Monthly Archives: June 2010

What Questions Should I Ask a Church When I’m Invited to Supply Preach for Them? (Part 1 of 2)

When you receive a call, email, or other notification requesting that you speak at a church, you need to begin gathering information as soon as possible.  I developed a “church information form” that I often use when making that initial contact, and share it in hopes that you may find it useful.  Click for a free download:  (Word document format) (pdf format).  For the most part, this post is an explanation of various items on that list with a couple of extras thrown in.  If there is anything that you think would be helpful to add to this list, please leave a comment or send a note to us via the contact us link above.

WHEN DO YOU MEET?

1. First, you need to confirm the date for the speaking appointment.  Sometimes mixups occur (and may still occur!) because someone misunderstood or miscommunicated the date.

2. You need to confirm the time and type of service(s). Does the church want you to teach Sunday School?  Are you preaching in an 11 am morning service or a 10:30 morning service?  Are you expected to speak in an evening service?  What is the format of the service (such as a prayer meeting, etc.)?  If they tell you that you have freedom to modify the service, then you may take liberties in doing so.  Otherwise, stick with their normal format.

3. Find out whether there is a pre-service prayer meeting.  You should plan to arrive at the church at least twenty minutes before service time, but if there is a pre-service prayer meeting earlier than that, try to be there for it.

WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE DO YOU MEET?

4. Confirm the name of the church, especially if it is the first visit.  Failing to do so can create needless confusion, embarrassment, and inconvenience as well, especially if you go to Greenville Baptist Church when you were supposed to speak at First Baptist of Greenville.

5. Confirm the physical address and location of the church.  While gps devices and mapping programs are often quite useful, sometimes they are not current.  It is a good idea to get directions from your contact prior to traveling, just in case it is difficult to find.  There may also be conditions such as road construction that your gps device will not know about.  Be sure to write down or print this address and directions and keep it in your vehicle or the Bible you will be preaching from, along with the church information form.

Calculate how long it will take you to get there from the time you start traveling, so you can leave in time to arrive at least 20 minutes early.

Keep track of the mileage in case the church offers to reimburse you for it (very reasonable thing to do, especially if you are traveling a long way, as much of an honorarium can be eaten up with travel costs).  This is important for your records as well.  If you receive more than $400 per year in honorariums from supply preaching, you must report that income to the IRS.  However, you can deduct expenses such as mileage.

WHO IS MY CONTACT?

6. Confirm the name of the pastor (unless the church has no pastor).  Beside the fact that this is part of getting to know the church, it might be helpful if you get confused or lost and the church you stop at has his name on the sign.

7. Confirm the name of your contact person, if different from the pastor.  Find out if this person will be introducing you, etc.

8. Exchange contact information for any follow-up communication:  phone numbers, email addresses, and any other relevant means of contact.  Ask if the church has a website, what the URL (website address) is, and take a look at it before you go.  If it has a normal amount of information, it might be useful in the event that you lose directions or other info and cannot reach your contact in time.

WHAT TO WEAR, WHAT TO WEAR…?

9. Inquire about the typical style of dress for the speaker (suit & tie, business casual, etc.).  When unsure, it is better to be overdressed, but some situations may make the full 3 piece suit unsuitable or at least very uncomfortable.  Ask to be sure.  (For tips on getting deals on good clothing without going broke, check out “Clothing Tips for Ministers” by Dr. Don Whitney.)

WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDREN?

10. If you have very young children, ask about childcare options.  Be sure to let them know if your family has special needs (for example, a wheelchair bound child, other special needs, etc.).  Is there a nursery?  Your wife will appreciate knowing answers to such questions.  If they do not have adequate childcare for your family, you may have to go alone or with only part of your family unless your wife is not overloaded by caring for them during the service.  In some circumstances, you might need to decline the invitation if your family needs to be together and the situation will not work.

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Next week we will continue this series with Part 2, which deals with several other topics, including the logistics for the sermon and conducting the service.

Acts 16 Sermon Summary

Three Ways God Spreads the Good News

Acts 16:6-34

People have utilized many ways of spreading news.  In the past, the Pony Express and the telegraph were means people used to share information.  Today, people use a plethora of methods to broadcast and receive news, such as television, radio, text-messages, cell phones, e-mail, and the Internet.

God can do anything He wants and could have chosen to write His good news, the Gospel, in the clouds.  He could have personally manifested Himself in a visible and audible form to every human being to communicate the message.  But God has chosen to spread His good news by other means.  In Acts 16, we see three of those means.

1. Obedience to Guidance (v. 6-13)

In Acts 16, we find Paul on his second missionary journey.  Like the writer of “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, Paul was now preaching the faith he had once labored to destroy because of the change God had made in his life.  Along with Paul were Timothy, Silas, and Luke (the author, whose pronouns change to “we” and “us” in verse 10 to indicate his presence with the group).

The missionaries thought they should go to Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), but the Holy Spirit did not allow them.  They were directed instead to Macedonia by a vision Paul received.  They immediately obeyed the vision, believing that God had called them to preach the Gospel there.  God used obedience to guidance to spread His good news.

In what areas do you need to obey God?  If you know what you should do, then the response should be immediate obedience.  Is there someone you know you should share the Gospel with?  God may use your obedience to guidance to spread His good news.

2. Faithfulness in Clear Evangelism (v. 14-15, 30-32)

Arriving in Philippi, a strategic and historic city, Paul speaks God’s Word to a group of women gathered for prayer.  This implies that there were not enough Jewish men in the area to have a synagogue, since Paul’s usual practice was to go first to the synagogue and preach Christ.  He went to people who needed the Gospel.  God opened Lydia’s heart and she believed the word Paul spoke.  Paul also shared verbally with the Philippian jailer, telling him not only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved but later speaking the Word to the jailer and his family, likely explaining matters more fully.  God used Paul’s faithfulness in clear evangelism to spread his good news.

No one likes a garbled, confusing message.  Therefore, we ought to be clear when we share the Gospel with people.  We know from other parts of the book of Acts that Paul made the matters of the Gospel clear to others so they would know what they should believe and why.  The Gospel is more than “Jesus loves you” or “ask Jesus into your heart.”  We ought to tell people about the greatness of God and His right as our Creator to tell us what to do.  We need to explain sin as rebellion against God, and that we are all sinners who deserve to be punished forever for despising God.  We need to tell them who Christ is (the God-man, the Son of God in human flesh) and what He did in His perfect life and substitutionary death for sinners.  We must tell them of his ascension and that He will one day judge the world in righteousness.  We must not merely leave them with these facts, but must call upon them to repent of their sin and trust in Christ alone for their salvation so that they may have eternal life and enjoy God forever.

Even as God opened Lydia’s heart to respond, He does the same with people today.  We are not responsible for the response to the message.  We are responsible to deliver the message faithfully.  God uses faithfulness in clear evangelism to spread His good news.

3. Praise in Suffering (v. 16-34)

Although Paul would not have adopted the motto, “Preach the Gospel – if necessary, use words,” he understood that his life should reflect the saving message he proclaimed.  He wanted His walk to support, not hinder, the spread of the words of life.

A demon-possessed girl annoyed Paul by following the missionaries and announcing, day after day, that they were servants of the most high God who were proclaiming the way of salvation.  Paul cast the demon out, much to the chagrin of her masters, who owned her as a slave and had profited from her fortune-telling business.  Paul and Silas were falsely accused of instigating chaos in the city, and were then stripped and beaten.  They were cast into the inner prison of the jail, and their feet were fastened in stocks which spread the legs apart and created much cramping.

These men who had come to proclaim God’s good news were now suffering for righteousness.  How did they respond?  At midnight, they were heard praying and praising God with singing.  They gave God praise in suffering, and He used it to spread his good news.  He sent an earthquake that nearly resulted in the jailer’s suicide, which Paul prevented by informing him that no one had escaped from the jail.  Trembling, the jailer asked what he must do to be saved, and Paul shared the Gospel with him.  He and his family came to know Christ through Paul’s and Silas’ praise in suffering.

Joni Eareckson Tada is another fitting example of praise in suffering.  She became a quadriplegic, losing the use of her arms and legs, as a result of a diving accident as a teenager.  Instead of remaining angry at God, she has praised Him for His goodness to her and has shared His good news with many – from her wheelchair.  I recently attended the funeral of a woman named Lisa, who reached the point of thanking God for her brain tumors because He used her suffering to help reach others with the Gospel.  It was fitting that one of the songs at Lisa’s memorial celebration was from Job 1:21, which speaks of how God gives and takes away, but His name is to be blessed, that is, praised.

Are you afraid to suffer for the Gospel?  Can you praise God in trials?  Have you considered how your reactions to suffering may bring to you greater opportunities to share the good news?  Rodney Griffin wrote a song from this passage in which he made the point that the times of suffering are the times that “God wants to hear you sing.”

Remember that James told us to count it all joy when we suffer (James 1:2-4) and Jesus said that we are blessed if we suffer for His sake and have great reward (Matthew 5:10-12).  Your best life is not now, but in the world to come.  Let’s not forget the power of God and his time-tested method of using praise in suffering to spread His good news.

Our communication methods may come and go.  E-mail and cell phones may one day be as obsolete as the Pony Express and the telegraph.  But until Christ returns, God will continue to use the methods He has utilized for the last 2,000 years to spread the Gospel:  obedience to guidance, faithfulness in clear evangelism, and praise in suffering.  As we obey, share, and worship Him, may He be pleased to use us to spread His good news.

Preached by Doug Smith, guest speaker at Fellowship Chapel, Bristol, Virginia, July 15, 2007

Click here to listen to or download the complete sermon (.mp3 audio).

Click here to download the Word document of this summary.

Click here to download a pdf file of this summary.

Is the Old Testament Still Relevant Today?

“Is the Old Testament Still Relevant Today?”

Dr. David Murray, professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, addressed issues related to this question in a recent conference at Fraser Valley Bible Conference in British Columbia. You can access the media from the conference by clicking here (you can watch video and/or download or stream audio).

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the sessions, and was especially moved as Murray clearly demonstrated that the Old Testament is a manual for Christian living. I found his treatment of Hebrews 11 and 12 to demonstrate this point beyond the shadow of a doubt. It is not a manual in a moralistic sense of do this, do this, do this – rather, we live a particular way because we are looking to Jesus in faith.

In addition to these lectures, I have been thoroughly enjoying Dr. Murray’s blog, “Head Heart Hand” and his weekly 30 minute podcast with Tim Challies, Connected Kingdom. I have been refreshed with the Gospel and gained helpful insights through these resources, and commend them to you.

“Is the Old Testament Still Relevant Today?” In a word, YES, and I encourage you to check out Dr. Murray’s lectures to see how it points to Christ, shows us how to live, and shows us how to read the New Testament.

Preaching Through Numbers: Ligon Duncan

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III serves as Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Jackson, Mississippi.  Dr. Duncan preached through the book of Numbers from January 2007 until May of 2008.  Most of the messages are available as free mp3 audio files, and all but one have text versions, accessible via the links below.  He models in this series what he shared in a 2006 message on “Preaching from the Old Testament” (free audio here), especially his message on “The Adultery Test” from Numbers 5:11-31 (preached on Valentine’s Day!).  Another highlight is his taking God’s Word seriously enough to take the time to read the entire 89 verses of chapter 7 as he speaks from it.  For more information about Dr. Duncan and more resources from him, visit www.fpcjackson.org.

Numbers 1:1-4 01a 1/3/2007 Introduction and Outline
Numbers 1:1-46 01b 1/10/2007 Numbered
Numbers 1:47-54 02a 1/17/2007 The Levites, however, were not numbered
Numbers 2 02b 1/24/2007 Arranged
Numbers 3 03a 1/24/2007 Priests, Duties, Firstborn
Numbers 4 03b 2/07/2007 Priests, Duties, Firstborn (2)
Numbers 5:1-10 04a 2/14/2007 Defiled
Numbers 5:11-31 04b 2/21/2007 The Adultery Test
Numbers 6:1-21 05a 2/28/2007 The Nazarites
Numbers 6:22-27 05b 3/21/2007 The Total Blessing
Numbers 7 06a 4/18/2007 Offerings of the Leaders
Numbers 8 06b 4/28/2007 Lamps, Levites, and Retirement
Numbers 9:1-14 07a 5/2/2007 Passover
Numbers 9:15 -10:10 07b 5/9/2007 Cloud and Trumpets
Numbers 10:11-36 08a 5/30/2007 Leaving Sinai
Numbers 11:1-15 08b 6/6/2007 Grumbling
Numbers 11:16-30 09a 6/20/2007 Elders and Quail
Numbers 11:31-35 09b 6/27/2007 The Plague
Numbers 12:1-16 10a 7/18/2007 Murmuring in the Land
Numbers 13:1-33 10b 8/1/2007 Spies in the Land
Numbers 14:1-45 11a 8/8/2007 Rebellion and Rebuke
Numbers 15:1-41 11b 8/19/2007 The Laws of the Land
Numbers 16:1-50 12a 8/22/2007 Korah’s Rebellion
Numbers 17 12b 8/29/2007 Aaron’s Rod Blossoming
Numbers 18:1-32 13a 9/2/2007 Levites’ Duties and Priestly Responsibility
Numbers 19 13b 9/9/2007 The Red Heifer
Numbers 20 14a 9/23/2007 Just Another Day in the Wilderness
Numbers 21:1-9 14b 10/7/2007 Snakebit
Numbers 21:10-35 15a 10/21/2007 The Wars of the Lord
Numbers 22:1-21 15b 11/4/2007 Conspiracy to Curse
Numbers 22:22-40 16a 11/11/2007 Balaam’s Ass
Numbers 22:41-23:26 16b 1/2/2008 Balaam’s Prophecy
Numbers 23:27 – 24:25 17a 1/9/2008 Balaam’s Prophecy (2)
Numbers 25:1-18 17b 1/16/2008 The Zeal of Phinehas
Numbers 26:1-65 18a 1/23/2008 The New Generation
Numbers 27:1-14 18b 1/27/2008 Inheritance Laws
Numbers 27:12-23 19a 1/30/2008 Succession Plan
Numbers 28:1-31 19b 2/6/2008 The Laws of Offerings
Numbers 29:1-40 20a 2/13/2008 The Offerings of the Seventh Month
Numbers 30:1-16 20b 2/27/2008 Vows
Numbers 31 21a 3/5/2008 Vengeance on Midian
Numbers 32 21b 3/12/2008 This Side of the Jordan
Numbers 33:1-49 22a 4/6/2008 From Egypt to Jordan
Numbers 33:50-56 22b 4/23/2008 Possessing the Land
Numbers 34:1-29 23a 4/27/2008 Divvying Up Canaan
Numbers 35:1-34 23b 5/4/2008 Cities of Refuge
Numbers 36:1-13 24a 5/11/2008 No Inheritance Transferred
Final sermon in the Numbers series.

How Can I Help Those Who Struggle with Sexual Addictions?

The unprecedented quantity and easy availability of pornography have not only affected the world in general, but the church in particular.  What was once hard to access is now easy with technology, including mobile phones. If you are a pastor, you have probably already faced counseling situations that involved this issue.  If you have not encountered these situations, you likely will in the near future.  Many in our churches (women and men, single and married, young and old) have a past or present enslavement to this destructive poison, the lies it spreads, and the perversions that it encourages.  Many pastors struggle with this sin as well.  I do not write with a tone of condemnation for strugglers, past or present; I write to try to call this deceptive phenomenon what it is, because it presents itself as attractive – like the bait hiding the hook.  It is a serious issue of idolatry and misdirected worship, but there is hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are a number of resources available that seek to provide biblical counsel to past and present strugglers which will help them grow in sanctification, and may also be of help to others by encouraging them to keep up their guard.  This is not an exhaustive list.  I am aware that there are some other resources as well (feel free to suggest any in the comments or by contacting me).  This post includes authors whom I have read and have reason to commend to you.  Many of these resources would be useful not only for one on one discipleship and counseling, but for small group studies.  Hopefully you will find something here to be of benefit to you and those you have opportunity to counsel, encourage, and warn.

Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Single Guy (Click for free eBook, pdf format)

Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Married Guy (Click for free eBook, pdf format)

(Click here to read the original series online at Tim’s blog.)

Brian Croft, “How Do You Counsel a Husband Who Has Hurt His Wife with His Pornography Struggle?

Brian Croft, “How Do You Counsel a Wife Hurt by Her Husband’s Pornography Struggle?

Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World (book)

Rick Holland, A Biblical Strategy for Fighting Lust (conference talk; see related manuscript)

John Piper, “Battling the Unbelief of Lust” (Click here for access to sermon manuscript and audio)

John Piper, A.N.T.H.E.M: Strategies for Fighting Sexual Lust

David Powlison, “Breaking Pornography Addiction” (Click here for Part 1) (Click here for Part 2)

David Powlison, “Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken” (Click here for link to conference audio and video) (Click here for free .pdf file download of book chapter)

Review of Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William M. Struthers by Dr. Albert Mohler

Here are a couple of blogposts with links to more resources:

“Porndemic” by Justin Taylor

“Women and Pornography” by Thabiti Anyabwile

Here is an article on how pornography affects the brain:

Slave Master: How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain by Donald L. Hilton, Jr. The article seeks to address two fallacies:

Fallacy No. 1: Pornography is not a drug.

Fallacy No. 2: Pornography is therefore not a real addiction.

“While we must continue to fight the good fight legally and societally, we are way beyond avoidance as our only defense. Pornography wants you, it wants your husband or wife, it wants your son and daughter, your grandchildren, and your in-laws. It doesn’t share well, and it doesn’t leave easily. It is a cruel master, and seeks more slaves.”

Let’s fight the good fight of faith and help others to as well, pointing them to the pure joy found in Jesus.

How Can I Meditate on Scripture? The Joseph Hall Questions

Have you ever read something and found that you could not recall what you had just read?  Have you ever walked away from a portion of the Bible only to discover that you retained little if any of what you just read?

The spiritual discipline of meditation will help us with this problem.  Joshua (1:8) and the Psalmist (1:2) furnish examples of Biblical meditation, which fills the heart and mind with the Word of God.  James 1:22-24 warns against those who forget what they see in the Word.  Meditation helps us absorb, analyze, and apply the Scripture.  So, how can we do it?

There are a number of helps to meditation, but here I would like to highlight “the Joseph Hall questions” from Hall’s 17th century work, The Art of Divine Meditation.  As we ponder a theme in a passage, these are helpful questions to ask.  (You can read the whole text of his book — pages 46 to 79 in this free online Google Books edition of his works, which can be downloaded as a free pdf file.)

1. What is it (define and/or describe what it is)?
2. What are its divisions or parts?
3. What causes it?
4. What does it cause, i.e., its fruits and effects?
5. What is its place, location, or use?
6. What are its qualities and attachments?
7. What is contrary, contradictory, or different to it?
8. What compares to it?
9. What are its titles or names?
10. What are the testimonies or examples of Scripture about it?

Joseph Hall, The Divine Art of Meditation (free pdf @ Google Books)

Bookmark/Overheads/Handouts from BiblicalSpirituality.org (Dr. Donald S. Whitney)

If you would like to share these questions with a class, these files might come in handy:

Beyond a VeggieTales Gospel: Preaching Christ from Every Text – Resources from Dr. Russell Moore

Did you know there are some churches where you may not hear the gospel?  No, I’m not talking about liberal churches, where fundamental doctrines such as the deity of Christ and substitutionary atonement and the resurrection are denied.  I’m talking about churches that claim to believe and uphold the gospel.  Many messages approach the Bible as little more than a self-help manual with “5 steps to…”

But the Bible is about far more than that.  It is about a cosmic struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.  It is about a holy God to whom we must give account.  It is about the pervading sinfulness of man.  It is about blood and sacrifice.  It is about the redemption bought by the sinless Son of God, through His perfect life and His vicarious death on the cross.  It is about the risen and returning King to whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.  It is about the need of every soul to repent of sin and trust Christ.

And no matter which part of the Bible is being preached, there is a path to Christ from that text.  While we must be sure we do not misinterpret the text, there is some way in which it predicts, prefigures, or patterns some aspect of our need of salvation and what Christ has done, when seen within the larger context of the whole Bible.

I encourage you to avail yourself of this excellent material from Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, about preaching Christ from every text.  Let’s be sure that if someone doesn’t hear the gospel that it’s not because we are failing to preach it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uwQi2Kea8A]

Book Review – Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness

Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation. By Brian Vickers. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2006.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Vickers (M.A., Wheaton College; M.Div., Ph.D., the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. A member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Institute for Biblical Research, Dr. Vickers is also the Assistant Editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. His articles have appeared in Trinity JournalEusebiaThe Southern Baptist Journal of TheologyGospel Witness, and The New Illustrated Holman Bible Dictionary.

Perhaps you have heard the word justification defined this way: justification is God’s treating me just as if I had never sinned. But is this true? Does justification merely equal forgiveness of sins—as amazing as that is—or is there something more? Do we need an external righteousness that is not our own?

These are questions of eternal significance. In Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation, Brian Vickers argues that the question of whether Scripture teaches the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer is not a mere academic debate but a matter that concerns the heart of the gospel and salvation (p. 15). Vickers states his argument on page 18: “The contention of this book is that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a legitimate and necessary synthesis of Paul’s teaching.” He has produced a persuasive and rewarding book defending this Scriptural doctrine.

Vickers desires to avoid the twin extremes of seeing too much in a particular text by importing ideas into it (eisegesis) and seeing too little in the text by failing to see the big picture (ignoring the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture). As a corollary goal, he hopes to show that “Protestant theology, particularly the Reformed tradition, has not been dominated only by systematicians who cared little for exegesis” (p. 18, footnote 4).

Vickers states that the book does not thoroughly examine all of the concepts related to imputation. Topics such as righteousness and union with Christ are not given an exhaustive treatment but are dealt with in light of their implications for imputation. He also informs readers that the book overlooks much important historical material to focus on the matters of exegesis related to imputation. Finally, this book does not contain a section devoted to a study of the New Perspective on Paul, although Vickers gives extensive bibliographical listings and interacts with proponents of New Perspective views in various sections as these ideas relate to imputation.

To give context and frame to the discussion, chapter one sketches the history of the doctrine of imputation, beginning with the Reformation and continuing to the present. The chapters that follow are an examination of key texts relevant to imputation and contain rigorous exegesis, technical language, and copious footnotes. Vickers concludes with a synthesis of Paul’s teaching and a final chapter on the importance of the doctrine of imputation. Each chapter closes with a helpful summary.

Vickers demonstrates that the doctrine of imputation was not fully developed by the Reformers but was refined by their followers in writings and church creeds. He argues that imputation, though often associated with covenant theology, is not restricted to a covenantal framework (p. 34, footnote 36). He shows that modern theologians can be found across the spectrum, including those who embrace traditional views and those who deny imputation but finds that the traditional view is a neglected doctrine in modern times (p. 44). Vickers notes that “the inductive and descriptive nature of biblical theology” can provide “a guard against unfounded deductions” from particular texts, but it can also pose a danger by preventing any kind of synthesis of various texts (p. 69). He argues for the legitimacy of systematic theology, particularly in regard to imputation.

Chapter two focuses on Paul’s quotation of Genesis 15:6: “Abraham believed in God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3, English Standard Version). Vickers shows that Paul’s understanding of Abraham is at odds with Jewish tradition that sees Abraham’s works as the ground of his justification. By studying the context of Romans, Vickers concludes that Abraham is ungodly, and he receives imputed righteousness through faith apart from works. Vickers sums up his conclusion on imputation in Romans 4:

Romans 4:1-8 is about the appropriation of righteousness, and that righteousness, as a status declared by God, is most clearly linked in this text with the non-imputation of sin, i.e., forgiveness. This status is brought about by the reckoning of faith as righteousness. Faith is not itself the righteousness, but as is made clear in the context, faith is the instrument that unites the believer to the object of faith. The object is thus the source of the righteousness that is reckoned to the believer (p. 111).

Chapter three discusses Romans 5:19 (“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous,” ESV), as well as its immediate context of 5:12-21 and other sections of Romans. Adam and Christ, as representatives of the human race, determine by their actions the status of those they represent. Vickers concludes that this passage presents the basis for the counting of the believer as righteous in Romans 4. He writes:

The righteous status, made possible by Christ’s obedience, is applied to the believer when he puts his faith in God. Christ’s obedience “counts” for the status that is secured at the cross, and appropriated by faith, through which comes the declaration of the actual status, “righteous” (p. 157).

Second Corinthians 5:21 (“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” ESV) is the focus of chapter four. Vickers argues that Paul draws heavily on the “Servant Songs” in Isaiah (such as chapter 53), which prophesy of Christ’s sufferings while placing them in a sacrificial context. This shapes the meaning of the phrase “made sin.” Furthermore, he says:

From first to last this is an act of God, who made Christ a sacrifice for sin by causing the sins of others to be counted to him. The twin statements, “a new creation” and “become the righteousness of God,” both centered in the phrase “in Christ” and dependent on his representative death, indicate that just as sin was reckoned to Christ, so too is Christ’s sacrificial death counted for righteousness to those “in him.” God counts them as righteous because they have Christ’s righteousness, they have Christ himself, and he has them (p. 190).

In chapter five, Vickers offers a synthesis of imputation taken from the texts examined in chapters two, three, and four. His position is strengthened by looking at the relation of other texts to imputation: 1 Corinthians 1:30Philippians 3:9, and Romans 9:30-10:4. He finds that Paul teaches that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers, His obedience having counted for those united to Him by faith. God has acted “through Christ on behalf of sinners, who though undeserving are forgiven and declared righteous as a free gift from God on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death” (p. 232).

Vickers concludes that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a doctrine derived from a biblical-theological study of Paul’s writings and, therefore, is the teaching of the Scriptures.

Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness will challenge many readers, particularly those not acquainted with Hebrew and Greek words and grammar. The book is highly technical in some places, and the footnotes may become wearisome. However, Vickers has done his homework. He has produced an in-depth biblical-theological study that is well worth the effort to mine its gold. Educated readers, particularly pastors and seminarians, should obtain this book and study it.

Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness effectively bridges the unnecessary gap many try to create between biblical and systematic theology, revealing the need for both and the legitimacy of a synthesis of the various pieces of the puzzle, based on proper exegesis. Vickers admits that there is no single text that explicitly states that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, but, with thorough exegesis, consideration of objections, and interaction with other scholars, he convincingly demonstrates that the doctrine of imputation is nonetheless a scriptural teaching that Christians cannot afford to discard.

In the end, Vickers accomplishes his goal to show the legitimacy of imputation as a synthesis of Paul’s teaching, demonstrating that good systematic theology is based on proper exegesis. The book has reinforced for me the need to study the Bible carefully and to interpret Scripture with Scripture, so I neither read too much into a text nor miss the forest for the trees. It has also spurred renewed gratitude to God for the gift of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through faith that unites us to Him. What grace that God counts Christ’s obedience as ours! What good news we have to share! Truly, as Edward Mote penned, our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

This review is revised from its original appearance at www.sharperiron.org.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

Preaching through Titus: James Hamilton

Dr. Jim Hamilton, pastor of Kenwood Baptist Church and professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (both in Louisville, Kentucky), preached through the book of Titus in April and May of 2010.  Here are links to the sermon audio (.mp3 format).

Titus 1:1-4

Titus 1:5-16

Titus 2:1-15

Titus 3:1-15

You can access more resources from Dr. Hamilton here:  www.jimhamilton.info.