Addicted To Law?

January 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

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.

Read the whole thing at The Gospel Coali­tion: Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted To Law.

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?”

Wellum responds:

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.

You can read the com­plete inter­view at The Gospel Coali­tion web­site: Why I am a Cre­dobap­tist.

Wellum and co-author Peter J. Gen­try have a book com­ing out next June (cover shown above) which could be a ground­break­ing ref­er­ence: King­dom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Under­stand­ing of the Covenants.


September 30, 2011 — 1 Comment

We’re very excited at Evan­gel­i­cal Church of Fair­port to be the 11th Learn­ing Site in the U.S. for the Porter­brook Net­work.

Our first fall term begins Oct. 3.

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,

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:

Com­pleted by the Spirit: New Covenant Sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in Paul (PDF, 240 kb)

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.

When Talk­ing to Folks for Whom God Is Unreal from John Piper on Vimeo.

I’ve read and enjoyed two pre­vi­ous books by Randy New­man (no, not that Randy New­man) called Ques­tion­ing Evan­ge­lism and Cor­ner Con­ver­sa­tions. Randy, on staff at Cam­pus Cru­sade for Christ since 1980, has just released his third book (which I’m now read­ing), Bring­ing the Gospel Home: Wit­ness­ing to Fam­ily Mem­bers, Close Friends, and Oth­ers Who You Know Well (Cross­way, 2011).

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.” ()

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sin­ners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

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.”[1]

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.

“[1] There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion,” self or oth­er­wise, “for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] 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!

[1] Jerry Bridges, The Dis­ci­pline of Grace (Col­orado Springs: Nav­Press, 2006), 106.


8:1 There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion 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. (ESV)

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…