Introduction to Defining Evangelism

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.


This course is not designed to be a practical treatment on the subject of evangelism so much as—as the title suggests—an attempt to define a doctrine of evangelism by examining key texts. There will be times when we consult church history to see how godly men of earlier ages understood these topics, but these lessons are designed primarily for the purpose of getting us into the word. As such, we hope to deeply consider several major biblical themes touching evangelism and the Great Commission, and to make practical application to our own lives.

Since this is not primarily a “how-to” on evangelism, there are some practical matters we want to consider first. Of paramount consideration is our own relationships with God and with our neighbors. We read in Matthew’s gospel:

“And He said to him, ‘‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,’’” (Matthew 22:37-40; NASB).

Love for God. We must consider how much time we spend in the word and on our knees in communion with the God with whom we claim to have been reconciled. If I do not spend adequate time with my wife and with my kids, it will show in the way that I talk about them and converse with them in public. As I seek to give marital or parenting advice to others, they will know by their observance of my own relationships that I am disqualified to offer such counsel. The same is true for evangelism. If we are to be qualified to bring people to Christ, both in the eyes of our hearers and in reality, we must regularly strive to bring ourselves to Christ in His word and in prayer.

If we hope that others are to know Christ, we must know Him as well. We’re not called to know Him on a merely academic level. We can have a great abundance of knowledge about people. Just talk to any avid baseball fan, and they will soon be rattling off to you player stats for their favorite players. If the player has been in the game for a while and has written an autobiography, they may have even read it. However, how foolish would it seem if, by virtue of this public knowledge of a public individual alone, they were to invite you over to his house for a cookout that is not open to the public.

In the same way, we are not to so belittle a relationship with our Redeemer as to invite people into such a relationship without first being in relationship with Him ourselves. Before we explain to men and women their dreadful state before God apart from Christ, we must have first taken stock of what it means for us. If we are then to educate them on the merits of Christ through which He accomplished our redemption, we must examine ourselves to see if we are truly living according to the grace that has been given us. If we are to call them to repentance and faith, we must first examine ourselves to see if we have truly repented and believed.

Love for neighbor. Love for God is the first Great Commandment. We must labor long and labor consistently at cultivating a love for our God. As we do, we will increase in yet another love: love for neighbor. This call to love our neighbor is the second great commandment. As we come daily to the word and to our knees in prayer seeking to grow in love for Christ, we should seek also to have our hearts inclined toward our neighbors.

Have you ever been excited at the prospect of meeting with a couple for dinner for the first time only to find that they had invited the whole neighborhood to their house for dinner and a sales pitch? They recognized that hospitality can be a great way to get people through your doors and gain a listening audience, but they did not care to use their home for the purpose it was originally intended. You came in the hope of a potential new friendship and instead were treated like a potential customer. What was lacking? Love.

Dynamics change drastically when love is at the core of the relationship dynamic. Jennifer and I had some friends at our last church who had us over to their house on a couple of occasions a year. They sold products through their home for one of these companies, but by the time they actually spoke with us about the products they had, it did not come off as a sales pitch. We were friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord. There was no suspicion there. We either bought their products or we didn’t but, either way, they still loved us and we loved them.

We must cultivate the same love for our neighbors to whom we hope to bring the gospel. It does no good to tell people your message is one of love if they perceive that there is no love for them in your heart. This isn’t an evangelism method I’m proposing to you. It doesn’t matter to me if churches knock on doors, host neighborhood cookouts, organize evangelistic conferences, rent booths at local festivals, hand out gospel tracts, or preach the gospel in the open air from on top of egg crates. Each of these methods will rub wrong people of different personality types.

Each of these methods will also be met with some measure of success. The difference is not necessarily in the method. The difference is in the love that we have for our neighbors. If we do not love them, they will know. In our skeptical world, it is much easier to spot someone who is lacking in love than to discern the authenticity of actual love. Nevertheless, let us pray for our neighbors, let us ask God to grant us a heart for our neighbors, and let us regularly seek His power and wisdom in conveying that love to our neighbors.

Structure. Our approach to defining evangelism will follow the structure of the “Working Definition” above. The first two parts of our study will be preparatory, while the last three parts will be definitive, explaining what evangelism is. In the first part, we will examine the foundation for evangelism: The Great Commission. The main verb in the Great Commission is the verb make disciples. This verb is modified by three participles: going, baptizing, and teaching, so our first three lessons will center on these three modifiers.

In the second part, we will consider the messengers and the hearers of the gospel in the act of evangelism. Is every Christian meant to be engaged in evangelism in exactly the same way as all others? Is evangelism solely the work of ordained, or recognized, leaders within the church, or is it the responsibility of every member? Who are the proper recipients of the evangelism? Is it only for those outside the church, or should it be a major emphasis of the preaching and teaching within the church? Part Two will be covered in lessons four and five.

It has been well noted that the good news of Christ does not make sense apart from the bad news. The cure for a terminal disease does not become precious to the patient until the doctor issues the dismal diagnosis. In the same way, the unregenerate must understand the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man before the good news of Christ’s work of atonement makes any sense. Part Three, comprised of a lesson on God’s holiness and a lesson on the sinfulness of man, will help us to understand the importance of these truths for evangelism.

In Part Four, we will finally come to an observance of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. In lessons eight through ten, we will note three acts of Christ essential to the gospel message: His obedience in life, His obedience in death, and His resurrection. As we observe each of these doctrines, we will see how Christ accomplished for us our full and final atonement and, through union with Him, come to have reconciliation with God in heaven.

Lessons eleven and twelve will comprise the fifth and final part of our study. In them, we will observe the gospel commands that come as a result of having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ: repentance unto life and saving faith. Having explained the joyous news of our accomplished atonement in Christ Jesus, the church has one final declaration to our hearers in our work evangelism:

30Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead,” (Acts 17:30-31; NASB).

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 144


Day 144

Of Christ the Mediator.

Chapter 8, Paragraph 3.

“...which office he took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by his Father;…

Scripture Lookup

Hebrews 5:5


You’ve probably heard it before. The harsh, stern, vindictive Father, demanding in His laws, unyielding in His punishment. The meek, gentle, loving Son, who fulfills the law and brings grace. But pitting the Father against the Son is not what the Bible teaches. The Father and the Son – indeed, all the members of the Trinity – are behind the redemption of the elect, 100%.

The Father never sat and brooded over the offense committed by man. There is no vindictive bitterness in Him. Rather, He was proactive in seeking reconciliation. In eternity past, He entered into covenant with the Son, appointing Him to the office of mediator and surety. Love towards the elect was and is the continuing motivation of the Father in sending Jesus to earth. Look at Ephesians 1:3-6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

It is the Father who blesses us in Christ! It is the Father who predestined us in love! It is the Father whose will is kind! “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us…” (1 John 3:1)

Likewise, Jesus was not a rebel. Time and time again in the Gospels, we read of Him doing the will of the Father: “…I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 5:30) “…not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)  He came to make His Father known. (John 17:26) There is no renegade Son, no schism in the Trinity. The Son willingly agreed to be the mediator between God and His people. The covenant of redemption was entered into freely.

The Father and Son are of one mind concerning the redemption of sinners. The roles they play in carrying out that redemption differ, but their goal is the same. God is love. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are love. Let’s not fall into the trap of pitting one against the other.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you attribute love to one member of the Trinity more than another?

A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: The Pauline Epistles, Part VIII – 1 Corinthians 12-14

You can read earlier posts in this series by clicking on the links below:


We often place a divide between ecclesiology and public theology but, depending on where we draw that line, we can often be in error. What we do within the church walls can potentially reap major consequences outside the church walls. If the world looks upon the church and sees that she is behaving in an unloving, disunified, or disordered manner, it very well could be that we are setting up unnecessary, though unintended, divisions between us and the culture. If we are more concerned with putting on a show for the world than speaking forth the word of conviction to the world, the world may join in, but they will have no incentive to submit to Christ’s discipleship. Rather, we will inevitably be expected to bow to their customs, preferences, and cultural mandates. Christ’s disciples will be guilted, coerced, or seduced into becoming disciples of the culture.

Preliminary Considerations

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul begins a discussion that follows through to 1 Corinthians 14. Many, both cessationists and continuationists, erroneously believe that chapters 12-14 center on the topic of tongues. Not only do people in both of these camps believe that tongues is the central theme here, but they falsely interpret tongues as an ecstatic utterance of an unlearned language.

While continuationists more commonly believe that this is not a known language but an angelic one, many cessationists argue that the tongue is a known, though foreign, unlearned, and thus ecstatic tongue. That said, there are also several people in both camps that could not be defined precisely by the descriptions detailed above. I would argue that the Reformers, Puritans, and Particular Baptists are certainly cessationists, though they would not fit the cessationist mold described above.

Before we get into a more detailed discussion of the character of tongues and the cessation or continuation of them, it is important to note what chapters 12-14 really are about. As I have stated, tongues is not the central concern of Paul in these chapters. His central concern, as is the case in much of the rest of 1 Corinthians, is their love and unity.

Chapter 12

Paul begins his current discussion of love and unity by making a general argument, in chapter 12, for the proper use of the gifts. Paul does not offer a spiritual gifts quiz and say, “Everyone needs to take this quiz and then you will know precisely what your gifts are and the committee to which you are to report.” Just as in Colossians Paul points his readers heavenward for their remedy for sin (Col. 3:1-2) rather than toward the traditions of man and worldly philosophies (Col. 2:8), here he points them to love and unity for their spiritual growth rather than some gifts test. To put it another way, the gifts are a circumstance of the argument, a necessary point of contact, but they are not the main argument. The main argument is love and unity.

Paul does not say, “Figure out your spiritual gift and then you will know how to love the body and be strengthened in the bonds of unity.” Rather, the assumption is that they are already working toward love and unity and, consequently, their spiritual gifts have been unearthed, but some on account of their spiritual gifts were thinking more highly of themselves than they ought. Thus, if Christians want to discern their spiritual gifts, they don’t need to take a test; they need to work toward strengthening the body in love and unity. As they serve the church in this manner, they will naturally walk in the spiritual giftings God has given them, whether or not they ever nail down precisely what those spiritual gifts are.

Chapter 13

It becomes all the more clear that Paul’s primary concern is the love and unity of the church when we get to chapter 13. 1 Corinthians 13 has often been enshrined “the Love Chapter,” and people often say it from the back of their throat, like someone mimicking a Barry White voice-over. Sadly, many do not even realize the context in which this love is meant to be displayed, because they have only heard these words read in romantic contexts such as weddings. If, however, people understood that the love described here is the love that is meant to exist between Spirit-indwelt Christians as they serve and are served within the local church, they may come to view the church quite differently.

There are three all-surpassing gifts God has universally given to each one of His people: faith, hope, and love. Regardless of our individual giftings, we are all called to excel in these. However, faith is only of temporal necessity, because we have not yet seen Him face to face. Hope is likewise temporary, because we will one day receive the fulness of the object of our hope. Love, however, is different. For the Christian who has truly experienced it, the love of the saints will endure forever (1Cor. 13:8-13).

1 Corinthians 14

Now we return to the gift of tongues. Earlier, I mentioned that I do not believe that the Reformers, the Puritans, and the Particular Baptists held to a particular view of cessationism, the view that says that tongue-speakers in Corinth were ecstatically speaking unlearned languages, whether known or unknown. It is my conviction that these forerunners of the current Reformed Baptist movement would not have even considered the idea that these languages spoken in the Corinthian church were either unknown or unlearned.

Reformed and Puritanical commentary. In his commentary on 14:2, Calvin wrote: “The term denotes a foreign language. The reason why he does not speak to men is — because no one heareth, that is, as an articulate voice. For all hear a sound, but they do not understand what is said.” Calvin was clearly convinced that, in the port city of Corinth, many nationalities and, therefore, languages were represented. Thus, in the multi-ethnic church at Corinth, many languages would have been spoken, especially as traveling apostles, preachers, evangelists, and other Christians of different nationalities passed through their doors. Matthew Henry further clarified, in his commentary on vs. 11:

“In this case, speaker and hearers are barbarians to each other (v. 11), they talk and hear only sounds without sense; for this is to be a barbarian. For thus says the polite Ovid, when banished into Pontus, Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli, I am a barbarian here, none understand me. To speak in the church in an unknown tongue is to talk gibberish; it is to play the barbarian; it is to confound the audience, instead of instructing them; and for this reason is utterly vain and unprofitable.”

Particular Baptists. John Gill insisted that the tongue spoken by the “gifted” in 1 Corinthians 14 was the Hebrew tongue. He believed the language was insisted upon by some Hebrew-speaking members for the Corinthian church’s liturgy. This would have been very much like how Rome used Latin in the Medieval church, subsequently keeping many unlearned in darkness for centuries. Gill’s argument is a very interesting one, but it is also a highly unsubstantiated one.

In support of the view that these languages were learned by the speaker, the paragraph on translation of the Bible into the vulgar languages of the people (1.8), The Baptist Confession tellingly offers the following citations as support: 1 Corinthians 14:6, 9, 11, 12, 24, 28. It was my study of the confession that first alerted me to the possibility that there were other views of the nature of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. After looking into the matter further, I am convinced that historical events such as the Azuza Street Revival of the early 20th century and the camp meetings of the early 19th century have distorted the way that both cessationist and continuationist theologians understand the nature of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. To view these languages as unlearned by the speakers would likely have been considered a bizarre interpretation to the Reformers and their early theological heirs. For a more thorough argument for the “known, learned language” argument, see this article from Robert Zerhusen over at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Applications. There are two major applications for our study of Public Theology that stem from this perspective on tongues. First, as is observed in The Baptist Confession, to say that these tongues were learned, known languages is to move them from the category of a miraculous, revelatory gift unique to the first century and into such categories as Bible translation, textual criticism, sermon translation, etc. That is to say that, while all revelatory gifts have certainly ceased, tongues being neither miraculous nor revelatory continues as a gift to this day.

Under this understanding of the nature of tongues, anytime a Christian learns one or more secondary languages for service in the mission field, a Bible translation society, or service in the local church, he or she is operating in the gift of tongues. When a Honduran pastor stands and translates for a visiting American pastor preaching before his church, he is operating in the gift of tongues. When a textual critique helps a Bible translation board determine the best manuscripts from which to choose, he is operating in the gift of tongues. When a linguist takes The Second London Baptist Confession and translates it for the first time into Romanian, he is operating in the gift of tongues. So, it is consistent, in one breath, to say that you believe the gift of tongues continues today while, in the very next breath, championing the cessationist view of the revelatory gifts of the first century.

This view is often contested under the assumption that spiritual gifts are only bestowed post-conversion. However, let us recall the fact that Paul was trained as a rabbi (Acts 22:3). Timothy had learned the Word from childhood (2Tim. 3:15). Apollos, though needing further instruction in theology and perhaps other practical matters of the faith, was a gifted orator (Acts 18:24-26), and all this before they were saved. God does not appear to work on a linear timeline with the gifts. The gifts cannot be neatly placed at any given point within the Ordo Saludis. God can use a person’s past education as a linguist, a carpenter, or an accountant to uniquely equip him or her for service in the local church.

Second, we see in 1 Corinthians 14 the necessity of doing all things in the local church in an orderly manner. When the world walks into the church and sees diversity, this is a good thing. When the world sees that all ethnicities and languages are welcome within the walls of the church, they know there is something right and proper about our proceedings. However, when the gifts we should be using to serve one another are used for self-aggrandisement, we do one another, the world, and the gospel a grave disservice.

Within the regulative principle of worship, music can be chosen that aids people in feeling at home in the church. Ethnic minorities within the body should certainly be asked to provide input into such matters. However, when such an effort moves the church away from biblical worship, and the culture begins to demand elements of worship not commanded in the Scripture, the church must be ready to lovingly put her foot down.

Accommodations are necessary and right. However, those accommodations must be in line with the Bible and must accord with proper church order. Thus, Paul does not forbid the speaking of other languages in the church, and he expressly forbids others from forbidding the speaking of foreign languages. What he does require is order, because we do not serve a God of confusion, but of order.

Band of Brothers: Bound by the Word of God

The following article is my sermon transcript from this past Lord’s Day. I don’t take my transcripts into the pulpit with me; I take an outline based on the transcript. However, this is the jist of the exposition. It seemed appropriate given some recent events on the interwebs that I post it here. For the record, I am not a fan of how things translate from Microsoft Word to WordPress, but I’ll get over it.


I am convinced that many of the “one another” passages of Scripture originally had in view only the local church. Still today, even in this age of social media and the blogosphere, I still believe its primary application is for the local church. However, more and more, I am seeing Christians putting their disdain for one another on public display on the internet. We are often haughty, self-promoting, impatient, cynical, and irreverent in the way that we speak to and about our fellow believers on the internet.

I don’t view this as a practical deficiency within the church. I see it primarily as a theological deficiency. It’s a sign that many of us who name the name of Christ and call God our Father do not truly understand the implications for such a claim when we address one another in public forums. We too easily forget the apostle John’s warnings:

“The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now” (1Jn. 2:9; NASB).[1]

“But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1Jn. 2:11; NASB).

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1Jn. 3:15; NASB).

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn. 4:20; NASB).

We must recognize that, when we lack genuine brotherly affection for one another, we are living like pagans. This commends neither us nor our God to a lost and dying world. However, Peter has a different understanding of how and why we ought to treat one another with brotherly love. As Christians, we are expected to have purified ourselves in obedience to truth. As such, we should bear the fruit of that obedience: brotherly love. We bear that fruit because of the seed that has taken root in our hearts: the word of God.


The Fruit of Obedience to the Truth: Brotherly Love

“Having purified your souls in obedience to the truth into a genuine brotherly love, [you] fervently love one another from the heart” (1Peter 1:22; personal translation).[2]

In Obedience to the Truth

Here Peter uses another participle: having purified. He assumes that his readers have already purified themselves. Indeed, this is one of the marks of a true Christian. A true Christian will set himself apart, sanctify himself, and purify himself from all worldliness (Rom. 12:2; 1Cor. 3:18-19). How primarily does he purify himself? By availing himself of the word of God (2Tim. 3:16-17).

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Tim. 3:16-17).

Notice that Peter says we purify our souls “in obedience to the truth.” The truth being spoken of here is found only in Scripture, the very word of God. We are called to be obedient to Scripture. However, if we are to rightly subject ourselves to the word of God, we must rightly understand what the word of God is teaching us. This requires study. This requires work. This requires commitment and discernment.

The world tells us this dogged commitment to truth cannot coincide with a lifestyle marked by love. I have heard seasoned Christians go so far as to say that John 1:14 gives us a paradox because it describes Christ as “full of grace and truth” (NASB; emphasis added). This idea that love and truth are diametrically opposed to one another has bled even into the church. I would argue, however, that the apostles had no concept of truth existing apart from love or love apart from truth. If I tell my friend I love him, and I know he’s blindly walking toward a cliff, I don’t demonstrate my love for him by withholding truth from him.

Christians can get nitpicky. We can correct people for things that don’t need correcting, especially on social media. When we become overcritical of our friends and family, this could be a sign of an unloving spirit. We can certainly fall into the trap of speaking the truth in an unloving way, but that does not mean that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Often, to speak the unadulterated truth is the most loving thing we can do.

However, when confronted with the truths of Scripture to the degree that most Reformed Christians are in Western society today, we ought to be the most loving, most caring, most merciful Christians people meet. We spend so much time studying and relishing in the gospel and the great mercies that we’ve been shown by God. Ought we to show mercy to our fellow man as well?

We take a great fire into our bosom when we study the truths of God’s word. Can a man take a fire into his bosom and not be burned? And can we regularly take the refining words of God into our hearts and not be permanently changed? Yet, many of us claim to read the word regularly and affirm the historic doctrines of the faith, but we don’t seem to know the first thing about loving our brothers. We would rather treat the truth of God as an academic endeavor or a reason to debate. We often treat God’s truth as a tool for changing others when we should first be changed by it. We first need to internalize God’s truth and let it purify us.

Brotherly Love

This gets us to the heart of this obedience to truth. We are called to be obedient to the truth not merely for the sake of knowing and loving God more. Rather, as we are purified in obedience to the truth of God, it should cause us to love both Him and one another more.

The truth of God teaches us of our original state holiness and joy in the garden (Eph. 4:24). It further teaches us the value of each human being, in that we’ve each been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). God’s truth goes on to teach us how we have all fallen short of God’s glory and marred His image in ourselves (Rom. 3:23; 8:29). Finally, we discover from God’s truth how each of us are utterly helpless to save ourselves apart from God’s amazing grace through the gospel (Mk. 10:26-27). This knowledge ought to compel us to have a deeper appreciation for our brothers and sisters in the faith, and to extend a greater amount of mercy toward them, even in their sin (Mt. 5:7).

Furthermore, when we recognize the fact that we are each born into a new family through Christ, our love for one another takes on yet another aspect. We have gone from merely having common life experiences to having a common Father in heaven. We are brothers and sisters in Christ in a very real, very eternal sense. As such, we are bound to one another not merely by some human contract, but by a divinely established familial bond (Mk. 10:28-30).

As brothers and sisters, then, we have obligations to one another. Think of it this way. The only way that earthly brothers or sisters can remove themselves permanently from their siblings is to remove themselves from their parents’ house. As long as we call ourselves children of our Father in heaven, we are likewise bound to our Christian brothers and sisters. This means that we have certain obligations to one another. We’re a family.

This means that, when I see a brother sinning, I not only have an obligation to stop him from sinning. I also have an obligation to do so in a manner that helps him retain as much dignity as possible. A common knee-jerk reaction to sin among Christians is to see a brother headed over a cliff and think it’s our job to give him the final shove. That is not brotherly love. Brotherly love means to reach out to that brother, show him the error of his ways, seek reconciliation, and ultimately to seek restoration (Gal. 6:1-2):

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1-2).


The Root of Obedience to the Truth: The Gospel

having been born again not with perishable seed but imperishable through the living and eternal word of God. Because,

All flesh is as grass,

And all their glory is as a flower in the grass.

The grass withers,

And the flower falls,

But the word of the Lord abides forever.

And this is the word that was proclaimed to you (1Pt. 1:23-25; personal translation).

We have been born again into an eternal, spiritual family. That which brought about our new birth is likewise eternal and spiritual: the living and eternal word of God. Were we born into this new family through flesh and blood, we would have nothing in which to be confident, for flesh and blood both perish. Rather, “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13; NKJV).

We are born of an imperishable seed. We are born of God (John 1:13) “through the living and eternal word of God” (vs. 23). In other words, it was through the word of God that God brought about our salvation. The word was the seed that was planted in our hearts’ soil (Mt. 13:1-23 – “Parable of the Sower”). This word, once it takes root and extends deep into the soil of our hearts, reaps in us eternal life!

It’s this word of God that Peter says is living and eternal. He takes this description from Isaiah 40. In Isaiah 40, Isaiah is prophesying about the coming of the Messiah and His forerunner: John the Baptist (vs. 3; cf. Mt. 3:3). Isaiah goes on to prophesy regarding the Messiah:

“The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,

And all flesh shall see it together;

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The voice said, ‘Cry out!’

And he said, ‘What shall I cry?’

‘All flesh is grass,

And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;

Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

But the word of our God stands forever’” (Isa. 40:5-8).

Isaiah prophesied these words as words of deliverance for the people of God. They had been in exile, and now they were going to see their deliverance. God’s people had seen tremendous warfare and received from the Lord’s hands “double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2). Now, God speaks comfort to His people, “that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.” Now, we know that this peace to come was Christ Himself, given that this is the passage used to refer to His forerunner in Matthew 3:3. Christ is the glory of the Lord that shall be revealed (Isa. 40:5).

The people of God, then, have just experienced a great trial in their exile to Babylon. They had seen much death and much war. They had experienced a tremendous defeat and been carried away by a foreign people. Looking forward to the Messiah to come, they are now told to set aside any faith they had previously put in flesh that fades, and to trust in the abiding, imperishable word of God.

In like manner, we are told to lay aside any trust that we may have placed in the flesh. Our confidence is not in the flesh, but in Christ. The Jews will not be saved on account of the fact that they share in flesh and blood with Abraham. They will only be saved if they believe like Abraham in the Seed of Abraham, which is Christ (Gal. 3:16, 29):

“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were trusting in the flesh, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Mt. 3:7-9).

Many today even think they will get to heaven on account of fleshly association. They reason that they were raised in church by godly parents and, thus, they must be good to go. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we can ride into heaven on our parents’ faith. We must have faith ourselves, but not in ourselves. We must each put our faith in Christ for our own salvation. We will not get into heaven on the merits of the flesh, whether ours or another’s.

The Lord, through Isaiah, said:

All flesh is as grass,

And all their glory is as a flower in the grass.

The grass withers,

And the flower falls,

But the word of the Lord abides forever” (1Pt. 1:24; personal translation).

We are then to trust in the preached word, not in some genetic heredity. Our inheritance is heavenly, eternal, secure, and abiding. It is as secure and abiding as the very word of God, but it is for those who believe and for those who believe alone. Will there be a great remnant of Jews who will be saved before the return of the Lord and the consummation of all things? Many believe this to be the case. It certainly seems so from my study of Romans 11. However, those Jews who come to salvation in the end will be saved, not on account of their flesh, but on account of their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the word that was proclaimed to us: our salvation in Jesus Christ! It’s on account of this word and on account of our belief in this word that we come to be included in this great family of God. It’s because of this word of truth that we have heard and now obey that we are purified and compelled to a fervent brotherly love toward one another.

The word here rendered proclaimed is the verb form for the word εὐαγγέλιον, from which we get our English word evangelism. In essence, it means good proclamation, and it’s where we also get the word gospel (or good news). So then, we know that we have come to be brothers and sisters in Christ through the preaching of the gospel, the truth of God from the word of God.

It’s only through this word that any of us are ever saved. According to Romans 10:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,

Who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Rom. 10:14-15).

We must then hear the word of God to be saved. We must hear the gospel. It goes without saying then that, if we want to see others in our lives come to salvation, they too must hear the gospel. How shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Let us then go forth with boldness and proclaim to our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors the only word that has any power to save them from their sins.


Those who receive this word and obey it will be purified and set apart into the family of God. Each new convert to the gospel of Jesus Christ is a new brother or sister in our great family. We need to treat them as such. We need to treat one another as such, because that is what we are. We are a family, and as sons and daughters of the God of love, we ought to be the greatest example of love the world has ever seen. So be holy as your Father in heaven is holy (1Pt. 1:16). But also let us love one another, because our Father in heaven is love.

[1]All citations from Holy Scripture from the New King James Version of the Bible, except where otherwise noted.

[2]Personal translations translated from UBS4.

Character Sketch: The Blessed Man


In the third century B.C. lived a man named Theophrastus, a man known as a teacher of philosophy. Many of his works survive to this day, one of the most notable being his Characters. In it, he demonstrates the ancient Greek method of describing people by their actions. As he describes the officious man, the grumbler, and the newsmaker, he gives his readers only the actions that one might expect to observe in such a character. This work is considered of great historical significance, because it tells us some of the details of life in ancient Greece that are nowhere else to be found in ancient literature.

The Hebrews were quite different in the way they did character sketches, but they nonetheless did character sketches themselves. Character sketches are scattered throughout the poetic books in the Old Testament. One such instance is that of Psalm One, in which we see the contrast between the blessed (or righteous) man and the wicked. Now, as we will see, unlike the Greeks the Hebrews describe not only the actions of their characters, but they also describe the heart inclinations of their characters. But without further introduction, let’s get into the text where we might discover something of the character of the blessed man:

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

2But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season

And its leaf does not wither;

And in whatever he does, he prospers.

4The wicked are not so,

But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the wicked will perish (Psalm 1; NASB).

Character Sketch: The Blessed Man (audio)

The Blessed Man

This notion of the blessed man is a reoccurring theme throughout the book of Psalms. The blessed man takes refuge in the Messiah (2:12), the blessed man confesses his sins and they are forgiven him and in his spirit there is no deceit (32:1ff), the blessed man will inherit the land (37:22), the blessed man has made the Lord his trust and turns neither to the proud nor to those who lapse in falsehood (40:4), and there are so many other characteristics of the blessed man which could be mined from the book of Psalms. Today, however, let us turn our gaze to the characteristics given us in Psalm One.

These characteristics are broken down into two categories: the negative characteristics and the positive characteristics. By negative, I mean that we are told the things from which the blessed man abstains. By positive, I merely mean that we are told what the blessed man enjoys to do.

The Negative Characteristics

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

The blessed man does not partake in certain activities. Rather, he is different. He is wholly other. He is set apart. He is being sanctified in the Lord. When the world looks at the man of God (the blessed man), there is a reason why they are turned off, why they see him as strange. It’s not because he necessarily dresses different, or because he abstains from certain activities that are not addressed in the Bible.. It’s certainly not because he goes around speaking in Elizabethan English, makes his wife wear long skirts, and refuses to read any book that is not written by someone within his own theological tradition.

We don’t have to add to the Bible to make ourselves seem strange to the world. Rather, the psalmist is pointing out that, when we make the Bible and the Bible alone our authority for all matters of life and godliness, we necessarily deny the authority structures the world has put in place. We deny their authorities, and that to them is strange.

The Counsel of the Wicked. Walking in the counsel of the wicked here means that one’s ear is inclined to the subtle influences of the society of the world. They have not yet stopped and stood in the way of sinners or sat in the seat of scoffers, but they have begun to be inclined in that direction. They are accepting the counsel of the wicked as authoritative and sound, and they are starting to heed the traditions of man rather than the precepts of the Bible.

We see this in the way that evangelism is talked about in much of modern Evangelicalism. We are told that we must “earn the right” to share the gospel with our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers, which means that we have to dress like them, think like them, listen to the same music as them, and watch the same programs on TV as them. Otherwise, how can they possibly relate to us? How can we possibly have “earned the right” to share the gospel with them?

Many of the same pastors who would argue that we must “earn the right” to share the gospel with those around us also would argue for a more world-centered approach to worship: an approach that would say, God may not have explicitly told us that impressionistic paintings, and heavy metal performances, and skits, and puppet shows have no place in worship, but he nowhere forbids it. Thus, we can use these things, because that’s what the culture wants. I would submit to you that, when a church takes their cues from the culture rather than the word of God in their evangelism and in their worship services, they have begun to walk in the counsel of the wicked. They have begun to be swayed by the subtle influences of the world, and we ought to have none of it.

The Path of Sinners. The next phase in the regression away from the blessed life is that of standing in the path of sinners. This is the phase in which we have inclined ourselves so long toward the subtle influences of society that they have become commonplace to us, so much so that now we find ourselves in the very path, or way, of sinners. It’s interesting that early Christians referred to themselves as The Way. In Acts 22:4, Paul says that he persecuted this “Way” to the death.

At the end of our own text, the psalmist makes a contrast between the “way” of the righteous and the “way” of the wicked. The word for path here is the same word, so we can deduce that the path of sinners is not merely a road on which the man is obstructing the sinner’s journey. Rather, this “way” is a lifestyle; it is the direction in which one is headed. If we head the counsel, the subtle influences of the wicked, before we know it our lifestyles will begin to reflect what we are taking in. That counsel upon which we meditate regularly will always, ultimately become the authority in our lives and will determine our lifestyles.

The Seat of Scoffers. Well, now we come to the third stage of our threefold regression into wickedness: sitting in the seat of scoffers. Scoffers are those who not only deny God, but they scoff at him and ridicule His people. When we think of scoffers, we often think of men like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, but if we are honest, even us as Christians can have a tendency to mock and scoff. We can even be fairly vicious toward one another if we are not careful. If we passively incline our minds toward the subtle influences of this world long enough and make ourselves comfortable with ungodly, abominable lifestyles, before we know it we can begin to scoff at others within our own faith.

I can’t help but think of evangelical pastors who talk openly about disgusting, ungodly things in their pulpits, they seek to look like the world and talk like the world and, before they know it, they are railing against other Christians. They call them religious people. They deride them for not being as worldly as they are, something these pastors apparently think to be more noble, something they think makes their evangelistic ministries more effective. Let us take heed lest we journey down the same path, by walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the path of sinners, and ultimately sitting in the seat of scoffers.

The Positive Characteristics

2But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

Now, you would expect, in a chiastic structure, that the psalmist would contrast this walking, standing, and sitting with a more direct correlation. Perhaps, he might follow this negative description of the blessed man with the positive: but rather he walks in the counsel of the godly, stands in the path of the holy, and sits in the seat of the humble. He doesn’t do that, though, does he?

Delighting in Torah. That’s because this is not a contrast between one group of associations and another, but one authority and another. In verse one, the blessed man is said to have shunned the worldly authority of the wicked around him. In verse two, we see the authority he accepts.. No! We see the authority in which he delights. For the blessed man, the law of God is not some burdensome set of rules and injunctions he has had imposed on him from outside. Rather, it is his delight.

The law mentioned here is the word torah. Many of you will recognized that as the designation most commonly used by Jews to refer to the first five books of the Bible. At the time that the psalmist wrote this psalm (most likely David), it is likely that few other books had been written. Outside of the first five, by the time of David, the Israelites may have already accepted Job, Joshua, and perhaps even Judges as canonical. Regardless, torah was the term which, at that time, was used to designate all of the books of the Bible. Thus, when we see this term being used in the first psalm, we shouldn’t merely relegate it to speaking of the first five books of the Bible. Notice how David sings in Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart” (NASB). In much of the Psalms God’s law, His torah, is closely related to His revealed will. So, we should understand this term as speaking of the entire revealed will of God: the Bible.

Biblical Meditation. What then is the sign that a man delights in this law? The sign that he delights in God’s law is that he meditates on it day and night. Now, this idea of meditation is far different than what we usually think when we think of meditation. Usually, when we think of meditation, we get visions in our head of people sitting with their legs folded, their hands turned upward on their knees in the form of gang signs, and strange noises coming from their throats. In this type of meditation, Eastern meditation, the goal is to clear one’s mind and think of nothing. This is not the notion we’re presented with in Psalm One.

Biblical meditation is a filling of the mind, not an emptying of it. We are to fill our minds with the word of God. We are to chew on it. We are to mutter it. That’s what the word for meditate literally means in the Hebrew. It means to mutter. So throughout the day, our delight is to be found in those times when we can mull over the Scriptures we’ve been reading, studying, and memorizing. As you can see, meditation of Scripture assumes prior work in Scripture. If we are going to digest our food and thus nourish our bodies, we must have first taken in that food through our mouths. In like manner, if we are going to digest Scripture and thus nourish our souls, we must have first taken it in through reading it, studying it, and memorizing it.

Now, the psalmist doesn’t say that the blessed man does this to somehow be justified before God. If we are in Christ, we have our justification secured. However, if we have been washed by the blood of Christ, if we have received justification, if we have been called by the Spirit, regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit, if we have been reconciled to God the Father, a characteristic that will pervade our lives will be a delight in His law. Our delight will be in reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the word of God, so that we might know His precepts and do them.

The Result

3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season

And its leaf does not wither;

And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The Planted Tree. We’ve looked at the authorities the blessed man denies, and we’ve looked at the authority in which he delights. Now let’s take a look at the type of man he is as a result. The psalmist says that the blessed man is like a tree firmly planted. Notice, he doesn’t say that he is like a wild tree. This tree has been taken from one place and planted in another. This demonstrates that where the tree is, it is not its natural environment. Rather it is an environment which is much more conducive for the tree’s health and vitality.

In the same way, the blessed man has not come to his place of status before God on account of anything within himself. He has been planted. He is what he is by sovereign grace. There is nothing he can claim on the basis of his own merit, but rather he stands on the merits of Christ. He is righteous, but it is not an intrinsic righteousness, but rather it is a righteousness that he has received (2Cor. 5:21).

Roots and Fruit. The streams of water by which this tree is planted point back to the law in which he delights. We as Christians are strengthened and nourished by the law, much like a tree that is planted by streams of water extends its roots toward the waters in order that it might strengthened and nourished by them. As Christians, we too are to be rooted in the Scriptures. We are not only to delight in them, but we are to see them as being as essential to our strength and vitality as water is to a tree.

We are also told that it yields its fruit in its season. Every tree bears different fruit. And every fruit is born in a different season. We are not meant to bear the same fruit in the same season as everyone else. We are not all equal in maturity; we are all different. Some of us need to learn patience. Some of us need to learn gentleness. Some of us need to learn peace and love. These are all fruits of the Spirit, but they don’t all come to us at the same time or in the same way. Rather, we each bear these fruits in our own seasons. As such, we need to bear with one another in our weaknesses, and point one another to the sources of our strength, the word of God, from which flow life-giving water.

Beautiful and Prosperous. The tree is also said to have leaves that do not wither and to prosper in whatever it does. This speaks to the value of the tree to its planter. The tree is beautiful and prosperous. Likewise, we are to be as a fragrant aroma to our God. We are to be an object of beauty and value in His sight. As we grow in our knowledge of and endearment toward his word, we will begin to grow in godliness and Christ-likeness. I find that the analogy of the parent / child relationship is useful here.

I often ask Norah, “What must you do to be my daughter?” She says a wide variety of different things, before I correct her and say, “You don’t need to do anything to be my daughter; you simply are my daughter. Now, what must you do to be God’s daughter?” to which she will often say things like “Obey Him,” or “Be good.” To this, I say, “No. You simply need to be born into His family.”

Brothers and sisters, we have been born into the family of God. We don’t have to do anything more than that. However, just as Norah pleases me when she obeys me, we please God as we grow in Christ-likeness. We don’t grow in the area of justification or union with Christ, but we do grow in sweet communion with our heavenly Father. Yes, brothers and sisters, we can be pleasing to Him, and we should earnestly desire to be pleasing to Him as we grow in the image of Christ. In this sense, we are to be like a beautiful and prosperous tree.

The Wicked

4The wicked are not so,

But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Dead, Worthless Chaff. Notice, the wicked are not so. Not so the wicked! This introduces a contrast. Now we are looking at a brief sketch of the character of the wicked. They are like chaff which the wind drives away. What is chaff? When farmers in the Old Testament would gather in wheat, it would be accompanied by chaff, a weed that was dead and useless. The wheat farmers would toss the wheat and chaff up into the air with a winnowing fork and the wind would carry away the dead useless chaff, leaving only the wheat which was of value to the farmer.

So we see the contrast. There are two groups of men. We are either like the beautiful, fruitful, prosperous tree, or we are like dead, useless chaff which the wind drives away. Of these wicked men, God says, they are useless. They are like dead men’s bones. They are fickle. They are frail. They will not stand in the day of judgment. On the day of judgment, there will be a great outpouring of the wrath of God upon the whole of mankind. The only think that will save any of us is if Christ has taken upon Himself the wrath that we deserve, and that is what He did on the cross.

The Necessity of the Cross. When Christ died on the cross, He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf. He took the very wrath of God. It is as though, on the day of judgment, God’s wrath will be poured out upon the vast sea of humanity, and only those who stand in the shadow of the cross where Jesus has taken God’s wrath on our behalf, will be shielded from the wrath of the only just and mighty God. We who stand in the righteousness of Christ will be able to stand on the day of judgment. The wicked will not.

On that day, there will be a great separation. There will be two assemblies. The sheep will be separated from the goats. The blessed, or righteous, man will be separated from the wicked man, and the wicked will not be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous. Jesus told a parable to illustrate this: the parable of the wedding feast. After all the guests had been brought into the feast, there was a man found who did not have on the proper wedding garments. Upon his discovery, this man was cast into the outer darkness (Mt. 22:1-14). Brothers and sisters, we must be clothed Christ if we hope to stand in the assembly of the righteous on judgment day.

The Special, Intimate Knowledge of God

6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the wicked will perish

Now we return to this word “way,” and we are told that the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. The emphasis here is on the knowledge of God. If God “knows” your way, apparently you are good. If He doesn’t know it, you will perish. What does this word “know” mean? Doesn’t God know all things? Can anything be hidden from God?

Special Knowledge

Well of course God knows all things and, as the catechism says, nothing can be hidden from God. The psalmist isn’t referring to God’s omnipotence. Rather, he is talking about God’s special, intimate knowledge. When Adam and Eve conceived and bore a child, it was said of them that Adam knew Eve. That means that he knew her intimately. In much the same way, God draws close to those whom He loves. There is a special love that God has for His people.

Non-Calvinists would say that God loves all people the same. They would prefer that God had a promiscuous, general type of love that extends to all mankind alike, but we know that this is not the way that God operates in the Bible. Yes, He loves all mankind generally in that He causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on both the righteous and the wicked. However, there is a special way in which He loves His elect, His bride.

Just as I am called to love my enemy, but I am not called to love him in the same way that I love my wife and my kids, God loves His enemies, but not in the same way that He loves His bride. From heaven, He came and sought her, His elect bride. In this special, intimate way, God is said to know the way of the righteous.

We Are to Be Known

We ought to also recognize what is not being said here. The psalmist is not saying that the righteous are made righteous on account of their knowledge of God, but rather His knowledge of them. There are many who have a great knowledge about God and His word (e.g. Bart Ehrmann), but will not be able to stand in the judgment. What matters is, have you been known by God in this special, intimate way? Have you been sovereignly born from above? Let us here heed the warning of Jesus when He said:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Mt. 7:21-23; NASB).

We must be known by the Lord. Are you known by Him? Do you abstain from the counsel of the wicked, the path of sinners, and the seat of the scoffers? Do you delight in His law and meditate on it day and night? Are you like a beautiful, fruitful, and prosperous tree planted by streams of living water, or are you like dry, dead, and useless chaff? Will you stand in the day of judgment, Christ having taken upon Himself your sins and the wrath of God which you deserve? Have you been born again? Does God know you in a special, intimate way? These are the questions we ought to ask ourselves in response to our study today. I pray that God blesses each of you as you consider and apply these truths to your own lives.

LBCF of 1677/1689 – Chapter Twenty-Seven, Of the Communion of the Saints

1. All saints that are united to Jesus Christ, their head, by his Spirit, and faith, although they are not made thereby one person with him, have fellowship in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory; and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each others gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, in an orderly way, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.
( 1 John 1:3; John 1:16; Philippians 3:10; Romans 6:5, 6; Ephesians 4:15, 16; 1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14; Romans 1:12; 1 John 3:17, 18; Galatians 6:10 )

2. Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things according to their several abilities, and necessities; which communion, according to the rule of the gospel, though especially to be exercised by them, in the relation wherein they stand, whether in families, or churches, yet, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended to all the household of faith, even all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus; nevertheless their communion one with another as saints, doth not take away or infringe the title or propriety which each man hath in his goods and possessions.
( Hebrews 10:24, 25; Hebrews 3:12, 13; Acts 11:29, 30; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Corinthians 12:14-27; Acts 5:4; Ephesians 4:28 )