• What are the signs, or marks, of the true church? Question and Answer

    I could appeal to what the Reformers said, which would’ve been the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments. An easy way to identify a true church is often, first, by what happens in the pulpit. Is the Word of God being faithfully expounded there? The second thing would be, What is that preaching doing to the congregation? Is it producing the fruit of the Spirit in the congregation? If those two things are true, then whatever other deficiencies there may be in the church and whatever its church government may be, the essential things are … View Resource

  • How should we pray when natural disasters strike? Question and Answer

    The most important prayer is that whatever the providences of God may be, He will use them to turn people to Christ. It’s wholly appropriate that we should pray that God would turn back the fires, but beyond that, our concern is for God’s glory. If that means people are going to be awakened to think about eternal things when they’ve been consumed with the things of this world, then we pray that God will use them in such a manner. We believe that God will use these things to make people think about what really matters and what really … View Resource

  • Can a Christian fall into deep sin, die, and still be saved? Question and Answer

    Hebrews 6:9

    We are not the final arbiters of anyone’s final destiny. To me, that is a supremely important thing to grasp. We have relatively poor measures to understand all that God does in the lives of people who sin, and there are clearly very grievous sins that Christians commit. Scripture constantly urges us not to receive the grace of God in vain in our lives regarding the way we understand how God’s grace works. God’s grace always reigns through righteousness in our lives. In a sense, it seems to be our chief responsibility not to speculate about, “What may happen if—,” … View Resource

  • In John 4:23, what does it mean to worship God “in spirit”? Question and Answer

    John 4:23

    In the context of John 4:23, it probably does mean worshiping in the power of the Holy Spirit. It would take a long time to explain fully what that means, but Jesus is looking forward to the fulfillment of His work. He is speaking to the woman at the well in John 4. He says, “The time is coming when you will no longer worship on this mountain, nor will you worship on the mountain of God” (John 4:21). He’s saying that the internationalization of the people of God, which happens on the day of Pentecost, means that place becomes … View Resource

  • How do I know if I am saved? Question and Answer

    You know that you’re saved because salvation begins to appear in your life. You desire new and different things. The law of God that you regarded as an enemy and an irritation becomes a friend, and you want to keep it. You want to please Christ rather than let Him down. All of these are very simple things. You begin to love the people who love the Lord Jesus. These are the kinds of things that 1 John speaks about. A good exercise would be to go to 1 John, which speaks about our relationship to Christ, our new relationship … View Resource

  • How should Christians respond to times of suffering? Question and Answer

    Luke 13:1-5

    Thankfully, we are able to develop means of alleviating human suffering. Our nations are putting vast resources into trying to find an antidote to the virus. That is altogether appropriate and Christ-like because He sought to alleviate suffering. We also know that He didn’t alleviate everybody’s suffering. There is a complexity to the way in which God works that is beyond us, but it is appropriate that we make use of means to alleviate suffering instead of just saying, “God sent and God will get rid of it.” We don’t respond to anything in our lives with that kind of … View Resource

  • How can Christians live as lights in a dark time? Question and Answer

    Matthew 22:39

    CHARLES: A couple of things come to my mind. One is what Burk mentioned, which is the second great command that Jesus gives—to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). We, as shepherds in our church, have been trying to think through decisions in a way that reflects that priority for the members of our church so that we, as a church, are reflecting how to love our neighbor in this critical time. It is not just about our own safety, security, priorities, comfort, or whatever you would add to that list. There is a love of neighbor that motivates … View Resource

  • What words of comfort can help me fight fear and anxiety? Question and Answer

    Philippians 4:6-7

    FERGUSON: This is a time for us to prove in our own lives the gospel that we’ve always professed to believe. To start the conversation, in the well-known passage in which Jesus teaches us about living the Christian life during the Sermon on the Mount, there is a section where He underscores for us that the knowledge of God as our loving, caring, heavenly Father delivers us from two things. First, the knowledge of God as Father delivers us from hypocrisy (Matt. 6:16–18). We no longer need to pretend to Him to be something that we’re not. We no longer … View Resource

  • How can Christians continue to minister to one another when large gatherings present a health risk? Question and Answer

    Mark 12:31

    FERGUSON: I never thought I would ever say, “Praise God for technology,” but my wife told me yesterday that our son, who is a minister of a smaller congregation, set up a YouTube channel for the congregation to have their midweek prayer service. It’s a small church without resources that other churches have. Amazingly, God has given us ways and means that no other generation has had for such a time as this. Other generations have known much, much worse than this and never had the technology. When H.B. Charles was talking about waking up with the congregation on his … 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

  • What is the difference between sin, transgression, and iniquity? Question and Answer

    FERGUSON: Sin, transgression, and iniquity are different words in the Old Testament. Most of us are familiar with the Greek term hamartia, meaning “sin,” which conveys the idea of falling short of the mark. We are made for the glory of God, but sin causes us to fall short of the mark. Transgression has the very basic idea of crossing the line. God has given us His law, and we cross the line. Iniquity has the sense in Psalm 51, for example, of “twistedness.” There is a twistedness in us as a consequence of this. All of these words are … View Resource

  • Does “semper reformanda” mean that the church should always be changing? Question and Answer

    SPROUL: Unfortunately, every heretic appeals to that mantra, semper reformanda, “always reforming.” We mistake novelty with reformation. The point of that motto initially was that, in the sixteenth century, not all of the errors in the church were reformed. Not all of the dirty linen was cleansed. There was still a lot of work left to do. And there’s always a lot of work left to do. But “always reforming” does not mean “always changing.” There are those today who say that the Reformation was a tempest in a teapot, or that it was all a misunderstanding, or that it … View Resource

  • If a new believer becomes injured and cannot show “good works,” how do we know they are saved? Question and Answer

    Psalms 23

    If you unpack the question, in a sense you’ve already said, “Here is a new believer, somebody who has trusted in Christ.” If they go through some traumatic accident that makes us feel they are beyond our reach, then there’s no reason that we should doubt their faith any more than Jesus doubted the faith of the dying thief on the cross. He did not have long to produce the good works that are the fruit of faith. The second thing to say is that there are mysteries to human existence. When a catastrophic accident happens to somebody, we should … View Resource

  • Is suicide the unpardonable sin? Question and Answer

    No. I think one can say absolutely and definitely that the unpardonable sin is not suicide. Jesus speaks about the unpardonable sin in a very particular context. It seems to be an ongoing settled resistance to Jesus Christ that is simultaneously a rejection of the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. Many people become concerned that they have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. I had a friend who told me that when someone said to him, “I think I’ve committed the sin against the Holy Spirit,” the first thing he would say was, “Well, first of all, let’s … View Resource

  • What is the best way to describe repentance to an unbeliever? Question and Answer

    Luke 15:11-32

    The best way may be to use an illustration that you think of either from their life or from your own life. The Hebrew word for repentance means returning. The prodigal son is a story like that: he goes away from home, and he returns home (Luke 15:11-32). I’ve sometimes used this illustration: one night when we were in Glasgow I was driving down the freeway on my way to church, and going up the other direction I noticed the car of one of my elders. I knew it was his car because it was the only elder who had … View Resource