Archive for February 2009

“The Gospel and the Poor”

February 27, 2009

Evangelism? Social ministry? Or, both/and? It’s a question, and a tension, that many Christians and churches struggle with.

In a paper entitled The Gospel and the Poor, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, helped me think through the relationship between evangelism and social ministry and how to balance them at the home and local church level.

It is a great paper that has alot of information, Scripture and insight in it for all who are committed to sharing Christ in word and in deed.  Pastor Keller also makes reference to and much use of Jonathan Edwards’ discourse, “Christian Charity”, a paper I intend to read later this week.

About half-way through the paper, after speaking about the validity and value of social ministry, Keller asks the question: “But what about the relationship of ministry to the poor to the ministry of evangelism and the preaching of the Gospel?” His answer is that:

  1. Evangelism is distinct
  2. Evangelism is more basic than ministry to the poor
  3. But ministry to the poor is inseparably connected to evangelism
  4. Inseparable does not mean a rigid, temporal order

Included among the many things said in the paper’s summary, Pastor Keller says,

Jesus calls Christians to be ‘witnesses,’ to evangelize others, but also to be deeply concerned for the poor. He calls His disciples both to ‘gospel-messaging’ (urging everyone to believe the Gospel) and to ‘gospel-neighboring’ (sacrificially meeting the needs of those around them whether they believe or not! The two absolutely go together … theologically … (and) practically.”

This is a great paper for all who are concerned not only about evangelism, but also for ministry to the poor, needy and marginalized.

You can read all of The Gospel and the Poor here.


“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45)


Four Plain Answers And A Fit Lodging

February 25, 2009

There were two particular statements in Robert Traill’s fourth of six sermons on Galatians 2:21 that stood out to me this afternoon as I was reading it.

The first statement comes after Traill warns against doctrines that “perplex” and complicate the grace of God.

There are four questions, that must always be preserved plain; plainly delivered, and plainly known by all good men: – 1st, What is that righteousness by which a sinner can stand safe before God? The plain answer to it is, That it is the righteousness of Christ only. 2dly, How come we by this righteousness? The gospel answer is, By grace alone; it is given us as a free gift, we do not buy it. 3dly, How are we possessed of this righteousness? By faith alone; there is no putting on this raiment but by faith alone. 4thly, What warrant hath a man to believe on Jesus Christ? The plain gospel answer is, Only the promise of the gospel.”

Then, after telling of Noah and his family’s deliverance through the flood by means of the Ark, Traill says,

…we are told that God hath already prepared an ark, His own Son, who was hewed and framed by the justice of God, that he might be made a fit lodging for poor sinners.”


Tell it simply and tell it often: Salvation for the forgiveness of sin, eternal life, God’s righteousness, and right standing before Holy God is found only in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Robert Traill, 1642-1716, was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, preacher and reformer.

Wheel Of Fortune? Or, He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands?

February 24, 2009

Institutes 1.16.1 – 1.16.3

In Chapter 16 of The Institutes, Calvin begins venturing into the subject of God’s providence. The question is begged: Does the Lord providentially oversee all of creation and life, or, is creation and life simply subject to fortune and fortuitous causes?

Calvin spends 1.16.1 – 1.16.3 addressing the subject of creation and argues strongly for the providence of the LORD over everything.

Some “represent God as a momentary Creator”, who, after completing His creation, simply left it to be “sustained by the energy divinely infused into” it. Those who hold to this perspective may perceive the power of God in creation, and acknowledge His wisdom, power and goodness displayed in the work of His hands, but they stop there.

According to Calvin, faith must penetrate deeper.

After learning that there is a creator, it must forthwith infer that he is also Govenor and Preserver, and that, not by producing a kind of general motion in the machine of the globe as well as in each of its parts, but by a special providence sustaining, cherishing, superintending, all the things which he has made, to the very minutest, even a sparrow.”

An argument for this is made from Scripture, using the sun as an example of the Lord’s authority over and direction of the created order. Using the biblical accounts of the sun standing still (Joshua 10:13) and its shadow receding (II Kings 21:11), Calvin says that “God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its course, that He may renew the remembrance of his paternal love toward us.” (1.16.2)

He continues along this line when he says that “governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel.” Calvin quotes Psalm 115:3b: ” … He does whatever he pleases.”(1) He goes on to say that the Psalmist, in this verse, is speaking of the Lord’s sure and dliberate purpose in everything that He does.

Believing and knowing that the Lord is ordaining, commanding and governing everything for His purposes, even the adversities of life that we must endure, will surely bring “solace to the faithful” and praise and glory to His name.

Calvin concludes this reading with these words:

… nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willfully decreed.”


(1) The complete reading of Psalm 115:3 is: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever he pleases.” This is such a powerful verse. I have had it highlighted in my Bible for years.

Two other verses from The Book of Psalms that I have always associated with 115:3 that speak mightily to me about the power, majesty and and sovereignty of the LORD are:

“How great are Thy works, O LORD! Thy thoughts are very deep.” (92:5)

“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.” (103:19)

China Mine Disaster

February 22, 2009

Please pray for the victims and family members of coal miners who were injured and killed in a major mine disaster in China this morning.

Associated Press reports that 73 miners were killed, and 113 injured, in a coal mine gas explosion and fire in Shanxi Province (north central China). One hundred and thirteen workers have been hospitalized and at least 65 others are still trapped underground.

Prayer points:

  • That God will send Christian workers to participate in recovery and ministry efforts
  • For the Lord’s Spirit to bring peace and comfort to the injured, trapped and family members of all the workers
  • Salvation for those ministered to by Christian relief workers
  • God to receive glory in and through this tragedy

You can read the complete AP story here.

Thank you.

Mere Grace

February 21, 2009


 Mere Grace

 … that righteousness that is lodged in Christ … (He) gives it forth to us by mere grace.”


From Robert Traill’s third of six sermons on Galatians 2:21.

In this sermon Traill preaches on the “greatness of this sin of seeking righteousness by the law.”

Integrity Matters

February 19, 2009

About two weeks ago I mentioned in a post that our life is crazy and that my posting on the Institutes was probably going to become inconsistent and irregular. Well, our lives and schedules continue as they have been all semester. And, as predicted, I have not posted on The Institutes since then, nor have I read much of Calvin’s book.

I was able to read Chapter 15 this week, though. It was pretty heavy reading.

In this chapter, Calvin discusses the creation of man. In it he addresses the original state in which man was created, our faculties, conscience (that part of us that is able to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong), the image and likeness of God (which is spiritual and internal), free will and intellect, and original righteousness.

With respect to man having been created in the image and likeness of God, Calvin says,

… by this term (“the image of God”) is denoted the integrity with which Adam was endued when his intellect was clear, his affections subordinated to reason, all his senses duly regulated, and when he truly ascribed all his excellence to the admirable gifts of his Maker.” (1.15.3)

But sin entered the world and our human nature through Adam and man descended into a “miserable condition”. (1.15.1)

It cannot be doubted that when Adam lost his first estate he became alienated from God. Wherefore, although we grant that the image of God was not utterly effaced and destroyed in him, it was, however, so corrupted, that any thing which remains is fearful deformity; and, therefore, our deliverance begins with that renovation which we obtain in Christ, who is, therefore, called the Second Adam, beause He restores us to true and substantial integrity.”

Calvin declares that we are restored to this original integrity through “the richer measure of grace (that is) bestowed in regeneration, … that the end of regeneration is to form us anew in the image of God.” (1.15.4)

When we are made new, we are “so renewed as to bear the image of God in knowledge, purity, righteousness, and true holiness”, the “original integrity” that we lost when sin entered the world through Adam. (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24) (1.15.4)


“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”

I Corinthians 1:30

Worthy Is The Lamb

February 18, 2009

Worthy Is The Lamb

“Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7)

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Revelation 5:12)

Agnus Dei

Michael W. Smith