• How is Christianity’s message of salvation different from other religions? Question and Answer

    NICHOLS: So many religions are works-oriented, so they really stress what is on you as the adherent and that you have to measure up to a standard in order for God to accept you. Sometimes we say that we come to Christ with empty hands. “Nothing in my hand I bring,” says the old hymn, “only to the cross of Christ I cling.” The reality is that we actually do have something in our hands—our sinfulness. This sets the gospel apart. It sets Christianity apart from other religions because this is a religion of grace. Christianity is not about good … View Resource

  • How do I know I am truly a Christian when I constantly struggle with sin? Question and Answer

    John 3:36

    One thing I would recommend is to read 1 John. In many ways, 1 John was written exactly for this question of assurance. There are a number of things we are told in 1 John, and one principle is very clear: whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. It is the object of faith that is the basis of your salvation, not the extent of your faith, not the intensity of your faith, and not the sincerity of your faith. It is faith in Jesus Christ that saves, not the faith itself. First John is going to point to … View Resource

  • Whom has Christ authorized to baptize? Can parents baptize a child at home? Question and Answer

    PARSONS: Christ has authorized His elders of His church, His undershepherds, to baptize. Yet, we also have run across many circumstances where people have been baptized by someone other than an elder of Christ’s church, and that’s where we have to use a great deal of wisdom and discernment. We have to consider the circumstances and how the baptism was performed. It takes the wisdom of the plurality of elders in a local body to discern if that baptism was a legitimate baptism. We have to deal with this quite frequently as a church. People come from lots of different … View Resource

  • Is there anything wrong with using the “sinner’s prayer”? Question and Answer

    Luke 18:13

    NICHOLS: It’s in one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, so I would have to say no—but really let me say this: I love the Book of Common Prayer—the old one, not the new stuff. They had a prayer for storms at sea, and it was all flowery and over a paragraph long. Then they had a short prayer for storms at sea, and it was: “Father have mercy, Son have mercy, Holy Spirit have mercy. Amen.” That’s it: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” If that is prayed with a contrite heart, God will hear that prayer. BINGHAM: So, … View Resource

  • Why do some Christians use the Westminster Confession while others use the Three Forms of Unity? Question and Answer

    Coming out of the Reformation there were different branches, but they all agreed on a couple of things. They agreed that they were against Catholicism. They agreed on the five solas of the Reformation. They were committed to the sovereignty of God. Because of sola Scriptura, they were committed to preaching the Word. So, they had all that in common, but there really were different branches of the Reformation. There were the Lutherans, and the Lutheran church was initially the evangelisch, or the “of the gospel” church in Germany. Their standard was the Augsburg Confession, and later the Book of … View Resource

  • What are some good arguments for the Apostle Paul’s authority? Question and Answer

    Paul makes arguments for his authority in 1 and 2 Corinthians. This is exactly what Paul was dealing with in his own day. His Apostolic authority was challenged. We don’t have to come to the twenty-first century; we can stick in the forties and fifties. What you find is Paul saying: “You’re right. I’m not the guy, and this is not because of me, but it is because of my Apostolic position. I speak for God, and that’s why you have to follow this.” If you get into 1 and 2 Corinthians, you’re going to see what Paul appeals to—he … View Resource

  • How can I love the truth without becoming a Pharisee? Question and Answer

    One of the things we go back to is recognizing who we are as whole people. We’re not just rational people. It’s about the truth, and it’s also about what Edwards would call the “affections.” The affections are not the emotions, but Edwards would say that you know it when you sense the sweetness of it. Calvin says in the Institutes that saving faith is the sensus suavitatus, a sense of sweetness. You see it in the Psalms when the psalmist desired the Word of God as he desired the honeycomb (Ps. 19:10). If this is the truth and the … View Resource

  • What books by the Puritans should I read? Question and Answer

    The first is by Jeremiah Burroughs: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. If there is something we need in the twenty-first century, it’s contentment. We are bored, yet we have more stuff than we’ve ever had. We complain, yet we have more stuff than kings have had in previous centuries. I do this. I complain. We need to learn the rare jewel of Christian contentment. So, go with Burroughs, and while you are at Burroughs, go ahead and read Gospel Worship—it’s a great book. R.C. was a big fan of Burroughs, so he would’ve recommended Burroughs. A second would be … View Resource

  • Which Old Testament translation did Calvin use? Question and Answer

    The Reformers all knew Greek very well. Not all of them knew Hebrew as well, but Calvin knew Hebrew. Something we miss sometimes is that Calvin spent time at Strasbourg. Strasbourg was the home of probably the best exegesis that was happening during the time of the Reformation. The Hebrew work that underlies Luther’s work—in terms of the scholarship and Hebrew grammars—was coming out of Strasbourg. This is also true of the city of Basel, and Calvin spent time there. So Calvin knew his Hebrew, and he knew his Greek. You see him using his Hebrew in his Old Testament … View Resource

  • Does God elect His people to salvation based on any condition they have met? Question and Answer

    Deuteronomy 7:7

    No. It’s totally a mystery in God’s love. Here’s the beautiful thing: go to Deuteronomy, and go to chapter 6, chapter 7, and chapter 10, and look at God’s election of Israel. At one point God says, “I did not choose you because you were the greatest of all the nations, for you were the least” (Deut. 7:7). If I was God, I would have chosen Egypt, because then you’ve got a superpower and you already have a leg up to conquer the world with your religion, right? Israel is a tiny sliver of land between massive nation-states. At one … View Resource

  • Who was Charles Finney? Question and Answer

    Charles Grandison Finney was the figure of the Second Great Awakening. He started off Presbyterian, but he was an odd Presbyterian because he did not like the Westminster Standards. He ended up moving away from Presbyterianism. In Rochester, New York, there was, all of a sudden, a booming population. Finney went there and started preaching, resulting in massive conversions. He moved to New York City and there were also massive conversions. He finished his life as president of Oberlin College in Ohio and was the main figure of the Second Great Awakening. He also introduced what are called “the new … View Resource

  • How was the gospel lost prior to its rediscovery in the Reformation? Question and Answer

    NICHOLS: It shouldn’t surprise us that, in the sixteenth century, the gospel was obscured. We see this in the first century. We see it in Paul’s churches. In his epistle to the Galatians, he’s astounded that they were entertaining a different gospel (Gal. 1:6), then he quickly adds that it’s a false gospel. If we see it in the first century, in the churches of the Apostles themselves, then it really shouldn’t surprise us that there’s a temptation in every generation to “improve” upon God’s gospel or obscure it. In the sixteenth century, we found ourselves with the need to … View Resource

  • What characteristic of Martin Luther made him effective as God’s instrument to reform the church? Question and Answer

    Isaiah 6:5

    SPROUL: Luther was a beggar who found where he could get bread and told everybody who would listen to him. How can a guy stand against the whole world like he did? The only way to understand that is to get into his personal struggle with his lack of assurance of salvation, with his violent search for justification in the presence of a Holy God, and visit with him in his utter despair. Luther understood who Luther was. And that’s our problem. We don’t understand who God is, and we don’t understand who we are. It’s like Isaiah in chapter … View Resource

  • How should we respond to those who say that the Reformation no longer matters? Question and Answer

    SPROUL: One noted British theologian has made the comment in print that the issues of the sixteenth century aren’t the issues anymore today, that all of a sudden the division has been healed, that Rome doesn’t teach indulgences anymore, and that it doesn’t have a treasury merit anymore. What are they thinking? What are they reading? Read the Catholic Catechism of the 1990s and see whether there’s any treasury of merit, indulgences, and the rest. If anything, the issues are greater today, partly because of the impact of nineteenth-century liberal Protestantism. If anything has moved the gospel back in the … View Resource

  • How did the Reformers and Puritans view Christian piety? Question and Answer

    NICHOLS: Sometimes the Puritans are seen as overly zealous in their piety. We have this understanding of introspection associated with the Puritans. We have these urban legends of the Puritans with four-hour sermons and we hear, “Why can’t you sit there for thirty minutes?” Or we say things like, “The Puritans would pray for hours on end, and I can’t even pray for five minutes in the morning.” J.I. Packer called the Puritans “the redwoods of the forest.” So, we have this image of the Puritans as almost super-Christians. One thing we’ve got to be aware of is how they … View Resource