Error message

If your church doesn't teach you to fear God and obey Him, run for your life!

Romans begins and ends with the phrase, "obedience of faith." Chapter one, verse five reads, "we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles." Then the Apostle Paul brings the letter to an end with these words:

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.  - Romans 16: 25-27

Intriguing, isn't it, that the Apostle Paul starts and ends his letter with this pairing "obedience of faith?"

We'd never word it this way. We'd speak of the confession of faith, the grace of faith, the blessing of faith, the certainty of faith, justification by faith, the assurance of faith—anything but the obedience of faith. As we see it, in Christianity faith has displaced obedience from the pride of position it holds in all man's religious schemes of salvation. Further, any talk of obedience is dangerous because man's pride is always chomping at the bit to turn away from dependence upon God's grace, returning to dependence on his own self-righteousness.

"It's all of grace! That's what it means to be Protestant and Reformed! Catholics and Arminians talk about obedience because they believe in salvation by works, but all of us know they're wrong. Grace is everything!"

And yet, there the phrase is at the beginning and end of the book of Romans: the obedience of faith. We must admit it surprises us. If we didn't know it was there, we'd not think it wise for the Apostle Paul to speak this way. We'd warn him that a phrase like this will be used by some people...

Mourning with those who mourn...

Last Sunday I learned through my facebook feed that a young child, Amariah Wehlaus, went into ICU with severe head trauma. God saw fit to take this child home the next day.

Here is what her father, Nick, writes:

Please pray for RC Jr. and his dear Denise...

One brother we love is suffering, with his family, an intimate knowledge of the tenuousness of his wife's life just now. RC Jr.'s wife, Denise, is suffering under Leukemia and we ask you to pray for them. RC just posted a meditation on the shortness of life and God's kindness and tenderness in numbering our days. It's good. May I ask you to read it and pray for RC and his dear Denise? (TB)

The death of an eighteen-year-old brother...

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he should bear The yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silent Since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, Perhaps there is hope. Let him give his cheek to the smiter, Let him be filled with reproach. For the Lord will not reject forever, For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness. (Lamentations 3:25-32)

(NOTE: Since posting this a few hours ago, I've made a couple corrections and added some text at the end.) Back in 1964, my brother, Joe, went off to Swarthmore on a (rare) full ride National Merit Scholarship. He was a philosophy major, ran on the Cross Country team, and loved the Lord. He planned to go on for a Ph.D. and serve in foreign missions.

Meanwhile Dad...

Sin, temptation, and the Campuscrusadification of the Church...

When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).

Again, here's a response to a question asked by "Jay" under the post, "Must a gay man go straight?" I thought it best to put the response here on the main page as a post.

Jay asked: "I do know other men and women who struggle with homosexual temptation, who not only reject copulation but also gay identity and culture, but who do not have any heterosexual desires. Are they saved?"

Sorry for the lack of response. The post took all my time for the blog yesterday so I'm playing catch-up.

First, I'm doubtful these men and women you know who struggle with homosexual temptation actually reject gay identity and culture as clearly and with the finality you indicate. If we live in a culture that hates sexuality as God made it; if we pursue androgyny in the pulpit in the way we preach (see the category of Baylyblog titled "gelded discourse"), in our appearance--hair length and style, for instance; if our  men are physically vain (whether macho buff or femmie bling and piercings or a sweet combination of both); it's likely no Christian tempted by homosexuality has really turned away from androgyny to Biblical manhood and womanhood. Made an effort, sure, but today within the Church there are precious few heterosexuals who pursue Biblical manhood or womanhood.

So being "straight" in our sexuality as the Bible presents manhood and womanhood is exceedingly rare, today. Men are narcissists and refuse to man up, taking responsibility for themselves or others...

"Saving people: THAT'S what the church is all about!"...

Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, provisioned for an eternity. There comes a new commandant. He conceives that it might be a good idea to build bridges over the moats—so as to be able to attack the besiegers.

Charming! He transforms the fortress into a country retreat, and naturally the enemy takes it. So it is with Christianity. They changed the method—and naturally the world conquered. [1]

My wife ran into a friend in the supermarket whose husband works for a large parachurch organization. Their small talk went from this to that, eventually turning to the friend listing for my wife a number of churches she and her husband had attended the past few years. Our friend had nice things to say about each church. Then she brought her list to a conclusion with the chipper exclamation, "Saving people—that’s what church is all about, isn’t it!”

This drew my mind back almost thirty years to an observation my Dad used to make about evangelicals’ single-minded focus on evangelism: “Evangelicals are only interested in getting people saved. And after he's saved, as far as they're concerned he might as well die and go to Heaven because it’s all over.”

Is there a purpose to our lives after we’ve placed our faith in Jesus? Does God have any larger plan for us...

Luther on the Gospel-grace of the Law...

(Tim) At times, it seems best to promote a discussion to the main page. Readers lose track of discussions in the comments under old posts. Here's one such discussion that I'm promoting for reasons I hope are obvious.

It's my conviction that the endless mantra of grace that permeates our Evangelical/Redeemer/Westminster/Campus Crusade/R2K/Covenant world leads to us knowing little of grace because we despise God's Law and repentance.

In the midst of a discussion bearing on this matter, the historian Darryl Hart asked me to clarify what I meant when I spoke of the grace of the Law--that to preach the Law is Gospel preaching and that the Law is our Gospel schoomaster or tutor? Here I respond:

Scripture says:

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

This is the great failure of Gospel preaching in our time, and the reason for the absence of fruit within our churches. We fail to preach the Law, instead trying to save unregenerate sinners from the indignities of repentance. We preach grace without leading souls there through the Law. We repudiate the Schoolmaster. It's the habit of pastors only to address the regenerate within the Covenant Community while outside that Community we gag preachers, leaving Gospel proclamation and conversion to Campus Crusade...

Should pastors preach evangelistic sermons to their churches?

(Tim) Under "What is Gospel-centered ministry, really...," there's been a lengthy series of exchanges in the comments concerning whether it's proper to preach evangelistic sermons to established churches. This is an exceedingly important discussion and I want to encourage readers to go down and read those comments in their proper context. But knowing some won't go there, here is my most recent response which can, to some degree, stand on its own. Whatever else you don't read, make sure not to pass over the critically important quote from Luther here recorded.

* * *

Augustine said, "Many sheep without, many wolves within." From the

founding of the Church, this has been the universal experience of

pastors as we care for our flocks. Yes, the Epistles demonstrate a

presumption that letters to believers are letters to believers. It's

hard to imagine how they could have been written otherwise. "To those

purporting to belong to Christ who are a part of that organization

purporting to be a true church in Galatia?" It doesn't work.

But do the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles provide evidence that our

Lord and His Apostles called the faith of those marked by the signs of

the Covenant into question? The answer to that question is an emphatic,

"Yes!" How long shall my list be? Think of those Christ contradicts,

telling them their father is not God, but the Devil (John 8:38

& ff.). And if we want to let ourselves off the hook by dismissing

Christ as our paradigm for pastoral care today under the rubric of His

omniscience, let's move to the Apostolic warning given to Simon Magus in

Acts 8. Or on to the many exhortations to baptized believers recorded

in the Epistles carefully calculated to warn against and expose

presumption--including the Letters to the Seven Churches (eg. Revelation


So yes, we are to preach to our people normally addressing them as

true believers. But we also must test ourselves to see if we are in the

faith and call our flock to follow us in this discipline...

The Eric Rasmusen family...

(Tim) Friends, the last two days have brought a blow to Church of the Good Shepherd and, despite the ephemeral nature of this forum, personally, I'd like to ask your prayers.

From Baylyblog comments, some of you will recognize the name, Eric Rasmusen. Monday evening, Eric and his wife, Helen, lost their second daugther, Elizabeth, as well as Eric's parents, in an automobile collision. Here's the statement Eric released...

On assurance of salvation...

Here's a helpful statement on assurance from William Gurnall:

Faith, in time, after much communion with God, acquaintance with the Word, and experience of His dealings with the soul, may flourish into assurance. But as the root truly lives before the flower appears, and continues when that hath shed its beautiful leaves, and gone again, so doth true justifying faith live before assurance comes and after it disappears.... Assurance is, as it were, the cream of faith.

Now you know there is milk before there is cream; this riseth not but after some time standing, and there remains milk after it is skimmed off. How many, alas, of the precious saints of God must we shut out from being believers if there is no faith but what amounts to assurance?

...Assurance is like the sunflower, which opens with the day and shuts with the night. It follows the motion of God's face. If that looks smilingly on the soul, it lives; if that frowns or hides itself, it dies. But faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to heaven in a dark night. It can 'walk in darkness', and yet 'trust in the name of the Lord' (Isaiah 50:10).

-from William Gurnall's Christian in Complete Armour