Posts by Jeffrey Stivason

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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...
My first pastorate was a small rural congregational church. Her only doctrinal statement was the Apostle’s Creed. The ol’ timers said it was because doctrine didn’t matter out in the country. I served that congregation while in my last year of college and almost all three years of my seminary...
Who is Jesus? Any Christian might easily answer this question by reaching for her Bible and turning to the gospels. But advocates of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) would be quick to caution against such a naïve response. “Oh,” they might say, “you can know something about Jesus from reading the...
Theology on the Go in Summary : The sufficiency of Scripture We here at Theology on the Go want to help you to help others. Often we are in a conversation with someone on a topic that we know we have seen on Theology on the Go but the podcast and articles are scattered over a two-week period, which...
I don’t know about you, but I find it interesting that Hebrews 13 ends with an encouragement to obey and submit to the elders of the congregation. In fact, leaders are mentioned three times from v. 7 to the end of the chapter. Now, we’re not told why it ends this way but one certainly wonders. And...
Many years ago, my two friends and I developed an interest in rock climbing. We lived in an area where you could do a lot of top roping. We would walk into the woods and find a rock face. Someone would unpack the gear and tie off the rope and then we would rappel to the bottom. Being inexperienced...
Our lives, for the most part, are routine. In fact, truth be told, you struggled to get up early and do devotions because the kids were sick the night before. After you did get them off to school, you went to work or had a list of chores that barely reached humdrum on the excitement meter. The...
Old stories about our theological heroes are as heartwarming as they are encouraging. I especially love the story about one time professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, John Murray, who was apparently in the habit of driving theological students to and from church. It...
Some words are difficult to like. Do you know what I mean? Maybe I am not being clear. There are various reasons why we may not like this word or that. Some may be on unfriendly terms with a word because it is difficult to spell (think handkerchief - good thing for auto spell!). A few may avoid a...
When I was young and living under my parent's tutelage, cleaning my room was a primary chore assigned to me. However, even though I was the chief custodian of my room I was not the boss! After cleaning, my mother would show up for the inspection. More often than not, she would look at me with her...
The gospel of Jesus Christ is astounding. To think that when we were yet sinners God sent His only begotten Son to keep the law that we were unable to keep and to bear the curse we were unwilling to bear is enough to strike us dumb! And yet, that is exactly what the sovereign Creator did. Think of...
If you have not listened to Aimee Byrd's podcast at the head of this Theology on the Go series, take the seventeen minutes out of your day and do it - especially if you are a pastor. It is worth the time. After listening, I started to reflect on the women in the congregation that I serve and I need...
Pastor Paul was studying when interrupted by the knock at the door. The sound was rapid fire and thud-like. "Someone is upset," he thought as he called out an invitation to enter. Jacob stumbled through the doorway carrying an armload of books. The pastor sat easily back in his chair. He knew it...
Are the Doctrines of Grace practical? Let me be more specific, more practical in my question. Is the doctrine of unconditional election a user-friendly doctrine? Let me put it another way, will this doctrine help form piety, deepen love, and strengthen my faith? Maybe you would respond, "Couldn't...
Have you ever heard the story of the old preacher who stood in his pulpit and explained the doctrine of election? With great excitement, he said pointing down to the floorboards at his left, "Election is when Satan casts a vote for your soul!" And then, pointing to the ceiling to his right, he...