Saturday, 8 October 2011

Reformed Books Soon

Given the growing interest there is in this website, with now almost 700 visitors each month, I will shortly be making available to the readership a number of excellent books on reformed theology and the history that was the context of the Reformation and of the men that followed. 

The books and booklets will present, in an eminently readable form, the best understanding of the Reformed Faith. That there is much confusion within the Christian community, as well as in the wider world, about what it is that constitutes the reformed faith, these books will set the record straight and will inform the Christian world of the true position.

This might sound like an idle boast, but it isn't.  When you consider that some of those who hold to the reformed faith really hold to one, arguably questionable, interpretation of the biblical data and of the great reformers who propagated this glorious message, that in itself ought to alert readers to what is going on.  The preferred interpretative key that is used is based on the theology of Dr John Owen (1616-1683), otherwise known as Owenism.

The pedlars of this view, and the closely linked Westminster theology, have shown themselves to be slightly dishonest in their handling of the biblical data.  For example, when Owen comes to interpretaung John 3:16, he sees the term "the world" as meaning "the world of the elect," an interpretation is highly questionable, to say the least.  His approach was to squeeze the biblical data through a particular theological/philosophical grid so that the end result fits in with that theology.  Hence, his belief that because Christ died only and exclusively for the elect - a statement that is found nowhere in Scripture - his interpretation of the many universalistic texts of the New Testament must agree with this basic preposition. 

When Owen's theology is compared with that of the great Geneva reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564), the contrast cold not be greater, not least in their respective understandings of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation).  Calvin believed, on the basis of exact Scriptural exegesis, that Christ died for all, for all men, for the whole world, for the human race, for mankind, and for humanity, in contradistinction to Owen's view that Christ died only for the elect. Calvin therefore had no difficulty in allowing the Scripture to speak out its own saving message as it stood, without feeling the need to make it say what a particular man-made theological
system demanded.

This has resulted in a muddying of the theological waters since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with a consequent loss of biblical balance and the growth of churches and theological schools that promoted their own theological ideas.

Indeed, some of the publishers reformed books have, in some cases, deliberately refused to allow those who promoted authentic Calvinism to have their works published and have only published those who held to such a position because their books had very good financial rewards.  Thus there is evidently a theological schizophrenia within some reformed publishing houses that borders on the dishonest, and sometimes crosses that line.  This is to be regretted.

The books that I will be promoting have, as a working title, Authentic Calvinism.  I think you will enjoy reading them, will be informed and inspired by their content, and will now yourself to "grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," (2 Pet.3:18).

Come back to this website regularly, bookmark it on your computer, and book and order details will be given.

Calvin's Applicatory Preaching.

Calvin moves seamlessly to application of the crucial point.  Let me quote his words:
"let us note carefully ... that when the Gospel is preached it will be a mere useless sound until our Lord shows that it is He who speaks: for He does not bestow that blessing upon all."[1]

Calvin is stating a theological fact, and an observable reality: much of our preaching is “a mere useless sound”!  Nothing much happens, at least not so far as we can see.  There is no power.  We are preaching in a valley of very many dry bones,[2] and to spiritual corpses.  All our learned discourses are mere noise. Yes, they can hear the words, but they cannot hear the Word.[3]  If, as Paul says, "the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes",[4] where's the evidence?  Where’s the fruit?   If, as Jesus commands us, we are to "go and make disciples of all the nations,"[5] where are they?  Where are the disciples we have made?  Where's the fruit?
No, my Friends, there's been a lot of noise from our pulpits, but no fruit.  What is needed?  The breath of God.  That's what we urgently need in our pulpits today.  The wind of God to come sweeping through us.  

The fire of God to consume the dross, the garbage, and the rubbish.  We need the spiritual and religious garbage to be removed from our lives and from our churches for the Spirit of God to come upon us, and do His work.  "Prophecy to the wind, that these very dry bones may live."[6]

Calvin states it clearly: "Until the Lord shows that it is He who speaks,"[7] all our preaching will be vain, useless, unproductive.  He must do it.  He must empower His Gospel before sinners will bow to His Majesty.  "The arm of the Lord" must be revealed[8] and laid bare in all its power.  The Spirit must come, the fire must fall, the wind must blow!

He continues: "the power of God is hidden from the reprobate, and therefore is a privilege that God confers on a few (those whom He has elected and adopted to attain to eternal life) when He declares to them that the Gospel is the message of salvation ..."[9]  But what is Calvin saying here?  The one thing, and only one thing, that guarantees the success of evangelism is election.  This is what gives the Gospel its irresistible power in and over the lives of the elect!  Nothing else!  Yes, so hard is the unregenerate heart that it can resist God's power in the Gospel.  And that is truly amazing, is it not?  That's why not all believe and receive the preaching![10]  It is darkness to those who do not believe!  Reprobates are incapable of discerning what is at stake when they reject Christ as He is "freely offered in the Gospel."[11]  The Gospel is the message of salvation. 

It is this truth, says Calvin, that ‘keeps us keeping on.’  Once we focus our attention on men and their response to the Gospel, we can only become disillusioned.  His estimation, however based, is that "hardly one in ten" will believe the Gospel.[12]  So if we fix our eyes on men's response to the Gospel, we can but be cast down.  This whole ‘Jesus’ thing is a failure.  The Gospel does not 'do what it says in the (Bible).' It's a failure.  It can't be believed.

”No no,” cautions Calvin.  Fix your eyes upon Jesus, the Redeemer of the world. He was humbled, humiliated, entered this world in poverty, undesirable, without beauty, and rejected by the majority; but God has "highly exalted Him, and given Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow … and every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."[13]  He's the One!   The devil will try and get us down, try to get us to lose faith and heart, try to destroy our hope.  "But you must not hear him, though 'tis hard for you to resist the evil and the good to do."[14]  There is a "wicked spirit" in the world, you know.  His job is to discredit Christ and His work.  He wants us to focus on men - a disastrous thing to do.   Look at how few who have believed.  This Gospel is not right, not true.

"But," says Isaiah, "Look to the Redeemer, for He will prevail." 

What a needed antidote this is to today’s unfaithful church, and decadent world!  How our souls need to be reminded of the loving power and gracious purposes of God to save His elect unerringly and eternally.  How careful we need to be to maintain the Bible’s own divinely given balance!  How easily we can slip into the very error we oppose by concentrating almost exclusively on the universal sufficiency of Christ’s death on the Cross, and forget that what guarantees the success of this mighty Gospel is divine election from all eternity.  Calvin, and Isaiah before him, wants us to fix our eyes on the sovereign Redeemer God, whose purposes cannot be thwarted by rebellious men.  Truly, God’s revealed will in Scripture tells of that He “wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth;”[15] but it is God’s secret will that guarantees that this will infallibly happen.  What a blend of precious saving truth! 

[1]   Sermon 2:50.
[2]   Ezek.37:1-11.
[3]   Acts 10:44.
[4]   Rom.1:16.
[5]   Matt.28:19.
[6]  Cf. Ezek.37:1-11.
[7]  Sermon 2:50.
[8]  Isa.53:1.
[9]  Sermon 2:50.
[10]  Isa.53:1.
[11]  Shorter Catechism No. 21.
[12]  Sermon 2:41.
[13]  Phil.2:9-11.
[14]  From the children’s hymn, “Do no sinful action.”
[15]  1 Tim.2:4.

Calvin's Pulpit Practice

Calvin's practice is to expound the Scriptures and allow them to speak to us.  His expositional method was not to spend the first part of the sermon explaining the meaning of the text, and then the second part in application.  No.  He explained and applied, explained and applied as he proceeded.  Baxter tended at times to do the former whereas Calvin always did the latter.  See his sermons on Second Samuel 1-12, Micah, Galatians, Ephesians, as examples of his regular practice.  Isaiah 53 follows this pattern consistently.

Calvin becomes very practical in his second sermon[1] as he introduces this second sermon, and throws much needed light on one of the most baffling questions to exercise the minds of Christian people - the inexplicable problem of unbelief.   He explains why most people, who, hearing the Gospel of Christ as it is preached to all the world, do not receive this "so great a salvation."[2]  He acknowledges that the outward call of the Gospel of Christ has sufficient power in itself to draw the lost sinner to faith in Christ; therefore, those who hear the true Gospel preached are totally inexcusable for their unbelief; but, he concedes, this is practically insufficient.  The effectual Gospel is ineffectual in the hearts of most hearers.  Something further is needed, an additional and accompanying power that only God possesses.  It is essential to preach the Gospel faithfully and with as much human energy that a man can muster; it is good to be as passionate and persuasive in preaching as possible; but these good things are not sufficient to save a single sinner and bring them to glory.  They are sufficient to render every hearer of the Gospel inexcusable before God the Judge, however; but they cannot save a sinner! More is needed.  The "arm of the Lord" must be “revealed”[3] laid bare in all its naked power to work savingly in the dead sinner’s heart.

This is Calvin’s way of teaching the absolute necessity of the operation of the conjoined twins of the Word and Spirit of God working together in perfect harmony to bring about the salvation of the sinner. 

This is fascinating.  This should deal effectively with every last vestige of doubt in any preacher’s mind.  This should demonstrate clearly that because God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance,”[4]  He will send His Spirit to anoint the preacher and to empower the Gospel as it is being preached.  We can be assured that when we are dependent on God to give the spiritual harvest we desire, He will not be found wanting.  And that saving work will be done by "the arm of the Lord,"[5] which Calvin understands as the power of God, "arm" being a metaphor for "power."  This is good exegesis.

Calvin brings out the dual nature of God's revealed will in the most impressive way.  Let me quote directly from the Reformer: "... The Prophet shows us that, although God commands that His Word be proclaimed to all - that is to say, both to the good and to the bad - yet He works secretly in His elect, as if He made them feel His arm and His power,"[6]  He denies the semi-Pelagianism of the past and the potential Arminianism of the future, by denying that "faith lies in the power of any man."  No preacher has ever been clearer than Calvin on this point.  Man does not have it within himself to trust Christ.  He needs God's gracious, sovereign and indispensable help! 

[1]   Sermon 2:49.
[2]   Heb.2:3.
[3]   Isa.53:1.
[4]   2 Pet.3:9.
[5]   Isa.53:1.
[6]   Sermon 2:49.

Calvin’s Method of Preaching.

Calvin’s method of preaching is truly expository, and is the model for all truly expository preaching.  Indeed, to get to know the true Calvin, we must see him as a preacher of the Gospel.  This is what took up most of his time and energy in Geneva.  His demanding preaching schedule saw him preaching 10 times every fortnight.  He preached in plain, colloquial French, and used turns of phrase that the common people would easily understand. 

His preaching is Christ-centred throughout.  He discovers Christ in all the Scriptures.  Throughout, he uses the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament. 

Isaiah preaches as if he was referring directly to Christ.  His office and calling is to be “the Redeemer of all believers and of all the elect ... of saving all His own.”[1]  And that is what He is!  That is precisely His calling.

But Calvin interpreted Scripture with Scripture, believing, as he did, that God's revealed will is revealed in ALL the Scriptures, and not in certain verses and passages only.  In the first sermon, Calvin speaks of Christ as "the Saviour of all the world."[2]
How beautiful is his balanced Biblicism!  How refreshing his faithfulness to Scripture!  And how laudable his evangelistic zeal!

What obviously drove Calvin’s evangelistic endeavours was his deeply held belief that Christ did in fact die for the world, for humanity, for the human race.  He saw this doctrine as clearly as he saw any other biblical doctrine.  The Bible taught that when God was offering salvation to the lost, guilty, dying world, that it was offering something real, something that anyone in that world could receive.   When the “Lamb of God” died to “take away the sin of the world,” [3] Calvin was convinced that here was a powerful message of salvation for all mankind.  And if it was for the taking away of the “sin of the world,” it was then for me, for I am “of the world.”  

Christian men and women, this message must be recovered if ever this generation is to be won for the Saviour.  If ever a lost world is to be reconciled to God by the Saviour, then we must re-discover the only message that can do that very thing!  God sent His Son to die on Calvary that “the world through Him might be saved.”  Says Calvin, “the guilt of the whole world was laid upon Him.”  There is therefore hope for this world of ours – but only in Christ.   Our responsibility is to herald that glorious message to all and sundry.  We are to go and “make disciples of all nations.”  We are not to be content to merely ‘share’ this message with others, for that would be to disobey what our Saviour commanded.  We are to “make disciples of all nations.”  Mere decisions do not ‘cut the ice.’  Getting sinners to merely ‘profess their faith’ in some formal manner, is not what our Lord is talking about.  This completely rules out all varieties of formal religion, evangelical and reformed included.  Our aim in preaching this mighty message is not to get their names written in the Communion roll of a church, but to get their names written in heaven!   Anything short of that will offend our God, and do a massive dis-service to our fellow human beings.

Calvin will have none of that!  His gospel is full-blown; it is full of verve and nerve; it is powerful and passionate and riveting, coming, as it does, from a man whose heart is on fire for Christ.  Calvin’s gospel is no dull theological lecture delivered to disinterested individuals, no take it or leave it matter, no spiritual add-on to their already very full religious and worldly life.  Not at all.  Calvin’s gospel is manly, it is directed and targeted, it is precisely applied to those he had in front of him.  Calvin spoke a message for the very hour in which he lived.  And he applied it without fear or favour to all who heard him preach.  He was very much a man’s man, a man’s preacher.  

[1]   Sermon 1:32.
[2]   Sermon 1:39.
[3]   Jn.1:29.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Motives for Ministers

This paragraph is taken from an abridged version of Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor. This post is directed to those who have been called to preach the Gospel of God (Rom.1:1), and the message is timely.

"Look after yourselves because, like others, you have a heaven to win or lose. You may preach the gospel and even lead others to Christ, but without holiness you can never be saved. You can preach about Christ and yet neglect him, about the Spirit and resist him, about faith and yet remain unbelieving, about conversion and stay unconverted, about heaven while remaining worldly. You may be the greatest preacher in the world, but without grace in your heart you will remain unsaved. Preachers of the gospel will be judged by the gospel. Therefore, take care because you have a soul that will be saved or lost eternally."

Preacher, as one who is set apart for the ministry of the Word of God, think on these things!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Where is the POWER?

After leaving a church service in one of our provincial towns quite recently, we were trying ti analyse what had taken place.  We agreed that the Word was explained quite well, and that was good.  The worship was becoming the House of God, and we appreciated that, too.

But we could not discern that something was wrong - we knew that something was missing, but we could put our finger on it.  Then it struck me - there was no power in the service.  That is what was missing!  There was no power, nothing to indicate that God was present - if indeed He was present.

Out that in the light of Rom.1:16 where Paul tells us that the Gospel is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." So, if the Gospel is truly preached, then "the power of God" will be felt, experienced. Those present at such a service will know they are in God's House, and He Himself is there, too. 

But if there is no power, where, then, is God?  The church is kidding itself that God is present automatically "where two or three are gathered together in [His] name."  This is the ploy that is resorted to in many evangelical churches to convince themselves that God really is with them.  But if there is no power, then God is not there!

How is it possible that God could be present in a service and no one feel His touch on their lives?  Can He be in a service and nobody hear Him when He speaks to them?  Can such a holy Person be there and no one feel their uncleanness?  Who are ministers fooling when they tell their people that God is with them when He might not be!  God is not deceived by such evidence-less talk.

Oh, there is an obvious absence of power in the church today, despite some branches of it claiming that they have so many evangelicals who preach the gospel in their ministry.  If this is as they claim, why then is there no spiritual improvement in these churches?  Why is there so much deadness when church members meet to worship the living and true God?  Despite, or perhaps, because of, the 'contemporary worship' that many churches use today, that deadness is chilling.  You can almost feel it in your bones.  You very soul detects that all is not well in the house of the Lord.

But if there are growing numbers of evangelicals offering themselves for the Christian ministry, why is the churches condition not improving steadily?  What is the answer?  Perhaps someone reading this post will suggest an answer.  Do you know or have that answer?  What has gone wrong in the church?  Does anyone care enough to ask this disturbing question?  It seems, not.  If you have a suggestion why spiritually the church today in the West is totally discredited, and has lost all credibility in the eyes of the public, as well as in the eyes of many within the church, then I'd be delighted to read your comments. 

That something serious is wrong is evident to all; that something radical needs to be done is admitted by some; but that there are few lining up to do it is all too obvious.  Are you?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A Puritan Prayer!

O, Lord, open mine eyes and open mine heart: Lord, my heart is naturally locked up against Thy Word, there are wards in my heart that, except Thou art pleased to put in the key that may fit my heart, it will never open... Lord, I have often gone to Thy Word and the key hath stuck in my heart, and it hat not opened; but Lord, if Thou wouldest but fit it and turn it with Thine own hand, my heart would open.
Jeremiah Burroughs.

Confessional Correctness and Denominations

Not only is confessional correctness 'king,' so also is denominationalism, especially the particular denomination we belong to.  Denominations generally have a confessional basis, so this ought not to surprise us.  To say the one thing is to say the other!

What some reformed Christians seem to think is that the denomination is there to be supported by them, when in fact, the denomination is there to support the work of the Gospel.  What happens is that denominations tend to take on a life of their own, and become the reason for the existence of the congregations.  Congregations, then, exist to make sure the denomination exists, which is another way of saying that there is goal displacement in evidence.  

The denomination is there to ensure that the work of the Gospel is facilitated, not obstructed.  When denominations obstruct the work of the Gospel, especially in difficult places, to that degree have they ceased to be true churches.

Something to think about!

Bully Alert Website

A new website has been published which will have relevance to those Christian people and churches where bullying behaviour is a problem  It is called Bully Alert and can be accessed by clicking the link.

Because workplace bullying is a major problem that goes largely unrecognised, virtually all organisations in which this evil behaviour is tolerated, and sometimes used as a tool of management, deny that it is a reality within its jurisdiction.  But that is patently not the case.

Over the past 14 years, I have had many people in touch with me, right across the religious denominations, who have been adversely affected by workplace bullying, and who suffered horrendously as a result.  These dear people did not receive any help from their churches, and the reason is quite clear - it was the churches who were the bullies.  It is bad enough being bullied in an ordinary workplace, but to be bullied in and by the Christian church is inexplicable.  This is the caring profession par excellence, yet people's lives have been destroyed by the tolerated and validated behaviour of these religious professionals.

Please keep watch on both these websites - and

Materials are offered on Bully Alert for those who want to understand this evil phenomenon.  It is also important for Christians that they gain a biblical perspective on this unchristian behaviour and also find the comfort they need to combat it.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away The Sin Of The World!

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  (John 1:29)

1. The ‘world’ is not what it was meant to be.  It is life organised and lived out apart from God. It is life lived under the judgement of God. We see it as attractive (Gk. cosmos, from which we get our word cosmetics), as desirable, and something to be emulated.

But this is wrong. The world is everything God is not. The "world" is the life of every person - "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." "World” refers to not only its 'badness,' but also to its 'bigness.'

2. The 'world' is characterised by sin. Sin is a frightening reality because it is utterly repulsive to God. But we do not find it so. We can talk about it and pray against it, without trembling at its very mention. Sin is that which provokes the wrath of God. It is that magnet that draws the judgement of God on every sinner, all mankind. The whole world, that is, every individual, mankind, is guilty before God. Think of the world and you think of sin. It affects negatively every person that was born into the world, except our Lord Jesus Christ. It pollutes everything in your life. It is a robber and thief, a murderer, a deceiver and a destroyer. Sin does this to every sinner, and it draws down the judgement of God.

3. The world's sin can be taken away.  This verses provides us with the best news the world could ever want to hear.  The world’s sin CAN BE TAKEN AWAY!  Isn't that brilliant?  Isn't that great!  What a relief!  This spoiler can be taken away, this murderer, this robber.  It can be removed.  Its legacy can be destroyed.  My friend, the thing that keeps you under judgment can be removed.  Your SIN can be taken away, YOUR SIN.  Think of that!  The very thing that will guarantee your eternal destruction, can be taken away.  It can be lifted off.  That weight that burdens you – taken away.  The thing that depresses you, and that holds you in its vice grip, can be removed.  That is a great possibility for you.  Did you know that?  For sin to be taken away, is for it to be forgiven by God.  And this happens at the CROSS.  It is the death and passion of Christ that does it.  He took our sin in His own body on the tree, and bore it away!  That’s why our Lord Jesus Christ died on Calvary.  That's why He came.  This opens the door to eternal salvation.  The sin that has messed up your life can be taken away.

4.  The Lamb of God is only one who can take away sin, v.29.  No one else can do this for us.  “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the Cross.”  He was separated from the Father because He was bearing your sin and mine.  “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me,” Ps.22:1.  He was punished and got what you should have got, He took it in your place.
“There was no other good enough to pay the price if sin;
He only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in.”   

It was a sacrificial death.  That was His purpose for coming – He was born to die – for you and for me.  It was not to teach, or to be an example, or to perform miracles that He came – He came to die in your place and mine.  He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

5.  For this to happen to you, you must look to Lamb of God.  But the big question is, how can this become mine?  How can I experience this forgiveness?  How can, a sinner, who has a sense of his need of Christ, get this much needed relief?  There is only one way, and that is by looking to Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  “Look unto ME and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”  There is no other way, and no other Person Who can do this for you.  Only “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Look in faith to Christ.  See in Him the only One Who can do you spiritual and eternal good.  And do you know what?  He’s waiting this very moment to be merciful to you.  His arms are wide open to receive you.  Why?  Because His heart open to receive you.  Put your trust in the only Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.  Cast yourself unreservedly on Him for forgiveness and salvation.  Give your heart to Him.  Do you know what faith does?  Calvin explains this for us.  Faith not only lets us come to Christ, but, and listen very carefully to this, faith opens up access for Christ to come to you.  It's one thing for you to come to Christ, but it's altogether another thing for Christ to come to you.  The Saviour of the world came to earth-worms like us, a fact that is utterly amazing.  

 You might ask, “How will I know if my sins have been taken away?”  That's a very good question.  Well, you can come to Christ as I have said.  But you must keep on coming until you know in your heart that He has arrived and has taken up residence in your life.  Will I feel anything, you ask?  When Christ comes to you and He takes up His abode in your heart, you will have all feelings you’ll ever want.  You will KNOW.

So my last word to you is this: do it now!

(For further information, contact me at 028 7963 4684; or at