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Many pastors and Christian leaders have gained great good from reading the life of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great preacher of the 20th century. Iain Murray produced the official biography in two volumes, both published by the Banner of Truth. I know that it changed and focused my ministry vision, my understanding of holiness and its importance, my understanding and practice of leadership, and my understanding of preaching. Professor Carl Trueman believes it to be the best biography for a young preacher to read, especially when beginning your ministry.

To increase the readership of these two seminal volumes, Iain Murray revised and abridged the two volumes into one, THE LIFE OF MARTYN LLOYD-JONES, 1899-1981 for the Banner of Truth in 2013. He also had some spacer to answer questions or critics of the first edition of the two volume set. What I plan to do is take you through the most important chapters, 5-11, which cover his conversion, call to the ministry, marrying Bethan and moving to tiny Aberavon where "there is no sociological reason why the ministry should succeed except that God is in the gospel of his Son". Aberavon had a constituency of coal miners, dock workers and steel workers--and a 40% unemployment rate! Alcoholism, abuse, and prostitution were rampant. And Lloyd-Jones brought the gospel and a line shined bright in a dark place and the results will stand for eternity!

Let's begin with Chapter 4--"All Things New", the story of MLJ's conversion in Medical School in London.
As you read it with me, follow the questions I pose to you which are answered in the text.


1. having no permanent home here; no permanent city;
2. a sense that God's destiny rules all; from his being saved from a burning building to the whole of his life.

1. Diagnosis of the reality/fact of sin in his medical
practice clients--their greater problem was sin. (MLJ's
boss, Lord Horder, had the most exclusive clientele
in all Britain but their greatest problem was their
sinfulness. They should have been giants in the land
if man's nature was morally neutral. The League of
Nations and later the United Nations were founded
on this same wrong diagnosis of man's condition.

2. Diagnosis of the reality/fact of sin in his own life
He saw that he was only putting on pretense, play
acting at religion but was a stranger to God Himself.

3. Diagnosis that he was dead to God and opposed to
a. He saw that he was dead to God and lived unto
Himself. He did not love the Lord his God with
all his body, mind, soul and spirit.
b. What does it mean to be dead to God? Cf.
Ephesians 2:1-3--dead in trespasses and sins,
according to the course of this world, according to
the prince of the power of the air, by nature,
children of wrath.
c. What is the biblical alternative to spiritual
deadness? Regeneration/the new birth/born again
from above--cf. Ephesians 2:4-10
d. The sovereign working of God the Holy Spirit in
new birth (Ephesians 2:5)
e. Let us be clear--the new birth, regeneration,
precedes conversion (repentance & faith).


aisle, change your personal geography, raise a
hand, "decide for Christ")


MLJ & IAIN MURRAY PREACHED AND WROTE ABOUT SIN (not brokenness, unhappiness, etc)

IS IT TRUE THAT YOU CANNOT GET FROM "BROKENNESS" TO THE CROSS ? (but you can get from sin to the cross).

John MacArthur, ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL--"If you misdiagnose the problem then you will surely misdiagnose the cure." (If the diagnosis of what is wrong with mankind is anything but sin, then anything but the Cross will do.)



May the Lord enlighten, encourage, rebuke and correct your thinking and mine as we mine this book together!

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 04:19:38 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



For the first several years of my spiritual journey, I would not have known what a confessional Christian was. I might have heard the phrase and thought it referred to some Catholic who regularly went to the priest to confess they sins.But that would have been wrong headed. A confessional Christian is someone who is a member of a confessional Christian denomination/ association and who has their particular confession of faith as their template for helping them interpret the Scriptures. Other evangelical and Calvinistic Christian do not hold to a particular historic confession of faith but
have some sort of creed or statement of faith for their local assembly.

Many date the Protestant Reformation to Martin Luther's nailing his 95 theses for debate to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, sparking a conflagration that is still burning, with various degrees of brightness, across the globe. The next 150 years saw Protestants writing their various confessions of faith to mark out where they stood. Presbyterians had their Westminster Confession of Faith, Congregationalists had their Savor Declaration and Baptist had their 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689. The Dutch Reformed had their Three Forms of Unity. And so it went.

Protestants marked out where they stood in regards to the Bible, God, man, creation, the Fall, sin, jesus Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit, sanctification, the church, the end times, heaven and hell, etc. Carl Trueman's THE CREEDAL IMPERATIVE (Crossway; 2014) will stand the test of time, I believe, in showing why lengthy creeds and confessions are good for the churches, good for individual Christians and good for unbelievers seeking to understand Christianity.

The past year has seen publishers issuing outstanding new books on the Westminster Confession of Faith. I want to briefly review three AND the publication of a Puritan giant for the first time in 400 years!

2014 saw the publication of three books that I believe will stand the test of time. Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn and Banner of Truth published CONFESSING THE FAITH (A Reader's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith). Professor Van Dixhoorn is an expert on all things Westminster. Over many years he meticulously studied the history and background and daily minutes to the Westminster Assembly and his tour de force was published in Oxford University Press in five volumes. In bite-sized sections that any one can read, Van Dixhoorn takes us through the Confessions and he explains its theology bit by bit.In reading only one bit a day, one could be so much wiser and better taught in good theology.

A supplementary book, covering the same Confession but from a different angle is J. V. Fesko's THE THEOLOGY OF WESTMINSTER STANDARDS; Crossway Books. Taking together the theology of the Westminster Confession, the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Westminster Longer Catechism, Fesko weaves the all together to show how they are integrally related and serve one another. What's more, the theological writings of other Puritan writers from that period. So in just two volumes, one is able to gain something of a mastery of one of the greatest theological productions of all the centuries. They make excellent book ends of Presbyterian and Reformed folk's studies in their theology.

In a slightly different vein, Chris Coldwell edited THE GRAND DEBATE (The Reasons Presented by the Dissenting Brethren Against Certain Propositions Concerning Presbyterian Government--and the Proofs of them voted by the Assembly of Divines Sitting by Authority of Parliament at Westminster Together with the Answer of the Assembly of Divines to those Reasons on Dissent); Naphtali Press. Not all the delegates to the Westminster Assembly agreed equally on all propositions that found their way into the Confession. In reading Van Dixhoorn and Fesko above, one can also see that. But Coldwell's book shows us why some delegates found Presbyterian government not to their liking as not fully biblical. Read their statements and read how they were answered by brethren who did not agree with them. There is much food for thought here on both sides of the question.

Finally, Dr. Stephen Yiuille and Reformation Heritage Press have done the churches a great service by editing and published the first of the complete WORKS OF WILLIAM PERKINS. Perkins was THE LEADER among the early Puritans and for his works to be republished is no small matters. Volume One consists in three parts:

AND NEW TESTAMENTS (something like Archbishop
Ussher's History of the World), Perkins synchronizes
biblical history and secular history

Christ's temptation by the devil in the wilderness


In reading this material by Perkins, you see why he had such a following and men listened to him.

May you profit from these books which have or will stand the test of time and become more of a man or woman of God yourself.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 03:38:33 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



One of the most interesting Old Testament stories which which has immediate relevance today is that of wandering herdsman Isaac looking for water for his family and his herds. Genesis 26:17-18 says it in a short space. When looking for water in a dry and thirsty land, go to the wells that served previous generations. The wells had served others well; why not now? They were not dried up or polluted, they had been stopped up by the Philistines so that the Hebrews could not easily use them. Isaac had his herdsmen unstop the wells and they were good to go! Fresh water was now available in a dry and thirsty land.

Old Princeton Seminary once was the pride of the Presbyterian churches and American evangelicals. 19th century Baptists and Congregationalists sent their best and brightest to study at Princeton Theological Seminary. Even some Methodists and Episcopalians attended Princeton. Under God a faculty had been gathered of the best men in the evangelical and Reformed world.

Beginning with the first President, Archibald Alexander to the first professors, Ashbel Green and Samuel Miller, down through Charles Hodge, J. A. Alexander, J. W. Alexander, A. A. Hodge, and on to Benjamin B. Warfield, William Henry Green, Robert Dick Wilson and J. Gresham Machen, the seminary was loaded with godly scholars who left solid food for the following generations in their writings. The seminary was reconfigured in 1929 to reflect the diverse constituency that was no longer solidly or consistently Reformed and confessional. But though the first century of Old Princeton's scholars are long dead, their books still speak!

Twentieth and twenty-first century pastors, seminarians, elders, teachers and laymen have learned to drink deeply from the wells of Old Princeton. In 1994, the Banner of Truth published Covenant Seminary church historian David Calhoun's first volume of a history of Old Princeton, PRINCETON SEMINARY: VOL. 1--"Faith and Learning, 1812-1868". It charted clearly and carefully how Princeton came into being. It showed the balance of careful scholarship and evangelical piety that marked the first half century, largely under the leadership of Archibald Alexander, its president and first professor of theology. Not only did Princeton graduate knowledgeable Reformed pastors, it also had some 40+ % of its graduates go to the mission field. Missionary zeal and exacting scholarship went hand in hand.

In 1996, David Calhoun's second volume, PRINCETON SEMINARY: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929; BANNER OF TRUTH came out and it covers the period when Princeton had the best scholars and professors but ended up losing the war for the hearts and minds of the northern Presbyterian churches who were slowly going the way of the culture. In many ways it is a sad account but a must read for concerned Christians who want to learn how a great institution can be changed over time. To change one cultural proverb, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance" even so Christians must be reminded that the down drag of remaining sin and the wiles of the devil are ever at work to bring down our best men and institutions.

2010 saw a great harvest of Old Princeton materials to inform the head, warm the heart and move the will. Paul Helseth performed the long needed work of scraping the mud of false accusations off the crown of Old Princeton. In reviewing Helseth's righting of wrongs, "RIGHT REASON" AND THE PRINCETON MIND: An Unorthodox Proposal (P & R; 2010) clearly shows how Old Princeton has misread and misunderstood by recent Barthian and post-conservative churchmen. Noted contemporary theologian and historian Stephen Nichols has argued the this is the most important book to read after reading the Princetonians themselves. (For my own M. A. thesis at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago in 1984, I wrote on Charles Hodge and his understanding of epistemology--right reason, Reformed confessionalism, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. I can testify to the quality and accuracy of Professor Helseth's work.)

Also the year 2010 saw the republishing of A. A. Hodge's biography of his father, THE LIFE OF CHARLES HODGE, reprinted by the BANNER OF TRUTH from the 1880 edition. What a treasure trove of history, theology, a look into the heart of a great man of God, and the inside look at the theological squabbles of 19th century America. The BANNER OF TRUTH has also republished Charles Hodge's Sunday afternoon sermons to the Princeton Seminary students under the title: PRINCETON SERMONS: OUTLINES AND DISCOURSES DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL.

One student complained in Charles Spurgeon's hearing that they were only outlines of Hodge's sermons, skeletons of sermons, and not the full body. Spurgeon quipped: "Be a prophet and those dry bones shall live!" They are a profound compendium of truth and a fitting bookend to his mentor, Archibald Alexander's THOUGHTS ON RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, also published by the BANNER OF TRUTH. Then Andrew Hoffecker published CHARLES HODGE: THE PRIDE OF PRINCETON; P & R. It is the best critical and analytical biography of Hodge, putting him in his time and examining the many contexts in which he moved and ministered. The BANNER OF TRUTH keeps Hodge's great commentaries on Romans, Ephesians and 1st & 2nd Corinthians in print and they are a boon to those who want to follow Paul's argument in each epistle. The great Benjamin B. Warfield said that Hodge was not the world's greatest Greek scholar, BUT he was unparalleled at following Paul's train of thought in his epistles. English Bible professor and bibliophile Wilbur Smith said that when studying a text in Paul, one should follow Hodge--or take another text!

James Garretson did all lovers of Old Princeton and Reformed theology a favor by becoming a one man reclamation project of the jewels of Old Princeton. In 2012 he published PRINCETON AND THE WORK OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY; 2 volumes; BANNER OF TRUTH. Dr. Garretson makes judicious choices in culling the 75 best articles and excerpts from the professors of Princeton over its first 100 years. What a wealth of good things! He added to our debt to him by PASTOR-TEACHERS OF OLD PRINCETON (Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-1921); BANNER OF TRUTH. It contains 34 addresses and short articles by the greats of Old Princeton.

Dr. Garretson zeroed in on two faculty members from the first generation of Old Princeton to give readers a closer look at godly men in action--Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller. A SCRIBE WELL TRAINED (Archibald Alexander and the Life of Piety);Reformation Heritage Books is an in depth look at the heart of Princeton's first President from his collected writings on personal piety. Next he shows what an outstanding mentor Alexander was in his preaching in PRINCETON AND PREACHING (Archibald Alexander and the Christian Ministry); BANNER OF TRUTH where Alexander's wedding of piety, confessional doctrine, and reliance upon the power of the Holy Spirit made him both a revival preacher and a first rate scholar.

His most recent work in on first generation Princeton professor Samuel Miller in AN ABLE AND FAITHFUL MINISTRY (Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office); Reformation Heritage Books. His work is broken down into three main sections: PART ONE--LIFE AND MINISTRY, describing in 9 chapters Millers early life and lineage, his early pastorates, his thoughts on the importance of an able and faithful ministry, what it means to be a confessional churchman and a preacher of the everlasting gospel.

PART TWO--THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR THE GOSPEL MINISTRY covers the gospel ministry, preparation for the ministry, sermon preparation, choice of texts, style, parts of the discourse, spiritual weapons for spiritual battle, preaching the gospel in great cities and a theology for public worship.

PART THREE--MINISTERIAL DEPORTMENT AND THE WORK OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY is still as relevant as ever where he addresses the manners and habits of pastors.

PART FOUR concludes the work with an examination of Millers final days and noting that his was a life well lived. What a feast for a minister of the gospel or a seminary student on his way to the pastorate.

But valuable books on Old Princeton keep on coming out. Professor of church history at today's Princeton, James Moorhead, published PRINCETON SEMINARY IN AMERICAN RELIGION AND CULTURE; Eerdmans in 2012. He covers the history of Princeton up to the present time and takes a more moderate and broadening approach on controverted issues. But in doing so he gives conservative readers insights into the forces that are at work in ever era to change institutions and confessions. Professed evangelicals pushed Princeton into the late 19th century and early 20th century Student Volunteer Movement and its emphasis upon the evangelization of the world in this generation. Students alight with missionary fervor pushed the seminary to redo its curriculum and become less doctrinal and more "practical". Professed evangelicals are the ones who voted to re-organize the seminary in 1929 and not have it be so confessional and Reformed but more evangelical. The book abounds with points made and lessons learned without intending to do so. Modern confessional Christians please take note!

In 2013, Trinity College (Deerfield, Illinois) historian Bradley Gundlach noted how Darwin's theory of evolution fared at Princeton College and Seminary in the late 19th and early 20th century--PROCESS AND PROVIDENCE (The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845-1929). Both great lights, Charles Hodge at the Seminary and James McCosh at the College thought that Darwin's theories as stated would lead to atheism and said so in print. But both men, along with other worthy professors like Benjamin Warfield believed in some kind of developmental view of science. What comes through in this careful study is how the champions of inerrancy could also embrace various forms of non-naturalistic evolution. Science has become such a boogey-man that must not be toyed with that these careful theologians gave up the historic view of Genesis 1-3. They wanted to hold on to a supernaturalistic view of Adam's creation and the historical reality of the Fall while denying God's fiat creation of Adam and all life on earth in Genesis 1-2. Gundlach's book is a careful study and will pay dividends to students of history looking for ways contemporary scholars bow to science and try to make Scripture fit into the latest theory of origins and the existence of life upon this planet. (At least one contemporary scholar, iconoclastic historian Gary North has argued in his provocative tome, CROSSED FINGERS, that Princeton lost the high moral ground in addressing America and its declining theology because it had faulty exegesis and positioning on the slavery question and the evolution question. It had too thoroughly compromised itself. )

The most recent help (2014) in appreciating Old Princeton has been the introduction to Old Princeton entitled PRINCETON SEMINARY (1812-1929): The Leaders Lives and Works; P & R. by historian Gary Steward. It may well be the most helpful introduction to the men and theology that made Princeton Seminary a force to reckon with for a hundred years. In twelve chapters Steward covers the most important and long lasting (in influence) faculty members and their important written works. Archibald Alexander and the seminary's founding is bracketed with Alexander's THOUGHTS ON RELIGiOUS EXPERIENCE; Banner of Truth. Samuel Miller is examined in the context of his works THE RULING ELDER and LETTERS ON CLERICAL MANNERS AND HABITS. Charles Hodge is viewed through the lens of his many articles in the PRINCETON REVIEW and his articles on the church. The two mighty sons of Archibald Alexander, J. A. and J. W. Alexander are viewed through the lens of J. W.'s FORTY YEARS FAMILIAR LETTERS. Charles Hodge's son, Archibald Alexander Hodge, is viewed through the lens of his work, THE ATONEMENT.

The book concludes with a great bibliography giving the interested reader the best places to immerse oneself in the veins of gold of Old Princeton. It is probably the best place to begin reading about Old Princeton if one is just wading into the waters.

Other lesser volumes on Old Princeton exist but to be edified and built up in your most hold faith, I have tried to give you the best recent works on the gold mine that was Old Princeton. Mine it to your eternal well being!

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin
WWW.THELOGCOLLEGE.WORDPRESS.COM for more great things on books and the Reformed faith.

Posted: 03:41:00 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



When C. S. Lewis wrote an Introduction to Athanasius' ON THE INCARNATION, he said sought to encourage humble lay readers to pick up the book, enjoy it and profit from it because it was both readable and profitable. He sought to squelch the idea that common people could not read the "great men" but must instead rely upon professors and specialists who could chart the "influences and 'isms" that impacted the great work. Lewis said that great men were great writers and thinkers BECAUSE real people, common people, could read and digest the great thinkers.
In other words, the special authors in history were people with something important to say and who could say it well.

Such was John Calvin. Yes, he was one of the great Reformers of religion in 16th century Europe. Yes, he wrote some weighty and important books that impacted and altered Western Civilization. But Calvin gave his name to a school of thought called "Calvinism" (not by him but his admirers). And we all know that Calvinism is cold, logical, and mean! And he wrote a lot of stuff, big stuff, heady stuff! Sure, you are thinking, this Blog Guy is not going to ask us to read John Calvin himself is he?????????

Yes, I want to commend to your reading the latest edition of John Calvin's INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION; Banner of Truth. As the cover of the book says, this was Calvin's own "essentials" edition of his magnum opus. The 1641 edition of this classic was pared down so that more people would read it. Now "pared down" might sound like a relative term given that the book is still 825+ pages! But that is not really bad considering two things: (1) the other editions are usually two volumes of over 1000 pages; and (2) think of it as if you were reading 5 books of 175 pages each.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said the he encouraged the reading of big books rather than small ones because the effort and time taken reading the big books will impact your life more than reading the little ones! It will take your time to read through this wonderful edition of CALVIN'S INSTITUTES but you will be richer for it and more changed by it.

What's more, this is not a theological textbook, it is a theological book to be read devotionally! Calvin meant for you to read it for your life's blessing and change! He meant for it to be used like we might use something like J. I. Packer's KNOWING GOD today. It is a meaty, full and profound treatment of God and the Christian life. It is meant to change your life, not just fill your head!

Here are the chapter headings:

1--THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD (knowing God)

2--THE KNOWLEDGE OF MAN AND FREE WILL (knowing ourselves, what happened to mankind and how we were left)

3--THE LAW (the standard by which we are judged by God)

4--FAITH (with an explanation of the Apostles' Creed)

5--REPENTANCE (what it and is not)

6--JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH AND THE MERITS OF WORKS (we are saved by Christ's works and merits, not our own)




10--THE SACRAMENTS (2, not 7)




14--CHRISTIAN FREEDOM (to follow Christ and His Word, not
the pronouncements of the Catholic Church)




For broad evangelicals growing up on sermonettes who find themselves becoming "Christionettes", this book has too much meat. But for those who are training themselves upon the meat of the Word, both by where they are church members and hear solid biblical sermons and what they choose to read, this book will be like a 5 pound filet mignon! Don't think you can eat it all at once or digest it in one sitting. Take your time and take all year and thoroughly enjoy it!

If one is to read one book ABOUT John Calvin rather than by him I recommend Michael Horton's CALVIN ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE; Crossway. It has received rave reviews by knowledgeable Calvin
scholars and it clearly shows the great man's understanding of how Christians are to live the Christian life. One scholar has even said that this is the clearest and most representative of Calvin of any book written about him! High praise!!

Remember, this is not a book about Calvin's life or thought on various points of interest to Christians--it will not speak directly to your concerns about home schooling, national politics, child-rearing, how to succeed in business as a Christian, how to manage your money, how to ease stress, etc, etc, etc. But it is gold when it comes to showing you how John Calvin understood that believers live the Christian life.


1. Calvin on the Christian Life: An Introduction
2. Calvin on the Christian Life: In Context

3. Knowing God and Ourselves
4. Actors and Plot

5. Christ the Mediator
6. Gifts of Union with Christ

7. How God Delivers His Grace
8. The Public Service of Worship as a "Celestial Theater" of
9. Bold Access: Prayers as "the Chief Exercise of Faith"
10. Law and Liberty in the Christian Life
11. God's New Society

12. Christ and Caesar
13. Vocation: Where Good Works Go
14. Living Today From the Future: The Hope of Glory

If you took the rest of 2015 to read these two books prayerfully and humbly, I expect you would become a more godly and useful Christian.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin
WWW.THELOGCOLLEGE.WORDPRESS.COM for more reviews and tasty things for the Christian's growth in grace!

Posted: 04:53:42 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



Having just completed three months of more in-depth study of two of the better books on pursuing holiness, I want to turn our attention to some great new commentaries for all those who seriously study God's Word--pastors, seminary students, small group leaders, Sunday School teachers, librarians and personal Bible study faithful. We live in a day unlike other times when one had to pick through scanty sources to find one or maybe two good commentaries on any book of the
Bible. Now we have a plethora (a whole bunch) of good commentaries on almost every book of the Bible. Let me give you the best of the most recent.


(Studies in John 3); Crossway--18 previously
unpublished sermons in 400+ pages of text.
MLJ was arguably the greatest preacher in the
English language in the 20th century (1899-1981).
His sermons are unmatched by his peers in spiritual
power, careful attention to the text and biblical
theology, spirituality, and powerful application.
He almost single handedly put the Reformed faith
back on the table in English evangelicalism. And
he was a premier evangelistic preacher. See all
these things come together in these sermons.

J. Ramsey Michaels, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (New
International Commentary on the New Testament);
Eerdmans--first published in 2010, Professor
Michaels work has not received the credit due it.
A professor of New Testament for over 50 years,
Dr. Michaels already published a shorter commentary
on John's gospel in 1984 but agreed to write a
replacement for Leon Morris' volume in the same
series. Here are over 1000 pages of attention to the
text of Scripture! Michaels takes the text as it
stands, does not look for every supposed influence
behind the text (Qumran, Johannine community,
etc.) but takes the text on its own in its current
canonical form.


J. B. Lightfoot, THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES (A Newly
Discovered Commentary); THE LIGHTFOOT LEGACY
SET, VOL. 1; iVP--Cambridge N. T. scholar was one
of three bright stars in the constellation of
Cambridge biblical scholars of the late 19th century.
Along with F. J. A. Hort and B. F. Westcott, these
three men were giants of biblical research and
commenting and a bulwark against the corrosive
inroads of German higher criticism. Contemporary
N. T. scholar Scot McKnight calls Lightfoot the
"finest exegete of the life of Paul" among 19th
century New Testament schcolars. New Testament
Professor Ben Witherington found a pirate's treasure
trove of previously unpublished Lightfoot materials
in a library bookcase at the University of Durham in
England. This is the first in a planned series of
Lightfoot volumes to be published by Witherington
and IVP.

JESUS (Luke's Account of God's Unfolding Plan)
APOLLOS--Professor Thompson is an Australian N. T.
scholar and a keen student of the Acts of the
Apostles. This material is a reworking of his Ph.D.
dissertation at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
(TEDS) under Don Carson. Dr. Thompson shows
that the theological emphases of Acts can be taken
from Acts itself, with reference to Luke's gospel.
The book of Acts truly is the further ministry of the
risen and ascended Christ through His apostles.
(An expositor I respect, Pastor John Miller, has found
great help here in expositing Acts to his people.)

THE NEW TESTAMENT: ACTS; Zondervan--Professor
Schnabel has taught at TEDS and now at Gordon-
Conwell Divinity School in Boston. His speciality,
judging from his published works, is Paul, his life
and letters and the book of Acts. He has published
the well-received EARLY CHRISTIAN MISSION (2
He has put all Christians in his debt by showing what
God was doing through his people in Acts and what
he was doing through Paul especially as a stand-out
missionary. Professor Schnabel's study has already
caused a missionary zealot of a large denomination
to get his hackles up because he (Schnabel) can find
no continuous, over-arching plan put into practice
but instead finds Paul following the directions
of God the Holy Spirit, not in a charismatic sense
but in an apostolic sense.This is over 1100 pages of
insightful commentary on the work of Christ in Acts
through his people.

VOLUME 3 (Acts 15:1--23:35); Baker Academic--
Professor Keener, formerly of Eastern Baptist
Seminary and most recently at Asbury Seminary
has over 3400 pages in this volume alone. Expected
to conclude with volume 4, it will be the largest
commentary on a book of the Bible by a single
person. Keener is conservative, historical, exegetical,
sensitive to the text and a master of the literature
of the ancient world. Keener is not Reformed in his
theology (hence his teaching at Asbury) but he is
a high-minded Arminian who reverences the Word of
God. One need only Keener's set for background
historicity issues and 2-3 volumes for theology
(Johnson, Schnabel and Waters) and one would be
all set to teach/preach on Acts.

May we be hard working, faithful preachers and teachers of God's Word, not begrudging the labors necessary to mine the texts to feed God's people and preach the gospel to the lost.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 12:54:30 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



For a full three months we have looked at some great resources for teaching the doctrine of Christian holiness. The entire Old Testament book of Leviticus is a call to God's people to pursue holiness ("You shall be holy because I am holy"). Israel was to live according to God's revealed will and not like the neighboring pagans like the Egyptians from whom God drew them out. The Old Testament reads as God's attempts to set apart and purify a people to be His own special possession.

Isaiah (and the reader) are sobered and over-awed to behold the majesty of the thrice holy God in the Temple. (The Apostle John will later reveal that Isaiah saw Christ in the Temple--John 12:41). Jesus calls His disciples to be holy like their Father in heaven is holy.
His Apostle, Paul, tells the Thessalonians that it is the will of God that all His people be holy (2nd Thessalon-ians 4:3 and that those who oppose such teaching go against God the Holy Spirit Himself!) Paul teaches the Ephesians that God the Father elected a people and predestinated them to be holy as their calling in life.

We spent our time on two primary texts: Jerry Bridges, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS and James Packer's REDISCOVERING HOLINESS. Both are excellent and worthy of close study and aspirational prayer.

What other resources do we have to teach the doctrine of sanctification (Christian holiness)?

Crossway--young Michigan pastor and theologian
brings his considerable communication skills to bear
for the under 35 generation of Christians to bring
them up to speed on God's call to holiness for each
Christian. The claims that Packer made in the early
90's which are repeated by DeYoung for today is that
supposedly evangelical Christians have lost their way
and no longer see holiness as the identity badge of
the evangelical Christian. DeYoung gives a faithful
Reformed understanding of sanctification and the
pursuit of holiness but a bit watered down for his
intended audience. As the author of Hebrews warned
his readers: "By this time you ought to be teachers
but you have need of someone teaching you the
elemental things of the faith again." Why? Because
they have not applied what they first knew and have
not practiced their faith. They may have had
orthodoxy but they had little orthopraxy, little godly
obedience.[Jonathan Edwards said it well when
scanning the movement called "revival" in the 1740's
SPIRIT OF GOD he boiled things down to this reality:
if you do not want to be holy, you are very probably
not a Christian at all. True Christians were elected in
eternity to be holy, called in time to be holy and set
apart by the Spirit to be holy. And you say you have
little interest in holiness? Then you have none of

2. J. C. Ryle, HOLINESS (Its Nature, Hindrances,
Difficulties and Roots); Banner of Truth
This 19th century classic is still in print because it is
so good. Beginning with an unforgettable chapter on
sin, Ryle covers 21 chapters on such subjects as
sanctification, holiness, the fight, the cost, growth,
assurance, Moses--an example, Lot--a beacon, Lot's
wife--a woman to be remembered, etc, etc. Ryle
always writes in a manly, straight-forward fashion.
He does not talk down to the reader--he speaks man
to man and expects his readers to act like men and
check what he says and then obey the truth. The
false teaching he was combating which was just
coming in like a flood was the "Keswick theology".
The Keswick district of England was home to giant
conferences on the deeper life. It was taught that
full confession of all sins and full surrender made for
an elevated life above the battle that "carnal"
believers fought. Grace and Christ were everything
and human effort, struggling with sin, applying
oneself, etc. were considered wrong headed and
counter productive. His book is still one of the best
antidotes to Keswick theology and its contemporary
counterpart taught by the JESUS + NOTHING equals
the Christian life.

Other good books on sanctification have rolled off the Christian presses in the past 40 years but the above mentioned are the best. It seems as though the evangelical and Reformed world is more concerned about being happy by feeling good about oneself, having their kids on their team, having good sex as a Christian couple, etc, etc, etc. What is the # 1 priority for the Bible seems to be way down the list of priorities of today's professing Christians.

May God give you and I grace to put that behind us and pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 08:49:07 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



We come to the final chapter of J. I. Packer's great study of Christian sanctification--the pursuit of holiness--entitled "Hard Gaining: The Discipline of Endurance".

It is a very fitting end to this study as I am reminded of a lesson I learned as a young Christian--maturity is obedience to the truth over time. Persevering in holiness means following the Lord through thick and thin to the end of your days. Real Christians persevere--at loving Christ, at putting sins to death, at loving my neighbor as myself, as obeying God's laws by trusting in the Holy Spirit's enablement. Follow such a trajectory over a couple of decades and you have increasing maturity. Follow it to the end of your days and you have a holy man or woman--a man or woman of God.

Packer begins by reminding the reader that she/he must run the race with their eyes fixed on Jesus (from Hebrews 12:3). As we live out our Christian lives we live them looking at Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the Starter and Completer of our faith, the Alpha and Omega. And this reality contains two truths:

1.) The Life of Christian Endurance is Like a Marathon Race, a long distance race. A summer squash takes 6-8 weeks to produce a squash that is edible; an oak tree takes 40-60 years to mature. Our culture encourages us to take short cuts and get things done quickly; God wants us to endure and persevere over a lifetime.

2. The Life of Christian endurance is lived out by fixing our eyes on Jesus. (Look at His life, look to His power, look at His example, contemplate His faithfulness, etc. etc. etc.).

Which leads us to two other truths:

1.) The fact that Jesus is our model and template and pattern shows that the reason resolute perseverance to which we are called is not the practice of stoicism.

2.) The fact that Jesus is our model in holy endurance shows that the channel through which power to endure flows, subjectively speaking, through hope which is faith's forward look. Jesus was sustained by hope of what was to come after the barbarous crucifixion and death. We are to look beyond the cross we pick up daily and fix our eyes on the triumph beyond the grave.

These truths lead us to other conclusions:

1. It is always right for Christians to focus on their future hope.

2. it is always right for Christians to center their hoping on Jesus' promised return;

3.) We must always be ready for Christ's appearing.

Conclusion: Hope and holiness go together!


Packer reminds us that our culture lives in a dream world of unbelief. Ours is not a good time for any sort of realism about suffering.

He also reminds us that suffering is every Christian's calling.

Packer then goes on to show us, in a most manly way, that SUFFERING MUST BE VALUED. It is certainly shocking for our culture to hear anyone venture such an observation. Are those Christians crazy? But there are good and sufficient reasons for the believer to value suffering.

1. Our Suffering Produces Character.

2. Our Suffering Glorifies God.

3. Our Suffering Fulfills the 'Law of the Harvest'.

You must read and chew over these points for they are profound and profoundly helpful to the one who believes and applies them.

May you have grace to work slowly through this book and persevere at becoming a man or woman of God, holy and useful to the Master.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

P. S. We will wrap up this series, Lord willing, next week and look at some recent contributions to the Christian's pursuit of holiness.

Posted: 01:28:20 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



We have spent going on three months regarding the pursuit of holiness. We have used the Scriptures from Hebrews 12:14--"Pursue...holiness without which no one will see the Lord". The pursuit of holiness is a basic sign of a true Christian.I take it that the vast majority of those who visit the CVBBS website are believers and most of them are in a spiritual frame of mind, wanting to please the Lord and have a wide entrance into glory when they die. This come from the pursuit of holiness.

James Packer's REDISCOVERING HOLINESS, CHAPTER 7--"The Empowered Christian Life" is the next installment in a wonderful and thorough study of Christian holiness with exhortations to apply what we learn. Packer begins by acknowledging that the word "power" is overused in Christian circles just as it is in the larger secular culture around us. But Packer says we cannot retired the word because it is biblical and it is necessary. We need the power of God to live a change, a Christian life, a holy life, a becoming like Christ life. Packer reminds us that power as an end in itself is deadly and fleshly. Simon the sorcerer in the New Testament (Acts 8:18-24) comes to mind as the classical example of a person in love with power but not Christ.

Christians have already been touched by the supernatural power of God in the new birth. Otherwise, they would not yet be real Christians. How else does God show His power among His people today and in the world? Through miracles of the new creation--revisit the miracles of Jesus, reexamine the new birth, Christ's resurrection from the dead, words spoken with power to create new life (authoritative witnessing and preaching in the power of the Spirit) and ultimately transformed lives.

The next section is showing God's power helps to reveal the historical divide among Christian speakers and writers: "most speaker and books on holiness say little about ministry, and most speakers and books on ministry say little about holiness" (p. 211). One of the regular results of on-going sanctification is a growing concern for others.

Packer then offers five aspects of the power of God in the church and in Christians today:

1.) Heightened expectations--it is right to anticipate the supernatural to prominence and to raise Christian expectations with regards to it. "It is extraordinary how little the New Testament says about God's interest in our success, by comparison with the enormous amount that it says about God's interest in our holiness, our maturity in Christ and our growth into the fulness of His image."

2.) Empowered Ministry--It is right to aspire to use one's God-given gifts in powerful and useful ministry.
"Do not rejoice that the demons are subject to you but rejoice that your names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life".

3.) Meeting Needs--It is right to want to be a channel of God's power into people's lives at their points of need.
"But be careful lest you become one of those people who suffers from the neurosis of needing to be needed..."

4.) Empowered Evangelism---It is right to want to see God's power manifested in a way that has a significant evangelistic effect. "We cannot institutionalize and harness the power of God, either in converting souls or in suppling miracles. God uses us, but not we Him."

5.) Real Righteousness--It is right to want to be divinely empowered for righteousness, for moral victories, for deliverance from bad habits, for loving God and for pleasing God. "Diligence in using the means of grace is the prime secret of deepening holiness and ongoing usefulness."

"Intense distress at one's continuing imperfection, in the context of an intense love of goodness as God defines it and an intense zeal to practice it, is the clearest possible sign of the holiness of heart that is central to spiritual health."


1. The power of God is God Himself in Action

2. The power of God is the power of the Holy Spirit.

3.The power of God is exerted in accordance with God's

4. The Power of God is Shown Most Fully in Human

These are just the tips of the many icebergs of truth Packer packs into this chapter.

Please don't ignore this potent and wonderful study of holiness in the Bible and hopefully in the Christian life.
Remember: holiness is not just for the people with the time or the money--it is God's will for all of His people, each and every one of us.

I remain your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 12:34:08 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



One of the reasons I am taking such a long time to review these three books on holiness is that holiness is not a part-time hobby for rich Christians with a lot of free time on their hands. Holiness is for all Christians.
Pursuing holiness is for every person who names the name of Christ. Growth in holiness is obedience to the truth over time. A squash takes about 6-8 weeks during a summer. An oak takes about 60 years to mature. Too many professing Christians are like a summer squash as to their growth and maturity rather than a slow-growing but mighty oak. I want you to be an oak!

Chapter 6 of Jim Packer's REDISCOVERING HOLINESS is entitled, "Growing Into Christ-likeness: Healthy Christian Experience". This is a mighty chapter in a mighty book.
I only hope to give you something of an outline and a taste of this chapter. It is that meaty!

Titus 2:11-14
2nd Peter 3:18
2nd Corinthians 3:18

Packer begins by noting the correlation between physical health and physical growth and spiritual health and spiritual growth. Unhealthy people are not growing people! Physical health and spiritual health are related but not totally interdependent. I can have a bad cold and feel miserable but not have it truly affect my spiritual well-being. Or I can be naive or poorly taught and think that because I feel awful with my cold, then I must not be close to God or experiencing His favor. And those would be sad deductions. As to priority, wellness of soul takes precedence over wellness of body.

Packer quotes the great J. C. Ryle to good effect who says: "When I speak of growth in grace I only mean increase the degree, size, strength, vigor, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer's heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage, and the like may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble, and may vary greatly in he same man at different periods of his life. When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply this--that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual mindedness more marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. he manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith and from grace to grace." J. C. Ryle, HOLINESS; pp. 82-84


When viewed biblically, with the aid of the Holy Spirit's illumination, holiness is beautiful. Scripture speaks of the "beauty of holiness". God is adorned in the splendor of holiness, majestic and glorious in holiness. So holiness is the family likeness of Christians with their

Too often though, Christians do not see holiness in the whole or they over-emphasize one aspect to the neglect of other equally true aspects of holiness.

"RHAPSODY WITHOUT REALISM" is Packer's phrase to describe those who elevate and seek special experiences, devotional exercises, ecstasies of assurance, experiences of divine love and the constant maintenance of warmth and excitement in all their approaches to God and communion with God. It is this fervent aura and feelings which to them is holiness. Such people cans speak rapturously of loving God while totally ignoring their spouse or children or co-workers or neighbors or extended family. Biblical treatment of others rarely enters into their thinking. For them, holiness is all about heightened experience of God alone.

"RULE-KEEPING WITHOUT RELATING" is another description of Packer I have seen too often also. Such people value verbal orthodoxy (right belief) and formal orthopraxy (right behavior) but that is all. The correctness of what they do is evident but they do not labor to get close to people or come alongside others in compassion or to commune with the Father and the Son in friendship. Packer points out that rule keeping without relational closeness to God and one's fellow human beings is not Christ-like, and is a way of missing holiness rather than a method of achieving it.

Packer's point--"holiness is the healthy growth of morally misshapen humans toward the moral image of Jesus Christ, the perfect man". This growth is supernatural. It takes the sanctifying work of the indwelling Holy Spirit to achieve it.

Under the heading of "unhealthy spiritual growth", Packer shows us what to aim for and what to avoid in not becoming an unhealthy Christian.

The next long section I will only outline--HOLINESS AND SANCTIFICATION.

1. The Nature of Holiness is Transformation Through

2. The Context of Holiness is Justification Through
Faith in Christ Alone

3. The Root of Holiness is Co-Crucifixion and Co-
Resurrection with Christ

4. The Agent of Holiness is the Indwelling Holy Spirit

5. The Experience of Holiness Requires Effort and

6. The Rule of Holiness is the Law of God

7. The Heart of Holiness is the Spirit of Love

Packer next part of this lengthy chapter (which I shall be only be outlining)--ONGOING GROWTH IN GRACE--MISTAKES

MISTAKE # 1--Growth in grace is visible, easy to see.

MISTAKE # 2--Growth in grace is uniform.

MISTAKE # 3--Growth in grace is automatic.

MISTAKE # 4--Growth in grace is Protection, shielding
one from strains, pains and pressures.

MISTAKE # 5--Growth in grace is a retreat, isolating
oneself from life's hard places, heavy
burdens and hurtful relationships.

Packer's signs that a person is growing in grace are...

SIGN ONE--A growing delight in praising God.

SIGN TWO--A growing instinct for caring and giving.

SIGN THREE--A growing passion for personal

SIGN FOUR--A growing zeal for God's cause, with more
willingness to take unpopular action to
further it.

SIGN FIVE--A greater patience and willingness to wait
for God and to bow to His will.

As a good pastor/teacher, Packer concludes this meaty chapter by applying the truths he has laid out from Scripture. He asks hard, straight-forward questions.


1. Do I work out my salvation with fear and

2. Do I regularly and faithfully abide in Christ?

3. Do I watch and pray?


Beloved reader, this book is profound and this chapter is so meaty. You may have to read it two or three time to do it justice and to do you great good.

It's worth it.

Until next time I remain your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 02:11:00 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



Our study on biblical holiness continues with Chapter 5 of James Packer’s late 20th century classic, REDISCOVERING HOLINESS—“Growing Downward to Grow Up: The Life of Repentance”. When we first become Christians it begins to dawn on us that there is a God—and its not us! The self-centered, egotistic way we had lived our lives begins to come under scrutiny. By the grace of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures we begin to see our lives in new, bright holy light which illuminates our formerly darkened corners. We begin to see that we are not the great people we thought we were—our lives are revealed to be a nest of ill will, bad motives, self-serving acts and innumerable sins of omission (“I should have done it but I did not.”) and commission (“I should not have done it, but I did!”). As the old Prayer Book says about our daily confession of sins, “there is no health in us”.

Packer argues that the whole Christian life is one of repentance. Unlike the false impression some people have and leave with others that becoming a Christian by repenting once and believing once and then you’re done—real, biblical Christianity is a life of repentance. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 THESES nailed to the church door in Wittenberg was that the Christian life is one of repentance—life-long repentance! And Packer warns that such life-long repentance is not rote or mechanical. Each sin must be faced and brought to our Holy Father in the name of Jesus Christ, confessed and repented of by the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

What is repentance? It is a changer of course regarding a way of acting or living. The great 19th century evangelist Dwight Moody used to talk about the time he got on the train in Chicago to go to Cleveland, hundreds of miles to the East. But he had been careless and distracted getting on the train and found himself instead going West to Des Moines. He said he was very sorry that the was on the wrong train; he said he was very sorry that he was going to Des Moines rather than Cleveland. But that he had not repented of his bad decision until he got off the train at the next stop and got onto a train going East to Cleveland as he should have all along. Technically, the word repentance in the Greek means a change of mind leading to a change of action.

What are the stages of repentance?

(1) Realistic recognition that one has disobeyed and failed God, doing wrong instead of doing right.

(2) Regretful remorse at the dishonor one has done to God whom one is learning to love and wanting to serve.

(3) Reverence requesting of God’s pardon, cleansing of conscience, and help to not lapse in the same way.

(4) Resolute renunciation of the sins in questions, with deliberate thought as to how to keep clear of them and live right for the future.

(5) Requisite restitution to any who have suffered material loss through one’s wrongdoing.

Why continual repentance?

Because God’s holy character does not change and He is offended by any and all sin. As fallen creatures who live in bodies befouled by sin, we sin the whole of our lives, not just before we become Christians. Therefore we need to repent the length of our days for not giving Almighty God, our Father, His holy due, and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. So, repentance is a lifelong necessity.

The two main obstacles to Christians pursuing holiness and repentance?

(1) The decadence of the American church

(2) The highly corrosive status of post-Christian North America

So for one to pursue holiness, one should expect a cultural push-back because you are indeed an odd duck to think that God and sin and Christ and repentance are important issues. To make restitution for one’s sins and restoring something that was taken or broken may throw others into a confused tizzy. But it needs to be done if we are faithful to our God and His character and His commands.

And it along the way the watching world gets the idea that Christians are truly different people, so much the better.

I wonder, are you and I pursuing holiness today by really repenting of our sins and confessing them to Christ and to those whom we offend (Ist John 1:7—2:2)?

(Next week we will examine together Chapter 6—“Growing Into Christ-likeness: Healthy Christian Experience”. Lord willing, we will see you then.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 11:35:00 AM :: permalink :: discuss ::



We have been taking our time going through REDISCOVERING HOLINESS because it is such a important and thorough book. I rank it up with KNOWING GOD as a classic of the 20th century that is still alive and ministering to us today...and will for many future centuries (should the Lord tarry) to come!


Dr. Packer likens reaching this point in the book to reaching the top of a mountain pass and being able to have a scenic and panoramic view of the valley below.
(I have had that experience before and know whereof he speaks.)

Packer reviews the basic truths covered so far and then reminds us of seven basic principles of holiness which he spelled out in an earlier book, KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT:

1. The nature of holiness is transformation through
2. The context of holiness is justification through
Jesus Christ.
3. The root of holiness is co-crucifixion and co-
resurrection with Jesus Christ.
4. The agent of holiness is the Holy Spirit.
5. The experience of holiness is one of conflict.
6. The rule of holiness is God's revealed law.
7. The heart of holiness is the spirit of love.

When it comes to living a holy life, believers are to avoid two extremes.

(1) "Legalistic Pharisaism"--God-serving outward
actions proceeding from self-serving inward
(2) "Antinomian idiocy" (Packer's sharp phrase)--"that
rattles on about love and liberty forgetting that
God-given law remains the standard of the God-
honoring life.

While acknowledging that there have been many teachers with many formulas about holiness down through the Christian centuries, Packer distills them down to six principles that run through time and the best Christians of the centuries and denominations but embedded in Scripture.

When we become a true Christian, we no longer live for "the I-want" mentality for created things but we now desire to please and honor God. This section is too rich to merely summarize here. You must read it and pray over it by yourself.

Here Packer notes that many writers emphasize doing good and being virtuous as the essence of holiness while others emphasize inner feelings of love and adoration for God. Both groups tends to view their position as mutually exclusive while in fact they are two halves of a whole!

Here John Calvin and the Puritans come to the fore with their emphasis upon mortification--putting to death remaining habits of sin by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit--a lifelong battle for believers!

Packer recounts the history of 2nd blessing theology beginning with John Wesley and going on through the Keswick theology ("let go and let God" and "carnal Christians") on to charismatic and Pentecostal post-conversion Spirit-baptism. He shows how and why he disagrees with these people, however sincere and well-intented they may have been. Packer believes that constant, focused prayer is at the heart of growth in grace and holiness.

Living as we do in a time of material affluence and spiritual pygmy-hood (my phrase, not Packer's), learning to discipline ourselves for godliness (1st Timothy 4:7) is not easy but it is absolutely necessary. Packer lists several books on spiritual discipline; I certainly say AMEN to Kent Hughes and Don Whitney's volumes along with Jerry Bridges' THE PRACTICE OF GODLINESS.

Packer concludes this chapter with seven principles of growing godliness and holiness.

The godly and holy person is the one...

1. who can never love God enough

2. whose adoration of Him is unceasing

3. who is always seeking to live nobly, lovingly, and
honorably for God

4. who reveres the indwelling Holy Spirit

5. who battles constantly against indwelling sin

6. who pleads God's promises and waits expectantly for
their fulfillment

7. and who practices self-discipline maturely and

May the Lord make us holy men and women as we pursue Him and follow His precepts and obey His commands while trusting in the Holy Spirit to do it!

Next wee, Lord willing, Chapter 5.

See you then.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 10:57:41 AM :: permalink :: discuss ::



In this sixth installment of our extended study of biblical holiness, we have come to Chapter 3 of J. I. Packer's REDISCOVERING HOLINESS--"Appreciating Salvation:Where Holiness Begins".

First--Appreciating God's Salvation means AWE AT GOD'S GREATNESS. Are you ever awestruck at the greatness of your Maker? Packer recounts how God and who He really is has been diminished in seminaries and church pulpits and Christian books such that God is not awesome or awful. We live in a day when "God-shrinkers" (as Packer calls them) have so diminished the greatness and glory of God that "He is no more than a smudge". Certainly that is true in the wider pagan culture but I fear it is because most churches have never proclaimed a great and glorious God who is free in sovereignty and incredible in love and mercy. As Mr. and Mrs. Beaver said to the Pevensie children in Narnia in response to the question of whether or not Aslan was safe: "Aslan, safe?! No, He is not safe but He is good. He is not a tame lion." Packer unpacks this well and concludes this section with the observation: "The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration."

Second--Appreciating God's Salvation means GRATITUDE FOR GOD'S MERCY. Knowing something of our great and thorough depravity, we should never get over God's saving us at Christ's expense. Gratitude should be more than duty; it should be constant heartfelt motivation. He could have passed us by. He could have left us in our sins. Like awe and reverence, gratitude is a heart condition, not an outside, exterior act. Holiness begins in the heart.

Third--Appreciating God's Salvation means being ZEALOUS FOR HIS GLORY. The truly saved person cannot but be always looking for ways to speak about the greatness and glory of the Savior and His saving ways. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!" means speaking out about the Savior, not just speaking out.
As the young Christian grows, they begin to see and learn that Christ is the Christian life. It is all about the greatness of the Person and the Doings of Jesus. All that Jesus is as God and man is, He is to the Father for believers. We begin, middle and end the Christian life with Christ.

Fourth--Appreciating God's Salvation means LIVING NATURALLY AS A CHILD OF GOD. Once born as sinners, we were born again to be new creatures in Christ. We are in union with Christ. Our new man is the new me. I am to learn all that Christ has done and is doing in me and let that be me! Just as Jesus lived "naturally" as the Son before His Father, so too we are to live in Christ before the Father as joint heirs with Christ, bearing His righteousness, relying on His stand in, God the Holy Spirit, and living our lives to the glory of the Father, as jesus did.

There is much more here--these too are profound chapters in a most helpful book. So get reading and let me know how you enjoy this feast of biblical truth on holiness.

Lord willing, we will meet again here next week.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 03:47:00 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



I have been blogging for several weeks now on Christian holiness, which is the calling of every believer and too often a muddled subject in our day. We began by looking at Jerry Bridges, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS, and went on to J. I. Packer’s 1992 classic, REDISCOVERING HOLINESS.

We are on Chapter 2—Exploring Holiness: Why Holiness is Necessary.

Packer begins with two truths: (1) We are all invalids in God’s hospital, sin sick invalids who do not see how sick they are and how deep the problem runs. (2) We are all prone to damaging delusions about our true condition. These include delusions of direct theological error, delusions of doubt and unbelief, delusions of self-confidence, delusions that disrupt relationships, delusions caused by failure to distinguish things that differ, and delusions that the Christian life will be one of ease, health, success and wealth, excitement punctuated by miracles, etc.

The aim of this chapter is to examine the whole work of divine grace in the individual as Scriptures reveals it. Packer begins by defining salvation, the “master theme” of all the New Testament. Salvation means rescue from jeopardy and misery so that one is now save. The New Testament teaches that God rescues sinners from sin’s guilt, sin’s power and sin’s presence, corresponding to justification, sanctification and glorification respectively.

Salvation is the joint work of the three members of the Divine trinity. The Father elects a people to salvation and sends the Son on a rescue mission.
The Son comes to earth and becomes man to substitute for guilty sinners in his living, dying, rising and exaltation. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to
God’s elect so that they are born again, repentant, believing and united to Christ forever.

Christ comes to save a people so that they might be blameless and holy before Him. Sin had ruined them; God now rescues believing sinners and changes them into people bearing the righteousness of Christ, with all their sins atoned for and cleansed and who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who is actively at work to make them holy like God. He is indeed making a new people to inhabit eternity. God does not leave us in our sins; he cleanses from all sin and remakes us in His image.

Being a good teacher and Christian leader, Packer unpacks these truths in great detail and with much clarity. He brings the Scriptures together to make his points biblically. He is warm and practical and humble and pastoral.

As I have been saying, get these books and follow along with our study. God’s will is for you to be holy (2nd Thess. 4:3) and without holiness, none of us will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14) but will be halted at the gate of heaven because we are not wearing the Christian family garb of holiness.

Next week is Chapter 3—“Appreciating Salvation—Where Holiness Begins”,

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 01:51:11 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



For several weeks now I have been blogging about the best books, from a Reformed perspective, on the doctrine and experience of sanctification--the work of God's on-going grace, with the believer's cooperation, of growing into Christ-likeness and biblical holiness.

We began by looking at Jerry Bridges' 20th century classic, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS. Is is perhaps the best primer for a believer wanting to understand and pursue holiness. It's companion piece, THE PRACTICE OF GODLINESS, helps the believer to establish new habit patterns of obedience to replace the old sinful habits accumulated over a lifetime. A faithful believer, using these two books as guides, would go deep into Christ-likness over a year's time, assuming faithful digestion and Spirit-sought help in application.

Today we begin a study of the 2nd book we previewed--one of J I. Packer's most important and least known books, REDISCOVERING HOLINESS. It was originally published with an obscure publisher and did not gain the notice it warranted. In my estimation it is one of the very best books on the Bible's teaching about sanctification and growth in holiness. It is eminently biblical, strongly theological, pastorally practical and personally motivating. This is the fourth time I have read it and it still pay great dividends in my life's pursuit of holiness.

Packer begins at the beginning. I am not being cute but realistic. As a teacher par excellence, Packer begins
with two motivational questions:

What is holiness?

Why does it matter?

A person who only casually picks up this book to "read a bit" about Christianity is not looking to be a holy man or woman of God. But their attention is grabbed almost immediately by Packer's historical analysis that holiness is lacking at the pew level and at the pulpit level and even at the seminary level. It is not of much concern to evangelicals at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century. And that is a pity "for it is central to the glory of God and the good of souls" (p. 12). Packer confesses that he mourns the church's current loss of biblical truth about holiness.

He then takes us on a brief helicopter tour of the past 300 years showing how God's holiness and the holiness of the believer were of great concern to the best Christians--the Puritans of the 17th century, the best preachers of the 18th century "Great Awakening",
and the holiness teachers that sprang up in the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries. The point being made is that holiness has been of concern for Protestants for centuries. Picking up the example of Isaac unstopping the wells that the Philistines had stopped up, he brings two applications for us today:

1. the recovery of old truth, which has been a means
of blessing in the past can become a blessing
again (while the quest for newer alternatives may
well prove barren)

2. No one should be daunted such a recovery by
current blindness, prejudice and unsympathetic
attitudes built up against the truth during the
time of its eclipse.

At this point Packer confesses that this is exactly
what he is seeking to do in his book--scrape the mud off the glorious truths that enriched the saints and the churches in the past and pray that God will open our eyes in our generation to this richer vein of spiritual gold.

He then moves to three important truths regarding holiness:

1.) Holiness, like prayer, is something for which Christians have an instinct for it through their new birth but have to grow up into it through experience.

2.) The process of learning to be holy is all under God's sovereign providence. God is the schoolmaster in the this school of holiness, He prepares His students, even calling on them when He know they are not prepared. giving them tests and showing them where work yet needs to be done.

3.) In God's school of holiness, our Lord Jesus Christ is with us, and we with Him in a controlling relationship of Master and servant, Leader and follower, Teacher and pupil. What most affects our growth in grace is not how many conferences or retreats we attend, or books we have read or our IQ but rather how much time have we spent in intimate fellowship with Christ.

Now Packer comes to DEFINING HOLINESS. He gives a definition using biblical terms. In both biblical languages, holy means separated and set apart unto God, consecrated and seeking to please Him. When applied to people the word implies both devotion and assimilation--devotion in the sense of living a life of service to God and assimilation in the sense of imitating, conforming to and becoming like the God one serves. He also notes that for Christians "this means taking God's moral law as our rule and God's incarnate Son as our model. This is where any study of holiness must start.
Packer then uses a checklist in the classic 19th century treatment of J. C. Ryle, HOLINESS. Ryle finds 12 expressions of holiness. They are gems and certainly biblical.

Under ASPECTS OF HOLINESS, Packer now adds four expressions of holiness he sees throughout Scripture:

1.) Holiness has to do with my heart.

2.) Holiness has to do with my temperament.

3.) Holiness has to do with my humanness

4.) Holiness had to do with my relationships.

After several pages of profound theological insight explaining each of these points, Packer then comes
to the $64,000 question: "Is holiness important for today?" (Readers of this blog must be informed that the average high school graduate reads very few books after high school and the ones he/she reads are books read to fix problems. So the pragmatic question being answered is: IS THIS STUFF IMPORTANT FOR ME TODAY ? Packer believes it is at the heart of biblical Christianity but almost forgotten today. It is seldom emphasized in preaching and teaching, it is seldom sought in church leadership, it is not a part of our evangelism.

But in reality, holiness is the goal of our redemption--God saved us that we might be holy (Ephesians 1:4).
Holiness is the true health of a believer. Holiness effectively thwarts Satan in his attempts to destroy our lives, holiness is the way to a life of spiritual fruitfulness and usefulness. Holiness is the substance of which happiness is the spin-off. If you reading this blog are a believer, then neither you nor me writing this can be happy as a believers unless we are making real strides in holiness!

If you have not come along for the ride, its not too late to join us on the tour of biblical holiness. Get a copy of these books and follow along. You will be glad you did.!

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 03:39:22 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::



Sometimes Christians agonize over knowing the will of God. It is as if they were playing the "hot & cold" game with God and He would let them know when they got close. Some recent authors have shown that knowing God's will has devolved into a pagan practice of deciphering providential tea leaves, and such. Interestingly, few authors note that Christ's Apostle makes clear in 1st Thessalonians 4:3--"This is the will of God, your sanctification..." How much plainer could Paul speak? The pursuit of holiness is not just for a select few "Green Beret" believers or the super-spiritual; the pursuit of holiness (sanctification) is God's revealed will for all Christians!

Two weeks ago we looked at one of the few classics of 20th century theology, Jerry Bridges' THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESSS; NavPress. Since its debut, it has sold almost a million copies, quite remarkable for a book on the subject of biblical holiness! Some Christian leaders I know called it a "dangerous books", one of the worst books of the late 20th century. Why? Because they were singularly committed to "Keswick theology" which I mentioned in my earlier blogs on this subject. Keswick theology emphasized passivity, "let go and let God".

Jerry Bridges' book emphasized that while initial salvation, justification, was due to the actions of God alone (monergistic=one source of energy at work), growth in grace and holiness (sanctification) involved God's role and my role (synergistic=two sources of energy at work). Because Jerry emphasized that believers were not passive but active in sanctification, Keswick theology critics decried the book. But for those who knew and loved their Bibles, the more careful handling of the Scriptures by Bridges won the day. See the following chapters and study them carefully for more on this:

Chapter 3--Holiness is not an option

Chapter 6--The Battle for Holiness

Chapter 7--Help in the Daily Battle

Chapter 8--Obedience--not Victory

Chapter 9--Putting Sin to Death

Chapter 10--The Place of Personal Discipline

Jerry did not teach a legalistic asceticism (abstaining from things God gave to His people for their good) nor did he teach a Pelagian emphasis upon self-effort that encouraged a macho self-discipline that would win the day. No, the faithful believer would he active, but also actively trusting in God the Holy Spirit who indwells each believer to empower them to be obedient in whatsoever God called the believer to be and do. (In a recent book, THE BOOKENDS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE; Crossway, Jerry emphasizes the importance of justification (the believing sinner is declared pardoned and righteous in Christ) AND the power of the Holy Spirit to enact changer in the believers life. Both despair and self-righteousness are avoided when both aspects of biblical sanctification are followed.

Have you read and studied Jerry's book? Have you come to a more biblical and therefore workable understanding of sanctification and the pursuit of holiness? Have you come to see that God's grace is transformative but does not leave the believer passive?

Next week we will begin J. I. Packer's 1992 classic, REDISCOVERING HOLINESS, a more fulsome and thorough examination of biblical holiness.

May 2015 be the year that you and I became more serious about holiness! May Christ be pleased and His glory spread abroad because of the holy lives His blood bought people lead.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin

Posted: 12:11:04 PM :: permalink :: discuss ::