February 2012

TULIP, Not Flowery At All

TULIPYou may have heard certain types of Christians use the phrase “TULIP”, usually in praise if they are Calvinists and in derogatory terms if they are Arminian. I wrote out this summary for my own purposes a while ago, and thought you might find it useful:

TULIP is an acronym used by Calvinists to represent the primary tenants of Calvinistic theology, also known as the doctrines of Grace. Although it is not the be-all-end-all of this form of theology, nevertheless this is what makes Calvinists distinct from Arminianism.

T – Total Depravity
U – Unconditional Election
L – Limited Atonement
I – Irresistible Grace
P – Perseverance of the Saints

Total Depravity refers to our moral state before the Holy God. We are neither perfect nor good, nor even neutral, but totally depraved before God. In fact even our righteous deeds are described as filthy rags before God.  (Isa 64:6). However, it does not mean that we are as bad as we could be, just that our nature is in every way, fallen, corrupt, sinful. Also see Romans 1
Unconditional Election refers to God’s call on those who people He chooses to save. Because of our total depravity not one single person ever (except Jesus Christ) deserves any kind of favour from God, neither earned nor unearned. But, because of His grace, God calls some people to salvation. Not only that, but it isn’t earned or kept on the basis of anything we do, but rather it is unconditional or based on grace; through the person and works of Jesus Christ.
Limited Atonement refers to Christ’s death on the Cross. That work provided an atonement or payment for our sins. The important word in the previous sentence is OUR. Christ’s death provided atonement only for Elected Saints as described above. When it is all said and done, not one tiny iota of this atonement will be wasted on sinners who refuse to repent and put their faith in Christ. To put it another way Christ died only for those that He elected by grace despite their total depravity. To put it a third way, Christ completed an actual salvation, not a potential one, when He said, “It is finished”, He meant it.
Irresistible Grace – This refers to the fact that a person who is an elected saint of God, has no ability or desire to resist that grace. To put it another way, Every person that God has elected, will come to repentance, in accordance with God’s sovereign will and timing. No person who has been atoned for will not repent and no person who has no atonement, being left in total depravity, can or will repent.
Perseverance Of The Saints – refers to the fact that, because of the previous points, no person once they have been saved from total depravity, will return to that state. This is not the same as the doctrine called ‘once saved, always saved’ which is similar, but different enough for us to consider it distinct and false, but rather it says that if any person, elected by God to salvation, they will preserve in the faith, by the help of the Holy Spirit. It also says, that those people who used to confess Christ, but don’t now, what we commonly call backsliders, are in reality fakers, false converts, they never really slid forward in the first place. That means that they were never Christians even if they say they were. The elected saint, on the other hand, although he may stumble and fall, yet he never ever would leave the faith, but continue to persevere in the Lord

The Valley Of Vision: Self Deprecation

This is from The Valley Of Vision, A Collection Of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. Basically a Puritan prayer book. I pray this with the author:






O Lord, My every sense, member, faculty, affection, is a snare to me,

I can scarce open my eyes but I envy those above me, or despise those below me.

I covet honour and riches of the mighty, and am proud and unmerciful to the rags of others;

If I behold beauty it is a bait to lust, or see deformity, it stirs up loathing and disdain;

How soon do slanders, vain jests, and wanton speeches creep into my heart!

Am I comely? what fuel for pride!

Am I deformed? what an occasion for repining!

Am I gifted? I lust after applause!

Am I unlearned? how I despise what I have not!

Am in authority? how prone to abuse my trust, make will my law, exclude others’ enjyments, serve my own interests and policy!

Am I inferior? how much I grudge others’ pre-eminence!

Am I rich? how exalted I become!

Thou knowest that all these are snares by my corruptions, and that my greatest snare is myself.

I bewail that my apprehensions are dull, my thoughts mean, my affections stupid, my expressions low, my life unbeseeming;

Yet what canst thou expect of dust but levity, of corruption but defilement?

Keep me ever mindful of my natural state, but let me not forget my heavenly title, or the grace that can deal with every sin.

To Be A Christian

“What is it to be a Christian?”

1. To be a Christian–is to depart from iniquity.
2. To be a Christian–is to deny yourselves and take up the cross and follow Christ.

– Samuel Davies, ‘The Sacred Import of the Christian Name‘”

Five Reasons Why Expository Preaching Is Important

In the previous two posts on this subject I have described a personal testimony about how expository preaching has played a significant roll in my own life followed by a look at precisely what is expository preaching. I now want to turn my attention to why expository preaching is important. I have thought of five points for your consideration although surely there are more.

1. Because Of What Expository Preaching Is

I have look at this aspect extensively in the last post (I encourage you to read it here). In short, this form of preaching because of its systematic way of dealing with the text, it is the best way of representing accurately what the text actually says.

2. Because of What The Bible is

The bible is God’s word, written down for us, for grammar-confuses-the-nature-of-the-holy-spirit.jpg.crop_displayteaching, for reproof, correction, training in righteousness and so on (2 Timothy 3:16). However, as a piece of literature it is a fairly complex document. We would consider it an instruction manual. But it is not just a book of rules that sets out a “when this happens, do that” system. Instead it is a compilation of letters, songs & poems, proverbs, law, census material, history and apocalyptic literature. All this to say, it takes some effort to study and understand it well. Now I believe that anyone illuminated by the Holy Spirit can understand many of the precepts of the bible, certainly enough to get saved, and to grow in holiness. But to fully understand the depths of its treasure you are going to need such items as a Bible dictionary and a concordance, very much assisted by other books such as commentaries and if you really want to dig deep, study the original Hebrew and Greek. All this helps you understand the all important context. An easier way is to be under expository preaching, where a pastor has spend many years studying at a seminary to be able to do all of this for you.

Now, I’m not saying we should never study our bible, absolutely we should and must; but because of what expository preaching is, it allows the preacher to do all of the above for us. Expository preaching wades through the different forms of literature allowing us to get the meaning and application, one verse at a time. You could argue that topical preaching can have the same effect,  possibly so, but I would argue that expository preaching does a far better job because the preacher follows the flow of the passage because the subject is the next verse rather than the preacher’s latest random topic that he decided on. It also allows us to read what the bible actually says rather than using the bible to say what the preacher wants to say.

3. Because of the Roll of the Preacher

It is the roll of the preacher is to proclaim what God has said, specifically in the bible. Let me say it again, his role is to proclaim, to preach, what God would have His children know, NOT what the preacher would have God’s children know. In a sense, this is how it works: The preacher steps back and simply allows the meaning of the text to hit the ears of the people. The preacher plays an important roll. He is the one who studies and now knows Greek and Hebrew. He has studied context, studied commentaries, studied the passage, parallel passages, cross referencing every which item the text contains, squeezing every last drop out of the text in a way that the average lay Christian could never do. He spends a week studying that one or two verses so that he can preach the passage. This is the expositor, the preacher who goes verse by verse, understanding the text in a way most people never could.

stevelawson-preaching-2And using all of that preparation, he allows the bible to speak for itself. If the next verse is on prayer, that’s what he preaches, but not just on prayer in general, but on the specific points that that particular text emphasises or teaches. Or if the next text is on (to pick a random subject) election, then he proclaims precisely what that passage teaches on election. Or sin, or judgement, or Christ’s atoning love for us, or spiritual gifts. or… and so on. Very often, topical preaching, especially in those churches where topical is the main form of preaching, the sermons deal with pleasant, uplifting subjects, very rarely if ever do they cover the hard, or worse, the scary passages in the bible.

Thus to sum up, its the preacher’s job to proclaim God’s word, not his own, even if his own lines up with scripture. That’s very much a bottom line statement.

4. Because the Bible Commands it

2 Timothy 3:16 – 4:1-2

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

2_timothy_titleThe statement I just made above, about the preacher’s job, that statement is based on the above verse (2 Tim 3:16,17 –  2 Tim 4:1-2). God commands his preachers, in light of the fact that all scripture is breathed out by Himself, to preach that scripture, preach the word. I could elaborate further, but frankly I don’t think I need to, the meaning of that text is pretty self evident and speaks for itself.

5. Because it Forces us to Confront Difficult Passages


Please click on the audio player above to listen to this point. I think I will let Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones say this one, he can do it infinitely better than I could. The context of what he is talking about in the following audio, is the Calvinism- Arminian debate and the various sides involved. The text he refers to is Ephesians 1:4


A Little Something To Get Hot About

As a Christian I am concerned with the right understanding of scripture. The theological term for bible-translations-from-discipulusripturae-at-wordpressinterpreting scripture is hermeneutics. What follows would challenge even the most able theologian’s hermeneutics because of exceedingly poor translation/ paraphrasing. I personally use the ESV, although for a long time I used the KJV (mainly not only) and was saved reading the NIV.  These various translations use one of two philosophies of translation, know as Formal Equivalence and Dynamic Equivalence . To help you remember them, put them this way, a formal equivalent attempts to translate the text word for word, keeping as much as possible to the original text and meaning and author’s flow. A dynamic equivalent text goes for a thought for thought translation, where the translators attempt to convey the author’s meaning in a passage rather than the actual words.

This usually means that thought for thought is easier to read whereas word for word is the most accurate. Now almost all bibles fall into one of these two categories to a greater or lesser extent, by which I mean, some translations (for example, the NIV) will attempt to blend the two. There is also a third category, namely paraphrases which are not translations but rather the author has taken an English version and rewritten it, usually to make it appeal to a certain audience. And example of this is the ‘Living Bible’ which was written for the author’s children to understand.

Examples of Formal Equivalents:


Examples of Dynamic Equivalents:

NIV (I would put this one on this side); NRSV; NLT; CEV;

Examples of Paraphrases:

The Living Bible; The Message;

Both FEs and DEs can be useful, at different times and for different purposes, but there is a line to be drawn here, because DEs are essentially the translator’s interpretation of the text, in other words, they have done the hermeneutics for you. And the line is to be drawn between good hermeneutics and bad hermeneutics. If all this is a bit theoretical for you, I have listed a few examples, but be warned, if you love God’s word, this will be painful.

The text is Matthew 6:9-13, commonly known as the Lord’s prayer. First is the KJV, probably the best known and memorised version. Note that any () are in the original, whereas any of my comments are between [].

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.

Next is the ESV version:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Other than the lack of “for yours is the kingdom” which I will deal with another day, and the updated language, you will notice that they are essentially the same. Next up is the Message paraphrase. There are two problems with this version. The first is that the author, Eugene Peterson, claims to have used the original languages in its writing, and thus many people believe and use this paraphrase as a translation rather than as a paraphrase. The other problem is that the Message deals very poorly with some of the tough subjects in the bible, Completely misrepresenting what the author intends and in some cases, simply changing the meaning. For example, lets see it’s version of Matt 6:9-13 (although it doesn’t actually have verses):

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are. [you would have thought, something like ‘we worship you’]
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals. 
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.[Yes?, er no actually Amen means: and so shall it be]

That was the message, and if you though that was bad, please consider the next example. I came across it several years ago and can’t find the source, so I can’t credit (if that’s the right word) the author. Warning, like me your blood might boil over while reading this:

God, our father (our mother)

[Whoa lets stop right there: ‘mother?’ er no, God is genderless, but in the bible He always portrays Himself using male pronouns as the father figure, rather than as the mother because of the roles these two parent figures take in the home. I will lay it on the line, anyone who believes God can be refer to God as ‘mother’ has an idolatrous understanding of who God is and who He portrays Himself to be.]
[Also, what about, who is in heaven]

may your name be honoured
may your Way become our way
[way? this is not some mystical idea, its God’s Kingdom rulership on earth]
as we surrender to your will
Give us what we need, for today
Just as you free us when we have fallen,
help us not to hold on for too long to pain caused by others. [Too long?]
Guide us and give us wisdom to distinguish between your voice,
and what only seems like your voice. [sigh… so this author hears demons and God in her head?]

And there you have it. Absolutely awful and much dishonouring to God and His word. The application, choose which translate you use and read carefully and with much discernment. Each of FE translations listed are good, and some of the DEs are useful (some are very bad, CEV for example).

Confused by the various abbreviations? here is a key.

Another Favourite Video–Leonard Ravenhill

This video is also one of my favourites from times past. Its various clips of Leonard Ravenhill, a gospel preacher who died in 1994. Stand by for another scalding. It is titled:

The Worst Thing To Happen To A Preacher

The Few

This is still one of my YouTube video productions. Watch it, especially if you love solid preaching, that is convicting and in this case scalding. The preaching appears to be on the text of Matthew 7:21-22, which is possibly the most scary verse in the New Testament

Defend The Bible?


“Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose. It will defend itself.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Expository Preaching, What Exactly Is It

Yesterday I wrote about how Expository preaching played an important roll in my life and God’s mercy in bringing me to a church that preaches in that way. Read that article here.

And the next question there is what exactly is expository preaching; how do we define the phase and what does the words mean?

open_bible According to dictionary.com the word “expository” is is defined in this way: “serving to expound, set forth, or explain.” Thus expository preaching is the art of expounding, setting forth or to use a more modern term, explain the bible. The point being, it takes the text and sets it forth, explaining it so that a congregation of people get a richer, fuller and ultimately an accurate and convicting view of what that scripture says. To put it another way, to help explain to those who listen what the text means, in its original context, to its original hearers so that we can apply those teachings accurately to our lives.

john-macarthurIt is usually done systematically, By which I mean the preacher doesn’t jump from passage to passage all over the bible, but rather he preaches from Chapter 1 Verse 1, and goes through to the very last verse. This means that the preacher preaches on whatever the next thing in the text is. If he gets to Luke 11 (as my pastor recently did) then he preaches on the Lord’s prayer. To get there, he navigated through and taught on Luke 1 – 10, which included everything from, Christ’s authority, to demons, the Holy Spirit, the seventy two evangelists and their role compared to ours and so on. In the case of my pastor, being half way through the Luke 11 at time of writing, he has preached 85 sermons, and we’re into the forth year of this Gospel. And we, as a congregation can’t get enough of it.

The question can be asked: Does the bible command expository preaching? The short answer is yes. The text that immediately springs to mind is 2 Timothy 4:1-2, where Paul exhorts Timothy to Preach the Word. Remember the context? In the previous chapter Paul had stated that all scripture is God breathed, and how it was profitable for various things. He then makes it clear, this is important:

1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:1-2)

ezra_reads_galleryIts also interesting to note how we see many other descriptions of similar things happening. For example several of the revivals that happened within Judah happened because the the King somehow rediscovered the book of the Law, and had it read and proclaimed. Then we have this interesting passage in Nehemiah 8 which describes the priest Ezra doing expository preaching. Consider this passage from Nehemiah 8:8 “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. “ From the context, Ezra was teaching the people of Jerusalem straight from the Law of God. These people, due to the situation they found themselves in, were a generation ignorant of God’s Law and as the text says, they read the Law, read it clearly so that the people could understand, and they gave sense, that is, explained it so that everyone understood exactly what the Law said. It is further interesting that the wooden platform in Nehemiah 8:4 is often translated “pulpit” even as today the preacher preaches from the pulpit.

I hope this has made it clear. Below I will list three sources of excellent expository preaching, and it really is worth listening to a number of sermons in order, to get the full effect of “verse by verse”. Any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments section.

Hillcrest Baptist ChurchClint Archer (You can listen to those Luke sermons I mentioned here)
Solid Food MediaRW Glenn
Grace To You – John MacArthur

Expository Preaching, A Personal Testimony Of God’s Grace

This issue is one that is very personal to me. About two and half years ago it was one of the central things in my mind at the time, I was think about it constantly. Why? because I was seeking a new church and the number one thing I was looking for was expository preaching. This is no small claim, bearing in mind that I was leaving my church, my church that I had been going to for more than 10 years, that I had gotten saved at, and done all of my most formative growing from and which I served and loved very much. This is not an easy thing to do. Why was I leaving? It had become necessary, as you see, it was a very left-leaning liberal Methodist church, and I was a conservative, bible believing Calvinist, not in the least a good combination. But for all that, my main reason wasn’t because of the issues that you expect. I was, for example, content to be a ‘silent’ Calvinist, within that congregation, because it was my church. It also wasn’t because of the baptism of children/ believers issue, although by that time I was a convinced ‘believers Baptist’ or even because of there being a woman preaching, although I have to say, this was probably the second most important problem I had. But the thing that drove me to resign membership and begin the hunt for a new place was expository preaching, or to be precise, lack thereof. You see, this church had long since given up any form of expository preaching, but instead opted for a form of seeker-sensitive topical, and they were bordering on emergent by the time I left. As a consequence, the gospel was never to be heard, neither from the pulpit, not from times of fellowship, except with a few of my friends who felt similarly to how I felt.

cluesoWhen I left, I knew what I was looking for. I attended one or two services at a popular Baptist church and at a charismatic mainline church (I know that sounds like a contradiction but it isn’t necessarily) at which a number of my friends attended but neither preached much different to what I was used to at the Methodist church. Sermons leant topical and there was minimal to no gospel being preached.

In desperation I turned to the internet, and here God showed me kindness beyond what words can describe. I searched Google for the following words: “expository, Durban”, (Durban is the city in which I live)  There were two sites on the list, at least at that time, a Baptist church in Morningside, a bit too far away, and another in Hillcrest, somewhat closer. And the Hillcrest site there was the following phrase. “We are committed to expository preaching…”, That was what I was looking for. I took the next opportunity to attend the church (the following Sunday) and was blown away. I had only heard such things on podcasts and believe me, being their in person was a thousand times better than any podcast. What follows is a note I wrote, recording my first impressions of this church:

Tonight 09 August 09 marks the first time I’ve visited a completely new church, the Hillcrest Baptist Church (HBC). This place is unlike any church I’ve been in, even the odd Baptist churches around. The service is small in number, although it seems that morning services are bigger. I am going to begin by laying out a few observations:

  1. For better or worse, the congregation was entirely white.
  2. There was absolutely no gimmicks.
  3. There is no cross that I saw, but the pulpit is the main focus of the sanctuary.
  4. Before the service there was little talking, and a fair bit of bible reading, praying and silence (not total) before God.
  5. The songs were hymns (most modern, one or two old), rich in theology and meaning and not 7/11.
    The people in worship was interesting. The service was uncluttered and it was hard to tell how passionate people are, during the singing. From the perspective of listening, it was great, everyone sung along lustily and with great vigour, but nobody raised their hands at all or moved about much except during the chorus of one song, where two people did.
  6. No one seemed to greet me in the beginning, but I am partly to blame. I came in early, before any door stewards arrived. I raise my hand when asked if there are any visitors, and received a card containing info about a name and address type questionnaire.
  7. After the service a large number of people, mostly young, pinned me down, introduced themselves, and in one case, asked me my testimony, which I was happy to share. This kind of response has never happened before ever and anywhere, someone asking me if I am saved, then for my testimony. All the people who I talked to were in earnest about the things of God and eager to share fellowship with me, going so far as to invite me to mugg.
  8. The sermon was longer than I’m used to, about 45 mins, but that wasn’t a problem, in fact I really enjoyed the preaching (Pastor Clint Archer) and I know God was entirely glorified through it. The man is a bold character with an unusual accent. I would call it Afrikaans mixed with a little American; if that makes sense. The Text was Micah 1 vs 1 – 9 and it was what you could call a full blown expository sermon. To that end, its the best I’ve heard anywhere in the area. The man is not seeker sensitive (hallelujah) and does not water down subjects like sin, or judgment, neither does he misuse grace or mercy. First time in ages I didn’t walk out feeling depressed.
  9. The congregation is intelligent theological, the sermon was not dumbed down, so the pastor talked about doctrines such as substitutionary atonement and justification and the people followed.
  10. The passage did not appear on the screen and EVERYONE had an open bible on their lap. Virtually everyone kept it open during the sermon also.


Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to join, settle down and become a part of the family. I praise God particularly because this was the first and only church I tried that was unknown to me (I had been to the other Baptist church and the Anglican church before) and He led me straight to it. I have heard and read stories of people searching and agonising for months, trying to find a gospel preaching church, and I got one without missing a single Sunday or sitting through a slough of preaching good, bad or otherwise. He truly deserves all the glory for this, and I am amazed, even today when I think back, seeing God answer that prayer (I certainly had been praying for a new church) immediately and so powerfully.

Tomorrow I plan to post more about expository preaching, answering the question, “What is Expository preaching?” I invite you to subscribe via email (on the right-hand sidebar) to get this post delivered to your inbox. Also, have you experienced anything similar to what I have, let me know, feel free to drop a comment below.

Soli Deo Gloria

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