The Way We See the World

As I preach through 1 Corinthians I continue to be impressed by the radical difference between the ways that Scripture portrays a Christian and non-Christian worldview. Here are just a few examples:

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1:18)

“Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God to save those who believe.” (1:20b-21)

“And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (2:4-5)

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (2:14, 16)

Cornelius Van Til comments on the difference between Christian and non-Christian thinking:

“Reformed Christians should realize that the non-Christian may have, and often does have, a brilliant mind. It may act efficiently, like a sharp circular saw acts efficiently. We may greatly admire such a mind for what, in spite of its basic principle and because of the fact that God has released its powers in his restraining grace, it has done. For all that, it must not be forgotten that this mind is still, be its name Aristotle, a covenant breaker in Adam.

            Aristotle knew how to use logic. [Yet] He came to the conclusion that God is not the Creator of man, knows nothing, is not a person. His conclusion was consistent with his premise. His logic was involved in his metaphysics as his metaphysics was involved in his logic.”

The Defense of the Faith, p. 293.

No human being, regardless of their intelligence or ignorance, has access to “brute” facts. That is, no human being has access to uninterpreted facts. And our interpretation of all facts is based on our assumptions about God’s existence and involvement in the world. We all look at the world around us but we each see it from the vantage point of either faith or unbelief. Then we build our understanding up from that point. This is often not a conscious process, but it is a reality nonetheless. This bottom-line presupposition determines how we understand all other things.


Christmas Eve and the Moon Mission

Here is an interesting story about a Christmas Eve intersection of humanity’s mission to reach up and God’s mission to reach down: Astronauts Read Genesis From the Moon.

A Great (Imaginary) Discussion On Homosexuality

There is no doubting that homosexuality is a hot button issue nowadays. But it seems that the discussion surrounding it too often misses the mark. Here is a great example of how a discussion of these issues could go from a Christian perspective. I appreciate the clear convictions that are matched by a winsome approach.

Trivial Messiahs

From Carl Trueman: “Trivial messiahs save a trivial humanity from a trivial problem.”

Song of Songs: Redeeming Marriage Seminar

It is easy to wreck a marriage but hard to rebuild. Find both hope and how-to’s from God’s Word as we look at the biblical book titled, “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” We will see how marriage displays Christ’s relationship to his church and also how we are to live with our spouse in covenant companionship.

Grace and Truth Community Church, Saturday Sept 24, 9am-12:30pm

Spiritual Gifts and Kingdom Priorities

Jesus is risen from the dead and is now reigning as King of the church. As King, he sets the priorities for the mission of the church in the world.

Another thing that Jesus does now that he is risen and ascended into heaven is to give gifts to the church (Eph. 4:7-12). So how do these two things go together? How do the priorities of the kingdom affect our use of the spiritual gifts that the risen Christ gives us? Edmund Clowney gives some helpful remarks here:

“We use our gifts in order to serve God, not in order to advance ourselves, attract the admiration of others, or even find satisfaction and fulfillment. We cannot demand that the Lord provide precisely the socket into which our gifts may best be plugged. Our first goal is to get the job done, and only secondarily to find the best use of our gifts.” The Church, p. 65-66.

For instance, we don’t hear of Paul complaining that he had to be a tent-maker in order to support himself even though that might not seem to us like the best use of his time. After all, God was in control of that. He was happy to totally give himself to the opportunities before him. And God is in control of the opportunities that each Christian has to serve him. So we also ought to “redeem the time” by making the most of every opportunity (Col. 4:5).

Sanctification and the Gospel

Recent blog activity has been slow due to my two months of summer Hebrew which will be wrapping up at the end of August. Things on the blog will be picking up pace again after that. But I am breaking the silence to post a link to this worthwhile article on the Reformation 21 blog about a current discussion that is taking place about Christian sanctification. The question being debated is how the gospel relates to the Christian life, or more specifically, how justification relates to sanctification.

Since some are unfamiliar with this debate, the author, William Evans, first takes time to outline some of the recent exchanges. Then he takes a critical look at some of the issues. He has a discerning eye and does an excellent job of clarifying some of the mistakes that are being made. I recommend his thoughts for your consideration.

Teaching Children Self-Control

Doug Wilson has some good counsel here. It is in his book,  Future Men, so the first part is especially geared toward boys but the second comment is relevant for boys and girls.

“Another important principle is that of seeing small boys as future men. The way boys learn to deal with their various immature ‘passions’ will generally be the way they deal with adult passions. A boy who is not obviously learning self-control with regard to his temper, his stomach, his video games, or his school work is a boy who will still lack self-control when sexual temptation arrives. Many times mothers unwittingly train boys to mistreat their future wives through sinful indulgence of boyish passions.” p. 84.

And again,

“Fourth, a mother needs to realize that when she gets exasperated or annoyed with her sons, she is helping them to learn how to control or manipulate her. The drill usually goes like this: A son doesn’t do what he was asked to do seven or eight times. Mom finally gets steamed and flares up over it. Mom has more of a tender conscience about her annoyance than son does about his disobedience. She consequently apologizes, he magnanimously forgives her, and the quarter ends with him two touchdowns and a field goal ahead. The solution is for her to cheerfully require obedience from her sons long before annoyance is even a possibility.” p. 85

Can a Christian Be Carnal?

Is it true that a Christian can be carnal (fleshy)? The Apostle Paul says yes in his letter to the Corinthian church.

 “But I, brother, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

 But what does Paul mean by that?

That has proven to be a more difficult question for people to answer. One of the most popular answers given after the turn of the 20th century has made this passage the main proof-text for a novel doctrine of the Christian life. As Bible expositor, D. A. Carson comments:

 “Certainly there is such a thing as a carnal or worldly Christian, but the ‘carnal Christian’ theory has in recent years taken on some fairly weird extremes that bear little relation to what this chapter actually says.”[1]

 What are the “weird extremes” that have developed in the form of a new theory that Carson mentions? Many proponents of this theory could be cited but one popular representative is found in the teaching of Charles Ryrie. Given his popularity, before we ask what Paul means by carnal (fleshy), lets be clear what Ryrie means.

Ryrie defines carnal this way: “To have the characteristics of an unsaved life either because one is an unbeliever or because, though a believer, one is living like an unsaved person.”[2] He clarifies that while a true Christian will bear some fruit at some point, that “does not mean that a certain person’s fruit will necessarily be outwardly evident”[3] In other words, Ryrie says that “a saving, living faith” may be “visible or not.”[4] Advocates of this teaching[5], such as Ryrie, say that 1 Corinthians 2-3 is teaching that there are three ultimate categories of people in the world: (1) the “natural man” (non-Christian), (2) the “carnal man” (Christian who lives like a non-Christian), and (3) the “spiritual man” (Christian).

 One ways that Ryrie defends this new theory on the Christian life is to invent a new kind of repentance that does not have anything to do with sin. I have written elsewhere to explain that this is not a biblical perspective [I Would Like To Add Jesus To My Pile Of Idols Please]. In this post, however, I want to focus on the nature of the Christian life that follows conversion. Here I want to correct the wrong idea that a person can live their life in a way that is no different from their non-Christian friends and still consider themselves a Christian. As Jesus said “you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:20).

 So, the question is: were the Corinthians living with “the characteristics of an unsaved life,” as Ryrie says? What kind of people does Paul think he is dealing with when he accuses them of being carnal?

We can answer this question in two ways:

 First, the Corinthians lives were different than their non-Christian friends and neighbors. Although there were many sinful patterns in the Corinthian church, there was also much that showed God’s grace. Look how Paul starts off describing these ‘carnal’ or ‘fleshy’ people:

  • Those who openly and continually call on the name of the Lord (1:2).
  • They used to be “sexually immoral…idolaters…adulterers…men who practice homosexuality…thieves…greedy… drunkards…revilers…[and] swindlers” (6:9-11). But now they were different.
  • Now, they have been “washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11).
  • They had consistent church attendance, gathering with the church for worship on at least a weekly basis (11:17, 18, 20; 14:26; 16:2).
  • They were active in the ministry of the church and exhibited a rich diversity of spiritual gifts (1:7, 12-14).
  • They had an accurate knowledge of much biblical truth and a recognized ability to communicate it (1:5).
  • At times Paul could refer to them as “sensible people” (10:15).
  • Paul even commended them for how accurately they remembered his teachings and kept them diligently (11:2).
  • They were very interested in spiritual things and were eagerly asking questions about spiritual things, even to the point of writing letters to Paul looking for answers (7:1ff.).

 Now, let me stop to ask, does this sound like the description that Ryrie and company were giving of someone who is completely “living like an unsaved person”? It should be clear at this point that the Apostle Paul and Charles Ryrie mean two totally different things when they refer to the carnal Corinthians.

It is true that Paul recognizes many sins in their lives but he also notices many graces that evidence true conversion as well. This second point is precisely what Ryrie overlooks. Ryrie misinterprets these verses in 3:1-4 because he doesn’t interpret them in light of the context of the whole book. As a result, his perspective on the character of the Corinthians is lopsided and his subsequent teaching on the Christian life ends up out of balance.

But there is one more thing to notice which eliminates the possibility of Ryrie’s interpretation.

 Second, the biblical practice of church discipline eliminates the possibility that Ryrie’s interpretation could be correct. Paul says people who live sinfully should be put out of the membership of the church and considered non-Christians. One of the reasons that people say we have a lot of hypocrites in the church today, is because…we really do have a lot of hypocrites in the church today! But this is not how it should be according to Scripture. If a person talks a good talk but then walks a totally different walk, Paul tells the Corinthians that they cannot continue to keep him as a member of the church.

This is because the person whose lifestyle fails to live in light of the gospel shows that they are not really a Christian after all (15:2-3).  Even if they swear up and down that they have been saved by Christ, if their life doesn’t match their lips the church should not believe them. Paul calls them “so-called brothers” (5:11). In other words, they are pseudo-Christians, not “carnal Christians” in the way that Ryrie and others define the term. As a result of their unrepentant lifestyle, the local congregation has the responsibility of removing them from the membership of the church so that Christ’s name is not dragged through the mud (5:9-13).  

 Ok, so we know what Paul doesn’t mean. But what does Paul mean when he says the Corinthians are acting carnal?

Paul is teaching the Corinthians that the gospel changes the way a Christian views every aspect of their life.  

Paul’s point is this…Christians are truly different because of the gospel. Therefore the gospel should change the way the Christian views every aspect of their lives. So when Christians think and act inconsistently with the gospel, they are thinging and acting according to the wisdom of the world and their carnal flesh. So when Paul saw the Corinthians jealous of one another and fighting with one another, he pointed out to them that they were failing to think and live in light of the cross.

So may your reality be reconstructed by the gospel. And may you be able to say with John Newton:  “‘I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I wish to be. I am not what I hope to be. Yet I can truly say, I am not what I once was. By the grace of God, I am what I am.’”[6]

[1] D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 69.

[2] Charles Ryrie, So Great a Salvation, p. 143.

[3] ibid., p. 42.

[4] ibid., p. 43.

[5] Ryrie’s view didn’t start with him. He developed the view that was first advocated by his theological mentors Cyrus Ingerson (C. I.) Scofield, in the second edition of his Scofield Reference Bible (1917) and Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his book He That Is Spiritual (1918). More recent advocates of this doctrine are Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel movement and the Word of Life student ministry.

[6] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, p. 104.

Conference: “The Effectual Atonement of Christ”

If you have the opportunity, check out a conference that is going on this week in Md on the atonement of Christ. Rick Hensley and I will be speaking, along with a few other men, some of whom I know and others that I look forward to meeting. It should be an excellent time considering the great redemptive work of Christ for the salvation of sinners and I look forward to seeing you there! 

Location: First Baptist, Marydel, Maryland

Theme: The Effectual Atonement Of Christ

Date: Sunday, June 12- Wednesday, June 15th. All evening services starting at 7pm.

Here is the batting order:

Sunday, June 12

  • Chris Williams, Pastor, Covenant Family Church – “Can the Effectual, Substitutionary Atonement Fail?”
  • Ramzan Hosein, Pres., Trinidad & Tobago Bible College – “Does God Give Faith as a Gift to Man or Does Man Give Faith As a Gift to God”

 Monday, June 13

  • Jason Anderson, Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church – “Romans 2: 1-10 as Relates to the Atonement”
  • Dr. David Depp, Professor, Pastor, Missionary, Greenville, SC – “Universal Terms (All, Every, World) Applied to the Atonement”

 Tuesday, June 14

  • Bob Phillips, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Marydel – “Is Saving Faith a Condition For, or a Fruit of Regeneration”
  • Rick Hensley, Pastor, Grace & Truth Community Church – “Christ’s Imputed Righteousness (active & passive obedience) As It Relates to The Atonement”

 Wednesday, June 15

  • Billy Rosano, Pastor, Grace & Truth Community Church – “Christ’s Atonement As It Relates to The Old Testament”
  • Ramzan Hosein, President, Trinidad & Tobago Bible College – “Foreign Missions As It Relates To The Atonement”