Sola Gratia and the Gift of Faith

Historically, it is a simple matter of fact that Martin Luther and John Calvin, and, for that matter, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation, stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points, they had their differences; but in asserting the helplessness of man in sin, and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them, these doctrines were the very life-blood of the Christian faith.  

The doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace; but it actually expressed for them only one aspect of this principle, and that not its deepest aspect. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a profounder level still, in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration – the doctrine, that is, that the faith which receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God, bestowed by spiritual regeneration in the act of effectual calling.

To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue: whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether, in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self-reliance and self-effort.” J.I. Packer, Introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will

Simeon’s Moment

Simeon’s Moment

Luke 2:22-33


An aged saint, his strength worn out,

A man of faith, just and devout,

His heart is filled, his hope assured,

The Spirit leads toward Christ his Lord.


Up temple steps, a weary task,

Why the temple, one may ask,

A prophet’s vision long ago,

The Messiah will visit His house below.


A family meek, a mother mild,

And in her arms, her firstborn Child,

Their sacrifice, but two small doves,

A righteous offering to God above.


The aged saint and family meet,

Hope and Hope Fulfilled now greet,

The Child, a Boy, a little Lamb,

Is Christ, the King, the Great I AM.


The Child he takes into his arms,

The joy he feels-a million charms,

No other child can match this One,

This is God’s beloved Son.


“Lord, let me now depart in peace,

Now Your Salvation Your servant sees,

A Light for darkened Gentile clans,

And the Glory of Immanuel’s Land.”


The couple marvels—“What wondrous words,

What glorious things this saint declares,

The Child we hold beloved and dear,

Is the Hope of all both far and near.”


Joel I. Huffstutler 12/3/05



“Now ask yourselves, do you know what “God with us” means? Has it been God with you in your tribulations, by the Holy Spirit’s comforting influence? Has it been God with you in searching the Scriptures? Has the Holy Spirit shone upon the Word? Has it been God with you in conviction, bringing you to Sinai? Has it been God with you in comforting you, by bringing you, again, to Calvary? Do you know the full meaning of that name, Immanuel, “God with us”? No—he who knows it best knows little of it! Alas, he who knows it not at all is ignorant, indeed—so ignorant that his ignorance is not bliss, but will be his damnation! Oh, may God teach you the meaning of that name, Immanuel, “God with us”!

It is wisdom’s mystery, “God with us.”

Sages look at it and wonder. Angels desire to see it. The plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths. The eagle wings of science cannot fly so high and the piercing eye of the vulture of research cannot see it!

“God with us.” It is Hell’s terror! Satan trembles at the sound of it. His legions fly apace, the black-winged dragon of the Pit quails before it! Let Satan come to you suddenly and do you but whisper that word, “God with us”—back he falls—confounded and confused! Satan trembles when he hears that name, “God with us.”

It is the laborer’s strength—how could he preach the Gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor acknowledge his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away?

“God with us,” is the sufferer’s comfort, is the balm of his woe, is the alleviation of his misery, is the sleep which God gives to His beloved, is their rest after exertion and toil.

Ah, and to finish, “God with us” is eternity’s sonnet, is Heaven’s hallelujah, is the shout of the glorified, is the song of the redeemed, is the chorus of angels, is the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky!

“God with us”—

“Hail You Immanuel, all Divine,

In You Your Father’s glories shine!

You brightest, sweetest, fairest One,

That eyes have seen or angels known.”

Now, a happy Christmas to you all and it will be a happy Christmas if you have God with you!”

Excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon, “The Birth of Christ,” 1854

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

“The true minister is he who can preach Christ. Let him preach anything else in the world, he has not proved his calling, but if he shall preach Jesus and the resurrection, he is in the apostolic succession. If Christ crucified is the great delight of his soul, the very marrow of his teaching, the fatness of his ministry, he has proved his calling as an ambassador of Christ. Brothers, the Christian minister should be like these golden spring flowers which we are so glad to see. Have you observed them when the sun is shin- ing? They open their golden cups, and each one whispers to the great sun, “Fill me with your beams.” But when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, where are they? They close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influences of Jesus; so especially should the Christian minister be subject to his Lord that Jesus must be his Sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Happy would it be for us if our hearts and our lips could become like Anacreon’s harp which was wedded to one subject, and would learn no other. He wished to sing of the sons of Atreus, and the mighty deeds of Hercules, but his harp sounded only love; and when he would have sung of Cadmus, his harp refused—it would sing of love only. Oh, to speak of Christ alone!—to be tied and bound to this one theme forever; to speak only of Jesus, and of the amazing love of the glorious Son of God, who “though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor.” This is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lips of the preacher, and the master key to the heart of the hearer! This is the tune for the minstrels of earth, and the song for the harpers of heaven! Lord, teach it to us more and more, and we will tell it out to others!”  C.H. Spurgeon, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, April 14, 1867

Spurgeon on The Sovereignty of God

“The sovereign will of God alone
Creates us heirs of grace;
Born in the image of his Son,
A new-created race.”

“And we say to all of you who gnash your teeth at this doctrine, whether you know it or not, you have a vast deal of enmity towards God in your hearts; for until you can be brought to know this doctrine, there is something which you have not yet discovered, which makes you opposed to the idea of God absolute, God unbounded, God unfettered, God unchanging, and God having a free will, which you are so fond of proving that the creature possesses. I am persuaded that the Sovereignty of God must be held by us if we would be in a healthy state of mind. “Salvation is of the Lord alone.” Then give all the glory to his holy name, to whom all glory belongs.”   C.H. Spurgeon,  “Divine Sovereignty,”  May 4, 1856

What does it mean to be a Christian?

William W. Borden

by William W. Borden

“Are you a Christian? There seem to be many today who have no clear conception of what is really meant by being a Christian. Of course, many things are involved and there are several ways in which we could treat this question. But limiting ourselves to the relationship with Christ that is involved, let us endeavor to ascertain what it means to be a Christian.

When we go back to New Testament times, when the name was first used, we find that the disciples were called Christians first of all because they trusted in Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation from the penalty of sin and for the enjoyment of a future life of blessedness. This relationship is implied in the name Jesus, given Him by the angels before His birth, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.” He Himself declared it to be His mission in life to seek and to save that which was lost and to give His life as a ransom for many. After His death the apostles preached Christ as the only Savior of mankind. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ – for the remission of sins.” “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Many more passages might be cited, but these suffice to show that being a Christian meant first and foremost to trust in Jesus as the only hope of salvation. Does it mean that to you? It should, but how many there are who call themselves Christians who, in the last analysis, are not trusting in the righteousness of Christ, but in their own merit or some other false hope. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” A Christian then, is first of all, one who has Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.

But in the New Testament we find that Christ was not looked on as Savior alone, but also as Lord. It was the Lord Jesus Christ whose name they bore, and that meant that He had absolute jurisdiction over them. This followed logically, and is nowhere more clearly brought out than in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “Ye are not your own: ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” And what Paul taught others was but the vital truth that gripped his own heart and made him exclaim, “For me to live is Christ.” That is what it meant to the disciples to be a Christian. Does it mean that to you? It should, but oh, how many there are enrolled on church lists as Christians who, as they are read by their friends and neighbors, do not tell of Christ, but of self! Christ has sacrificed Himself for us; we should sacrifice ourselves for Him even as it is written, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1-2). For a Christian is not merely one who trusts in Christ for salvation but one who also strives earnestly to please Him in all things great and small.

But Christ was even more than this to those early disciples who bore His name, and should He not be as much to us today? He was the perfect revelation of God; He Himself was God manifest in the flesh! This is the plain and ineffaceable teaching of Scripture. At His birth the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah was applied to Him: “And they shall call His name Immanuel, which is being interpreted ‘God with us.’” John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” All that is implied in these statements of His apostles is quietly assumed by Jesus Himself. He is the Son unto whom all things were delivered and who alone knows the Father and reveals Him. Indeed He and the Father are one and those who have seen Him have seen the Father. The true Christian is one who has caught the vision of the pierced hands of the risen Christ, and whose heart cries out like Thomas of old, “My Lord and my God.”

What does it mean to be a Christian? A Christian is one who believes in Christ as his personal Savior, who strives to please Him as His Lord, and who worships and adores Him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as very God of Very God.”

This post was originally published as a tract by The National Bible Institute, New York, NY

President Obama’s Recent Mandate to Accept Transgenderism

Several people have shared with me an article by Denny Burk on Obama’s recent edict regarding transgenderism. Burk refers to a NY Times article, which gives the details of Obama’s plan to force the issue of accepting transgenderism in our public education across the country.

As far as it goes, Burk’s piece is thoughtful and good from a Christian point of view, but I believe Christians need to go even farther in our thinking. Burk referenced Romans 1:18 at the end of the article, and he mentioned truth suppression with regard to the gender issue. There is more truth suppression going on, however, than we might think.

Why would a sitting United States president give such a directive about transgenderism? For that matter, why is he so intent on pressing the homosexual agenda here in the USA and even in other countries?  It is that he and many in our nation have been given over to morally reprobate thinking about the most basic things in the created order. Why would our Supreme Court legalize marriage between individuals of the same gender?  The same reason–God has given them over to a mind that is devoid of righteous judgment (read the rest of Romans 1:18-32). Their thoughts are not God’s thoughts. Their ways are not God’s ways. They cannot judge accurately because God has removed from them a moral compass.

What is causing this (im)moral revolution? It has to do with our idolatry as a nation. It has to do the fact that we as a nation have forgotten God. It has to do with the fact that we are more interested in pleasing ourselves and our desires than we are in doing God’s pleasure.

If our response as Christians to such presidential actions is to merely bemoan the fact and be outspoken against it and be sure to vote in the next election, we have missed the point. We must do more. We must search our own souls for idols and repent whenever we find one. We must repent of our worldliness and pursuit of temporal things. We must turn back to God and humble ourselves before Him. We must humbly preach the Gospel to those who are lost as well and call them to repentance. We must ask God help us as a nation to see our idolatry and turn to Him for mercy.

We are foolish to think that the state of affairs in our nation has everything to do with a radical agenda and nothing to do with our own idolatry. It is most certainly both. Romans 1 teaches that God gives men over to the lusts of their own hearts as a judgment for rejecting Him. The presence of reprobate thinking is ITSELF an evidence of God’s wrath.

May God have mercy upon our nation and grant us repentance or we will go the way of destruction as many nations have before us.

Our Fight Against Indwelling Sin

Exhortations to Fight:  “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1Ti 6:12)

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:10-12 NAU)

A Personal Resolution in the Fight:  “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” Jonathan Edwards

Our Danger in the Fight:  “Men little consider what a dangerous companion is always at home with them. When they are in company, when alone, by night or by day, all is one, sin is with them. There is a living coal continually in their houses; which, if it be not looked unto, will fire them, and it may be consume them. Oh, the woeful security of poor souls! How little do the most of men think of this inbred enemy that is never from home! How little, for the most part, does the watchfulness of any professors answer the danger of their state and condition!”  John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:14-15

The Experience of the Fight:  “Pain and grief, moans and groans, will certainly be involved, for your sin does not want to die, now will it enjoy the killing process. Jesus told us, very vividly, that mortifying sin could well feel like plucking out an eye or cutting of a hand or foot, in other words, self-mutilation. You will feel you are saying good-bye to something that is so much a part of you that without it you cannot live.” J.I. Packer

Our Armory and Weaponry in the Fight:  “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Eph 6:17-18)

Our Helper in the Fight:  “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

Our Hope in the Fight:  “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25)

Fight the good fight with all thy might!
Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.

John Monsell


The Disciples’ Prayer


Luke 11:1-4 & Matthew 6

Pray in the plural (v.2-4). Jesus taught that we should pray for one another in this prayer by using “us” and “we” and “our” rather than “I” “me” and “my.”

Address our Father personally. (v.2) While we can pray to Jesus and the Spirit, Jesus taught us to directly address the Father in prayer.

Acknowledge our Father’s position. (v.2) Our Father is in heaven on a throne of glory, so humility is fitting to addressing Him. His is our Father—near to us, but He is also in heaven—far above us.

Give our Father praise. (v.2) We enter into His courts with praise, remembering and exalting His many names and His glorious perfections as God.

Seek our Father’s purposes. (v.2)   We begin our petitions not with our own needs but His purposes—the increase of His kingdom and the accomplishment of His will.

Ask our Father for provision (v.3). We ought to pray in advance for our material provision, and in thankfulness for what we have already received.

Ask our Father for pardon (v.4). We pray for forgiveness for our sins with an attitude of forgiveness towards others. We ought always seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.

Ask our Father for protection (v.4). We ought always to pray for protection from the Evil One, Satan, and from falling to temptation and sin. This is a part of our seeking to be holy like Him.

“Come to the Waters”

My wife and I have been working through this excellent devotional book this year. It is filled with very challenging and helpful expositional devotionals each day from the sermons of James Montgomery Boice. It is out of print, but you can still find copies on Amazon and Abebooks. It is definitely worth the investment.
One recent devotional was called “God’s Man” and was based on Moses’s account of how God blessed and used Joseph in Egypt. Boice notes the emphasis on God in Joseph’s speech in Egypt. For a brief study on Joseph’s constant emphasis on God’s presence and sovereignty in Joseph’s life, look at the following verses.
Genesis 39:9
Genesis 40:8
Genesis 41:16
Genesis 41:25, 28, 32
Genesis 45:5, 7, 8
Genesis 48:9
Genesis 50:19-20, 24-25
Boice concludes with the application:
“God! God! God! God! This was the dominant theme in Joseph’s speech and life, and it is this that made him what he truly was: God’s man in godless Egypt. May that same awareness make you God’s true man or woman wherever his own wise plan has placed you.”