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Doctrine for Life

“Doctrine” is a dirty word to many people today. Many think we don’t need it. Some go further and see it as a negative influence upon personal spirituality, evangelistic witness, and souls being saved.

The Apostle Paul did not see it that way. Quite the reverse. He saw doctrine as inseparably connected with life. In the fourth chapter of his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle demonstrated how doctrine was essential for life. In verse after verse he warns against the baleful effects of false doctrine and the life-giving power of true doctrine (1 Timothy 4: 1-2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 13, 16).

Doctrine Is Vital For Spirituality
In the context of these wider calls to doctrinal fidelity, Paul calls Timothy to be an example, a pattern, to other believers (v. 12). He clearly sees that the one leads to the other; doctrine leads to exemplary spirituality and maturity.

He lists three areas of outward spirituality (word, conduct, and love) and three of inward spirituality (spirit, faith, and purity), none of which can be accomplished without doctrinal input. For example, how can you be an example in word, if you don’t first take in God’s Word? How can you be an example in faith, if you don’t know what to believe, and so on.

Doctrine is Vital For Witness
In verses 13-15, Paul urges Timothy to give consant attention to the reading of Scripture, the practical application of Scripture, and the catechetical teaching of Scripture (v. 13). Timothy is to be totally Word-centered, meditating on it and giving himself completely to it.

Why? Why such a focus on the truth?

“That your progress may be evident to all” (v. 15).

Again Paul twins doctrine with life, especially with the power of Timothy’s witness. The word for “progress” here describes a pioneer cutting a swathe through a forest to allow an army to advance behind him. By faithful study and teaching of Christian doctrine, Timothy would blaze a trail for others to follow.

Doctrine Is Vital For Salvation
If you thought the Apostle was overstating his case for doctrine by seeing it as indispensable to spirituality and evangelistic effectiveness, he now goes even further and says to Timothy that if he pays careful and constant attention to doctrine “you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (v. 16).


Timothy will save himself and others?

Has Paul forgotten he’s a Calvinist?

Not at all. Listen to Calvin on this passage:

It is indeed true that it is God alone who saves and not even the smallest part of His glory can rightly be transferred to men. But God’s glory is in no way diminished by His using the labor of men in bestowing salvation. This our salvation is the gift of God, since it comes from Him alone and is effected only by His power, so that He alone is its Author. But that does not exclude the ministry of men, nor does it deny that ministry may be the means of salvation, for it is that ministry that the welfare of the church depends… As the unfaithfulness of the careless pastor is ruinous to the church, so the cause of salvation is justly ascribed to his faithfulness and diligence.

To put it briefly and bluntly, the salvation of men and women (from sin, error, ignorance, and fads) depends on the faithful devotion of Christian ministers.

No Shortcuts
Although it’s tempting to think that there are quicker and easier ways to spirituality, effective witnessing, and even the saving of souls, the Apostle here erects a large warning sign, “No Shortcuts.” Doctrine doesn’t kill; it gives life.

Happy Rules

If man were infinitely wise, and could draw up a code for himself, which would involve no hardship, and entail all that was happy, he could devise no regulations more healthful, more profitable, or more pleasant than those of the Savior. Charles Spurgeon

For many people, the existence of God’s law is proof that He opposes human happiness. “If God really wanted me to be happy, He wouldn’t put all these laws in my way.” Thus, every day, billions of people try to throw off God’s law, cast it behind their backs, and run away from it as fast as possible. What they don’t realize is that instead of escaping hardship, they are escaping happiness.

Here are four reasons why we should trust and obey God’s laws as designed for our happiness.

1. God knows us. As our creator, He knows what is best for us in our bodies, minds, relationships, lifestyle, communities, and so on. He has observed billions of human lives over the years and knows what works well and what doesn’t.

2. God knows our world. He knows the dangers of this world better than we do and has designed His laws as boundaries, as fences to keep us in safe places and away from the danger zones. He knows what damages and what destroys us.

3. God knows the future. When men change God’s law, they cannot foresee the consequences. If politicians could look down the road and see all the implications of their legislation, they often would change their plans. God sees down the road, views all the possible consequences, and therefore has never had to change one of His moral laws.

4. God knows the Gospel. God also designed the law to show us our sin and our need of a Savior. The law not only shows us the best way to live, but also that we cannot live that life, that we need Someone who did, and that we need the Holy Spirit to fuel our obedience.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

R. C. Sproul Defends The God of the Old Testament

It’s not only old and new atheists who have struggled with the God of the Old Testament. As R. C. Sproul admits in chapter 6 of The Holiness of God, some of the greatest Christians, including Martin Luther and the Apostle Paul, have wrestled to reconcile God’s holy justice with the seeming brutality of God’s judgments, especially in the Old Testament.

Before facing the difficulties head on and “staring the Old Testament God in the face,” Sproul rapidly dispatches some of the common yet unacceptable solutions to this problem. Then, instead of choosing some of the easier passages to explain and defend, Sproul takes head-on the most difficult and offensive passages in the Bible:

  • The judgment of Nadab and Abihu for offering an unauthorized sacrifice (Lev. 10:1-3).
  • The judgment on Uzzah for touching the ark (1 Chron. 13:7-11).
  • Capital punishment for multiple crimes.
  • The command given to Israel to slaughter thousands of Canaanites.
  • The killing of Christ on the cross.

This chapter on God’s holy justice is the most outstanding chapter in an outstanding book, and, I believe, one of the greatest chapters Sproul has ever written. Although he deals with each of the above passages in turn, here’s my attempt to gather together and summarize the common threads in each section:

God’s Judgments Were Pre-announced
In the cases of Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah, God cannot be accused of unexpected, whimsical, or arbitrary judgment. Rather, God gave clear instructions and unmistakeable prohibitions and, in the case of Uzzah at least, clear and unmistakeable sanctions for disobedience (Ex. 30:9-10; Num. 4:15-20). These were not innocent men and these were not sins of ignorance.

God’s Judgments Are Holy
As God’s justice is according to His holy character, His justice is never divorced from His righteousness. He never condemns the innocent, clears the guilty, or punishes with undue severity.

God’s Judgments Are Delayed
Although the New Testament seems to reduce the number of capital offenses, even the Old Testament represents a massive reduction in capital crimes from original list – instant death for each and every sin.

The OT, therefore, is a record of the grace of God, because every sin is a capital offense and deserving of death. The issue is not why does God punish sin, but why does He permit ongoing human rebellion and ongoing human existence? The OT is a record of a God who is patient in the extreme with a rebellious people, delaying the full measure of justice so that grace would have time to work.

God’s Judgments Are Against Sin
We don’t understand God’s judgments because we don’t understand sin. Sin is cosmic treason – treason against a perfectly pure sovereign. It misrepresents God whose image we are called to bear, and it violates others – injuring, despoiling, and robbing them. In commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites, God was not giving injustice to Canaan and justice to Israel; He gave justice to Canaan and mercy to Israel. The Canaanites were not innocent, but a treasonous people who daily insulted God’s holiness (Deut. 9:4-6).

God’s Judgments Were Approved by Jesus
Christ called the Old Testament God, “Father.” It was the Old Testament God who sent His son to save the world, and the Old Testament God’s will that Jesus came to do. It was zeal for the Old Testament God who slew Nadab and Abihu that consumed Christ (John 2:17).

God’s Greatest Judgment Was Experienced by Jesus
The most powerful act of divine vengeance in the Bible, and the most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice, is seen at the cross. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be focused on the cross. Yet, the cross was the most beautiful and the most horrible example of God’s wrath. It was the most just and the most gracious act in history.

God’s Judgments Destroy Entitlement
Since we tend to take grace for granted, God reminded Israel through His judgments that grace must never be assumed. God’s judgments challenge our secret sense of entitlement, and changes the question from “Why doesn’t God save everybody?” to “Why did God save me?” But if we insist on insisting on what we deserve, we will get justice, not mercy.


The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul

The Solution To Racial Injustice

ED’S STORY Grateful from Flannel Staff on Vimeo.

Ed Dobson, retired pastor of Calvary Chapel in Grand Rapids, and Pastor Clifton Rhodes, developed a bond so strong over 20 years that they consider themselves brothers. That friendship has deepened even further as first Ed, then Clifton, developed ALS.

Two lines in particular stood out for me in this film:

Ed Dobson (6.32): In the Epistle, the verse says, “In everything give thanks,” not, “For everything give thanks.” I’m not thankful for ALS, but in the midst of it, I can be thankful.

Clifton Rhodes (7:18): My jar has got some cracks in it. Ed’s jar has some cracks in it, but the real treasure cannot be damaged.

A Holy And Happy 2015 To You

2014 is now covered with the blood of Christ.

2015 now waits to be written.

What will your story be?

According to Twitter, the top aspirations and intentions people are sharing online include:

#1. Work out
#2. Be happy
#3. Lose weight
#4. Stop smoking
#5. Unplug

“Be happy” doubtless appeared on the first ever set of New Year resolutions carved in stone; it’s likely been on every list since then; and, presumably, it will also be on the last list ever to be written.

But how? How to be happy? Here are some hints.

Never cease to show your people that to be holy is to be happy; and that, to bring us to perfect holiness and likeness to God, was the very end for which Christ died. Andrew Bonar

For if sin is misery, sinners can only be made happy indeed by being made holy. The process of redemption, then, is one whose design throughout is holiness. Robert Dabney

There will three effects of nearness to Jesus, all beginning with the letter h—humility, happiness, and holiness. Charles Spurgeon

If the question be asked, why we should seek the good of mankind, the answer is, from a regard to our everlasting happiness; and if the question be, why we should make the will of God the rule of our conduct, the answer must be the same; So that really all virtue is resolved into a regard to our own happiness. Archibald Alexander

O that all the world but knew that holiness and happiness are one! O that all the world were one holy family, joyfully coming under the pure rules of the gospel! Andrew Bonar

They’re not hunger and thirst…hungering and thirsting after happiness. They’re hungering and thirsting after righteousness, that’s why they’re happy. John Macarthur

Authentic obedience comes when happiness and holiness meet such that holiness becomes the source of happiness rather than its alternative. Holiness is meant to ignite, not eliminate, joy. Dane Ortlund

I wish you all a very holy and, therefore, a very happy 2015.