Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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I indicated in the introduction to this series that there was an ordo docendi to the ordo salutis . My comment had the placement of union with Christ in mind. Where does it belong? Do we place it at the end of the list of benefits as John Murray did in his understandably famous Redemption...
Today Theology for Everyone begins a new series. It is a familiar topic. However, it is one that needs to be set within a context. We are going to explore the ordo salutis or the order of salvation. For those not familiar with the expression it primarily deals with the application of the gospel to...
One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons opens with Linus and lucy staring out the window. Rain is pouring down outside. Lucy, in a rare moment of weakness, confesses her fright to Linus. She is worried that if it continues to rain heavily the earth will flood! Linus calmly explains to his sister that...
Let’s start our series on the humiliation and exaltation of Christ from the beginning. Obviously, humiliation comes before exaltation and so we start our study with the former. But we can be even more specific. We are going to start with the incarnation. Now, I dare say that most Christians...
I am not a scientist nor the son of a scientist. Therefore, my understanding of and ability to explain a scientific concept is, to say the least, limited. So, here goes nothing! The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that an isolated system left to its own devices will move toward disorder. Take...
Some Bible passages are perplexing. That may be an understatement. We wonder about some of them. Like unruly children who cannot be harnessed and corralled these passages too are hard to handle. When we have finished our daily chores and obligations we ponder them. Better than the illustration of...
There is an interesting view that circulates around the church about the Holy Spirit. It goes something like this. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit did not indwell anyone but only remained with people. However, in the New Testament the Spirit literally dove into His work. In other words, He...
Have you ever wondered why Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14? Perhaps the ready answer is that the quote substantiates the virgin conception and birth of Christ, which is true enough. However, the text raises a number of questions. For instance, why did God promise a virgin conceived and virgin born...
The Fifth Commandment is weighty. The finger of God inscribed it this way, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” In the Westminster Larger Catechism, the commandments are typically explained by asking what the duties of a...
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof….neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation” (WCF, 19.5) Obviously, the Westminster Divines were not...
One afternoon a group of bored boys decided to bother an old man working in his yard. After causing the man a little trouble they moved on. However, the town wherein they lived was a small one and so having recognized one of the boys the old man called on the father of that particular boy. When the...
For Christians, there are proverbial perennial questions that are, well, perennial. Every May graduating Christians seek the will of God for where they will take further education. Every college student wonders who God has for them on campus. And after boy meets girl and both graduate they labor to...
The opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is, for some, like watching paint dry on a wall! Genealogies are not everyone’s thing. But this genealogy ought to be. It’s obviously the genealogy of Jesus. Yet, not so obvious is the Davidic background of the genealogy. David alone is mentioned five times!...
He surely saw him from the boat. The Lord watched the erratic and unstable demoniac who was as unruly as the storm he had recently silenced. The man’s appearance alone made him an imposing figure against the otherwise peaceful shores of the Garasenes. One can’t help but wonder if the disciples...
I was once asked what I considered the best theology text. I took a breath and as I did the person reiterated, “ The best.” Their emphasis on the definite article reminded me that they wanted one and only one. It brought me up short as does the question before me. What one book has made a singular...
The story of the man born blind in John 9 is well known. It’s one of those stories that take work to read because we have to disabuse ourselves of contemporary concern for those with disabilities. For example, there were no Seeing Eye dogs, Braille books or reading machines. This man was a beggar...
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own a time machine? Who wouldn’t want to return as a spectator to the most significant moments in history? To witness bishop Leo face off with Attila the Hun outside the gates of Rome or Farel beseech Calvin to stay in Geneva or the Westminster Assembly debate...
I love to see families walking through the doors of the auditorium on Lord's Day morning. I see each of them as a living stone coming together to form a living temple in order to worship the living God. They were once like the dry bones of Ezekiel's vision scattered about in the valley of the...
A few weeks ago the session on which I serve was interviewing some young teenage girls for communicant membership in the church. When a child in the congregation I serve approaches me about making their profession of faith before the session I ask them two questions. First, I ask to hear their...
Dear Theophilus, You have been so inquisitive. Your questions demonstrate your great desire to learn more of the faith. However, allow me in this last letter to speak to you about one of the greatest dangers facing the church today. You have been so zealous and sincere in your pursuit of the truth...
Dear Theophilus, I find that the greatest danger facing the church today is Christ-less Christianity. I realize that this expression will raise your eyebrows and well it should for what is Christianity if not Christ? But if I leave it undefined you will ask what it means in your next letter! So,...
Several weeks ago I sent my cadre of writers a question. I asked them, “If you could identify and warn your fellow believers about the greatest spiritual danger that they may face in life what would it be?” I was a little shocked at how fast they responded. The response was immediate, which told me...
I could tell the young man standing in front of me was deeply concerned. It didn’t take long to find out why. A friend of his from another church was having a difficult time with the church’s leadership. He felt his friend had experienced an injustice. He wanted to help but didn’t know how and he...
I once read a book about how to read good literature. The author made a clear assertion. He said a meal is never just a meal. Now, I am not a lit scholar. I don’t want to argue for the veracity or falsity of his claim. But I would say that the Lord’s Supper is never just a meal. The Lord’s Supper...
On Monday, March 25, 2019, Rep. Stephanie Borowicz prayed at the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It was not the most eloquent prayer I have ever heard. In fact, Rep. Borowicz sounded a bit nervous and even looked it. Sometimes she had her eyes opened and sometimes closed. She used Jesus as a...
It is never easy to watch someone walk away from their profession of faith in Christ. It is never easy to go through the disciplinary process which may culminate in excommunication. It’s never easy and it is always painful. And when one and likely both of these things happen you can’t help but...
C. S. Lewis has been a helpful guide to many Christians and rightfully so. He has led countless weary travelers through the world’s wasteland in order to introduce them to the Christ of Christianity. And though his defense of the faith is well known and respected through works like Mere...
Tertullian and Irenaeus are the earliest witnesses to the Creed now known as the Apostle’s Creed. During their pastorates it was likely in its earliest form and known as the Roman Symbol. This early form of the Apostle’s Creed most likely appeared in or around 150 AD in Rome and was a response to...
The phrase in the Apostle’s Creed, “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” is packed with theological importance. Early on we learned that this creed was written to combat the theological deviance of Gnosticism. Everywhere the Creed indicates that the...
As we approach the Lord’s Day on any given Sunday, let alone one on which many of us will lose an hour of restful preparation due to the resetting of our clocks, how shall we listen to the sermon? Added to the question’s difficulty is the author of this article. Some will say, “Wait, don’t you...
According to N. T. Wright, it is now generally agreed that an overall theme in II Corinthians is “Paul’s defense, not of his apostolic ministry in itself, but of the particular style or character of that ministry.” [1] For Wright, these arguments concerning the nature of Paul’s ministry form the...
I just finished preaching through Romans. So, what was my favorite commentary? Which one would I take to a desert island? Well, let me throw up a disclaimer or two. First, I never use a commentary that is, shall we say, more devotional in character, or better, readymade to preach. I did say never...
While rereading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol I recently read something I had forgotten. When Jacob Marley appeared to Scrooge his body was transparent, so that Scrooge could see not only the front of his long deceased partner’s waistcoat but the back of it too! But then this line appears, “...
Panel discussions are great. I love the unscripted “off the cuff” format because it is in those moments that you often get the best help from a speaker. I remember listening to one such discussion and the speakers were asked what three or four books in addition to their Bible they would take to a...
For me, as for so many others, Sinclair Ferguson has been and continues to be one of my heroes in the faith. While a Ph.D. student at Westminster Theological Seminary he was one of my professors. What is more, while he was pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, I would...
It is fitting that Christians should love the springtime of the soul, the bodily resurrection that will come in God’s time. But how much do we really know about the resurrection? Children often ask, “Will I know my mommy and daddy in heaven?” Wives want to know what kind of relationship, if any,...
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). I am captivated by this beatitude. All of them are deeply searching and logical. There is precision in every statement and in every promise. But I am not alone in saying that this particular beatitude holds sway over them all,...
I teach a small weekly Bible study that is attended by a couple of Roman Catholics one of which is practicing and the other is not. A third member has embraced the Gospel and broken ties with Rome. Recently, in one of these studies, I mentioned purgatory and received an instant, “Oh, we don’t...
“Why can’t you get past the objections of Luther and his progeny?” That was the question that came plaintively from the man who sat opposite the pastor in the coffee house. The Pastor, whose name was Peter, looked at him as if to say, “Haven’t I already explained?” I could see his frustration as I...
Quite a while ago, I met a woman with whom I had attended a particular church several years earlier. At the time of our meeting we were both worshiping in different congregations. In the midst of the conversation, having discovered that I was reformed in my theology, she informed me that she too...
I recently read of one man’s experience as a student in the classroom of a famous professor. One student asked the professor, “What one trait separates the great scholar from all the rest?” The students sat in anticipation. Would it be pedigree, proclivity for languages, resilience, intelligence,...
While attending an academic conference this past year I went to a dinner with some friends and other conference attendees. The conversation around the table was spirited, wide ranging and a lot of fun. At one point, the conversation turned to the eternal generation of the Son. In the midst of the...
Recently, I was reading John Murray’s commentary on the book of Romans. I was struck by what I read. In Romans 4:3 we read, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now, we know that our faith is not the ground of our justification but this is what Murray said, In terms...
Benjamin B. Warfield wrote a little article for the Homiletic Review in 1897 titled, "The Indispensableness of Systematic Theology to the Preacher." As anything written by Warfield, it is a thoughtful and edifying piece with a clear aim. According to the Lion of Old Princeton, it is through Gospel...
Over the last several years, some in the church have argued that a person may be oriented toward homosexuality but not act on the inclination or tendency. That may or may not be the case. However, the burden of this article is not that. In this article, I will demonstrate that to claim that...
Today, at Place for Truth, we are launching another endeavor in the hope that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ will be served by our efforts. We realize the truth of what R C Sproul once captured in a book title – everyone is a theologian! Therefore, the question is not whether you are a...
You are a pastor in a small city. You’ve known your barber for almost twenty years. One day while he trims he asks for help in prayer. He, like many others, struggles in that area. So, you decide to go home and write a brief thirty-four page guide for him. You even incorporate your friend in the...
I recently read an article that offered a disturbing statistic. The author claimed that 40% of students who enter college will not complete their degree. He also claimed that over 60% of this group would not drop out due to financial reasons but a good number would stop because they simply don’t...
The best doctors are diagnosticians. Those who have hidden the taxonomy of pathogens in their cerebral cortex and are able to ply their knowledge to the often distorted complex of a patient’s woes – that, is a doctor indeed. The best of the Puritans were the best of spiritual doctors. Let’s imagine...
The book of Revelation can be thrilling. Not because of the charts and timelines often concocted to parse out the unknowable date of Christ’s return. No, it’s marvelous because it is filled with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But let me tell you what else it has going for it besides the fact that it...