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Concerning the Bible

Author: Ray C. Stedman

Read the Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

In this class we are going to cover all the doctrinal elements in the PBC doctrinal statement, of
which you have a copy (The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith). Lets begin with prayer.
Thank you Father for the amazing truths of your Word, how they open our eyes to a wholly
different world than we learn about in the course of life. We pray that we may be willing to learn,
alert and instructed by the Spirit, made to understand the majesty and the glory of your Word.
What an amazing revelation this is, and we pray that as we go through this subject tonight that
you will lead us, open our minds, make us understand, teach us by the Spirit, strengthen me as
I speak. We look to you for that wonderful ministry of the Spirit, that anointing that teaches us all
things. We ask in Jesus name.
If you have read through the Doctrinal Statement now, you will notice it covers quite a number of
subjects. I want to say just a word as we begin on the importance of doctrine. I know a lot of
people dont like that word. They consider doctrine boring, but doctrine is just another word for
teaching. And teaching is what you have been subjected to all your life. Thats why you went to
school. So I hope that as we go through these very fascinating subjects you will pray the prayer
Jesus prayed which is recorded for us in the prophet Isaiah, who predicted great things about
our Lord. One of them was that he would say to the Father, Thou hast given me the ear of the
learner. We need to have the ear of the learner.
I want to try to present one of these for you in this opening session, covering the ground as
quickly as I can, and then we want to conclude after a break with an open time of questions. I
would like this course to be very practical, and seek to answer the questions that are on your
Let me now read the one we want to cover tonight, and comment on that. This is on the doctrine
of the Word of God itself. Fundamental to all teaching, of course, is the revelation of Scripture.
The great passage that deals with this which I would urge you to read sometime during this
course, is Psalm 119. This is a great psalm. The sole subject is the Word of God. You will find
some familiar teaching in it. One of them is Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his ways?
By taking heed thereto according to your Word. There are other passages Im sure you will
recognize as you go through it, but that is essential teaching concerning the Word.
I will read now the first statement concerning the Bible:
Concerning the Bible
We believe that the original writings of both Old and New Testaments were breathed out by
God to prophets, apostles, and apostolic associates by means of the Spirit, who chose the
words employed (that is, in the original documents) according to the personality and background
of the human author, and that these writings were without error and are of supreme and final
authority in the lives of believers in any age.
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
That has been a very carefully crafted statement. For a long time at PBC, we used a typical
statement used by many organizations and institutions, which was very similar but which we felt
needed to be a bit fine tuned, so this is what weve come up with. I would like to answer the
ordinary questions people ask about this, so tonight Id like to zero in on four of those questions.
1. How did we get the Bible?
2. How were the books chosen?
3. Is the Bible without error?
4. Why is it important to me?
Are there any other questions burning in your hearts that you think we ought to try to cover, or
will they subsume under these categories?
Well first, how did we get this amazing book? Im sure you know that the Bible consists of sixty-
six different books, twenty-seven in the New Testament and thirty-nine in the Old Testament.
Now there are Bibles that have more books than that. If you have a Catholic version, it has
additional books that are not in our Protestant versions. Those additional twelve books are
called the Apocrypha, and they are largely made up of books, which even Catholic scholars
early in the Christian centuries rejected as not being at the same level of scriptural truth and
presentation as the ones we have in our Protestant Bibles. For the most part they consist of
legends and somewhat mythical accounts, and a couple of them are good history but not
regarded as inspired. Ill get to the subject of inspiration in answering question three.
The total time it took to write and accumulate all the books of the Bible, Old and New
Testaments alike, was about sixteen hundred years. Thats a long time. They were written by
over forty different authors. Some were kings, like David and Solomon and others. Some were
very common people. Some of the prophets boasted they were just ordinary men. The Old
Testament prophet, Amos, said he was just a gatherer of sycamore fruit thats all he did for a
living. Others are better known men like Moses, who was highly educated in the schools of
Egypt, and Paul who also was a highly educated man. Some were common fishermen, like
Peter and John. Not much training, but taught by the Lord himself, and by the Holy Spirit. So
they come from a variety of walks of life.
The books are gathered together into two divisions, the Old and New Testaments. The canon of
Old Testament scripture was completed in about the fourth century BC. Ill say more about that
By the way, you ought to become familiar with this word canon, spelled with one n. It comes
from a word, which means ruler, a measuring stick. It is used to determine which books are
acceptable, in both Testaments. The canon of the Old Testament would be the books we
presently have. The canon of the New Testament would be the twenty-seven books we have.
(By the way, if any of you have questions as we go along, just raise your hands, because Id like
to handle them as we are in the related subjects.) Some of you may know that the word canon
is also used of individuals. In the Episcopal or Anglican Church they have canons. Thats not a
big gun; it derives from the idea of the measuring stick, someone who sets the boundaries of
church action, a church official.
The Old Testament falls into three major divisions. The Hebrews referred to them as The Law,
the Prophets, and the Writings. I said there are thirty-nine books in the Old Testament. There
are twenty-four in the Hebrew Old Testament. That is because the Jews combine certain books
and count them as one. Ezra-Nehemiah, for instance, is one book in the Hebrew Bible. I and II
Kings, I and II Chronicles, I and II Samuel are one book. That is why they come out with a
different number of books.
The Law consists of the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and
Deuteronomy. These are the books ascribed to Moses as the writer. They constitute for the
Jewish people the very heart of revelation. Everything gathers around the five books of the
Torah. It is also called the Pentateuch, which comes from the Greek meaning five books.
Then there were the prophets, and these would include all the ones we know, such as Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets beginning with Hosea through Malachi. The
prophet Daniel is an exception, and is classified in the Old Testament with the Writings. The
Writings would include books like Ruth, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, etc.
The books would be very lengthy if we handled them the way the Hebrews did. They of course
didnt have books. They had scrolls to just unroll. In a scroll not much attention is paid to chapter
divisions. You just keep reading, rolling it up as you go, so thats why they didnt divide it up as
we do. But when the book style came along, they divided them up into chapters and divisions a
little easier to handle. The book style is called a codex, and most of the books are now treated
that way. The plural is codices.
Now to come to the question of how these were chosen. The Jews of course believed that
Moses gave them the first five books, and that he received them and the teaching of them from
God himself. Included in that were the Ten Commandments, which Moses received from the
hand of God, written by the finger of God and given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Along with that came another revelation, which Moses was told to write down. God didnt write it
for him, as he did the Ten Commandments. Moses came down from the mountain with a
description of the tabernacle, for instance. By the way, its important you note that not only was
the Ten Commandments, the Law, given from Mt. Sinai, but also, at the very same time, the
tabernacle. The reason that is important is that the law is that part of the revelation of Gods own
character and nature that condemns us, and all through the Bible you will see that the law
serves to make us feel guilty. We all know as we read the Ten Commandments that we have
broken them; therefore, the effect of the law is to make us feel guilty. If all we had from God
were the Ten Commandments, we would know what God wanted, but we would all be very
disappointed in ourselves, feeling guilty and becoming very angry and rebellious because we
would know we had not kept them.
So what the tabernacle did was provide a remedy. The tabernacle is the Old Testament way of
teaching about Jesus. You see the ritual of the tabernacle, even the curtains and the divisions,
etc., are a picture of Jesus. It is also a picture of man. I cant go into this in detail now, but let me
give you just a little glimpse of this.
There are three divisions in the tabernacle, the tent of meeting of the Old Testament. There is
the outer court to which Gentiles were admitted. There is the holy place to which only the high
priests could go. And there is the holy of holies, a division of the holy place. The tabernacle
proper was divided into two sections, the holy place and the holy of holies. Into the holy of holies
only the high priest could go, and he only once a year and then only under the most rigid
conditions. He had to bring a basin of blood with him and offer it before the mercy seat. If he did
not meticulously fulfill the requirement, he would be struck dead. This is a picture of the rigidity
of the law, but the tabernacle was provided as the means of redemption, of covering over the
sins of individuals so God could dwell with his people. That of course is what Jesus does for us.
So the tabernacle is a beautiful picture of Jesus.
As I suggested, it is a picture of man because man is also in three divisions. We have the body
which is the outward part of our being which the world can touch, feel and see, etc. Then we
have a hidden part, the soul, which is our inner life, our personality, conscious existence,
thought life, volition, imagination, etc. We are the only ones who know that in any intimate detail.
Then there is the spirit within, which is still so mysterious we hardly understand what it is, but
that is the center of our being. You see that corresponds to the holy of holies. The death of
Jesus gained access to the spirit of man, and that is why the tabernacle is such a marvelous
study of man. By the way, I think the study of the tabernacle in the books of Leviticus and
Numbers is probably the most thoroughgoing psychological treatise on man that we have on
this planet. I would urge you to read them carefully, as those books that seem to be so dull are
really filled with tremendously significant meaning for us.
The Prophets were written by various men as they came along. Jeremiahs prophecies consist
largely of sermons delivered in various places, gathered up and put in book form. Isaiah does
likewise. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are the major prophets. Then come the minor prophets,
not because they are unimportant but because they are relatively short: Hosea, Joel, Amos,
Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These
are wonderful books and treat in detail what God wanted his people to know, and they are
valuable for us today.
Each of these prophets came claiming to speak for God. The most common statement of the
divine authorship of scripture are the words, the word of the Lord came to me. The prophets
utter it over and over again. Either they are liars and scalawags trying to deceive the people, or
they really did experience some way by which the word of the Lord came to them. Im sure
anyone who reads the Bible wonders, how did that happen? In what way did the word of the
Lord come to these men alone? Were not sure exactly how. The Old Testament tells that God
sometimes spoke through visions. Perhaps the man would be wide-awake, sitting in his chair,
and he would begin to see visions in the inner mind. Sometimes God spoke by dreams, and
sometimes with a still small voice within. Its a mystery how the word of God was actually
spoken to men. But universally, through both the Old and New Testaments, these men claim
that they spoke by the authority of God. God had taught them what to say. That is one of the
major ways by which it was determined which was an authentic book and which was not.
These prophets not only spoke the mind of God to people, gave them Gods viewpoint of life,
forth-telling what God wanted to say, but they also, along with that, predicted the future. The
reason was to establish their validity as a prophet. Every prophet had to predict some event that
would take place in the course of his own life, so that people could check on him. Those
prophets who predicted something that didnt happen were to be stoned, because they were
false prophets.
I think it would eliminate a lot of people today if we followed that procedure. Jean Dixon and
some of the others have made many prophecies that have not come true. You can pick up one
of these tabloid newspapers and every year they have psychics and others who predict events.
If you check up on them, as I have done, you will find that only about twenty per cent of their
prophecies only remotely come true. If they were subjected to the treatment the Old Testament
prescribes for that, it would cut down the incidents quite severely. But they did check up on
them and they did reject some because they were false prophets. Read the prophecy of
Jeremiah, for instance where he tells of some encounters he had with some whose prophecies
proved to be false and they were rejected.
Now the Writings came from various individuals. King Solomon wrote Proverbs and Song of
Solomon. We dont know who wrote Ruth. Some of the writers are unknown to us, but at the
time they wrote were recognized as valid prophets. So gradually, over the course of the
centuries, there came into being books the Jews greatly treasured because they opened up
their minds to understanding how God thought.
One of the great proofs that these books are from the hand of God, and a partial answer to the
question of how the books were chosen, is the fact that the Bible does not contradict itself. Im
sure you have heard skeptics tell you the Bible is full of contradictions. It is not so. Like any form
of communication, there are problems and difficulties to reconcile at times. Ill come back to this
more fully when we come to the question of whether the Bible is without error. But the fact is
that it blends together, that you can take a book like Genesis and read it through, then turn to
the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation written sixteen hundred years later, and find
the two books clearly tied together by trains of thought. Then you can find that some of the
prophets, such as Daniel, tie in strongly with the book of Revelation. The book of Leviticus ties
in very closely with the book of Hebrews. There could be no possible collusion between the
writers of these books; nevertheless they agree and blend together. One is based upon another,
sometimes deliberately, sometimes indirectly. But it is very evident that another mind is behind it
all. It is that quality of scripture that makes you aware that you are dealing with a product that
man could not produce. He could not make it fit that way, and that marks it as Gods book.
Take for instance the book of Hebrews. The writer is thoroughly acquainted with the Old
Testament, yet what he is writing about is Jesus. He is therefore writing about someone whom
the Jews, the writers of the Old Testament, did not accept at all, yet he proves in a most
remarkable way that Jesus fulfills all these things. He is therefore dealing with history. Now he
cant make up history; it is too well known by others and can be checked on. The fact that his
historic account of the life, teachings and works of Jesus agrees with an Old Testament book
written hundreds of years before is far beyond the ability of someone to imaginatively create.
Everyone who works with the Old Testament agrees that this collusion is something that cant
be produced by some artifice.
The New Testament books were assembled in a somewhat similar manner. As far as we know,
the first writings of the New Testament were probably by the Apostle Paul. Some of the gospels
may have been written fairly early. Dr. W. F. Albright, tops in the field of biblical archeology,
came to Stanford when I first came to Palo Alto and gave a series of lectures, which I went to
hear. At the end of his lecture I went to him and said, Dr. Albright, would you tell me what you
feel is the earliest writings of the New Testament books. He said, it seems to me there is
considerable evidence that one or two of the gospels were written at least by 70 AD and
probably before that.
Many people are troubled by the fact that these gospels were not written earlier than that. Jesus
himself ministered in something like 30 to 33 AD, and the disciples were with him. Why dont we
have gospels that date back to, say, 40 AD? The reason is that these men were not writers.
They didnt particularly plan to write things down. They were preachers. They had been sent out
to proclaim the truth by Jesus. He said, Go and preach the gospel. And that is what they did.
But these events that they were preaching from the life of Jesus, the death and the resurrection
and all, were such tremendous events, and they had preached them so powerfully, telling the
story over and over again, that the events would be deeply impressed upon their minds. They
didnt forget anything. Furthermore, Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit would bring to their
remembrance things that he had said to them. As they began to grow old and it was evident
that the Lord was not coming back as quickly as they had thought he would, they began to write
down some of what they had learned from and about him. The gospel of Luke was written by a
medical doctor, who traveled as a companion of Paul. It is not certain, but most scholars feel he
was probably a Gentile. If so, he is the only Gentle writer of scripture. He made a careful
investigation of the events he recorded. If you open to the gospel of Luke you will see how he
tells us himself how he proceeded. He is writing to a Roman friend of his named Theophilus.
When I read that name I think of a sermon I once heard by a country preacher who said he got
that name because the doctor who attended his birth looked at him and said, thats the
awfullest baby I think Ive ever seen. (Just to keep you awake.)
Notice his introduction: ..many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things which
have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first
were eyewitnesses and servants of the word (NIV). You see he recognizes that others had
written this account, writing down what they had actually heard from those who were with the
Lord and had served with him. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything
from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most
excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
He states very clearly his investigation. It is quite likely that he interviewed Mary, the mother of
Jesus, because Lukes gospel alone includes the account of Marys genealogy and the very
intimate account of the birth of Jesus.
The book of Acts, which he also wrote begins in a similar way. He says, In my former book,
Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up
to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
Now Mark was not one of the twelve apostles, but was a close associate of the Apostle Peter.
Peter in his first letter refers to him. He says his son Mark sends greetings to those who
received that letter. Mark probably wrote in Rome, and most feel he probably wrote down the
memoirs of Peter. So in Mark, which is the shortest gospel and probably the earliest, you have
a short but very gripping and alive account of the teachings and doings of Jesus.
Matthew was, of course, a disciple. He is called Levi in some of the gospels. He wrote down
what he remembered Jesus had said, and he too seems to rely upon some of the other
accounts that had been written by then.
John was also one of the disciples, and it is very clear that he did not write his gospel until about
90 to 100 AD. His Gospel of John is the last of the Bible to be written. His letters are earlier, and
he also wrote the Book of Revelation somewhat earlier. He wrote the Gospel of John probably
very late in his life. But remember, they had been preaching these stories and events for
decades, and they were guided in them by the Spirit of God Himself, so that the early church
received these as coming from an apostolic hand.
Thirteen letters of the New Testament were written by Paul. Some have ascribed his name also
to the Book of Hebrews. I am just now writing a commentary on Hebrews and I am finally
convinced that it was not Paul who wrote it. One of our favorite jokes in seminary was who
wrote Pauls letter to the Hebrews? Something like who lies in Grants tomb? I think it was not
Paul, but someone very closely associated with Paul. If you want me to let you in on a secret, I
think it was probably either Apollos or Silas, who was one of Pauls companions who traveled
widely with him. Pauls theology is in Hebrews all the way through, but Pauls language is not
there, especially in the Greek text.
Of course Peter wrote, and some of the books of the New Testament were not immediately
received by the church. II Peter was questioned for a long time, and II and III John were not at
once received. James had a struggle. Even Luther did not accept the epistle of James. Because
they didnt understand the teachings of these books and felt they conflicted with certain
teachings of Paul, the church struggled with this. I should say in answering the question how
were the books chosen?, It was not done as many have been taught, that councils of the
church gathered in about the third and fourth century and began then to choose for the first time
the books that were to be in the Bible.
It was not done that way. Someone has even proposed the idea, and its amazing how much it
has been accepted, that what they did at one of these councils was take all of the books that
claimed to be sacred, throw them under the table, reach down blind-folded and pull out some
which they called the books of the Bible.
What they did was to choose the books that had already been widely accepted by the church. I
would urge you to get into your library a book by F. F. Bruce. He will give you the dates and
times, how the choices were made things I cannot go into now. The name of the book is Are
the New Testament Documents Reliable? by F. F. Bruce, Professor of Bible at Manchester
University, Manchester, England. He is a marvelous and very trustworthy scholar, one of the
greatest scholars alive today. He has just published a brand new book called The Canon of
Scripture which I just got last week.
While Im talking about books, there are some popular ones that perhaps make it a little easier
to understand. Theres one called The Battle for the Bible, by Harold Lindsell, Editor Emeritus
of Christianity Today and for a long time Professor at Fuller Seminary and Eastern Baptist
Seminary as well. Dr. Lindsells book deals with the question of inerrancy, is the Bible without
error. Also J. I. Packer, who is now at Regent College in Vancouver B.C., has written a book
Beyond the Battle for the Bible. These are good books, presented in popular style yet cover
the subject well.
The question raised is about the relationship between the claims of scripture and the scholarly
support for them, which I will try to answer. We must understand that no one has the original
writings of either the New or the Old Testaments. They are long gone. If you ever run across
one, call me collect from anywhere on earth. You would have your fortune made. I was in
London some time ago, went into the British Museum and saw the manuscript called the
Sinaiticus, which was discovered on Mt. Sinai by Count vonTishendorf, a Russian.
(Tape blackout here) .in Germany in the 18th century and the early part of the 20th, that
almost totally destroyed the historicity of the New Testament. There has been much argument
about that, and many scholars have written about it. Much of it has been exploded and shown to
be false, so that unless you care to get into that kind of thing, I think you would be well advised
to simply accept the biblical text as we have it today as a trustworthy version that has been very
carefully examined. No book in the world has been worked on and studied as much as the
Bible. Nothing even remotely approaches the amount of work done on the biblical text. You can
therefore receive it as an authentic text.
Perhaps the most famous quotation about the Bible from the Bible is II Timothy 3:16. You all
know John 3:16. Remember this 3:16. How many of you can quote it? All Scripture is God-
breathed (a better translation than the King James, which says all Scripture is inspired by God.
Inspired means to breathe in. The word is actually to breathe out. God has expelled the Bible
from his mouth, breathed it out, and that is what this text says: All Scripture is God-breathed
and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of
God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In other words, Scripture is all you need
to make you grow up into a mature individual. That doesnt mean it covers all subjects and
eliminates all necessity to go to school or learn anything else. But as far as the moral
development of a human being into a full-fledged man or woman, Scripture has that knowledge.
All Scripture refers to both the Old and New Testaments. Peter, for instance, speaks of Pauls
writings, and says, you know how our beloved brother, Paul, has written some things that are
hard to understand. You can sympathize with Peter when you read some of Pauls writings,
which Peter says some people use to distort the other Scriptures. Nevertheless, he speaks of
Paul as a writer of the Word of God.
I want to emphasize that all the authority upon which the Bible rests is really the authority of
Jesus himself. I believe that no Christian has the right to say that Jesus is wrong about his view
of Scripture, yet that is what the critics do. I received a book on the Psalms some time ago
published by an evangelical institution, in which the writer says it is highly questionable whether
Moses had ever lifted up a serpent on a pole in the wilderness--that this was a myth, a legend
that had come down from a priestly origin and not likely to be historic. That can sound very
impressive as a scholar who sounds like he knows what he is talking about. But when you read
the words of Jesus in the New Testament, what does that do to his statement, as Moses lifted
up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up? What that writer is
really saying is that if the story of Moses is a myth, so is the story of the cross. Therefore it is
directly challenging the authority of Jesus.
Most of the critical approaches to Old and New Testaments alike fall into that category. If you
think it through it is actually a challenge to the authority of Jesus. Did he know what he was
talking about? Anyone who has become a Christian and sees him as the Lord and reads the
New Testament, sees his intimate knowledge of human life and the way he spoke with authority
on everything, is hard put to challenge his authority and say that he knows more than Jesus.
Jesus said the Scripture cannot be broken. You remember on the walk to Emmaus with his
disciples it says he began with Moses and the prophets and showed to them all the things that
were written concerning Himself.
He thoroughly understood the Old Testament and validates it consistently. In the Sermon on
the Mount in chapter five of Matthew he says, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law
or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until
heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any
means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. He is referring to the Torah,
the five books of Moses, and he validates everything in it, so that we must understand that
ultimately the reason we accept the Bible is because Jesus has validated the Old Testament
and authorized the New Testament. He tells the Apostles as he sent them out that the Holy
Spirit would teach them what to say and that he would bring to their minds everything he had
said to them. That is why the New Testament books are accepted because they come from the
Apostles, either directly from the hand of an Apostle himself or from someone closely
associated with an Apostle.
Look at another text found in I Thessalonians 2:13. The Apostle is writing to this church, which
is undergoing persecution, where he had recently been. He says: And we also thank God
continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you
accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God
You see he was very clear about the fact that he was speaking by inspiration, that God was
putting into his mind, not dictating these words. Never think of inspiration as a kind of dictation,
but that through his personality, his background and cultural training, etc., he expressed the
thoughts that came to his mind. They had a definite Pauline flavor. They reflected his
personality, which was different from that of Peter or James or John. But they were the thoughts
of God.
Another passage that clearly establishes this is the second chapter of I Corinthians. Notice how
clearly he puts it in verse 10: But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. He is referring to
something earlier in the chapter: ...we speak of Gods secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been
hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. God knows things humans dont
Moses, the writer of Deuteronomy, says that the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but
the things that have been revealed are for us and for our children. Jesus referred to some of
things God knows that we dont know. He says to the disciples in the opening chapter of Acts
after the resurrection: It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own
authority. That is why no one can set dates or predict events, because we do not understand
time, and we never will. We have to recognize these limitations. We must be content to live with
mystery when we are reading the scriptures, because Gods wisdom is far beyond ours.
Back to I Corinthians 2:10: The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who
among men knows the thoughts of a man except the mans spirit within him? In the same way
no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of
the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the
Spirit Here is a clear claim that what he says is not merely his own thoughts. They were his
own thoughts, but they had a higher dimension to them: they were the words of God, put into his
mind to express according to his personality.
One further reference, which touches on the Old Testament as well, found in II Peter 1:16: We
did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. Now he is the worlds greatest liar
or this is true, for he goes on to say: For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, This is my Son, whom I love; with
him I am well pleased. We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were
with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain,
and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day
dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no
prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. (Actually in the Greek the
word is not interpretation, but more origination. The man did not originate what he said.) For
prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried
along by the Holy Spirit.
I said one more, but there is still another, in I Peter 1:10, 11: Concerning this salvation, the
prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the
greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them
was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. That
is amazing, isnt it. What he is saying here is that men like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Daniel
and Hosea, Joel and all the prophets, when speaking of Christ, did not thoroughly understand
what they were saying. When they finished they sat down and studied their own writings to see
what they meant, and puzzled over them.
And Peter goes on to say: It was revealed to them (by the Spirit) that they were not serving
themselves (this was not just for them) but you, when they spoke of the things that have now
been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from
heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. What a remarkable book we have! The
angels long to understand as well, and are watching the unfolding of these events as history
takes its course according to Gods program.
Ill just say a word about whether the Bible is without error, and end with the last question, why
is it important to us? Is the Bible without error? Well, here is a Bible. Its the New International
Version. Its been done by painstaking work of evangelical scholars. Some of them are personal
friends of mine. Dr. Bruce Waltke, who will be here at the mens retreat, is one of those scholars
who worked on the Old Testament for this version. Is this Bible without error? No, it has errors in
it. It makes statements in one place that seem to be contradicted by another. It is this that has
given rise to the complaint of many that the Bible is full of contradictions.
When I say this book has errors in it, its because this is not the original text of scripture, either
in the Old or the New Testaments. It is based upon the best versions we possess, the many
thousands of them in the hands of scholars who have studied and worked over them carefully.
But they cannot eliminate all error. However, most of the errors we now recognize are still here
are very minor. Usually its the spelling of a word, or a statement about some insignificant event.
For instance, one of the things often pointed out is when Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to
preach during his lifetime, on one occasion, as Matthew says, he told them to take a staff with
them. But when Mark reports it, Jesus says dont take a staff with you. How do you reconcile
that? We are too far removed from these events to be able to reconcile them. But the fact that
there is variation from one text to another does not mean that there was error in the original
All we are required to do is recognize the possibility that some scribe copied the wrong thing. It
is easy in copying to omit a word. Perhaps in both cases what he said was do not take a staff
with you, but in the copying process one scribe dropped out the not so that it said do take a
staff with you. Copies of that have come down to us, and through another process copies of the
other, and that is how error creeps in.
This kind of thing happens all the time. For instance, after an automobile accident you read the
account of the police, a witness, and your own account, and one will put in details that are not in
anothers. Its a common phenomenon in recording events, and in fact it is one of the ways you
can know the event actually happened. Scholars know that when versions omit some things and
put in others its evidence you are dealing with an authentic account.
But that does not mean it is in the original text. That is why this statement says: We believe that
theoriginalwritings of both Old and New Testaments were breathed out by God to prophets,
apostles, and apostolic associates (such as Luke and Timothy and others) by means of the
Spirit, who chose the words employed according to the personality and background of the
human author, and that these writings were without error and are of supreme and final authority
in the lives of believers in any age.
(Class question) We have a question about the variations in accounts of the words of Jesus,
and events which are virtually the same but somewhat different in some of the gospels. Some of
that may be attributed to textual error that has crept in. Some of it may be due to what we have
just looked at in Pauls first writing to the Corinthians. The culture, background, personality of
the writer tends to emphasize some things and not others. That is why it is almost certain that
when you have three or four people recording the same event, they will record it differently.
Their thoughts about it will be different.
(Responding to comment from someone in the class). Yes, that is very true. She is pointing out
that these variations in accounts may be due to the fact that Jesus said things in different ways
on different occasions. She used the illustration that this is what I do on Sunday mornings when
I preach two sermons, which do not always come out the same by any means. As a matter of
fact, it is quite clear that our Lord repeated these messages from time to time. The Sermon on
the Mount in Matthew was delivered on the mountain. The Sermon in Luke was delivered
beside the sea. These were probably different occasions on which he preached similar
Its a marvelous thing that we have these different accounts given in different ways by different
individuals. That is why the scriptures are so important to us. A text that has meant so much to
me is Romans 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind. In other words, start thinking differently about life than the world
around thinks about it. This is a very radical step that is being taken. If someone needs to
change behavior, they need to change the way they think. Change their value system, their
outlook and attitudes, and their behavior will change automatically. The way to not be
conformed to the world is to have the scriptures change your mind, being renewed in your mind
by the Spirit. That is why the Word of God is so vitally important.
I have had young Christians tell me about the dramatic changes that came into their lives after
they came to Christ. They didnt realize they were changing, but their thoughts and their
attitudes were different. A new Christian was asked, Do you believe in the miracles of Jesus?
He said, Yes! The questioner said, Do you believe that story about changing water into wine?
He said, Yes, I do. Well why do you believe that, he was asked. He replied, Because in my
house, Jesus changed beer into furniture.
(Class question) The question is regarding the cultural influences on the Greek language at the
time of the New Testament vs. modern culture. There are obvious changes in todays culture,
and that is why anyone who tries to understand the Bible has to find out enough about the
culture of Bible days to put himself or herself back into that picture. Many events are colored by
approaches and statements that have to be understood as idioms of that time. There are some
very good books on that. Life in Bible Times is one. Usually a Bible dictionary will be very
helpful. An encyclopedia of Bible knowledge will help a great deal. There are reference works
that will remedy that. One of my favorites is called the Wycliffe Historical and Geographical
Commentary, published by Moody Press, I think.
Well time is gone, and its been a lot of fun. Next time we will look at the doctrine of God. We
believe there is but one true God, who eternally exists as three distinct persons, Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit, who exclusively share in the work of creation, maintenance of the universe,
redemption and judgment. Well answer questions about the Trinity next time.
Concerning God
Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: Isaiah 55:8-9

Lets begin with prayer:
Thank you, our heavenly Father, for this opportunity to again open your Word and study it. What
an amazing book this is! How desperately we need its truth in order to understand reality, to see
things the way they really are. Grant to us, Father, as we approach the doctrine of your own
self-disclosure that we may, as much as possible, be able to grasp the wonder and mystery of a
God like you. We ask for the guidance of the Spirit as we look at these things together. In
Christs name, Amen.
Tonight we are covering the second of the Doctrinal Statement of this church.
Concerning God
We believe there is but one true God, who eternally exists as three distinct persons, Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, who exclusively share in the work of creation, maintenance of the
universe, redemption and judgment.
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
That is a nut shell summary of a great deal of truth in the scriptures. There is a passage in the
prophecy of Isaiah where God speaks through the prophet about himself in relationship to us.
You ought to commit it to memory because it is so important:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As
the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts
than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Theologians call that a revelation of the transcendence of God. He is beyond us, the Holy
Other, as Karl Barth calls him. Now that is a bit tricky, because if God were entirely different
from us it would be impossible for us to know anything about him, even if he told us. Of course
we are also told that we are made in the image of God, so that there is a resemblance between
God and us. In some sense, it is a low level resemblance, because as we have just read, his
ways are higher and his thoughts are different from ours. This is why we must never be
surprised if God does something we dont understand. He tells us he will do that kind of thing.
Therefore, the only way we would ever be able to comprehend who God is and what he is like is
if he himself tells us.
This is why the revelation of God in Scripture is so important for us. We would not be able to
understand what God is like and what we ourselves are like if we did not have this revelation.
Many people have trouble with that. I think it is almost universal for us to imagine God as sort of
an enormous man, very much like us. And we have great difficulty when we are confronted with
any part of his being which acts or thinks differently than we do. We tend to think of God as a
man projected into infinity. But the Scriptures tell us that this is not true.
Of two important things God has declared about himself, first of all, there is only one God. This
is in opposition to all the polytheistic theories existent in the world today. The New Age
movement, for instance, claims there are an infinite number of gods, and that they appear in
various forms, reappear at various times, and man is related to them in a pantheistic manner.
Now the New Age movement is not alone in that. Nearly all pagan religions claim there are
many gods. That idea has arisen largely because of the existence of what the Bible reveals is
the world of demons or angels. Angels and demons (who are fallen angels) are higher than
man. Any encounter between angels and man makes men think they are encountering God.
This is probably why polytheism is such a widespread idea in the world and always has been,
because man is in touch at times with demonic or angelic beings, which gives rise to such
But we share with the Jews and with the Muslims the conviction that there is only one God. God
reveals himself that way in many places, notably again in Isaiah 40-48. This is a great section
where God declares he is but one God, there is no other. He is above and beyond all other
beings that are called gods, and exists as one God. As you know, the Jews have made much of
that. The central declaration of their theology is in Deuteronomy 6:4, where Moses says: Hear,
O Israel: Jehovah, our Elohim, our God is but one God. This became the central premise of
Jewish faith.
Christians also believe that there is but one God. We dont believe in three Gods. But many
think when we talk about the Trinity we are really believing in three Gods. They usually put it
something like this, that mathematically if you express it this way--one person plus one person
plus one person--how do you come out with one? Youre talking about three, not one God.
Thomas Jefferson, for instance, called the doctrine of the Trinity incomprehensible jargon.
But it is possible to express mathematically the nature of God as Trinity and still come out with
one. How is it done? One times one times one equals one, of course. So you see it is possible
to blend persons and still retain a unity. This is the Christian doctrine of God. How did we arrive
at that? The Old Testament focuses upon the oneness of God, and declares it many times. If
you talk with Jewish friends about the nature of God, they will stress that point.
But when you come to the New Testament, it soon becomes evident that God must exist in a
somewhat different form than a single uni-modal entity. This arose largely out of the conviction
to which the Apostles eventually came, that Jesus was God. They must have struggled with
that. Ive often wondered how they ever arrived at that conclusion. They where Jews, trained to
think of God only as a single unity one God. In fact they were taught that anyone who denied
the unity of God was not worthy of living longer and was put to death. Yet, trained as they were
to think that way, as they lived and walked and worked with Jesus, and saw and heard him,
there came a gradually increasing conviction in their hearts that this was more than man.
You can trace that through the Gospels. Remember how amazed they were at some of the
things he said and did, when he stilled the wind and waves with just a word of command,
Peace, be still! Mark records they said to one another, What kind of man is this, that even the
winds and the waves obey him? That isnt simply a magician. Actually, the storm they were
encountering on the Sea of Galilee was very severe, and the account makes clear that when
Jesus spoke the words of command, Peace, be still, there was an instant stillness. The lake
immediately reverted to mirror-like surface, instead of gradually dying down as the sea does
when the wind stops. This tremendously impressed the disciples. His miracles were very
impressive, and I think more than anything else, his words, his claims were what convinced
them he was God.
At any rate, you know how at the end of the three years they had with him, as he was up in the
northern part at the foot of Mt. Hermon, at Caesarea Philippi, he asked the question, Who do
men say that I am? They reported some of the local rumors that he was Elijah, or John the
Baptist risen from the dead. Then after all the months and years of observation, hearing him and
watching his spotless life, he put it to them directly, Who do you say that I am? You remember
Peter, speaking for all of them, said, You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. That is a
divine title in the Hebrew vocabulary, and when Peter said that he was acknowledging in the
presence of the others, and evidently with their consent, that Jesus was indeed God.
Well, subsequent Christian theology had to deal with that fact. It meant that the early disciples
had to somewhat change their minds about the teaching of the Bible concerning who God was,
and incorporate this. And of course it was complicated even further by the fact that Jesus taught
them in the upper room discourse in John 13-17 that he was going to send the Spirit from the
Father and from him, and that the Spirit would perform various ministries. He would bring to
their minds the things Jesus had said, fill them, and in some sense make the reality of God the
Father, and the Son, to dwell in them, and they would sense and feel that God was in them.
They then began to see the Spirit, which was frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, was
more than just an emanation from God, a kind of force from God, but that he was another being
of the Triune nature of God.
Then early on in the Christian church you find the Holy Spirit being treated as God as well. You
recall in the early part of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira tried to gain a reputation for a degree of
commitment to the cause of Christ, which they did not really deserve. All the people were selling
their land and houses and giving the money to the disciples. Ananias and Sapphira sold some
land and brought some money, giving the impression that it was the whole price of the land they
sold. But Peter, led of the Spirit, realized that they had held back part of it. You remember he
said to them, Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit? Then he further says, You have not lied to
men but to God. So it became very apparent early in the church that the Holy Spirit was being
treated as and called God, just as the Father and the Son. This is what has given rise to the
doctrine of the Trinity.
Someone always points out that the word Trinity is not in the Bible. How can you believe in it
when the Bible doesnt teach it? It is true, the word Trinity is not in the Bible, but the idea is
clearly there. There are other words frequently used that are not in the Bible. Sunday school,
for instance, is not there. But no one questions we have a duty to teach our children and have a
school for that purpose. Other words frequently bandied about today are not in the Scriptures,
such as the term eschatology, or premillennialism, but these ideas are clearly in the
Scriptures. And so it is with the doctrine of the Trinity.
Now if you search through some of the verses of the New Testament you will find the idea of the
Trinity clearly in the forefront. For instance, at the baptism of Jesus, recorded in the first chapter
of Johns gospel, John refers to all three members of the Trinity. We read: The next day John
saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Behold, the Lamb of God;. Who is God in the thinking
of that time? It is the Father, isnt it? Then, after the baptism, he says, I have seen and testified
that this is the Son of God. From the Old Testament, that is clearly a divine title.
You will find it in the book of Proverbs 30:4, Agur son of Jakeh raises the question: Who has
ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has
wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his
name, and what is his sons name? Surely you know! So even in the Old Testament, even
though his name was not known, and there was mystery connected with it, nevertheless there is
recognition that God has a Son. So John calls Jesus the Son of God. And then he says, I saw
the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. (John 1:32)
Perhaps the clearest statement of the Trinity is found in Matthew at the close of the Great
Commission. Jesus said (28:19): Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Notice, one name but three
persons; this clearly is a statement of the three-person God.
Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthians with a reference to the Trinity in a well-known
and often quoted benediction: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the
communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (II Corinthians 13:14). He places all three persons
on the same level. Then again in Ephesians 2:18 we have another statement of this: for
through him (that is, Jesus) we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. He sees the
persons of the Godhead as working together.
There are others, but one more is sufficient to make the case. I Peter 1:20-22, speaking of
Jesus: He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of
the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the
dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have purified your
souls in obeying the truth by the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren
So there are these many places where the doctrine of the Trinity underlies and is interwoven
throughout the texts of Scripture. Someone put it well by saying; the doctrine of the Trinity is in
the Bible like the salt is in the sea. You can taste it everywhere, but you cant very well
separate it out, because it is so grounded in the very nature of God himself. Now as you know
there are places where the Son is clearly called God. John 1:1 is a noteworthy one: In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Despite the
arguments of the Jehovahs Witnesses who try to take that verse apart and make it something
less, that is clearly a statement of what the Greek text says. You will find it again in John 20:28.
Both at the beginning and the close of Johns gospel he makes this very clear. Thomas replies
to Jesus after the resurrection: Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God! This from one of
the disciples own lips. That is probably enough. I could give you other references to jot down
and look them up for yourselves: I Timothy 3:16; Hebrew 1:8. Then the Spirit is treated as God
in Hebrews 9:14; I Peter 3:18; I Peter 1:21.
Even when you begin to clearly see from the New Testament that there is no escaping the
Triune doctrine of God, you will find it in the Old Testament as well. There are rather hidden
references to God in the Old Testament. In the very beginning, in Genesis 1 we read God
said, and the name of God given to us is Elohim. Elohim is a Hebrew plural. There are three
forms in the Hebrew. There is the singular, dual (only two persons), then three or more which is
expressed by the ending I AM. This is clearly that three or more persons, Elohim God. Elohim
said, Let us make man in our image. Who is us? The Jews say that is a plural of majesty, of
grandeur like a king or emperor who says we do and he only means himself. Actually, the
plural would suggest more than one being in God.
Even in the famous statement I quoted to you from Deuteronomy 6, which is the central point of
faith of Jewish theology, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God, the word one is
interesting. There are two words in Hebrew for one. There is echad andyachad.Yachadmeans a
single unit; such as I am holding up one piece of chalk. It cannot be two; it is not divisible.
But echad is a plural unity, unity in diversity, and this is the one used in the statement in
Deuteronomy 6. It is also used in the story of Adam and Eve when it says, they became one
flesh. They didnt become one person, but they became one flesh, two persons in one. It is
frequently used this way in the Scriptures.
Anyone who studies the Bible at any length, soon has to come to an understanding that God
exists as a three-fold being. Father, Son and Spirit. Many have tried to illustrate that. Several
illustrations have been suggested, none of which I think very satisfactory. One is the idea of an
egg, with the outer shell and the two inner divisions of white and yolk, and this is sometimes
used to illustrate the nature of God. Maybe this is the origin of the Easter egg. It is used as an
early symbol in Christian churches, and it may be that they thought of it as a representation of
the Trinity. However, it is not very satisfactory, and Ill show you why in just a moment.
Another illustration that is widely used is the three states of water. Water can be found as liquid,
as a solid when frozen, and as invisible vapor when heated. Therefore it is said to be like the
Trinity. It has three parts, each different from the others. Thats a little closer than the egg, but it
isnt very satisfactory, and here is the reason why.
The word Trinity is a shortened form of the word tri-unity, three-in-one. The nature of a tri-
unity is remarkable. In a tri-unity, there are not just three parts, but each one of the parts
contains the whole. That is the difference. An egg doesnt do that. The shell is not the yolk or
the white, and it does not include them, nor do the other parts. But in a tri-unity, each of the
parts is equal to the whole. Thats hard to grasp, isnt it? But that is what God is like. The Father
is wholly God; the Son is wholly God; the Spirit is wholly God.
When I was a student at Dallas Seminary, one rainy day I was browsing around the library
trying to find something to read, and I stumbled across a small, dusty book way back on one of
the book shelves that I had not seen before. It hadnt been checked out much, but the title
intrigued me. It was called The Secret of The Universe. I thought this was a strange place to
be running into the secret of the universe, on the dusty back shelf of a library, but if thats what it
is Id like to find out. I checked it out and read it, and Ive never read a book that had more
profound impact on me than that amazing book. Its author was the President of Gordon College
and Seminary back in the 30s. His name is Dr. Nathan R. Wood.
He made the statement at the beginning of the book that Gods image as a triune being is
stamped everywhere in the universe. It isnt difficult to illustrate it if you know what to look for.
Its everywhere. And then he proceeded to show that that is true. He said that for instance there
are three widely accepted parts of the universe. There is time, and space, and matter. Those
elements make up the universe. There is nothing else, outside of God himself. And each of
those is a tri-unity. Time is made up of the three things and each includes the whole, likewise
space and matter. For instance, take matter; that is, all the visible things in the universe.
Anything you can see makes up matter. It always consists of three things: energy, motion and
phenomena; that is the thing you finally see. If you go to the Stanford linear accelerator and ask
them about this, they will say yes, it is true. Everything is energy.
Energy is invisible, but everything in the whole universe is made up of energy. But more than
that, it is made up of motion, because energy is constantly in motion. Therefore, everything in
the universe, the whole of matter, is also motion. But more than that, motion manifests itself in
visible objects, in phenomena. Therefore, everything in the universe is made up of phenomena.
You see how each of the three divisions actually includes and consists of the whole. That is a
Space is the same. We might imagine, for instance, that this room contains all of space. Now
space is made up of three dimensions, no more. Time is said to be another dimension, but
actually its a particular division of the universe. But space is made up of the dimensions of
vertical, horizontal and breadth, and everything in this room has those three dimensions. If you
have a good imagination, you can picture vertical lines that run up and down, that would fill this
whole room. Can you imagine that? That means that the dimension of vertical fills up the whole
of space, and space is all vertical. But you can also imagine it running horizontal and filling up
the whole room, so horizontal fills all of space. Or breadth, likewise, would fill up all of space. So
you have three dimensions, each consisting of the whole. That is a tri-unity.
You have some sheets on Time, and I want you to read that with me, because our author has
done a wonderful job of showing how this fits. Turn to the section that says, What is time?
Lets read this together, and Ill comment as we go.
The makeup of everything is always three-fold: space, time and matter. Time also consists of
three dimensions: past, present and future. This is always from the standpoint of an observer. If
you dont have an observer, you dont have time. He says, We cannot experience it in any
other way. Thats true, but though we usually list it as past, present and future, the actual flow
of time is the reverse. We think of the past, and now we are in the present, and we are going
into the future. But he says, no. Time comes out of the future, through the present, into the
You can see how that is true. Two weeks ago, what were we all looking forward to? The super
bowl. Right! It was in the future, wasnt it? Then as we moved closer to it Sunday arrived, and it
became the present and consumed everyones attention. Now as we sit here it has gone into
the past. So you see the flow of time is from the future, into the present, and into the past. The
future is the source. The future is unseen and unknown, except as it continually embodies itself
and becomes visible in the present. We can only guess at the future until it becomes the
present. When it becomes the present, then we know what the future was, because now we see
it. The present is what we see and hear and know. We know where we now are, what we are
doing, and this is the present. It is ceaselessly embodying the future. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour,
moment-by-moment, its perpetually revealing what the future was, hitherto invisible to us.
Read on: The future is logically first, but it is not chronologically. That is, it doesnt precede it in
time. For the present exists as long as time exists, and is co-existent with time. There has
always been a present when there is time. Time acts through and in the present. It makes itself
visible only in the present. Its in the present that the future becomes a part of human life and so
is born and lives and dies in human life. The past, in turn, comes from the present. What we are
doing here tomorrow will be the past, wont it? It does not embody the present. On the contrary,
time in issuing from the present into the past becomes invisible again. We cant see the past.
We can see the present. We cant see the future, we cant see the past, but we know what it
was because its then in the present. And so the past proceeds silently, endlessly, invisibly from
the present.
The fourth paragraph says, But the present is not the source of the past which proceeds from it.
Its the future that is the source of both the present and the past. It all starts in the future. It
comes to us, then proceeds through us to the past. Back of the present is the future out of which
the present comes. The past issues and proceeds from the future, through the present, and
becomes the past. The present therefore comes out from the invisible future and perpetually
and ever newly embodies the future, in visible, audible, livable form, and returns again into
invisible time as the past. The past acts invisibly. It continually influences us with regard to the
present. How do you make decisions in the present? On the basis of what you have seen in the
past, dont you. It casts light upon the present. Thats its great function. It helps us to live in the
present which we know, and with reference to the future which we expect to see. (Comment
from the class good analogy is looking through your rear view mirror as you drive).
Now turn over the page. Without changing any words except the nouns and the pronouns, he
says the same thing. God consists of three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. We cannot
experience him in any other way. But though we usually list him as Father, Son and Spirit, the
actual experience of God is different. We first meet the Son, just as we meet the present, by
means of the Spirit, and then the Father. The Father is the Son. This is what the Bible keeps
saying. Jesus said, My Father has sent me to you. And he returns to the Father. The Father is
unseen and unknown except as he continually embodies himself, makes himself visible in the
Son. What did Jesus say in the upper room? My Father and I are one. The Son has come to
reveal the Father. The Son is who we see and hear and know. He is ceaselessly embodying
him, making the Father visible. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment, he is
perpetually revealing the Father, who hitherto was invisible.
The Father is logically first, but not chronologically. He is not older than the Son. The Son
exists as long as the Father exists, and is co-existent with the Father. That is good theology.
The Father acts in and through the Son. He makes himself visible only in the Son. Its in the
Son that the Father becomes a part of human life, and so is born and lives and dies in human
life. Now the Spirit in turn comes from the Son. Just as the past comes out of the present, so the
Spirit comes from the Son. He does not embody the Son, because you cant see the Spirit any
more than you can see the past. On the contrary, God in issuing from the Son into the Spirit,
becomes invisible again. The Spirit proceeds silently, endlessly, invisibly from the Son. But the
Son is not the source of the Spirit which proceeds from him. The Father is the source of both the
Son and the Spirit. Back of the Spirit is the Father, out of which comes the Son. The Spirit
issues and proceeds from the Father to the Son. Thats again good Christian theology.
The Son therefore comes out from the invisible Father, perpetually and ever newly makes
visible the Father, in visible, audible form. He that has seen me, Jesus said, has seen the
Father. Jesus says, he is just like me. And he returns to God again in the Spirit. So the Spirit
acts invisibly. We cant see him but he continually influences us with regard to the Son, doesnt
he? Jesus said, He will take the things of mine and reveal them unto you. He casts light upon
the Son. Thats his great function. He helps us to live in the Son, whom we know, and with
reference to the Father whom we expect to see. Isnt that remarkable? Now if you have ever
had doubts about the Trinity, I think that would dispel them, because its imprinted in the
universe all around us. The universe bears the footprints of God. [see Gems of Theology ]
(Comments during class break). As a sidelight on the publishing industry, Ive been struck by
the fact that almost every book that Ive found influential in my Christian years of growing up, is
out of print. It indicates publishers only print popular books, and the real solid stuff is very
difficult to find. Thats why pastors and scholars learn to haunt used book stalls, where Christian
books are kept on back shelves, because youll find treasures there. Theres another book, by
the way, published by the same publisher as Nathan Woods book that was also extremely
influential for me. It deals with the nature of man. Its called What Is Man? by T. Austin Sparks.
Great book on the nature of man. [The book What is Man? is available online on the T. Austin
Sparks website here.]
I hope by now you have added to this study (because it can be rather mechanical) the fact that
each member of the Trinity is a person, with personality. He reflects the same nature. The
creedal statements about God always put it that God exists as one God with three persons
reflecting the same substance, which means that the divine nature is one, and remains the
same in all three but reflected in different ways. Just as in this paper, the past is not the present,
and the present and past are not the future. They are different from one another. The three
dimensions of space are not the same. Vertical is not horizontal. They are different and yet they
express the same substance. They fill the same space.
This is the nature of the Trinity as well. So we are dealing not with mere mechanical divisions,
but with three gracious, compassionate, powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient
persons. Omni-competent, able to do anything they desire, and always they work fully together.
Theres nothing the Son does without the Father. Jesus said so. I can do nothing by myself,
he said. I do always those things that please my Father. My Father works hitherto and so do
I. You will find the revelation of Jesus about the Father fits this pattern perfectly. For me, it
settles the question about the reality of Christian teaching. It squares with the universe. Its
exactly what we run into on every side today.
(Question from class on authority). The Father is the source. In some sense you cant divide
authority. They are equally authoritative, but the Father is the source. There is mystery about
God. We wont ever fully grasp it with our minds because, as he says, My ways are not your
ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
thoughts higher than your thoughts. As believers, we must learn to be content with some
degree of mystery. We dont like that. Our minds like to unravel all puzzles. We want to unscrew
the unscrewtable. But its impossible to do that with God. He is beyond us, and though he
reveals himself, all that you can know about God is in the Scriptures.
To understand the Scriptures is to understand God. And to understand God is to understand
man, because we are the image of God. This is why whenever you lose God out of a culture,
you also lose man. Men no longer understand themselves. They dont know what makes them
tick. This is why the atheist Communist countries, who are proud of that, and have tried to put
God aside entirely, have also lost a real consciousness of who man is, and they descend to the
level of thinking of him as an animal. An animal that can be manipulated, trained and taught,
dispensed with, eliminated, or whatever they like for the good of the cause. Underlying all of
history, it is always true that when you lose God you lose man as well. When you gain God, you
gain the understanding of man. You begin to see how he functions, especially in relationship to
one another. That is why all the social sciences must learn at last to understand God if they
want to learn how to function as social entities.
This is why the devil works so hard to keep God out of education. He does not want the idea of
God interjected into educated philosophies, because this would destroy his position, as he sees
it, as the god of this age. He wants men to be ignorant, deceived, unlearned, and stumble into
destructive habits, drug addictions, etc., in order that he might fulfill his nature which is one of a
murderer. So you see, the heart of theology is the nature of God. And the heart of all knowledge
is the nature of God. Thats why it is so important for us to grasp and understand as much as
possible of the mystery of God in the Scriptures, his own self-disclosure.
There are many cults that have tried to distort the teaching about the Trinity. You may run
across in your reading the name of Sabellius. He was a third century heretic who believed what
has been repeated many times since, the idea that the Trinity is just a manifestation of God in
three different ways. That the Father manifests himself sometimes as the Father, sometimes as
the Son, and sometimes as the Spirit. That appeals to the logic of some, until they begin to
examine the Scriptures. Then you have instances where all three appear at the same time. How
could that be? One addresses the other. The Son prays to the Father. Would he be praying to
himself? So Sabellianism, or Mosolism as it is also called, was rejected as a heresy.
In the fourth century, there arose a man named Arius, who claimed that the Father was God,
and the Son and Spirit were simply emanations or manifestations from God, lower creatures
created by God. This created great controversy in the church over the nature of God which was
finally settled in the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., where they propounded the Nicene Creed,
which you may run across in your reading. It is a clear-cut statement of the triune nature of God.
Arius gave rise to all the cults and sects that we still have today that are called Unitarians,
teaching there is only one God, who is one person, not three, and the other two are simply
emanations from him.
There is an important statement in the Athanasian Creed. Athanasia was the great bishop of the
church in North Africa who opposed Arian, and at the Council of Nicea made a dramatic
challenge to the Arian doctrine. It was his position that was ultimately adopted by the church as
reflecting the truth of the Scriptures. Athanasia put into the creed these words about God: He
exists in three persons, neither confounding the persons (that deals with Sadonianism); the
three persons are distinct, not just manifestations of one person, nor dividing the substance.
That means there are not three gods, only one but existing as three persons. These are
attempts to try to clarify this doctrine through the ages and protect it from misunderstanding.
That is why the creeds have been important to us.
(Questions from class). The question deals with the nature of Jesus. That of course was a great
controversy in the church in the early centuries, and there are many positions on this. I refer to
the ultimate conclusions of the church, I dont mean to imply that the church decides what
doctrine is. The church decides what the Scriptures teach by studying them. Its the Scriptures
that decide about doctrine.) The ultimate conclusion of the church was that Jesus was fully God
and fully man, that in his humanity he was everything we are as humans, except sinful. In his
deity he was everything God is. He was fully a member of the Trinity, and therefore equal with
the Father and the Spirit in every way. This is another mystery we dont full comprehend, but is
nevertheless clearly revealed in the scriptures. We have to simply believe it and operate on it,
and we will find that God always honors that by bringing reality into our experience in line with
that teaching.
The question is what happened on the cross when Jesus diedwhere did the Trinity disappear
to? Well, it didnt disappear. The only aspect of Jesus that could die was his humanity. His deity
could not die. Deity cannot die. And yet, in the mystery of his person, his deity and his humanity
are so blended and tied together that it was, in some sense, as though God had died. However,
it is wrong to speak of the death of God. It was the death of Christ, who was both God and
man. But God became a man in order to die.
How can the immortal die? By the way, do you remember the great hymn of Charles Wesley
which says, tis mystery all, the immortal dies! How can an immortal person (who cannot die)
die? Well, that was in a sense the ace up Gods sleeve that the devil knew nothing about. This
is what finally traps the devil. He thought if he could put Jesus to death, he would defeat God
because he thought God couldnt die, and he knew sin required a death in order to be set aside
by a just God. So he thought he had him. tis mystery all, the immortal dies. Who can explore
that strange design?
But Wesley goes on to say that in the mystery of God, tis mercy all, let earth adore. Let angel
minds inquire no more. Its a mystery we cannot fully comprehend, but it is nevertheless true,
that in the wonder of the cross God gave up himself for us. The deeper you plumb that mystery,
the more marvelous it appears, that God could ever solve the problem of human sin by
assuming it to himself. We need to leave it rest there. The Trinity was there. Jesus said on the
cross, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. It was by his eternal spirit, we are told in
Hebrews, that he offered himself unto God. So the Trinity was clearly there at the cross. The
Father, the Son and the Spirit were all at work.
The question is about the Trinitys role in prayer. Well, all I can do is try to gather up the
teaching of the Scriptures in that regard. It is proper--certainly not improper--to pray to any
member of the Trinity. There are prayers addressed to the Son in Scripture, and to the Spirit in
the Psalms. But we are taught by the Lord specifically that for the most part prayer should be
addressed to the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Spirit. Thats the way the
Trinity would work. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we dont know what to pray for, as we ought.
We are ignorant, and we must never forget that there are vast areas of knowledge that we know
nothing about. This is what keeps us humble as man. It undercuts our pride. We do not know
what to pray for, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with deep groanings we cant
put into words, feelings that cannot be uttered. He who knows the heart knows the mind of the
Spirit and answers accordingly.
I think thats a wonderful encouragement to us. There are times we dont know what to say,
what to pray for. Some disaster occurs, some threat bearing down upon one of our loved ones,
and we dont know how to ask or what to do about it, but if we just come to God and pour out
the agony of our hearts, he translates that into prayer as God the Father answers. Then what
happens as a result is the answer to that prayer. When you pray this way, and something
happens, whether it looks good or bad, it is the answer to the Spirits prayer. Thats why the next
verse says, Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who
love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Thats what makes it work together
for good, because God the Father is answering the Spirits prayer.
Arianism taught there is only one God, the Father, and that he created the Son and the Spirit
who are lesser beings than the Father. That is the teaching of Unitarianism, and the Unitarian
Church, which is now uniting with the Universalist Church, and of cults such as the Jehovahs
Witnesses, etc., who have a Unitarian doctrine.
The question is who really is the Creator, because some texts apply creation to the Father and
some to the Son. We must train ourselves to always think of all three persons of the Trinity as
always working together. You find that the very first verse in the Bible says that in the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth, and the next verse says, and the Spirit moved across
the face of the waters. The creation is assigned to the Son, but the members of the Trinity dont
work independently. Therefore, the Father created the world through the Son. I think it helps to
think of the Father as the originator of the idea of creation. In a sense he said to the Son,
create a world, which the Son then planned. He is the Architect of it. And the Spirit built it. So
they all work together in the work of creation.
(Answering a class question) Jesus says in one place he has committed all judgment to the
Son. Remember Paul in Athens, in Acts 17, says, For he has set a day when he will judge the
world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising
him from the dead. So judgment ultimately belongs to the Son.
(The question is about Jesus saying there were some things he did not know--as to the time of
his return. He says only the Father knows). What you get in the gospels is a presentation of
Jesus living as a man. His primary purpose in coming was to live and function as a man indwelt
by God. The God who indwelt him (again we have the mystery of the Godhead) is himself, along
with the Father and the Spirit. We dont fully comprehend that, but Jesus is demonstrating how
we can live. We are to live as a human filled with God. This is the glory of Christian truth, that
we are called to be, as Peter puts it, partakers of the divine nature. Thats an amazing thing.
We read these phrases so glibly, and quote them, but never let the radical character of them hit
us fully. But we never become God, we never become gods, but we share the nature of God
and he expresses himself through us. That is what we are put here on earth to learn--how to
function as men and women indwelt by God.
(The question is are there other verses that speak of Christ indwelling us?) Yes, in the Upper
Room Discourse, John 14:23: Jesus replied, If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My
Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Then of course
there are numerous references that speak of receiving him. Yet to all who received him, to
those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12).
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has
the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (I John 5:11). These
are clear indications that he comes to live within us.
(Responding to a class question). There are suggestions that there are divisions of work among
the Trinity, but I think we should not press this too far. Yes, sometimes the prophet (in the Old
Testament) begins to speak in the third person and then suddenly it becomes God speaking
directly through him.
(Class question, does God suffer damage from what happened on the cross? ) Well, there is
clear implication in many passages that God the Father suffered with his Son, felt the anguish of
the cross along with him. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. There you see
the act of reconciliation is attributed to the Father as well as the Son. Since all three are eternal
beings , it is possible in some sense that the anguish of the cross, the terrible sense of
desolation and dereliction expressed by Jesus on the cross, goes on forever in Gods heart. He
is willing to bear the pain of it forever, that we might be free from it forever. That is only a
suggestion, which may be wrong, but there are certain verses that imply that. I think the most
reverent and careful and thorough treatment of this that I know of is John R. W. Stotts new
book called The Cross of Christ.
(Responding to question) The part of Jesus that was deity is always greater than his humanity.
Some of his expressions were as a man. Im always uneasy about dividing up Jesus between
his manhood and Godhood, but sometimes it helps our understanding. Some things Jesus
would only say in the days of his flesh.
(Class comment). Much of the work of the Trinity is attributed to each from time to time. Yes,
you are right to point out that we have mystery in our own lives. How is it that we, who live
twenty centuries later, died with Christ on the cross? Well, time is not a factor in that. The value
of that is attributed to us as though we had actually participated in it. This is all mystery, but we
must be content to live with mystery. Now we know in part. Then shall we know even as we are
Concerning Man and His Need
Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: Psalm 8:3-5

Tonight we are dealing with man and the fall of man. This is a combination of two very important
scriptural truths. Usually, they represent two quite distinct areas of theological study; that is, the
doctrine of who man is and how he functions, and then the effect of sin. We are combining
those in Doctrinal Statement number three, which reads:
Concerning Man and His Need
We believe that man was created in the image of God, but because of Adams sin that image
was damaged, and that all human beings are now born with a sinful nature, are unable to
function in moral responsibility before God, and need a spiritual regeneration before they can
become what they were meant to be.
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
All of that is subsumed under the title What is Man?, as we know him today. That, by the way,
is the question that the psalmist, David, asks in Psalm 8. Addressing God, he says, What is
man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? He answers
the question in the psalm by saying, You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
(NIV). For at least a time, man is somewhere in between the level of the angelic beings of pure
spirit without body, (though they can at times assume bodies) and the animal creation with
which we are familiar. Man does not belong to either. He has roots in the animal creation, and
he has relationship to the angelic realm, but he is somewhat in between, a unique creature
according to the biblical point of view. We are going to try to answer, as briefly and as quickly as
possible, that question: What is Man?
Our statement says that we believe man was created in the image of God. The great debate is
over what constitutes that image in man. What makes us different from the animals? We
obviously have life, as the animals have life. They can die, and we can lose that life. There is
some resemblance between mans reasoning powers and animals thinking processes. It differs
widely in the animal kingdom, but there is at least some resemblance there. Anyone who has an
intelligent dog knows it can sometimes respond in most unusual ways. It seems to even read
your mind and know your thinking. But there are differences. There are three things man can do
that animals cannot do. And this, I think, constitutes what the Bible calls the image of God in
man. Remember in Genesis God said, Let us make man in our image, and he created them
male and female.
As an aside I point out that this whole controversy over whether women ought to be addressed
with female terms, women insisting they be called chairwomen or whatever else is a
counterpart to man, is really unnecessary if you understand what the Bible is saying. Because
in chapter one of Genesis it says God created them male and female, and he named them
man. He named male and female man. We have lost the consciousness that the word man
includes both male and female, so that now society contends it only refers to male. Thats why
women understandably feel left out. If you interpret it as reference only to males, then of course
it is justifiable that women should feel left out and ignored and not represented. But the Bible
does not do that. From the beginning, the Bible represents that women have as much right to
that term as men do.
In fact, women have every right, as the New Testament would make clear, to the term, sons of
God. When it says in John 1:12 to all who received him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become sons (or children) of God, that certainly applies to women, doesnt
it. They become sons of God, not daughters of God. In that sense, we are making a tempest in
a teapot over what pronoun to use. There are even now proposals to re-write the Bible and
insert feminine pronouns everywhere in order to try to ease womens feelings about this. In my
judgment, that is nonsense if we understand the Bible correctly, as it addresses both equally.
That is not to say there are no distinctions between male and female. We need to remember,
too, that there are obviously intended differences, and the Scriptures uphold those differences
as fulfilling the ideal God has for us humans.
Thats a bit beside the point. What I want to get to is what is meant by the phrase, Let us create
man in our image. What is meant by that? If you go through the first chapter of Genesis, which I
will not take time to do tonight, in detail, you will find that over and over it asserts that God acts,
God does things. If you look carefully at what it says he does, it falls into three categories. Gods
nature is such that he does these three things. First, God creates. In the beginning God created
the heavens and the earth, which is fantastic statement, because it means all the enormous
complexity of the universe around us, which physicists try to analyze and describe, is all
included in that statement. The whole world, its beauty, the mountains, seas, forests, the
complexity of the plant world and the animal kingdom and mankind. Added to that the stars, the
quasars and black holes, and all the marvels and mysteries of space. All of that is included in
that one phrase: God created.
That means he first thought about it. Everything comes from the mind of God. All that marvelous
complexity, that marvel of unity, resemblance and integration that we find all through the
universe as far as man is able to explore, is a reflection of the remarkable ability of Gods
thinking, to imagine and bring into being all things. So God creates.
Then as you read on, you find that God communicates. God said let there be light. God said let
the earth bring forth fruit, and let the waters separate from the earth, etc. Throughout you find
God speaking; God communicates.
Then, finally, God evaluates. God pronounces it good. Only once does he say something is not
good. What is that? It is not good for man to be alone. And there he means the male without the
female. That doesnt mean you all have to be married. What it means is it is not good to try to
live life without some sort of relationship with the opposite sex, because we need each other.
God created us that way.
If this is what God does because that is what he is, then when it says that we are created in the
image of God, it means that we too have those capacities. It is true that this is where we differ
from the animal kingdom. We create. Animals lack that ability to invent things. They cannot in
their minds imagine or conceive of things that do not already exist that could exist, as man can
do. Now we cannot create out of nothing, as God does. Out of pure energy, he brings things into
being. We lack that power, but we can combine things that are and combine them in various
ways to create this enormous complexity of technology that we now celebrate, particularly in
Silicon Valley, and in other places. And we can invent, and that inventive quality is something
animals do not have.
G. K. Chesterton, that remarkable English essayist of the early part of this century, has some
wonderful ways of expressing things. He says, The difference between men and the animals
can be put this way. It is a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a
monkey. That is true. The earliest things we find about cave men are these drawings of
primitive man and the animals around him. He further says, But its a joke to say that the most
intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man. It demonstrates the vast difference between the
cognitive faculties of man and that of the animals.
And secondly, God communicates, and so does man. Right now, we are talking to one another.
Animals signal one another. They have sounds and movement in which they communicate in
some very primitive sense, warning of danger or even feelings of love, sexual feelings. They
communicate, but they do not talk to each other. You can teach a parrot to talk, but this is just
imitation and for the most part it doesnt know what it is saying. And you wonder if some of the
stories you hear about parrots, as though they were intelligent, are not that they are simply
echoing what they hear.
So you see man has this unique power to put his thoughts into language, to clothe them in
words in various languages. And around the world no group of humans, no tribe, no primitive
savage group is known to exist that does not have an invented language. They may have their
own individual language, but all have the ability to communicate with words.
Thirdly, man evaluates, just as God does. Man puts moral judgment on things. Even the most in
their own eyes freed up individuals, who think they are free from all rules and limitations, will
still have a sense of something right and something wrong. Listen to people talk, and you will
hear this. They argue that there is no right or wrong, there are no absolute values, but they will
not live that way. If you observe them, you will see there is always a moral sense in their
pronouncements of good or bad. It may be in relationship to their own feelings; they think its
good, therefore its good. Or they think its evil and therefore its evil.
That is what was meant when Satan told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed and ate the
forbidden fruit they would become like God, knowing good and evil. Knowing good and evil as
God knows it in relationship to himself. This is what happened in the fall. When he was first
created, man knew good and evil as it related to God, but when he fell he began to know good
and evil only as it related to himself. He became God, in other words, and made the moral
judgments on the basis of how it affected him. Thats why you read later on in Joshua, every
man does that which is right in his own eyes. What we do might be terribly wrong in Gods
judgment, or even in the judgment of other people, but to the individual it always looks right.
Thats why people justify themselves about what they do, because it seems right to them. Thats
knowing good and evil as God knows it, but in relationship to self. This is what represents the
image of God in us.
Now as we go on to the fall of man, we will see that because of Adams sin, that image was
damaged, and all humans are born with a sinful nature and unable to function in moral
responsibility before God. (The class was given charts.) Now I have drawn this up as two
concentric circles. I want you to understand that this is not the way man actually looks. If you
could look inside you would not find your spirit as a triangle, and the soul is not a circle inside
the body circle. This is just a diagrammatic attempt to depict the relationships that exist.
There is a lot of argument among theologians, I will have to state, as to whether man is a bi-
partite being or tri-partite being. Does he have three divisions, or only two? You will find
theologians on both sides of that fence. The reason is that we obviously have two divisions of
our being. We know there is an outer and an inner man. We know there is the body, the flesh, of
matter. And the world of thought and ideas, attitudes and feelings that you cannot touch or
sense of feel, that are not part of the body but are nevertheless us. So the easiest way to
describe us is in a bi-partite manner. But Scripture, in its marvelous accuracy, reveals there are
actually three parts, and two parts make up the inner man: the soul and the spirit.
You will find statements many places in scripture that indicate a three-fold being. First, I
Thessalonians 5:23, where the apostle is writing to these new Christians. He says to them at the
close of his letter: May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV) That is a clear indication of the tri-partite division.
The first mention of man in the Bible is also tri-partite. In Genesis 2:7 you will find man
described as a three-fold being in a most helpful way, the Lord God formed the man from the
dust of the ground. What part of man would that be? Yes, the body. Who knows how he did it?
Did he mix a little mud, sculpt a little statue with eyes, ears and nose, all out of clay, and it lay
there immobile until he breathed into it? Nobody knows, but some way he formed man from the
dust of the ground.
Then he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The word for breath here is the Hebrew
wordruach, which means spirit. In the Hebrew and the Greek the words for spirit are the same,
and this is the word for spirit, and sometimes the word for wind. Remember Jesus discussion
with Nicodemus about that. Jesus said, the wind blows wherever it wills, and so also is one who
is born of the Spirit. So this is what God breathed into that body which he had formed. He
breathed some of his Spirit into him.
That is what is called the divine spark in man. Animals do not have spirits. They do have souls,
but they do not have spirits from the biblical point of view. Therefore, they do not have that
divine spark. They do not have a relationship to God. They dont think of God, or worship God.
They dont long for God.
If youll look at your diagram youll notice that the triangle (although who knows what it looks
like) has three little letters in the corners, R, D and C, which are explained in the margin. They
relate to God. What the spirit in us can do, because it comes from God, is in some sense a part
of God in some way God breathed a part of himself into man is that we recognize God. The
writer of Ecclesiastes says God has set eternity in mans heart. This is what makes man
restless. Animals can be quite content with having their physical needs met, and their soul-ish
needs as well. A dog will lie by the fireside in the midst of his family and be totally content. He
doesnt worry about the national debt or the threat of Communism or his mother-in-law, or
anything, because he doesnt have a spirit. He has no sense of afterlife or previous life. He has
no consciousness of a divine being to whom he is responsible. But man does. And this is
universally true. All men, everywhere, worship. That is a recognition "R" of the presence of God.
The "D" is a desire for God. This again creates some of the agony of humanity. We long for
God. Everyone does. But we fear him, because of the fall. We want him, and at the same time
we dont want him. And that creates a tremendous tension. You will find this is universal. Around
the world this conforms to experience.
Then "C" is for commitment. It is possible to give yourself to God, to commit yourself to him.
This encompasses all the Bibles appeals to do this. We are invited to give ourselves to God.
We are encouraged to seek after the Lord and you will find him. This is possible because we
have a spirit. When God breathed into the lifeless form of man a spirit, something unique
happened. The union of those two created a third entity called in Hebrew anefesh which is the
word for soul. So now you have body, soul and spirit in this unique act of creation.
It is difficult to explain to you the strange relationship between the soul and the spirit. We only
know it from what Scripture tells us. You cant feel that difference. We can feel the difference
between our souls and our bodies. You can say, I feel weak, or weary, or I feel great today.
What part of your being are you referring to? Yes, your body. Your glands, your blood pressure,
your heart are in good shape, and you feel great. You will notice we refer to this part of our
being with the first person pronoun. You may say I feel wonderful, then later you may say, I
feel sad. Is your body sad? No, its your soul. You may feel happy, or emotionally drained.
Youre no longer talking about your body; youve made a quick shift to a third part of your being,
your soul. And every now and then the most primitive, or least religious person, will say
something like I want something, but I dont know what it is. I feel a desire to do something or
be someone. We have difficulty putting this into words. But what are we talking about? The
spirit, longing for something beyond what we already have. This is unique to man, and we can
switch between these three with no effort. We understand this about one another; we all have
these sensations.
When the spirit enters the body it creates the soul, and the soul exists only existentially only
as long as the spirit is in the body, until it has a history. The history can go on, but the reality
stops. The best illustration I know for that is shining down upon you from overhead: a light bulb,
whether it is a fluorescent or incandescent light. You know that a light bulb is made up of two
major parts. Metal and glass combine to make the material aspect of a light bulb. Then there is
a second essential, and that is a stream of electrons, called electricity, that has to flow through
that mass of metal and glass. When it does, a third entity is created, called light. The light is
there only as long as the energy is flowing through the metal and the glass. As soon as the
stream of electrons is interrupted, the light goes out but the metal and the glass remain, and the
electricity remains available but not in contact. That seems to be about as close as we can
come to understanding how humans function.
In the book of James it says as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is
dead. James uses the analogy of the body and the spirit. So what happens when we die?
According to Ecclesiastes, the body goes into the grave, but the spirit returns to God who gave
it, and the soul goes out. It no longer continues in that sense, unless as Ive said, it has a
history. Now what we are doing here in this earthly pilgrimage is creating a history for our souls.
Its that we take with us to glory (before the judgment seat of Christ, if you like) and we have it
analyzed as to what was right and what was wrong. That is what the judgment seat of Christ
consists of.
(Class question) Animals have souls, as the Scripture indicates, and uses that term regarding
animals. But it seems to stem from a different relationship than mans soul. It is not caused by a
spirit uniting to a body. That is what makes the difference between a man and an animal. But it
is a form of life granted by the Creator to the animal for the duration of his earthly existence.
When the animals life ends, apparently (we dont know for sure; there is no revelation on this)
his soul ceases as well. Rationalists and others try to describe humans as like a candle that just
goes out and all that is left is a candle. An animal is more like that, but that is not said of man,
so there is a difference.
Do you understand now that the soul has the effect of feeling. Mind, emotion and will are the
major functions of the soul. There is also memory, imagination, and other minor functions which
in some sense fall into these major categories. We have great difficulty trying to analyze
ourselves, because we are both the analyst and the subject. This is what psychology tries to do,
and why it has such difficulty in doing it. There is a law in physics called Heisenbergs Principle
of Uncertainty, which says if you examine something you distort it, and by the very examination
you render yourself unable to see it as it actually is because the examination distorts it. In some
sense we do this when we try to analyze ourselves.
Psychology works with the Greek word for soul, which ispsyche.This Greek word
ispneuma.Psychologists work with the soul, but they do not work with the spirit. The weakness
of psychology is that they do not understand that there is a spirit. The closest I have seen
secular psychologists understanding the spirit is in the work of Victor Frankel, the Jewish
psychologist who survived the holocaust in Germany, and was in a prisoner of war camp there
for a long time. He went through terrible tortures before he was freed. He developed a system of
thought he called logo therapy. He so named it because he saw there was a function in man
beyond the soul. He didnt know what to call it, so he called it logos, the word, or the spirit. He
couldnt define it, describe it, or work with it. He had no access to it, other than to know that it
existed. This is the limit of the secular mind.
Thats why Hebrews 4:12, a wonderful verse you ought to memorize, tells us: For the Word of
God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and
spirit So only the Word of God can tell us the difference between the soul and the spirit. That
is why it takes revelation to understand man as he really is. Hebrews continues, of joints and
marrow (these are symbolic divisions of these major areas of life) and discerning the thoughts
and intentions of the heart.
By the way, I should tell you that when the Bible uses the term heart, it is sometimes a
reference to the heart and sometimes to the spirit. Usually, it is a reference to the spirit. When
we say, I did it with my whole heart, were talking about our spirit, which is the deepest part of
our humanity, the most important part of our being. We usually refer to man as tri-part, body,
soul and spirit. Scripture on the other hand, refers to man as spirit, soul and body, because the
spirit is the most important. It is the part you cannot destroy, which survives death, along with
the soul and its history. Its the major part of man, which reflects the image of God.
Now lets consider fallen humanity, what happened when man sinned. The Apostle Paul tells us
in his greatest treatise on the nature of sin in Romans chapter five, that it is by sin that death
entered into the race. By the way, Romans chapters five and six is a marvelous theological
treatise on the fundamentals of mans relationship to God and to himself, and something to
which you ought to give a lot of time to understanding.
When I was a student at Dallas Seminary, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder and President of
the school, was still there. He said that when he visited the graduates of the Seminary in their
pastorates he always surreptitiously took note of their Greek New Testaments to see if they
were well-worn in Romans five. That would tell him whether they really understood what they
were talking about. As long as he was alive, I kept a Greek New Testament open at Romans
five in case he should come to visit which he did from time to time.
In Romans 5:12 we learn, Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death
through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned for before the law was
given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Now I wont
take time to expound the chapter to you, but the major statement I want to emphasize is that sin
entered the world through one man.
By the way, the Bible never blames Eve for the entrance of sin into the race. We males do that.
That is male chauvinism. We say Eve tempted Adam and made him sin. Even Adam said that.
When God asked him what he had done, he said, the woman you gave meshe did it. He took
it like a man and blamed his wife. God doesnt blame Eve. She was deceived. She did it thinking
she was doing right. But Adam sinned deliberately.
You can picture God dwelling in mans spirit, as the spirit given to man originated from Gods
Spirit, and is the part of us that can correspond to God. We have the ability to relate to God. No
animal can do that. It is designed to be the dwelling place of God. And in the beginning, it was.
God dwelt in Adams spirit. We know that because the second Adam was made according to the
pattern of the first Adam. Who was the second Adam? Yes, Jesus, and the Spirit of God dwelt in
Jesus from his very birth. Therefore, this was also true of Adam. It was also true, therefore, that
Adam did everything by the power of God. This is Gods provision and intention for man. When
Adam needed to do something he would rely upon the power he found within himself, which
was God. When Adam named the animals, the wisdom he employed was Gods wisdom. That is
how he knew what each animal was like, and named it according to its attributes, which was a
tremendous task. When man chose to disobey God, the Spirit of God left the spirit of man. He
was left empty, still alive but on a different basis.
You will notice on the diagram that in the triangle of the spirit I have printed the words the
flesh. When you read your Bibles, you must distinguish between two meanings of the word
flesh. One is the meat and bones of our physical bodies. We are in the flesh now because we
are living in bodies. For instance the Bible refers to Jesus, in the days of his flesh, which
means while he was in the body in his days on earth. But there is a moral meaning as well. Paul
uses it frequently, particularly in Romans, and other writers as well. It means the evil
tendencies, the fallen nature, sin in the life of man. It is also called the old man; all are
synonyms of the flesh.
Lets try to describe what happened as best we can understand it from the Scriptures. When
Adam sinned, and the Spirit of God left him, he would have died immediately had it not been
that there was an invasion of some sort, of the triangle of his spirit by the life of God coming
through the power of Satan. Satan invaded the spirit of man. Because the flesh definitely relates
to Satan and his work. Its Satans inner access to us and that is what causes so much of our
struggle. Satanic philosophy is inherent in the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) says:
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious which are: sexual immorality, impurity
and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,
selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom
of God.
An alternate reading is:
The marks of the flesh are evident which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness,
lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath,
selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries, and
the like.
That is what Jesus means when he says in Mark 7:20, 21:
What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of
mens hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these
evils come from inside and make a man unclean. (NIV)
Those are the words of Jesus. They are exactly in accord with the words of Paul. They are
describing the same thing, and what they are describing is the inner uncleanness that came
upon man when Adam disobeyed God. He was instantly re-inhabited by the life of God,
because God is the only author of life. If man was to go on living, he had to go by the life of
God. All creatures, animals, angels, demons, manall live by Gods life. He is the Author of life.
Satan does not give life; he cannot. But it is a twisted life. In some sense Satan interposed
himself, because of mans disobedience, between God and man. He thus became a mediator, a
usurper, to which he had no right. Thus the life that now comes to fallen man that is, the way
we were born is the life of God twisted and distorted.
In what direction was it twisted? Well, originally Gods life, like God himself, is outward directed.
God lives for others. Jesus was the man for others, wasnt he. But Satan twisted this into living
for self. Selfishness, then, is the ultimate sin. Fallen man was characterized by self-
centeredness, and that is the essential element of the flesh within us. That is why the diagram
shows flesh in the triangle. You can put sin there, if you like. Or you can choose to put the
old nature, because they all mean the same thing. Its still the life of God, but it is twisted and
self-directed instead of other-directed. And that is characteristic of man as he is.
Everyone is born like that. It is what theologians call original sin. Thats why you dont have to
teach a baby how to lie or get angry or upset, or lose his temper, or to be self-centered and
thoughtless of others. Have you noticed that babies dont care what you think. They burp in your
face, they soil themselves while sitting on your lap. Someone has well said, a baby is a
digestive apparatus with a loud noise at one end and no responsibility at the other. Though
they are delightful in many ways, and we love and cuddle them and see great possibilities and
potential in them, they are also very difficult to live with. If they didnt change as they grew up, it
would be tragic. You see how accurately the Bible describes what life itself presents to us, if we
only will believe it. So thats mans fallen nature.
Now then, what happens when the Spirit of God comes in? Look at the chart called Redeemed
humanity. Here we find the other side of the story. What happens when an individual is born
again? Thats Jesus term. He starts life over. Just as at the beginning we began as a baby in
Adam, now we start life over in a new birth, and our spirit is in Christ when we believe in
Jesus, receive him into our hearts as Lord. There are various words used to describe this in the
Scriptures. The clearest, I think, is John 1:12: But to all who received him, who believed in his
name, he gave power to become children (or sons) of God. And in Johns first letter, 5:11: And
this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the
Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
What happens is, the Holy Spirit re-possesses the human spirit. The flesh, the distorted, sinful
capacity that is satanically slanted, is driven out from our spirit, and God himself, the Holy Spirit,
inhabits the human spirit. Paul says in Romans 8:16: The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit
that we are Gods children. (NIV) Also, in I Corinthians 6: ..but he who unites himself with the
Lord is one with him in spirit. So there is the melding, the union of the two. Spirit with spirit
meet, and it is at that level that regeneration takes place. That is what it is called, this new
impartation of life, God re-inhabiting the human spirit to be born again and have new life in
Jesus Christ.
Now that is true in the spirit, but in the diagram, notice in redeemed humanity the soul is
darkened around you. You see, its been living a number of years, perhaps twenty or thirty,
sometimes sixty or seventy years, governed by the flesh; therefore, all its habits are flesh-
centered, habits of selfishness that run our lives. Therefore, the soul, the will, emotions and
mind, are still under the domination of the flesh, though the spirit is now born again. This is the
condition of new Christians, babes in Christ. They have new life. They know it, feel the joy and
peace of it, but they are still governed by the flesh. Thats why they still act like babies self-
centered and uncouth at times, can still get involved in some of the old sins, but actually born
again. That is what is called in I Corinthians 3 carnal, fleshly Christians. Its true of the soul, but
not of the spirit. As John tells us, the spirit cannot sin. I John 3:9: No one born of God commits
sin; for Gods nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. (RSV) He is
born of God, and therefore the Spirit in us cannot sin. But the soul can sin, and that is where
much of our struggle comes from as Christians.
It is the business of the Holy Spirit coming into the human spirit to re-possess the soul. On your
chart maturing humanity, you will find that diagrammed. There are clean areas where the Spirit
of God has begun to assert the Lordship of Jesus over the soul. Now that is not done without a
struggle. We fight the Lord at that point. We drag our heels, delay, play mind games, tell him we
are yielding but we are not. Were all familiar with these things, arent we. But the Spirit keeps
insisting that we submit this area of our lives to Jesus Lordship.
We all live our lives in segments, like an orange. Theres our family life, our sex life, our
personal life, and we keep switching back and forth among these throughout the day. Usually
the Spirit of God will pick one of those areas and begin to talk with you about it. Hell say, Look,
this isnt right. You cant go on like this. Youre a believer; you have to change at this point. And
he will bring all sorts of pressures and influences upon it, and probably precipitate a crisis where
we find ourselves at last knocked off our feet, or flat on our backs, and he gets our attention.
Then he brings it up again and says, See, this is the area Im talking about. Now I want you to
yield that to the Lord. Give it back to him and let him be Lord in that area.
That is what is beautifully described for us in II Corinthians 3:17-18: Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We begin to get freed up in these areas.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect (contemplate is probably a better term) the Lords
glory (youre thinking of Jesus and seeing him as Lord of your life), are being transformed into
his likeness (this is what we call Christian growth. Gradually the soul begins to correspond to
what is true with the spirit, and you begin to take on the likeness of Christ) with ever increasing
glory, (normally, in the course of the Christian life, the older we grow the more like Christ we
ought to be becoming. Not because your spirit is more like Christ. It is made instantly like Christ,
from the beginning, the moment you are born again. The soul, the conscious life, begins to
reflect him), which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
(Class question) He drives the flesh out of your spirit, but it remains in your soul. And it may be
you will work at this the rest of your life, until you receive increasing degrees of likeness to
Christ. You can backslide, you can give over an area to the Lordship of Christ and then take it
back, and have to give it over again. There is, however, a strange phenomenon that you should
know about. You are not likely to see all of this yourself. Your own view of yourself will be that
you become increasingly aware of your sin, and you think youre getting worse. Others will see
that you are becoming more Christ-like. So that is maturing humanity.
Now lets consider redeemed humanity, what we are finally like when God finishes his work
with us, which is at the resurrection of the body. The last part of our being to be redeemed is the
body. It remains under the control of the flesh, and inheriting the weakness of sin all our lives.
Thats why we age and get weak, and why our minds falter, why we stumble, lose our way and
our eyesight dims. All of this is part of a body not yet redeemed. Spirit is instantly redeemed
when we are born again. It never changes. The soul is being redeemed as we grow in our
relationship to our Lord and submit to his Lordship over areas of our lives. The body is
redeemed at the resurrection.
This is the three tenses of salvation, such as you find in Scripture. Some passages speak of we
have been saved. That is referring to the spirit. Other verses describe us as being saved.
Thats the soul. And we shall be saved: now is our salvation nearer than when we first
believed, Paul says. That is a reference to the resurrection.
(Questions from class) The soul accompanies the spirit at all times, and goes to God. And of
course so does our body, when we die. Thats another problem which we get into later on. That
gets us into time and eternity, and a lot of other mysteries. I believe that the moment we die we
are instantly, body, soul and spirit, with the Lord, in a redeemed body. Our eternal security
comes from the assurance that he that is born of God cannot sin. That is the spirit part of our
being. Nor can it lose its life. Thats how Paul gets to that wonderful passage in Romans 8.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing! Neither in heaven, earth, hell or
anywhere else; no power, no force, no being can separate us from the love of Christ.
I Corinthians 3:12-15: If any man builds on this foundation (that is, faith in Christ) using gold,
silver, costly stones, (these are symbols of the work of the Spirit in our lives) wood, hay or straw
(symbols of the flesh at work), his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it
to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each mans work. If what
he has built survives, (that is the gold, silver and costly stones, and not wood, hay or straw) he
will receive his reward. If it is burned up, (if it is the flesh) he will suffer loss; he himself will be
saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
We have difficulty seeing our humanity. We think of ourselves as just a being assigned a certain
space of time to live in this twentieth century, and those who have gone before as rather remote
from us. God doesnt see it that way. He sees a mixture of all the forces and people who have
been in our family tree back to Adam, and the impact upon us of all the things they have done.
Our genetic structure is passed along to us, the results of what our ancestors have been like,
etc. God sees all of that, and therefore we are not just an isolated fragment of humanity living
now, but we are a part of a great bundle of humanity that was all originally wrapped up in one
man: Adam. Thats why what Adam did affected everyone that would follow him, just as what
Christ did affects everyone who is in Christ. We share that life together as well.
The question is how does this affect those referred to in Hebrews 6 who have shared in the Holy
Spirit, tasted of the powers of the coming age, etc., and yet are lost and cannot return to
repentance? I think that is describing someone who is living by another persons faith. Children
often do this when they are in a Christian home. They borrow their parents faith, and it gives
them a form of life from God. They do the right things, and they think of themselves as
Christians, but they havent yet made a personal commitment to God, so that they have
apparently demonstrated Christian attributes and a Christian life without a real personal
commitment. Jesus describes it in the parable of the sower, as seed which fell into the ground
and sprang up and had life, but then when the cares of the world came about, it died back down
The question is what about nice people who are atheists, etc.? We are very complex persons.
We are very skilled, even at deceiving ourselves in this regard, at doing what is acceptable to
others, and if we are living in a moral situation or climate, man tends to reproduce what is
expected of him. We can put on that kind of outward morality. The Pharisees were like this in
Jesus day. They had a reputation for being the most respectable of people, but it was outward,
external morality. When we see that we can think it looks as real as anything, but God always
warns us that he is reading the heart. Man cannot do that.
People dont deliberately try to be hypocrites; they are not aware of that. They themselves think
they are measuring up, and see themselves quite honestly as being acceptable in Gods eyes.
They are totally surprised when they learn from Scripture that they are not. But Scripture speaks
very clearly to that issue and says, There is none that does good. No, not one. That doesnt
mean they cant be saved, or that they cant learn this about themselves. Many have come that
route and seen themselves as God sees them. There was a young man at the mens retreat
who gave a testimony to that effect. Somehow he had been reared in a Christian home and
thought he was all right, but he later learned that he was not.
The comment is that we live in a world where the manifestation of God is very visible in many
ways around us. The Apostle Paul, in a great message delivered in the synagogue in Antioch of
Pisidia, recorded in Acts 14, says in verse 17, God has not left himself without testimony (or
witness). There is no part of the world in which he does not leave a witness of himself.
Concerning the Son
Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

Father, we wonder at the self-disclosure of our great and mighty God. We pray for the ministry
of the Spirit as we look at the theme centered upon the person of our Lord himself. Help us to
realize that we are seek to understand the Lord of glory, Master of the universe, Savior of the
world, who loved us and gave Himself for us that we might not perish. Help us to do so with
reverence and clear understanding, taught of your Spirit. In Christs Name. Amen.
Somebody told me it was so cold this morning they couldnt even get their wheelbarrow started.
This would be a warm day in Montana, so I dont feel sorry for you. I thought you might be
interested in a new book I recommend to any who are interested in a popular survey of the
whole realm of Christian theology. Its a thick book written by my dear friend, Dr. James Boice,
Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, speaker on the Bible Study Hour. He has
done a good job of covering the whole field of theology in popular style. It isnt technical, nor
obtruse, nor dull. Its a good presentation of Eschatology, Soteriology and all the other ologies
that make up Theology. It is a single volume, published by InterVarsity Press. I can recommend
it highly because Jim Boice has done me the honor of quoting me extensively (laughter)
regarding Body Life in the church. The name is Foundations of Christian Faith.
The fourth Doctrinal Statement reads:
Concerning the Son
We believe that the Eternal Son entered the human race as the virgin-born son of Mary, was
named Jesus, fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, was rejected by Jewish
leaders, condemned by Pontius Pilate, crucified by the Romans, buried in a borrowed tomb, but
on the third day arose bodily from the dead in accordance with the predictions of the Old
Testament Scriptures.
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
Obviously, thats an attempt to gather a great deal of truth about our Lord. There are five major
doctrines regarding Christ covered in that one brief statement. There are others not mentioned,
but in the sixth paragraph we have a statement about the ascension of Jesus. He was not only
resurrected from the dead, but ascended into heaven. That will be considered in our next study.
The first of the five major doctrines we will look at tonight is the Eternity of the Eternal Son. This
will be followed by the Virgin Birth, fulfilled prophecies, the atoning work of Christ on the cross,
rejection by the authorities, his crucifixion and burial, and finally, the resurrection.
Im sure if youve read much of the Bible you have discovered that the figure of Christ dominates
the Scriptures. He is as much in the Old Testament as he is in the New. When you begin to see
all the sacrifices, the ritual, the tabernacle and temple, are all ways of picturing Christ, you will
see how fully he fills the Old Testament as well as the New. The Old Testament believers were
being taught about Christ. Jesus said something very remarkable to the Pharisees one day:
Your father Abraham saw my day, and was glad. What did he mean, saw my day? Either by
the Spirit interpreting the Scriptures, or by some inner revelation by the Spirit, Abraham saw the
coming of Jesus. He knew God was sending some one. The remarkable thing is as you read the
Old Testament you get a great sense that someone is coming. As you read it through you find
constant rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies that seem to be meaningless as far as the
applications to the individuals involved at the time. But they are all saying someone is coming.
You will recall when John the Baptist introduced our Lord, his greeting was: Behold, the Lamb
of God. All those sacrifices were fulfilled in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the
Read the Old Testament again, and youll see it is not only a book of unexplained sacrifices, but
unfulfilled promises, and various references to someone. Moses said God will raise up a
prophet like unto me and him shall the people hear. Samuel spoke of someone who was
coming. Even Barak, the false prophet, spoke of a king who shall rise and Shiloh shall come.
Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, speak in clear and lucid terms concerning his coming.
Yet when you read through the Old Testament and close the book of Malachi, he has not yet
So the Old Testament is a book of unexplained sacrifices, unfulfilled prophecies, and more than
that, you see throughout a great expression of longing for someone to meet peoples needs,
forgive their sins, solve their problems, satisfy their emotional hungers and in every way fulfill all
the desires of their hearts. This is expressed over and over again. Behold, the desire of nations
shall come, Ezekiel said. Job cries out for a mediator, a daysman, someone to stand between
him and God. There is this longing all through the Old Testament, so you see at the end of
Malachi it is a book of unfulfilled longing.
But the first thing you see in the New Testament is This is the book of the generations of Jesus
Christ. And immediately the New Testament begins to unfold the wonderful impact Jesus
makes as he speaks to his disciples and crowds, and becomes the sensation of the nation.
Immediately crowds followed him in great numbers, inescapably, because they sensed here
was one who could meet the longing of their hearts. It was only as he began to speak about the
cost of following him that the crowds began to dwindle. But at first there was a great popular
upsurge of interest in Jesus. People left their work and their homes and went without food in the
wilderness, to hear what he had to say. So the Scriptures are full of Jesus from beginning to
end. He is the dominant figure of the Bible.
The first thing we look at here with regard to Jesus is his eternity as the Son. There is much
confusion about this, and many people think Jesus became the Son of God when he was
incarnated. (By the way, Incarnation is a term like Trinity that you will not find in the Bible, but it
gathers up a great deal of teaching.) Incarnate means, to become flesh. John says that in his
prologue to his gospel. (1:1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God. Then in the fourteenth verse: The Word became (or was made) flesh.
There is the idea of the Incarnation.
Many think he became the Son of God either when he was born of Mary or made flesh in the
Incarnation. Actually, the Scriptures teach he has always been the Son of God. Remember we
saw as we studied the great truth of the Trinity that the three persons of the Godhead are
intimately linked together eternally. It is always the Father, always the Son, and always the
Spirit. This is seen in the passage often quoted at Christmastime, Isaiah 9:6: For to us a child is
born, to us a son is given. The child must be born because that is his humanity. But the son is
not born; he is given. This reflects the eternity of his sonship. This has been from earliest time
the doctrine of the Church concerning our Lord, that he was always the Son of God.
We believe that the Son of God entered the human race as the virgin-born son of Mary. That
brings up another highly controversial doctrine concerning Jesus, and that is his virgin birth.
That is often confused with another doctrine that is not part of the Protestant faith but part of
Catholic teaching, the Immaculate Conception. This is not the same thing as the Virgin Birth.
The Immaculate Conception has to do with Mary. The Virgin Birth has to do with our Lord. The
Catholic teaching is that Mary was conceived without sin, though there is nothing at all in
Scripture to support that. Its traditional teaching.
Many people, even sometimes evangelicals, downplay the importance of the Virgin Birth. You
will sometimes hear otherwise evangelical pastors or teachers minimize the Virgin Birth and say
its possible to believe in Christ without believing in the Virgin Birth. I suppose that could be true,
as our faith can be deficient in many areas and still, if we know the Lord are in personal touch
with him, we could be born again. Some of these doctrines, important as they may be, are not
necessary to salvation.
I think it is helpful to understand that, though I do believe that once you are born again and
begin to read the Bible it will not be long before you also believe in the Virgin Birth, because two
of the gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, record it very prominently. Again, because it is in only
two of the gospels, some of the critics say this is a sign it is not important, that the early
Christians did not think it important or they would have put it in all the gospels. But they neglect
to say that neither Mark nor John records the birth of Jesus at all. They are not talking about
how he came into the world, but start at the beginning of his ministry when he was thirty years of
age. That would be the reason they do not mention the Virgin Birth.
Paul seems to make reference to it in Galatians 4:4: But when the time had fully come, God
sent his Son, born of a woman. Obviously, that would be a truism if he didnt mean something
more than natural birth, because all of us are born of woman. Most scholars think he refers here
to the Virgin Birth. I think the reason you dont find a lot of emphasis on the Virgin Birth in the
Epistles is because it was so taken for granted.
The reason the Virgin Birth is so important is that it allows Jesus to be a sinless person. The
whole doctrine of his impeccability (which is the theological term for sinlessness), hangs upon
the Virgin Birth. (Class comment: Question about the births of Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac was
born of promise, but both sons were conceived in the normal process, so this is not a reference
to a virgin birth.) This is somewhat speculative, I grant, but I think there is some evidence in
Scripture and, I believe, in biology, that the sin of Adam affected the entire race without
exception. It is passed along through the male seed, and not through the female. This could at
least be suggested by the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.
Im not an expert in Biology, though I studied it in high school and college, but as I recall when
the ovum and the sperm are about to unite they each contain half chromosomes. There are
forty-eight in the human cell, and these split in half before fertilization, so that when they join half
are from the female and half from the male. Then the fetus begins to grow with a genetic
structure partly derived from both. In the case of a virgin where there is no male fertilization at
all, you would have in Marys case an ovum containing the forty-eight chromosomes waiting for
fertilization, but no male chromosomes to unite with.
How then did Mary bear a normal human child? The answer is, God provided that. And if sin
comes through the male line, and this I think is suggested, though it cannot be directly proven,
because we are told that the race did not fall with Eve, but it did fall when Adam sinnedyou
would have then a sinless ovum, fertilized by the Holy Spirit himself, God the Creator furnishing
what was necessary for the full development of the human embryo. Jesus would then be born a
normal human baby, apart from the taint of sin. That is why God chose a virgin to be the mother
of Jesus, to preserve his sinlessness.
The Bible preserves very, very carefully that sinless condition of our Lord. The argument is
raised over whether Jesuscould have sinned or not. Some take the position that he could not
have sinned at all because he was born without sin and his deity protected him so that he could
not sin. Others say how then could he understand our temptations if he was not temptable?
Hebrews 4:15 says: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our
weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areyet was
without sin. If he is temptable, then he could have sinned. And that debate will have to wait until
we are all in glory. What the Bible unequivocally says is thathe did no sin. He was tempted.
I remember how disturbed I was as a young Christian, working in Chicago for a man who was
ostensibly, and probably was a Christian. I was working for the Presbyterian Church at the time
who were putting on a series of banquets to raise money for Presbyterian colleges. It was at the
very height of the Depression. This man, whom I had met in college, was the manager of this
campaign. He was a good and dear man, but I mentioned something about the fact that Jesus
had not sinned, and he disturbed me greatly by saying, How do you know what happened all
those years before he entered his ministry? We dont know what happened when he was
growing up as a boy in Nazareth.
I had never thought of that. I assumed what I had been taught, that he was sinless. It bothered
me for quite awhile. I wondered how do we know whether he did something wrong, maybe got
into a fist fight with the kid next door, threw garbage over the fence into the neighbors yard,
short-sheeted somebodys bed, or something, while he was growing up? I didnt get an answer
to satisfy until one day studying through the gospels it suddenly dawned on me that this is what
the Father is assuring us about at the baptism of Jesus. When Jesus came up from the water,
the Spirit came upon him and a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased. He had pleased the Father all through those years, and this was the seal of
So this is what the Virgin Birth protects and makes possible; that he entered the human stream
fully sharing our humanity, as several verses of Scripture make very clear, but he was without
sin. Paul says in Romans 8:1-3, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law
of sin an death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful
nature, God did by sending his own Sonin the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. Not
that his humanity was false or only an appearance, but that he was fully a man, but not a sinful
man. Again in II Corinthians 5:21, the Apostle says, God made him who had no sin to be sin for
us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Hebrews tells us in two places
that he was the holy one, without sin.
It is true that it is not necessary for us to fully understand before we become Christians, or even
for a while afterward, but when you begin to get the full testimony of Scripture it becomes crystal
clear that our Lord was indeed born of a virgin. Some are troubled by the statement in chapter
seven of Isaiahs prophecy of the virgin who will give birth to a son, because the Revised
Standard Version, among others, translate that a young maiden will bear a son. Its true that
the Hebrew can be translated maiden and does not necessarily refer to a virgin, but when that
verse is quoted in Matthew, he uses a Greek wordparthenosto translate the Hebrew word,
which means nothing but a virgin. By the way, it is the same word from which the beautiful
ruined edifice on Mars Hill is named, the Parthenon, because it means the virgin goddess
Athena for which Athens is named.
(Class question about Immaculate Conception) That is not a doctrine about Christ. It is a
doctrine about Mary. The claim is that when she was born she too was born sinless. Catholic
teaching tries to make Mary a kind of co-redemptress. In fact she is called that in Catholic
teaching, that she shared in the redeeming work of Christ. And in order to do so she had to be
sinless, so they have, I think, invented the doctrine of Immaculate Conception, having to do with
Mary. Mary was not sinless; there is no support for that at all in Scripture. In fact in the gospel of
Luke Marys own statement about herself is that she is a sinner. Luke 1:46-48, Mary said, My
soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he as been mindful of the
humble state of his servant. Only a sinner needs a Savior. Catholics dont explain it. It is just
part of their teaching about Mary which is derived from the tradition of the church.
This is the difference between Catholic and Protestant views of authority. In the Catholic view,
the Pope has replaced the Apostle Peter, is descended from Peter and has the same authority
as Peter, and that the Apostles are the proclaimers of Christian doctrine. No Protestant would
disagree that the Apostles are indeed proclaimers of Christian doctrine. What we would
question is whether the Pope is the spiritual descendant of the Apostle Peter. But they say that
traditionally Popes received additional revelation that Mary was born sinless. I dont want to
appear to downgrade the Catholic church because there are many true believers in the Catholic
church just as in the Baptist church. But we do need to make some of these corrections.
The third statement about our Lord is that he was named Jesus. That is included in this because
that was a God-given name. When the angel appeared to Joseph he told him not be afraid to
take Mary as his wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give
birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:20-21) So God himself
named his own Son, which the Father had the right to do. He was named Jesus which means
Jehovah saves. He fulfilled in that title the prophecies of a coming Savior.
He was named Jesus and he fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Thats a
wonderful study in itself. We dont have time to go into all the prophecies throughout the
Scriptures, of which there are many. Someone has computed that our Lord during the course of
his lifetime fulfilled 333 predictions of him in the Old Testament. The odds of that amount of
fulfillment just happening is quite impossible. Many of these are well known, such as the great
prediction of Isaiah 53, where we have the very scene of the cross brought before us.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
Nothing to his appearance that we should desire him.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
Yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
And by his wounds we are healed. (53:2-5)
My patron saint, Dr. H. A. Ironside, told me a wonderful story. He used to preach throughout
California. He was with the Plymouth Brethren at that time. On one occasion, he was speaking
at a church in San Bernardino, California, and he noticed a sandy-haired young man come in
and look for a seat, finding one near the front. Dr. Ironside had not seen him before, so thought
he might not be a believer so he tried to talk to him afterward, but couldnt get to him soon
enough. The next night he came again, and once again Ironside tried to reach him but he got
away again.
The third night the young man came in a little late and there were no seats except on the very
front row. Ironside thought to himself, Ive got you tonight! As soon as the meeting ended the
young man got up to go but Ironside was there beside him, asked his name, and the young man
reluctantly gave it. Ironside asked, Would you mind telling me whether you are a Christian?
No Im not, he said. Why have you come here?, Ironside asked. Well, I just stopped in the
first night, and I got interested in hearing what this man, Isaiah says. My, can he sling the
language! Ironside said, Would you tell me something about yourself? He said. Im a British
engineer and a few years ago I was assigned a project of building the railroad from Jappa on
the coast of Israel up to Jerusalem. Ive been reared in a non-Christian home, have no
background in the Scriptures, and I was very much opposed to the Christian faith. But living in
Palestine, I saw so many things that reminded me of the Bible that I couldnt help believing
some of these things might be true.
One day I joined a tour that led out to Gordons Calvary (which is the little hill just outside the
Damascus gate, which many believe is the site of the crucifixion. I am one of them.) The guide
began to tell us that this was the traditional site where Jesus was crucified. I was so upset that
what I regarded as an abominable heresy had begun on this very spot, that I began to curse
God out loud. The people were so shocked they actually began to run down the hill to get away
from me because they thought God would strike me dead. I never have been able to believe in
Jesus, but this man Isaiah seems to say so many things about him.
Ironside got his clue, and he said, Let me show you something. He turned to Isaiah 53,
handed him the book and said, Read that. The young man began to read it, and suddenly he
just dropped the Bible, turned on his heel and out the door he went, without saying a word.
Ironside didnt know what to make of it. He looked for him the next two nights and he didnt
come. Then the third night he came in, his head held high, walked down to the front with a big
smile and sat down, and Ironside knew something had happened.
As soon as the meeting ended, he went to the young man and said, I know something has
happened to you. Will you tell me about it? Well, he replied, after I left you having read from
that passage in Isaiah, I realized this was Jesus he was talking about. I went home and got a
Bible and read it through again and again, and suddenly the Lord opened my eyes and I
realized the man I had cursed on Calvary was the one who was wounded for my transgressions
and bruised for my iniquities, and the chastisement for my sins was laid upon him and by his
stripes I am healed. I received him, and my heart has been so full of joy since then.
The sequel to that story is, I was in Israel in 1967 with a group of people from PBC and
elsewhere. It was my first visit to Israel, and we went out to this little hill, Gordons Calvary,
which is now beside the tomb in a beautiful garden. We were sitting there looking at the scene
of Calvary and the tomb, so I told this story to the group. The man who was in charge of the site
at that time was an Arab Christian by the name of Solomon Mattar. He heard me tell that story,
and came to me afterward and said, Ive never heard that story before. That is so interesting.
Someone had tape recorded it, and he asked for a tape. The next day I brought him one and he
looked very grateful. That was April, 1967. In June the Israelis re-captured the city of Jerusalem,
and as the Jewish soldiers came up the street to the Garden Tomb, the keepers of the tomb had
heard the gun shots and had run and hid in the tomb of Jesus for safety, because there were
bullets ricocheting through that place. Soldiers pounded on the gate and Solomon Mattar went
to the gate. When he opened it he saw there were Jewish soldiers outside, and he did exactly
the wrong thing. Instead of standing there and identifying himself, he turned and ran, and the
soldiers shot him. He died at the entrance to the Garden Tomb. I never read Isaiah 53 without
thinking about the remarkable story of the young man who cursed God on Calvary and then
realized Jesus was the one who fulfilled that prophecy.
There are many other prophecies. Psalm 22 is another noteworthy one, where the very words
Jesus uttered on the cross, My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? It pictures the
crucifixion, one whose hands and feet were pierced, and whose garments were divided among
Years ago I was teaching a Bible class in Menlo Park. A young Jewish student from Stanford
University was in the class, a handsome, brilliant young man. He came to me after class and
told me he was Jewish and asked about the Old Testament predictions of Jesus. I turned to
Psalm 22 and he read the words, They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my
clothing, and they have pierced my hands and my feet. He stood there transfixed, holding the
Bible in his hands, and he said, I saw The Robe (the movie film). He said, I cant believe this. I
never knew this was in the Jewish Bible. Later that evening I had the joy of leading him to the
Many people have been impressed by the fulfillment of the prophecies, and you cannot study
those predictions without seeing that God has throughout the course of history been laying the
groundwork to be fulfilled by the Lord in his coming. I wish we had time to examine it further,
and go into some of those prophetic Scriptures.
Jews are sometimes characterized as killers of Christ, and anti-Semitic campaigns often apply
this term as though they lone were responsible for the death of Jesus. We must remember that
in the Scriptures, both the Romans who were Gentiles and the Jews are involved in the death of
Christ. So as we condemn the Jews, so we condemn ourselves, since we too are descendants
of those who crucified the Lord. I hope none of you are guilty of anti-semitism in that regard.
They are no more guilty than we are.
The attitude of evil in all of us is the same attitude, which prompted both the Gentle and Jewish
worlds to put him to death. Remember I Corinthians 2 Paul says the world by wisdom did not
know God. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have
crucified the Lord of glory. (2:8) Their mistake was from ignorance. This is true of both Jews
and Gentiles. So the world stands guilty of failing to recognize him when he came.
Still today, hope many people have heard the claims of Christ and rejected them, unwilling to
accept the implications of acknowledging that he was the Son of God. We are confronted with
the same issues as the world of that time. So our Lord was set aside, rejected by Gentiles and
Jews, condemned by Pontius Pilate even though it was obvious he was innocent. Pilate himself
twice said this was an innocent man, so that the Roman judge has gone on record as saying he
condemned an innocent man to death. The gospel account establishes this clearly.
Our Lord was then rejected, and buried in a borrowed tomb. You know the story of how Joseph
of Arimathea, a rich man who had prepared it for his own death, placed Jesus body in his own
tomb. The Scriptures make a great dealmore than you would thinkof the burial of Jesus.
Paul says it is part of the Gospel which he gives us in I Corinthians 15:1-8: Now, brothers, I
want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have
taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.
Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I have received (from whom? Not from the other Apostles, but from the Lord himself. It
is amazing to me how many evangelical writers still try to claim Paul got his Gospel from the
other twelve. He denies this in Galatians, where he says he did not receive it from them) I
passed on to you s of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to he Scriptures,
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he
appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. That is the Gospel, the Good News.
Why do you think he includes the burial of Jesus? So there would be no question of his death.
How many books still appear on the market that try to establish that our Lord did not really die;
that he fainted, or was in a coma and the coolness of the tomb revived him, and he really was
not dead. But he was there three days and three nights, and it is clearly established that he was
dead, so his resurrection takes on far great meaning.
The atoning work of Jesus is a vast theme. The Cross of Christ is the central teaching of the
New Testament. Everything Jesus did was in view of the cross. He saw the cross from the very
beginning. When Jesus was born and shepherds came to worship him, Mary hid all these things
in her heart and pondered them, and somewhere along the line she began to get information
that he was going to die, and she was troubled by it.
Jesus himself understood this. He made it crystal clear to his disciples toward the end of his
ministry that he knew he was headed for the cross. In his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
he was facing the cross. Not just the physical anguish and torment which was horrendous in
itself, but mainly the sense of separation from the Father which he knew he would have to
endure. If any of us have experienced a sense of hopelessness and abandonment, of having no
one to turn to, without friends and left adrift, cut off from all human contactthis would be just a
slight indication of what our Lord was facing as he anticipated the cross. The thing that
strengthened and held him steady throughout his ministry was constantly leaning back upon the
(Class Question) He tells us there were things he did not know as man. He didnt know the date
of his return. But what he learned about himself he learned from the Scriptures. You remember
the scene in the temple when he was twelve, he said to his parents, Do you not know that I
must be about my Fathers business? He at least had some intimation at that time of a ministry
that awaited him, probably even that early something of his death, because the Scriptures
portrayed it. He read the Scriptures, Isaiah, Deuteronomy, which were his favorite Old
Testament books (because he quotes them most often.) He would have seen that they all
pointed toward his death. As he does things that fulfill Scripture, he says several times, in order
that the Scripture be fulfilled, let us. He knew he was moving according to a pattern, which
the Father himself had chosen for him.
There are many theories of the Atonement that sometimes are conflicting. Probably most of
them are true. What we are facing here is such an enormous spiritual truth, of such remarkable
proportions and dimensions that almost anything said will be at least partially true. Its like the
fable of the five blind men who examined the elephant. One feels the tail and says an elephant
is like a snake; another grabs the trunk and says its a huge rope; another feels his leg and says
its like a pillar; another his side and says its like a wall. This is what we encounter when we
deal with the truths of the Cross, the Incarnation, almost anything concerning our Lord. It is so
vast we only see sections of it at a time, so most theories of the Atonement would have at least
a grain of truth to them. Some are inadequate, and some false. A good study on this is a book
by John R. W. Stott , called The Cross of Christ, a wonderfully thorough treatment of the
One thing we want to avoid in thinking of the Cross is that in some way Jesus is placating the
wrath of God the Father; that the Father is angry with the race and wants to wipe them out.
Jesus comes in and placates his wrath by the sacrifice of himself, and God is willing to accept it.
This is a very inadequate view of the cross. What the Scriptures say is that God was in Christ
reconciling the world unto himself; that the Father was as much involved in the sacrifice of the
Son. He designed it, and sent him into the world for that purpose, out of his love for the lost.
Paul states it very clearly in Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The Father involved in the cross, feeling the pain and the shame of it as much as the Son.
What you find is that the Father finds a way to satisfy his own sense of justice, through the
death of his Son. Thus his love is free to be manifested without condemnation toward lost man.
This is the glory of the Gospel. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are involved in the work of
redemption, were willing to do so in order that man might be saved. I think we ought to study the
work of Christ on the cross in the Epistles with great reverence in the marvel and wonder of it.
Charles Wesleys great hymn captures it so faithfully:
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviors blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
That is a great theological statement, isnt it! Likewise, the second verse:
Tis mystery all! ThImmortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
The immortal dies! How can that be? That is the marvel that I think Satan did not understand.
He thought he had Jesus trapped when he was put to death. He could not understand how God
could die. He knew sin required death, and if man died that was the end of him. So Satans
reasoning was, how could God redeem us?
So throughout the Scriptures this is the wonder that stirred the early Christians to go out and
spread this good news to men everywhere. God had found a way to set aside his just sentence
of condemnation, and welcome sinners into his presence. Thats the glory of the Gospel. All this
is involved in this great statement concerning our Lord.
He was raised on the third day according to the (Old Testament) Scriptures. The Atonement
without the Resurrection would be a redemption that could not apply to anybody. We need the
Resurrection in order to have the work of Atonement applied to us. It is because Christ rose
from the dead that we are able to receive this great truth of his atoning grace. Paul argues this
at great length in I Corinthians 15:17: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you
are still in your sins. Our preaching, our work is in vain, and we are of all men most miserable,
if Christ is not risen from the dead. All Christian faith rests upon the twin foundation stones; the
atoning work of Christ on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. They go together. This
was the Gospel of the early church, and is yet today. As we go everywhere telling that God has
raised him from the dead, we give proof and application of these great truths.
Again this is a doctrine highly attacked. Since it is so crucial to Christian faith, this is where the
enemies of Christianity aim their big guns, trying to destroy all confidence in the resurrection of
Christ. Repeatedly throughout history, from generation to generation, books appear that attack
the resurrection of Jesus. The Passover Plot, is a case in point, by a Jewish writer who tried to
explain away the resurrection. Matthew Arnold, a British writer back in the nineteenth century,
tried to say that Jesus never rose from the dead: Now he is dead, and so he lies in some lone
Syrian town. And on his grave with gleaming eyes the Syrian stars look down. But that is not
true. Thank God, he rose from the dead! And because he rose, his life is available to us, the
Spirit has been sent to us, and this is the finishing stone in the whole structure of redemption.
The book of Hebrews makes a great deal of this. I am now involved in writing a commentary on
Hebrews, and it is so refreshing to come to those passages where the writer invites us, let us
come boldly unto the throne of grace, because we can enter into the holy of holies, by the
blood of Jesus, and receive help in time of need. This is the unseen, invisible means of support
which Christians have that non-Christians know nothing about. Thats why it is so disappointing
and so shameful for Christians to give way to pressures and problems, because they are
obviously not relying upon the adequacy of the resources available to them. But if we would use
that resource, flee to the one who is able to help us, this is Jesus ministry as Melchizedek, the
living priest who is able to give help at any time to those who rely upon him. We have an inner
source of peace and strength that enables us to work our way through the problems. The
problems wont disappear, but the resource to handle them will be given.
(Class Questions) The question is about the equality of the Son with the Father. It says the
Father sent the Son, this would imply unequal authority. This is a matter of function. As an
analogy, in the United States we say that all individuals are equal before the law. This would be
equally true of the President and the Vice President, yet in function one is subordinate to the
other. But they are still equal before the law. In the Trinity, the Father is in a sense the planner,
the Initiator, while the Son is Designer supplying the details. Different functions, but equal in
Before we close I would like to refer you to a passage in Hebrews which I think has been
neglected in exposition in most of the commentaries, but a remarkable statement about our
Lord. The four things he did in his coming to earth is set forth in chapter two. First of all, he re-
captured the lost destiny of man; that which Adam lost, Jesus won back. In Hebrews 2:5 it says:
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But
there is a place where someone has testified (quoting from Psalm two): What is man that you
are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the
angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.
That is the destiny of man in the eyes of God. That is what we were made for.
In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. (He is not talking
about God, but about man.) Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see
Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because
he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
What does he mean? He means that Jesus fulfills that intention of God for mankind. As we join
with Jesus, then, and are made part of him, we too re-capture our lost destiny. I have often
thought that as you read through the gospels you see Jesus doing these remarkable miracles,
and demonstrate a control of nature. Most of the commentators say this was proof he was God.
I think it is proof he was man. When he stilled the wind and the waves, when he multiplied the
fish and bread, changed water into wine, etc., I think he was exercising power Adam could have
done before his fall, because everything was subject to him. Therefore Jesus was fulfilling the
normal destiny of mankind, and probably in the resurrection we will be able to do those things
ourselves. Its an intriguing thought, isnt it? But I think this is what our Lord has done; he has re-
captured mans destiny. We dont see everything under mans command now.
The second thing that is stated is that Jesus has recovered for us our lost unity: (verses 10-11):
In bringing many sons to glory it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything
exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who
makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed
to call them brothers. He says, I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the
congregation I will sing your praises. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again he says,
Here am I, and the children God has given me.
Thats a picture, you see, of one family. All belonging to one Father, and Jesus makes himself
our brother. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. There is a restoration of divided humanity
that we see in the world todayall the racial strife and class struggles, economic differences
and all that are so evident in our world are going to be wiped away because of the work of
Jesus. He re-unites us as a race and restores the family of God.
The third accomplishment is in verses 14-15. He has come to release us from our present
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he
might destroy him who holds the power of death that is, the deviland free those who all their
lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
What makes us work so hard and run so fast and be so restless? We think we have to get it
now, dont we? Were afraid its all going to disappear in death. And Jesus has released us from
that. Where, O grave, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
Our Lord has come to loose the bonds of the devil and free us from that kind of fear.
The last thing, is to restore us in times of failure (verse 16-18):
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abrahams descendants. For this reason he had to be
made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high
priest in service to
God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered
when he was tempted, he is able to help Those who are being tempted.
So he is able to restore us, able to strengthen us, able to help us. Four wonderful things have
been given us because of our Lords coming. He re-captured our lost destiny; he recovered our
lost unity; he releases us from our present bondage to fear; he restores us in times of failure.
Concerning Redemption
Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Article V of our Doctrinal Statement reads:
Concerning Redemption
We believe Jesus died upon the cross as a sin-less substitute for sinners of all ages and times,
and that the Father was thus, by means of the Spirit, reconciling the world to Himself. All who
receive the risen Jesus as Lord, by faith, are spiritually born into permanent membership in the
family of God.
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
Like all the statements, this is a condensation. It is normally treated under the subject
Soteriology, the doctrine of Salvation. There are a number of important divisions of it. We want
to take up the cross as central to the Christian faith; the substitutionary work of Jesus on that
cross; the universal application of it for all ages and times; the reconciliation which was one of
the effects of the cross; and ultimately the regeneration which is the gift of life to those who
believe and receive the Lord Jesus.
Im sure most, if not all of you, are in full agreement with the fact that the Cross is the central
theme of redemption. The Scriptures clearly indicate that though the teaching of Jesus was
profound and world-shaking in its implications, no one is saved by the teaching of Jesus. We
are saved by his death upon the cross and his subsequent resurrection. The gospel, the good
news, is not that Jesus taught wonderful truths, but that he died for our sins according to the
Scriptures, was buried and rose again from the dead according to the Scriptures. Thats the
That is the reason why as you read through the four Gospels you will find that every one of them
devotes by far the largest percentage of treatment to the last week of Jesus, rather than his
three preceding years of ministry. There is an account of his teaching, of his travels up and
down the length of Palestine, his ministry in training the twelve disciples, sending out seventy
others, etc. There are many stories that gather about that ministry, of his miracles and the effect
he had on the people, but when it moves to the account of the crucifixion, of Jesus death, the
majority of the gospels is devoted to that. That last week becomes the central focus of each of
the gospels.
I think in order to understand the Atonement we might take a look at what I believe is one of the
clearest passages in the Scriptures that teaches it, Pauls treatise in Romans chapter three. In
this epistle to the Romans, the apostle spends the first three chapters showing how the human
race is absolutely hopeless and helpless apart from the redemption provided in Christ. There is
no way for anyone to be saved apart from the work of Jesus. He is showing us the lost
condition of the race.
By the way, Ive put on the board here the symbols usually employed by all Calvinists to
summarize the heart of Calvinist teaching, which forms the word TULIP. Were going to look at
that in some detail, but the first of these would be what we are talking about right now: the total
depravity of human beings. That is what Paul establishes in the first three chapters of Romans,
up to verse twenty-one. His conclusion (NIV) is:
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks
God. (That doesnt mean they dont pursue small gods, but no one seeks the real God,
because the effect of seeking him is to find themselves condemned. Thats why men turn away,
as Paul goes on to say): All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is
no one who does good, not even one. (And dont mentally add: except me.) Their throats are
open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths
are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their
ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This is an excellent summary of what is meant by total depravity. It doesnt mean man cannot
do what looks good in his own eyes, or in the eyes of others. There are many apparently
wonderful, charitable deeds and merciful acts performed by total unbelievers, which appear to
us very good things, but remember God is looking at the heart. He sees the motive behind these
things, and what may look like a very good deed to us is oftentimes a very evil deed in Gods
eyes, because the motive is wrong.
I remember a statement I heard years ago about rich men who gave money for various worthy
causes: It takes a lot of philanthropy to deodorize a great fortune. I think that is probably true.
Many give money because it make them feel good, or it makes them lookgood to others. The
recipients of their charity may be greatly helped, and that looks like a good deed, but it is not in
Gods eyes if the motive is wrong. God is reading the heart, and Pauls conclusion is, there is
none righteous, not even one.
That means all of mankind is lost. It doesnt mean they are all equally bad. It means that nothing
they do can be seen as good in Gods eyes because the taint of evil, the original sin we
inherited from Adam, the self-centeredness of our nature, poisons every thought, every deed.
We can make it look good to ourselves and to others, but not in the sight of God.
What then can we do? Here Paul for the first time in Romans gives us a clear-cut statement of
the wonderful work of Christ in solving that dilemma:
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law
and the Prophets testify.
I think it very important we understand the word righteousness here. Righteousness is used in
two ways in Scripture. Its used, of course, to describe good behavior. If someone lives right we
say they are living righteously, and it is used that way in the Bible in places, but not in Romans.
In Romans, righteousness is not what you do but what you are, and he has just pointed out that
no one is righteous. He says it very plainly in verse ten: there is no one righteous, not even
one. So if it is necessary to be righteous to be accepted before God, were sunk! But now, he
says, a righteousness from God is made known! Hes of course speaking of the gift of
righteousness in Christ.
Now you need to know that the word righteousness and the term justification are derived
from the same root. They are really the same word: to justify, a word you frequently see in
Scripture, which really means to make righteous. It comes from the same Greek root,
dikaiosune, to justify. to make righteous. So what he is saying is now a way to be made
righteous before God apart from the law has been known, to which the Law and the Prophets
bear witness. That is the gift of righteousness given to those who believe in Jesus: This
righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. So it is a gift!.
I think the English word that gets closest to the heart of this Greek term, is the word worth.
Everyone is looking for worth. Psychologists tell us that a sense of self worth is essential to
functioning as a human being, without which you will function badly in society, and will be totally
lost. If you have no sense of self worth youll curl up in a corner in a fetus position and be
actually unable to move. That happens to some persons. They lose their sense of value about
themselves and they are rendered totally inoperative. Therefore, worth is a very necessary
quality, and everybodys looking for it. You only have to turn on your television, listen to the
commercials, listen to people talk on the street, and you will hear them saying in one way or
another that what they are looking for is a way to be important, to feel worthwhile.
What most look for is a sense of worth in the eyes of other people. If we can find that, it does
give us a temporary shot in the arm about ourselves. If our parents love us as children, we get a
sense of worth from that. If our friends love us even when we are sometimes obnoxious, we get
a sense of worth from their friendship. So everyone is looking for friends, love, acceptance, and
this is a basic human quest which cannot be denied.
But even those fortunate enough to have received a continuing sense of worth from others,
such as favored children, the good-looking, those with special gifts, etc., even those people
find that worth received from other people doesnt satisfy. Even the most loyal, close, dearest
friend, your mate, for instance, cannot satisfy the longing for worth in the human heart. There
comes eventually the awareness that something is missing. There is an emptiness, a feeling of
vacuity. This is what creates the universal restlessness apparent everywhere in the world today.
What are they looking for? They are looking for worth in the eyes of God. Ultimately, because
we are human beings made in the image of God, and as the Scripture says, God has put
eternity in our hearts, we never can be satisfied with anything less thanGodsapproval. And that
is what the gospel offers. There is a worth given us by God. It cant be earned, you cant buy it,
you cant create it. It doesnt come through the Law, Paul says. Its apart from the Law. The Law
can give you worth if you will perfectly obey it, but if you mess up in one little thing youve lost it
all. You cant earn this worth, but you can have it as a gift from God through faith in Jesus
Christ. Thats the good news! I dont think there is anything to even remotely compare to that
good news in all the world.
Thats better than a Jaguar, a trip to the Caribbean, winning the lottery, whatever. Nothing
compares with the good news that we are acceptable in the eyes of God, even though we have
been law-breakers, and messed up, and there is none righteous, no not one. Thats the great
statement of Romans.
The Law and the Prophets bear witness to this. You can find this in the Old Testament as well
as in the New. You will find Moses in the Law describes a series of sacrifices, offerings, animals
to be slain, rituals to be performed, all of which are a picture of how to meet the demands of a
righteous God even when you had messed up your life. You did it by bringing a substitute,
putting an animal to death. No animal was ever offered alive to God. It had to be dead, because
God was teaching the world by that means that sin is a deep, serious problem that only death
can solve. The animal had to die, but it is your substitute. This of course gives meaning to the
words of John the Baptist when Jesus was emerging from the waters of baptism. John said,
Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
So the Law bears witness to it and so do the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David and others
writing in the Old Testament. In Psalm 32, David writes: Blessed is he whose transgressions
are forgiven, whose sins are covered. There are many other witnesses in the Old Testament to
consider if we had time. So Paul concludes this is not something the Law can give you, but it is
something to which the Law and the Prophets bear witness.
Now this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. What
does that add? You see that is not universally applied. It is sufficient for the salvation of the
entire world, (well come to that again when we discuss the term Limited Atonement) but it is
not universally applied because it is not universally accepted, It is to those who believe. So you
see this is an answer to the teaching you encounter sometimes of universal salvation. Some
take verses of Scripture to mean that Christ died for all men, therefore all are saved, and it is
irrelevant whether or not you believe it. Here Paul specifically limits it to those who believe, as
Jesus himself did. He said to the Pharisees, for instance, You will not come to me that you
might have life.
Life was available for them, but they refused to come, believe and receive it.
And it comes through faith. Faith simply means you take this word seriously. You believe what
God has said and apply it to yourself. You say, this means me. I find a lot of people struggle at
this point. They think others have the right to be saved, but God didnt mean them. Theyre too
bad, or too far gone, too heard-hearted, or whatever. You run into a lot of excuses, but it is
simply, as Jesus put it, whosoever will may come unto me. If you will to come, then you have
the faith to come, and by faith in Jesus Christ, believing this applies to you, you receive the gift
of righteousness. And Paul continues:
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (He is summarizing
what he has already stated in the previous verses) and are justified (made righteous) freely by
his grace (that is, by Gods gracious initiative) through the redemption that came by Christ
Redemption is the price, not through the teachings of Jesus, but through the redemptive work of
the cross.

Now in verse twenty-five the apostle will explain more fully how this works : God presented him
(Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. The words sacrifice of
atonement are translated variously in other versions. (Readings from class: NAS as a
propitiation. NIV footnote As the one who would turn aside his wrath, RSVan expiation by
his blood. There is no English word that fully captures what the Greek text is saying here. This
attempt here to call it a sacrifice of atonement is one way of trying to get at the meaning. The
two words usually employed are expiation and propitiation, and it is referring to the value of
the death of Jesus. Expiation means to satisfy justice. Propitiation means to awaken or release
love. They are not the same thing. Propitiation is the larger term; it goes further than expiation.
Let me illustrate. These days we read a lot about industrial accidents. Someone is working for a
company and the safety equipment is lacking or inadequate, and a worker is injured severely,
perhaps even paralyzed for life by some accident. The company is responsible because they
failed to provide adequate safety measures to prevent this from happening, so that in the
settlement that follows the suit or court trial, the company is charged a huge sum of money to
settle the claim. When that money is paid by the company to the injured individual, the company
has expiated its guilt. The law cannot come back and require more. Justice has been satisfied.
Expiation satisfies justice.
There are many who point out that when Jesus died upon the cross he satisfied the justice of
God. That is true. He did. But he did more than that, and it is an incomplete view of the
atonement to just use expiation as explanation of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. He did
satisfy Gods justice, so that God no longer has a just claim against those who believe in Christ.
But it goes further than that. What Jesus did was propitiate God.
Propitiation, if I may return to my illustration, could only be accomplished with great difficulty by
the company in that situation. You see when they satisfied justice, that said nothing about how
the injured man felt about the company. He might be very bitter and angry the rest of his life. He
might regard that company as disgraced from then on, and though their guilt has been expiated,
the man himself has not been propitiated. If somehow the company owners could come and
apologize to him and tell him how sorry they felt, and that they had taken steps to assure it
would never happen again, and apologized to such a degree that the man felt they were clear in
their intent, and he then forgave themthen he had been propitiated. He had been made to feel
right toward the company. He now regards it with favor. He sees it was accidental and they had
no intent to allow the accident to happen, so he feels right about it. That is propitiation.
That is really the word used here: a propitiatory sacrifice. Our Lord when he died not only
satisfied Gods justice, but he rendered him free to show his love. That is why in chapter five of
Romans Paul will add: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still
sinners, Christ died for us. God is free to show his love to us; that is propitiation. So we are
justified freely. God presented him as a propitiatory sacrifice through faith in his blood.
Now Paul goes on to further explain, He did this to further demonstrate his justice. Because in
his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. What is he talking
about? He is talking about the ages in which people had run rampant on the earth, and God
seemingly did nothing about it. You see, the last time in history to this point where the anger and
justice of God had been demonstrated against sin, was the Flood, which was God wiping out
the race because it was so evil. Their evil had become so blatant and rampant that God decided
to eliminate humanity from the planet, except for eight people. Thus his justice was
Now many centuries after the flood, evil was running wild throughout the earth, tyrants were
ruling, people were murdering and raping one another, stealing properties and damaging
people, and God seemingly did nothing about it. Still today people raise questions about the
Holocaust. They ask how a just God could permit Hitler to exterminate six million innocent Jews
and not do anything about it. His justice is being impugned by these circumstances.
Now how did the cross satisfy that justice? We are told that on the innocent head of Jesus, the
sinless person, God poured out the total amount of his wrath. This is why Jesus feared the
cross. He was no coward; it wasnt the physical agony of it that he feared, terrible as that was.
There was no more shameful or painful death that man has ever devised than crucifixion. Its a
prolonged agony that cannot be relieved. You cant think of any agony more unbearable than
crucifixion. But that isnt what Jesus feared. Other men have been crucified. Peter was crucified
upside down because he felt unworthy to die the death that Jesus did.
But what made Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane was not the agony of the
cross, but the sense of forsakenness from God that he knew was involved in bearing the sins of
the race. God turned his back upon his own beloved Son, and that is what drew the cry of
dereliction from our Lords lips: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? That sense of
abandonment and alienation by God is the most awful thing any human being can contemplate.
Thats what hell is, that sense of abandonment by God, cast into outer darkness forever alone.
Thats the terror of it, and that is what Jesus faced on the cross. Thus the justice of God was
visibly demonstrated in that God did not spare his own Son one iota of his wrath. Paul says this
in Romans 8:32, He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for allhow will he not
also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
So that is what Paul is referring to. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his
forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunishedhe did it to demonstrate
his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in
Jesus. How can God still be just, yet declare guiltless someone who is very guilty indeed? A
just God could never do that, unless his justice had somehow been satisfied. This is the wonder
of the gospel, that God has found a way in which he can expiate the sin of man, propitiate the
being of the Father, thus establishing that God remains just when he justifies the ungodly. I think
there is no clearer explanation of the gospel than that.
There are many passages that deal with the Atonement, statements that run throughout the Old
and New Testaments. Peter says he bore our sins in his own body upon the tree, and
Hebrews speaks of how he has by himself purged our sins and shed his blood for the
remission of sins. Another passage often referred to in this connection is the great theological
statement in Philippians 2: 5-8 (NIV):
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, (or
literally, the form of God, which means the very nature of God) did not consider equality with
God something to be grasped (held onto, grasped and not let go of) , but made himself nothing,
he emptied himself
There is theological debate over what he emptied himself of. Some claim he gave up his deity,
but that would be impossible, because Jesus was God. How could he cease to be what he was?
You cannot give up what you really are. What it means is he gave up the manifestation, the
visible demonstration of his deity. He laid aside the right to act as God when he came to earth
and took upon himself the right to act as a man filled, in touch with God, which is our position.
taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in
appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to deatheven death on a
This is a clear statement of his substitutionary sacrifice. He died as a man on the cross. God
cannot die. The deity of Jesus did not die, but his humanity did. The blending of those two
natures is such that the effect of his death was as though God himself had in some way
encompassed death. This is the consistent argument of Scripture.
What was the effect of this? Scripture indicates the first effect was to reconcile everyone in the
world to God. This needs to be carefully understood, because there is a lot of confusion and
heretical ideas at this point, some pursuing one aspect of this too far. Lets look at another great
statement by the Apostle Paul on the meaning of the death of in II Corinthians 5:16
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. (That is, he no longer sees
human beings on the shallow estimation of mens valuesif youre rich, or have a high position
youre more important than others. Thats the way we humans look at it.) Though we once
regarded Christ in this way (There was a time when, as a young rabbi from Tarsus, Paul
regarded Christ as a man, a usurper trying to act like God. He blasphemed God, being
completely off base.) But he says, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a
new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to
himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the
world to himself in Christ, not counting mens sins against them. And he has committed to us the
message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christs ambassadors, as though God were making
his appeal through us. We implore you on Christs behalf (actually, in Christs stead, in his
place): Be reconciled to God.
Now reconciliation has two aspects. It refers to how people feel toward one another. If you are
quarrelling with someone, and upset with them and they with you, you need to be reconciled.
You need to view one another differently. But where two are involved, one can be reconciled
and not the other. Reconciliation is the statement that when Christ died on the cross he expiated
sin and propitiated God, so that God is reconciled toward man. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer used to
illustrate it this way: Man and God are alienated from one another, unable to communicate. God
in his justice was feeling anger against man because of his terrible evil that was rampant in the
world. And man was angry with God, blaming him for everything and unable to communicate
with him. But because of the death of Christ, God was reconciled to man. He turned a smiling
face toward mankind.
Actually, this is over-simplification, and in some sense is wrong, because we must not have the
impression that God the Father was placated by Jesus. God, as it states in the passage, was in
Christ reconciling the world unto himself. The Father was just as eager for reconciling mankind
as the Son was. He loved the world, and wanted to bring it back to himself. So in no sense was
the love of God unavailable to man before the cross.
The appeal of the gospel we preach is to the individual. Younow be reconciled to God! Turn
around and accept this gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ. Give up your independent
spirit, your justifying of yourself, and acknowledge your need of redemption. Receive it; be
reconciled to God. If that be true, as I believe it is, then what reconciliation does is to render
men savable.; that is, the death of Jesus was for the whole world.
I want to now call your attention back to Calvinistic teaching. According to his followers, John
Calvin taught these five points: Total Depravity of mankind; Unconditional Election; (God chose
some to be saved, and this the Bible does clearly teach as well see later), but here is the one in
questionLimited Atonement. According to the Calvinists (not Calvin, but Calvinists), the
Scriptures teach that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus was only intended for the elect. God only
chose to save the elect, and that is all that was meant in the sacrifice of Christ. The non-elect,
those who did not receive salvation, were not included in the atonement. In other words, Christ
did not die for everybody. He died only for those who would be saved.
This was conceived of in an attempt to make the work of Jesus appear to be as efficacious as
possible. That is, it was in no sense a failurethat God intended only to save a certain number,
and Christ actually died only for those, and he saved all of those; therefore, his intention from
the beginning was completed. Here there is a great deal of debate. Personally, I cannot accept
the doctrine of Limited Atonement. Ill explain this later.
The fourth point of the Calvinistic five is Irresistible Grace.; that is, when God calls man cannot
resist. If you have read C. S. Lewis, you know how he describes his conversion as being
dragged kicking and screaming, with his eyes darting in every direction, hoping for some way to
escape, but God draws him to himself and he finds he is unable to escape, and receives the
Lord. He is describing irresistible grace. God can save whom he will. Paul will argue that with
great perspicacity in Romans nine.
The last point is the Perseverance of the Saints, that once saved you cannot be lost. The proof
of regeneration is continuance, and this appears again and again throughout Scripture. You
may fall away for awhile, but you cant stay there. You come back again. This is popularly called
Eternal Security.
Those are the five points of Calvinism. For the most part, because I would agree with four of
them, I would usually be classified, and would classify myself as a Calvinist. I spent some
interesting time at a conference with Dr. James Torrance, who is Professor of Theology at St.
Andrews in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a great student of Calvin. I was pleased that he indicated
Calvin really never did teach what is known as Limited Atonement, that it was more his
followers teaching.
One of the reasons for that is the way it deals with the love of God. The well-known verse, John
3:16, says, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. That means God loves
everybody, and that is the reason for his working out this amazing plan of redemption. This is
borne out by Johns statement in his first letter: Godis Love. If you pursue Limited Atonement far
enough, you will have to say that since God loves the elect, he does not therefore love the non-
elect. And if he does not love the non-elect, he does not love everybody.
Jonathan Edwards, a great New England scholar, and John Owens, one of the great Puritan
fathers, taught that God actually did not love everybody, and made statements to the effect that
God cannot be love because he does not love everyone. That runs counter to the Apostle John,
doesnt it. This is the problem with Limited Atonement. But when you see that God made
provisions for everybodys salvation through Christ, but requires a personal response to receive
it, then you can no longer view the atonement as limited, since it is unlimited in its possibilities. It
is limited only by the unwillingness of people to receive it, or willingness to reject it.
There is a great passage in Colossians 1, which we will deal with briefly. The Apostle has been
speaking of Christs deity and says in verses 18-20:
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among
the dead, (thats a reference to the resurrection) so that in everything he might have the
supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to
reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace
through his blood, shed on the cross.
That seems to state that everything has been reconciled, everything on earth, and everything in
heaven which is the invisible realm and which would include the devil and his angels, and on
earth all evil men such as the Hitlers and Stalins, the tyrants of history, murderers, thieves, etc.
All sinners of earth will be reconciled. Universalists lean heavily on this verse, maintaining
everybody is going to be saved. But you see its a great mistake to identify reconciliation with
salvation. Reconciliation is the first step in salvation, not the whole thing.
In Romans 5:9-10, Paul clarifies the distinction:
Since we have now been justified (made righteous) by his blood, how much more shall we be
saved from Gods wrath through him! For if, when we were Gods enemies, we were reconciled
to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be
saved through his life!
Do you see the distinction he has drawn between reconciliation and salvation? Reconciliation,
he says, is the foundation God has already accomplished in Christ, upon which the right to give
his life rests, and as he has made clear, those who believe receive life on the grounds that they
have been reconciled by his death. So the death of Jesus reconciled everything, that is, it
rendered it subject to God, and those who receive
the Lordship of Jesus are given life. Thus everybodys been reconciled, as II Corinthians stated
as well, that God has reconciled the world unto himself through the death of his Son.
Why then does Paul plead, be reconciled unto God? Because personal regeneration depends
upon accepting the death of Jesus for oneself. So reconciliation is not equivalent to salvation.
Everything has been reconciled already, and thus the statement in Philippians that every knee
shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Whether things in earth or in heaven, every knee shall bow angels, devils, demons, humans
everyone will confess that Jesus is Lord. In other words, their opposition to him will cease.
Thats what reconciliation accomplishes; it removes all opposition. It doesnt mean they are
saved. It means they recognize that their condemnation is just. They no longer rationalize, they
agree with God in what he has said about them, and the fate they have been given is right.
Thats what reconciliation accomplishes, but that is not regeneration. On the basis of
reconciliation, we shall be saved through his life. That is what Paul refers to in II Corinthians
5:17 when he says if any man be in Christ (has received Christ), he is a new creation. Old
things have passed away; behold all things have become new.
(Class question) The serpent in the wilderness was erected on the pole for everyone to see, but
only those who looked at it were healed of a snakebite. Thats another picture of this same
thing. Everywhere in Scripture there is the implication that reconciliation must be received.
There is another theological issue that arises at this point, and that is hotly debated today, and
that is, in what way do you have to see Jesus in order to be saved? There is a quarrel going on
currently over what is called Lordship salvation. Do you see Jesus as your Savior and are
saved, or do you see him as Lord to be saved? I was taught at Dallas Seminary that you can
receive Jesus as your Savior and that later on you learn about his Lordship, but your
regeneration is effected by receiving him as Savior.John MacArthur is now contesting that hotly,
saying no, we must see and receive him as Lord in order to be regenerated.
I have to say I consider this sort of a tempest in a teapot. I think both sides are right. I dont
believe you have to know everything in the Bible that is implied in the Lordship of Jesus in order
to be saved. But we have to see that God has made Jesus Lord. He is the Master of the
universe, the Judge of all things, Gods man for redemption, the way to God. You must see that,
otherwise there will not be content to your belief in him. You cant come to him as though
receiving an insurance policy against going to hell, then go on living exactly as you were.
Regeneration changes you inside. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. It changes your
outlook and your attitude. It is opposed inside you by the habits of your past life, and you
struggle against it, often failing, but there is something in the regenerated person that cannot
I remember once receiving a phone call from a young man who had come to Christ a few weeks
previously, and he had been struggling greatly. He called me about eleven oclock at night and
said, Hey, I just want to tell you, Im going to quit being a Christian. I just cant make it, cant
handle it. I said, Well, I understand that. I think thats a good idea. Why dont you just quit?
There was a full minute of silence, and finally he said, No, I cant do that. I said Yes, I know
that. He couldnt, and he didnt. Theres a feeling that you want to, which is understandable.
We all get to that point, but there is something in the believer that will keep bringing him back.
He may struggle at great length, go off for a while and fight it for a long time, but there is
something that keeps telling him you belong to God. He knows it but wont admit it. Others can
see it and think hes backslidden or lost his salvation, or whatever, but sooner or later he will get
back, because that which is born of God cannot sin, he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and he will
eventually turn to God.
Thats the story of the prodigal son, isnt it. He couldnt forget he was his fathers son, and his
last resort was, I will arise and go to my father. I never refer to that without thinking of the black
preacher I met in Dallas who told me how he preached that. He said he told about the prodigal
son who went into the far country and was feeding the pigs in the pigpen. He took off his coat
and sold that, then took off his shirt and sold that, then took off his undershirt and sold that. And
then he came to himself (as the Bible says) and said I will arise and go to my father. Thats
what the believer will do.
I believe there is a sense in which you receive Christ as your Savior, you desperately want to be
saved, you ask him for relief, and in some sense you also are receiving him as Lord because he
is offered on those terms in Scripture. Every offer of salvation includes the statement that Jesus
is Lord. Romans 10:9: That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your
heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. What did the Apostle Paul say to
the Philippian jailor? Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31) Salvation is
always offered on these terms. Jesus is never offered as a Savior. He becomes our Savior
when we receive him as our Lord. Salvation is his work, but Lordship is his person.
I think if you began to explore with both of these parties what they meant by what they are
saying you would come out pretty much at the same place. Obviously John MacArthur is trying
to protect the fact that you cannot just have cheap grace, as Bonhoeffer calls it; that is, just
accept Christ so you wont go to hell, but not let him change your life to any degree. That is
cheap grace, and it is not real salvation. On the other hand, the Dallas Seminary teaching is
defending the fact that you dont have to understand everything about Jesus in order to be
saved. You come to him. Jesus put it that way: Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). He didnt say after you have studied
theology for six months then come to me and I will give you rest.
(Class question about depart from me I never knew you from the Sermon on the Mount.) Well,
thats an example of cheap grace, a sign they did not mean it and there was no real change in
their lives. It is what the Pharisees were doing. They thought they were Gods people, having
come to him through the sacrificial system, and yet Jesus said they were whitened sepulchers.
They had been whitewashed, but inside there was nothing but death.
(Class question) They thought there was a relationship. They said, have we not in your name
preached and done many mighty works? There are a lot of mighty works done in the name of
Jesus today by people who dont know him as Lord. Think of all the hospitals and rescue
operations, charity organizations, all done in the name of Christ, but not necessarily done by
true Christians.
(Class question about the grain of wheat which falls into the ground and dies.) Clearly, this is
implying there must be a giving up of the right to self. That is what death does; it gives up the
right to your self. That is what happens when you truly receive Christ. You come to him asking
he deliver and change, or indwell youwhatever terminology you choose. You are giving up
your right to yourself. Its like a drowning swimmer who cant save himself. Someone comes to
rescue him and he clings to that person, impeding his own salvation. They tell us the best
strategy may be to knock the person out in order to save him. He has to give up on that self
salvation in order to be saved. This is what our Lord is saying, you cant save yourself, and you
have to give up trying in order to be saved. He will do all of the saving. Our hymn says it
Nothing in my hand I bring.
Simply to thy cross I cling.
Naked look to thee for dress.
Helpless, look to Thee for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
We dont offer God anything. We dont bargain with God. We come as hopeless, helpless
victims asking for redemption, and it immediately is ours as a gift of grace.
(Class question) This is a natural question. Why doesnt God give faith to everyone, if by
irresistible grace he calls everyone he wants to himself? This ties in with unconditional election.
Why doesnt God choose everybody? Here we come against what is often called the paradox of
redemption. There are statements about this in Scripture that we cannot reconcile. All we can
do is accept them, because they are both plainly stated. Jesus himself stated both sides. He
says he will not cast out any who come to him (as in John 6:37), but he also clearly says, No
one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. That is unconditional election,
isnt it?
This a watershed of theology. You fall off one side into Calvinism and on the other side toward
Arminianism (which is the opposite view of Calvinism) by how you answer that question. Hyper-
Calvinists take the side of Gods election and irresistible grace to the exclusion of the will of man
entirely. I think this is going too far.
However, in the Arminian or Pelagian (the teacher who taught this in the fourth century) view, it
is said man chooses whether he is to be saved, and it is totally up to him. He can choose to
accept or reject, and when he chooses then God acts. They explain election in terms of the
foreknowledge of God, who looked down the corridors of time and saw everybody who would
accept him when they heard about it, and he elected them to be saved. Scripture does not
support that. Paul argues in Romans nine to the effect that God is sovereign and he knows who
is going to be saved because he has chosen them. He first elects, then foreknows.
Well never settle the debate. I think Ive shared with you before that the great theological
question to ask is, am I foreordained to be an Arminian, or am I free to choose to be a Calvinist?
(Class question) If you carefully read chapter nine of Romans you will see how Paul handles
this very question. He says someone will ask, why does God condemn us since we cant resist
his will? His answer is remarkable: Who are you to ask God questions like that? Youre not
equipped to get into the same ring with him. Youre dealing with a damaged instrument, youre
finite and limited in your observations, you dont see the whole pictureand you are going to tell
God whether he can or cannot do what he does?
If it were not for election, no one would be saved. Because none of us desires God. We dont
want God messing up our lives. Every one of us fights against him, without exception.
Therefore, it were not for election no one would be saved. This is a great doctrine, and we ought
to highly value it.
(Class Question) God is dealing with Israel as a nation (the wild olive tree in chapter 11 of
Romans) and saying that because Israel as a people were the children of Abraham they had an
opportunity to be saved, because of the giving of the Law and the knowledge of God, etc., given
to the patriarchs. But he says that was taken away from them because of their unbelief. They
were broken off, and the Gentles who had no such opportunity were put in their place in order to
have the knowledge of salvation. He says the reason for that is the natural branches, the Jewish
nation, will see Gods blessing upon the Gentile world that they ought to be having and will be
made zealous because of that. It will finally wake them up until they too begin to believe, and
when the Deliverer comes out of Zion (that is the Messiah) returns, they will receive and believe
in him. He is dealing here with those wheels within wheels with which God handles history.
(Class Question) Why does the article of faith state here by means of the Spirit God was
reconciling the world unto himself? It is by means of the Spirit that Jesus is made available to
any of us. Its the Spirit revealing to us the person of Jesus; therefore, our whole understanding
of the work of Christ rests upon the work of the Spirit, who teaches us as we read, how it applies
to us. Hebrews tells us it was through the eternal Spirit that Jesus offered himself without spot
unto God. So we have the work of the Spirit involved in the actual dying of Jesus, his
resurrection, and the application of this truth to mankind. Everywhere it rests upon the work of
the Spirit. We saw in the study of the Trinity that the three persons always work together. This is
simply recognition of that fact.
(Class Question) What does it mean, that which is born of God cannot sin? That statement is
found in I John 3:9: No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because Gods seed
remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God. What he is
referring to here, as I tried to make clear when I showed the circles representing humanity, is
that we have a human spirit, a soul and a body. The human spirit is what is being referred to
here. The Holy Spirit entering the human spirit results in regeneration, the giving of life, the new
birth. That which is born of God, that human spirit regenerated by the presence of the Holy Spirit
within, cannot sin. It doesnt sin, doesnt desire to sin, and cannot sin.
But the soul, which is our conscious life outside of that, has been dominated by the flesh, the
sinful attitudes by which we have been living all our lives, and it still needs to be conquered by
that Spirit. Therefore, it sins at times, and at times it does not as there are areas that are
conquered by the Spirit within us, as we yield to his Lordship and that part of our conscious life
is cleansed. In that area, we become Christ-like. That continues throughout our lives until
gradually, more and more, our soul is being repossessed for Christ. Sin is still possible in this
area as long as we are in the body, which is not redeemed until the resurrection.
(Class Question) Can a true believer quench the Spirit? Yes, we certainly can; otherwise the
warning would not be there to prevent us from doing that. To quench the Spirit means to resist
the leading of the Spirit. To hesitate when the Spirit tells you not to do something that is wrong
or to do something that is right, and be unwilling to go along with him, to fight and resist. We can
do that, and we do.
I just want to mention two excellent books on the cross of Christ. I think the best book available
on the meaning of the Atonement is John R. W. Stotts new book called The Cross of Christ. An
excellent book, very deep study of the Atonement. A more easy-to-read book in some ways, is
the collection of sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the cross. He was a vigorous preacher,
and that vigor and excitement and power comes through very clearly in these sermons. In some
ways this is a more stimulating book. Stotts book is an intellectual study, while Lloyd-Jones
book is emotional experience of the effect of the cross in a believers life. Both are very good
Concerning the Holy Spirit
Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: John 14:15-17

I have suggested to you [in Class #2] the best book I know in explaining biblical anthropology,
that is, the doctrine of man. It is What Is Man? by T. Austin Sparks, which is out of print and
unavailable. Our good friend here in the publication department has copied it off, and it is
available. So far there is only one copy, so look it over and see whether you would like to obtain
it. You may have a copy of it for $4.50, which is the offer of the century. [The book What is
Man? is available online on the T. Austin Sparks website here.]
The Doctrinal Statement Article #6 we are covering tonight is as follows:
Concerning the Holy Spirit
We believe that the resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven and on the day of Pentecost sent
the Holy Spirit to indwell, guide, teach, and empower all who believe by imparting to them the
life of Jesus so that they may live godly lives and engage in loving service to any who are in
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
This is essentially the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, which we will try to cover from the biblical point
of view. The best current book I know of on the Holy Spirit, one that is sane, biblical and well
balanced, is James Packers Keeping in Step with the Spirit. It is sensitive to the various
viewpoints and at the same time very biblical. I would urge you to get it if you want at least one
book on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
As you know, there are various views of the work of the Spirit today, and the theological world is
perhaps more divided on that subject than on any other doctrine of the faith. It ranges all the
way from rabid fanaticism which focuses on some of the more extravagant gifts of the Spirit
such as tongues, miracles and healings, all the way to a very dead orthodoxy that holds to the
biblical teaching but lacks any experience of the freedom and vitality of the Spirit of God.
I hope you will be familiar with biblical teaching, but realize, as Ive already suggested, that it is
not just a matter of knowing what the Bible teaches, but of experiencing what the Spirit can do in
your life. Good Christian living always requires at least two things: the Word and the Spirit.
These two are always together. The Spirit gave us the Word, and the Word informs us what we
may expect of the Spirits work, so that the Word without the Spirit results in a dead, lifeless
orthodoxy. The Spirit without the Word results in fanaticism and extremism. It takes the balance
of both.
I was invited to speak at a Pastors conference a number of years ago near Tacoma,
Washington, and there was a song leader there who was a very engaging fellow. He led the
singing every morning and did a great job. About the second morning he said I would like to
have us sing one of my favorite hymns. I think its the greatest hymn ever written. Not because
its so good musically, but because it is such a marvelous teaching medium. It incorporates in its
verses all of the basic facts of our Christian faith. Then he announced a hymn by J. Wilbur
Chapman called, One Day. How many of you know it?
One day when heaven was filled with his praises.
One day when sin was as black as could be.
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin.
Dwelt amongst men, my example is he.
Chorus: Living he loves me. Dying he saves me.
Buried he carried my sins far away.
Rising he justified freely forever.
One day hes coming; Oh glorious day.
It is a good hymn. It contains a lot of truth, and was very popular in the earlier decades of this
century. J. Wilbur Chapman was an evangelist somewhat in the style of D. L. Moody in the early
part of this century, and had great meetings across the country, as well as in Australia and
Britain. This was one of the songs they sang, the lyrics of which he wrote.
The second verse deals with the cross: One day they led him up Calvarys mountain.
The third verse deals with Gethsemane and his burial.
One day they left him alone in the Garden.
One day he rested from suffering free.
Angels came down oer his tomb to keep vigil.
Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is he.
The fourth verse is the resurrection: One day the grave could conceal him no longer. The fifth
is the expectation of his return. One day the trumpet will sound for his coming.
They sang the song wonderfully, but something struck me as they were singing, that the great
doctrine of the saints was not mentioned at all. I put it to the pastors to tell me what was
missing, and none could think of it, which told me how little the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and
the experience of Pentecost really enters into the practical thinking of Christians today. But this
was in some sense the culmination of our Lords ministry. Even his Ascension, which Im afraid
we often think terminated his work on earth, was not the end. Remember in the opening of Acts
he says to his disciples that John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized by
the Holy Spirit. This was his own introduction to the exciting events of the Day of Pentecost.
I hope you will read the opening chapters of Acts frequently, because it is such an exciting
introduction to the whole ministry of the Church today. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that
has kept the Church as a vital entity in the world through all the centuries, and is the reason why
the promises of the New Testament which we read and believe and are comforted by have any
relevance today.
In the Old Testament there is a promise in the book of Zechariah often quoted, which is relevant
to this whole subject of the Holy Spirit: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the
Lord Almighty.(4:6) That is, human effort alone, even the most extravagant and diligent, will not
accomplish what God wants done. You cannot organize revival, or bring about spiritual
awakening, or produce regeneration by instruction. Education is not enough; human effort is not
enough; organization is not enough. It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the
So the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is a tremendously important one. We have already looked at
some of this. We have noted that in the Trinity the Holy Spirit is as much God as the Father and
the Son. They share in that unique divine structure, the Godhood of God. Someone has called
the Holy Spirit the workman of God. I think that is a good title, because it indicates that he is
the one carries out the planning and thinking, the creative ideas of the Father and the Son. He is
the one who actually puts it into practice.
I hope no one here refers to the Holy Spirit as it. Because the Holy Spirit is not merely divine
energy or power. Unfortunately, this is one of the widespread heresies about the Holy Spirit.
Many people uninstructed by the Scriptures in this regard speak of the Holy Spirit as though it is
just a display of divine might which they desire to have. But the Holy Spirit is more than a power.
He is presented to us in both the Old and New Testaments as a Person. If you think of him as a
power, then almost invariably your reaction is how can I get more of the power of the Spirit in
me, which results from referring to the Spirit as it. But if you think of him as a Person, then
your response is how can he get more of me? Thats what the Scriptures teach; not how can we
get more of the Spirit than we have had, but how can he get more of us. That is what it is to be
filled with the Spirit.
Remember as we looked at the nature of man and divided it into those concentric circles, the
triangle within is the human spirit surrounded by the circle of the soul, which was shaded to
indicate that it was under the control of the flesh, the sinful nature. And it needed to be freed
from that. Thats what we are referring to when we speak of the filling of the Spirit. He delivers
us within our soul, the inner life of thought and reason and choice, from the control of the sinful
nature to that of the freedom of God himself.
According to the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit comes to us from both the Father and the Son. Im
going to spend some time looking at various references. I am loathe to do this because I hate
the whole process of proof-texting. You can prove any doctrine if you do what I am doing
tonight, selecting verses from here and there and putting them all together into a montage that
agrees with what you are trying to put across but isnt necessarily representative of all the Bible
has to say about it. Yet this doctrine is so vast, and so important that you cant cover it in any
other fashion. So youll trust me, I hope, to not give you something partial in the doctrine of the
Spirit. We cant cover it all, but I will try to at least give you what I feel utterly convinced is what
you would find if you looked at all the passages of the Bible about the Holy Spirit.
I am going to spend a lot of time in Johns gospel, chapters 14 through 16, because here the
Lord Jesus himself teaches us about the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16 he says to the disciples in
the upper room: And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, (or Helper,
or Strengthener) (the word is Paraclete, one who comes alongside to strengthen or
encourage.) He will give you another one. Who is the first one? Jesus himself has been their
Paraclete. He has been their comforter, strengthener and their corrector; their illuminator and
Now he says, I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor (like me), to be with
you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees
him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. (RSV) Who is it
that is going to give the Spirit? The Father. Now look at John 15:26: Jesus says, But when the
Counselor (Helper, Comforter) comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father Who is
going to do it now? The Son. even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father.
Now this precipitated a tremendous argument in the early days of the Church, from the second
century on. This was debated and hammered out on the anvil of controversy, and Christians got
upset with one another over this. Some said he comes from the Father, some from Jesus, and it
took a long time to work this all out. But eventually, the major creed recognized that both are
true. This is part of the Trinity where all three persons are engaged in anything and everything
that any one of them does. Therefore, it is perfectly correct to say the Father sends the Spirit,
the Son sends the Spirit, or even (although Scripture doesnt say this) the Spirit sends himself
as part of the work of the Trinity.
What is the work of the Spirit when he comes? There are many passages that deal with this and
I will try to summarize them for you under four major headings. I believe that the primary work of
the Holy Spirit, without question, is to glorify Christ, to focus on the Son. The Lord Jesus came
to reveal the Father, and all his words are in some sense the revelation of the being of God the
Father. He said to his disciples in this very passage, if you have known me, you have known
my Father also. He came to show us who the Father is and what he is like, so when you see
Jesus and understand who he is and what he is like you are also seeing the Father. They are
not the same in person, but the same in essence. Jesus also says it is the Spirits task to glorify
him. Jesus unveils the Father and the Spirit, but the Spirits task is to focus on the Son. So we
see the self disclosure of God at work. All three persons are engaged in letting us know
something about the others. Its true that Jesus teaches us about the Father by means of the
Lets look now at John 16:13-14. Jesus said: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you
into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak,
and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (RSV) He is going to take the mind of
God uttered by the Son and reveal it to us. Well come back to this passage. Another important
passage is John 14:26. Jesus says: But the Counselor (Helper, Comforter), the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your
remembrance all that I have said to you. Now this was directed primarily to the Apostles. When
the Spirit of God is at work, everything he is doing ultimately is aimed at that one objective: to
glorify the Son of God, to make him clearly known to the world.
Now that is more than just the teaching of doctrine. For instance, it is the work of the Spirit in
Creation. The second verse of the Bible tells us that the Spirit of God moved upon the face of
the waters, so that he was involved in the work of creation. Other passages substantiate that.
Why did he create the universe? For the glory of the Son. Everything the Spirit does glorifies the
Son. Jesus is the one for whom all things are made (Colossians 1:16). So the Spirit is involved
in Creation, in the maintenance of the universe, in providence, in Gods dealings with the entire
race of mankind through the ages, in the circumstances of earth, the governing of nations, the
rise and fall of governmental authorities, kings and princes, congresses, etc. All of this is part of
the work of the Spirit.
But we are primarily concerned about his work in Redemption. (Question from class).
Apparently, we would judge from the Scriptures, that the Fathers purpose in creating the world
was in order that he might bring many sons to glory. Therefore, the world was created for its
inhabitants, whether angels, man, or whoever. The universe exists because of people. God
determined to make man a tri-partite being with (to use the biblical phrasing) spirit, soul and
In the work of Redemption, I think all of the Spirits work can be summarized under four major
headings. First, he teaches us about Jesus. Jesus says so in some of the passages we have
read to you. He instructs the Prophets even before the coming of Christ, and the Apostles
during the time our Lord was on earth and afterward. There are statements to that effect in the
Scriptures. II Peter 1:20-21, where Peter looks back upon the past and says, (NIV) Above all,
you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own
interpretation (actually the word there is origination). For prophecy never had its origin in the will
of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
So even the Old Testament is the work of the Spirit in anticipation of Christ. We have already
seen that Jesus is the focus and center of the Old Testament as much as in the New
Testament. So the Holy Spirit gave us the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, in
order that we might know Christ. You find another statement of this in I Corinthians 2, where
Paul is speaking about the New Testament. This is one of my favorite sections of Scripture
because it is so full. Paul is teaching about how we learned about the wisdom of God. He says
(v. 10) But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep
things of God.
God is the ultimate Realist. He is the Author of all things. It is hopeless to try to understand the
world, the universe, or the people of the world without understanding what the Spirit has
revealed about them. Pauls following argument is (v.11-14) For who among men knows the
thoughts of a man except the mans spirit within him? If you want to know about human life you
need to be a human being. Dogs dont understand us well. In the same way no one knows the
thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the
Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. Thats a clear
statement of the divine origin of the Scriptures.
But now he goes on and tells us the method: This is what we (Apostles) speak, not in words
taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in
spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit
of God, (Jesus said that too) for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them,
because they are spiritually discerned. So the Spirit is behind both the Old and New
Now the second thing the Spirit does in his teaching ministry is to illuminatethis Word, to make it
come alive, to make us understand what the Word says. How many of you before you were
Christians had the experience of reading the Bible and not having the faintest idea what it was
all about? (Class raises hands) Its almost universal isnt it. Then after you came to Christ it
suddenly opened up to you, didnt it? It began to make sense, and become clear and
interesting. This is the work of the Spirit, teaching and illuminating for us.
Do you recall many times in our Lords teaching of the disciples when after teaching them he
said, Do you understand this? With a totally blas attitude they would just say oh yes. Then it
says, but he opened their minds and then they began to understand. That is the work of a
Comforter. He was one, and so will be the Spirit, to open the minds to understand the truth. He
doesnt do this automatically every time you flip open the Bible. He encourages us to dig, to
search and compare, and to pray and meditate. Sometimes it comes as a flash of illumination
as the Spirit reveals what is there.
There is a great verse in I John 2:27 where John says this to the new Christians to whom he
was writing: (RSV) but the anointing which you received from him (the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit) abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing
teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.
Now is that saying you dont need any human teaching? No, its just saying that you wont learn
from anybodythey cant teach youunless the Spirit illuminates what they say. So as you
listen to teaching, be aware you need the Spirit to open your mind. I can tell who is being taught
by the Spirit by whether or not they go to sleep. So Im watching from here all the time, as Paul
exhorts preachers to do. He says, Brethren, I would not have you ignorant concerning those
that have fallen asleep.
The third way the Spirit teaches us is by predicting the future, and much of the teaching of
Scripture is in this direction. There are great passages of prophetic declaration. They not only
explain the future, but predict it in wide, broadly painted terms. I could spend the entire evening
going over such passages. One passage that states this for us is I Timothy 4:1-3 (RSV) Now
the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to
deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences
are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be
received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. You see, the Spirit has
said that, and this is just a sample of passages of the Spirits predictions.
The second way in which the Spirit glorifies Jesus is in drawing people to Christ and making
them part of his life. This is, of course, the primary work of redemption. We have certain stages
of this given to us in Scripture. First he does this by convincing them. Again, in the Upper Room
discourse, Jesus himself taught this. In John 16:8-11, he says, And when he comes, he will
convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment; of sin because they do not
believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; of
judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
I think those are often misunderstood verses. Most people seem to take it as a ministry of the
Spirit that goes out to the world in general, quite apart from the Church. But if you read it that
way you have lost the context, which is about the Spirit coming to the Church.
Go back to verse 7: Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if
I do not go away, the Counselor (Helper) will not come to you;(to you believers) but if I go, I will
send him to you. And when he comes (to you, the Church) he will convict the world of sin and
of righteousness and of judgment How? By the changes in the Church. The process of
drawing men and women to Christ comes about when the world sees the difference Christ
makes in his people. When they begin to be different, with changed attitudes, then the world is
convicted of righteousness and judgment and of sin. Thats one of my favorite texts, so I had
better not get started on it.
The second way he draws men to Christ is by awakening their desire for something different. To
illustrate, the other night I spoke at a dinner held in a restaurant here in Palo Alto by the
couples class that meets here on Sunday mornings. Ron Ritchie and Ed Woodhall was hosting
it. The restaurant owner is not a believer, also many of the people who were serving, The
Christians in the class were told to invite non-Christians to this dinner. We had a wonderful
evening together, with a lot of fun, and since it was a Valentine Day dinner I spoke on themes of
love and marriage.
The next day I heard that the restaurant owner went home and told his wife everything I had
said, and said he had never seen people like this before. His wife immediately called Kathy
Woodhall, who came over and talked at length with her about the Lord. Now this man is very
interested and wants to learn more. Why? Because there was a quality of life that made him
hungry for it. Thats the way the Spirit draws people to Christ.
The second step in that process is by regenerating them. Jesus said to Nicodemus, Unless a
man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. It is the Spirit
that makes our spirits come alive, that regenerates the believer. This is a very important theme
in the Scriptures. It is by the Spirit that we are given life. There are so many Scriptures it is easy
to establish that by means of the Spirit, when we believe the Word and invite the Lord to be
Lord, that we are regenerated, made alive in Christ.
The third step is by baptizing the believers into Christ. This is very important. It is what the
Scriptures teach is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is a very confused area, and you find the
phrase baptism of the Spirit used very unbiblically. People use it to refer to an experience in
which they either speak in tongues or praise God with great emotion, feel a tremendous
overflowing of the love of God. Unfortunately even some of the great teachers of the past were
confused about this. D. L. Moody and R. A. Torrey, for instance, some of the early leaders of
this century and the latter part of the nineteenth century, were confused in this area.
But what do the Scriptures say? In I Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul in the only didactic
passage about the Spirits work in baptizing, says this (v. 13) For by one Spirit we were all
baptized into one body Thats a definitive statement, and the word is all. All believers in
Jesus, even the carnal believers in Corinth who are described in chapter three as spiritual
infants who need milk, and are not grown up but chortling like babies and talking baby talk,
playing with their toes, etc. All of these are baptized in the Spirit into the Body of Christ. He goes
on: Jews or Greeks, slaves or freeand all were made to drink of one Spirit. Twice the
word all is used and covers everybody regardless of racial origin or gender, and covers all
That is an expansion on what Paul has said in Romans 6:3-5, where again he refers to the
baptizing work of the Spirit: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ
Jesus were baptized into his death? This is not water baptism. It is spiritual baptism, of which
water baptism is a symbol or picture. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,
so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in
newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be
united with him in a resurrection like his.
So when we were placed into Christ by believing in him, we were regenerated, made alive in
him. Christs life was given to us and we were made partakers of his death and his burial and
his resurrection. All of this is explained to us in this great section of Romans as in other places
in Scripture. The Holy Spirit draws them by convincing them of sin, righteousness and judgment,
by regenerating and baptizing them, uniting them with the life of Jesus.
The fourth step is by indwelling them. The Spirit, as we have already seen, comes to abide in
them. Jesus made that very clear too in John 14:17, you know him, for he dwells with you,
and will be in you. He comes to indwell the believer. This is also called in Scripture the sealing
of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9, But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of
God really dwells in you. Thats what makes a believer a believer. Any one who does not have
the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
In Ephesians 4:30 this same ministry is referred to as the sealing of the Holy Spirit: And do not
grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. His very
presence in us is Gods down payment, as it were, on eternal life. It is the seal of Gods
guarantee to us that we will be with him in glory. That is the way he draws us to himself.
The third ministry of the Spirit is to change believers into Christ-likeness, to transform us. He
does this in a threefold way, according to the Scriptures. First, by praying for us. Romans 8:26,
27: Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know what we should pray
for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be
Thats a wonderfully poetic description of the feelings and yearnings and longings that we
cannot put into words. Have you ever had that feeling? You want something, but you dont know
what it is. This is universal. You often find drama on television is built around that theme; a
restlessness which cannot be satisfied. Believers have it as well. We dont even know what to
ask for or what we are looking for. But the Spirit does. It is he who is awakening the longings to
be better, more Christ-like, moving forward in our Christian lives. These are being born of the
Spirit. We dont know the words to use to express them, but he prays for us. And he who
searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes
for the saints according to the will of God.
Most people stop with those two verses, but you mustnt stop there. The next verse says, And
we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called
according to his purpose. What is that? Its what happens to you, isnt it. What its saying is,
God is reading the mind of the Spirit who is awakening a longing for improvement in your life,
and so God sends some circumstance or environment into your life, either to awaken you,
correct you, or encourage you, or whatever it is. But whatever it is, its from God. He sent it in
answer to the Spirits prayer. Thats why you know that all things work together for good. So if
you have an accident driving home tonight, thank God for it. He sent it, and it will work together
for good. You can trust him in that.
Thats the work of the Spirit, by praying for us.
And then the Spirit disciplines us. Perhaps a better words is, he trains us. In Hebrews 12:5-6,
the writer quotes an Old Testament verse: And you have forgotten that word of encouragement
that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lords discipline, and do not lose
heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes
everyone he accepts as a son. (NIV) What is that telling us? That you cannot grow up as a
Christian without some trials and tribulations, difficulties and hard times. These are necessary.
He goes on: Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not
disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline) If all
your life is rose blossoms and blue skies, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
Therefore, God is dealing with us in love. God is the Spirit.
This process produces a wonderful transformation. This is what is declared in II Corinthians
3:18: And we all (all believers), with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror (who is the mirror?
We see the glory of Christ by the illumination of the Spirit.) the glory of the Lord, are being
transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the
Lord who is the Spirit. Its clear that this is the work of the Holy Spirit.
In another place Paul calls it producing the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And what is that?
The likeness of Christ. We are being transformed, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit. John 15 is a
wonderful teaching in this connection. The Lord says I am the Vine and you are the branches. In
me you bear much fruit, the fruit of the Spirit.
The fourth general ministry of the Spirit is empowerment, or anointing, or filling for service. He
uses and empowers us, and thus glorifies Christ, by calling us to a ministry.
An example of that is in Acts 13, where Luke records that in the church at Antioch there were
certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucus of Cyrene,
Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord
and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, (v. 2) Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which
I have called them. That was very clear cut.
We are not told how the Spirit told that to the church, but somehow he imparted to the leaders of
the church that they were to recognize that he had called Barnabas and Saul. Barnabas and
Saul knew it too. We are not told how, but you see the Spirits calling is personal and
individualized, and it will come in various ways. It may be suddenly, dramatically, or it can come
gradually, slowly in a deep-seated awareness that God wants you involved in something or to
move in a certain direction, and you cant get away from it. That is the calling of the Spirit.
Then he not only calls us, but he fills us. This is what is often confused with the baptizing of the
Spirit. The filling of the Spirit can be gradual or dramatic. It can come with a rush of joy and
ecstasy and a sense of power, or it can come quietly and even at times when you are convinced
that you are acting in weakness and uncertainty. Nevertheless, the Spirit of God can use that.
This is the filling or anointing of the Spirit.
You will find it several times in the book of Acts. Peter was filled with the Spirit when he stood
and preached on the Day of Pentecost. Later, in chapter four, Paul stood before the proconsul,
and being filled with the Holy Spirit he answered with wisdom. There were no tongues of fire,
or mighty rushing wind on that occasion, but it was nevertheless a filling of the Spirit. This
experience comes in various forms, but it all comes from the Holy Spirit. In Galatians chapter
five, the Apostle urges us to keep being filled with the Spirit.
There is the final point regarding the ministry of the Spirit empowering us for service. It is
resurrection! It is the Spirit who raises us from the dead. Why? That we might be fit for service,
in a greater way than we ever dreamed of before, with tremendous opportunities and a body
that is responsive to the demands of the spirit.
Have you ever said, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak? Or the spirit is willing, but the
flesh is ready for the weekend? We all feel that way, because our spirits are being vitalized by
the Holy Spirit and we want to do wonderful things and be greatly used, but our flesh is still
under the domain of sin, and we are failing, faltering and weak, growing older and weaker, etc.
and so we cannot do what the spirit would want to do. But our resurrected bodies will be
equivalent to the demands of the spirit. You can want to do something and you can do it, to
whatever extent you want. That is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
Concerning the Church
Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: Ephesians 2:19-22

We pray, Lord, that we may be taught of the Spirit, our minds illuminated and instructed by that
anointing which we have received. We pray we may be receptive and responsive to it, obedient
to the truth. In the name of Jesus. Amen
Next week I will be at Dallas Theological Seminary speaking to the student body there, and in
my place, teaching Articles VIII and IX in the Doctrinal Statement, will be Brian Morgan (Rabbi
Brianovitch). Were grateful for the rain tonight. Perhaps we should have opened with a passage
from Isaiah where the Lord says his Word is like the rain and the snow which come down from
heaven and water the thirsty ground.
Article VII of the doctrinal statement concerning the Church:
Concerning the Church
We believe that the Church consists of all who have been regenerated by the Spirit, and finds
expression as local churches, operating under the direction of Jesus as Lord and Head of His
body, through elders, pastor-teachers, and evangelists, who equip the saints to fulfill the work of
the ministry as described in the Scriptures given by the prophets and the apostles.
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
I suppose in some ways this is a most difficult subject to teach because it is so familiar to us. If
there is any one truth that PBC is known for around the country it is the ministry of the saints,
what we call Body Life. By the way, you might be interested to know that that term was
invented here. I find it widely used all over the evangelical world now, but in the seventies when
we first began to experience thekoinonia, the fellowship of the early church and bearing one
anothers burdens, sharing and ministering to one another and using spiritual giftsin order to
use a kind of shorthand to cover it all we invented the term Body Life. Somehow it has caught
on and is being used as part of the language, so you got in on a little piece of Church history if
you were here at that time.
There is a lot compacted together in this paragraph which we will try to comment on tonight.
First is the statement, We believe that the Church consists ofall who have been regenerated by
the Spirit That is almost a truism. If you know anything at all about the Scriptures you know
that you have to be born into the new life, born into the Body of Christ. We saw that last week
regarding the work of Spiritthat he baptizesallbelievers into the Body of Christ. We are joined
into one body by the Spirit. That is referred to by various symbols and metaphors in Scripture
that are tremendously illuminating.
I think one of the first things we need to understand is that the Church is a remarkable
institution. Its the most exciting thing taking place on this planet at the present time, and has
been ever since the Lord began the Church through the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Its
Gods tool by which he controls and works through the history of the world.
One of the burdens I feel when I speak to pastors and churches-at-large, is to try to re-capture
for them if I can, some of the tremendous excitement of belonging to an organization so unique
as the Church. There are a lot of strange ideas about the Church. I think if you talk to the man
on the street you would find people regard the Church as almost an anachronism, a useless
residual remnant of something that once had purpose, but in the modern world hardly has any
place at all. This shows the confusion the world has, and it is because it doesnt understand the
nature of the Church. What bothers me is that neither do a lot of Christians seem to understand
it and grasp the wonder and marvel of what the Church is sent here to do. We tire of the church
and its functions, and are well aware of its failures and weaknesses. You know the parody on
Onward Christian Soldiers you sometimes hear:
Like a mighty turtle moves the church of God. Brothers, we are treading where weve always
trod. We are much divided. Many bodies we. Strong in faith and doctrine. Weak in charity.
There is truth in that, isnt there. The outward church is faltering, weak and ineffectual,
oftentimes riddled with corruption and politics. It is very disheartening, and all of us have had
experiences of church meetings that were dull and stodgy and we couldnt wait to get out of
them. All of that comes because of a failure to understand what the Church is, but Im hoping
tonight we can enter into the mystery of it. By the way, the Church is called in Scripture a
mystery. Ephesians 5 is a passage that really deals with the subject of husbands and wives in
marriage, and which is frequently quoted at weddings, but in it the Apostle says:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make
her holy, cleaning her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself
as aradiantchurch (thats how the Lord sees the church) without stain or wrinkle or any other
blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their
own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (they are one person; you cant love your wife
without loving yourself and you cant mistreat your wife without mistreating yourself. But thats
another subject). After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as
Christ does the churchfor we are members of his body This is a profound mysterybut I
am talking about Christ and the church.
So the Church is difficult to understand. We can only do so from the viewpoint of Scripture. That
is what tells us what the Church really is. That is why it is so important to know this from the
Scripture to bear in mind when you run into some of the difficulties within the church.
Another reference to the Church as mystery is Ephesians 3:6:
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members
together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
The Church is a mystery. Why did God call this body into being? The answer is: it is Gods way
of creating a new humanity. The Church is a different body of people. When we enter the
Church by regeneration of the Spirit, we become part of a new humanity, a new world, new life,
new age that God is bringing into being right in the midst of the collapse of the old civilization.
And he is successful in his program. The Church is not failing.
I often try to think of the Church as a beautiful building with a lot of scaffolding around it. We see
the scaffolding and think it is part of the building. The scaffolding keeps rotting and collapsing,
falling apart, doesnt last very long, is rather chintzy and feeble. But the building is not falling. It
remains the same. All we look at in the visible church is the scaffolding the world sees, but the
real Church, the Body of Christ, is gradually building, expanding throughout the centuries,
growing together.
Paul has a wonderful description of this in Ephesians 2:19-22:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Gods people
and members of Gods household (or family), built on the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined
together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built
together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Now that is the fundamental element and nature of the Church. It is the dwelling place of God.
Just as we live in our bodies, so Christ lives in his body, which is the Church. You may recall a
couple of decades ago there was a theological movement called God is dead. The reason
people thought God was dead was they simply lost his address. They didnt know where he
lived, because God lives in his body. You look for him in the world and he is not there. Tonight
on the news we were listening to the revelations now made about Stalin and his terrible
murderous excesses in the former Soviet Union, and how literally millions of his own people,
with no cause whatsoever, were massacred.
When you see those kinds of things you have to ask where is God? People ask what kind of a
world is this? You say God made it, well where is he? The answer, of course, is he in his body,
and he is operating through his body to relate to the world. He announces to it that the old
creation that began in Genesis one and fell in Adam, has been falling apart through the
centuries and will continue to do so. We are in the midst of a collapsing civilization, but in the
midst of the decay God is creating a new organism, a new humanity, new body. Ultimately, the
curtain will be raised in a most dramatic scene on the day of what Paul calls the manifestation
of the sons of God. What has been happening all along will suddenly be revealed to the whole
world, and the universe will stand in awe at what God has been creating all this time. You dont
see this except by faith. When you believe the Scriptures you begin to understand what it is to
be a part of the Church. If we hold this in mind, it will help a great deal as we struggle with some
of the surface problems of the church and realize what we are a part of.
In another passage Paul is writing to Timothy who is apparently getting discouraged with the
church. Paul encourages him with a wonderful word that gives us an idea what the church is
supposed to be. I Timothy 3:14-15:
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am
delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in Gods household, which is
the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
Think about that: its in the church you find support for the truth. A pillar is that which upholds or
supports the roof. The pillars along the wall there are supporting the beams that hold up this
building. The foundation, of course, under girds everything. This passage says that in the
Church you will find support of truth, the foundation of all reality, and the pillars which display it
for all mankind to see. That is the work of the Church.
The Church, therefore, is made up of Jew and Gentile alike, without distinction of persons or
race or color, creed or sex. The often-quoted passage in Galatians 3:28 says, There is neither
Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. So in the
Church you have the whole of humanity brought to one level and incorporated into this
wonderful new organism.
It strikes me as strange that we know so little about the Church, yet God has given us a living
visual aid to carry around with us all the time that tells us what the Church is like. What is it
called? Yes, your body! You are living in a body. The Church is Christs body, and just as your
body responds to the directions of your head, so the Church is to respond to the direction of its
Head. Christ is called the Head of the Body. Ephesians 1:22 sets that term forth very clearly. So
it is his life that is being manifested in the Church, and we are functioning as instruments and
agents of our Lord. Its by him by his Church that the Lord works in the world today. Well see
more of that when we come to the work of the ministry.
There is another distinctive figure used of the Church in the Book of Revelation. We had a
reference to it in Ephesians, but it is primarily developed in Revelation. The Church is the Bride
of Christ. He loves the Church, we are told. He gave himself for her, and Revelation opens on
that note: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (1:5b) The Lord
values the Church as the husband would value his bride.
There is another figure distinctive about the Church used in Hebrews 2:10-11:
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything
exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who
makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed
to call them brothers. (So we are the family of our Lord as well. This includes sisters as well as
So you see no one figure can do justice to the Church. It is a mystery, and we must not ever
think of it as just another human institution. It is a strange organization that exists in the world as
Gods instrument of working, and therefore has enormous influence upon human events.
We have already looked at the term Paul employs in Ephesians about the Church, which is the
dwelling place, the temple of God . That is in I Corinthians 3:16 as well, and in II Corinthians 6
the Church is a holy temple unto the Lord. All of these are ways of describing what the Church
is like. Peter with his practical sense has a very instructive word about the Church. I Peter 2:4-5:
As you come to him, the living Stonerejected by men but chosen by God and precious to
himyou also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house (thats the temple again)
to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. He
develops it a bit further in v. 9:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
(and here is the purpose) that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of
darkness into his wonderful light.
All of this gives rise to what our Lord taught about his people. Remember he said to his
disciples, You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. I think it is very helpful
to bear that in mind when you come to church or have anything to do with Gods people.
Regardless of all the difficulties you may run into, you are dealing with the salt of the earth.
Salt is a preservative and a flavoring element; therefore without the Church conditions here and
all over the world would be impossible to live with. The presence of Gods people on earth is
what makes life habitable on this planet. If it were not for the Church, evil would so rampant and
vicious and cruel, we would not dare to meet together like this. To walk the streets would be to
take your life in your hands, and it is getting almost like that anyhow. Think of what it would be
like if the salt were removed. And we are the light of the world, the source of truth, where truth
begins to break through and people begin to understand themselves and what life is about.
Dont minimize the Church. It is a fantastic organization. It was created by God. He thinks highly
of it. He brought it into being by means of the Spirit, and it serves an enormously important
function in the world.
Now to the second statement: All of this finds expression in the local church. We can imagine
the whole Church all over the world consisting of every believer who is born of the Spirit.
Whether or not they are members of a local church, they are a part of the body of Christ. There
are a lot of people who are members of the Church in that biblical sense who are probably not
members of a local group, or perhaps dont even attend meetings regularly. They will be weak
and ineffectual to some degree because of that lack. But just joining or attending a local group
does not make you part of a church. What makes you a member of Christs body is being born
of the Spirit.
Yet each local church must think that in some sense all of this is true of us, the ones who attend
this local assembly and the ones down the street and scattered through the Bay Area. Each one
thinks of itself as a microcosm of the whole. And what is true of the whole Church is true also of
the local church, as Jesus said to his disciples after the Resurrection in the Great Commission:
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely
I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20).
He is talking about the whole sweep of the Church from his first coming to his second. And all
the members of it, wherever they are, scattered all over the earth, he is with them. Now that
finds practical expression in his words in Matthew 18:19: For where two or three come together
in my name, there am I with them. So we can think quite properly of the Lord as Head of this
church, and functioning as its director and initiator, planner and its empowerment, as Scripture
encourages us to do.
This I think is one of the great lacks in churches today. There is such a lack of the sense that
Jesus is Lord of this local church, that he is in our midst and he is planning all kinds of
fascinating programs, encounters, adventures and dangers for us as we penetrate the
community around us. Just as he sent his whole Body into the world, so he sends this local
body into the world. This is why it is such a mistake for a Christian church to have the idea that
the way to escape the pressures and problems and corruption of the world around us is to
gather in a tightly knit lifestyle that is virtually monastic, excluding yourselves from contact with
any non-Christians, sending your children to Christian schools or teaching them at home without
allowing them to encounter the world in any way, and you try to keep them from the world.
That is a violation of what the Lord has told us the Church is for. It is to be saltin the world and
lightof the world; therefore there must be contact with it. I think there is nothing more exciting as
an aspect of the doctrine of the Church than our Lords words to his disciples: I am sending you
out like sheep among wolves. (Matthew 10:15) I come from Montana where there are a lot of
sheep, and Ive seen a lot of sheep herders, but I have never seen one that sent his sheep out
in the midst of wolves. Thats a dangerous place to be, isnt it. Wolves can handle sheep very
quickly. One slash of their jaws and a sheep is ripped wide open in seconds. A sheep is virtually
helpless under a wolfs attack.
But here is a shepherd who sends his sheep among wolves. That is the position believers are to
be in today. They are to be in touch with the world and know that they are in danger. They are
under attack, imperiled. And the only safety is they recall the fact that the Shepherd is with
them, to empower, guide, instruct, teach, encourage, comfort them when they fail and restore
them. This is what makes survival possible among the wolves. But its exciting too, isnt it? This
is one reason so many young people, young Christians particularly, get discouraged with the
church, when you have a rabbit-hole mentality in which you hide, and pop up occasionally to
see that there is no enemy, then scurry across to another hole. People with that mentality live
their lives in their rabbit holes without any sense of danger. Thats boring, isnt it! We need
danger and exposure. We need to be tested.
This is what young people, particularly, call out for. Its a great mistake to run programs that all
center upon keeping the group happy within itself and to lose that sense of outreach, of moving
out to touch lives around you and of being in contact with non-Christians, because that is what
gives the flavor and verve and excitement to Christian living.
(Class Comments) I dont know whether you are referring specifically to a new movement in the
field of theology today, but there are recent thrusts in the evangelical world with various titles,
such as Dominion Theology, Reconstructionism, etc. This is an attempt to view the Church
as the instrument of change in the world, but with the idea that we are to utilize the standard
approaches of politics and legislature, the judicial system, etc., put Christians in all these
positions and thus control government and accomplish Christian goals that way.
That is a partial attempt to oppose the idea that Christians are just to withdraw from the world,
and quite properly so. But what it lacks is what the Scriptures also teach which isGods way for
the church to work, which is to lose your life to serve people. Not to seek for power to control,
but to recognize that God can use feeble exploits and weakness, and even in humble ways will
employ people doing things that dont look very impressive, never gains attention or is heralded
in the newspapers, and doesnt require an election to office to do it. He can change a whole
institution or community in that way. This is the way God loves to work. Usually he doesnt work
in those obvious ways.
There is nothing wrong with a Christian being involved in politics, etc. What I am challenging in
this concept is the idea that this isthe way to do itthat Gods way is to put Christians into
office. You dont find that in Scripture. In fact we are told quite the opposite, that God oftentimes
chooses the obscure, the weak and forgotten, the rejects of the world to do his work. So it isnt
wrong to seek and serve in an office as a Christian, but we need not think this is the way God
plans to do his work.
(Class Comment) Yes, I intended to comment on that if a question was raised about it. Years
ago when we first started we had a membership. We had people sign what we called a
Covenant of Fellowship. It was an expression of what it meant to be a Christian that anyone
who wanted to be a member could sign. They met with the elders and then were presented to
the congregation, and much as many churches in other places do, we accepted them as
It kept bothering me and I think some of the other elders, because I have never been able to
find any place in Scripture that reflects a membership other than by means of the Baptism of the
Holy Spirit. We talked it over at great length, and finally decided it was a lot of struggle to keep
up the list, with calling on people, and checking on people who didnt show up regularly, etc.
And we said, Look, Gods got a recording angel. Lets let him handle all that. Well just
recognize people on the basis of profession of faith and the demonstration of their lives, and if
that is in accord with Scripture, then they are a member of this body and we will treat them that
way. It has been a great relief!
(Class Question) I did not mean to attack home schooling as something wrong at all, because it
can be right. The original basis of teaching children was in the home. If parents feel it wise for a
period of time, thats fine. I dont object to that. I just think it unwise to have that be the entire
education your children receive because it separates them from contact with the world around,
making friends with non-Christians, etc., and this is a very vital element. Our Lord never let his
disciples just hang around with one another in a little private club. He sent them out, as he said,
among wolves. He sent them out two-by-two, and they had a great time and came back all
excited from seeing God work so wonderfully on those witnessing tours. Its very clear from
Scripture that the Lord wants this for us.
(Class Question) How do you handle accountability? The Scriptures say we are all accountable
to each other. Any Christian has the responsibility to reprove, rebuke, exhort or admonish
another, and we are accountable to encourage and comfort one another. You can list scriptures
as long as your arm that exhort us to this kind of ministry of bearing one anothers burdens.
When our Lord in Matthew eighteen speaks about discipline in the church, he says: If your
brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. That is
accountability. But he doesnt say haul up the head of the club and have him examined by a
ruling board. However, when the one-on-one discipline is refused there is another step, and
finally it is to be told to the whole church in the regular assembly. We have had to do that
several times here. Its very distressing and painful, but it has been very profitable, and there
have been dramatic recoveries resulting from that. I think this is a part of the ministry of the
church that has suffered today and because of that the church is very weak.
However, be sure that if you are involved in that sort of ministry, you do it in accordance with the
Scriptures. If you dont you are liable to be hauled out into a law suit, as reported in some
newspapers, where people being disciplined in harsh and unscriptural ways reacted by suing
the church and its leadership for considerable sums of money. I examined these carefully and
found that in every instance what they did was really unscriptural. They did not go about it
according to the Scriptures, but instead followed the traditional pattern of the church, and that is
what got them into trouble.
But if discipline is done in a loving way without severity, as Jesus teaches us in John thirteen in
the washing of the disciples feet, this is the way of cleansing another person. It is a difficult and
humiliating task. It takes a great deal of personal humility to do it, and it is not always welcomed.
Dr. Ironside used to say the temperature of the water that you use makes a great deal of
difference. Some present a basin of ice water and roughly command stick your feet in here. In
other words, their attitude is so cold and forbidding and stern no one wants to be washed that
way. Others are so upset and angry and yelling, its as though they had boiling water, and no
one wants to get into hot water either. But if you come as Paul puts it, in a spirit of meekness,
considering yourself, that you also can be tempted, then people will allow you to wash their feet.
Now we will consider chapter four of Ephesians. By the way, this is the section which I
developed mostly in the book Body Life that Im sure most of you are acquainted with. I would
like to begin with verse four of this chapter. The Apostle is talking about believers. He says:
There is one body and one Spiritone Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given (This is
not the grace of salvation. That is another term for spiritual gifts. They are also called graces,
because (1) they are freely given and (2) they are graceful. They look good when you are doing
them. Just as a graceful person is attractive to watch. For example, ice skaters are beautiful to
watch; we call that graceful. ...grace has been given as Christ apportioned (measured it out,
divided) it. This is why it says: When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and
gave gifts to men.
(Class Comment) You were debating who the captives were? I take it this is a reference to our
Lords parable of a strong man who keeps his goods under control, then a stronger one comes
and binds him, takes his goods away and releases them. Satan is the strong man who holds the
world in captivity. When Christ, stronger than Satan, came he bound the strong man by means
of the cross, as Paul says in Colossians, and he delivers, frees us. Paul says in Galatians that
for freedom Christ has made us free. Not only does he free them and lead them in his train, but
he gave gifts to them.
Paul puts in a theological parenthesis here:
What does he ascended mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the
whole universe.
There has been a good deal of controversy over that, as to whether this refers to what the
Apostles Creed says, that when our Lord died on the cross he descended into hell (the lower
earthly regions). I dont read it that way. I do not believe Jesus descended into hell. I think it is
rather a reference to the grave. He came from heaven unto earth and became obedient unto
death, then was buried in the grave and from that ascended into the heavens to give gifts unto
men. However you take that, it is clear in verse eleven that the gifts he gave were men. He gave
the leaders and the men to the church:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and
some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body
of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of
God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Its clear than that the Lord himself gives the leadership to the church. First of all, he appoints
apostles and he instructed them they were to bear in mind all that he had said to them. The
Spirit would help them in that. They were to write this and teach and instruct the church, and of
course this is where the New Testament came from. The New Testament is basically apostolic,
and has authenticity because it comes from the Apostles, or, as in the case of Timothy, Titus
and others, those closely associated with the Apostles. Luke would be a case in point. The Lord
is the one who sent them out.
Then he appointed evangelists and some pastor-teachers. I read that as a hyphenated term, not
two words. They are men who shepherd, guide and guard the flock, to prepare Gods people for
the work of the ministry. You know, Im sure, that the issue of that passage is that the ministry is
to be done by the people, not the pastor-teacher or the evangelist or apostles. These were
necessary to instruct the people about the work of the ministry. And the gifts God gave are the
spiritual gifts every believer has.
What I would like to ask, and what I find few people asking these days, including preachers,
teachers and pastors, is what is the work of the ministry? Just what is it that we are supposed to
do? (Class comments) Good answer: When they asked him, What must we do to do the works
of God, Jesus replied, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. (John
6:28,29) That is a good clue, because what he is saying is that the work of the ministry is the
work Jesus came to do. We are now carrying on what he began.
Remember how Luke begins the Book of Acts:
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesusbegan to do and to teach.
He began it, but who is doing it now? The Church is doing the work of the ministry. What was
Jesus ministry? Luke 4:16-20 records a fascinating event in our Lords ministry shortly after he
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the
synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was
handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on
me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim
freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to
proclaim the year of the Lords favor. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant
and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by
saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
He is quoting from Isaiah 61 where it is predicts the Lords ministry, and Jesus quotes it and
applies it to himself. Look at the elements of it.
First it is to be a Spirit-filled ministry: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed
me So the work of the ministry is to be done in the power of the Spirit.
Second, it is to preach good news to the poor. The poor are often the most receptive because
they have so little worldly goods, but this certainly doesnt exclude the rich, does it? Many rich
become Christians, although it is more difficult as Jesus himself said. But what is the poverty
referred to here? Its the attitude, isnt it? Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven. Those who feel bankrupt, without resources with which to cope with life, inadequate
to handle things, life is overwhelming them, having a need of strength and support, deliverance,
etc. These are the candidates for the Gospel. So the work of the ministry was to preach the
good news to the poor. Tell them there is a way to be accepted before God without having good
works and prestige in the eyes of the world. That is evangelism, isnt it.
Then he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners (or captives). Who are the
captives? Do you know any captive people? Yes, bound by habitsdrugs, alcohol, bitterness,
lust, sexual perversionpeople trapped in their own habits and weaknesses. What are we to
do? Proclaim freedom to them! This is to be the message of the Church to people in the world. It
is sometimes difficult to say this, because people want to justify their weaknesses, claiming they
cant help themselves, that they are made this way and there is no possibility of change.
This is widespread; maybe some of us have done the same thing. Have you ever said, Well I
cant help it if I lose my temperIm Irish. Or after all, Im Italian, what do you expect? We
justify ourselves and say we cant be changed, but the good news is to proclaim freedom: for
freedom Christ has set us free. Its the work of the ministry to tell people that. I think this is the
teaching ministry of the church. We instruct them that there is a way out, they dont have to live
this way. Through the gospel and the understanding of how God works they can be freed and
dont have to give way to these habits.
The third element is the recovering of sight to the blind. Do you know any blind people? Isnt
amazing how people will injure themselves and never seem to realize what they are doing,
making terrible decisions and thinking they are doing the right thing though its the most
destructive thing they can do. I dont think a week goes by that we dont encounter someone
who has messed up their lives thinking they were doing right all along.
Today this is widespread as people live with one another without marriage. You suggest this is
harmful or hurtful to them and they look at you wide-eyed and say, were not doing anything
wrong. They are blind to see they are destroying something vital in their lives and hurting
themselves severely. The fabric of society is coming unraveled as a result of things like this, as
Paul puts it in Ephesians 5:6 for because of such things Gods wrath comes on those who
are disobedient. Gods wrath is the consequences of evil that result from such choices. So part
of the ministry is to help people see, to open their eyes through teaching and through prayer for
them. Prayer is powerful to help people understand and see things rightly. Oftentimes when you
pray for someone you find their attitude begins to change and they see things in a different light.
So this is part of the ministry of the saints.
The next element: to release the oppressed. That sounds like freedom to the captives, but
there must be a difference. What is the additional element here in the word oppressed? Yes,
there is an oppressor. There is a demonic element here. The oppressed are being held in
bondage by demonic spirits.
A father and son came to see me this week and told me a very dramatic story about how the
son had gotten into the occult world, and his girlfriend had gone much deeper. She started with
a ouija board, then into tarot cards, then she began to hear voices and finally when the boys
father had a chance to bear witness to her she acknowledged she needed help and was
miserable, but she said I cant accept Jesus. They wont let me. He pursued it and found out
she was under the control of an evil spirit. He took her to the Scriptures and showed her the
promises of Jesus and asked if she wanted to be freed. She said she did, so he prayed with her
and had her pray, and she was physically, right before their eyes, freed up, delivered, and she
felt a great sense of freedom. Now she is growing in the Lord, studying the Word, and she and
the boy are reading the Scriptures together. There has been a tremendous sense of freedom
and deliverance.
Thats the work of the ministry. All Christians are to be able to do that. This was a ministry of a
layman, someone whose name you would recognize as one in this church with his family. He is
not a pastor, he is a businessman. But he knows the Scriptures, and he is able to help someone
in such a situation. Its a wonderful ministryhow exciting it is to see God in this day and age
set someone free right in front of your eyes. It gives you a sense of being an instrument of the
The last element of this ministry is to proclaim the year of the Lords favor (the acceptable year
of the Lord.) Lets look back to Isaiah 61:1 and see this very remarkable thing. This is the
passage Jesus read:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good
news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted (that phrase, by the way, is left
out in most of the New Testament versions, but I think it should be included because it is
certainly part of the Isaiah passage and it means a ministry of comfort.) to proclaim freedom
for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lords
favor (but that isnt the end of the sentence, is it? and the day of vengeance of our God).
It is interesting that Jesus stopped in mid-sentence, at a comma, closed the scroll and gave it
back to the attendant saying today this scripture is fulfilled. But he didnt read the last phrase.
Why not? Because it hasnt yet come. This is the day of the Lords favor.
Today is the acceptable time, Paul says. Now is the day of salvation. So what the believer is
to do is to reassure people when the times are frightening and the world seems to have gone
mad, and it seems to get worse every year. I remember years ago I was in South America and
saw the Spanish words (which struck me as funny) on the marquee of the theater of what was
then a well-known movie: El mundo es loco loco loco loco. Its a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
People are terribly frightened today. They go to bed with a strange feeling in their stomachs, not
knowing what is happening. We are to reassure them that this is the day of the Lords favor.
Hes in control, and he has held open the door of salvation so its not too late; you can come to
God yet today. Were not in the Great Tribulation. This is not yet the day of the Lords
vengeance. Though that will come, were not there yet. All of this is proclaiming the acceptable
year, explaining the times to people. Now thats a great ministry, isnt it! And all of us can have a
part in it. Thats the glory of it.
Now where do you perform this ministry? Do you have to have a pulpit or a classroom? No, you
do it over the water fountain, the back seat of a car, over a cup of coffee at a lunch counter, in
your living room with a small group, when youre swimming or lying on the sand at the beach.
Wherever you are, thats where ministry is to take place. Thats the way it was with our Lord,
and thats the way it is with us. And when the church participates in that kind of ministry, you
cant believe how exciting it can be. Ive had people call me at 2 oclock in the morning so
excited to tell me what the Lord was doing, how a life had been changed and they just had to tell
somebody. Thats the exciting work of the church.
Before we open this up to general questions Id like to read a paragraph from my little book on
Body Life:
Have you ever noticed that the really important figures of the New Testament are not the
priests and monks. They are shepherds, fishermen, tax gatherers, soldiers, politicians,
tentmakers, physicians, and carpenters! These are the ones who occupy the center of the
stage. So it must be again today. You can tell the good news of God at work around a water
cooler in an office if the occasion is right. Or to another, over a lunch bucket. You can heal a
hurting heart as youre going home in the carpool. You can teach the truth that liberates people
over a cup of coffee in a kitchen or the back fence. You can pray the prayer of deliverance
beside a sick bed. You can interject Christian insights into business transactions or
governmental problemsand the insights you share may mean the difference between conflict
and strife, hope and despair, or even heaven and hell for the person whose life you touch!
No wonder the Church is called the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This is the
ministry God has given us.
(Class Questions and Comments) Spiritual gifts are scattered throughout the body. There are
many pastors who are not full-time ministers. Here in this church there are many who have a
pastoral gift, many teachers and evangelists. I think about ten percent of a congregation would
probably have the gift of evangelism. If they begin to exercise it interesting things happen. They
are always bringing people to Christ. I could name some in this congregation. When you have
the gift of evangelism you like to talk with people and you can make the gospel clear to them.
There is nothing wrong with sharpening your skills by learning approaches and verses of
Scripture to use, etc., and classes can help with that. Anybody can be a witness. You dont have
to be an evangelist to take a class.
Were all to be witnesses, which means we tell what has happened to us and what the Lord
means to us. Were all expected to do that. Others may have unusual gifts and can contact non-
Christians and delight in doing so. The good thing about a gift is, you enjoy doing it. If you have
a gift you will enjoy exercising it. It will be something you very much want to do, whether
teaching, preaching, evangelizing, or whatever.
(Class Comment) Youre right. Words without a life to back them up are very empty and
ineffective. As a case in point, Jimmy Swaggart preaches the gospel I think quite correctly, but
his life gives it a lie. People dont believe him anymore because of his reputation. Its true you
will find your words have impact when your life backs it up. James is a great book for teaching
the relation of behavior to belief.
Someone asked me a question about traditions like popes and archbishops. These are extra-
biblical ideas, originating in tradition rather than the Scriptures. There is no pope in the
Scriptures. Peter was not the first pope, regardless of what the Roman Catholic Church claims,
because he had no position of ascendancy over the other apostles. Paul rebuked and corrected
him in that famous scene recorded in the Epistle to the Galatians. Our Lord had to correct him,
and he proved wrong on occasion. He was married, and all these things mark him as not being
the first pope. Likewise, there is no such term in Scripture as archbishop. Bishops are simply
pastors or elders, and the terms are interchangeable. A bishop is an elder and vice versa. Elder
refers to the man and the maturity of the man; bishop refers to his work. Its really the word
overseer, one who oversees the work of others, helps and trains them, etc.
Hierarchy of any sort, I am convinced, is unbiblical, either in the local church or in the Church at
large. Since we Protestants believe it is wrong to have a pope over the whole Church, then its
no improvement to have one in every church, yet that often happens. A pastor may become a
little tin god , the final authority, and his word is law. He settles all arguments and tells the board
where to go and what to do. There is a description of such a man in III John where he says
Diotrephes loves to have the preeminence among you, and when I come Ill take care of that.
(Class question about Christ descending into hell.) Thats an interpretation based upon certain
passages which I think are speaking of other things. That was not a part of the original Apostles
Creed. It was added probably in about the third century. It was a result of a mistranslation of the
word grave. He was buried in the grave and that was translated he descended into hell. Thats
how it got in the Apostles Creed.
The Lord said about the Church: On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Gates are stationary in a city wall, and its a picture of
hell under attack from the Church, not the Church under attack. The Church is the instrument of
God to attack the city of hell and its gates cannot prevail against it. God can reach in and snatch
the captives out of hell itself. Thats the picture.
The PBC Doctrinal Statement of Faith
Author: Elders of PBC
The Board of Elders has adopted the following doctrinal statement. It is intended to summarize,
but not comprehensively review, the basic doctrinal specifics emphasized at Peninsula Bible
Church. It is subscribed to by the elders and the pastoral staff, but agreement with all its
statements is neither required nor expected of those worshipping or seeking the Lord with us.
We believe that the Christian faith is a progressive, individually unique, process in which we are
all at different points. Wherever you are in this process, you are welcome to fellowship with us.
1) Concerning the Bible
We believe that the original writings of both Old and New Testaments were breathed out by God
to prophets, apostles, and apostolic associates by means of the Spirit, who chose the words
employed according to the personality and background of the human author, and that these
writings were without error and are of supreme and final authority in the lives of believers in any
2) Concerning God
We believe there is but one true God, who eternally exists as three distinct persons, Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, who share in the work of creation, maintenance of the universe,
redemption and judgment.
3) Concerning Man and His Need
We believe that man was created in the image of God, but because of Adams sin that image
was damaged, and that all human beings are now born with a sinful nature, are unable to
function in moral responsibility before God, and need a spiritual regeneration before they can
become what they were meant to be.
4) Concerning the Son
We believe that the Eternal Son entered the human race as the virgin-born son of Mary, was
named Jesus, fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, was rejected by Jewish
leaders, condemned by Pontius Pilate, crucified by the Romans, buried in a borrowed tomb, but
on the third day rose from the dead in accordance with the predictions of the Old Testament
5) Concerning Redemption
We believe Jesus died upon the cross as a sinless substitute for sinners of all ages and times,
and that the Father was thus, by means of the Spirit, reconciling the world to Himself, and all
who receive the risen Jesus as Lord, by faith, are spiritually born into the family of God.
6) Concerning the Holy Spirit
We believe that the resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven and on the Day of Pentecost sent
the Holy Spirit to indwell, guide, teach, and empower all who believe by imparting to them the
life of Jesus, so that they may live godly lives and engage in loving service to any who are in
7) Concerning the Church
We believe that the Church consists of all who have been regenerated by the Spirit, and finds
expression as local churches, operating under the direction of Jesus as Lord and Head of his
body, through elders, pastor-teachers, and evangelists, who equip the saints to fulfill the work of
the ministry as described in the Scriptures given by the prophets and apostles.
8) Concerning Ordinances
We believe that water baptism and the Lords Supper are ordinances to be observed by the
churches during the present age, but are not to be regarded as a means of salvation.
9) Concerning the Christian's Responsibility
We believe that though all believers have been made new persons in Christ, they are yet
capable of acting on the urges of the sinful nature (the flesh) with which they were once
identified, but that when they do so they can only produce works which are not pleasing to God.
They can choose, rather, to rely on upon the Spirit and His love, and thus produce works that
glorify and please the Father.
10) Concerning the Future
We believe that Jesus the Christ (Messiah) will return to this earth in visible, human form in a
cataclysmic series of events that will affect the world, the Church, and the nation of Israel;
judging the evil of the world, calling the Church into eternal companionship with Himself, and
recalling Israel, through judgment and cleansing, into fulfillment of the prophetic promises of a
restored kingdom of David upon the earth, lasting for 1000 years.
11) Concerning the Millennium
We believe that the prophetic predictions of the kingdom are intended to describe both the
present spiritual blessings upon the Church and a future literal establishment of a kingdom for
Israel, and that at the end of the millennium the earth and its inhabitants will experience a final
resurgence of evil, which will be overcome by God, and a new heaven and earth created, in
which righteousness shall eternally dwell.
12) Concerning the Resurrection
We believe that all human beings will be raised from the dead, at their proper time, to participate
either in the eternal life prepared for those who have been redeemed, or to participate in the
eternal punishment reserved for the devil and his angels.
Note: This Statement of Faith was printed on the PBC Church Telephone Directory in 1989.