Pauline Theology @ Mt. Pleasant Christian Education Institute

It has been my privilege and joy this week to teach the 10-hour course, A Pauline Theology of the Church, for the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Christian Education Institute, Washington, DC. The students are asking great questions and providing challenging responses to the presentations.

As promised to the students, I am posting the resources below for further study beyond the the course text:


















Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology – with a free study guide (Zondervan)

Thomas Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (IVP Academic)

Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans)

Tom Holland, Paul: Contours of a Pauline Theology (Mentor)

I suggest you start with Horton; read with a small group or class. Advance to Schreiner after Horton. Then read Ridderbos and Holland in any order of preference.

Also, as a follow-up to the brief discussion on same-sex marriage, please consider Justin Taylor’s post, “Gay Marriage: Not Just a Social Revolution but a Cosmological One.


Greg Sims on Abraham’s Faith in Jas 2:21

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:21 ESV)

“Could you imagine what would have happened if Abraham disobeyed God? What would have happened if Abraham did not move with faith? The logical conclusion would be that Abraham never had faith.”

“It is God’s prerogative to declare a sinner righteous.”

Both quotes from, “The Dynamics of Authentic Faith, Part 2,” Pastor Gregory Sims, on Jas. 2:21, March 23, 2000.


Piper: Barnabas, not Dr. John, on PKs

pastors-kid-featureRecently I visited another church to preach for two Sunday services. Between the two services, my family and I were invited to attend Sunday School. My three teens went to the teen class, only to experience a typical affair for PKs: They were expected to know all of the answers to the Sunday School lesson, but contrastingly were expected not to win any Bible trivia games because they would have an “unfair” advantage; (and people wonder why I have spent much of my adult life having a disdain for Sunday School).

This is the smallest, simplest example of unreasonable expectations churches place on PKs—Pastors’ Kids. Space will not permit me to tell stories of the cruel treatment of PKs by jealous children, including ridicule, ostracism, and intentional targeting for enticement to the worse vices in ugly hunter-vs.-deer-types of games. Neither will it permit me to confess all of the unreasonable expectations PKs experience because of dad’s need to have almost-perfectly Christian children, and because of his failure to shield his children rather than shield his own reputation as the always-available, hardly-disagreeable shepherd. Add to this the PKs’ inability to live what appears to be a “normal” childhood, or to interpret the world dad’s job has created, and you have a recipe for very confused children who will grow into messed up adults – Christian or not. Yes, this sounds like whining compared to trials of other parents – some as single parents – who have fiercely rebellious children with mental challenges, police records, or substance abuse issues. However, if you talk to the average PK, the life he/she faced was full of pressures that their fellow members could not begin to understand.

Therefore I am grateful that Barnabas Piper, one of four sons of John Piper, has written, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity (David C. Cook, 2014). As the publisher says of the book, Barnabas has written so that the PK might “live in true freedom and wholeness.” I suspect the book will help the PK’s dad and mom live in freedom and wholeness too.

However, please do not dismiss the book as something for pastor’s family only. Part of the problem facing PKs is that the rest of the church cannot see what they are doing to crush the spirits of PKs, and to truncate the church’s blessings as the members unknowingly act as tools of the Enemy to undermine the pastor’s ministry (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:17). I would encourage, highly, the God-fearing layperson and church officer to read this book with his or her church-member spouse. Read so that the Gospel can ring out from your pulpit with joy – so that the billions of unreached peoples can hear about Jesus because your congregation’s PKs did not require the pastor to divert from study and prayer to healing the PKs’ church-induced pains.  Do this, too, so that the Gospel will be ordained with glory and joy as the negative connotations associated with PKs – connotations created by the aforementioned experiences and many more – are recognized and minimized. Why don’t you get a book for your pastor’s oldest PK too? I bet this will abound to the joy of many.

Thank you, Barnabas, for all you experienced as a child of John and Noel so that millions could increase in their passion for the supremacy of God. Thank you for sharing from this experience so that the Lord can be glorified in his church and many PKs will be free in his grace. I am grabbing a copy for each of my children, and my pastor’s children too.



Barnabas Piper: “Why I Wrote ‘The Pastor’s Kid’”

Growing up Christian, Dangerous Calling, and A Handbook for Parents in Ministry.

Great New Books on Irresistible Grace, Teen Success in College, etc….

Recently I have received three books in the mail about which I am very excited. Alex Chediak’s, Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More (Tyndale) is a tremendous book! I wish this book had been available when I used to teach a course on these concepts during the summers in churches where I was a member.


9780310513896_p0_v2_s260x4209781433540066Why I Am Not An Atheist: Facing the Inadequacies of Unbelief, and Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus Is Great, came in the mail together. I always will take another work that punches holes in the illogic of naturalistic arguments for the existence of the universe. On Magnificent Obsession, from the publisher:

“David Robertson, author of The Dawkins Letters, was told by the leader of an atheist society: ‘Okay, I admit that you have destroyed my atheism, but what do you believe?’ His answer was ‘I believe in and because of Jesus.’ This book shows us why Jesus is the reason to believe. In response to the shout of ‘God is not Great’ by the late Christopher Hitchens, David shows us why Jesus is God and is Great.”

I also had opportunity to endorse two works recently. The first is, Proof: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace (Zondervan):

Creatively, Daniel and Timothy have managed to take the story of redemption, deep systematic theology, and rich church history, and package them in pop culture images and songs – all the while magnifying grace alone in Christ alone. Modern believers, who often unknowingly swing from license to legalism in their attempts to please God, need this joyous proclamation of the plan of salvation. This is a wonderful way of introducing the Canons of Dort to the heirs of the Me Generation, reminding us that it is not our efforts for perfection that save us, but it is God alone who saves us from beginning to end.

The second is, The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress (Crossway). On this I write:

Bentz is right: Church is a group of struggling sinners who must pursue one another in love as God’s community! It is essential for us embrace this calling with joy if we are to declare the glory of the Lord to all peoples. There is no greener grass assembly or ideal congregation; each assembly and every church member is in need of greater grace, patience, mercy, humility, and endurance from the Spirit of God. The church for whom our Savior died has a splendor that works in the midst of messiness. Unfinished is a great exhortation to live out the Gospel as people being conformed to the image of Christ.

I hope you will enjoy these works too!




Burk: Powers and Merritt double-down against religious liberty

From Denny Burk’s blog:


Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt are doubling down on their argument that Christian business owners are morally wrong when they refuse to participate in same-sex wedding celebrations. In a co-written essay for The Daily Beast, they argue that Christian business owners are morally and legally obliged to participate in gay wedding ceremonies with their goods and services. Not to participate is tantamount to the kind of discrimination that whites in this country used to exhibit against blacks.

Let me just say first of all that I am grieved by this article. Not merely because it is a moral and constitutional mess, but also because of who has written it. Do Powers and Merritt realize that they ratify the arguments of Christianity’s fiercest opponents when they attribute our conscientious objections to animus and bigotry? There is a larger context here. The sexual revolutionaries have done a fine job over the last decade of demonizing Christians as purveyors of hate because of our commitment to what the Bible teaches about sex. Powers and Merritt are joining their voices with our opponents when they militate against conscience rights for Christians. And this all by itself grieves me. I would have hoped for more from them.

But what are we to make of their central argument? They contend that providing services for a gay wedding does not imply “participation” or “approval” of same-sex marriage. But we have to ask if this is really their place to judge as far as public policy is concerned. They suggest that “society” or “100 married couples” are the arbiters of what does and does not violate someone else’s conscience. This is absurd. Is this really how Powers and Merritt want to treat religious liberty in this country? Such that the majority might be able to dictate to the conscientious minority, “We don’t see any reason for you to be offended by this, so get over it.” What’s worse is that they favor an approach that would allow the government to make such a determination—as if the government is competent to define what should or should not offend religious consciences. Neither the government nor anyone else has the right to prohibit free exercise based on their opinion about what ought not offend the faithful—much less to impose coercive penalties upon Christians who do not want to participate in gay wedding.

But apart from constitutional and public policy concerns, what are we to make of their moral claim—that providing goods and services for a gay wedding is perfectly consistent with Christian faith? Powers and Merritt say that Christians are discriminating against gay people by giving a pass to unbiblical heterosexual weddings. Yet to make this argument, Powers and Merritt must assume a moral equivalence between gay marriage and conjugal marriage. And this is precisely the point. They are not equal.

Marriage—the covenant union of one man and one woman—is a creation ordinance that God intends to be the norm for all of humanity. When a man and a woman are joined together in matrimony, they really are married—even if their relationship proceeded from unbiblical grounds (such as prior divorce or being unequally yoked). On the contrary, gay marriage is different. It is a sinful fiction. A gay wedding ceremony celebrates what God abominates. There is no sanction or creation ordinance supporting the sexual union of two people of the same sex. As far as Christians are concerned, gay marriages are not really marriages.

The wedding of a man and a woman enters them into a holy estate. The wedding of two persons of the same sex does not. No one should be surprised that Christians would demur from participation in celebrating what God prohibits them from celebrating.

Finally, Powers and Merritt single out Russell Moore for special censure:

So, Moore–a sincere Christian and a leader we respect–is telling Christian vendors that it’s okay to do something “wrong” by providing services for a heterosexual wedding as long as they don’t know its unbiblical.

I don’t know what else to say except that this is a blatant misrepresentation of what Russell Moore has written on this subject. Nowhere does Moore say that it’s “okay” to do something that is “wrong.” But I encourage readers to read Moore in his own words. It will be plain to even the casual reader that Moore said no such thing. (UPDATE: Moore has just posted a must-read response to their charges here.)

Of course we do not expect society at large to understand the teachings of Christianity or why the Bible might prohibit Christians from participating in gay wedding celebrations. After all, it is not their consciences that are in view here. It’s ours. But I would have expected more from Powers and Merritt.

Two Resources on The Gospel of John

51uKySddMqLI am enjoying greatly Gary Burge’s, Interpreting the Gospel of John: A Practical Guide (Baker Academic, 2013). Burge has expanded this work significantly from the first edition. It is a good, stand alone introduction to the Fourth Gospel, being current with the vast majority of scholarship produced since Francis Moloney edited Raymond Brown’s introduction. However, the Moloney/Brown work is much more scholarly and thorough than Burge’s volume.

I also like J. Ramsey Michaels’, The Gospel of John (@Westminsterin the NICNT series (Eerdmans, 2010). 51ogkAKbNNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Michaels’ volume replaces the earlier volume by Leon Morris  which, too, is very good. Despite what I feel have been some unfair criticisms of Michaels’ volume, I like this commentary because of Michaels’ strong sense of how verses and pericopes fit into the overall message of John’s Gospel. Michaels understands that exegetical trees are part of a narrative forest with a meaning–a message; many commentaries only see individual trees. Michaels too has a very insightful grasp of John’s use of figurative language.  I am trying to read about three pages per day; it is slow going, but a very good read. Michaels writes mainly for scholars, but has the preacher and congregational teacher on his scope too.

Ortlund: Faithful pastor, you’re not crazy

From Ray Ortlund, Christ is Deeper Still blog: Faithful pastor, you’re not crazy.


Faithful pastor, you’re not crazy


The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.  To him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.  2 Timothy 4:18

A text message came in from a pastor friend.  I’ve known him for decades.  He is the kind of man for whom the adjective “saintly” was invented.  He pastored a thriving church for many years.  Then someone on staff stabbed him in the back and rallied others to get him thrown out.  The objections to his ministry had no substance.  “The issues” were not the real issues.  As Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, said to me once, “Some try to pull down a prominent man, not because they themselves wish to take his place, but because doing so gives them a feeling of power.”

My friend had met with someone from his former church, wishing to reconcile.  But the person blew him off.  All that the meeting accomplished was to re-open an old wound.

So here is what I want to say to my friend:

You’re not crazy.  This has been happening to God’s men since Cain and Abel.  It is one way you identify with Jesus himself.

What was your crime, within that religious subculture called your church?  Your crime was that you were not out for yourself but totally out for the Lord.  You were, for that reason, and completely unbeknownst to you, an embarrassment, a reproach and a threat to the strongholds of unresolved sin deep within the hearts of some around you.  They had to get rid of you, lest Jesus get too close.  And they had to make it your fault, to justify themselves.  After all, their self-image of innocence was the whole point.  Without even realizing it, they had made “their church” into a mechanism for evading God while also confessing God, diminishing God’s claims on them while also reassuring themselves that they were good people.  The cross had not set them free to be honest with themselves.  They were secretly laboring under the burdens of self-salvation, since Jesus just wasn’t that real to them.  But you were dealing in completely different categories, assumptions and values.  The Lord was so wonderfully real to you in his grace and glory, that you longed for his complete rule in every respect.  So, it was like oil and water.  Unless there had been a spiritual breakthrough and deep repentance, conflict was inevitable.  But the conflict did not discredit you; it validated you.  It just wasn’t the validation you wanted!  All you wanted was their blessing, for the greater glory of Jesus.  But the rejection you suffered there is the reason 1 John 3:12 is in the Bible — to tell you that you’re not crazy: “And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”  There it is.  That was your crime, pastor.  You were a godly man, wholehearted for the Lord.  Your ministry was righteous.  In your church, that was a fatal step.

So you lost your ministry there.  But you didn’t lose your ministry altogether.  What feels like loss is, in fact, re-investment.  You were a profound man before, and now you are even more profound.  For the rest of your life, when someone comes to you who has just taken a torpedo amidships and they’re going down, you will understand, as few men can.  You are now equipped as never before to comfort sufferers.  In your weakness and desolation, you are formidable.  What can anyone do to you now?  You’ve gone deep into the heart of Jesus, and you’ve found him to be an utterly faithful Friend.  For the rest of your life, that glorious awareness of your Friend above is going to be pouring out of you onto devastated people.  And your ministry will have more impact than ever before.

It’s a privilege to know you and walk with you.