Seminary Blog

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Part 3: Moralism, Pluralism, and Exclusive Grace

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 13:02
We live in a world that is religious/spiritual but not Christian. A few years back, I mentioned in class the Sermon on the Mount. The blank stares caused me to accuse them of laziness, until it was revealed that not one of those 32 students had any idea what the sermon said or who delivered... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

5/2/2018 DBTS Chapel: Senior Sermon – Ben Klaus

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 13:47
Pastor Ben Klaus, graduating senior, delivers his senior sermon from 1 Corinthians 9. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

The Vision Thing: Necessary or Optional?

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 09:30

Proverbs 29:18a, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,” refers to supernatural revelation. The word translated as vision also appears in Jeremiah 23:16b in a warning about false prophets: “They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Today, some popular Christian writers use the word in the same sense that it is used in the secular business world. Their definitions differ slightly, but generally speaking, they describe vision as an imagined picture or dream of a church’s preferred future that they hope will actually occur. They cannot guarantee that such a vision will come to pass, whereas supernatural revelation about the future always comes to pass. Nevertheless, they consider their type of vision and vision casting to be essential.

Vision statements are also found on the mission field. When I went through team leader/strategy coordinator training as an IMB missionary in May of 2000, I was required to put together a three-year master plan built upon a detailed “endvision” that included a church planting movement. The endvision was the key component of the master plan, and after describing this vision, I was instructed to work backward and list action plans needed to achieve it. Our team completed some of the action plans, but we did not achieve the endvision.

A church can obviously benefit by having an envisioned goal that is designed to carry out the Great Commission in the unique context of that church. When I served as a pastor in the late 1980s, our church utilized a school gymnasium for our youth program on Wednesday nights, and our senior adults used it at other times. The school permanently closed, and we no longer had access to a gym in the town. Over time, momentum grew in our church to build a Family Life Center. We did not experience a Macedonian vision (Acts 16:9), but we believed that we had discerned God’s will. We prayerfully applied biblical principles to our situation as we deliberated, and we judged that we should construct the building and utilize it for evangelism and discipleship. After a two-year period during which our members sacrificially gave to the building fund, we began construction in the early 1990s. The building was eventually completed and utilized for God’s glory.

Vision casting is not a requirement for pastors. Scripture is sufficient, and vision casting is not listed as a qualification for pastors (overseers) in 1 Timothy 3. In that passage, Paul mentions leadership, but it is not the CEO type of leadership; rather, it is servant leadership in the family context. In 1 Timothy 3:4, Paul says that the pastor “must be one who manages his own household well.” Christian entities such as churches and mission agencies should be more like families than corporations, and Christian leaders should be more like fathers than CEOs.

A good pastor is like a good father. Both men are involved in loving discipline when necessary. Both men equip the people who are under their care. This equipping process involves setting a good example. Church members should hear their pastor talk about his evangelism and discipleship experiences. Even better, they should see him obeying the Great Commission. A good pastor and a good father both practice what they preach. Good shepherds lead their sheep from the front rather than driving them from behind.

Use of the word “vision” is fine in some circumstances, but some cautionary notes are in order. First, when a Christian leader uses that word, he should thoroughly define what he means by it. When a biblical word is repeatedly used with a non-biblical meaning, the person using the word should repeatedly clarify the meaning to avoid confusion.

Second, Christian leaders must realize that when they present a vision of the future that they supposedly received from God, they will lose credibility if the vision does not happen. Some followers may mistakenly think that the leader’s vision carries as much authority as Scripture, and when the vision does not come to pass, they may accuse the leader of false prophecy. Here’s an extreme example: Years ago, I met a man who had been a follower of a prosperity preacher. He told me that when the prosperity preacher’s vision changed from a new building to a private jet, he became quite disillusioned. If, after much effort, a group does not see its vision achieved, it will likely experience discouragement and a sense of failure.

Third, popular writers admit that vision statements need to change as circumstances change. Our world is changing at an ever faster pace, and thus vision statements must change at an ever faster pace. The prediction of future circumstances is difficult. James gave a relevant warning: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that’” (James 4:13-15). Rather than spending a lot of time imagining a preferred future while constantly revising vision statements, we should concentrate on the mission statement that we were given in Matthew 28:19-20 and apply it as best we can to our current situation.

God gave John supernatural revelation about the future. Part of that vision includes the description of “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). That vision should grip Christian leaders, and it should motivate them and their followers to obey the Great Commission and be part of God’s glorious plan that will certainly come to pass.

Categories: Seminary Blog

5 tips for changing your church’s leadership structure

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 08:08

Any transition in a local church can likely upset the congregation’s equilibrium. Familiar practices feel like a well-worn pair of jeans—they’re just too comfortable to change to something new. So why bother? Well, for one primary reason: we want to follow the teaching of God’s inerrant Word. If he has given us the authoritative Word that we confess is sufficient for life and practice, then we must take that seriously. Everything that we are and do as a church should be regularly evaluated in light of Holy Scripture.

Yet in evaluating ourselves in light of the Word, and then moving toward change will also likely stir up a few hornets’ nests! We resist change. It battles our pride and comforts, and challenges complacency. Yet we must do so if we’re to be faithful as churches of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One area receiving a lot of attention in the past few years is the matter of elder plurality leadership in a congregational setting. Maybe you join me in being convinced that plural elder leadership has its roots firmly planted in New Testament practice. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in our congregations hold the same views. So how do we transition from the more typical deacon-led structure to plural elder leadership? Let’s consider five things to remember in this transition.

1. Never take transitions lightly

Old wineskins, to use Jesus’ analogy about the transitions to his kingdom practices from Jewish traditionalism, are not easily parted (Mark 2:21–22). Patterns get firmly set in a congregation’s thinking. They get into a comfort zone that has lulled them into the least effort in exercising thought and making changes. Then suddenly, a pastor calls for a completely different polity. Not only have they given no consideration to such a change but the fact that a pastor suggests it calls into question previous, long-standing decisions. Pride raises its head. Tempers flair. Standards and ideas considered firmly set in concrete feel threatened by replacement.

So don’t take this lightly. Keep in mind three things:

  • Be convinced that Scripture teaches what you’re proposing. In other words, don’t just read a book on elder plurality or see another church doing it and jump into action. Understand what Scripture teaches before you move.
  • Be sensitive to the Spirit’s timing and leadership. Not every idea of transition is ready for daylight at the drop of a hat. Lay a foundation before starting the structure.
  • Be steadfast in prayer. You not only face an educational challenge but also a spiritual battle. The enemy loves nothing more than to divide a church over biblical teaching.
2. Show love and respect for those in the current leadership structure

If you’re leading the transition, show honor where honor is due. Others have gone before you in establishing leadership structures. While you may disagree with their interpretation of Scripture you need to guard against challenging their commitment to Christ. You don’t want to come across as one engaging in guerilla warfare. Honor the office of deacon while laying biblical groundwork toward transitioning the roles of deacons and establishing elder leadership.

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Certainly, this is no small task. I’m recommending that you begin the transition by gently and yet firmly moving the deacons to see their biblical roles as the elevated servants of the church. While all Christians are called to serve, the deacons set the standard—or should. Help them to see this biblical practice so that they relish the opportunity to serve the congregation. In doing so, you seek to avoid an Us v. Them mindset. They are brothers in Christ who may not have been exposed to teaching on biblical church leadership. They need your patient guidance, not pounding, ultimatums, and demands.

3. Start small, then spread to broader circles

When our church transitioned to elder plurality we began with a long process of taking key leaders and working through the Scripture. For about 15 months (not every week!) we slowly walked through every passage in the Bible that dealt with decision-making, leadership, church polity, and biblical offices. Only after that process did we broaden the study with the congregation. Mark Dever, likewise, when leading Capitol Hill Baptist Church toward elder plurality, started with a small group and then gradually worked out with concentric circles of leadership until time to present it to the congregation.

What you’re modeling in the process is reliance upon the sufficiency of Scripture. You’re discipling that small circle in how to faithfully interpret God’s Word. You’re showing through the repetition of walking through the Word the consistency of how biblical polity works and plural elder leadership functions in a congregation. I suggest that you not even begin to introduce church history into the equation until you’ve worked through the Word. I remember one man in the group of seven involved in our discussion that said, when we concluded, “Well, I don’t like it but it’s biblical.” That’s enough for me.

4. Be patient, don’t be a steamroller

My brothers, sometimes we’re so enthused about something that we’ve studied that we presume a few sermons or lessons on the subject will have everyone convinced. In such impatient leadership we may find the church showing us the door. Maybe that’s why Paul told Timothy to preach the word but to do so “with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Yes, you want to see the transition happen. Yes, it will improve your shepherding the congregation. Yes, it will intensify the church’s ministry. Yes, wiser decisions will be made. But that’s still no excuse for impatiently pounding away. Give the congregation time to trust you and your leadership before rushing into polity change.

You will likely have a few setbacks—someone disagrees, another complains, and a few even leave the church. That’s just part of transition in a typical church, particularly when not healthy. Better to work on the church’s health than to change it’s polity in hope that it will change its health. Lay a good biblical foundation in sound doctrine before pressing the biblical teaching on polity. Prioritize the gospel before polity.

You’re not parting the Red Sea in transitioning to elder plurality but you are journeying into biblical territory that may be unfamiliar to the church. There may be negative associations with elders, e.g. another denomination’s elder rule without a congregational framework. You must work through those things patiently.

5. Give attention to the deacons’ service-oriented ministry while adopting elder plurality

In other words, you’re reinforcing that you’re not getting rid of deacons. Yes, some think that’s what’s happening. Instead, explain and illustrate both the congregation’s voice under elder plurality and the deacons’ role as servants. Show how more ministry will happen—better shepherding, more attentive widow care, efficiency in church responsibilities, accountability for the pastoral staff, etc. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have every answer for every potential issue that might arise when you transition. In the same way, you don’t have every answer in the current polity either. But do show them that you’re committed to serving and shepherding them while leading them in grounding church life and leadership in God’s Word.

Plural elder leadership strengthens churches but make sure, as much as possible, that the process toward it doesn’t divide but unites the congregation in affirming the teaching of God’s Word.

The post 5 tips for changing your church’s leadership structure appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Pastors don’t just need books, they need mentors

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/27/2018 - 07:00

In the final letter that we have from the apostle Paul, written in a lonely prison cell in Rome while he was expecting death for the sake of the gospel, he reminded his closest friend Timothy of the utter necessity of passing on the faith to “faithful men” (2 Tim. 2:2). It bears noting that what Paul envisaged in these words was not simply doctrinal instruction in the essentials of Christianity. Of course, Paul expected the training of future leaders to involve the handing on of doctrine. But, as is clear from a later statement by Paul in this letter, such transmission of the faith also involved the development of lifelong convictions and goals and the nurture of character — making the leader a person of love, patience, and steadfastness (3:10). Timothy knew exactly what Paul was talking about, for this was the very way the apostle had mentored Timothy.

Timothy had joined Paul’s apostolic band early on in what is termed Paul’s second missionary journey, that is, around 48 or 49 AD (Acts 16:1–3). As he traveled with Paul he saw firsthand what Paul later called his doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, and afflictions (2 Tim. 3:10–11). Timothy grew to know and embrace Paul’s theology and doctrinal convictions. He learned that at the heart of all genuinely Christian theology is God: the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. He came to be grounded in the fact that the gospel is centered on the death and resurrection of Christ, the only way that men and women can come into a true and eternally beneficent relationship with this God, the creator of all that exists.

But Timothy also came to follow the way Paul lived, how he made decisions and determined the best use of his time. He learned Paul’s purpose for living, namely, the glorification of God and of His Son, Christ Jesus. Timothy absorbed Paul’s love for the church and compassion for those who were held in the darkness of sin. And he saw the way that Paul responded with patience and perseverance to difficulties and the fact that the apostle did not waver in his commitment to Christ despite persecution and affliction. In short, as Paul and Timothy spent this large amount of time together, Timothy’s soul began to mirror that of Paul, and his mind became increasingly attuned to the wavelengths of the apostle’s thinking (Phil. 2:19–22). This is mentoring.

Pastoral training demands mentoring

Here is a pattern of pastoral training that must again shape the way that teaching takes place in our seminaries. The necessity of training the mind naturally requires academic excellence. But as seminary professors, our task is not finished when we walk out of the classroom. We need to get to know our students — their joys and heartaches, their hopes, aspirations, and concerns. They need to get to know us — our goals in life, our passions, and even our weaknesses. And this can only be done, if we, like Paul with Timothy, walk with them and they with us. This sort of theological education demands a transparency of soul and a knitting together of hearts, as well as the kindling of flame in the mind. In a very real sense, this sort of theological education and mentoring is patterned on the incarnation.

The great challenge, of course, in this way of incarnational mentoring is that it takes time. For many professors, time seems to be such a scarce commodity. I vividly recall some thirty years ago when I was doing doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, being told by Dr. Richard Longenecker, then my New Testament professor and in some ways a mentor to me, that if I thought I was busy in the doctoral program, just wait until I was teaching. I didn’t believe him, but he was right. Most seminary professors are busy men: teaching in seminary and in the church, as well as seeking to maintain an academic career and be fathers and husbands, sons, and friends. Where will we ever find the time to mentor as Paul did?

Part of Southern’s founding vision

Three years before Basil Manly Jr., one of the four founding faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, committed himself to the task of being a seminary professor in 1859, he stated that the “cause of theological education is one dearer to me than almost any other and I esteem no sacrifice too great for its promotion.” The sacrifices that especially he, James Petigru Boyce, and John Broadus were called upon to make for this seminary are well-known. Most seminary professors today are not called to walk such a road of sacrifice as those men were, but I am convinced that something of the spirit that animated Manly’s words must grip us.

Today, more than in the past, we are aware of the very real danger of our ministries crowding out other areas of vital importance — our devotion to wife and children, for example. Thus, while we cannot echo Manly’s sentiments without some qualification, we can nevertheless affirm the key point he was seeking to make. Leadership in the church is so important that we should be prepared to go to great lengths to see future leaders of the church trained. And that training, if it is to be biblical, must involve mentoring à la Paul! This will, of necessity, take time. But, from the point of view of eternity, it will be time well spent.

Editors’ note: This article was originally published by Tabletalk.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

4/26/2018 DBTS Chapel: Senior Sermon – Nathan Paugh

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 04/26/2018 - 13:19
Graduating senior, Nathan Paugh, delivers his senior sermon from Matthew 6:5-8. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

4/25/18 DBTS Chapel: Senior Sermon – Aaron Berry

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/25/2018 - 15:44
Graduating senior, Aaron Berry, delivers his senior sermon from Philippians 2:12-13. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

How Are We to Treat Our Neighbors in Christ?

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 04/24/2018 - 09:30

One of the major problems in ministry is disunity. The little things in church fellowships can destroy relationships with our neighbors. Misunderstood statements can produce resentments. Ministries that go unrecognized can cause hurt feelings. Cliques often form that exclude and alienate others. Busy schedules bring about irritations. Envying the positions of others can lead to jealousy. Disagreements can lead to divisions. In Romans 15:2-13, the Bible provides an answer to these inconveniences and irritations with our neighbors.

The apostle Paul wrote Romans around A.D. 57–58 from Corinth near the close of his third missionary journey. Paul wrote this letter to present the Gospel to a church he had neither started nor visited in preparation for a visit to Rome and a missionary journey to Spain (cf. Romans 1:10, 13; 15:22–25). More importantly, however, the apostle conveyed the message, in keeping with the Gospel, that no distinction exists in God’s impartial judicial administration.[1] The law condemns everyone, and yet all who believe—Jew and Gentile—are justified by faith through the Gospel (Romans 1–11). In light of Romans 1–11, Paul then provoked all justified believers—Jew and Gentile—to accept one another in the body of Christ (Romans 12–16). Put simply, though all stand condemned before God (cf. Romans 3:22), everyone can be saved through faith in Christ (Romans 1:16), and the fact that God plays no favorites in salvation should provoke us to accept one another in the church.

Problems existed, however, between saved Jews and Gentiles in the church (cf. Romans 14:1–5). They were not getting along well with one another. On the one hand, Jewish converts (the “weak,” overscrupulous in faith) were clinging to some practices (not eating meat and observing various religious sacrifices and holy days) that were not necessary to observe once they came to faith in Christ—as far as the full comprehension of God’s grace in Jesus is concerned. On the other hand, Gentiles (the “strong”) felt free to eat anything and did not observe the holy days. Needless to say, conflict ensued. The disagreements over these issues hampered unity in the church body, and the effects of this disunity might also have hindered the church’s advance of the Gospel and Paul’s missionary plans if he did not intervene.

In Romans 14:4–9, Paul addressed these Christians as the “household slaves” (οἰκέτης) of God.[2] He had strong words for them: “Who are you who judges another’s household slave? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). In other words, your brother in Christ is a household slave in God’s house—not in yours—and he must answer to God, his master—not to you (Romans 14:9–12). Paul further admonished these believers not to disparage one another nor to cause a brother to stumble in his faith (cf. Romans 14:13). He taught that we are to relate to our neighbors in Christ by recognizing that we are the Lord’s household slaves.

So, in Romans 15, the climactic chapter of the letter, Paul exhorted the Roman church to treat their neighbors in specific ways. First, he exhorted that, as the Lord’s household slaves, we are to “please” our neighbor for our neighbor’s good because this fits the pattern of our master (15:2–4). Each of us is to “please” his neighbor. We do not indulge our neighbor’s every whim, but rather, we please our neighbor “for his good, to his edification” (v. 2). The goal of pleasing our neighbors in Christ is to “build them up” in the faith, not to be critical and tear them down. Paul explained that even Christ did not please Himself, because He took upon Himself our reproaches (citing Psalm 69:9, v. 3). He then justified the Old Testament quotation he used in verse 3 by pointing to the Old Testament’s purpose mentioned in verse 4: it provides hope.

Second, Paul prayed that God would grant the church’s members (slaves in the Lord’s household) the power to live in harmony with one another (15:5–6). He asked that God may grant them to “think the same thing” so that “with one accord” and “with one mouth” they may glorify the Father of “our” Lord. Only through the Lord’s enablement can people who are different and at enmity with one another live in unity.

Third, Paul commanded that, as the Lord’s household slaves, we are to “accept” one another as Christ accepted us (15:7–13). Jesus again is the comparison. The Lord had accepted Jews and Gentiles in salvation; so, both groups also needed to receive others cordially and in full Christian fellowship. To illustrate further, Paul cited the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 18:49; 117:1; Isaiah 11:1, 10) to point out that the Gentiles were now included along with Jews in the church (vv. 9–12), and then he ended with prayer for the church to be filled with joy and peace (v. 13). Just as Christ forgave our sin and accepted us with all of our faults and idiosyncrasies, we also need to accept others in the church.

Some appropriate verses with which to close are Romans 12:1–2. They act as a bridge, linking chapters 1–11 with 12–16, and serve not as a call to individual spiritual dedication, but rather to corporate unity:

I exhort you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living, holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (12:1–2).

In light of God’s mercies, Paul exhorted Jewish and Gentile believers to present their “bodies” (plural) as a “living, holy sacrifice” (singular). The “reasonable service” for the justified is to be a single, corporate, holy sacrifice to God. Let us also glorify the Lord in such a way so as to live in unity in our churches as “many members in one body” (Romans 12:3–8) and together advance the Gospel around the world!

[1]My friend and former colleague Alan Tomlinson shared with me many years ago this understanding of Romans, which I also came to embrace and teach.
[2]All Bible translations in this article are my own. The HCSB and the newer CSB are the only translations I know of that correctly render οἰκέτης in Romans 14:4 as “household slave.”

Categories: Seminary Blog

4 ways doctrine impacts every day of my life (and why the church needs it)

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:00

Recently I was in a restaurant and a Bible study group was meeting at a nearby table. The leader had a voice that carried, so I could have heard a good portion of the study, but the first thing I heard him say so captured my attention that I missed the rest of it. He said, “I love non-denominational churches because doctrine is not life-giving.”

I will set aside the comment about non-denominational churches not having doctrine for another day. It was the other half of the sentence that knocked me out of my chair. “Doctrine is not life-giving.” I cannot think of anything more life-giving than sound doctrine.

“Doctrine” is a biblical word and the Apostle Paul shows us that sound doctrine is a good thing we should embrace. After all, “doctrine” refers to teaching and “sound” means something is healthy. Sound doctrine is a shorthand way of saying that teaching is healthy and good for us. This means it corresponds to what is true about God, life, and the world.

Sound doctrine is good for followers of Jesus. We need to know the truth, which means we must study the truth.

Here are three reasons you should commit to understanding good theology.

1. Study theology for your knowledge of God

Every relationship is based on knowing and understanding each other. Since God knows and understands us perfectly, it is imperative for us to continue learning about who he is. Thankfully, God revealed everything we need to know about him in the Scriptures.

When we read and study theology, we come to a better grasp of God’s personal attributes and how he interacts with the world. We see how God revealed himself in the past through encounters with men and women in Scripture. For example, when he passed by Moses in Exodus 34, he proclaimed about himself, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” You cannot learn that about God by looking at a sunset. Also, think about his interactions with Job in the closing chapters of the book that bears his name. There, we learn that God is all powerful, has no competitors, yet is gracious and restores those who have been broken.

God also reveals his character through the teaching of the apostles and prophets. When we read Jeremiah 2 or Romans 8:28-39, we hear men inspired by the Spirit testifying to the attributes of the God who revealed himself to them. We learn about the justice, mercy, love, providence, sovereignty, righteousness, and grace of God from these letters and speeches.

In addition to reading the Scriptures, studying theology means reading books by solid authors who help us to better understand the Scriptures. While some might object to this as “the teachings of men,” if they shed light on the truth about God, good books are a chance to learn about our Father from brothers or sisters who have been walking with Jesus and studying the Bible longer and in greater depth than we have been.

2. Study theology for your growth in grace

Too often, Christian pit theological teaching against “practical” teaching. We know the problems we face in our lives and think that theology is ivory tower thinking that has little to do with solving real problems. We imagine that we can get the help we need for our lives from the Bible while avoiding the difficult thinking that comes along with theology.

The difficulty we run into is that most of the solutions to our “practical” problems are rooted in theological truths. How do you know how to love difficult people? The Bible tells us that we learn this by walking in love “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”(Ephesians 5:2) Paul roots something as practical as love in something as deeply theological as Jesus’ substitutionary death for us.

Paul does this in other ways as well. When he wants to show husbands how to love their wives, he points again to the death of Jesus. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) To show Christians why they should put sin to death, Paul reminds Christians of their union with Christ. (Romans 6:1-14) When he encourages Christians to forgive, he announces that God forgave them. (Ephesians 4:32)Theology is crucial to practical Christian living.

3. Study theology for your gospel conversations

We want to see the gospel go forward and for more people to hear about and believe in Jesus. This means that we need to have more conversations about the gospel with people who do not yet believe. How are we going to have these conversations if we do not know and understand theology?

There was a popular “Christian” song in the late 1990’s titled, “Jesus Saves.” The gist of the song was that we don’t need to confuse people with weighty theology. We just need to tell them that “Jesus saves.” Sounds simple enough, but what if they ask “Who is Jesus?” or “What does Jesus save me from?” Now you find yourself in a theological conversation and you need good answers to those questions.

Many conversations about the gospel with people who don’t believe will involve dealing with objections to the gospel message. You can answer these questions superficially or you can do the hard work of helping people to get to the root of their doubts. Every objection to the gospel involves some aspect of theology. If they object that hell is cruel, you’ll need to talk about the holiness and justice of God. If someone wants to know why he can’t just be a good person, you’ll have to explain the righteousness of Christ and salvation by faith alone. These are theological discussions, but they make a deep impact.

4. Studying theology led to my conversion

I was a youth pastor when I realized I needed to be saved. To make a long story short, I made a profession of faith at a youth camp in middle school, immediately ran back to the things of the world, and through a series of difficult events started going to church again. I fell in love with the Bible and was convinced I should be a pastor.

While I was a theology student at a Christian college and a youth pastor at a local church, I started to doubt the reality of my profession of faith. Through this, I started reading about sin, salvation by faith alone, election, and the new birth. I came under intense conviction and slowly realized that I had never been saved.

The night it all came to a head, I asked myself what I would say to God if I stood before him on the last day. My answer started with everything I had tried to do in his name. In my heart, I realized my answer was rooted in a trust in my own righteousness and called upon Christ alone to save me.

Memorizing 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 2:8-10 and thinking about important theological issues through the lens of my own crisis of faith led to my conversion. No one will ever convince me that theology is not important, soul-saving, or life-giving.

Theology is simply the way that we explain who God is, who we are, what is wrong with the world, what God has done to redeem us, and the future hope we look forward to. Studying and understanding theology will give every Christian a deeper love for God, a stronger walk with him, a greater love for the people around us, a stronger commitment to our local church, and an increased confidence in the message of the gospel as we talk to people who need to hear it.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Lessons from Flight 1380

Southwestern Seminary - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 16:40

If you have been near a car radio, a smart phone, or a computer in the last couple of days, the phrase “Flight 1380” will not be foreign to you. This innocuous flight number of a Southwest Airlines plane traveling from LaGuardia airport to the Dallas Love Field airport is now at the forefront of many Americans’ minds and Facebook feeds. The Southwest flight, which experienced an engine failure at 30,000 feet just 30 minutes into the flight path, executed an emergency landing in Philadelphia. One person lost her life as a result of the engine failure.

The stories making headlines from this experience are ones of heroism, bravery, and cool-headedness in the face of dire circumstances. From pilot Tammie Jo Shults to the firefighter who attempted to resuscitate an injured passenger, the stories are captivating.

One of the narratives also unfolding from Flight 1380 includes passengers who used the plane’s Wi-Fi-enabled in-air text messaging service to correspond with loved ones whom they thought they might never see again. Clad in the yellow “in-case-of emergency” oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling, some passengers with shaky hands and clumsy fingers typed messages of love and farewell to loved ones on the ground. Some have shared screen grabs of these conversations on social media, and the messages contained therein should penetrate even the hardest of hearts. They should cause us all to stop and evaluate our own lives.

I’ve never been through an experience like what those passengers on Flight 1380 went through, but in the telling of their stories by news outlets too plentiful to number, I think we all have something we can learn, if we’ll stop to think about it. We, as a culture, have withdrawn from thinking about death on a regular basis, but the stories making headlines this week should prompt us to ask what lessons we can take away from those experiences.

1. We should prioritize maintaining healthy relationships.

If you were to find yourself in a situation like those on Flight 1380, what fractured relationships would you wish you had taken the time to fix? What words would you wish you had said more often or apologized for? The Bible is not silent on this subject; in fact, a significant theme within the Scriptures is how we, as believers, should treat one another. Jesus mentions it in the “Golden Rule,” but we’re also reminded by Romans 12:18 that, if possible, so far as it depends on us, must live at peace with everyone.

2. We should remember that we have a limited amount of time on this earth.

Scripture is full of references to the reality that our days are numbered. Job said that the number of days and months of a person’s life are determined and dependent on God (Job 14:5). James calls our lives a vapor, or a mist, that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). It would be crippling to spend every moment of our lives in fear of death, or to constantly be thinking about it, but a balanced and thoughtful reflection on the limited amount of time we have means we are more likely to maximize that time.

3. We should use our time wisely.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (CSB). Carefully evaluating our days brings clarity to the work we are to be about. As believers who seek to imitate Christ, we should be about the Father’s business, as He was about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49). Friends and fellow church members of Tammie Jo Shults have remarked that she seeks to share her faith as often as possible. Counting our days “carefully” reminds us that those days are precious, and in doing so, we develop wisdom in our hearts. That wisdom will influence all of the decisions we make.

4. We should keep in mind that we will all taste death.

The old adage about only two things being certain—death and taxes—rings true to all ears. We know that life is fragile, and the one guarantee is that it will end for each person on this earth. The Bible says that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

What hope is there in this statement, if all are appointed to die, and all will be judged after they die? We find hope in Romans 8: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (vv. 1-2). Because of Christ’s atoning work on our behalf and our belief in Him as God’s blameless and perfect Son who died, was buried, and rose to life, we have hope that the Lord no longer sees sin and death in us, but sees Christ’s righteousness covering it.

What does your before and after look like?

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who successfully landed a plane on the Hudson River when it experienced a dual engine failure in 2009, was questioned this week about the similar circumstances of Flight 1380’s emergency landing. After noting that the work of the pilot and crew of Flight 1380 impressed him, he made a statement of great importance. He said in a recent article, “These kinds of events are life-changing for everybody on the airplane. They divide one’s life into before and after.”

These events divide one’s life into before and after. These are words about the experience of everyone on that plane, but words that also characterize a life surrendered to Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” As we reflect on the news of the week, may we be bold to proclaim the message of an “after” that looks vastly different from the “before” in our lives because of what Christ has done for us.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why legalism destroys churches and kills Christians

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 07:00

What if your church’s elders passed down a fiat that members could not take more than 1,999 steps on the Lord’s Day without facing church discipline? One more step would be too closely akin to taking a long trip and that is a no-no on the day God set aside for worship.

What if they forbid you to carry your Bibles to church because such heavy lifting would too closely resemble work? Anything heavier than a dried fig is strictly taboo on this day, they say.

Or, what if they added a clause in the constitution and bylaws that members must not leave a radish in salt because that vegetable might become a pickle and pickle-making is work, which is, of course, forbidden on this day.

And, they added sub-paragraphs to the constitution that prescribed disciplinary action for those found guilty of other activities on the Lord’s Day such as carrying a pen (lest you be tempted to write with it), carrying a needle (lest you be tempted to sew with it), helping those who are sick but with non life-threatening maladies (it can wait till Monday), looking in the mirror, spitting, removing dirt from clothes. You get the picture.

Real-life legalism

Such boorish legalism would make both a congregation and its elders miserable and would likely lead to an elder election. Yet, these were merely a few among the dozens of Sabbath laws added to the Torah by the Pharisees who lived in the Roman Empire during New Testament times. Ironically, the Pharisees and their scribes were the theological giants of the day, yet in Mark 2:25-26 and in other passages in the four Gospels, Jesus asks them, “Have you not read?” In other words, don’t you understand the Scriptures? Jesus tweaks the Pharisees in John 5:39 with similar words, telling them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

In the Mark passage, the Pharisees are watching Jesus—who is a rabbi—to see if he breaks their rabbinic laws related to the Sabbath. In the final verses of Mark 2, they charge Jesus with spiritual criminality because his disciples pick the heads of grain while walking through a field and eat the kernels to satiate their hunger. Jesus points out that David and his band of brothers ate the showbread in the tabernacle with divine impunity while on the run from Saul (1 Sam. 21:1-6). At the outset of Mark 3, Jesus heals a man with a lame hand in direct violation of the Sabbath laws of the Pharisees.

Of course, the Pharisees are infamous for encrusting the moral law of God with hundreds of their own manmade laws and traditions. And we get the idea from the New Testament that trying to obey the laws as a means of salvation made them a miserable people. 

Small wonder.

Alive and well today

While few of us today seek to follow the Pharisaical model, this level of misery is alive and well among those who misunderstand the complementarity of law and gospel and seek to earn favor with God through both keeping the law and misappropriating it to extrapolate a set of personal convictions—often related to modes of dress, music, movies, etc.—that become a system of expected ethical norms to which they hold both themselves an other Christians. As Spurgeon once said of the legalist, “His slogan is, ‘You cannot be spiritual unless you are uncomfortable.’” 


The law of God as a ground for salvation, as a means of accruing merit, leaves the worker exhausted, miserable—and lost. The law as a guide to salvation is a terrible taskmaster.

For this reason, discussions of law and gospel remain vital and deeply practical. After all, in 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul wrote, “The law is good if one uses it lawfully.” But how can Paul say the law is good? Elsewhere, in Romans 7:11, Paul says sin came alive through the law and killed him. In Galatians 3, Paul says the Law once held us captive and he calls it a “guardian.” If the law kills, holds us captive and leads the Pharisees to lead such shriveled up lives of pure misery, then how is it good?

Rightly divided

I think Paul gets at it earlier in Romans 7:7, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have know what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” The law exposes our sin. The law shows us the holy, spotless character of God. The law produces despair in us—not a despair the leads us to forego attempting to merit any favor with God and drives us to the only place it can be found—in union with Jesus Christ, in his person and work.

Rightly appropriated, the moral law of God unmasks our self-righteousness and exposes us for who we really are: sinners devoid of the righteousness necessary to salvation, sinners hurtling headlong toward a just destruction at the hands of a holy God, sinners in desperate need of a mediator before God.

It shows us that we have indeed sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It points up our desperate need for the gospel. As the Puritans so well put it, the law breaks sinners, the gospel heals them. Calvin saw three good functions for the law: it serves as a mirror, clearly showing our sin, it reveals the will of God (as a guide to sanctification), and it works to restrain evil—protecting God’s people from the machinations of unbelievers.

The law left the Pharisees (and their disciples) miserable because they viewed it as a vehicle to glory, a means of salvation. They used it unlawfully and the result was a shrunken, joyless, bitter existence. This is the result when we misinterpret Scripture and replace the grace of God with legalism. But rightly understood, the law of God is good, unmasking our self-righteousness and exposing our depravity. It sends us running for cover in the righteousness of Christ won at Calvary through his selfless love. It liberates us to rest from our labors at keeping the law, and leads us to green pastures of deep and overflowing joy in Christ alone.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

The post Why legalism destroys churches and kills Christians appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

4/19/18 DBTS Chapel: Senior Sermon – Zach Moore

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 14:50
Graduating senior, Zach Moore, delivers his senior sermon from Philippians 2:1-4. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

4/18/18 DBTS Chapel: Dr. David Doran

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 14:27
Dr. Doran exhorts us to remain faithful to the truth of God’s Word and beware of the temptation of conforming God’s Word to the prevailing culture. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Part 2: God

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 10:06
Most people you know believe in a god—since about 90% of Americans do. References to God are ubiquitous in our culture, but not everyone who talks about “God” is talking about the God of the Bible. Last time I introduced the idea of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, the unofficial dominant religion of young people today. We... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog


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