Dr. Campbell has written an important work on the Decree of God. This work begins by telling readers the story of his wife dying and he articulates that is what pressed him into studying and examining the scriptures. His story will grip every reader and those seeking to search through these truths with him throughout the rest of the book. He then addresses some of the potential reservations for Calvinism. But sees that suffering strengthens faith (pg. 11), good has come from his wife’s death (pg. 14), and the existence of God deals with evils and sufferings (pg. 16).
He then walks throughout the various challenges to the decree of God from theism – polytheism – pantheism – atheism. He describes each term and shows the differences that exist between each term. He discusses compatibilism and libertarianism. Dr. Campbell defines the doctrine of election and says that election is compatible with love (pg. 71). He gives one of the best biblical cases for the doctrine of election and walks through the scriptures.
I believe his story of his wife and how he wrestled through those things during her death is worth the price of the book. But this is one of the most helpful and soul-stirring arguments for understanding biblical election that I have ever read.
As he moves forward, he gives a critique of Arminianism and then continues to give a strong case for unconditional election. He spends time discussing infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism. He says that God’s love is an act of free grace (pg. 220). He shows how the decree of God is incompatible with Molinism and then ends this work with an epilogue (pg. 281).
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By Colton Corter
The Lord’s Day is the most important day of the week. Jesus has placed the authority of representing the Kingdom of God on earth in our gathered assemblies (Matt 18:20). So God’s glory is put on peculiar display when we meet as local congregations to worship our gracious Triune God. We meet to hear the Word of truth and so be set free (John 8:32). We come together to instruct one another by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19).We gather to reaffirm our covenant with Christ and one another – based on the finished work of Christ – by taking the Lord Supper (1 Cor 11:17-34). Moreover, God actually commands us to meet with one another each week (Heb 10:25).
The life of our church is found in our Sunday morning gathering (or Friday if you live in the Middle East!). We meet to see and savor the glory of Christ for the purpose of delighting in that glory together and display our satisfaction in the overflow of worship. Sunday morning is the key battle our congregations’ fight for joy in God. And that battle begins, at least, on Saturday.
What are some things that we can do to put ourselves in the best position for God, by His sovereign Spirit, to maximize our Lord’s Day?
Go to Bed
One way to fight for Sunday morning joy is to receive adequate Saturday night rest. For some with jobs that require them to work late, this may not be an option. But to the extent that you are in control over how much rest you get, it is wise to forsake a few hours of TV or hanging out to be at your best the next day.
Brothers, you will never regret being fresh for Sunday morning. I know all too well how easy it is to stay up late (even doing edifying things) when I should be sleeping. My joy in God has only increased as a result of getting some sleep the night before. The battle with myself that morning seems easier when I am more alert and clear headed. For your joy: get some rest.
Meditate Over the Sermon Text
Scripture meditation is the key to Christian maturity. Saturating our minds in glorious gospel truth transforms our lowly hearts as we are subjected to the beauty of God. A good time to practice this spiritual discipline is the day before a particular text is preached at you church. If you can, try to get the text for the next week early so that you can spend a week or even just your Saturday preparing your heart for the preached work. Preaching is a monologue but it is nonetheless a dialogue. We are hearing from God and responding to Him with our minds and hearts.
Pastors, might you consider making your sermon schedule available ahead of time so that your people can be tilling their heart soil for the seeds you will drop? Encourage their diligently searching the Scriptures so that they might be in a frame to better understand God’s Word as you teach them.
Pray for the Preacher
Our pastors have the hardest job in the world. Especially our senior pastors who have the duty and the privilege to stand before God’s people and exult in the Scriptures together with them. To take the name of God on our lips is no light thing. Their weeks have been dominated by their pursuit of the point of the text – applying the double-edged point to their hearts and laboring to try and pierce yours too.
Take some time the night before to pray for your pastor or whoever is preaching the next day. His task is an impossible one in his own strength. His meager sermon will not sustain the godly or save the ungodly without the supernatural work of the Spirit to attend His own Word. He is a desperate man standing before desperate man. Pray for his heart, that preaching for him would be the overflow of His joy in God.
Pray for the Members
Garrett Kell has recently written that the Christian’s membership directory is the second most important book they own. One of the things that our church promises to do for one another as members of Third Avenue of Baptist Church is to not forsake praying for ourselves and one another. Surely, we are never in more prayer than before our Sunday morning service. Their hearts, quite like your own, is often times dull. They need the work of the Spirit tomorrow morning, just as you do, so that their hearts might radiate the glories of free grace together will all the saints. Some brothers and sisters need to be comforted by the truth that their righteousness lay ever outside of them. Some people need to be warned, reminded that justification is unto life and that without the fruit of sanctification the grace of justification may be feigned.
See if your church has membership directories and if they don’t then maybe you could suggest it to your church staff. Regardless, we could start today praying for the church at large – that she would be affected by the Word of God in such a way that reflects the character of God to the watching world
Warming up the Oven
Of course, none of this promises a perfect Sunday. Our hearts may still droop. Our minds may still wander. God and God alone gives the growth. But it is important that we position ourselves in such a way to try to maximize the means of grace that God has provided for us.
George Swinnock entreats us, saying, “If thou wouldst thus leave thy heart with God on Saturday night, thous shouldest find it with him in the Lord’s-day morning.” For our joy, brothers, lets do what we can to do be at our best on Sunday morning.
John Charles Ryle was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire (1816) and educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He entered ministry around the year 1841, and served many churches up until his retirement in 1900, when he was aged 83. He died later that year.
Ryle was a minister that wrote many popular gospel tracts in his day, but he is known for his books. His Expository Thoughts on the Gospels are very helpful for young and old ministers alike. He has also written books such as Holiness, Practical Religion, and Light from Old Times.
Reading Ryle, I have learned two primary things this summer that I’d like to share with you:
1. Ryle pushes you to the text and draws theology from it.
Ryle writes in a way so that the Christian reader must rest in the Scripture. His examples in Holiness are straight from biblical examples (i.e. Lots wife). Ryle was a minister who rested in the sufficiency of Scripture because he rested in a sufficient God.
2. Ryle points to the martyrs as an example for the Christian life.
In Light from Old Times, Ryle allows the martyrs to speak for themselves. They suffered and died because of what they believed. Ryle has written this work to encourage the church on its mission in declaring the truths of the gospel of grace. Ryle has a chapter on “Why the Reformers were Burned,” the conclusion is that they were burned because of their view of the Lord’s Supper:
“The end of Rowland Taylor’s weary imprisonment came at last. On the 22nd of January 1555, he was brought before the Lord Chancellor, Bishop Gardiner, and other Commissioners, and subjected to a lengthy examination. To go into the details of all that was said on this occasion would be wearisome and unprofitable. The whole affair was conducted with the same gross unfairness and partiality which characterized all the proceedings against the English Reformers, and the result, as a matter of course, was the good man’s condemnation. To use his own words, in a letter to a friend, he was pronounced a heretic because he defended the marriage of priests, and denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. Never let it be forgotten in these days, that the denial of any corporal presence of Christ’s body and blood in the elements of the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper, was the turning point which decided the fate of our martyred Reformers. If they gave way on that point they might have lived. Because they would not admit any corporal presence they died. These things are recorded for our learning.” – pg. 109-110 (Light From Old Times)
May we learn from these martyrs the importance of doctrine, and also the sanctity of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Doctrine matters. In a day where doctrine seems to go by the wayside, we can read first and foremost our Bibles and see that martyrs died because of what they believe about Jesus (Acts 7, Hebrews 11). We also learn from Ryle that men before us, many reformers especially, died because of important doctrinal issues. This should cause us to think more deeply about what songs we sing on Sundays, what books we hand out, etc. Doctrine is not dead. Orthodoxy did not die at the cross. But the cross influences orthodoxy. Sound doctrine is tied up in Paul’s Statement, “I wish to know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)”. To say you don’t desire sound doctrine, you don’t desire Christ. What you believe matters.
From the works of Ryle, we are able to see the importance of preaching, ordinances of the local church, deaths of martyrs and a clear gospel. I am thankful to God for men like Ryle who have helped the church long past their life here on earth.
Friends, you only get one life and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last!
Evan Knies (B.A., Boyce College) and his wife Lauren are originally from Louisiana. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is serving as as student pastor at Bullitt Lick Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Knies.
Cade Campbell, Associate Pastor for Preaching and Discipleship at First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana, is preaching a summer series titled Going Pro(testant): Living the Truths of the Reformation. The series is going to attempt to be a unique blend of expository preaching, topical historical theology, and narrative church history. Each week Cade will take a specific theological theme or emphasis from the Protestant Reformation, ground it in a specific text of Scripture, and use the historical context, background, narrative, and individuals key to the Reformation as the illustrative framework. The aim is for the folks at FBC Henryville (and all who listen online) to come away with a better knowledge and appreciation of the Reformation as they are also equipped by Scripture to apply the truths of the Reformation to their own lives. Over the summer we’ll be posting links to the audio recordings of the series.
Here is the latest in the Series:
For the other Sermons in the Series: