pilgrimage. Here are some books that I would like to recommend that you get hold of, even though some of them may be out of print and you will need to search out second hand copies.

Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism

J. I. Packer, Among God's Giants

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Sermons on Romans, especially Chapter 1, Chapters 3-4 and Chapter 9.

Perhaps Romans Chapter 9 is one of the least preached chapters from the New Testament. This is a possibility, but whether this is true or not, one thing I know, it is that when I had read MLJ's sermons on Romans Chapter 9, it took me weeks to recover, as my Arminian thinking was crushed under the weight of biblical truth.

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

What Theological or Pastoral Questions do you Have?

I have noticed on the statistics of my blog that there around 500-800 hits each month and people view from the USA to Russia, and from Sweden to Australia. This blog is small compared to many, but it tells me that there is a real interest from some people for some serious answers to theological questions.

If there is a specific theological or pastoral question that you would like an answer to, then post your question to this blog post and I will do my best to answer them. If not, I will continue to plod on, doing my best to see the 'ancient paths' of biblical and reformed theology recovered.

Kevin Bidwell

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Preaching that is Contemporary!

Within evangelical and reformed circles there appears to be the usage of the word 'contemporary', as a broad umbrella term, to express the desire for the evangelical and reformed church to move forward, advance, and to see real growth. These may be noble aims, provided that they remain anchored in sound theology. We must not become contemporary at the expense of Scriptural commands. In this discussion I think that 2 Corinthians 4:5 can help us all. What does it say?

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.

Firstly, Paul says that we 'proclaim', that is 'we preach'. Preaching is propositional, it is declaratory, it is not intended to simply stimulate discussion. Now let us think for a moment. Postmodern man does not like preaching, in fact, sinful man hates preaching because it is God's method and it confronts sinful man with God's claims to repent and believe in the gospel. Sadly, I see moves toward downplaying the necessity of preaching in the advance of the church. The word preaching is often replaced with 'speaking', 'giving a talk' or even 'sharing'. This attitude belies a theological downgrade. The apostles Paul and Peter, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley and Whitefield were all preachers: and so must we be, that is those who are called to this office.

Secondly, I hear in some men's preaching, a desire to be contemporary communicators and the way they set out to achieve this is by using a particular style to keep the congregations attention. They read a passage, then they give a bite-sized 'gospel explanation' followed by a story, often about themselves, then a bit more Bible explanation, followed by another relevant story about themselves. What is the problem? Paul states firmly: For what we proclaim is not ourselves!

This trendy method is seriously flawed because in an attempt to be a good communicator, it has ended up exalting the preacher with the many illustrations of himself. For those who would like to read further on this matter: Martin Lloyd-Jones, Sermon on Romans 1:9, For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.

Thirdly, our message should be filled with truth concerning Jesus Christ our Lord: He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. The Lord Jesus Christ should be the beginning, end and the thread throughout our sermons. If we want illustrations, then why not search the Scriptures for illustration material, but avoid mentioning yourself often, in the sermon. We dare not draw the minds and hearts of worshippers away from Christ to ourselves! Let all those of us who are preachers, examine ourselves and consider 2 Cor. 4:5, in order to reform our preaching according to the pattern of Scripture.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sheffield Presbyterian Church (April 2011 Update)

In Sheffield Presbyterian Church we have now been conducting our public worship services on the Lord's Day for over 6 months, and Lord willing, on Easter Sunday, Rev. Brian Norton of Durham Presbyterian Church will be leading the worship and receiving the initial membership of the church. He will also administer our first Lord's Supper, as this new church plant will be constituted. What a joyful day we hope that this will be!

At a time when there is much bad news and spiritual decline, we rejoice in the grace of God and the work of God in this church plant. Many people testify that their spiritual needs are being met, as they are being fed on a diet of 'straight down the line worship (without entertainment)' and carefully prepared exegetical sermons.

Check out our website You are welcome to come and join us for worship. Above all, let us join together in praying for an evangelical awakening in England!

Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80:3).

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Back to the Bible!

It seems so obvious that it is almost embarrassing to say it, but it needs to be repeatedly declared: "Back to the Bible". In my life I am constantly surprised by the neglect of biblical commitment and this is seen in many sections of the church. I remember as a young Christian that I recognised that many Christians had a 'pick n mix' attitude to the Scripture and often the Bible was not their first base for Christian ethics, doctrine, and even sermons.

As a new Christian I made a simple vow to the Lord that included two things. Firstly I told the Lord that "I would submit my entire life and every part of my life to the authority of Scripture" and secondly I vowed that "if Scripture convinces me of something that contradicts my opinion, then I will change my opinion to conform to Scripture".

Over the years I have been perplexed by Christians missing the first base: The Bible. As a boy we used to play rounders in the Summer holidays. We would use a tennis racket or a cricket bat and put down four bases. Someone would hit the ball a long way but in their haste they would not run around the outside of the first base and they would be declared out for cheating. Sometimes they would be stumped before they got to first base. Some Christians have not even got to 'first base' which is a wholehearted and total commitment to the authority of Scripture.

Do you submit to the authority of the Bible in its entirety? Are you prepared to change your views where the Bible disagrees with you?

The Lord Jesus Christ often uses this phrase: "Have you never read in the Scriptures?" Matthew 21:42 (also Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:42).

Could it be said of you, that 'you have not read' because you have neglected the greatest treasure that this world has to offer?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Learning from the Book of James

In our midweek meetings at Sheffield Presbyterian Church ( we are going through the Book of James. Many are testifying that they are benefitting from this small New Testament letter. Perhaps one of the reasons why we are profiting so much from it, is because of our approach to the letter. What do I mean?

Many commentaries are quick to point out that the Book of James is a letter mainly concerned with practical instruction. For example Gordon Fee in How to Read the Bible Book by Book, wrongly in my view, puts forward that the material is ‘directed specifically at Christian behavior, rather than propounding Christian doctrine (398, Fee)’. Not only is Fee wrong but a lesson remains. If we get the idea of a theme for a Bible Book wrong, then it straightjackets our approach to learning other things outside of our presupposed conclusion of a books theme.

James is a pastoral letter. It is written for Christians in Christian churches among the Jewish diaspora. There does not appear to be a single dominant theme and some commentators teach that ‘it is more or less a random collection of ethical instructions for believers in general’. However, there are far more rich themes than just a set of ethical instructions. For example James 1:18 is in many ways a condensed summary of Ephesians 1:3-14. It reads:

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (1:18).

This one verse teaches divine sovereignty over salvation, the necessity for the new birth, unconditional election and the need for Gospel preaching (the Word of truth). This Book is like a tree laden with rich doctrinal themes, some of which need to be badly recovered. In many ways a statement in the Westminster Confession (Chapter 11 'Of Justification') helpfully summarises some of the doctrines in James.

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

May I encourage you to read the Book of James with fresh eyes and with a desire to learn from this majestic epistle!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Church and the Law of God

A brand new book has just passed through my hands by Philip Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law. It is rather a lengthy title and it is a book that is quite academic but it's argument is very important. It is this. The law of God manifests a threefold division; the moral, ceremonial and civil aspects of the law. While our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all aspects of the law in his perfect life of obedience and his atoning death, the moral law does forever bind all, as the Westminster Confession rightly explains.

Does this affect you? Definitely! It is because we see many churches abandoning the role of the law for Christians and churches and the consequences are disastrous. Let me ask you; can you recite the Ten Commandments? Do not feel guilty, but your answer reveals the neglect that the moral law of God has undergone. Of course we are not saved by the law but by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-5) but the law of God frames our way of worship and our way of life.

When the moral law of God is side-lined by the church, there are two immediate consequences. Firstly, worship will be taken over by man-made methods. Why? Because the first four of the Ten Commandments teach us that Scripture regulates how we are to worship God. By abandoning the law of God, indirectly the consequence is, that we now need to decide how to worship God instead of Scripture. Often an obsession with evangelism, rather than the purity of God-centred worship, then begins to drive the agenda.

Secondly, the power of gospel preaching is weakened because an understanding of sin is weakened. Why?
'Through the law comes the knowledge of sin, Romans 3:20'.

Here is some homework for you.

1. Read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17.
2. Read Romans Chapter 7 to hear Paul's positive view of the role of the law in the life of the church.
3. Read Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession 'Of the Law of God'.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Lloyd-Jones and his Book "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount"

In an age where many people like to lay claim to the title 'reformed' but then they sometimes sadly feed on books which do not engage in solid biblical exposition, I would like to recommend a book that John Stott calls 'a spiritual classic'. This is 'Studies in the Sermon on the Mount' by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (IVP). Lloyd-Jones is of course no longer with us but his rich explanation of the beatitudes and the Lord's teachings on the Sermon on the Mount can still help many hungry and thristy pilgrims today!

This book really helped me in a time when I was searching for answers and I found little comfort from many. Sadly, I would observe much preaching and worship services where there was a manifest famine of preaching that was simply 'out of the Scripture'. This book unfolds the Scripture, it takes the biblical text seriously and this is what is needed for truly contemporary ministry. Sometimes, men from good traditions think that they can reinvent the wheel and they think that we need to be contemporary to win a lost world by singing contemporary songs and using contemporary approaches to evangelism. "This is what we need", they say. Sadly this philosophy is at best missing the point, and at worst it creates a form of Christianity alien to what our Lord presented as the pattern for ministry.

This book helpfully expounds man's need in every generation; searching, well prepared sermons that stick close to the Bible. May we have less internet illustrations, less internet jokes and less internet cliches in the pulpit and more solid, faithful, exegetical sermons.

Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Je 6:16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Work of the Pastor

Some spare time over Christmas gave me the opportunity to read a range of books simply, ones that were for my personal benefit and not directly for ministerial work. I generally keep a shelf of books set aside for times such as these, and I eagerly devour my collection of personal books, when time permits. One such book that I could not put down was The Work of the Pastor by William Still. It is lively, invigorating, incisive, confirming and encouraging. William Still teaches on the work of the pastor and its great need for the church in every generation. It would be very helpful, not only for ministers and elders but also for congregations, because it helps us all to know what we should be praying for, and that is for faithful pastors.

Here are a few excerpts:

'The pastor is to called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness (23)'.

'We are suffering from an evangelistic complex, an obsession with evangelism, which at its best is too fruitless (81)'.

'Too many ministers find other things to do, either because they do not like the pastoral ministry, and find it too hard, or because it creates too many problems working with people, or because they have gone cold and dead on it and it doesn't cut much ice, and they are discouraged (86)'.

Even if you do not read this book, may we all lay hold of the promise in Jeremiah 3:15, in prayer:

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Authority of Scripture (Part 4)

The authority of Scripture is so important to the health of Christianity; it is important for me to keep working on this subject on this blog, but to approach the subject from different angles. Hopefully the 'penny will drop' for many and a new resolve and commitment will be given to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Our view of Scripture shapes the church's approach to worship, evangelism, preaching, discipleship, and so much more.

In the Second Reformation in the United Kingdom in the seventeenth century, there was a concern that the authority of Scripture was only being paid 'lip service' and there was the signing of The Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. It pledged to the 'reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland in doctrine, worship, discipline and government, according to the Word of God, and the example of the best reformed churches'.

Here we note that a commitment to the authority of Scripture has to be worked out in practice in four areas.

A. Doctrine
B. Worship
C. Discipline
D. Church Government

The Word of God has explicit teaching on all four aspects of the church. Sadly there has been a movement for many years in the UK that teaches that the Bible does not give clear guidelines on public worship or on how churches should be governed. This opens the door to private interpretations initially, which gives way to unbelief and widescale pragmatism. Simply deciding on the basis of 'what works best' not on the basis of Romans 4:3, 'For what does the Scripture say?'

Ask yourself some questions. Do you believe that the Scripture has clear teaching on the above four categories? Are you concerned as to whether the Bible has clear teaching on these subjects? Does your church believe that the Bible has clear teaching on these subjects?

If your answer is 'no' to each of these questions then you need to engage in personal critical evaluation. You may have unknowingly embraced liberal influences without even knowing it.

Let us join together in prayer for a recovery of the authority of Scripture in the lives of Christians and Churches!

Acts 2:42 'And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching ...'

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Authority of Scripture (Part 3)

It is interesting that certain of my blog posts attract more attention than others. I do hope that this one will be of interest because our subject is crucial to the health of the church. I want to briefly mention five tests, to determine whether you accept the authority of Scripture or not. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says 'examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves'. The apostle John also taught that we we must not 'believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1)'. If it was true then, how much more the case today ... false prophets are everywhere, not least on so-called Christian TV channels.

Here are five simple tests to examine yourself, as to whether you hold to the authority of Scripture.

1. Do you seek extra-biblical revelations, dreams, visions and words? If the answer is yes, then you have fallen at the first fence and you really need to re-evaluate your belief system. Paul told Timothy that 'all scripture is breathed out by God 2 Tim. 3:16'. If the extra-biblical words that you are seeking agree with Scripture, then they are needless, and if they disagree they are false! The Bible is sufficient for the church.

2. Do you endorse the ministry of women preachers, elders, and even deacons? If you say yes to this question, then the heart of the issue is your rejection of the authority of Scripture. 1 Timothy 3:1-2, 3:12 and Titus 1:5-6 and all of the New Testament make it plain that the teaching of the Scriptures in the public assembly is to be by the elders, men who are to be qualified for the task. Men qualified in doctrine, gifting, character, while also having been tested by the church's presbytery.

3. Can you read the book The Shack without having a problem with it?
The Shack by William Young has sold millions of copies and most probably it has been read by professing Christians, mostly, and yet it is a blasphemous distortion of the Christian God. If you have read this book without any 'red flags' in your mind, then you need to ask yourself some hard questions.

4. Is your church committed to the exposition of Scripture? This is an easy test because your church preference probably is the most discernible aspect as to whether you are committed to the authority of Scripture. If you can attend a church week in and week out, one that fails to take the Bible seriously or one that only pays lip service to biblical exposition, then you may have become like Samson on Delilah's lap. Either you have fallen asleep spiritually or you are been sincerely misled and you need to seek out a church committed to the authority of the Bible.

In conclusion, let me quote the English puritan Thomas Watson (who was born in Yorkshire) on the matter of reading the Scriptures:

‘Read the Bible with reverence. Think in every line you read that God is speaking to you’
‘Read with seriousness. It is a matter of life and death; by this Word you must be tried’.
‘Read the Word with affection’.
‘Read the Scripture, not only as a history, but as a love letter sent you from God, which may affect your hearts’.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Authority of Scripture (Part 2)

Here we continue with a mini-blog series on the all important theme of the authority of Scripture. Should it be a surprise to any of us, that in 2011, God's Word as revealed in the Holy Bible, will be under attack? It certainly should not be a surprise for any Bible reading Christian. Why? Well let us look at the fall of mankind.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’? (Genesis 3:1)".

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4-5)".

What does the Serpent do? Firstly he undermines the authenticity of God's Word; 'Did God actually say ...'. Secondly he undermined the validity of God's commands and he asserts 'you will not surely die'. Thirdly he suggests a false revised interpretation 'you will be like God'. We could call this the first Jacques Derrida style deconstructionist and post-modern reading of Scripture!

The followers of this kind of approach to the Bible are sadly everywhere and they often are allowed to continue unchallenged. The old line liberals would clearly represent this category; people who outright deny the authority of the Bible, that God is the author of the Scriptures, liberals who radically reinterpret God's commands with their fanciful imaginations. However, this erroneous thinking and teaching has also crept in unawares into sections of the church professing to be evangelical and we will look at some tell-tale signs of this rejection of the authority of Scripture in our next blog. The Bible does not simply contain the Word of God but the Bible is the very Word of God; inerrant, infallible, sufficient and thrilling!