Charles Spurgeon on “Duty-Faith”

2020-04-22 09.22.38On May 8th, 1864, Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached a sermon from Titus 1:2 provocatively titled “What God Cannot Do!” The text refers to God who “cannot lie.” After denouncing the pervasiveness of lying among humans (including an interesting reference to the deceitfulness of King James “whose name dishonours our English Bible”), Spurgeon expounds upon the text’s teaching of the impossibility of God lying. The “first practical conclusion” drawn from the text in the final point of application touches upon the issue of whether it is a duty for sinners to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spurgeon finds help against the hyper-Calvinistic teaching that since sinners lack the ability to believe the gospel, they are not therefore responsible. Spurgeon infers that the Scripture’s teaching that God cannot lie requires one to hold to “duty-faith.”

Brethren, if it be so that God cannot lie, then it must be the natural duty of all his creatures to believe him. I cannot resist that conclusion. It seems to me to be as clear as noonday, that it is every man’s duty to believe truth, and that if God must speak and act truth, and truth only, it is the duty of all intelligent creatures to believe him. Here is “Duty-faith” again, which some are railing at, but how they can get away from it, and yet believe that God cannot lie, I cannot understand. If it be not my duty to believe in God, then it is no sin for me to call God a liar. Will anyone subscribe to that—that God is a liar? I think not; and if to think God to be a liar would be a most atrocious piece of blasphemy, then it can only be so on the ground that it is the natural and incumbent duty of every creature understanding the truthfulness of God to believe in God. If God has set forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the propitiation for sin, and has told me to trust Christ, it is my duty to trust Christ, because God cannot lie; and though my sinful heart will never believe in Christ as a matter of duty but only through the work of the Holy Spirit, yet faith does not cease to be a duty; and whenever I am unbelieving and have doubts concerning God, however moral my outward life may be, I am living in daily sin; I am perpetrating a sin against the first principles of morality. If I doubt God, as far as I am able I rob him of his honour, and stab him in the vital point of his glory; I am, in fact, living an open traitor and a sworn rebel against God, upon whom I heap the daily insult of daring to doubt him. O my hearers, there are some of you who do not believe in Christ; I wish you would look at your character and position in this light. You are not trusting in Christ for your salvation. Remember, “He that believeth not God hath made him a liar;” those are John’s own inspired words, and you are, every day that you are not a believer in Christ, virtually writing upon your doorpost, and saying with your mouth, “God is a liar; Christ is not able to save me; I will not trust him ; I do not believe God’s promise; I do not think he is sincere in his invitation to me to come to Christ; I do not believe what God says.” Remember that you are living in such a state as this, and may God the Holy Ghost impress you with a sense of the sin of that state, and feeling this your sin and misery, I pray God to lead you to cry, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” This, then, is our first practical conclusion from the fact that God cannot lie.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “What God Cannot Do!” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 10 (1864), 261-262.

The entire sermon is available online from The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary.

Prayer to Open Kentucky House of Representatives This Morning (Text)

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Our Sovereign God,

We pray to you recognizing that you are in control over all things. There is not one maverick molecule in the universe. All planets, stars, comets, molecules, microbes, and viruses are under your sovereign control. You work all things after the counsel of your will. None can stay your hand or say what doest thou.

We acknowledge that not only you sovereign, but you are a loving father over creation, and especially to those who know You. Not one bird can fall from the sky or one hair from our heads without you knowing and caring. You knit us together in our mother’s wombs. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. You know our bodies better than we know our bodies. You know disease better than doctors know disease and, ultimately, we rest in your loving, sovereign care of us.

We also thank you that you have given us as human beings the ability to understand disease and infection and how it spreads. Thank you for the medical community that is working so hard to prepare us for, respond to, and treat this current health challenge. Thank you also for civil government which was established by you to protect its citizens. Thank you for our governor and his team and those advising them from the medical community. I pray for strength and health for all those making decisions and recommendations that impact the public safety of so many.

Thank you also for members of the House and Senate who are serving their constituents by keeping themselves and others informed and find themselves in the difficult position of giving advice to those in their districts. We pray for health and strength for these legislators, their family, and the staff that supports them.

Please be with this body today as they conduct the business of this Commonwealth. Give them peace as many of them are separated from their families and homes in this time of uncertainty. Give them all your peace that surpasses human understanding.

Most of all we thank you for your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into this world of sickness and sin as an expression of your sovereign plan and fatherly love of this world. Thank you that by His sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection, He conquered the grave, defeated death, took away death’s sting and, in the words of the author of Hebrews, delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery! May all who hear these words and all across our Commonwealth and around the world, find peace and comfort in the grace and mercy through faith in the Lord Jesus.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Response to an AP Reporter on the Relationship between Faith and Science in Light of COVID-19 and the Governor’s Recommendation to Cancel Worship Gatherings

I was contacted yesterday by Elana Schor, national AP reporter for religion and politics. She was working on a story on the relationship between faith and science in the current COVID-19 health crisis. Specifically she asked me about the role of faith and science in light of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s recommendation that churches consider canceling their worship services this weekend. Elana did an excellent job on the article exploring how different faith communities are responding to the virus crisis. Of course, my comments were only one section of the story that focused on Kentucky and only one sentence was shared (it was done responsibly and I have no complaints). I thought I would share my full response to Elana in case it might be helpful for those thinking through these issues. In the response, I reference my email to our church. It is available here.

Dear Elana,

Below are the plans for our church services going forward. These are subject to change as more data becomes available. That probably partially answers your question by indicating that I am open to data and considering that data in making decisions. I have a lot of thoughts about the relationship between faith and science. I believe that there are often conflicts between the two and when that happens we (the faith community) have improperly interpreted or applied scripture OR the scientific community has improperly interpreted the natural world. In other words, I don’t believe there can be a real conflict between God’s two books of nature and scripture; the conflict lies in our interpretation of the same. As such, I am open to the findings of science, especially regarding the spread and containment of infectious diseases. Governor Beshear’s recommendation to consider canceling services was well taken by me. I recognize his responsibility and concern to mitigate this health crisis and I respect that. We want to take seriously the health challenges that experts are describing and their prescriptions to address those challenges. However, we have to balance that by our responsibility to continue our regular expressions of worshiping and gathering, which I believe is commanded of us as Christians (Hebrews 10:25). The precautions that I outlined in my email to the church (below) and posted on social media are a response to the scientific information being provided. I would not rule out canceling services altogether when it becomes clear that the steps I’ve outline are not sufficient to protect our people. We do know how disease spreads and the type of individuals that are particularly at risk. Those concerns are being addressed, I trust, sufficiently in our plan. This allows us to balance the practice of our faith while recognizing and responding responsibly to the health crisis outlined by the medical community.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to follow up.

Blessings,
Steve Weaver, pastor
Farmdale Baptist Church

Email to the church:

Statement regarding our services at Farmdale

“A Tailor, a Tinker and a Cobbler”: Guest Post by Austin Walker

keach__19608.1422658601Today is 29 February. It is a leap year. So was 1640.  On 29 February 1640 in the remote Buckinghamshire parish of Stoke Hammond Benjamin Keach was born to John and Joyce Keach. He became a prominent preacher in London after 1668. He was the most prolific writer among the Particular Baptists in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, and one of the men who convened the 1689 National Assembly of Particular Baptist churches, signing the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.

At his trial before the Aylesbury Assizes in 1664 he endured rough justice, was subsequently fined and pilloried. The rector of Stoke Hammond had brought Keach to the attention of the authorities, belittling him as an uneducated tailor, ‘and one that is a teacher in a new fangled way.’ In the indictment read out at his trial, he was charged with saying (among many other things) that ‘Christ has not chosen the wise and prudent men after the flesh, nor great doctors and rabbis: not many mighty and noble, saith Paul, are called: but rather the poor and despised, even tradesmen and suchlike…’

Twelve years previously on 28 November 1628, in the parish of Elstow in neighbouring Bedfordshire in a cottage near the hamlet of Harrowden, John Bunyan was born. His fame is greater than that of Benjamin Keach. He too was an ordinary man, a tinker by trade. He also suffered for his Christian faith.

Over a hundred years later, 16 August 1761 in the village of Paulerspury, in neighbouring Northamptonshire, William Carey was born. By trade he was a cobbler. He of course became famous as the man who took the gospel to the Indian sub-continent.

A tailor, a tinker, and a cobbler: ordinary men who became decided and influential Christians. The grace and power of God equipped them to be preachers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Keach was right, ‘God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence, 1 Corinthians 1.27-29.

Austin Walker

If would like to read more about Keach then get hold of The Excellent Benjamin Keach, Joshua Press, 2015. Be sure you obtain the second edition.

John Piper On How Faithful Preaching Should Root Out Racism

John Piper recently participated in The Crossway Podcast series and discussed a variety of issues including God’s sovereignty, pastoral burnout, and racism. I think his comments about how faithful preaching of the text of Scripture would root out racism are spot-on. Sadly, some historically (and even presently), don’t preach the implications of the text for racism because they fear to do so. May God help us to be faithful to the text and its implications when it comes to all areas of sin in our hearts and lives.

What I think is needed is for every pastor to just get really serious about the text. I mean really serious about the implications of the text. And here’s what I’m thinking. When I was a kid, and in the say 50 years before that, so we’re talking basically the first half of the 20th century, every Klansman in the South belonged to a church probably. What I’m saying is: that was very defective preaching. Because the kind of preaching I have in mind–they could not stay. They couldn’t. You would be saying things that would be so outlandish to Ku Klux Klan members, they’d storm out of your church, or they’d fire you quick. And that’s what ought to be happening today, and you don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of economics, say, or prison reform, or how police behave, and I think we ought to talk about all those, don’t misunderstand. I’m just saying that’s not the radical stuff. Are you kidding me? Read your Bible! You want to see something radical? Go and see what Paul says about you, black man, or me, white man, both under the blood of Jesus, united to him for our righteousness in the forgiveness of our sins and wedded in one family living together forever in heaven and think you could go out and talk bad about me? You’re going to despise me? You’re going to treat me with disrespect? I mean that is not possible. And it’s not being preached like that. Because we’re not good preachers. We’re not good text wringers to get every drop of radical implication out of these texts. So yes. Short answer: yes. The Pauline picture of the new man in Christ. Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither Scythian, no barbarian, but all one in Christ is so radical that if it were preached faithfully with text-wringing pointed prophetic application, people would squirm in their seats and leave this church or fire this pastor or lay down their racist inclinations.

You can listen to the entire interview or read the transcript here.

A Puritan Father and Son on the Proper Treatment of Wives

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Many are familiar with Matthew Henry’s (1662–1714) commentary on Genesis 2:21. Henry, whose exposition of the entire Bible is still in print today, found it instructive that God formed woman from the side of man.

That the woman was made out of the side of Adam, not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

Although this is oft-quoted, what is lesser known is that the original source for this exposition was from Henry’s father, Phillip (1631–1696), a Puritan preacher himself. As a twenty-year-old, the younger Henry had written out his father’s exposition of the text. It was discovered and published in 1829 as An Exposition with Practical Observations, upon the First Eleven Chapters of the Book of Genesis. From the words of Phillip you can ascertain the development of Matthew’s understanding on how a husband should treat his wife.

Adam lost a rib, but he got a better thing out of it, even a help meet for him. Thus God uses [is accustomed] to deal with his children: they lose sometimes some of their creature-comforts; but then perhaps they get more of the Creator’s comforts, and that’s a blessed exchange. This bone was taken out of Adam’s side, fitly noting the woman’s place; not out of his head, to be above him; not out of his feet, to be trampled on by him; nor from before him, as his better; nor from behind him, as his servant;—but out of his side, to be equal with him; near his heart, for he owes her love; under his arm, for he owes her protection. Surely they forget from whence the woman was taken, that carry themselves haughtily and abusively towards their wives. (Phillip Henry, An Exposition with Practical Observations, 56)

See Allan Harman, Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence (Christian Focus, 2012), 154–155.

Ten Principles for Christians Interacting with Cultural Moments

I have noticed that some of my friends on social media are concerned that the current cultural moment will create a backlash against central biblical teachings. No doubt some will use this moment to advance their own agendas, but Christians have nothing to fear from any cultural moment that helps us see truth more clearly. Also, we must be careful about impugning motives to people who are taking a stand on matters of social justice and/or siding with women who have been victimized by men, as being a part of some vast left-wing conspiracy to lead Christians into theological liberalism. Although we must be always vigilant for the truth, some of hysteria that I have seen borders on libel. For those who affirm and have not denied the core doctrines of the Christian faith, we should not accuse them of a strategy of subterfuge because we might disagree with their application of biblical truth to a specific situation. We often have a knee-jerk reaction to anything recognized or celebrated by our culture. This is understandable given the fallen world’s general opposition to divine truth. However, just because our culture is recognizing a truth, does not mean that the church must reject that truth. Here are some principles that I believe we should use in evaluating cultural moments in light of divine revelation.

  1. All truth is God’s truth.
  2. Because of general revelation, we should not be surprised to find divine truth reflected in human culture.
  3. This truth is often distorted because of human rebellion against the Creator.
  4. However, there are areas of overlap between biblical truth and truths recognized by our culture.
  5. Scripture is our ultimate authority and will always overrule cultural mores.
  6. However, Christians have sometimes misinterpreted and misapplied Scripture.
  7. Scripture is infallible, but our interpretations and applications of Scripture are fallible.
  8. The majority of American Christians have been tragically wrong on some major issues, eg., Slavery, Civil Rights, and treatment of women.
  9. When cultural moments allow us to recognize and correct our misinterpretations of Scripture, this is not compromise but faithfulness.
  10. These cultural moments are opportunities to reevaluate our interpretations and applications of Scripture, but must never cause us to deny the trustworthiness and sufficiency of Scripture.