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Foreword This article was originally posted in Modern Reformation’s issue entitled The Pilgrims’s Progress – The Life of A Justified Sinner – Nov./Dec. Vol. 5 No. 6 1996. This issue is now out of print and one of the best volumes that rolled out of the press. It can be accessed electronically at Modern Reformation’s website but only if you are a current subscriber to the magazine itself. A few more articles from that issue will be uploaded on this weblog in the future.  In the meantime, be blessed as you read on.

EmmausTrekker

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By Harold L. Senkbeil

The biblical terms “sanctify” and “sanctification” are from the same word family as “holy” and “holiness.” The rich tapestry of the biblical language of holiness contains but one single golden strand woven throughout: the absolute sinlessness and transcendent purity of God the Holy Trinity. God alone is holy in himself, and therefore from God himself all holiness must proceed; apart from him nothing is holy. Therefore God sends forth his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we believe his holy Word. That Word (also in its sacramental forms) is the means the Holy Spirit uses to sanctify us–to make us holy–within the fellowship of the Holy Christian Church, which is the communion of saints,or holy people.

As long as sanctification is seen as primarily in the arena of human morality, the heart of sanctification is lost. True, sanctification does effect a change in morality, but sanctification in itself is not a question of human morality, but divine purity. Once sinners are purified by God’s divine grace, they live lives which reflect God’s own holiness.

Borrowed Holiness – This is absolutely vital. If you and I as sinners are to spend eternity in the presence of a holy God, we must share in his holiness: “Strive for . . . the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). The truth is, since the fall of Adam every human being is excluded from the presence of God except one: God’s own sinless and holy Son. We have no holiness in this world apart from Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God. Believers borrow their holiness from him by faith. Sanctification therefore comes as good news; it is gift language, for it means our cleansing and purification through the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus’ sake. All who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ by faith, together with the holiness that belongs to him; “that we may share in his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Sanctification is therefore just as much a gift as is justification.

There is a link between faith and life, between justification and sanctification, between salvation and holy living. And that link is Christ. He “. . . has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). We have no life to live as Christians that is not given by God the Father, earned by God the Son, and bestowed by God the Holy Spirit. Therefore our focus is always on Jesus Christ, God incarnate in human flesh. Because he is our redemption,or atoning sacrifice for sin, he is also our righteousness, or perfection before God. And because he is our righteousness/redemption, he is also our holiness,or sanctification. With St. Paul, we have one Christ-centered confession: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). In this way the bondage to our private emotions is broken, and we live holy lives in perfect freedom “outside of ourselves.”

Our Part? – One of the most ancient and persistent Christian heresies (viz. Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism) is that human beings have a role to play in their own salvation. In its most blatant form this heresy claims that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient to save, but that we must place our own good works into the balance to give us favorable standing before God. Its subtle form seems more attractive: God does all the work in justification, but we finish this work by our sanctification. We may be declared right by God’s gracious judicial decree through faith in Christ alone, but then it is up to us to perform the works of love and obedience which true holiness requires. This error makes justification merely the first stage of sanctification. God gets us going on the path of holiness, and we continue. God starts and we finish. God has his part and we have ours, so the thinking goes.

But the life we live “in the body” we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. We have no life to live apart from the life which he bestows by faith. And this faith itself is a gift from God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:9). We are therefore “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). Christian salvation (or justification) and Christian living (or sanctification) are but two aspects of one divine reality: the life bestowed in Jesus Christ. Such life is received by faith. And Holy Scripture declares that faith is God’s work from beginning to end: “[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

Of the Making of Many Books . . . – This scriptural teaching is sadly missing in the popular Christian literature of our day. Religious best-sellers focus on the sanctified life, but precious little gospel is contained in these books. What gospel we do find is couched in command language, not motivation language. The books are essentially lists of “how to’s” for the Christian life, what to do and not to do in order to make sense out of the complex world in which we live. The issues of modern life are not examined in light of the good news, but almost exclusively in light of the proscriptions and prescriptions of moral imperatives.

If the modern Christian’s dilemma stems from living in an antagonistic culture, then we can profitably learn from the New Testament. Here the apostles were delineating a “life-style” for Christians who lived in a world completely at odds with everything they stood for. As we look to the letters of the New Testament, we find many statements describing what the new life in Christ means for everyday stresses and strains. Never, however, do these statements of law stand on their own. Always they are undergirded by the life-giving and empowering gospel of Jesus Christ. (italics mine)

Life for the apostles is not viewed merely as a complex chain of obstacles to overcome by practicing a long list of commands God has prescribed for every contingency. The hostility we encounter in this world cannot be chalked up to the quirks of the human mind. Rather, the New Testament recognizes one sinister enemy behind all of the sins and turmoil of life, both internal and external. He is Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), the ruler of darkness (Eph. 6:12), the one who accuses God’s people in his presence day and night (Rev. 12:10). God’s perfect creation has been invaded by this evil adversary and he can now be called the prince of this world (John 14:30).

Entering this enemy-occupied world, Jesus Christ has assumed human flesh to deal with Satan on his own turf (Gal. 4:5). In the body of his flesh he has made satisfaction for the sins of the whole world and has defeated the devil by his death and resurrection (Col. 2:14-15). To all who believe in him he promises everlasting life (John 11:26). Those who trust in him are credited with his very holiness (2 Cor. 5:21). Drawing on this faith relationship, there is light and life in this world of darkness and death (John 1:4).

One Focus – No wonder, then, that the apostles were always framing their description of the new life in Christ in the context of Christ’s death and resurrection on their behalf. In everything they had to tell the faithful about living the Christian life, they had one focus and one focus only: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The entire life of Christian service should be viewed as Christ’s action being carried out in the life of the believer: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). (italics mine)

The difference is striking. Most of the evangelical world puts the spotlight on the Christian’s action; the New Testament focuses on Christ’s action.

Contact with God  The central attraction of the evangelical movement is not its doctrine of the renewed life in itself, but rather how that renewed life provides demonstrable proof of the reality of God and his action in the world. Carter Lindberg has described the current American scene very well:

The credibility of the church rests on the changed lives of its people, thus only the praise-filled experience of God’s presence and power is the answer to today’s experience of insecurity and uncertainty. The depersonalization of contemporary life in the midst of materialism and secularism disposes persons to search for a personal experience of reality.1

There is another alternative. Rather than seeking the reality of God in our own experience, the Bible directs us to find assurance in the historic events of God’s intervention in this world in the person and life of his Son. The basis of our knowledge about God and his living, vibrant reality is not in our experience, but in the experience of Jesus on the cross. There he faced the wrath of the Father and made satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. In his triumphant resurrection, there is validation of his entire saving work. In the word of his gospel, we have no mere static facts about events of history, but the actual means by which people of every age may be brought into genuine contact with the saving work of Christ. “It [the gospel] is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

The Power for Sanctification –  Current evangelical literature, with its myriad of principles, warm folksy illustrations, and down-to-earth advice presents the power for the new life as a combination of man’s work and God’s work: Sure, God saves me by grace, but then he expects me to save myself with his help! With his Spirit he gives me the power I need to get started, but then it’s up to me. By following his principles and continuing in close fellowship with him and my fellow believers, I will be inspired to produce the kind of life that is pleasing to him. Spectacular power is available; all I have to do is reach out and grab it!

Do-It-Yourself Christians? – Thus we see that self-assertion raises its ugly head. Pride is deeply ingrained in the human nature. No one likes to be told he can’t do something; in fact, each of us enjoys taking credit for his or her accomplishments. So also when it comes to the Christian faith. There is something deep within us that rebels when Scripture reminds us that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

Similarly, we do not like to hear that God himself is the driving power in our life of sanctification: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

True, Scripture does speak of the activity of the Christian in performing works of love: “. . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling . . . .” At the same time however, we are reminded that the power for the sanctified life is not our own: “. . . for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12-13).

A Package Deal – Justification (receiving God’s righteousness) and sanctification (sharing in God’s holiness) are to be clearly separated theologically, but not essentially. Like the proverbial horse and cart, they can neither be unhitched nor re-hitched. Putting sanctification before justification is an affront to God’s grace and a stumbling block to faith. Holding to justification without sanctification leads nowhere, for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). No one setting out on a journey in a horse-drawn cart hitches the cart in front of the horse, nor does he shoot the horse. Together they make a unit. Yet clearly the horse has to come first and provide the power if there is to be any forward movement!

As one Lutheran theologian observes:

Sanctification describes the same reality as does justification but describes the justified Christian’s relationship to the world and society. Justification and sanctification are not two separate realities, but the same reality viewed from the different perspectives of God and man. From the perspective of God the reality of the Christian is totally passive and non-contributory as it receives Christ only. From the perspective of the world, the same reality never ceases in its activity and tirelessly performs all good works.2 Thus when speaking about the power for the sanctified life, we dare never stop speaking about Christ. St. Paul put it this way: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The person and work of the crucified Lord is the sum total of our message. He is all in all–“our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). No wonder, then, that Luther could write, “Having been justified by grace, we then do good works, yes, Christ himself does all in us.”3

The Sign of Jonah In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, we have a remarkable sequence of events that helps us understand how God operates through the cross of his Son in direct opposition to every human expectation.

The Pharisees and Sadducees speak for all of us, asking Jesus to prove his identity (v. 1). We all would like to know where in the world God is, and we would like him to make himself perfectly and unmistakably evident.

Jesus, however, makes it clear that there will be no miraculous evidence given. The only evidence will be the “sign of Jonah” (v. 4). The strange three-day sea journey of the Old Testament prophet in the fish’s stomach was really a picture of the three-day burial of Jesus.

You cannot be any more hidden than Jonah was in a fish belly under the water. Jesus makes the extraordinary claim that he would be no less hidden: people would be able to see who he was when his lifeless body would be placed into a tomb for three days. To ask for any more proof than his death is foolhardy and dangerous; it is following the teachings (“yeast”) of the Pharisees and Sadducees (v. 5-12).

Church Growth – When Peter made his glowing confession that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16), Jesus explained that Peter had not arrived at this conviction by human ingenuity. God the Father had revealed it to him.

Whenever people come to faith, it is always on God’s initiative. Jesus makes it clear that this is the permanent pattern for the growth of his church; he himself will build it as the Father brings people to confess that he is Christ and God (v. 18-19).

The Satanic Pitfall – Immediately after Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus begins to explain what his saving work includes: first torture at the hands of the power structure in Jerusalem, then execution and, only after that, resurrection (v. 21). Peter is horrified. “This shall never happen to you!” he exclaims (v. 22).

What Jesus has to say to Peter at this point stands for all time as a clear condemnation of every effort to find God through human reason and speculation: “Out of my sight, Satan! . . . You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (v. 23). The “things of men” always run directly opposite to the “things of God.” The things of men focus on glory and power; the things of God center in weakness and the cross. Human eyes are always on the heights; God’s eyes are always on the depths.

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Cor. 1:27-28).

Where in the world is God? We want to know. We all want to know. The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees is still with us, prodding us to look for God in the experiences of our mind and heart. But we have to let God be God. We have to let him speak where he has promised to speak to us: from the cross of Jesus, his Son!

The Real Problem – Most people think that the human dilemma is that our lives are out of adjustment; we don’t meet God’s expectations. Salvation then becomes a matter of rearranging our priorities and adjusting our life-style to correspond with God’s will. In its crassest form, this error leads people to think they earn their own salvation. More often in today’s evangelical world, the error has a more subtle disguise: armed with forgiveness through Jesus, people are urged to practice the techniques and principles Christ gave to bring their life-style back into line.

 It is certainly true that sinful lives are out of adjustment. We are all in need of the Spirit’s sanctifying power. But that comes only after our real problem is solved. Sins are just the symptom; our real dilemma is death.

God’s Final Solution – God warned Adam and Eve that the knowledge of evil came with a high price tag: “. . . when you eat of (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Our first parents wanted to be like God and were willing to pay the price. And we are still paying the price: “the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23); “. . . in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22); “. . . You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1).

The real problem we all face is death. Physical death, to be sure. But ultimately and most horribly, spiritual death–being cut off from God forever. And everyone must die. You can either die alone or die in Jesus.4

In his death Jesus Christ swallowed up our death, and rose again triumphantly to take all of the teeth out of the grave. In the promise of the resurrection, death loses its power. When we die with Jesus, we really live!

Wanted: Dead and Alive! – There is no sidestepping death. Everyone must die. It is the basic human dilemma; but the cross is God’s great answer to our predicament. We need not die alone. Jesus long ago died in our place, and that means that every baptized Christian dies in Jesus. “Don’t you know,” St. Paul wrote, “that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). Far from being some mere symbol of our dedication to Jesus, holy baptism is the God-appointed means of planting the cross of Jesus Christ squarely in the midst of our lives.

In our baptism Christ takes us in his arms, sins and all, and carries us into his own tomb to die with him. Death is always frightening. But this death is different, for when you die with Jesus, you also live with him. “If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5).

That means that if we die in Jesus through our baptism, we also live in Jesus; a resurrection takes place. The difference is that we have died and risen along with Christ: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:4).

After our burial with Christ in our baptism we are no longer the same person in God’s sight. Our sins have been left behind in his tomb–the one place in all the universe that the Father will not look. And we have a new life through faith in him; it is the risen life of Jesus Christ!

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Rom. 6:6-8).

Through Death to Life – So we see that the cross of Jesus is far more than a nice decoration or a theological concept. In fact, it is the central hinge around which all of faith revolves. At the cross the hidden God has opened up his very heart for all to see. In the death of Jesus, the God-Man, with eyes of faith we see most clearly the Father’s love. Baptized into that death, the cross takes on a whole new dimension. Now we can see that the only route to life is through death. And death is not to be feared, if it is the death of Jesus–for his death brings life!

That is the hardest thing to learn. We are always trying to avoid hardship, pain, and death. Yet the cross of Jesus reveals to us that the only life worth living is a life which is given through death–the death of Jesus. There is no getting around the cross of Christ; the Christian life is always a life under the cross. But the way of the cross is the way to life. Rather than fleeing from suffering and pain, Jesus invites us to take up our cross and follow him. The only life we have to lose is counterfeit; the life we gain is the real thing–it is the life he lives through us!

Notes:

1. Carter Lindberg, The Third Reformation?: Charismatic Movements and the Lutheran Tradition (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), 180.

2. David Scaer, “Sanctification in Lutheran Theology,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, 49:2, 3, 188.

3. Martin Luther, AE 34, 111.

4. I am indebted to Robert Kolb (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis) for his summary of this and many other aspects of Luther’s “Theology of the Cross.”

 

Rev. Harold L. Senkbeil, STM, is the pastor of Elm Grove Evangelical Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. Portions of this article are taken from one of his books: Sanctification: Christ in Action (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1989).

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God loves his saints as the purchase of his Son’s blood… He that was willing to expend his Son’s blood to gain them, will not deny his power to keep them.

 

William Gurnall  –  (1617-1679)

William was born at King’s Lynn, Norfolk, was educated at the free grammar school of his native town, and in 1631 was nominated to the Lynn scholarship in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1635 and MA in 1639. He was made rector of Lavenham in Suffolk in 1644; and before he received that appointment he seems to have officiated, perhaps as curate, at Sudbury.

At the Restoration he signed the declaration required by the Act of Uniformity 1662, and on this account he was the subject of a libellous attack, published in 1665, entitled Covenant-Renouncers Desperate Apostates.

Gurnall is known by his Christian in Complete Armour, published in three volumes, dated 1655, 1658 and 1662. It consists of sermons or lectures delivered by the author in the course of his regular ministry, in a consecutive course on Ephesians 6: 10-20. The fact that a sixth edition was published in the year the author died, 1679, is enough to show that its merits were early recognized. It is described as a magazine whence the Christian is furnished with spiritual arms for the battle, helped on with his armor, and taught the use of his weapon; together with the happy issue of the whole war. It is thus considered a classic on spiritual warfare. The work is more practical than theological; and its quaint fancy, graphic and pointed style, and its fervent religious tone render it still popular with some readers.

Richard Baxter and John Flavel both thought most highly of the book. Toplady used to make copious extracts from it in his common-place book. John Newton, the converted slave trader, said that if he was confined to one book beside the Bible, he dared say Gurnall’s Christian Armour would be his choice. Cecil spent many of the last days of his life in reading it, and repeatedly expressed his admiration of it. Charles Haddon Spurgeon commented that Gurnall’s work is “peerless and priceless; every line full of wisdom. The book has been preached over scores of times and is, in our judgment, the best thought-breeder in all our library.”

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One of the most beautiful and solid assurances of God’s Word for a believer of Jesus Christ is found in Romans 8:27-28 “And He who searches hearts know what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Here, we are blessed with three things – three unshakeable things; unshakeable because it is the work of God, not of men.

  • That God searches the heart. If there’s something truly private about every person, believer or not, it is definitely the heart.  This verse is definitely for believers for it follows-up with the term ‘saint’ – hagios – those separated to God through Christ Jesus by the Spirit.  You see that it’s the Triune God who searches the heart. This heart is the desperately wicked heart transformed by the power of God to repent, believe and love Jesus Christ for the glory of His praise.  For us men, fallible as we are, although we have the unfolding of the Word  to make us wise according to Christ, we are still persona-non-grata to probe another person’s heart.  It is God’s domain.  John writes that if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things. So for one man to assume the content and intents of another man’s heart is to presume too much. In context, we do not know always what we need for ourselves, neither others should presume to have the best solution for others, let alone for themselves. But because God searches the heart, He alone knows what is best for each saint in confroming us to the likeness of His Son – our glorification (Rom. 8: 29-30, 2Cor. 3:18).
  • Second, the Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints. What a marvelous and joyful truth! It is meant to describe His perfect help in our weakness (Rom 8:26), and that we do not always know what it is exactly what we have to pray for. If then the Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints, what a gracious assurance that the answer is definitely forthcoming. Jesus said to Peter, “I prayed for you” – and He prays for each and every believer (John 17:6-26).  Through the eternal Holy Spirit’s mediation, what Jesus prayed for every believer is to be accomplished without any lack or delay. This was meant to strengthen our hearts that may have grown weak because of the corruption of this world. Yes, even the Philadephians who have become weak were assured (Rev. 3:8). You see, Jesus is the One prosphesied who does not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering wick (Matthew 12:17-21, Isaiah 42:3). Not even the weakest nor the least fruitful of His saints will be neglected. Praise be His Name!
  • Finally, because God searches the heart, the Holy Spirit intercedes, and since the saints belong to Jesus Christ, Rom. 8:28 is the inevitable result; God’s plan and working for His people in Christ Jesus shall be accomplished. Some person or persons may doubt another person who is reproachable in his (or their) eyes, but we must not forget that this one has been separated by God in Christ through the regenerating work of the Spirit using the Gospel as the means to bring faith and repentance. This saint may be bruised or weak but nonetheless bought with one price. Most assuredly, it is God’s work and purpose.

I wrote the above prologue in connection to a booklet written by Gregory Koukl entitled Never Read A Bible Verse. It is very basic compared to other books like Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson or Bible Theology by Geerhardus Vos, yet equally valuable in helping us see the Word of God in a wider and more accurate perspective. 

Also, I write this because a visitor to my weblog said in his second comment, “It is a dangerous move to initiate an ill conceived solution based on mere rational or logical experimentation and twisted application of Scriptures.” To this I heartily agree…but then he concludes in his third comment by saying this about me and I quote verbatim: “Besides, your response fails to satisfy to the particular point which I believe will correcrt [sic] the error of your ways before you put on the garment of sheep clothing. Anyway, Chameleon Christians roams [sic] freely on this world and can change their colors wherever they are.”

Hmmm, has he been searching my heart?  I don’t think so, and the Scriptures prove that to be impossible.

Now then,  I encourage and kindly recommend (not demand, as some would do) the readers of this post  to download the NRBV and surely it will help each one in rightly handling the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). As I said, very basic but equally important.

The grace of God in Christ Jesus be to all His saints – both great and small!

 

Never Read A Bible Verse

by Gregory Koukl – Founder and President,  Stand to Reason

If there was one bit of wisdom, one rule of thumb, one single skill I could impart, one useful tip I could leave that would serve you well the rest of your life, what would it be? What is the single most important practical skill I’ve ever learned as a Christian? Never read a Bible verse. That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph (at least) if you want to unlock the meaning of a passage. (Introduction, p. 3)

By focusing only on pieces of a passage, readers may actually miss the point of the passage. If we’re just reading snatches of text, what’sour guarantee that the inspirational feelings we experience aren’t just false hopes or mere emotion? The difference is critical. It’s the distinction between believe and make-believe. We can’t know what God is talking about or teaching us by looking at an isolated sentence or phrase. And if we take the Scripture in a way God did not mean it—if what we’re teaching from the verse is not really the teaching of the verse—then the words lose their authority. As Christians our commitment should be to the truth of the passage, not to the feeling a certain reading of that passage gives us. If we ignore that priority, then whatever feeling we may have had will have been based on fantasy—make-believe. Fortunately, the liability can be overcome by remembering our basic rule: Never read a Bible verse. Instead, read a paragraph, at least. Always check the context. Observe the flow of thought. Then focus on the verse itself. (Biblical Fast Food?, p. 18)

Only when you are properly informed by God’s Word the way it was written—in its context—can you be transformed by it. Every piece becomes powerful when it is working together with the whole as the Holy Spirit intended. It’s the most important practical lesson I’ve ever learned…and the single most important thing I could ever teach you. (The Role of the Holy Spirit, p. 21)

 

Download NRBV pdf file or watch a portion of NRBV lecture on video 

 

About Greg:  

He started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg’s speaking and writing is that Christianity can compete in the marketplace of ideas when it’s properly understood and properly articulated.

Greg’s teaching has been featured on Focus on the Family radio, he’s been interviewed for CBN and the BBC, and did a one-hour national television debate with Deepak Chopra on Lee Strobel’s “Faith Under Fire.”  Greg has been quoted in U.S. News & World Report and the L.A. Times. An award-winning writer, Greg is author of Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air with Francis J. Beckwith, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published more than 145 articles and has spoken on more than 40 university and college campuses both in the U.S. and abroad.

Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics from Simon Greenleaf University.  He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University.  He hosts his own radio talk show advocating clear-thinking Christianity and defending the Christian worldview.

 

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Finally, my brethren… – Ephesians 6:10

“Last but not the least” is what I will say as this narrative on the full armor of God section begins. The word ‘finally’ in the Greek is tou loipou which means ‘as for the rest’ but it must not diminish the importance of the narrative.  It was not an afterthought nor was it something that Paul discussed in the last chapter because it was least important, but it is as important as every block of narrative in the Ephesian letter. Imagine a stack of books that are kept standing because of  a pair of bookends, Eph. 6:10-20 is one of these ‘bookends’ that supports the entire epistle because:

  • It frames the teaching of a new life beginning in Eph. 4:17 where Paul exhorts the believers to not live like Gentiles who live in darkness. Every facet of life must display the new life in Christ. And after this Paul reminds the believers again that the forces of darkness would wage war against them (Eph. 6:12).  It is interesting to note here that Paul does not refer to them as Gentiles anymore but keeps his consistent reference to them as saints belonging to the household of God (Eph. 2:19-20).
  • It complements the prayer began by Paul in Eph. 1:15 -23.  He begins praying for them and then he enjoins them to pray in the Spirit for the saints and for him. Prayer takes a front seat in the Christian’s life, presenting himself dependent on God in every way for everything, from the understanding of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ received by faith and the fruit-bearing life resulting from it, from orthodoxy (manner of understanding) to orthopraxy (manner of life).
  • It brings out some of the spiritual gifts that God has blessed us in His Son in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3). Blessings that are freely given to us – the power and might of the Lord, the full armor of God, and Holy Spirit-led and empowered prayer – in order to stand against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms that will wage war against us (Eph 6:12).

Despite Paul’s calling as an apostles coming directly from the Lord, he did not elevate himself over the Ephesian believers. He called them brethren.  The ESV did not write the word ‘brethren’  but the Greek New Testament writes adelphoi which means brethren. But adelphoi presents a deeply rooted brotherhood that is born of God in His beloved Son. Reading Eph 1:1-2 may seem to place Paul and the believers in separate levels, but as soon as verse 3 comes in, both he and the believers have been blessed by God jointly. He made sure to inform them that together, they will be engaged in the same spiritual war and he entreats them to remember that they have the same source of their power – the Lord. Jesus clearly speaks when He said to the apostles, ‘Apart from Me, you can do nothing’ (John 15:5) – yes, even in spiritual warfare.  As it is true for the apostles, so it is true for all believers – apart from our Lord Jesus, we all can do nothing!

Part 3 – Our Lord of Power and Might              https://emmaustrekker.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/panoply-series-part-3-our-lord-of-power-and-might/

Previous: Part 1 – Two Kingdoms at War   https://emmaustrekker.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/panoply-series-part-1/

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