Tullian Tchvidjian is one of the best voices for grace and the Gospel out there. He writes today:
But while I’m not surprised when I hear venomous rejoinders to grace, I am saddened when the very pack of people that God has unconditionally saved and continues to sustain by his free grace are the very ones who push back most violently against it.
Justin Taylor of Crossway has an interview today on The Gospel Coalition website with Dr. Stephen J. Wellum of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on credobaptism. I agree with the way that Dr. Wellum lays out the case, and he does it very well: succinctly and completely.
After explaining that paedobaptist Reformed theology “flattens out” the covenants and wrongly — and perhaps simplistically — equates Old Covenant Israel with the New Covenant church, Taylor asks, “What does that have to do with baptism?”
Everything. Under the old covenant, one could make a distinction between the physical and spiritual seed of Abraham (the locus of the covenant community is different from the locus of the elect). Under the old covenant, both “seeds” (physical and spiritual) received the covenant sign of circumcision and both were viewed as full covenant members in the national sense, even though it was only the remnant who were the true spiritual seed of Abraham. But this kind of distinction is not legitimate under the new covenant where the locus of the covenant community and the elect are the same. In other words, one cannot speak of a “remnant” in the new covenant community, like one could under the old covenant. All those who are “in Christ” are a regenerate people, and as such it is only they who may receive the sign of the covenant, namely baptism.
Update: we’re postponing the launch until January 2 so that we can get the largest possible participation.
More about the Porterbrook Network may be found on our local site’s website, porterbrookROC.com.
Porterbrook Network is a two-year church-based theological training program with a supported self-study structure with others who are training in a similar field, church or geographic affiliation.
Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, co-authors of Total Church and founders of The Crowded House, created The Porterbrook Network in the U.K. in 2006 in response to a conviction for churches to become more Gospel-Centered and for new Gospel-Centered churches to be planted.
The vision of Porterbrook is to equip individuals and churches to rediscover mission as their DNA, to become better lovers of God and lovers of others, and to proclaim the Gospel through word and action for the Glory of God. Porterbrook is being used in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Italy, Ukraine, India, South Africa, and Australia, and Porterbrook Learning material is currently being translated into Chinese, Russian, and Italian.
By request, here’s the complete paper from July 2010 from which the Completed by the Spirit blog series was adapted. You’re welcome to download it and distribute it freely as long as you do not modify it:
The folks at Grace to You frequently condemn the concept of “contextualization” and do so by defining it in light of those who abuse the term. John MacArthur and Phil Johnson in particular have portrayed contextualization as watering down the message so people aren’t offended by it.
Ed Stetzer correctly defines contextualization and the need for it on his blog today:
I have said it many times, but it always seems to bear repeating — contextualization is not watering down the message. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. To contextualize the gospel means removing cultural and linguistic impediments to the gospel presentation so that only the offense of the cross remains. It is not removing the offensive parts of the gospel; it is using the appropriate means in each culture to clarify exactly who Jesus was, what He did, why He did it, and the implications that flow from it. Oftentimes, it is unclear communication (and a lack of contextualization) that contributes to some rejecting something they do not understand. If the feet of those who bring the gospel are beautiful upon the hills, it is at least partly due to the fact that those who hear the gospel understand and appreciate its life transforming truth. This often occurs through critical contextualization.
My often-used definition of contextualization: communicating in a way so as to make the offense of the gospel most clear.
John Piper posted a video — which looks like he recorded himself in his study — about talking to people for whom God is unreal. They say “don’t give me that God talk. This is a real problem.” It’s an “overflow” from his sermon of this past weekend.
In the chapter “Love: Always Craved and Yet Seldom Conveyed” he writes about the need to truly love people and not just use the appearance of love as a means to evangelize:
We need to love people simply because they are people, fashioned by God in his image; we should not show them love just as a way to evangelize them. Surely, we can find traits, common ground, unique gifts, personality nuances, and experiences we can affirm, and, better still, enjoy. But we must not love them merely as a manipulative prelude to preach at them. They’ll smell such nonlove miles away. Instead, we must ask God to enable us to love them. Period. No strings attached. If they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop — a shoe in the form of a gospel presentation — they won’t feel loved by us because, in fact, they’re not.
Manipulation as a means to the gospel is not evangelism — and risks creating a false convert. And that “common ground” — that’s the “point of contact” Francis Schaeffer advocated, a place where conversation can begin.
More importantly, that love does absolutely need to be genuine. As Albert Mohler said at a Desiring God conference whose topic was Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, we need to love them — the sinner, the unconverted — more than they love their sin.
After all, God showed his love for us, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ()
This is the 22nd and final part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
The apostle Paul writes throughout his epistles that the law was given for a different covenant and that believers are not under its jurisdiction. He makes no qualifications in this: he does not separate the law into component parts – moral, civil and ceremonial – and he does not prescribe commands of the Torah for our Christian walk.
Paul warns us of the power of the law to promote sin in the flesh and implores us not to submit to its yoke of slavery.
While John is often referred to as the apostle of love, love is a major focus of Paul’s teaching. (A search for “love” in the Pauline epistles returns 115 results in the ESV.) It is love that fulfills the law in the Christian; it is a perfect love of God and of neighbor that is a reflection of the relationship among the Trinity and it is a perfect love of God and of neighbor that is the outworking of our completed Christ-likeness in glory.
Until then, an increasing reliance upon the love of Christ – given to us by His Spirit –molds us more and more into His image.
No law can produce the fruit of the Spirit. All that the law can do is produce sin, despair, self-condemnation and self-righteousness in our remaining imperfection.
It is our union with Christ through His Spirit that results in our sanctification.
“I have come to realize,” writes Jerry Bridges, “that the deep work of spiritual transformation of my soul has been what the Holy Spirit has done, not what I have done. I can to some degree change my conduct, but only He can change my heart.”
Thus, while Paul gives us imperatives in his exposition of what it means to be a follower of Christ in our hearts and in our conduct, those imperatives have their basis only in the indicative of what Christ has done in us.
“ There is therefore now no condemnation,” self or otherwise, “for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” ().
Next: Commentary on this series, the aftermath of the paper, and further thoughts on the Gospel vs. Law sanctification debate — perhaps several posts!
 Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), 106.
This is the 21st part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
Given all that we’ve studied in this series, how do we apply what is shown to us about sanctification in Scripture?
How do we grow in holiness or counsel those who are combating sin by relying on the Holy Spirit and following imperatives grounded in the indicative of the gospel and the gift of the Spirit of Christ to dwell in us?
Our study has provided us two answers: one positive and one negative.
We do focus on the gospel.
We do not focus on the law.
When we set our eyes on Christ and look at His person and work, we behold more and more what it is that our union with Him has granted to us. Continue Reading…