Clarifying the ‘Means of Grace’

Clarifying the “Means of Grace”

The term ‘means of grace’ is used by Roman Catholics and Protestants, and many evangelicals. Historically, the term comes out of the Roman Catholic Church which teaches that the sacraments (7 of them) are means by which the saving grace of God is communicated. The Reformers retained the terminology but nuanced the understanding of the sacraments (2 of them) as ‘the means by which saving grace is applied and confirmed.’[1]

Both Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestants institutionalize the means of grace, i.e. the sacramental means are neither available apart from institutions nor apart from the administration of ordained clergy. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

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I write as one who loves preaching – both as a preacher and a listener – and who believes that preaching the Word is central in corporate worship.  I appreciate the diversity of styles, personalities, and approaches to preaching. I have learned through the years to glean something from most preachers, though admittedly I cannot help evaluating when others preach. When I sit and listen, which probably is not often enough, I have some reasonable (at least in my mind) expectations in preaching. Here are a few of my aspirations for preaching: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Ordinary Pastors

I have in hand another invitation to a big name conference with a big name speaker. I could go and hang out around the coffee pot with ordinary pastors, but I am told that the important stuff comes from the important people.

My brother Steve and I have spoken from time to time on how glad we are to be part of the Evangelical Free Church of America. One of the reasons is that there is no single awe-inspiring individual with whom the Free Church is identified. It is not a movement of personalities. We had looked at other church planting groups who were led by powerful, ‘successful,’ personalities, yet we chose the Free Church as a movement of ordinary pastors led by ordinary men who are seeking to be faithful to the work and Word of God.

Some time ago I read Don Carson’s book Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: the Life and Reflections of Tom Carson in which he told the story of the faithful work of his father laboring in small churches in Quebec. The Reformed Reader summarizes the book aptly: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Gospel-Centered Tier One Christian Fellowship

True Christian fellowship is based on Tier One commitments to the Gospel and to Biblical Moral Essentials (summarized in the Great Commandments). These Biblical Moral Essentials provide growing evidence of one’s genuine experience of the Gospel. Tiers 2-4 should not constitute a basis for Christian fellowship.

The Gospel creates spiritual union with Christ and union with other believers. Biblical Moral Essentials give outward evidence of the reality of that union with Christ.

We should not grant Christian fellowship to those who lay claim to the gospel, yet deny perspicuous biblical morality.




Personal Beliefs/Opinions


Denominational Distinctives


Theological Systems


Doctrine Essential to the Gospel






Personal Convictions


Debatable issues


Cultural applications of biblical morality


Perspicuous Biblical Morality




Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Christmas — the Birth of Our Divine Warrior

I love the celebration of Christmas especially when it turns my focus to the incarnation of the Divine Warrior who would come and rescue us from the kingdom of darkness. Though we may sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright,” our theology suggests that more than that was going on that night. Hell was raging. Satan was fuming. The demons were preparing for the greatest confrontation between the powers of evil and the power of God.

Way back in the Garden, God had ordained that hostility would exist between Satan and those whom God had created in His image to worship and serve Him. The Old Testament narrative portrays that hostility in the frequent attempts of various enemies to destroy the people of God. Time and again, Yahweh fights for His people and delivers them. He chooses warriors like Gideon and David who fight the enemies of God and His people.

As we read these narratives through the lens of the New Testament, we realize that a great spiritual hostility lay behind these physical battles between nations. The attempts to eliminate the people of God were designed by Satan to thwart the coming of that One whom God promised would come and ‘crush the head” of Satan.  The Lord’s sovereign and powerful interventions in behalf of His people renewed hope that the ultimate Divine Warrior would come and defeat the great foe of mankind.

Christmas is the birth of a King, a Warrior King, a Divine King. Though He is the Prince of Peace he comes, not to appease or accommodate evil, but to destroy evil and to crush the evil one.  He is born to defeat sin, Satan, and death.  The life and ministry of Jesus vividly portray the confrontations He had with Satan and the demonic world. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus comes through every time as one who triumphs over evil.

Satan was relentless in His attacks against this One who is called “the Son of God” and within the eternal plan of God is allowed to incite the mobs to kill Jesus. Death would be Satan’s final vanquishing of the Divine Warrior.  Death was Satan’s last and most powerful weapon to bring against Jesus. However, little did Satan know that God would use this powerful weapon of death to be the very means by which Satan himself would be defeated. Satan unleashed his great fury in the death of Jesus only to have it recoil and crush the great enemy of mankind.

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb 2:14-15 ESV)

“Up from the grave He arose with a might conquest of His foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose. He arose. Hallelujah Christ arose!”