DBG Weekend Spotlight (2-24-17)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (2-24-17)

In the 2017 G3 Conference, D.A. Carson spoke on the subject of “Soli Deo Gloria.” You will find this sermon encouraging to your soul.

The Shack — As you may know, the new movie based on William Young’s book The Shack is set to premiere next week.  It may be good to be prepared to give an answer to this movie since many who never knew of the book or didn’t read it will certainly flock to the movie.  Below I’ve included several links on the subject that you will find helpful.

What Are Worldviews? Why Do Worldviews Matter? How Does One Change Worldviews? — Justin Taylor links to a video from a Ligonier conference where James Anderson—associate professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC addresses the subject of worldview.

Three Questions: Spiritual Growth — Melissa Kruger writes, “I like to be asked thought-provoking questions. However, in our busy lives it is difficult to take time to still our minds and follow Paul’s simple instruction to Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Tim. 4:16).”

How Can Our Church Reach Out to the Gay Community? — Kevin DeYoung provides some helpful and biblical suggestions on reaching out to gay people in our community.

Soli Deo Gloria: To God Alone Be the Glory — R.C. Sproul writes, “Soli Deo gloria is the motto that grew out of the Protestant Reformation and was used on every composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. He affixed the initials SDG at the bottom of each manuscript to communicate the idea that it is God and God alone who is to receive the glory for the wonders of His work of creation and of redemption. At the heart of the sixteenth-century controversy over salvation was the issue of grace.”

Wanted: Burdened Preachers — Conrad Mbewe provides a helpful article on what’s needed in the church today.

In Wacky Seeker-Sensitive Publicity Stunt, John MacArthur Skydives Into Baptismal — If you’ve ever wanted to see John MacArthur engaged in one of the wildest pragmatic stunts ever, you will want to see where the Babylon Bee caught Dr. MacArthur.

Theology Word of the Week:  Grieve (λυπέω — as used in Eph. 4:30)

λυπέω 1 aor. ἐλύπησα; pf. λελύπηκα. Pass.: 1 fut. λυπηθήσομαι; 1 aor. ἐλυπήθην; pf. λελύπημαι (fr. λύπη ‘pain, grief’; Hes.+) gener. ‘grieve, pain’.

to cause severe mental or emotional distress, vex, irritate, offend, insult, act. τινά someone (Test Abr A 8 p. 86, 9 [Stone p. 20]; Dio Chrys. 28 [45], 3; BGU 531 II, 18 [I a.d.], freq. in the sense vex, irritate, offend TestSol 2:3 D; Herodas 5, 7, 3; Ar. 15:7) 2 Cor 2:2a; 7:8ab. The object of λυπεῖν can also be a deity (Diod S 1, 65, 7; 8 τὸν θεόν; schol. on Apollon. Rhod. 2, 313 λ. τὸν Δία; cp. τοὺ ἀγγέλους μου ApcSed 14:10) μὴ λυπεῖτε τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον τοῦ θεοῦ Eph 4:30; Hm 10, 2, 2; 10, 3, 2ab; cp. 10, 2, 4. χάριν Dg 11:7. In εἴ τις λελύπηκεν 2 Cor 2:5 λ. used abs. is certainly more than cause pain or vexation. In Polyaenus 8, 47 it is used of the severe humiliation or outrage experienced by a king who has been deposed by his subjects.

to experience sadness or distress, pass.

aor. λυπηθῆναι become sad, sorrowful, distressed (BGU 1079, 9 [41 a.d.]; Esth 2:21; Ps 54:3; 2 Esdr 15:6; TestJob, Test12Patr, GrBar; Jos., Ant. 8, 356) Mt 14:9; AcPl Ha 7, 17; J 16:20; 2 Cor 2:4; 7:9a; 1 Pt 1:6; Dg 1. W. σφόδρα (Da 6:15 LXX; 1 Macc 10:68; JosAs 8:8 al.) Mt 17:23; 18:31; GJs 1:3; 2:4; AcPl Ha 7, 15; w. λίαν 1 Cl 4:3 (Gen 4:5 Cain took offense). W. ὅτι foll. become distressed because (cp. En 102:5) J 21:17. λυπηθῆναι εἰς μετάνοιαν become sorry enough to repent 2 Cor 7:9b. λ. κατὰ θεόν as God would have it vss. 9c, 11.

pres. λυπεῖσθαι be sad, be distressed, grieve (La 1:22) 1 Th 4:13. λυπῇ; are you grieved or hurt? Hv 3, 1, 9b. λυπούμενος (being) sad, sorrowful Mt 19:22; 26:22; Mk 10:22; Hv 1, 2, 2; 3, 13, 2 (TestAbr A 7 p. 84, 9 [Stone p. 16]; Jos., Vi. 208). (Opp. χαίρων as Dio Chrys. 50 [67], 5; Philo, Virt. 103) 2 Cor 6:10. λυπουμένου (μου) ὅτι because Hv 3, 1, 9a. ἤμην λυπούμενος 1, 2, 1. ὁ λυπούμενος the mournful man (Ael. Aristid. 46 p. 404 D.) m 10, 3, 3. ὁ λ. ἐξ ἐμοῦ 2 Cor 2:2b gives the source of the pain or sadness. ἤρξατο λυπεῖσθαι he began to be sorrowful Mt 26:37; cp. Mk 14:19. λ. διά τι because of someth. (schol. on Apollon. Rhod. 4, 1090; JosAs 24:19 διʼ Ἀσενέθ; ParJer 4:11 διὰ σέ): εἰ διὰ βρῶμα ὁ ἀδελφὸς λυπεῖται if a member’s feelings are hurt because of food Ro 14:15 (but λ. can also mean injure, damage: X., Mem. 1, 6, 6, Cyr. 6, 3, 13). μὴ λυπείσθω ὁ εὐσεβὴς ἐάν the godly man is not to grieve if 2 Cl 19:4. λ. ἐπί τινι at someth. (X., Mem. 3, 9, 8; Lucian, Dial. Mort. 13, 5, Tox. 24; Artem. 2, 60; PGrenf II, 36, 9 [95 b.c.]; Jon 4:9; ApcMos 39 p. 21, 1 Tdf.; Philo, Abr. 22; Just., D. 107, 3) Hm 10, 2, 3; cp. Hs 6, 3, 1. ἐλυπεῖτο περὶ τῆς γυναικὸς οὐ μικρῶς (Hieronymus) was quite upset with his wife, who had displayed interest in Paul’s message AcPl Ha 4, 16f (w. περί as Da 6:18 LXX; ApcMos 18 p. 9, 13 Tdf.).—Impf. ἐλυπούμην I was sad GPt 7:26; cp. 14:59 (TestSol 2:2 D; TestSim 4:3; ParJer 7:30); w. σφόδρα (JosAs 24:1) GJs 1:4 (aor. v.l.).—DELG s.v. λύπη. M-M. TW. Spicq. [1]


  1. William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 604.

 

DBG Spotlight (2-22-17)

DBG Spotlight (2-22-17)

In the 2017 G3 Conference, Tim Challies preached on the subject, “Let the Gospel Give You Your Song.” He emphasized how the Reformation changed how we sing in worship. I encourage you to listen to / view his sermon.

Eight Ways to Preach the Resurrection — David Murray provides some helpful information on a very important subject for preachers (and all Christians).

Good News and Bad News: God Doesn’t Change — “God offers certainty in an uncertain world because He can only speak truth, and He can only promise what He will certainly deliver. And that unwavering nature has eternal ramifications for every single person on the planet.”

Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything — “My one day of questioning is nothing compared to what Ms. Stutzman has gone through in all of this. Pray for her and her husband. She is happy to serve gay people in her flower shop. She always has been and always will be happy to do that. She is simply asking that the state not coerce her to participate in a gay wedding. If the Supreme Court denies her that simple accommodation, the consequences will be devastating not only for her but for all of us.”

How mobile technology is transforming lives in rural India — This is one more story of how technology is progressing, but we still have much work to do in harnessing technology for the spread of the gospel.

1 Peter 5:8–9: Kept by God Day by Day — What exactly does it mean to be kept by God?

7 Trademarks Of An Unhealthy Friendship — Paul Tripp provides some helpful information here.

Why Every Preacher Needs “The Doctor” — If you don’t read (or listen) to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, you should, and here are some good reasons why.

 

 

DBG Weekend Spotlight (2-17-17)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (2-17-17)

This September, I will be speaking on the Reformation 500 tour in Europe. We will begin in Berlin Germany and finish in Geneva Switzerland. We will also arrive in Wittenberg only days from the actual 500th year anniversary. For more information you can view the video below or visit the website here: 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Tour.

What Is the Relationship Between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility? – “The relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is not instantly obvious, and at first glance it seems paradoxical. But Scripture offers us considerable insight into how these twin truths harmonize within the plan of redemption.”

Facebook plans customizable filters for nudity and violence – This is something to keep a close eye on.

$5 Friday: The Cross, the Covenants, & the Love of God – Some good books from Ligonier for only $5.

5 Steps to Serving Children with Autism, ADHD, and Attachment Disorders – Some good wisdom here for ministering to children (and families) who struggle with disorders.

Expositional Imposters – Mike Gilbart-Smith explains seven pitfalls that hinder true exposition.

Every component of worship, every week? – Jesse Johnson takes a look at the means of grace and takes on the frequency question.

On My Shelf: Life and Books with Joel Beeke – Take a look at what Joel Beeke is reading.

A Free Seminary-Level Course on the Reformation – Take Carl Trueman’s course for free – thanks to the generosity of Professor Trueman and The Master’s Seminary.

Twitter starts putting abusers in “time out” – This may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who defines the word abuse.

Theology Word of the Week:  Trinity

Trinity. The Christian doctrine of God, according to which he is three persons (see Hypostasis) in one substance or essence. The doctrine of the Trinity is sometimes attacked as being insufficiently monotheistic, but Christians have always denied this. The doctrine developed in the early church because it was the only way in which the NT witness to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit could be adequately accounted for. Far from being a covert invasion by pagan philosophical and religious influences, it would appear that the doctrine of the Trinity has survived against precisely these temptations, which have occasionally threatened to push the church into a practical and even a theoretical unitarianism.

The appearance of the Trinity in the NT raises the familiar problem of later interpolation, but although this has certainly been the case in 1 Jn. 5:7, it does not appear to be true elsewhere. Even the words of Jesus in Mt. 28:19, though they are frequently attacked as spurious, bear the authentic hallmark of the most primitive Trinitarianism, which was connected with baptism. Similar early Trinitarian theology appears in 2 Cor. 13:14, the famous ‘Grace’, which is peculiar in that the person of Christ is mentioned first. There are however a large number of indirect references to the Trinity, of which Gal. 4:6 may be cited as perhaps the most primitive. It is also apparent from what is said in Acts 8 and elsewhere, that Trinitarian baptism goes back to the earliest days of the church, when it was felt that baptism in the name of Christ alone was insufficient.

Whether the Trinity appears in any form in the OT has been much debated. Scholars have often noted the apparent personification of the Word and of the Spirit of God, but these are generally believed to fall short of personal existence in the NT sense. Nevertheless it is worth bearing in mind that for many centuries it was believed that the appearance of the three men to Abraham (Gn. 18) was an instance of the epiphany of the Trinity, a view which goes back in part to the pre-Christian exegesis of Philo.

The main passages of the Bible which have been used in the construction of Trinitarianism are to be found in John’s Gospel, especially chs. 14–16. Nevertheless, it must be borne in mind that the fathers of the church made great use of the Pauline Epistles as well, so that to erect an opposition between John and Paul on this score is highly misleading.

Trinitarian speculation begins in the 2nd century, with Athenagoras (fl. c. 177), who defends the doctrine as an essential part of the church’s faith (see Apologists). It was expounded at length by Tertullian, who was largely responsible for the method and vocabulary which the Western tradition now uses. Tertullian argued that there was one God, in whom could be found three persons. His thought was influenced by what is known as economic Trinitarianism, the belief that God the Father brought forth his two hands, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to serve as mediators in creating the world. This approach related to the three successive phases of God’s dealing with the world from creation onwards. The economy (Gk. oikonomia; cf. Eph. 1:10; 3:9) was this ordered plan of God. Human history could be divided into three periods, each of which belonged to a different person of the Godhead. The OT was the age of the Father, the gospel period the age of the Son and the time since Pentecost the age of the Holy Spirit. This view was unsatisfactory because it tied the Trinity to the time and space framework, and because it lent itself to modalism, the belief that the one God appeared to man in three different modes. As creator he appeared as the Father, as redeemer he appeared as the Son and as sanctifier he appeared as the Holy Spirit. These views, which were a form of Monarchianism, were later attributed, somewhat unfairly, to Sabellius, a 3rd-century heretic, and are now known as Sabellianism.

In reality, Sabellius held a doctrine which was more subtle than this. His view was apparently designed to overcome the objection to modalism, that it made the Father suffer and die on our behalf (patripassianism). Sabellius posited two poles of opposition and attraction in God—the Father and the Son. Both became incarnate in Jesus Christ, but on the cross they separated, as the Son cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ However, the love of the Father could not endure this separation, and so he brought forth the Holy Spirit as a kind of glue, to weld the Son back to him. This teaching appears extraordinarily crude, but it contains elements which returned in later Western Trinitarianism. Chief among these are the link between the Trinity and the atonement, and the tendency to regard the Holy Spirit as in some way impersonal and inferior to the Father and the Son.

Western Trinitarianism was matched by its Eastern rival, which is associated with the name of Origen. Working quite independently of Tertullian, Origen developed a doctrine of the three hypostaseis of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which were revealed to share the same divine ousia (essence). Origen arranged these in hierarchical order, with the Father as God-in-himself (autotheos), the Son as his exact image, and the Holy Spirit as the image of the Son. He insisted that this order existed in eternity, so that there could be no question of saying that there had been a time when the Son had not existed. But he also maintained that the Son had always been subordinated to the Father in the celestial hierarchy.

This view was later questioned by Arius, who argued that a subordinate being could not be co-eternal with the Father, since coeternity would imply equality. He was countered by Athanasius and others who replied that the Son was indeed co-eternal with the Father, but not subordinate to him, except in the context of the incarnation. Classical Trinitarianism developed in earnest after the Council of Nicaea (325). There it had been stated that the Son was consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, but soon afterwards this key term and the doctrine it embodied were widely rejected in favour of compromise formulae, such as homoiousios, ‘of a similar substance’. Athanasius, almost alone in the East, but after 339 with the support of the West, battled for an understanding (reflected in homoousios as he read it) which would make the Son numerically identical with the Father. The Son was not to be regarded as a part of God, nor was he a second deity; he was simply God himself, in whom the fullness of divinity dwelt (Col. 2:8) and in whom the Father himself was to be seen (Jn. 14:9). Eventually his viewpoint was secured, but not before controversy had broken out over the Holy Spirit.

This controversy concerned the biblical evidence for the Spirit’s divinity. Many assumed that because he did not have a ‘personal’ name, like the Father and the Son, he must be an inferior being. This was countered first by Athanasius and then by Basil of Caesarea, who argued at great length that the Holy Spirit was God because Scripture called him the Lord and life-giver, said that he proceeded from the Father (Jn. 15:26), and gave him the honour of being worshipped alongside the Father and Son.

Basil’s theology was declared orthodox at the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, 381), since which time it has been the basis of Trinitarian theology in the Eastern Church. In the West however, there was considerably more speculation, much of it based on Basil’s work and associated with the name of Augustine. Augustine inherited Tertullian’s theology, which he explored at length in his masterly work on the Trinity, De Trinitate, composed between 399 and 419.

In this work Augustine developed his doctrine of Trinitarian relations, which was to become a major element of difference between his thought and that of the Cappadocians. The Greeks generally thought in terms of causal origins for the persons of the Trinity. The Father was unbegotten, the Son begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeding. As a result, unbegottenness, begottenness and procession became the distinguishing marks of the persons in relation to each other.

Augustine did not reject this way of thinking, but modified it considerably. For him, the one primordial God was not the Father, but the Trinity. The different persons found their cause not in some generation or procession, but in an inherently necessary interior relationship with each other. He developed this view by using a number of analogies, of which the most significant are mind and love. A mind knows itself because it conceives of its own existence; what is more, it must also love its self-conception. A lover cannot love without a beloved, and there is of necessity a love which flows between them but which is not strictly identical with either. From this, Augustine deduced that God, in order to be himself, had to be a Trinity of persons, since otherwise neither his mind nor his love could function.

The implications of this way of thinking were manifold and far-reaching. Causality was eventually replaced altogether by pure relations, existing of necessity in the very being of God. The Holy Spirit was likewise seen to be the fruit of the mutual love of Father and Son, the bond of unity which tied the Trinity together and revealed its essence, which was spirit. This in turn made it necessary for Augustine to affirm that the Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son (a Patre Filioque), whereas the Eastern tradition had affirmed a procession from the Father only. This was to provoke great controversy in the Middle Ages, and to contribute to the eventual separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. To this day it remains as a characteristic feature of Augustinian theology.

After Augustine, the West generally accepted his teaching without question, though in practice it was elaborated considerably. The most significant figure in the Middle Ages was Richard of St Victor (d. 1173; see Victorines). Richard argued for a social Trinity, in which the relationship of the persons was paradigmatic of human society on earth. His views were not given serious consideration until quite recently, but modern research is re-establishing him as a major medieval theologian.

At the Reformation, the traditional Western doctrine was reaffirmed, but John Calvin began a new development of thought in the work of the different persons. The Cappadocians had stated that the works of the Trinity outside the Godhead (ad extra) were undivided, i.e. the God who created the world was the Trinity. But Calvin, following Anselm, who had stressed the fact that the atonement was a work of God inside the Trinity (ad intra), said that Christians are admitted, through the Holy Spirit, to participation in the inner life of the Godhead. We are sons of God, not as Christ was, by nature, but by the grace of adoption. As a result of this, the Reformed tradition witnessed an explosion of works dealing with the work of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, in a depth which had previously been unknown.

The doctrine of the Trinity suffered eclipse in the deistic atmosphere of the 18th century, when many theologians became Unitarians. By the time of Friedrich Schleiermacher it had become an embarrassment, and the way was open to dismiss it as a philosophical construction by the early church. In the 20th century, however, thanks largely to the work of Karl Barth, the doctrine of the Trinity is once more at the centre of the church’s concerns. Basing himself on the Word of God as the principle of all theology, Barth reworked Augustine, and spoke of a revealer, of the thing revealed, and of revelation as the constituent elements of the Trinity. Like Augustine he was uncomfortable with the term ‘person’, and for this he has been criticized, especially from the Eastern standpoint.

Barth’s revival of Trinitarianism has borne fruit in all the churches, and the classical doctrine has been restated in different ways by Roman Catholics such as Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan, by Protestants such as Jürgen Moltmann and Eberhard Jüngel, and by Orthodox such as Vladimir Lossky (1903–58) and Dumitru Staniloae (b. 1903). There has been intense discussion of the Filioque cause in the context of ecumenical relations, and it seems certain that the doctrine of the Trinity will be explored even further in the near future. Whether this will add anything of permanent value to the traditional deposit, however, remains to be seen. [1]


  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 691–694.

 

DBG Spotlight (2-15-17)

DBG Spotlight (2-15-17)

In the recent 2017 G3 Conference, the theme was centered upon the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  The topic for my sermon was, “Doctrines Worthy of Death and Scripture Worthy of Preaching.”  You can view the sermon below.

*You can view all archives on the G3 app and by subscribing to the G3 Conference on YouTube as all archives are being moved to the new YouTube channel as well.

How Many Bible Versions Should I Read? – “Use multiple Bible translations for increased general understanding, and use one main translation for meditation and memorization.”

Productivity and Leadership in the 21st Century: A Live Interview with Tim Challies and Chris Larson Today at 2:30pm – You will be interested in the interview between Chris Larson and Tim Challies today at 2:30pm.

D. A. Carson warns against affirming gay marriage as a “Christian” view – Denny Burk writes, “D. A. Carson has written an essay for Themelios explaining “Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives.” Among other examples, he lists Zondervan’s recent Counterpoints volume which has two essays arguing that homosexual immorality is compatible with scripture, and two essays arguing that it isn’t. I’ve commented on the Counterpoints volume twice in this space (here and here), and I share Carson’s concerns.”

Free Ebook: ‘This Momentary Marriage’ by John Piper – Get this FREE book by John Piper.  I recommend every couple that I counsel with for marriage to read this book.

Why I Won’t Be Seeing (or Reviewing) The Shack Movie – Tim Challies writes, “I am far more sure that watching and reviewing The Shack would be an unwise and even sinful spiritual decision. For that reason I will not be seeing or reviewing The Shack.”

Spiritual Lyme Disease: The Cure of Quick Confession – “A relatively harmless disease can turn deadly if left untreated. And exactly the same can be said of what we think of as a relatively harmless sin, which is why the Lord wants us to regularly and speedily confess our sins and repent of them.”

How the Reformation Recovered Preaching – Timothy George explains how the Reformation was a recommitment to biblical preaching.

 

 

DBG Weekend Spotlight (2-10-17)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (2-10-17)

In the 2005 Ligonier National Conference, Mark Dever addressed the subject of worldliness. He answered this simple question: “Whatever Happened to Worldliness?”

An Intro to the Institutes (Derek Thomas) – Derek Thomas writes, “In a forest of theologians, Calvin stands like a Californian Redwood, towering over everyone else.”

Millennial Sex Practices – According to Dr. Mohler, among the Millennial generation, it’s a very common thing for couples to engage in pre-marital sex even before the first date.

$5 Friday: Justification, the New Birth, & Predestination – As always, enjoy some good $5 book deals from Ligonier.

Seven Costs of Disciple-Making – “Dietrich Bonhoeffer memorably wrote on the cost of discipleship, but he’d be the first to insist that the Christian life involves more than simply following Jesus by being his disciple. Better put, Christ’s call to discipleship (Luke 14:26–33) includes his call to disciple-making (Matthew 28:19).”

Do You Have an Inadequate Understanding of God? – “John MacArthur explains that many of the problems that exist in the present day church begin with an inadequate understanding of God.”

A Quiz on the Doctrine of Salvation – Tim Challies has posted a helpful little quiz on the doctrine of salvation that you will find helpful.

Twitter says product changes are main growth driver, not just the President’s usage – Why is Twitter growing?  Apparently it’s not due to President Trump.

Theology Word of the Week:  Suffering

Suffering. The reality of suffering, especially that of the helpless or innocent, is a problem for anyone who posits the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent Deity. The Bible, however, says little about suffering as an intellectual conundrum (see Theodicy). Gn. 1–3 shows that evil entered the world through sin. The first sufferings, which were emotional and the immediate consequence of disobedience, were followed by God’s curse (Gn. 3:16–19), which promised pain, toil and death. Although suffering results from sin (a moral evil), it is not itself a moral but a physical (or material) evil, for God is frequently presented in Scripture as its dispenser (e.g. Jos. 23:15; Jb. 2:10; Is. 45:7; Je. 25:29; Mi. 2:3), sending it either as punishment of individuals and nations (both historically and eschatologically) or as chastisement of his people (see Eschatology; History; Judgment).

While Scripture says very little about the sufferings of humanity generally, it does speak extensively about the suffering of God’s people, and it is in respect to the latter only that a theology of suffering may be formulated. Suffering assumes a distinctly negative character in much of the OT owing to the nature of the Mosaic covenant, which stipulated for the children of Israel health, prosperity and success for obedience and a variety of afflictions for disobedience (e.g. Ex. 15:25, 26; 23:25, 26; Lv. 26; Dt. 28–30). The corporate and material nature of the Mosaic covenant gives to its blessings and cursings a quality distinct from that of any prosperity or suffering that does not have as its ultimate cause a covenantal relationship contingent upon covenantal faithfulness. Hence the suffering that was the consequence of violating the Mosaic covenant was devoid of mystery. In spite of this apparent clarity of cause and effect, however, the wicked within Israel often prospered and afflicted the righteous, causing the latter’s consternation regarding God’s purposes (e.g. Pss. 37; 73). God’s judgment of national apostasy was often withheld for a time, and when it came both the wicked and the righteous were swept away by the same calamities. This evoked a feeling of helpless frustration (e.g. Ps. 44).

Even during periods of national faithfulness, God’s people were still sinners who could benefit from discipline. God told Abraham that his descendants’ sojourn in Egypt would be a time of discipline (Gn. 15:13–16; cf. 5:15; 26:5–9). After reminding the people that the Lord had humbled and tested them in the wilderness, Moses says, ‘Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you’ (Dt. 8:5; cf. Pr. 3:11–12; for individual examples, see Pss. 94:12; 119:67, 71, 75).

At other times the afflicted are perplexed by their suffering since they can find no explanation for it. The OT only gradually developed the concept of suffering as a mystery, as God’s people were slowly weaned from the temporal to the eternal, from the material to the spiritual. Even the most spiritually sensitive and mature believers in the OT, though they saw the Lord as their ultimate reward, did not see tribulations as experiences in which they should exult. It was not until after the resurrection of the Suffering Servant that those in close communion with God could grasp fully that as co-heirs with him they were to share his sufferings as a prerequisite to sharing his glory.

That this lesson was not part of the Jewish consciousness at the time of Christ is well illustrated by the tendency to view specific sin as the immediate cause of suffering (e.g. Lk. 13:1–5; Jn. 9:1–12) and by the persistent failure of Jesus’ disciples to understand the redemptive nature of his mission (e.g. Mt. 16:21; 17:12; Lk. 17:25; 22:15; Jn. 2:19–22). Not until after his resurrection did his followers grasp the necessity of the Lord’s atoning suffering (see especially Lk. 24:13–35). Once understood, his suffering became the focal point of apostolic evangelism (e.g. Acts 2:23; 3:18; 17:3; 26:22–23) and a frequent emphasis in the epistles (e.g. 1 Cor. 5:7; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:2; 1 Pet. 1:10–11, 9; 3:18). While the OT promised prosperity for obedience, Christ expected affliction (e.g. Mt. 5:10–12; 10:24–25; Mk. 10:28–30; Jn. 15:20), as did the apostles (e.g. Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17–18; 2 Cor. 1:3–7; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 3:12; Heb. 12:5–11; Jas. 1:2–4; 1 Pet. 4:1–2, 12–16).

The sufferings that Christians experience can be divided into two categories. 1. Suffering can be the direct result of grace. Only Christians can experience the civil war of spirit and flesh, described by Paul in Gal. 5:17, and graphically personalized in Rom 7:14–25. Furthermore, when Christians are persecuted for Christ’s sake, they are experiencing a type of suffering that in its cause and purpose is distinct from anything that the unregenerate suffer.

2. Christians also suffer as a consequence of sharing in a fallen humanity in a fallen world. Here their suffering does not differ qualitatively from that of the unregenerate. They too can bring suffering on themselves by their own errors. They also experience sorrow, poverty, sickness and death. Christians are saved in such suffering and not from it. They share with all mankind the experience of and vulnerability to it. The vital and spectacular difference is God’s use of it and their response to it. Heb. 12:5 admonishes Christians not to be indifferent to affliction or discouraged by it, because God’s purpose in disciplining his children is to refine them and to equip them for kingdom service.

The suffering Christian is sustained by the fact that Christ not only suffered for his people but also suffers with them (e.g. Acts 9:4–5; 1 Cor. 12:26–27). He is their High Priest who can sympathize with their weaknesses (Heb. 4:15; cf. 2:18) as they also share his sufferings (Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5; Heb. 13:13; 1 Pet. 4:13). Thus to suffer with Christ is a prerequisite to being glorified with him (Rom. 8:16; cf. 1 Pet. 1:16–17; 4:13; 5:10). Hence Christians can rejoice in afflictions (Acts 5:41; Rom. 5:3; 1 Thes. 1:6; Jas. 1:2).

While the suffering to which believers respond aright contributes to their spiritual growth and fellowship with Christ, it is also a form of witness—to each sufferer of his own salvation; to the unsaved for their conviction; to fellow Christians for their edification, encouragement and comfort; to principalities and powers in accordance with God’s mysterious purposes. Thus, suffering ‘produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’ (Heb. 12:11). The Christian’s capacity to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit in the midst of suffering is commensurate with an appreciation of the paternal sovereignty of God, who is the ultimate cause of a bewilderingly diverse variety of proximate causes that can impinge upon their lives, until God ‘will wipe every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 21:4).

Throughout history, attitudes toward the purpose of suffering have been diverse. The NT presents Christ as the believer’s example in all things (Phil. 2:5) including suffering (1 Pet. 2:21; Heb. 12:3; Lk. 9:23). Applying the imitatio Christi (see Imitation of Christ) to the realm of suffering, however, presents various problems, since Christ’s sufferings were expiatory and unique in kind, degree and cause. Nevertheless, during the early centuries of Christianity the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sufferings was increasingly seen as limited to the remission of the penalty of eternal damnation, thus leaving sinners liable to satisfy God’s justice by suffering temporal punishment in this life (cf. Penance) or, by the late Middle Ages, in purgatory. This theology has fostered a variety of aberrations based on the supposed merit of self-inflicted suffering. Such are now quite rare.

Different aberrations confront the church today. Process theology sees human suffering as contributing to God’s ongoing development. Along more orthodox lines, theologians have paid new attention to the suffering of God in Christ, e.g. in Moltmann’s influential The Crucified God (London, 1974) and K. Kitamori’s Theology of the Pain of God (1946; ET, Richmond, VA, 1965). This concern has been partly stimulated by reflection on the Holocaust, in an endeavour to theologize sensitively in the light of Auschwitz (cf. U. Simon, A Theology of Auschwitz (London, 1967). Some modern presentations of the gospel leave little room for suffering as an aspect of the Christian life. Toleration of religious diversity together with materialism, prosperity and medical sophistication that encourage an analgesic mentality in the West have conditioned many evangelicals to regard most suffering as an intrusion on the tranquil life that they feel is their God-given due (cf. Healing). To all such aberrations the biblical teaching acts as a health-giving corrective. [1]


  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 667–669.

DBG Spotlight (2-8-17)

DBG Spotlight (2-8-17)

At the 2017 G3 Conference, the official trailer of the upcoming documentary titled “Luther” was released.  You will want to watch the trailer and pre-order the documentary which will take an accurate look at the life and legacy of Luther.

What Does “World” Mean in John 3:16? – “John 3:16 is not about the greatness of the world but about the greatness of God.”

Spurgeon versus Hyper-Calvinism – Ray Ortlund provides four main points that Spurgeon covered according to Iain Murray in his book, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism.

Give Yourself to Constant & Committed Prayer! – “Don’t come in the dark, early morning hours and seek God in prayer because you must — seek God because you can!”

Is There Any Purpose in Our Loneliness? – “That’s why he created us the way he did—so that we will yearn for and recognize our need of something that no human being can fill and that we can’t fix ourselves.”

Is Love of Money Really the Root of All Evils? – “Is the love of money the ‘root of all evils’ or only the ‘root of all kinds of evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10)?”