Tag Archives: Christian Theology

“I believe” by John Newton

“I believe that sin is the most hateful thing in the world: that I and all men are by nature in a state of wrath and depravity, utterly unable to sustain the penalty or to fulfill the commands of God’s holy law; and that we have no sufficiency of ourselves to think a good thought.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the chief among ten thousands; that He came into the world to save the chief of sinners, by making a propitiation for sin by His death, by paying a perfect obedience to the law in our behalf; and that He is now exalted on high, to give repentance and remission of sins to all that believe; and that He ever liveth to make intercession for us.

I believe that the Holy Spirit (the gift of God through Jesus Christ), is the sure and only guide into all truth, and the common privilege of all believers.

And under His influence, I believe the holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation, and to furnish us thoroughly for every good work.

I believe that love to God, and to man for God’s sake, is the essence of religion, and the fulfilling of the law; that without holiness no man shall see the Lord; that those who, by a patient course in well-doing, seek glory, honour, and immortality, shall receive eternal life.

And I believe that this reward is not of debt, but of grace, even to the praise and glory of that grace whereby He has made us accepted in the Beloved. Amen.”

–John Newton, Letters of John Newton (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1869/2007), 21.

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“Dr. Motyer concluded” by Timothy Keller

“Approximately forty years ago, during the summer between my undergraduate college years and seminary, I was working and living with my parents in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

One evening I drove over the mountains down into a long valley in the midst of the Laurel Highlands and came eventually to the Ligonier Valley Study Center, just outside the little Western Pennsylvania hamlet of Stahlstown, where R.C. Sproul was hosting at his regular weekly Question and Answer session a British Old Testament scholar, J. Alec Motyer.

As a still fairly new Christian, I found the Old Testament to be a confusing and off-putting part of the Bible. I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church (I can’t remember if R.C. posed it to him or someone from the audience).

After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their ‘testimony’ to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:

We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator— the one who stands between us and God— came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.

Then Dr Motyer concluded: ‘Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.’ My young self was thunderstruck.

I had held the vague, unexamined impression that in the Old Testament people were saved through obeying a host of detailed laws but that today we were freely forgiven and accepted by faith.

This little thought experiment showed me, in a stroke, not only that the Israelites had been saved by grace and that God’s salvation had been by costly atonement and grace all along, but also that the pursuit of holiness, pilgrimage, obedience, and deep community should characterize Christians as well.”

–Timothy Keller, “Foreward” in Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2015), ix-x. Keller also alludes to this Motyer quote here.

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“The proper study of the Christian” by Charles Spurgeon

“It has been said by some one that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God.

The proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity.

Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, ‘Behold I am wise.’

But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.’

No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.

He may be a naturalist, boasting of his ability to dissect a beetle, anatomize a fly, or arrange insects and animals in classes with well nigh unutterable names; he may be a geologist, able to discourse of the megatherium and the plesiosaurus, and all kinds of extinct animals; he may imagine that his science, whatever it is, ennobles and enlarges his mind.

I dare say it does, but after all, the most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity.

Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary.

Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore.

Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated.

I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Immutability of God,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, Volume 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 1. Preached this sermon from Malachi 3:6 on January 7, 1855. He was just 20 years old.

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“Every attribute of God is precious to believers” by Herman Bavinck

“Every attribute of God is precious to believers. They cannot do without any of them. They desire no other God than the only true God, who has revealed Himself in Christ, and they glory in all His perfections in truth.

Their adoration, their love, their thanksgiving, and praise are aroused not only by God’s grace and love but also by His holiness and righteousness, not only by God’s goodness but also by His omnipotence, not only by His communicable but also His incommunicable attributes.”

–Herman Bavinck, Ed. John Bolt and trans. John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 250.

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“Hide not the offence of the cross” by Charles Spurgeon

“We are sure that the gospel we have preached is not after men, because men do not take to it. It is opposed even to this day. If anything is hated bitterly, it is the out-and-out gospel of the grace of God, especially if that hateful word ‘sovereignty’ is mentioned with it.

Dare to say ‘He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion,’ and furious critics will revile you without stint. The modern religionist not only hates the doctrine of sovereign grace, but he raves and rages at the mention of it.

He would sooner hear you blaspheme than preach election by the Father, atonement by the Son, or regeneration by the Spirit. If you want to see a man worked up till the Satanic is clearly uppermost, let some of the new divines hear you preach a free-grace sermon.

A gospel which is after men will be welcomed by men; but it needs a divine operation upon the heart and mind to make a man willing to receive into his inmost soul this distasteful gospel of the grace of God. My dear brethren, do not try to make it tasteful to carnal minds.

Hide not the offence of the cross, lest you make it of none effect. The angles and corners of the gospel are its strength: to pare them off is to deprive it of power. Toning down is not the increase of strength, but the death of it.

Why, even among the sects, you must have noticed that their distinguishing points are the horns of their power; and when these are practically omitted, the sect is effete. Learn, then, that if you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead.

If you remove grace out of the gospel, the gospel is gone. If the people do not like the doctrine of grace, give them all the more of it. Whenever its enemies rail at a certain kind of gun, a wise military power will provide more of such artillery.

A great general, going in before his king, stumbled over his own sword. ‘I see,’ said the king, ‘your sword is in the way.’ The warrior answered, ‘Your majesty’s enemies have often felt the same.’ That our gospel offends the King’s enemies is no regret to us.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Our Manifesto” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XXXVII (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1891), 48-49. Spurgeon preached this sermon from Galatians 1:11 on April 25, 1890. [HT: Pri]

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“The Friend of sinners” by J.C. Ryle

“We should notice how tenderly Christ speaks of the death of believers. He announces the fact of Lazarus being dead in language of singular beauty and gentleness: ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.’ Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love.

He is thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. He has an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over his interests.

The world may despise him, but he has no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast him out, but Christ having once taken him up will never let him go. He is the ‘friend of Christ’ even after he is dead!

The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the sorest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The death of true Christians is ‘sleep,’ and not annihilation. It is a solemn and miraculous change, no doubt, but not a change to be regarded with alarm. They have nothing to fear for their souls in the change, for their sins are washed away in Christ’s blood.

The sharpest sting of death is the sense of unpardoned sin. Christians have nothing to fear for their bodies in the change; they will rise again by and by, refreshed and renewed, after the image of the Lord. The grave itself is a conquered enemy. It must render back its tenants safe and sound, the very moment that Christ calls for them at the last day.

Let us remember these things when those whom we love fall asleep in Christ, or when we ourselves receive our notice to quit this world. Let us call to mind, in such an hour, that our great Friend takes thought for our bodies as well as for our souls, and that He will not allow one hair of our heads to perish.

Let us never forget that the grave is the place where the Lord Himself lay, and that as He rose again triumphant from that cold bed, so also shall all His people.

To a mere worldly man death must needs be a terrible thing; but he that has Christian faith may boldly say, as he lays down life, ‘I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is Thou, Lord, that makest me dwell in safety.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 178-179. Ryle is commenting on John 11:7-16.

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“Jesus is our sanctification” by Sinclair Ferguson

“In the New Testament, Jesus is presented as the ‘author,’ ‘captain’ or ‘pioneer’ of salvation (Acts 3:15; 5:31; Hebrews 2:10; 12:2). The word archegos (author) is notoriously difficult to translate into English. In the case of Jesus (especially in the context of Hebrews) it seems to convey the twin notions of primacy and origin.

Jesus is the ‘author’ of our sanctification, in the sense that He creates it for us, but He is also its ‘pioneer’ because He does so out of His own incarnate life, death and resurrection.

He is the ‘pioneer’ of our salvation, because as the Hero of Faith (to be distinguished from the long list of those heroes who bear witness to Him, Hebrews 12:1), He has endured the cross, despising its shame and the opposition of sinners, and is now seated at God’s right hand.

He is the first and only fully sanctified person. He has climbed God’s holy hill with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-6). It is as the ‘Lead Climber’ that He gives the sanctification He has won to others (Acts 5:31).

As ‘pioneer,’ Jesus has Himself gone ahead of us to open up the way to the Father. By doing so, He brings to the Father in similar obedience all those who are ‘roped’ to Him by grace and faith.

Christ is our sanctification. In Him it has first come to its fulfillment and consummation. He not only died for us to remove the penalty of our sin by taking it himself; He has lived, died, risen again and been exalted in order to sanctify our human nature in Himself for our sake.

This is the significance of His words shortly before the cross, ‘Sanctify [the disciples] by the truth… As You sent Me into the world. For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified’ (John 17:17-19).”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, Ed. Donald Alexander, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 49.

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