Faith in Action

Faith in Action

Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching from Ephesians 4:25-32 in our ongoing series through Ephesians.  As we have noted on multiple occasions in our study, Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (and surrounding cities) is clearly divided into two parts.  The first three chapters teach Christian doctrine while the remaining three chapters (4-6) exemplify how that Christian doctrine is put into action.

The Founding of the Faith

As Paul emphasized in the earlier passage, the believers in Ephesus had first heard the gospel and had been taught in the gospel as well.  Their lives had changed as a result of Jesus Christ.  Paul contrasteIn other words, the reason these believers had a desire to obey Christ was based upon their changed life.  They had heard and been taught.  They first heard the gospel which pierced their soul bringing them to faith in Christ.  Then, after their conversion, they had been discipled.  Both of these aspects of the Great Commission are extremely important (see Matthew 28:18-20).

The Life of Faith

Building upon that truth, Paul pointed out six aspects of the Christian’s life that must be visible.  In fact, in these points, Paul provides emphasis by giving commands to these believers regarding how they are to live.  For faith, without works is dead.

  1. Christians speak truth.
  2. Christians control their temper.
  3. Christians labor with honesty.
  4. Christians control their tongues.
  5. Christians don’t grieve the Holy Spirit.
  6. Christians control their emotions and forgive one another.

The point of Paul’s words are not to teach a behavioral list in order to achieve salvation.  Paul has already taught clearly that salvation is of the Lord and that it’s not earned by man’s work.  However, in this passage, Paul is driving home the point that Christians should be clearly distinguished from the world  In other words, Christians should love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates.

Finally, Paul drives home his point by demonstrating the reality that God expects us to be pursuing and maintaining unity within the church.  He concludes with a statement that should settle the deal for us all.  This points to true Christianity.  If anyone is unwilling to forgive another person in the church, that individual has no right to believe that he or she is a true Christian.  How can anyone claim to have been the recipient of God’s grace while harboring bitterness and anger toward another person?  That’s not the way of Christ.

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.


Prayer Is Both Horizontal and Vertical

Prayer Is Both Horizontal and Vertical

In recent weeks, I’ve been working with my children on how to be more than one-dimensional in their prayer life.  It’s really easy to fall into ruts when we pray.  At times, we learn specific prayers and we repeat them over and over to the point that they become a mantra rather than an actual prayer.  It’s important to realize that we should focus on people and upon God in our prayer.  We would be wise to make requests and provide praises.

The Horizontal Prayer

As we look into the early church from Acts 2:42-47, we see that immediately they are gathered under the preaching of the Word and prayer.  They prayed together and they prayed for one another.  We can see later as Peter was imprisoned, the church was gathered together praying for Peter (Acts 12:6-19).  It’s healthy for the church to pray for one another’s needs.

In the early church context, it was difficult and dangerous to follow Jesus.  The church understood the importance of praying for the physical and spiritual needs of one another.  The horizontal aspect of prayer has always been important among God’s people, and it’s vitally important today as well.  We must not neglect praying for one another.

Consider the needs of the church:

  1. Are you praying for your pastors and deacons?
  2. Are you praying for the church’s missions ministries?
  3. Are you praying for the church’s discipleship ministries?
  4. Are you praying for the poor in your community?
  5. Are you praying for the sick among your church family?
  6. Are you praying for the salvation of the children of your church?
  7. Are you praying for the growth of the church spiritually and numerically?

The Vertical Prayer

Have you taken a look at the prayer sheet for your church in recent days?  What does it look like?  How much of your church’s prayer sheet is focused upon the attributes of God?  Is there any point on the prayer sheet where the church is directed to praise God?  It’s really easy to turn your church’s prayer meeting into a time where people only ask God to heal physical problems.  There’s more to praying than asking God to heal uncle Joe’s bad back.

I’ve been instructing my children to spend time praying for others, but to finish by choosing one important thing about God and take time to not only recognize it, but to praise Him.  In one prayer, it’s possible to end by spending some time focused on God’s mercy and praising Him for being a God of mercy.  On another occasion, we could end our time of prayer by focusing on God’s justice and praising God for His promise to judge the lawless.

We need set times where we simply focus on God and praise Him for who He is, what He has already done, and what He promises to do in the future.

Consider the benefits of such praying:

  1. It’s edifying to be comforted by God’s attributes.  Especially the attributes that are not communicable.
  2. It’s educational to spend time considering the bigness of God’s power and love.
  3. It’s worshipful to focus on God as He has identified Himself to us in Scripture — the Triune God who saves sinners.
  4. It’s joyful to look into God’s justice and have confidence that He will one day judge with righteous judgment.

Consider the words of J.C. Rye regarding prayer:

Prayer is the mightiest weapon that God has placed in our hands. It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty, and the surest remedy in every trouble. It is the key that unlocks the treasury of promises, and the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need. It is the silver trumpet that God commands us to sound in all our necessity, and it is the cry He has promised always to listen to, just as a loving mother listens attentively to the voice of her child. [1]

Prayer is one of the easiest areas of the Christian life to neglect, but it’s one of the greatest privileges that we possess as children of God.  We would be wise to develop strong praying families who in turn make up strong praying churches.

  1. J.C. Ryle, The Duties of Parents.
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.



Please Stop Saying — “God Told Me”

Please Stop Saying — “God Told Me”

It happened again recently.  I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.”  Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off.  This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles.  It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore.  Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.

Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God.  I would like to make a simple request.  Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture.  Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture?  What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?

The “God Told Me” Language Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture

If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7)—why would God not speak to us today?  That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today.  He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.

In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth.  All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners.  God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.

During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ.  Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication.  God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word.  To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture.  Simply put, it needs to stop.

It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today.  We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue.

The “God told me” language majors on our stories rather than God’s story.  We need more of God and less of us in our singing and preaching today.  If people are genuinely hungry to hear from God, we must direct them to God’s Word.  To raise children on “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” and to emphasize the authority of God’s Word is a good thing.  But, when those same children arrive in the worship service on the Lord’s Day and hear a preacher waxing eloquent about how God talked directly to him in the early hours of the morning — that’s severely inconsistent.  John MacArthur writes:

Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies, [many] seek ongoing revelation from heaven – meaning that, for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. [With them], biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal “words from God,” supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17). It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster. [1]

The “God Told Me” Language Uses God’s Name in Vain

Although some people unintentionally use the “God told me” vocabulary without understanding the implications, in other cases, certain people and preachers use the phrase as a means of claiming that they actually heard directly from God.  This intentional use of God’s name is a clear violation of the third commandment (Deut. 5:11).

For whatever the reason, some people feel compelled to us God’s name as a stamp of approval on their stories, their decision to move churches, their decision to go into the ministry, or their decision to take a job transfer.  Either way, it’s not true.  It’s intellectually dishonest.  We as evangelicals must not allow people to continually get away with using this language.  We certainly shouldn’t celebrate it.  Hear the word of Charles Spurgeon from a sermon he preached titled, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872:

Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons – I hope they were insane – who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages… Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already – He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at His door. [2]

It is through the Word of God that we hear God proclaim to us the reality of sin (Rom. 3).  From the Scriptures, we hear God declare good news that makes us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-15).   God speaks from His Word to correct us and warn us of error (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  As we continue to hear God speak through His Word, we grow into spiritual maturity and experience the ongoing renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2).  God speaks today, but we must not cling to extrabiblical revelations.  Such words are empty and impotent sayings that are more closely associated with mysticism than Christianity.

Important questions to ask when someone uses the “God told me” language:

  1. If the “God told me” language is used in the context of a sermon preached by one of your pastors (or a guest preacher), rather than attacking him online, setup a private meeting to discuss the matter in person.  Show respect and ask for specifics to be sure you are not misunderstanding.
  2. Is this direct communication from God necessary if we already have the completed canon of Scripture (all 66 books)?
  3. Is the person using the “God told me” language in order to manipulate you in some way?
  4. Is the person seeking to validate their poor life decision by attaching God’s name to it?
  5. Is the “God told me” language being employed in the context of asking for money?
  6. Is the person using the name of God to aspire to an office in the local church?
  7. Is the “God told me” language in direct contradiction to any doctrine or truth revealed in Scripture?

An appeal to those who preach and teach the Bible:

  1. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy—Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5).  We should preach the Word and not our stories.
  2. According to Ecclesiastes 12:14, one day we will give an account of every secret thing and every careless word that proceeds from our mouths (Matt. 12:36).
  3. It is our duty to maximize God and minimize ourselves in the pulpit.  If people leave church services remembering your riveting story about God talking to you instead of remembering God’s Word, you’ve done the people a great disservice.
  4. Your “God told me” language makes others who obviously don’t hear Him speak in an audible voice (everyone in the congregation) feel sub-par in their Christian life.  It also serves as a means of puffing up your spiritual level to an elite status above the normal Christian.  This shouldn’t be the goal in preaching.
  5. If God didn’t actually speak to you in audible voice, please stop using the phrase, “God told me” when you’re telling stories in your sermons.
  6. Brother pastor, if you have someone speak in your pulpit who uses that type of language, it’s your responsibility to correct it with your people.  Their spiritual maturity and development depends upon you being faithful in this area.

Don’t immediately classify a friend as a lunatic or a heretic if they use the “God told me” language in their communication.  However, when you hear people talking in this manner, it should serve as a big red flag.  Exercise wisdom and gentleness when confronting this error among friends or church members, but in the case of calling out false teachers, mark them so that others will not be led astray.

  1. John MacArthur, Strange Fire, (Nashville, Nelson Books, 2013), 218.
  2. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872 [Sermon].
The Whole Duty of Man

The Whole Duty of Man

Yesterday, in our evening service, I was privileged to preach the final sermon in our Ecclesiastes study from Ecclesiastes 12:8-14.  The study was a challenge to preach, and that is the consensus of all of our elders.  Three of our elders engaged in a rotation through our study on Sunday evenings which was enriching and profitable.  As we looked into the book of Ecclesiastes once again as a church family, it was as if we could hear the wise old man named Solomon calling out to avoid the broken roads of sin as he pointed us to the whole duty of man.

Is Everything Vanity of Vanities?

All throughout the study of Ecclesiastes, it seemed at times as if Solomon was merely pessimistic.  He looked into the world in his day and described it as vanity.  But, is that what Solomon was doing?  Was he really just being negative?  Was Solomon merely seeking to be a big killjoy?

It seems that the thrust of Solomon’s voice and the tone of the Preacher was focused on avoiding a certain kind of life that is nothing but vanity.  In other words, it is possible to waste your life.  Before John Piper preached his sermon about boasting only in the cross and wrote his now famous book titled, Don’t Waste Your Life, there was Solomon thundering in his day about the vain life that must be avoided.

A Challenge to Avoid Wasting Your Mind

If James Montgomery Boice described the evangelical church in his day as “mindless times,” how would he describe our present church culture?  Solomon pointed out in Ecclesiastes 12:9-11 the value of Scripture that has been given to us by the Shepherd Himself.  These words are valuable and have been put before us for correction and stability.  Solomon uses the illustration of a goad and firmly fixed nails as a means of describing the profitability of Scripture.

Solomon also provided a warning regarding aimless learning.  This world is filled with libraries.  One such library is the Bodleian Library in Oxford England.  This historic library was the first library and remains the most famous and perhaps the most useful library in Oxford.  The Bodleian Library’s claim to fame rests in the fact that every printed book – every published book – gets catalogued into the Bodleian’s system. To date, they have over 12 million printed items.  In the Bodleian, there is a copy of the 1455 Gutenberg Bible and four original Magna Carta manuscripts.  Due to limited space on new volumes, the library has a storage facility 30 miles away from the Oxford campus where 8.4 million volumes are stored on 153 miles of shelving units.  The historic and antiquarian section of the library has been used in the Harry Potter films because of the ancient look and feel.

There is no end to the making of books, the building of libraries, and the organization of information technology (blogs, websites, and online digitized libraries).  However, the world is not gaining ground with all of this knowledge and learning.  The world, in many ways, continues to grow in futility as the unbelieving world is overtaken by the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life.  Solomon hangs a massive warning sign here.  Be careful of all of the other books.  It’s as if he is pressing upon his readers – upon us – the necessity to major on God’s Word.

A Warning to Avoid Dying with Regrets

Solomon took twelve chapters to point out the dangers of the vain life, and he ends with a sobering reminder and a solemn warning in verses 13-14.  The sobering reminder is the entire focus of the book itself—fear God and keep His commandments.  There must be a desire to fear God and obey Him.  If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, the best way to accomplish this is by fearing Him and obeying Him.  This, according to Solomon, is the whole duty of man.

Finally, Solomon brings it all to an end with a solemn warning.  This warning should be considered by the child of God and the unbeliever.  To all of God’s children, there will be a time of judgment where we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives.  According to Solomon, on that day God will bring out every secret thing, whether good or evil.  This should cause us to fear God and such fear should lead us to faithful obedience.

For the unbeliever, this scene of judgment will be far different.  Perhaps we can get a glimpse of it from Revelation 20:11-15.  Every deed brought out before the throne of God and as the holy Judge – Christ Himself – judges sinners, there will be no excuses valid, no holes deep enough to hide from Him, no hills high enough to evade Him, and His judgment will be final.

Don’t die with regrets.  Don’t end your life with the knowledge that it was all vanity of vanities.  There is ultimate fulfillment and purpose of living and dying found in Jesus Christ—the Savior of sinners.  Repent and cast yourself upon the mercy of God.