4 Types of Non-Expositional Preaching

preachingWhen you walk into any given church on any given Sunday there will come a point in the service when a man will stand in a pulpit or on a stage and begin to speak for anywhere from 20-60 minutes. Preachers preach differently. While nearly all of them will carry a Bible on stage with them, the way the message is presented differs.

If you want to know how your preacher preaches, take a look at the sermons he has preached thus far this year. More than likely, a preacher’s manner of preaching can be determined by looking at his sermons and sermon series over the course of a few months. It truly matters how a preacher preaches. I am not talking about what he wears, whether he paces up and down the aisles or sits on a stool, or how loud he preaches. Delivery style is not in mind here. I am referring to the manner in which the preacher presents the message of the Bible.

While I believe expository preaching is the only type of preaching that is valid for weekly preaching, there are other types of preaching that fill many churches each week. For those who do not preach expositionally, there are generally four major ways that they preach.

1. Anecdotal Preaching

The first type of preaching is anecdotal. An anecdotal sermon is a sermon in which the preacher primarily tells engaging stories with a moral lesson. While many preachers make use of anecdotes as an attention grabber to begin their sermons, an anecdotal sermon is filled with anecdotes. The preacher rarely gets around to a text of Scripture. These types of sermons are sadly very popular. People love stories and pastors who want to keep an audience roaring in laughter or crying from an inspirational story will attempt to motivate their audience with anecdote after anecdote after anecdote.

The best possible result from this type of preaching is moralism. People will leave the service wanting to be a better person and will take to social media to share the clever anecdotes and cute phrases from the sermon. People will go away from such a sermon entertained, but they will not have been fed from the Word of God. The big problem with anecdotal sermons is that they lack the sanctifying and transforming power people need to grow in Christ. If a preacher preaches anecdotally, he will ultimately fail to sanctify God’s people in truth (John 17:17).

2. Biographical Preaching

The second type of preaching is biographical. A biographical sermon is a sermon in which the preacher traces the life of a biblical character and draws contemporary moral implications. It is somewhat common for pastors to take a month or two out of the year to preach through the lives of men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of preaching. There are many examples that we can draw from the lives of biblical characters. Seeing how David repented or how Paul risked his life for the sake of the gospel can be very edifying.

However, if the most these sermons do is call for moral improvement or behavior modification based on how biblical characters lived their lives, they fall short of the message of Christianity. The danger in preaching many biographical sermons is that it is easy to make points based on the lives of biblical characters totally out of context. Preachers who preach through the life of David, for example, fail to take in the surrounding context.

3. Topical Preaching

The third type of preaching is topical. A topical sermon is a sermon that has a topic in mind prior to consulting the text, and then searches for one or more biblical texts that addresses the topic chosen beforehand. This is quite possibly the most common type of preaching permeating American churches. A pastor thinks through a variety of topics he thinks would benefit his congregation, and then chooses one. From this point, he enters Scripture to find passages that support his topic. For example, a pastor may preach a sermon series on the family. He will take four weeks or so to address the family from four or five different passages. Topical preachers jump around the Bible throughout a given sermon series.

The danger in topical preaching is that the pastor’s mind or the congregation’s circumstances are ultimate while Scripture is nothing more than a helpful resource. The preacher is never surprised or challenged by a text of Scripture. He simply ends up studying and preaching his favorite topics. The text of Scripture does not set the agenda, so the text could easily be manipulated. When a preacher preaches topically, he can easily avoid passages that are difficult to understand. What’s worse, the congregation can never grow past the knowledge or maturity level of the preacher. If a preacher does not regularly preach expositionally, he will never preach more than he already knows. The church will slowly be conformed to the preacher’s mind, rather than to God’s mind.

There are certain circumstances when topical sermons are appropriate. For example, it may be necessary to preach on a certain topic when asked to preach at a conference, chapel service, or a special church event. A topical sermon can be expositional, insofar as it uses texts carefully and well, but the preacher must be careful since the point of the sermon was determined before the text of Scripture was consulted.

4. Textual Preaching

The fourth type of preaching is textual. A textual sermon is a sermon that refers often to a particular biblical text, but does not take the main point of the text as its own. Like topical preaching, this is a very popular type of preaching. Textual sermons look something like this: A preacher might have you turn to a particular passage and he might read verses from that passage, but then you might as well close your Bible and put it away. The main sermon idea in textual sermons does not come from the text. The biggest danger in this type of preaching is that the preacher can easily distort the message of the very text he has read, most commonly by placing his own ideas onto the text.

Preaching for Heart Change

Expository preaching is neglected by many in favor of these alternative methods. I think this is partly because expository preaching requires a tremendous amount of work. Expositional sermons take the point of the text as the point of the sermon. As I argued in my post yesterday, expository preaching requires diligent exegesis in order to dig for the meaning of the text as intended by the original authors. If one is to preach expositionally, one cannot just open his Bible on Sunday morning and throw an outline together.

Preachers must not allow the fear of the daunting task of expository preaching to scare them into other types of preaching that fail to expose what God has revealed. In preaching we are after soul transformation, not moralism. Heart change occurs when the man of God preaches the Word of God as it was intended by God. Expository preaching does this. Many of these other methods do not. Preachers, desire heart change that comes through the proclamation of the Word of God.

Beware of saying, ‘[Expository preaching] doesn’t work,’ and then turning to other techniques and leaving behind God’s way of changing people. You may be able to change people with ways and means different from this process of seeing the glory of the Lord in the Word of God, but will it be a change that magnifies the glory of Christ? Not all change honors Christ. Paul sounds this warning with the words at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 4:3, ‘And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.’ In other words, he admits that his gospel does not change everyone…Paul does not change his strategy because of this. Neither should we (from John Piper’s sermon at Together for the Gospel 2006)

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Connection Between Biblical Inerrancy and Expository Preaching


One thing I have committed myself to during my time at Boyce College is to learn the practice of expository preaching. There is hardly avoiding the fact that all young preachers preach bad sermons, especially early on. As Tim Keller once said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, your first 200 sermons will be terrible.” All preachers can only truly learn how to preach through practice. However, filling one’s mind and heart with biblically and historically faithful way of preaching prepares the student to preach bad sermons in the right way.

In preparing to become a faithful expositor, I have benefited mostly from reading books on the nature and practice of expository preaching. Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition is one of the most significant books in print on expository preaching. If you have no clue what expository preaching is; if you are a preacher considering preaching expositionally; or even if you already preach expositionally, Rediscovering Expository Preaching is a great resource.

John MacArthur and other faculty members of The Master’s Seminary combined to produce an invaluable resource for preachers in the early 1990’s and is still benefiting preachers today.

There is one chapter in Rediscovering Expository Preaching that I want to briefly discuss to give you both a feel for the book and some points for reflection on a crucial aspect of expository preaching.

The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy

John MacArthur wrote the second chapter, which is entitled, The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy.

In this chapter, MacArthur examines expository preaching in light of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Essentially, MacArthur’s main point is that expository preaching is the practical overflow of biblical inerrancy. Or, as he puts it, biblical inerrancy “demands” expository preaching. MacArthur shows that the spiritual health of Christians and churches is dependent upon biblical inerrancy expressed in expository preaching. MacArthur states his thesis early on:

The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God (23-24).

It is through this definition of expository preaching that MacArthur shows a direct connection to the inerrancy of Scripture.

MacArthur argues that for inerrantists, there really is no other way to preach outside of expository preaching. On the other hand, if one believes the Bible is errant, then it would be foolish to preach the Bible expositionally. MacArthur ends up going further by arguing that preaching the Bible at all is meaningless if Scripture is not inerrant. Because of this intrinsic connection between biblical inerrancy and expository preaching, MacArthur goes through various points to show how the preacher can present the Bible “entirely and exactly as it was intended by God.”

From here, MacArthur breaks down the manner in which expository preaching can practically be carried out—exegesis. He defines exegesis as,

[T]he skillful application of sound hermeneutical principles to be the biblical text in the original language with a view to understanding and declaring the author’s intended meaning both to the immediate and subsequent audiences (29).

In order to preach expositionally, the preacher will need to make use of the hermeneutical principle of exegesis. The doctrine of inerrancy and the commitment to preach expositionally necessitates the use of exegesis. Finally, MacArthur gives a brief look at opposition to expositional preaching, which is found in theological liberalism’s denial of inerrancy.

This chapter is a necessary foundational look at expository preaching and its place in evangelical churches. I was personally challenged by this chapter to view expository preaching not as an option among many, but rather as the only appropriate way to preach. In fact, the only way to truly preach the word of God is to preach expositionally. MacArthur’s passion for inerrancy and preaching shines through in this chapter. He makes a strong claim that pierces the hearts of many pastors, but for those who believe in biblical inerrancy, there is no arguing against his arguments.

The mandate of the pastor is to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). In order to preach the divinely inspired word of God, the pastor must preach entirely and exactly what God has intended. MacArthur is clear in his definition and explanation of expository preaching. Exegesis requires diligent work, but all efforts will prove fruitful, because at the end of the day the pastor will be able to leave the pulpit knowing he preached a message from the Lord.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 09/22


Why Christian Parents Should Not Want Good, Happy, Safe Kids – David Prince: “‘I cannot believe that you would do that!’ That incredulous assertion is an all too familiar response from parents (including myself) who discover a child has sinned. But for Christian parents, such an assertion is anti-Christ because it constitutes speaking as if the gospel is not true.”

To Your Tents O Israel – Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Theological Seminary, reflects on former SBTS president Roy Honeycutt’s “Holy War” sermon.

6 Reasons Women Should Study Theology – Jen Thorn: “Ultimately it is impossible for any Christian to ignore theology (the study of God) and grow strong in the faith. It’s not that I believe we need fewer books on marriage and homemaking, but that we need more theology in and around everything we do.”

Daily Dose of Greek – An exciting and new resource from Dr. Robert Plummer to help with the study of biblical Greek.

Can I Ever Wear My Adrian Peterson Jersey Again? – Garrett Kell shares two lessons he has learned from the recent “nastiness” in the NFL. Much wisdom here.

Are We Using the Word ‘Brokenness’ Biblically? – We often speak of suffering and sin in terms of brokenness. Here are four reflections on whether or not our usage is biblical.

Hal Mumme: Godfather of College Football – “Talk all you want about the gridiron genius of Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn or Chip Kelly. But it’s Hal Mumme who brought you the game you’re watching today.”

The Stories Behind 10 Johnny Cash Songs – Very interesting post about the stories behind the songs.

And whatever needs nothing outside of itself, and is renowned and revered–wouldn’t we agree that it is most full of joy, too? –Boethius

25 Quotes From Jonathan Leeman’s “Church Membership”

81n9BMZ6xtLJonathan Leeman is a member at Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He is the author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love. He also serves as the editorial director for 9Marks Ministries.

Here are 25 quotes from his book, Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (Crossway, 2012). You can purchase Leeman’s book by clicking the image to the left.

1. The local church does not exist by permission of the state. It exists by the express authorization of Jesus.

2. Jesus is the authority to which all other authorities must answer.

3. The local church is the authority on earth that Jesus has instituted to officially affirm and give shape to my Christian life and yours.

4. The Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ and your citizenship in Christ’s present and promised nation.

5. The church begins with this fact: Jesus is Savior and Lord. He has died on the cross for the sins of everyone who would believe and follow him.

6. The Bible talks instead of how God’s people gather together under his supreme rule. It’s interested in the citizens of a kingdom, not club members.

7. A church’s authority gives shape to the family aspects of church life, the body aspects of church life, and so on.

8. A church member is someone who is formally recognized as a Christian and a part of Christ’s universal body.

9. The local church enables the world to look upon the canvas of God’s people and see an authentic painting of Christ’s love and holiness, not a forgery. And the local church lays down a pathway with guardrails and resting stations for the long journey of the Christian life.

10. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. They share fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and prayer. They call themselves “believers” and share everything in common, including their possessions and goods as people have need (Acts 2:44-45).

11. Christians possess a special power and corporate identity when formally assembled.

12. The life and authority of the local church shape and orient the lives of its members.

13. No one gets saved and then wanders around by him or herself, thinking about whether to join a church. People repent and are then baptized into the fellowship of a church.

14. Looking to Christ as Lord means being united to Christ’s people.

15. What is church membership? It’s a declaration of citizenship in Christ’s kingdom.

16. Church membership is a formal relationship between a church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christians’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.

17. Church membership is all about a church taking specific responsibility for  you, and you for a church.

18. Church membership begins when a local church affirms an individual Christian’s profession of faith.

19. Churches must not look for the people who are never jerks, but for the people who admit that they are jerks and willing to fight it.

20. Just as Christ submitted his whole life for our good, so we should submit our whole lives for one another’s good.

21. The local church community should be a place where Christians form and shape one another for good through all the dynamics of friendship.

22. Christians should look to the church for ethical instruction, counsel, accountability, and discipline in the matters that are addressed by God’s word.

23. Churches are filled with other sinners whose visions of glory contradict our own. But this is how Christ loved us, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34 ESV)”.

24. The underlying purpose in every act of discipline, of course, must be love: love for the individual, love for the church, love for the watching world, and love for Christ.

25. The church’s uppermost concern must be to guard the reputation of Christ.

1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

John Owen on the Glory of Christ as God’s Representation


John Owen takes the task of explaining Christ’s glory as God’s representation  by appealing to the letter of the Colossians. In Colossians 1:15-20, Paul writes,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.

John Owen stated that,

Without Jesus, we would have known nothing truly about God for he would have been eternally invisible to us. In his divine person, Jesus is the essential image of God the father. But when he assumed human nature he became the representative of God’s image to the church, so that only by Christ do we understand the wonderful and excellent things of God’s nature and will (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Reading Colossians 1 and what John Owen says on it makes me wonder how little men and women in the church ponder this truth that the Son of God is the very image of the invisible God; the truth that, by Jesus, all things were Created (v.16). How often in our hearts, minds, and mouths do we forget or neglect this? Because if we did not neglect the fact that Jesus is the very image of God, many churches wouldn’t be in the state they are currently in.

If we did ponder the glory of Christ as the image of the invisible God, we would sacrifice nicer carpet for the sake of the gospel; abandon a nicer sound system for the sake of gospel; and we would be slow to criticize guys like David Platt for arguing for the importance of sacrificing even the small things (like goldfish crackers). Because this Jesus, who is the image of invisible God, who has created all things, and in him all things hold together, became like his brothers to make propitiation for our sins (Heb. 2:17)! Jesus became our representative on the cross. Thus, he is the head of the Church!

Owen said,

It is only by Christ that we can glorify God rightly and acceptably. Hence the great purpose of the devil, when the gospel was first preached, was to blind the eyes of men’s understanding, and to fill their minds with prejudices and so that they might not behold his glory. He who does not behold the glory of Christ as the representation of God’s love is utterly ignorant of these heavenly mysteries. He does not know either God or Christ. He has neither the Father nor the Son. He does not know God, because he does not know the holy properties of his nature in the chief way designed by infinite wisdom of their revelation. He does not know Christ because he does not see the glory of God in him. Apart from Christ no man can come to a true understanding of God’s love.

Why does Owen say apart from Christ no man can come to a true understanding of God’s love?

Because if you miss Jesus then you have missed it all!

If we miss Jesus, then we will misread and misinterpret the entire Old Testament. For example, we will struggle to understand the story of Abraham and Isaac and the need for sacrifice. The entire sacrificial system will seem barbaric and displaced if we miss Jesus. The Old Testament is pointing to Jesus! So if you miss Jesus, you miss the fulfillment that is in him! For Jesus is before all things. He holds all things together. Through Jesus all things are reconciled to himself. Everything and everyone will have to answer to him. Friend, don’t waste your life trusting in tradition. Trust in the Christ whose imprint is in all 66 books. Rest in Jesus. Rest in the One whose personal sacrifice was planned before time began. You only get one life, and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ Jesus will last.

1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

Morning Mashup 09/17


Spanking, Abuse, and Modern Families – Dave Miller exposes the biblical call for parents to discipline their children and the striking difference between spanking and abuse. This should help in thinking through Adrian Peterson’s actions.

Was Richard Dawkins Right? – In Romans 8:28, “All things really means all things, including disabilities and genetic anomalies that will lead to much pain and suffering.”

Why Can’t Men Be Friends? – An open, honest, and important article from Wesley Hill on the absence of and the need for male friendship.

Survey Says Churches Are More Racially Diverse and Open to Homosexual Members – Joe Carter examines this recent trend.

Biblical Theology and the Sexuality Crisis – Albert Mohler: “The sexuality crisis has demonstrated the failure of theological method on the part of many pastors.”

Why Do Christians Worship on Sunday? – An excellent explanation from Daniel Hyde.

Another Novelist to Consider Reading – Kevin DeYoung recommends the reading of an author I have never heard of. After reading this post, I am heading over to Amazon to purchase a new book.

Christians Arrested at a Prayer Meeting in Saudi Arabia – Pray for these brothers and sisters.

Are They Really Worshipping God? – An important reminder that though kids may be singing, worship is much more than physical expression.

Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress – “At least 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading with a book or e-book helps.”

25 Brilliant “No Trespassing” Signs – Some of these are hilarious. Some are just disturbing. All of them I’d love to see someone test…or not.

God’s chief end is his glory, and he made us to find our highest joy in hallowing his name. –J.I. Packer

Sovereign Grace From Eternity to Eternity: Meditation on Romans 8:29-30

Romans 8:29-30 is typically referred to as the “golden chain” of salvation. It is easy to see why:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This chain is an affirmation from Paul that what God began in believers, he will bring to 4096x3072completion at the day of Christ (Phil. 1:6). There is great certainty and assurance in Romans 8:29-30. God is presented as the initiator of salvation as well as the perfecter and finisher of that salvation. God foreknew persons and predestined those whom he would “call”, “justify”, and “glorify”.

In these verses, Paul “traces God’s good and saving purpose through five stages from its beginning in his mind [election] to its consummation in the coming glory [final perseverance].”[1] Paul states in verse 29 that God predestined those who would believe in Jesus based on his foreknowledge of those individuals (“those whom he foreknew”). The emphasis in verse 29 is God’s initial act of grace in salvation.[2]

This clear summation of the whole experience and work of salvation in Romans teaches that from the first step to the last, salvation is all due to God’s good pleasure and grace. In this passage, salvation is traced from God’s decision to save a remnant of sinners through his divine and effectual call, on to his justification of such sinners, and then to the final glorification of these sinners. Therefore, one must attest his or her final perseverance and final glorification to the God who predestined, called, and justified him or her. Since God is shown to have foreknown individuals in verse 29, it seems quite clear (at least to me) that the Calvinistic interpretation of individual unconditional election is being taught by Paul.

God has indeed chosen individuals, but this is not due to any merit found in them (Rom. 9:11, 15-16; 1 Cor. 1:28-30), so that no man can boast (1 Cor. 1:29), except in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31).

Romans 8:29-30 presents an unbreakable chain of salvation that is initiated and completed by God. God receives ultimate glory for both his electing grace and his preserving grace. No one can thwart the purposes of God, particularly his purpose of salvation. And once God has chosen us and called us, we will willfully believe in Christ and be justified before God. From here, no one can separate us from the love of Christ and we will be glorified (Rom. 8:37-39). Our salvation carries a level of certainty and surety because it is entirely a work of God. God will complete what he began (Phil. 1:6). In the same way that God initiates our salvation by choosing us (predestination), and we choose him by a desire for him installed in us by him (“called” and “justified”), we remain in Christ by God’s work of preservation in us and our work of perseverance by continued faith in Christ (“glorification”).

Bottom line, God will be faithful to complete what he has begun. “God gets all the glory, for salvation is wholly his work.”[3]

Romans 8:29-30 gives us a great certainty and confidence in our salvation, since it is clear that God is in control and is the primary actor at each step. Our hope in final perseverance is rooted in our hope in God’s election; for if he has predestined us, he will glorify us. We will be able to “face the most nightmarish future on earth with triumph in our hearts.”[4] Paul then reasons after giving such firm certainty in v. 29-30 that God will give us all things (v. 32) and then he exclaims, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn” (v. 33-34)? Answer: No one (Rom. 8:1)! “The true believer could never ultimately fail to overcome.”[5]

J.I. Packer states it well:

And as the Christian surveys this unfathomable, free, almighty, endless love of the Father and the Son that laid hold on him before time began and has ransomed him and quickened him and is pledged to bring him safe through life’s battles and storms to the unutterable joys which God has in store for His children, so he finds himself longing more than anything to answer love with love…[6]

From this glorious passage, we can confirm the Calvinistic view of unconditional election as well as the Calvinistic view of final perseverance. This is because salvation belongs to the Lord—all of salvation (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9). So, not only is it logical that final perseverance stems from unconditional election, but it is also biblical according to Romans 8:29-30 that final perseverance must follow unconditional election. There is double joy to be found in the sovereign grace of the God who works from eternity to eternity in his immeasurable love to save sinners through Christ. In the words of John Piper,

“The plain point of this passage is that God is working infallibly to save his people, from foreknowing in eternity past to glorifying in eternity future. None is lost at any stage of redemption along the way…God really accomplishes the complete redemption of his people from start to finish.”[7]


[1] Stott, John R.W. The Message of Romans. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994, p. 248

[2] Ibid., p. 249

[3] Schreiner, Thomas R. and Caneday, Ardel B. The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, p. 321

[4] Packer, J.I. 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008, p. 162

[5] MacArthur, John. The Gospel According to Jesus. Revised and Expanded Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988, 1994, p. 229

[6] Ibid., p.162

[7] Piper, John. The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 1991, p. 140, 143

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

What is Biblical Conversion?: One Coin, Two Sides


Thinking about the way God saves serves Christians in three ways.

Firstly, when Christians think deeply about the elements of salvation, it deepens our appreciation and gratitude of God’s grace. This leads us into more passionate worship.

Secondly, when Christians think deeply about the elements of salvation, our motivation for evangelism is refreshed and enlivened. The more we are amazed at God’s grace in our lives, the more we will desire to see God’s grace in the lives of others.

Thirdly, when Christians think deeply about the elements of salvation, we will better understand what it means to be a Christian and what genuine believers look like. We will be more effective in recognizing things like true conversion when we know what biblical conversion actually is.

Biblical conversion is the step in the overall process of salvation that a guilty sinner simultaneously repents of his or her sin and believes in Jesus Christ alone. This is a glorious two-sided coin comprised of repentance on one side with faith on the other. The two are inseparable.It is impossible to have one without the other. Conversion is both a turning from a life of sin (repentance) and a turning to Christ (faith). The Bible is clear in both the Old and New Testaments that biblical conversion is the meeting of repentance with faith.


Repentance in the Old Testament carried the notion of both sorrow, as well as a turning back from something and to something else (positively, turning to the Lord). One example of repentance caring the element of sorrow is found in Job 42:6: “[T]herefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” This carries a very remorseful tone. Therefore, repenting is something that is full of remorse and sorrow. At the same time, there are examples of repentance used in the sense of turning back.

When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them (1 Kings 8:35).

In this passage, repentance can be seen as turning from sin. In many prophetic passages, the condition of repentance is usually placed on a pronouncement of judgment. God proclaimed judgment on Ninevah, but promised not to destroy them if they would repent, which is the message he entrusted to Jonah. God first grants spiritual life in regeneration and then it is the revived heart that repents (Ezek. 11:19-20). Godly sorrow that leads to repentance from sin is totally God-given.

The New Testament is also clear on repentance. Repentance is recognized as a gift from God (Acts 11:18) that brings with it the notion of changing a sinner’s heart. A sinner’s heart is changed, which enables repentance in the New Testament. There are numerous commands to “repent” and repentance leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). This imperative usage in the New Testament and emphasis placed on “change” demonstrates that without transformation in one’s life, there is indeed no evidence of true conversion.

Spiritual transformation precedes conversion. In fact, conversion is evidence of God’s relentless grace. A person is not truly converted if there is no repentance because God initiates the application of salvation through regeneration. This is also noticeable in the New Testament correlation between fruit bearing and repentance (Matt. 3:8). There are also many cases in the New Testament in which repentance directly refers to turning back (Luke 1:16; Acts 15:19; 1 Thess. 1:9; James 5:20; etc.).

Repentance is thus a change of mind, heart, and will. It is typically used as a change from sin or wickedness unto God or godliness.

Saving Faith

Biblical faith can be seen in both the Old and New Testament as being comprised of (1) knowledge, (2) assent, and (3) trust.

1. Knowledge

Faith is not blind as some might assert, but it is instead full of factual, historical knowledge. Before one can have biblical faith, one must know what or who they have faith in. An example can be seen in Genesis 15 as Abram is entering into covenant with God not out of blind “faith”, but instead out of a faith resulting from what he knew. Abram doubted God, but then God promised him an offspring that would outnumber the stars above his head. This encounter with God led him to believe.

Faith is full of content. Faith is also more than this.

2. Assent

Faith is an assent of the mind and heart. Biblical faith is not merely knowing some great facts about Jesus. Rather, it is assenting to the truth of those facts personally. Even the demons know about God and even believe some true facts about him (Jam. 2:19). However, biblical faith is much more than this. It is assenting to the truth of these facts personally. The fact that Jesus is Lord becomes a personal joy to the individual in genuine faith.

3. Trust

Finally, faith is trust. Faith is trusting Christ, submitting to Christ, and abiding in Christ on a daily basis. This type of faith is a faith that saves.

Repentance and faith are inseparable. This is why Jesus came preaching “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15 cf. Acts 19:4; 20:21; Heb. 6:1). They are two vital sides of the glorious coin of conversion. One who does not repent of sin is not converted. One who does not have faith in Christ is not converted. And if one has repentance without faith or faith without repentance, there is still no conversion; for biblical conversion includes them both. There is no easy-believeism taught in the Bible. Biblical conversion is filled with both repentance and faith.

When you call sinners to Christ, call them to repent and believe. Through this gospel call, the Spirit regenerates hearts to run from sin into the trustworthy arms of the Christ who worked on their behalf.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 09/15


Adrian Peterson Indicted for Negligent Injury to a Child – Here are the details of the indictment of Adrian Peterson and the incident with his son.

What the Bible Teaches About Spanking – The indictment of Peterson will undoubtedly give rise to questions of the legitimacy of spanking as a form of parental discipline. Denny Burk outlines Andy Naselli’s biblical exposition of spanking in this post.

What We Can Learn from the Ray Rice Situation – Tony Dungy believes there are a few lessons we can learn from the Ray Rice situation.

California Southern Baptist Convention Expels ‘Third Way’ Church – In a unanimous decision, “The California Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board voted Thursday (Sept. 11) to withdraw fellowship from a church whose pastor says he believes homosexual acts are not always sinful.”

Reflections on Mark Driscoll Stepping Down – This is a very poignant post on the Mark Driscoll situation. With the countless posts on Driscoll floating around online, this is one of the best.

Why I Still Go to Seminary – Why would a pastor go to seminary? J.A. Medders gives an awesome answer. As a Bible college and future seminary student, this was very encouraging. “Seminary doesn’t end with me; it’s end is the glory of God and the good of His people.”

Why We Need Both Clarity and Courage in Preaching – Trevin Wax: “Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation.”

How God Cares For Those Who Don’t – Paul Maxwell: “Apathy is a unique mixture of haughty rebellion and suffering. God offers himself to the apathetic.”

It Takes a Mentor – Thomas Friedman: “[T]he need for schools to have a good grasp of what employers are looking for and for employers to be communicating with schools about those skills is greater than ever.”

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent – Ironically, Steve Jobs did not throw his technological creations into his kids’ laps. Read why.

Finally, check out this amazing typewriter artist who was born with severe cerebral palsy. He will blow your mind!

Motivation without empowerment is empty rhetoric. –Eric Mason

Three Aspects of a Personal Philosophy of Ministry

Mt._Everest_from_Gokyo_Ri_November_5_2012Developing a philosophy of ministry is similar to developing a philosophy of Christian living. There are many different ways of looking at it, but as long as the object of our gaze is the same, the minor differences should not matter much. For example, four people can gather around Mt. Everest, one on each side. As long as all four people look up at the mountain, each of them will be amazed and awestruck, despite their differing angles of view. However, the moment one of them looks down at the ground they are standing on or a smaller hill or mountain nearby, the adoration and amazement is lost because the object has changed, not the perspective.

In ministry and in Christian living, we have an awesome and majestic God of wonders who has called us by his grace into his family and his mission despite our plight in sin. From the point of our calling onward, we all will develop a philosophy of how we should gaze upon, adore, love, obey, and ultimately glorify the God and Father of our salvation in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. As long as the object of our adoration remains God, our differing perspectives will diminish under the unity we have in Christ Jesus.

Nevertheless, differing perspectives and philosophies of ministry and Christian living exist. There is no single perspective or philosophy that is correct with all others being heresies. We do have those primary doctrines that are needed to call a ministry “Christian.” However, different philosophies of ministry exist just as different perspectives in theology. Faithful Calvinists and faithful Arminians are both Christians. They both adore God and desire to glorify and obey him, but their perspectives are strikingly different—one stands in front of Mt. Everest with the other behind it (I will let you decide who is where!). All philosophies of ministry that are rooted in the inerrant word of God and founded on the salvation found by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone are legitimate.

In developing a personal philosophy, many things must be considered and many questions arise. What is ultimate? What is central? What is effective? And in all of the answers to these questions, what biblical-theological perspective or thought undergirds them? Each Christian needs to have a mission statement that guides him or her throughout his or her life. Likewise, each minister of the gospel needs a mission statement that guides him in all of his endeavors in the ministry whether it is pastoral ministry, church planting ministry, or full-time missions ministry. A personal philosophy of ministry is an anthem that should be heralded each day by a minister as his own personal creed that motivates his ministerial decisions and actions.

With that said, a personal philosophy of ministry must be biblically saturated, theologically rich, and practically relevant.

1. Biblical Saturation

A personal philosophy must be soaked with Scripture. It must ooze Bible. If a pastor grounds his philosophy of ministry in anything other than the Bible, he is sadly mistaken. History and theology are very important in understanding the ministry and very helpful in deciding what kind of ministry you would desire to have, but if it is absent of biblical truths and principles, it is sure to fail. Any ministry that is opposed to, or is antithetical to the Word of God is no ministry of the one true God. And there are many of these so-called “ministries” poisoning our culture.

2. Theological Richness

A personal philosophy of ministry must be theologically rich. Not only does our philosophy need to be saturated with Bible, it must be filled with theological thought. We must ask ourselves what thinkers and theologians have thought about God, the Bible, and ministry throughout church history. How did Calvin conduct ministry? What was Jonathan Edwards mainly concerned about in his ministry? Many of our understandings on countless doctrines are due to the countless hours put in by godly men from the past. We would do well to listen to them and model our ministries after them. Of course, this is all predicated on their consistency with the word of God.

3. Practical Relevance

A personal philosophy of ministry must be practically relevant. We can know what we should do or what we need to do, but if we cannot tangibly put these doctrines and thoughts into practice we need to come up with something else. In other words, how will we tangibly make disciples? How will we glorify God by enjoying him forever? How will we increase Bible literacy and understanding? How often will we conduct the Lord’s Supper? All of those ministerial decisions fall under this category. An effective philosophy of ministry needs to account for these daily decisions that make up the greater portion of our work.

All philosophies of ministry are different in one way or another. But all philosophies of ministry that gaze upon the glory of God in Jesus are legitimate. As long as he is our goal and he is our object of adoration, our philosophies will be unified despite their diversity. A good philosophy will be biblically saturated, theologically rich, and practically relevant. An effective philosophy that will honor God must come from biblical and theological frameworks that are relevant for ministerial practice.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.