The Inerrancy Summit 2015 – Carl Trueman, Ian Hamilton, Mark Dever

The Inerrancy Summit Session 07 Carl Trueman

VIDEO by AgapeMedia

The Inerrancy Summit Session 08 Ian Hamilton

The Inerrancy Summit Session 09 Mark Dever

Ian Hamilton – Christ is All and in All

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

via Banner of Truth Trust, UK
John Brown was one of the most illustrious Bible commentators of the nineteenth century. The Banner of Truth publishes his commentaries on Galatians and Hebrews in the ‘Geneva’ series, and his 3-volume work on The Discourses and Sayings of our Lord. Also published by Banner of Truth, but currently out of print, is his 2-volume commentary on 1 Peter. Why mention him at the beginning of my pastoral letter? For this reason: While recently perusing Brown’s commentary on 1 Peter, I came across this wonderful paragraph that I wanted to share with you. He is commentating on the opening verses of 1 Peter 2 and in particular on the Christ-saturated content of these verses:

The religion taught in the New Testament, of which our text is a fair specimen, is Christianity in the most emphatic and peculiar sense of the term, ‘Christ is all in all’. It is his religion. It is all by him; it is all about him; he is its author, he is its substance; he is the sum of this system, the soul of this body. Every thing is viewed in its connexion with him. Every doctrine and every precept, every privilege and every duty, every promise and every threatening. The ground of acceptance is his sacrifice; the source of light and life, holiness and peace, his Spirit; the rule of duty, his law; the pattern for imitation, his example; the motives to duty, his authority and grace; the great end of all, his glory, God’s glory in him . . . let the language of our hearts be that of the dying martyr: ‘None but Christ, none but Christ’. [1 Peter, Volume 1, pp. 238-239]

Are these not stirring, moving, and true words?

In essence, Brown is telling us that Christianity is Christ. He is the ‘so great salvation’ that God holds out to us in the gospel. This was something Jesus himself was self-consciously aware of. When you read through the Gospels you cannot miss that he preaches himself. This is seen perhaps most startlingly in Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest . . .’ Jesus does not prescribe for the weary and burdened some spiritual panacea; he prescribes himself. Jesus’ personal sense of his comprehensive ability to meet the needs of a broken, sin-weary world is staggering: ‘Come to me’!

Now, why am I saying this? For one simple reason, to encourage you (and me) to look alone to our Lord Jesus for the comfort, help, strength, reassurance, and hope that we all need to sustain us in our walk with God. It is in Christ that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph. l:3). God has nothing else to give you, for in his Son he has given you everything. Not just everything you need, but everything!

This is but another way of saying what our Lord himself tells us in John 15: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ He is our life. To live by faith is to live ‘out of Christ’ (see Gal. 2:20). Faith is like a bucket that we drop into the inexhaustible riches and depths of our Saviour, to draw up out of him all we need to live a godly, God-pleasing, gospel-useful life. Do you lack wisdom? Go to Christ who is the wisdom of God. Do you lack patience? Go to Christ the epitome of godly patience. Do you lack constancy? Go to Christ who was obedient unto death. Do you lack courage? Go to Christ ‘who endured the cross’. John Calvin puts this truth beautifully in The Institutes (2.16.19):

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12). We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ (1 Cor. 1:30). If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth . . . If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission from the curse, in his cross (Gal. 3:13) . . . In short, since a rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

Now that is theology at its most biblical and glorious. Ponder that. Thank God for that. Live in the great good of all that Jesus Christ is.


(Post #1,000 ) All glory, laud and honor to the Redeemer King!

Ephesians 1:18-19

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

The state of prophecy for our times

Wayne Grudem and Ian Hamilton:

The state of prophecy today

A debate between Ian Hamilton (Cambridge Presbyterian Church and formerly a minister in the Church of Scotland) and Wayne Grudem (Phoeniz Seminary, Arizona, formerly at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois) about the role of prophecy in the church today. Chaired by Adrian Reynolds. Recorded at the 2010 EMA. From The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo. From 2010, Phoenix, Arizona.

Ian Hamilton is currently teaching at Cambridge and Wayne Grudem did his doctoral studies there. The aim is to talk about some of the things we know we don’t agree about, but, we think that it’s mature and the time is right as Evangelical Christians who love Christ, who love His word and believe firmly in His word and hold firmly to it; to be able to talk about some of the things we disagree about in a constructive mature way; to gently challenge one another. To think about some of the implications about how these things affect church life. That’s the reason for having these two dear brothers here with us.


I managed to transcribe notes from the first 38 minutes of a 76 minute discussion; the first of its kind (videotaped and publicly posted) between two  Godly men, who are also widely respected theologians, and who both believe in the continuationist position on the gifts of the Spirit, however, Ian Hamilton believes prophecy is not one of those gifts that continued after the New testament canon was closed.

Wayne Grudem:

I have not spoken much about this gift of prophecy question or taught much about it for several years… As I came back to the discussion, I thought it might be helpful to start out with an overview of the whole Bible, Genesis to Revelation.

There is a view that I am going to call cessationsim. A cessationist position that with regard to the gift of prophecy would argue that God doesn’t communicate information directly to us today, apart from the words of the Bible or in addition to the words of the Bible and that’s the viewpoint I’m going to be disagreeing with.

I think what strikes me the most as I look from Genesis to Revelation on this question, is what seems to me the absence of any clear biblical evidence to prove the heart of the cessationist position. I don’t think there’s any passage in scripture, or any combination of passages that should lead us to think that God doesn’t communicate directly with His people throughout all of history, in individual, personal ways that occur, in addition to in and through the written words of scripture. If we look at the whole scope of biblical history, we see that from beginning to end, God had a personal relationship with his people; a relationship in which he communicated directly and personally with them. And, this communication was never limited to the words that He gave all of His people in the book of the covenant, or the writings of the canon of scriptures.  God had a personal relationship and a direct communication with people from the beginning of the Bible and throughout its history.

So, think of his personal relationship and communication with Adam & Eve,  with Cain & Abel, with Enoch, who walked with God (Genesis 5:24), with Noah, with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob; the narratives of which are filled with discussions of God appearing to them and speaking to them, personally. With Moses, and David, with Solomon, and with many old testament prophets and kings to whom God communicated directly, individually and personally.

And then, in the New Testament, in the person of Jesus, God the Son, communicated individually  and personally with many people while he was on earth. And then the New Testament promises a personal relationship that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will have with each individual believer. Here are some verses:

  • John 14:23 „If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him”. The imagery of making the home of the Father and Son with us, that imagery implies personal fellowship.
  • Revelation 3:20 „If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me”. The imagery of eating with one another implies ongoing personal fellowship.
  • Paul in Philippians 3:20 „Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that to you also”. That implies personal communication from God, revealing sin in the lives of individual Philippian Christians.
  • Romans 8:14 „For all who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God”. The present indicative verb for „all who are led”, indicates that this leading is a regular or ongoing process; being led by the spirit of God.
  • Galatians 5:16,18 „But I say, walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. But, if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”. Again the verb (in Greek) indicates ongoing activity- being led by the spirit of God.

My point is that from the beginning to the end, the Bible tells us of a God who relates individually and personally to His people. And now, it seems to me that some in the cessationist position are coming and telling us: Contrary to the experience of all of God’s people throughout all the books of the Bible, that God no longer communicates personally and individually with any of his people except through the written words of the canon of Scripture. So it seems to me that a cessationist position asks us to believe

  1. that throughout the Bible, God communicated to His people both through written scripture, as much as they had at any point, and through additional, direct, personal interaction with people.
  2. But then it asks us to believe that God now only communicates through the written words of the canon and no longer with direct, personal fellowship and interaction with people. This is quite strange in light of the fact that the new covenant seems to be better in every way, but how can it be better if we’ve lost that element of personal relationship with God and personal communication with God in addition to the words of the canon. That element that characterized all periods of history that the Bible talks about. Where is anything in the Bible that would lead us to believe that?

Of course, I understand that cessationists believe that the canon is closed and I agree with that. But the question is not that of the canon. The question is what about communication, from God to specific individuals that is not part of the canon? If the Bible is the book of the covenant, that stipulates the terms of the relationship between God as king and us as His covenant people. Then, are we to say that the king can never communicate with His people in any additional ways, besides the covenant document? Can he who created speech, and loves His people,  never speak to them  directly and personally? A cessationist view, if I understand it correctly, allows no element for individual, personal guidance from the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian, ever. Our guidance is simply to be taken from reading the Bible and using mature wisdom to apply it to our lives. But surely, the vast majority of Christians, throughout history have known and experienced the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making decisions, especially while they are praying and reading the words of scripture, but in other times as well. Apart from the concentrated times of reading scripture and prayer. And, they have known that this guidance includes not only the direction and commands and principles of scripture, but also subjective impressions of God’s will and additional thoughts and specific memories the Lord brings to mind. It seems to me that a position that rules out personal guidance from the Holy Spirit today is so completely different from the whole course of Biblical history and from the New Testament teaching on personal fellowship that we have with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Specifically with regard to the gift of prophecy, we have … and I think it is a sub category of that broader category of personal fellowship and communication from God to believers and so I would look at passages like 1 Thessalonians 5 19-21, and in that passage Paul says, „Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast to what is good”. And, so I think that he is implying here and in 1 Corinthians 14, when he says, „Let two or three prophets speak and let the others way what is said”, that God can bring things to mind, and when we report something that God has suddenly brought to mind, that Paul would call that the gift of prophecy functioning in the church. But it is always to be tested by Scripture. Paul says, „Do not despise prophecies, but test everything. Hold fast to what is good”. It is to be tested by scripture and by what we know about our lives and the word in general and we may be mistaken by those kinds of things, but of course , sermons can also be mistaken and advice from others can also be mistaken, but they have a useful role in the Christian life.

I think this element of prophecy, as well, is something that the New Testament talks about; views as commonly functioning, in the churches in Rome, in Corinth, Ephesus and Thessaloniki and is something that ought to be appreciated and valued today.

Click below for the rest of the notes…….

Mai mult

Everything in the Christian life flows from our union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

by Ian Hamilton via Banner of Truth Trust, UK
The Fragrance of the Knowledge of Christ

I read some time ago in James Denney’s commentary on 2 Corinthians these words:

as Paul moved through the world, all who had eyes to see saw in him not only the power but the sweetness of God’s redeeming love. The mighty Victor made manifest through him, not only His might, but His charm, not only His greatness, but His grace.

These are surely striking words. Denney is reflecting on the phrase in 2 Corinthians 2:14, where Paul speaks of God, through his saved people, spreading ‘everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.’ Just as the sweet smell of burning incense filled Rome when a victorious general returned from battle, so, says Paul, the triumph and truth of the Crucified is proclaimed fragrantly by the lips and lives of Christ’s captive people.

That Paul should speak of the ‘fragrance’ of the knowledge of Christ is both deeply striking and profoundly searching. We are accustomed, and rightly so, to think of the profound importance of gospel truth being proclaimed accurately. Truth is at a discount in our so-called post-modern world. Christians need more than ever today to assert, and to do so passionately, the objective, unassailable truth of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. But when we proclaim the gospel, and when we live out the gospel (the gospel inevitably issues in a transformed, that is commandment-obedient, life), do we always succeed in manifesting it fragrantly? Or, is the truth that the gospel’s fragrance, sweetness, winsomeness, charm and attractiveness, is the very thing that is most easily and often missing?

We all surely have known the compelling appeal and power of a sermon, a life, that has radiated the ‘fragrance of the knowledge of Christ.’ The truth has come to us, not coldly or clinically, but clothed in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have heard the dark and solemn truths of sin and righteousness and judgement; but we heard them come from lives which expressed the fragrance of the ‘Rose of Sharon’. The truth was clothed with grace and winsomeness. Why is it then, that Reformed Christians, Calvinists if you will, are so often accused of being cold and clinical, ‘the frozen chosen’?

The answer could well be, of course, that our fellow Christians are simply reacting against our unyielding commitment to let God be God, and to reverence him who is a ‘consuming fire.’ But the answer could also be that we have been guilty of divorcing the truth of Christ from union with Christ. Let me explain. In 2 Corinthians 2:15, Paul speaks of God leading ‘us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spread(ing) everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.’ Everything in the Christian life flows from our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. All the saving and sanctifying blessings we enjoy in the gospel, come to us in union with Christ. He is the vine, we are the branches. The sap of his life, by the Holy Spirit, flows through the believer’s life. This is why Paul can write of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (see Gal. 5:22-23), and give us a description of the life of the Saviour, with all its grace, winsomeness and charm. If gospel truth is not clothed then with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is it really ‘gospel’ (‘good news’) truth? This in no sense means that gospel truth will never be stern or searchingly humbling. But it does mean that we will speak it and live it as men and women humbled by its grace, filled with its joy, excited by its possibilities, harnessed to the One who is ‘full of grace and truth’.

James Denney was not over-stating the point when he wrote: ‘We miss what is most characteristic in the knowledge of God if we miss this. We leave out that very element in the Evangel which makes it evangelic, and gives it its power to subdue and enchain the souls of men.’ How ‘fragrantly’ do our lives and our sermons commend the Saviour? He is the ‘Rose of Sharon’.



Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and in the Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.

www.cambridgepres.org.uk

Ian Hamilton – Christ is All and in All

via Banner of Truth Trust, UK
John Brown was one of the most illustrious Bible commentators of the nineteenth century. The Banner of Truth publishes his commentaries on Galatians and Hebrews in the ‘Geneva’ series, and his 3-volume work on The Discourses and Sayings of our Lord. Also published by Banner of Truth, but currently out of print, is his 2-volume commentary on 1 Peter. Why mention him at the beginning of my pastoral letter? For this reason: While recently perusing Brown’s commentary on 1 Peter, I came across this wonderful paragraph that I wanted to share with you. He is commentating on the opening verses of 1 Peter 2 and in particular on the Christ-saturated content of these verses:

The religion taught in the New Testament, of which our text is a fair specimen, is Christianity in the most emphatic and peculiar sense of the term, ‘Christ is all in all’. It is his religion. It is all by him; it is all about him; he is its author, he is its substance; he is the sum of this system, the soul of this body. Every thing is viewed in its connexion with him. Every doctrine and every precept, every privilege and every duty, every promise and every threatening. The ground of acceptance is his sacrifice; the source of light and life, holiness and peace, his Spirit; the rule of duty, his law; the pattern for imitation, his example; the motives to duty, his authority and grace; the great end of all, his glory, God’s glory in him . . . let the language of our hearts be that of the dying martyr: ‘None but Christ, none but Christ’. [1 Peter, Volume 1, pp. 238-239]

Are these not stirring, moving, and true words?

In essence, Brown is telling us that Christianity is Christ. He is the ‘so great salvation’ that God holds out to us in the gospel. This was something Jesus himself was self-consciously aware of. When you read through the Gospels you cannot miss that he preaches himself. This is seen perhaps most startlingly in Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest . . .’ Jesus does not prescribe for the weary and burdened some spiritual panacea; he prescribes himself. Jesus’ personal sense of his comprehensive ability to meet the needs of a broken, sin-weary world is staggering: ‘Come to me’!

Now, why am I saying this? For one simple reason, to encourage you (and me) to look alone to our Lord Jesus for the comfort, help, strength, reassurance, and hope that we all need to sustain us in our walk with God. It is in Christ that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph. l:3). God has nothing else to give you, for in his Son he has given you everything. Not just everything you need, but everything!

This is but another way of saying what our Lord himself tells us in John 15: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ He is our life. To live by faith is to live ‘out of Christ’ (see Gal. 2:20). Faith is like a bucket that we drop into the inexhaustible riches and depths of our Saviour, to draw up out of him all we need to live a godly, God-pleasing, gospel-useful life. Do you lack wisdom? Go to Christ who is the wisdom of God. Do you lack patience? Go to Christ the epitome of godly patience. Do you lack constancy? Go to Christ who was obedient unto death. Do you lack courage? Go to Christ ‘who endured the cross’. John Calvin puts this truth beautifully in The Institutes (2.16.19):

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12). We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ (1 Cor. 1:30). If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth . . . If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission from the curse, in his cross (Gal. 3:13) . . . In short, since a rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

Now that is theology at its most biblical and glorious. Ponder that. Thank God for that. Live in the great good of all that Jesus Christ is.


(Post #1,000 ) All glory, laud and honor to the Redeemer King!

Ephesians 1:18-19

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ian Hamilton – Planks in Our Eyes; Specks in the Eyes of Others

via Banner of Truth Trust, UK (05/11)

Ephesians 4:32

Jesus is not saying that ‘specks’ don’t matter. Everything in our lives matters to God. If there are things wrong in our lives, they need to be dealt with, removed. When Jesus says in Matthew 7:1, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged’, his words have often been misunderstood. Our Lord is not saying absolutely that we are not to judge. Indeed, in verse 6, Jesus encourages us to make judgments: ‘Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs’! What, then, does Jesus mean? His illustration is surely obvious: the man with the plank sticking out of his eye is the man who only too clearly sees sins in others, but is acutely blind to recognising the sin in his own life. Indeed, he is blind to the fact that the sin in his life is greater than anything he sees in the lives of others. He is a ‘censorious man’. This was one of the besetting sins of the Pharisees.

This spirit of censoriousness is only too common. We can all, only too easily, slip into this sin, for sin it is. What is often missed here, is the fact that the censor usually has a point. There are specks, lots of them, and they need pointing out and removing – but not by those who are ‘holier than thou’. In pastoral ministry – and all Christians are pastors to one another – the application of truth is not the only objective. We are told of our Lord Jesus, ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out’. He knows our frame, but he remembers we are dust! The spirit in which we comfort, counsel and rebuke one another is of paramount importance.

Paul urges Timothy to ‘gently instruct’ those who oppose him, and reminds the censorious Corinthians, ‘Love is patient, love is kind . . . it is not self-seeking . . . Love . . . rejoices with the truth’.

In pointing out the sins of others, boldness is usually needed, and many of us shrink from that. But no less is tenderness needed, the tenderness of the One who was so extraordinarily patient and forbearing with his errant and slow to learn disciples.

It’s not hard to see ‘specks’ – they are everywhere. It’s also not hard to see ‘planks’, except when it’s your own plank. May the Lord preserve us all from ‘holier than thou’ spirituality. It has at least one distinguishing feature – it prizes the ‘head’ more than the ‘heart’. Of course, they belong together, the former nourishing the latter. But only too easily, as we see in Scripture and in the history of the church, they can be separated, and spirituality becomes metallic, clinical, and sadly often censorious.

The most effective antidote to such censoriousness is conformity to our Lord Jesus. None were holier than he, none were gentler than he. So Paul could write, ‘be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children . . .’

(All emphasis- bold type is mine)

Ian Hamilton – The Christian: Righteous and yet a Sinner (via) Banner of Truth Trust

Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, England (via) Banner of Truth Trust Oct. 2010 edition.

The Christian life is simultaneously a great joy and a great struggle. The joy and the struggle are synchronous, not sequential. It is not that we somehow graduate beyond the struggle to a life of ‘joy and peace in believing.’ To think this is to fail to understand just what the Christian life is. Let me explain.

In one of his most famous, and profound, aphorisms, Martin Luther said that the Christian was simul iustus et peccator, at the same time justified and yet a sinner. Not for one moment does the Christian rise above the reality of his sin. Not for one moment does the Christian rise above her struggles with the world, the flesh and the devil. No, a thousand times, no. It is precisely here that Satan deceives and depresses many true Christians. I am not for one moment seeking to justify low-level Christian living. I am not seeking to accommodate sin. Rather, my concern is faithfully to communicate to you, and to myself, the present reality of the Christian life.

Our Lord Jesus was (and continues to be) the perfect man. He was without flaw. He did not sin because he could not sin. And yet we are told that he experienced constant temptations. From womb to tomb Satan sought to harm him and even destroy him. Even at the last the Tempter’s voice could be heard, ‘Let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One.’ Suffering, temptation, trial, belonged to the essence of the Perfect Man’s life. It was not sin that brought these trials upon him; it was faithfulness.

So it must be then for us who have been united to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, through faith. There is, of course, this difference: Satan has a ‘landing ground’ in all of our lives that he did not have in our Saviour’s life – remaining or indwelling sin. Our struggles against the world and its prince are accentuated by the presence of a ‘fifth column’ in our hearts. It has always been the case ‘that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’

Why mention this? For this reason: we all need to understand the shape of the Christian life; and that shape is a cross. The life of every believer is a daily life of death and resurrection. As it was with the Perfect Man, so it will be with the brothers and sisters of the Perfect Man. This is our great privilege. But more than that, this truth reminds us to live realistically. This is what Peter meant when he wrote, ‘beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.’

Too often Satan casts us down by pointing up our struggles and battles: ‘You – a Christian?’ We need to learn to reply, ‘Yes, by the grace of God I am; and in my struggles and battles I am fighting the good fight of faith against the world, the flesh and the devil.’ Until the day you die, you will carry around in your body ‘the death of Jesus – so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in (y)our bodies.’

So, go on, and keep on going on, ‘looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith.’

Ian Hamilton – Sin’s deceitfulness

Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, England (via) Banner of Truth Trust Nov. 2010 edition.

The Word of God has much to say to us about ‘the deceitfulness of sin’ (Heb.3:13). The evil that is sin will do all it can to persuade you to taste its wares, to embrace its offers, to sit at its table and eat its food. I would like in this pastoral letter to reflect with you a little on this subject.

God’s Word seems to make deceit the fountainhead of every sin. The very first sin began in deceit. Eve, we are told, was deceived before she ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:13). Deceit went before the transgression. In the New Testament we read that Satan is still following the same strategy (2 Cor. ll:3). Indeed, all the works the devil does in this world in opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom he accomplishes by deceit (Rev. l2:9). He truly is ‘the deceiver of the whole world’. Men and women would not be prevailed on to continue in Satan’s service to their eternal (and sometimes temporal) ruin, were they not utterly deceived. This is why there are so many cautions in Scripture to beware of deception: ‘Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 5:6); ‘Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Cor. 6:9-10); ‘Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap’ (Gal. 6:7) – and so on.

Now the theologically acute among you will have realised by now that all I have written thus far is taken from John Owen’s magisterial treatise on Indwelling Sin1. Owen, in his own inimitable style, shows us how this deceit operates and how, by God’s grace, the Christian can resist and triumph over sin’s deceitfulness. For Owen, the great battle lies with the mind. Our great need is to see and feel the evil and bitterness of sin. Look where sin leads: it leads to death and eternal misery.

One of Owen’s great concerns is to awaken us to sin’s deceitfulness in its ‘abuse of gospel grace’. The gospel is God’s glorious remedy against all the evil, filth and guilt of sin, and all its dangerous consequences. It delivers our souls from sin and death. But, and here is one of sin’s deceitful stratagems, Satan will suggest to you that God’s grace is so great, so rich, so free, that even if you go on sinning, God’s super­abundant grace will see you through. This is a mockery and travesty of gospel grace, for at least this one reason: what does the grace of God teach us? Read Titus 2:11-12, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.’ Grace is antithetical to sin, because the grace of God is really the God of grace! Grace is not a spiritual commodity or substance; God’s grace is Jesus Christ (see John 1:14,17; 2 Cor. 8:9). And so Owen writes, ‘much of the wisdom of faith and the power of gospel grace lie in opposing this deceit’ – the deceit that if we go on sinning God’s grace will continue to abound towards us.

One more thing: It is absolutely vital that we do battle with sin’s deceitfulness in fellowship with God’s people. This is what the writer to the Hebrews pressed upon his readers (who were in grave danger of being taken in by sin’s deceitfulness): ‘But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called „today”, that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.’ We need the fellowship of our brothers and sisters as we seek to live lives that please and honour our Lord and Saviour. We need to look out for one another. We need to ‘exhort’ or ‘encourage’ one another. In this context, ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend’.

Stop reading and ask yourself, ‘Am I, in any sphere of my life, being taken in by sin’s deceitfulness?’ Or, ‘Is anyone I know being taken in by sin’s deceitfulness?’ If so, do something about it.

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