Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Biblical Case for Expositional Preaching by Mike Bullmore

I just thought I would offer our readers a reminder of the importance of expository preaching, so today I offer for your consideration an article entitled A Biblical Case for Expositional Preaching. The article was written by Mike Bullmore, pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who has also served for fifteen years as an Associate Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, as well as chairman of the Practical Theology Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Mike establishes his case by means of the Apostolic example and teaching as recorded in the New Testament. Here is his conclusion:
The conclusion we are to draw from all of this is that the “word” we are to preach is the body of truth consisting of the Old Testament Scriptures and the apostolic teaching regarding Christ—i.e. the New Testament. Thus, identifying the “word” with our Bibles is appropriate. This is what those commissioned as “pastor-teachers” are to teach. Our job is to proclaim “the word” which God has spoken, preserved in Scripture, and entrusted to us. The spiritual life of God’s people depends on this word (Deut. 8:3). That is why a young pastor is charged to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). If this charge makes any claim on us today, and it does, then the source of our preaching is to be entirely coextensive with our Bibles.
What will this look like? In our sermon preparation, it will look like taking defined passages of God’s Word and studying them carefully so that we “rightly handle the word of truth.” In the pulpit, it will look like the picture we see in Nehemiah 8:8: “They read from the book . . . clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” God has both purposed and promised to use this kind of preaching to accomplish one of his great aims—the gathering and building up of his people.
I recommend reading the article, and I welcome your thoughts. I already know what the Apostle Paul would say:
NKJ 2 Timothy 3:12-4:4 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Amen!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

James White’s Scary Five Year Prediction for the Church in America



In the video above, Todd Friel of Wretched Radio and Wretched TV interviews Dr. James White concerning the future of the Church in America in light of the current success of the gay rights agenda. He asks Dr. White about how he sees things going for the Church over the next five and ten years. I have to say that I agree that things are headed in the direction he outlines. In fact, it may be that in my own lifetime, barring a gracious intervention from God, I and many of my fellow pastors will have to go to jail simply for teaching that homosexuality is a sin. We must pray for spiritual awakening in our country if we wish to see God's judgment averted, for we truly are under the judgment of God as described in the first chapter of Romans:
NKJ Romans 1:18-27 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
May God be gracious to our country, for we certainly do not deserve His love and care!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Primacy of the Abrahamic Covenant by Jeff Johnson



As the description on the YouTube pages says, in this message "Pastor Jeff Johnson, author of The Fatal Flaw Behind The Theology of Infant Baptism, shows us how the Abrahamic Covenant unifies the Old Testament and the New Testament; the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, the demands of the law and the glory of grace." I hope all the blog's readers will find it helpful. If you want to learn more from Jeff on these foundational issues, I highly recommend two of his books:
The Fatal Flaw Behind The Theology of Infant Baptism (The single best book I have ever read on the subject)
The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Covenant & Biblical Theology
I am grateful to have Jeff as a blog partner, and I hope you will find his writing as beneficial as I have.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sermon Widgets Added to the Blog

For those who would like to have access to the regular preaching of Jeff or myself, you will find two widgets from SermonAudio on the right panel of the blog. Just scroll down and you will see the widget first for Grace Bible Church, where Jeff has been serving as the primary teaching elder since 2000. Just below that you will see the widget for Immanuel Baptist Church, where I have been serving as the primary teaching elder since 1994.

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God-- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-- 31 that, as it is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.'" (1Cor. 1:27-31 NKJ). Soli deo gloria! 

Friday, May 01, 2015

Bob Gonzales on John 3:16

A few weeks ago I finished writing a two-part series of blog posts on the meaning of John 3:16. In the first of those posts I observed that there is room within the Reformed theological community to agree to disagree about the interpretation of this verse, most particularly with regard to the meaning of the Greek term kósmos, which is translated as world. In fact, I cited both John Calvin and D.A. Carson as examples of Reformed theologians who have understood this word to have a universal meaning. They believe it is correct to understand this word as referring to God's love for all men, whereas many Reformed theologians such as John Owen and James White understand the term to refer to the elect from all over the world rather than just the Jews.

In this post I would like to offer another example of a Reformed theologian -- in fact, a fellow Reformed Baptist -- who understands John 3:16 as speaking of God's love for all men. Bob Gonzales has written an article entitled “Whosoever Believes”: Why I Interpret John 3:16 as a Gospel Invitation. Here is his conclusion:
Just because you’re a Calvinist doesn’t mean you’ve got to reserve John 3:16 for the saints. It’s designed for sinners too. It has an evangelistic aim. Therefore, don’t just preach the facts of God’s benevolent love and Jesus’ incarnation. Don’t just tell your congregation that believers go to heaven. Use the text as a gospel invitation. Entreat all and every sinner to “look and live.” And if someone questions whether you’re truly a Calvinist, you can reply, “I’m a ‘John (3:16) Calvinist.”
Although I disagree with Bob's interpretation of the verse, I agree with him that there is a Gospel invitation implied in the verse, and I agree that a good Calvinist may understand John 3:16 as he does, so I wanted to make that clear to the blog's readers. I hope you can all agree with me that, whether or not you side with Calvin, Carson, and Gonzales concerning the precise meaning of this verse, there is room within the Reformed camp for such a difference of interpretation.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Scott Brown's New Family Integrated Church Declaration and Why You Should Care " by Shawn Mathis

In August of last year I posted an article recommending Shawn Mathis' series entitled "Pastoral Evaluation of the Family Integrated Church Movement" and his book entitled Uniting Church and Family, which is essentially a collection of his many previous online writings concerning the Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM). He has also written a review of the FICM movie Divided here. Yesterday, however, Shawn added another article to the list entitled Scott Brown's New Family Integrated Church Declaration and Why You Should Care. Here is his conclusion:
So, the new declaration of the NCFIC has changed nothing, notwithstanding it kinder, gentler language.
You, dear reader, should care about this new declaration because it is subtly written to retain all its original radicalness while sounding attractive. It is a well-organized movement determined to create new churches in its own image. It is a public call for your church to follow the innovative regulative principle of discipleship.
It is aimed at reforming the family contrary to the history of the church and the freedom found in Christ. And that is why you should care.
Frankly, I suspect that the revision of the declaration might have something to do with allowing men like Kevin Swanson to be able to sign the declaration again without having to choose between their formal affiliation with the FICM versus their denominational affiliation. At any rate, I agree with Shawn's assessment, and I recommend that you read his article.

For those who are new to this issue or to this blog, you may want to check out a few of my articles touching on the subject from a Reformed Baptist perspective:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Confronts Two Current Errors About Church and Family

Is Age Segregated Sunday School Biblical? – Part 1

Is Age Segregated Sunday School Biblical? – Part 2

Is Age Segregated Sunday School Biblical? – Part 3

As always, we welcome your comments.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Brief Survey of Covenant Theology by Richard Barcellos







Many of the blog's readers will no doubt be familiar with Richard Barcellos, especially if you have watched the excellent introductory videos at the 1689 Federalism website (which I have recommended in the past). For those who are not familiar with him, you may read a little more about him on our Reformed Baptist Resources page or check out his bio page at the website of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, where he serves as a pastor. In the videos posted above, Dr. Barcellos offers a very helpful overview of Covenant Theology from a Reformed Baptist perspective. I have included all three of them here for your convenience.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

God's Great and Gracious Love – John 3:16 Part 2 (Teaching Outline)

Introduction: Just as I pointed out last week, even so this week I want to observe how important it is to begin reading the text at verse 1 in order to refresh our minds concerning the context leading up to this verse. As the text is read, observe again that the word for (γάρ, gár) at the beginning of verse 16 tells us that this verse is explaining the cause of what Jesus said in verses 14-15. This means that God's love is what caused the Son of Man to be lifted up for our salvation, not anything in us!
NKJ  John 3:16 For [γάρ, gár] God so [οὕτως, hoútōsthus, so, in this manner] loved the world [κόσμος, kósmos] that He gave His only begotten [μονογενής, monogenḗsone and only] Son, that whoever believes [πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων, pãs ho pisteúōn] in Him should not perish [Aor. Dep. Subj. > ἀπόλλυμι, apóllumi] but have [Pres. Act. Subj. > ἔχω, échō] everlasting life.
Last week we began our examination of the first part of this verse under the heading, “The Greatness of God's Love,” and this week we will continue our study of the latter part of this verse under two headings, first “The Grace of God's Love,” and then “The Goal of God's Love.”

The Grace of God's Love

This idea was implicit in our study of this verse last week, when we saw that God's love for us sinners was so great that it led Him to give His one and only Son for the elect from all over the world. Today I want to make this idea explicit, because John himself definitely means to communicate that our salvation is by God's grace when he highlights two facts.

First, John highlights the fact that it was God Himself who took the initiative to do what was necessary to save us. It was God in His love who offered His one and only Son so that we might not perish but have everlasting life. His presentation here thus highlights what he later stresses in his first epistle:
NKJ  1 John 4:16-19 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.
What a comforting truth it is to know that God has loves us even though we don't deserve it! Such love does indeed cast out fear!

Second, John highlights that salvation is by God's grace when he specifically says that God “gave” His one and only Son. So, when the Lord Jesus died on the cross, He did so as God's gift to us by which we are saved and receive everlasting life. This leads us to our next major heading.

The Goal of God's Love

John tells us what was God's goal or purpose in giving His Son. It was so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But it is important to here to understand clearly what John is saying, especially since so many well-intentioned Christians tend to misunderstand this verse precisely at this point.

For example, when many Christians read this verse and see that God loved the world, they assume that He loved everyone without exception and that He loved them all in the same way. But we saw last week that this is not necessarily the right way to understand John's use of the Greek word for world here.

Yet this is not where the problem ends, because these same Christians then go on to assume that John means to imply that everyone is equally capable of believing when he says that “whoever believes” in Him should not perish. Yet John says nothing in this verse about who is able to believe in Christ. Nor does he say anything about how anyone comes to believe in Christ. He simply says that every one who does believe will not perish but have everlasting life.

The Greek phrase here is pãs ho pisteúōn. Pãs is an adjective which means all or every, and ho pisteúōn is a participle preceded by an article, and it means he who believes or the believing one. John is thus quite clearly saying that God's intention in giving His Son Jesus was so that every believing one should not perish but have everlasting life. He is specifying a particular group of human beings – those who believe – and nothing in the grammar indicates that all human beings are in mind. Yet, whenever certain Christians see the word whoever or whosoever in an English translation, they automatically assume that John is speaking of some indefinite group and that he is trying to say that all human beings have the same capacity to believe. They also often assume that simply citing this verse is enough to defeat the doctrine of election as taught elsewhere in the Bible and as understood by Reformed believers.

But, as I have pointed out, this text says nothing at all about who will believe in Christ or how they will come to believe in Him. For an explanation of these ideas we would have to look elsewhere in Scripture. For example, if we want to know how it is that people come to faith in Christ, then we might want to pay close attention to Jesus' teaching as recorded by John later on in this same Gospel. Perhaps a brief look at John 6 will suffice.

First, it is important as we read John 6 to see how Jesus used the terminology of coming to Him as equivalent to believing in Him. This can be seen in verse 35-40:
NKJ  John 6:35-40 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” [Notice that everlasting life is spiritual life that may be experienced now, but which also includes our future resurrection.]
We have taken the time to read these verses so that you can be assured that, when Jesus speaks of someone coming to Him, He means that this person believes in Him. He uses the terminology interchangeably. Now, with that understanding, let's take a look at a couple of other points Jesus makes later in the same context.
NKJ  John 6:44-45 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.
How can we tell who has been taught and drawn by the Father? All we have to do is look to see who is coming to Jesus in faith. Clearly, only those who have been so taught by the Father and drawn by the Father to Jesus can and will believe in Him. And, since no one can come to the Jesus unless they are thus drawn by the Father, then no one can believe in Jesus unless they are drawn by Him. Later on in this passage, Jesus stresses the same point:
NKJ  John 6:65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted [Perf. Pass. Part. > δίδωμι, has been given] to him by My Father.”
Now, if coming to Jesus is the same thing as believing in Jesus, and if coming to Jesus is a gift from God the Father, then believing in Jesus is a gift from God the Father. So this is just one of a number of passages that show that saving faith is a gift of God, not something that anyone has in and of himself, aside from God's having granted it to Him. The Apostle Paul would later put it this way:
NKJ  Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God....”
But if this is true, if faith is the gift of God, then we have even more evidence that the common understanding that many Christians have of John 3:16 is simply wrong. For they see it as indicating that all men are somehow equally capable of believing, when the Bible clearly teaches that no one is capable of believing in Christ at all unless saving faith has been given to him by God.

But what is the nature of the faith that God gives? What is saving faith like? I think Wayne Grudem gives us a helpful start in answering this question when he explains the sense of the Greek phrase employed by John in this verse, a phrase which is also commonly used elsewhere in the New Testament:
John 3:16 tells us that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Here John uses a surprising phrase when he does not simply say, “whoever believes him” (that is, believes that what he says is true and able to be trusted), but rather, “whoever believes in him.” The Greek phrase pisteuo eis auton could also be translated “believe into him” with the sense of trust or confidence that goes into and rests in Jesus as a person. Leon Morris can say, “Faith, for John, is an activity which takes men right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ.” He understands the Greek phrase pisteuo eis to be a significant indication that New Testament faith is not just intellectual assent but includes a “moral element of personal trust.” Such an expression was rare or perhaps nonexistent in the secular Greek found outside the New Testament, but it was well suited to express the personal trust in Christ that is involved in saving faith. (Systematic Theology, p. 711)
In other words, saving faith is more that intellectual assent to facts about Jesus. Saving faith is rather personal trust in Jesus to save you from your sins. It is faith such as this which embraces Christ so that one might not perish but instead have everlasting life. And, as we have already seen when we looked ahead to John 6, this everlasting life refers to spiritual life now that looks forward to and includes the resurrection.

But those who do not trust in Jesus will perish, which means that they will experience the eternal death which involves separation from the love of God that has been so wonderfully declared in this verse. Later John would write more about the fate of unbelievers in the Book of Revelation, where he described the final judgment and said, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (20:14-15).

Conclusion: I will conclude with an illustration from a sermon by S. Lewis Johnson:
What does it mean to believe? There is a story of a skeptical physician who was administering to a Christian patient. He said to his patient, “I could never understand saving faith. I believe in God and I suppose I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m not conscious of any doubts. I believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and I believe in the Bible, yet I’m not saved. What’s the matter with me?” The Christian patient said, “Well, a day or two ago I believed in you. I believed that you were a very skillful physician; I believed that you could possibly prescribe for me and heal me. But then a few days just recently I discovered I was really sick and so I came to you and I put myself in your hands to be healed. In other words, I trusted you.” He said, “For a time now I’ve been taking some mysterious stuff out of a bottle. I don’t know what it is, I don’t understand it, but I’m trusting you.”
Well that’s a good explanation of what saving faith is. It’s to turn to the Lord Jesus and say, if you’re puzzled, “Lord Jesus, Christianity seems to me to be full of mysteries. I don’t understand all those mysteries but I believe that you are trustworthy and I trust you. I entrust myself and my eternal destiny into your hands because you have offered an atoning sacrifice for sinners, and that’s what I am.” That’s saving faith. (Online sermon entitled The Greatest text of All)
I pray that all who read these posts and who have not yet come to know Christ as Lord Savior will so trust in Him.

See part one here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

God's Great and Gracious Love – John 3:16 Part 1 (Teaching Outline)

Note: As we prepare to examine this text, I just want to point out that there is some legitimate disagreement as to whether or not Jesus is still speaking in verse 16. Although red letter editions of the Bible typically continue with red print through verse 21, I think it highly likely that the Apostle John begins to add his own comments on Jesus' statements to Nicodemus beginning in verse 16. Of course, either way we still have the inspired Word of God, and we must still understand John's teaching as having derived from Jesus Himself. So, even if we have John's comments in verses 16-21, we must understand his statements as reflecting the teaching he had previously received from our Lord Jesus. With this in mind, it is important to begin reading the text at verse 1 to refresh our minds concerning the context leading up to this verse. As the text is read, observe that the word for (γάρ, gár) at the beginning of verse 16 tells us that this verse is explaining the cause of what Jesus said in verses 14-15. This means that God's love is what caused the Son of Man to be lifted up for our salvation, not anything in us!

Introduction: James White has written concerning this verse that:
Sometimes the passages we know best we know least. That is, when we hear a passage repeated in a particular context over and over and over again, we tend to lose sight of its real meaning in its original setting. This is surely the case with John 3:16, for it is one of the most commonly cited passages in evangelical preaching. And yet, how often is it actually subjected to exegesis? Hardly ever. Its meaning is assumed rather than confirmed. (Online article entitled, Blinded By Tradition: An Open Letter to Dave Hunt)
I agree with James White's assessment, which is why I want to devote the entirety of today's and next week's teaching to this single verse. We all know that it is one of the most quoted verses of the Bible, but I hope we will see after our study of the verse that it is perhaps also one of the most commonly misunderstood verses of the whole Bible. We will examine the verse under three headings. This week we will consider the meaning of the first part of the verse under the heading, “The Greatness of God's Love,” and next week we will consider the second half of the verse under the headings, “The Grace of God's Gove” and “The Goal of God's love.”

The Greatness of God's Love

We see the greatness of God's love in the first part of the verse, which tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten – or, better, one and only – Son.
NKJ  John 3:16 For [γάρ, gár] God so [οὕτως, hoútōsthus, so, in this manner] loved the world [κόσμος, kósmos] that He gave His only begotten [μονογενής, monogenḗsone and only] Son, that whoever believes [πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων, pãs ho pisteúōn] in Him should not perish [Aor. Dep. Subj. > ἀπόλλυμι, apóllumi] but have [Pres. Act. Subj. > ἔχω, échō] everlasting life.
In other words, God's love for the world was so great that it led him to give even His one and only Son to become flesh and dwell among us (1:14) and to be lifted up on the cross to die for our sins (vss.14-15). This is the primary way in which the greatness of God's love is seen. It is seen in the greatness of the gift He has given for sinners such as you and me.

But the greatness of God's love is not only seen in the greatness of the gift it led Him to give; it is also seen in His loving such a big, bad world of sinners. But here we come to a potential problem in our interpretation of this verse, because many believers automatically assume that, when John speaks of the world, he must mean every human being without exception. Indeed, there have even been renowned Reformed theologians who have understood the term this way. For example, in his commentary on this passage, John Calvin wrote concerning this verse that:
It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.
Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. (Commentary on John, e-Sword)
Thus Calvin clearly saw the Greek term kósmos – translated world in this verse – as having a universal connotation, although he is quick to point out that this does not mean that anyone and everyone without exception will be saved, since God gives faith only to the elect.

A modern Reformed theologian, D.A. Carson, agrees with this broader understanding of the term world in this verse. He has written a fascinating and very helpful book – one which I heartily recommend to all of you – entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, and in it he writes:
I know that some try to take κόσμος (“world”) here to refer to the elect. But that really will not do. All the evidence of the usage of the word in John's Gospel is against the suggestion. True, world in John does not so much refer to bigness as to badness. In John's vocabulary, world is primarily the moral order in willful and culpable rebellion against God. In John 3:16 God's love in sending the Lord Jesus is to be admired not because it is extended to so big a thing as the world, but to so bad a thing; not to so many people, as to such wicked people. Nevertheless John elsewhere can speak of “the whole world” (1 John 2:2), thus bringing bigness and badness together. More importantly, in Johannine theology the disciples themselves once belonged to the world but were drawn out of it (e.g., John 15:19). On this axis, God's love for the world cannot be collapsed into his love for the elect.
The same lesson is learned from many passages and themes in Scripture. However much God stands in judgment over the world, he also presents himself as the God who invites and commands all human beings to repent. He orders his people to carry the Gospel to the farthest corner of the world, proclaiming it to men and women everywhere. To rebels the sovereign Lord calls out, “As surely as I live … I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11). (pp. 17-18)
Thus we have two Reformed theologians who think that John's reference to God's love for the world here means that He loves all men, whether elect or not, even if it is only the elect who will believe and be saved. But I am not so sure either of these men are correct in their understanding of this term in this context, especially since even in this Gospel there are instances in which the Greek word kósmos does not indicate a reference to all men without exception. For example:
NKJ  John 12:19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world [κόσμος, kósmos] has gone after Him [Jesus]'”
Clearly these Pharisees do not mean to say that all men without exception have gone after Jesus. Rather they are using the word kósmos figuratively, as hyperbole, in order to stress how great a number there are who have gone after Jesus. Now, I do not think that John is using the term as hyperbole here in 3:16; I simply point out this instance to you in order to demonstrate that we must be careful not to automatically assume that the term must have a universal reference.

But I think there is an even better example for a more restricted meaning of the word that comes from Jesus Himself. It is found in His high priestly prayer in chapter 17:
NKJ  John 17:6-9 I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world [κόσμος, kósmos]. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. 9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world [κόσμος, kósmos] but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
In this passage Jesus uses the Greek word kósmos in order to speak of the world of the non-elect versus the elect who have been given to Him by the Father out of the world. So we see again that we have to be careful not to assume that this word always refers to all men without exception. It may indeed have a more restricted meaning, and I think that this is likely the case in John 3:16. But in John 3:16 I think the term refers to the world of the elect versus the non-elect, since it speaks of God's love for the world leading to His giving of His one and only Son so that those who believe may be saved.

In other words, just as the context of Jesus' prayer in chapter 17 indicates that he intends to restrict the meaning of the word to the world of the non-elect, so here in chapter three the context indicates that John means to restrict the meaning of the word to the world of the elect. I also think he uses the term because he wants to stress that it is not just the Jews that God desires to save, but rather all the elect from the whole world, a concept that many Jews would have rejected. In fact, later in this Gospel, John felt the need to stress this point when he reported the unwitting prophecy of Caiaphas:
NKJ  John 11:47-52 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
I hope you can see, then, why so many Reformed theologians over the years have seen a more restricted meaning of the term world here in John 3:16. James White, whom I cited earlier, provides a good example of this view when he writes:
The great controversy that rages around the term “world” is wholly unnecessary. The wide range of uses of kosmos (world) in the Johannine corpus is well known. John 3:16 does not define the extent of  kosmos. However, a few things are certain: it is not the “world” that Jesus says He does not pray for in John 17:9, a “world” that is differentiated from those the Father has given Him: “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours.” It is not the “world” that is arrayed as an enemy against God’s will and truth, either, as seen in 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Obviously, the “world” we are not to love in 1 John 2:15 is not the world God showed His love toward by sending His unique Son. The most that can be said by means of exegesis (rather than by insertion via tradition) is that the world is shown love through the giving of the Son so that a specific, particular people receive eternal life through faith in Him. Since we know that not all are saved by faith in Christ, it is utterly unwarranted to read into kosmos some universal view of humanity: how is God’s love shown for one who experiences eternal punishment by the provision of salvation for someone else? (Blinded By Tradition: An Open Letter to Dave Hunt)
I must frankly admit that the more I study the issue, the more I agree with this latter point of view, but I want you to see that there is room to agree to disagree on the precise meaning of the term world in this passage, so long as we avoid the mistakes that both John Calvin and D.A. Carson have avoided, namely making the assumption that this word somehow provides ammunition to deny God's sovereign and unconditional election of believers unto salvation or to deny His special love for the elect.

But, someone may ask, “If the word world in this verse is to be taken in a restricted sense, as referring only to the elect, then must we conclude that God does not love everyone in the world? Must we say that God loves only believers?” My answer to this question is, “No, we should not conclude that God does not love everyone in the world.” In fact, I think there are other passages that teach us that God does love even unbelievers. Consider, for example, Jesus' teaching in the sermon on the Mount:
NKJ  Matthew 5:43-45 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
In other words, if we want to be like our heavenly Father, we will love our enemies as He loves his enemies and thus causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. There is, then, a real sense in which God loves even the non-elect who never believe in Him. But He does not love them as He loves believers. There is a special sense in which God loves the elect who believe in Christ. And it is when this special, electing love is in view that the Bible speaks of God's hatred for sinners, such as when God said, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Rom. 9:13, citing Mal. 1:2b-3a).

Now, all you have to do to see that God showed His love to Esau is to look back at the accounts in the Old Testament to see how greatly God blessed him (e.g. Gen. 33:9; 36:6-8ff; Deut. 2:5; Josh. 24:4). However, none of these blessings included Esau's having been chosen for salvation. In fact, the author of Hebrews uses Esau as an example of an irremediable apostate and warns professing Christians not to fall into the same trap into which he fell:
NKJ  Hebrews 12:14-17 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
So, we may say that there was a sense in which God loved Esau, but that there was also a sense in which He hated him. He loved Him by causing His sun to rise even upon him and by sending His rain even upon Esau's crops, and He loved Him by giving him the land of Seir as an inheritance (Deut. 2:5; Josh: 24:4). But God did not love Esau as He loved Jacob, for He did not choose Esau for salvation as He chose Jacob.

The Apostle Paul speaks of this very issue when he writes to the Romans concerning God's sovereign grace and election:
NKJ  Romans 9:10-16 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” [Gen. 25:23] 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” [Mal. 1:2b-3a] 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” [Exod. 33:19] 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
So, I think we must conclude that there is a sense in which God loves all sinners, but there is a special sense in which God loves the elect. And we must conclude that this special love for the elect is not extended to the non-elect, who are rejected by God as Esau was rejected by Him.

Perhaps I can make the point with a rather meager, human illustration, since even we humans can manage to love people in different ways. For example, I can honestly say that I love all the women who belong to Immanuel Baptist Church, all of whom are my sisters in the Lord. But I don't love any of them like I love my wife. I have a special love for my wife that I have for no other woman. In a similar way, God has a special love for those whom He has chosen for salvation, and He does not share this love with unbelievers, even if He still bestows many blessings of love and common grace upon them.

Conclusion: I will conclude this teaching by reminding you all that we may perhaps agree to disagree on the meaning of the word world here in John 3:16, but I think we all must agree that there are different senses in which God loves the elect and the non-elect and that it is only the elect who experience the fullness of God's saving love.

I also want you to see that the interpretation of this verse is not nearly as obvious as so many make it out to be. One thing is certain though: This verse quite clearly tells us of the greatness of God's love, which led Him to give even His one and only Son for the salvation of sinners, and that this love was not restricted to any particular race. God has purposed to save sinners from every tribe and tongue and nation, and He will accomplish that purpose. Remember, for example, what the Spirit revealed to the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation:
NKJ  Revelation 5:8-10 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
I believe that it is this global family that John has in mind in John 3:16, and I praise the Lord that we who have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior may count ourselves among them.

See part two here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Couple of Helpful Videos From the 1689 Federalism Website

Discover the covenantal heritage
of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith.
In a previous post, I recommended the 1689 Federalism website as a good place to start if you want to get  a good introduction to Reformed Baptist theology. The site focuses on the Biblical basis for and the distinctiveness of Reformed Baptist Federalism, also known as Covenant Theology, as outlined in the the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Now I want to recommend the site again. It has a number of helpful videos, two of which I offer for your viewing pleasure here:





The site also includes some helpful charts and a list of resources.