• What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Question and Answer

    Matthew 12:31-32

    THOMAS: Interestingly enough, we talked a little bit about this today in a course that I was teaching here for Ligonier. We talked about the change of view that has taken place since the Puritan period in the seventeenth century. At that time, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was a definite sin. It was a definite, existential moment in a person’s life when they said “No” to the gospel or “No” to the work of the Holy Spirit. I was pointing out that Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I think in Preaching and Preachers, said that this was what troubled his congregation … View Resource

  • Does the incarnation mean that God has changed in space and time from that point on? If not, why and how do we respond to the question? Question and Answer

    SPROUL: The first part is very easy—He certainly does not change. In His being, He is immutable. In the incarnation, He took upon Himself a human nature. He didn’t stop being God and become a human being. To affirm He did is to fall into the old kenotic heresy that was popular in the nineteenth century, which taught that God gave up certain attributes in order to become incarnate. You hear this kind of thing among evangelicals all the time: “God, in order to understand what sin and suffering are, had to become a man and change His nature to … View Resource

  • Can a saved person be lost? Question and Answer

    No, but someone who thinks they are saved can be lost, which is different, and someone that you think might be saved can be lost. The perseverance of the saints, or the perseverance of God’s elect, actually became the definitive doctrine of the seventeenth century. It certainly became the pivotal doctrine of the post-Reformation period. I remember just how startling that was the first time I read The Pilgrim’s Progress. When you’re on the final page of Bunyan’s book, you’ve crossed the river, and then all of a sudden the camera lens goes to this hole in the side of … View Resource

  • What does it mean that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38)? Question and Answer

    Acts 2:38

    SPROUL: Baptism is a sign, and it signifies the forgiveness of sins. I don’t think that it automatically carries forgiveness of sins with it, but it’s a central sign of what our salvation is. We’re being washed with water, and the significance of that sign is cleansing, specifically cleansing from sin. There is a dispute about the efficacy of the sacrament; namely whether it happens ex opere operato, which is simply by the exercise of the sacrament, or whether it needs to be accompanied by faith for its efficacy. I would take the latter position. THOMAS: It’s important to emphasize … View Resource

  • When we pray, should we only pray to the Father? Question and Answer

    No, although there is a general rule of thumb that we pray to the Father through the intercession of the Lord Jesus and by the help and strength of the Holy Spirit. Prayer, generally speaking, should be Trinitarian. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). It is, however, appropriate on occasion and in certain circumstances to pray directly to Jesus or to pray directly to the Holy Spirit, realizing some of the aspects that are peculiar to each person of the Trinity. But on Sunday morning in a pastoral prayer, I want … View Resource

  • How can I discern the will of God? Question and Answer

    You can read Sinclair Ferguson’s book on that topic, Discovering God’s Will. It’s an interesting fact that problems relating to finding out God’s will is a very twentieth and twenty-first-century problem. If you went back into the seventeenth or the sixteenth century and looked at their sermons and books, they were not preoccupied with knowing God’s will. The answer to those in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was that once you knew and understood Scripture, you would be able to discover 99% of the answers to the question, “What does God want me to do here?” This is because the … View Resource

  • Is there a role for entertainment in the church? Question and Answer

    I’m a Presbyterian, and I think that Presbyterians find it difficult to have fun. I do believe that God intends for us to have fun, though I’m not sure that’s in church, and most definitely not in an act of worship. Worship should be worship, and worship should be reverent and solemn. It should not be about entertaining ourselves, but giving praise to God. As Christians, however, we gather together, and there is a theology of fun. There’s a wonderful chapter in a book that Jim Packer once wrote on “eudaimonism,” from the Greek for “pleasure.” There is a proper … View Resource

  • What does it mean in Romans 1 that God gave people up to a reprobate mind? Question and Answer

    Romans 1:28

    THOMAS: This is the first chapter of Romans, and it extends after the introductory prologue that is, in some ways, a summary of the whole book of Romans. Paul begins his exposition of sin, which will lead all the way through to the middle of the third chapter. He talks about sin both in Jews and Gentiles so that none is without excuse. As a result of Adam’s fall and rebellion, he lost his native ability to will that which is good. “Giving over to a reprobate mind” means that God consigns mankind to live in a condition that can … View Resource

  • What is a biblical church? Question and Answer

    If you were in the patristic era, you would say that “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” would be some of the marks of a true biblical church. If you were in the Reformation, you would add to that the faithful preaching of the Scriptures, the right administration of sacraments, and the exercise of biblical church discipline. This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Derek Thomas and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org … View Resource

  • Are you hopeful for another spiritual awakening in our day? Question and Answer

    SPROUL: I’m a Calvinist—how can I not be hopeful? I see all kinds of encouraging signs of the revitalization of the church in our own day. At the same time, on the other side of the spectrum, we see dreadful decay in the life of the church. There are so many things being eclipsed that are vital to the truth of Christianity, but you have to have a scope beyond the United States. Worldwide, I see all kinds of resurgence of powerful Christianity, and I’m encouraged by it. THOMAS: I have just read a brand new biography of Luther, and … View Resource

  • What does “sola Scriptura” mean? Question and Answer

    Sola Scriptura is one of the five principal solas of the Reformation. The Reformation was, in many respects, a recovery of the authority of Scripture over all of doctrine and all of life. The final answer to any question is, “What does the Bible have to say about this?” Sola Scriptura means putting Scripture above human opinion, whether that’s the opinion of a single individual, such as a preacher, a commentator, or a pope, or the opinion of a collection, like a council or a synod. Scripture is the final authority. This transcript is from a … View Resource

  • Can sound theology become an idol in my life? Question and Answer

    THOMAS: It’s possible to make an idol of anything, including your perceived knowledge of doctrine. The issue here is the way in which doctrine impacts the whole of our being, both head and heart. There are Christians who are all head. They’re cerebral. They know stuff and they like to argue stuff. They like to win apologetic battles and epistemological battles, but there’s no heart. There’s no life of prayer. There’s no repentance. There’s no confession of sin. There’s no pleading with God. B.B. Warfield, at the inception of Princeton Seminary, wrote about the importance of maintaining good and regular … View Resource

  • Which of the Bible’s teachings do you find most difficult to accept? Question and Answer

    SPROUL: Probably the hardest doctrine of the Bible to accept is hell, for the obvious reason that it is so difficult for any human being to think about the idea of everlasting punishment on anybody. There’s just a human struggle with it. I don’t have a difficult time accepting the doctrine of hell because I believe the Bible teaches it and our Lord taught it, so I believe it. It’s not difficult as far as whether the data is there to support it, but the emotional feeling attached to it is difficult. THOMAS: I believe in male headship. I believe … View Resource

  • Are preachers and pastors more important than other Christians? Question and Answer

    James 3:1

    THOMAS: There is an important Reformation principle behind this question: the priesthood of all believers. That was a profound rediscovery at the time of the Reformation. Religion had been hidden in a language that people didn’t understand by professional people to whom they had no real access. The Reformation discovered that we are all priests before God. The individual can approach God by himself or herself through faith in Jesus Christ rather than through the intermediary of a sacerdotal system. The Bible being given into the hands of an individual was vitally important. That the individual could read and discover … View Resource

  • Did believers in the Old Testament have a complete understanding of the Trinity? Question and Answer

    Deuteronomy 6:4

    SPROUL: I don’t think the average New Testament Christian is able to gain a complete understanding of the Trinity. I suppose that what you mean is, “Can you find the Trinity in the Old Testament?” I think you have to be careful about how you understand the Old Testament. The Old Testament, in a progressive fashion, points us to a fuller revelation that comes forth in the New Testament. I don’t think it’s foreign to the Old Testament. It’s the old statement that the New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed. THOMAS: This … View Resource