Everyone Packages Knowledge

By Nick Batzig

I have several friends who share the same anecdote with me over and over again. Sometimes, I lovingly remind them that they have already told me whatever it is they’ve shared ten times. Sometimes I just listen to them so as not to take away the joy they seem to be experiencing when conveying the story to me for the tenth time. I am sure that I too have repeated the same story to the same person on numerous occasions. It may be that many simply have bad short term memories; or, as I suspect, it may reveal how desperately we want to be heard and to share our experiences with others. There does, however, seem to be another component to it–namely, the fact that everyone package knowledge. The preacher who finds an illustration and uses it repeatedly must surely find it to be the best wrapping for truth. The theologian who popularizes a pithy saying does so in order to package the essence of some biblical doctrine. The novelist who reintroduces a theme throughout his or her writing is convinced that it is the best wrapping with which to package a narrative. The innate urge in each of us to package knowledge simultaneously reveals our finitude and that we are seeking an all-encompassing idea.

For pastors and theologians, the propensity to package knowledge gives shape to the overarching emphasis of their ministries. R.C. Sproul flew the sovereignty of God flag. Cornelius Van Til painted with the Creator/Creature distinction brush. John Piper beats the joy drum. This is not to say that each of these men did not faithfully seek to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Rather, it is to highlight the fact that each of them taught biblical and systematic theological knowledge in the wrapping of what they deemed to be the really important truth about God. The propensity to package knowledge belongs within the realm of systematizing truth.

We want to encourage careful systematic theology, especially in our late-modern society. Ligon Duncan once said, “Whenever someone criticizes a systematic theological reading of Scripture, watch out–they’re about to slide their system underneath your door.” It is admirable for pastors and people to love and promote sound systematic theology. This is one of the reasons why we so highly value our historic creeds and confessions of faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith is an ecumenical systematic-theological document. In so far as it articulates the historic Protestant systematization of biblical truth, it finds its place among the greatest of theological treatments in the history of the church. We should spend our time reading the great Reformed systematic theological works of John Calvin, Francis Turretin, John Owen, Charles Hodge, Herman Bavinck, Geerhardus Vos, etc. The works of these men are unsurpassed in their biblical care and analytical precision. 

It is possible, of course, to impose a reductionistic systematic theological emphasis onto ever passage and into every conversation. That’s where finitude kicks in. Many of us have sat under a minister who has recently come to embrace the doctrines of grace. The five points of Calvinism somehow manage to become the five points of whatever sermon he preaches. The danger with this is, of course, that the repetitious runs the risk of becoming the mundane and the text is not allowed to speak for itself. A secondary teaching of the text becomes the major emphasis and the major point of the passage remains neglected.

The opposite danger is to seek to be so innovative and creative that one either passes off something that deviates from the biblical pattern of truth or so obscures it that it becomes confusing to others. Our inclination to package knowledge belongs within the realm of conceptual creativity. Not everyone is comfortable with the way in which John Piper has presented truth in the wrapping of what he has called “Christian Hedonism;” however, that is the way in which he has sought to frame what he believes to be an overlooked aspect of God’s revelation. Critiques of Piper’s creative repackaging of systematic truth may have legitimacy to them, but the critiques are also, I suspect, partially due to the subjective creativity of the packaging of the concept itself. Every artist–no matter how applauded–has also been dismissed on account of the subjective nature of their style. When creativity enters into our packaging of knowledge, we should expect to be misunderstood or unappreciated. 

So, how are finite creatures like ourselves to faithfully package the truth of God’s word in the pulpit, in our writing and in our conversations without becoming overly repetitious or unhelpfully creative? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Stay in God’s Word. The Apostle Paul charged Timothy to “give heed to reading, exhortation and doctrine so that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:3). God’s word is the source of all true knowledge. The revelation of God in Scripture is that which we are to love, read, meditate upon and appropriate into our lives more than anything else. We will never exhaust the riches of God’s grace in Christ that are set forth in Scripture. We will never outgrow our need to learn from the living God as He has revealed Himself in His word. Additionally, we will never learn to discern the actions of men so well as we do when we are in God’s word. The Proverbs, for instance, are the plumb line of all of the thoughts, words and actions of men in this world. If we want to become people who discerningly package truth then we must know all the truth that we can about God and men from the Scriptures. 

This principles also has bearing on how ministers preach the word of God. There has been a wonderful re-appropriation of expository preaching in our day. This is, in my opinion, one of the most welcomed shifts in our churches. Ideally, expository preaching allows a man to faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God over a lifetime of ministry. The great upside to an expository ministry is that God’s word speaks for itself and the minister never runs out of material on which to preach. There is always new material to be packaged for the souls and spiritual well-being of the people of God.

2. Focus on Christ. The center of all of God’s revelation in His word is Christ. The Bible was written, the Apostle Peter tells us, in order to set forth “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:10-11). Jesus himself taught that truth when he opened the Scriptures to the two on the road to Emmaus and showed them all the things about himself from the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. Every systematic theological truth that we seek to present to the people of God is related to and dependent on the person and work of Christ. When the Apostle Paul corrects the sinful issues that arise in the church in Corinth, he does so by reminding the people of God about some particular aspect of the redeeming work of Jesus. We never want to take our eyes off of Christ and the significance of His life, death, resurrection, reign and return. 

3. Analyze Others. As we already noted, Scripture give us all the wisdom principles we need for this life. The wisdom of God is both necessary for ourselves and for our need to live as discerning members of His Kingdom. If we are to learn to package knowledge carefully, then we must learn to analyze others well. This has a bearing on ministers who preach to men and women on a weekly basis; but, it also has a bearing on how we all interact with others around us and how we digest what we hear and read from others. There is almost nothing lacking so much in our day as that precious gift of discernment. The more we are in the Scriptures and the more we are keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, the more discerning we will be in our analysis of others and their teaching. 

4. Learn from Others. To a large extent we all become products of our own surroundings. All of us package knowledge, in part, on account of the influence of others. None of us learns in a vacuum. We should be in a constant state of learning. Charles Spurgeon once said, “The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.”

5. Develop Ideas. Once we discern that something someone has said is within the realm of sound doctrine or common grace truth, we should take whatever we have learned, turn it over in our minds, repackage it and make it our own. J. W. Alexander once put it in the following way:

“Dwell on good thoughts…Think it out. If it occurs in reading, pause, raise your eyes from the book, and follow it out. Thoughts which come up first are naturally trite. This is especially so of illustration. If one occurs, pursue it, follow it into the particular parts of the resemblance. If a metaphor or similitude, carry it forth in all its lesser resemblances…All these processes of thought will be useful at some other time, for our good trains of thought are seldom entirely lost. No man could ever speak extempore, if every thing he said was literally the fruit of the moment. No; in many instances by some association, a whole train of thoughts which had been forgotten for years will be brought up.”

5. Know Yourself. Some would insist on starting with this principle. I end with it because it is possible to so focus on yourself that you become stuck in a rut of self-complacency or self-justification. When we remain in God’s word, focus on Christ, analyze and learn from others, we will be in the best position possible to scrutinize, critique and improve ourselves. If, in my own thinking, I am the measure of man then I will only be measured by myself. If, however, I desire to learn everything that I can from God’s word, see that Jesus is the measure of a man, and am seeking to discerningly learn from others, I will be in the best position possible to know my own weaknesses and unhelpful packaging of knowledge. By God’s grace, as we give ourselves to these things, we can become men and women who better understand our own packaging of knowledge against the truth of God’s word and the way in which others package it. 

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

Songs of Pentecost

By Greg Wilbur

Pentecost marks the end of the season of Easter as the promised Spirit is poured out on the Church. This is the seal of the New Covenant—the presence of the Lord descends on His people just as the pillar of fire descended on the tabernacle and the temple on the Holist of Holies. With the veil of the temple torn in two at the death of Christ, the access to God—the mercy seat and the symbols of the sacraments—is bestowed on the Church who is now collectively the temple of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is effectively the birthday of the Church.

It is difficult to find songs about the Holy Spirit or the Trinity that speak clearly about the biblically defined role of the Spirit. Following are a few potential hymns and songs:

Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God
Text ad Music: Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, 2006.
“Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord to renew my heart and make me whole.”
Come, Thou Almighty King
Text: Anonymous, 1757; Music: TRINITY, Felice de Giardini, 1769.
“Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour.
Thou Who almighty art, now rule in every heart,
And ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power!”
Come Down, O Love Divine
Text: Bianco da Siena, d. 1434, Tr Richard Littledale, 1867;
Music: DOWN AMPNEY, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906.
“Come down, O Love divine!
seek out this soul of mine
and visit it with your own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, your holy flame bestowing.”
Holy God We Praise Your Name
Text: Based on Te Deum, 4th c., Attr Ignace Franz, 1774;
Music: GROSER GOTT, Katholisches Gesangbuch, 1774.
“Holy Father, holy Son,
Holy Spirit, three we name you,
Though in essence only one;
Undivided God we claim you
And, adoring, bend the knee
While we own the mystery.”
O God, the Holy Spirit
Text and Music: David L. Ward, 2006.
“…my Comforter and Teacher, be merciful to me.
You hovered over chaos the land and sea to part
So manifest Your power to calm my restless heart.”
“O God the Holy Spirit, put Jesus on display;
remind me how my Savior took all my guilt away.
My sins were all forgiven and satisfaction made,
Atonement was completed, my captive soul was saved.”
Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Text: Edwin Hatch, 1878, Music: TRENTHAM, Robert Jackson, 1888
There is a Redeemer
Text and Music: Melody Green-Sievright, 1982
“Thank you, O my Father, for giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit till the work on earth is done.”


Gregory Wilbur is Chief Musician at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Franklin, TN where he also serves as a Ruling Elder. In addition to his work at the church, Greg serves as Dean and Senior Fellow of New College Franklin—a Christian liberal arts college that he helped to start.His music for congregational worship can be found at www.wilburmusic.com.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

Seeing, Hearing, Believing

By Matthew Holst

Every single day, Christians are confronted with a barrage of competing messages. One cannot drive down the nterstate without being assaulted with numerous billboard messages–-political, commercial and even sexual. Visual messaging is the manner in which society has chiefly chosen to communicate. Perhaps one of the greatest confrontations we face, is when the Word of God and Providence appear to collide–when circumstances appear to contradict God’s promise, or what we see collides with what we believe. Such, can indeed, be a great trial of faith.

The unbelieving world is constantly telling us that “seeing is believing.” Sadly, believers often work according to that maxim. If we could just see evidence of God’s plan and goodness, or somehow be assured through circumstance, all would be well. If we could only know everything will work out (usually according to our definition) our faith would rest secure. Yet we must be clear, that mindset, is thoroughly unchristian and by no means the way God has determined we should walk. Consider the following example:

In John 20, Mary Magdalene approached the tomb of the Lord weeping with great sorrow (Jn. 20:11,13,15). She assumed (15) that the Lord’s body had been stolen and hidden, and with loving devotion asked the one whom she supposed to be the gardener, where he was laid. She was actually looking at her Lord but didn’t have the eyes to see it. She saw with the eyes of flesh but still did not recognize him.

What had happened? Because he had cured her of demon possession, Mary loved her Lord with great zeal. She was, no doubt, devasted by the circumstances surrounding his death. She stayed at the foot of the cross, and then came to minister to her Lord in his supposed burial. She had not comprehended the teaching of Christ, that he must suffer, die, be buried and be raised from the dead. None of his disciples had truly comprehended this fact The circumstances before them overcame their earlier faith. They could not comprehend a resurrection – the supernatural and true explanation for the empty tomb; rather, they settled for a natural explanation – namely, that his body had been stolen. Circumstance over-ruled the Word of Christ.

The icing on the cake, and proof that seeing is not believing is that Mary did not recognize Christ by sight when he appeared before her, supposing him to be the gardener. She saw him but was not believing him. Conversely, when Jesus called her name, “Mary,” her “eyes” were opened and she believed. It was not sight that convinced her, it was the spoken word of Christ.

This point is vitally important for the Christian to grasp. God’s Word to us is sure and certain, regardless of circumstance. Sorrow, sickness, pain, poverty, bereavement, unemployment, divorce, tragedy can never undo the Word of God. These trials, are in fact, God’s providential care and ordering of all things or his glory and our blessing. Providence and Promise, simply cannot collide.

More importantly, God has not designed faith to be based on sight. That’s why it is called faith – because it accepts, believes and trusts things that are unseen, not seen (Heb. 11:1). We are all comfronted with the question, “Will we believe and trust God in spite, or we might add, even through such trials?” Here are several pointers to help us in this matter:

First, do we believe by sight or by hearing? The Apostle tells us faith comes by hearing not by sight (Rom. 10:14). We ought not, then, strive to supplement our faith with things that we see, rather than with the things we hear in God’s word.

Second, this rule (i.e. “we walk by faith, not by sight”) guards us against two extremes: 1) Doubting God’s word in times of hardship and 2) forgetting God in times of blessing. Prov 30:8-9 speaks to this “…give me neither poverty nor riches… lest I be full and deny you…or lest I be poor and steal”. Living by faith ought always to remind us that in blessing we are undeserving and in hardship we are preserved by God’s grace.

Third, faith accepts both promise and providence as working in harmony, not competition. Job initially answered correctly “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Providence as much as promise belongs to God and can no more contradict each other than can Father and Son.

Finally, and this is of great value to the Christian. We are not given to see much of what we hold by faith. That does not make our faith any weaker than those who saw Christ’s resurrection. Indeed, our Lord said to Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed.” (John 20:29).

Indeed, seeing is not believing.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

Facing Our Fear of Failure

By Justin Poythress

We never forget our spectacular failures; but more often than not, the fear, regret, and embarrassment evaporate, leaving behind the residue of a humorous story. After we have healed, what remains is the callous of proven resilience. At least, that’s how we should work through our failures in light of God’s sovereignty and goodness. Granted, this pattern does not apply so much to moral failures, or deep trauma, though those episodes can still result in redemptive value.

One of the best ways to develop the next generation of leaders in the church is to create a culture which allows the freedom to fail. Because, let’s face it, if you hand over your car keys to your sixteen year old, you can pretty well guarantee the car is not going to come back to you in better condition. The spectacle of driving which you will powerlessly witness will not be textbook safety nor race car precision. But unless you want to play chauffeur to your maturing young adult, you must run that risk.

So why, in the church, do we fear failure? The question is not so much why do we fear our own failure. The desire to save face, appear successful, and project a shinier image comes as the universal affliction of our human pride. However, we should question why we harbor such fear when it comes to allowing others to fail in church ministry? Not that we should ever seek out and court failure for failure’s sake, but why do we often have such a sharp recoil to the notion of putting forward a younger, inexperienced Christian who increases likelihood of bobbles and spills?

We have numerous reasons: the additional work created by having to clean up the spills, the prideful illusion that we are irreplaceable, the loss of control, etc. But these are less insidious. We all know, deep down, that we only forge ahead through new blood, and one generation must proclaim to the next the mighty acts of the Lord, i.e. the salvation of Christ (Ps 145:4).

We must do serious soul searching when it comes to the urge we all have to follow the ‘sanctified’ rationales against the potential failure of leadership:

  1. Failure isn’t honoring to God – it looks like God has failed.
  2. The desire to market & commercialize our faith – trying to replicate the mega church gloss.

Both of these tread on more dangerous waters than our prideful yearning for self-exaltation. They expose a confused theology about who is dependent on whom. Both merit more detailed explorations of their manifestations and varied packaging in today’s church, but they spring from the same misconception. We want to treat God and the gospel like a business product, the profitability of which depends on our planning and execution.

This sounds harmless enough – doesn’t God want us to do our work “as unto the Lord”? (1 Cor 10:31) The problem comes in the hidden assumption that God is in Heaven, wringing His hands over whether we have a typo in the call to worship, or a ministry leader who misinterprets Zephaniah.

When God calls Jeremiah to ministry leadership, Jeremiah expresses doubts and hesitancy about his inexperience.

“Ah Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you…Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer 1:6-9)

No matter the ministry role, from preacher to greeter, we must remember that our authority and effectiveness relies on the power of God’s Spirit. We speak His words, not our own. God takes offense at the objection to youth because it belies an overestimate of human skill within Divine action. Fearlessness comes the more we can remove ourselves, and our credentials and qualifications from the equation, and instead rely on the sufficiency of God to do his work through His Word. This leads to a freedom to fail, which produces an environment in which new leadership can thrive. The solution is not to throw people into the deep end and shout ‘swim!’, but to swim alongside the learner, allowing him to flail a little bit. During those times, we can look forward to how God loves to have his power made known in weakness, not only through us, but despite us.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

Ascension Hymns

By Greg Wilbur

The season of Easter draws to a close with the Ascension and Pentecost—the final days of the earthly ministry of Christ and the birthday of the church. There’s a very real sense in which the work of the resurrection is not complete until the ascension of Christ when he returns to the right hand of the Father in human form and in power and authority. This is the ultimate defeating of death: “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Psalm 110:1

The author of Hebrews put it in the following way:

But when Christ  had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12)

He also spoke of this aspect of Christ’s work when he said,

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Hebrews 1:3-4)

Recognizing the reality and theological significance of the Ascension, either forty days after Easter or as a regular part of worship, guides our congregations in the rich truths of the completed work of Christ and His divine authority as King of kings.

Following are some hymn suggestions that highlight the authority of Christ as unfolded in the Ascension.

Crown Him with Many Crowns (especially verse 7)

Text: Matthew Bridges, 1852; Music: Diademata, George J. Elvey, 1868.

“Crown Him the Lord of heaven Enthroned in worlds above Crown Him the King to Whom is given The wondrous name of Love. Crown Him with many crowns As thrones before Him fall. Crown Him ye king with many crowns, For He is King of all.”


Before the Throne of God Above

Text: Charitie Bancroft, 1863; Music: Vikki Cook, 1997

A wonderful exploration of the role of Christ as mediator.


Rejoice the Lord is King

Text: Charles Wesley, 1746; Music: Darwall, John Darwall, 1770.

“He sits at God’s right hand till all his foes submit.”


Sing to Jesus

Text & Music: Fernando Ortega and Rich Nibbe, 2002.

“Christ who died, risen in paradise, giver of mercy, giver of life. Sing to Jesus, His is the throne. Now and forever, He is the King of Heaven.”


O Christ, Our Hope, Our Hearts Desire

Text: Latin Hymn, 8th Century, Tr. By John Chandler, 1837; Music: Kingsfold, Old English Folk Song

“And Thou art on Thy Father’s throne in glorious robes arrayed.” “All praise to thee ascended Lord, All glory ever be.”


Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (by William C. Dix, the author of “What Child is This?”)

Text: William C. Dix, 1867; Music: Hyfrydol, Rowland Hugh Pritchard, 1855.


There is No Greater Portrait

Text and Music: Eric Schumacher & David L. Ward, 2005.

“But now the Son is risen, ascended to the skies, By angels He is worshiped, by nations glorified.”


Join All the Glorious Names (especially verse 8)

Text: Isaac Watts, 1709; Music: Darwall, John Darwall, 1770.

“Jesus, my great High Priest, Offered His blood, and died; My guilty conscience seeks No sacrifice beside: His powerful blood did once atone, And now it pleads before the throne.”


A Hymn of Glory, Let Us Sing, vs 7

Text: The Venerable Bede, 673-735; Trans Benjamin Webb, 1854; Music: Lasst Uns Erffeuen, Peter von Brachel, 1623

“O risen Christ, ascended Lord, All praise to Thee let earth accord. Alleluia! Alleluia!”


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

When You Go Through the Valley

By Christina Fox

On a recent trip to Israel, I had the privilege of walking where Jesus walked. Our group also explored sites and locations of important places and events in the Old Testament. After spending a couple of days in the Jordan River Valley, we headed west toward Jerusalem. We read through the Psalms of Assent as we followed the path Israelite pilgrims took on their yearly visit to the Temple. On the way, we stopped at the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

This valley was one of the main routes travelers took to Jerusalem. It’s a deep canyon of rock, and because it is deep, it is dark. While we were there, a Bedouin shepherd watched over his sheep frolicking on a nearby hillside; their baa’s echoing across the canyon. A sixth century monastery was built right into the canyon walls, at the site where it is believed Elijah was fed by ravens. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is so named because travelers were at risk from the thieves and bandits hiding in the shadowy darkness, looking for people to rob. Wild animals lurked in the shadows as well. It was this road that Jesus referred to in the parable about the Good Samaritan.

The Valleys of Life

The phrase, “valley of the shadow of death,” also occurs in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v.4). Psalm 23 is a psalm of confidence in God’s care for his people. Just as a shepherd meets the needs of his sheep, the Lord provides for us.

In this psalm, David used the phrase “valley of the shadow of death” metaphorically, yet metaphors are often based on real things. For the Israelite familiar with traveling through a dangerous valley, such as The Valley of the Shadow of Death, it likely helped them identify with the metaphor. They knew what it was like to journey through the darkness, wondering when something or someone would jump out at them from the shadows. To be reminded that God watches over his people would have given them confidence in all their valleys—real or figurative.

While we don’t travel through dark valleys in a physical sense, we understand it in a metaphorical sense. Our dark valleys today might look like physical suffering and chronic pain. We might experience loss and sorrow. We might face persecution in our work or culture. We might go through emotional valleys of doubt, despair, or fear. We might experience temptations to sin from within and without. In all of these valleys, it can feel like we are all alone.

Psalm 23 reminds us that it is God who leads us through the valleys. No valley we face is unexpected. They are placed before us by a sovereign God— for our good and his glory. Sometimes he calls us to walk through those valleys, like the Israelite called to sacrifice at the Temple each year. And like the Israelite pilgrim, we can be certain that communion and worship with God will be the reward for our journey.

Whatever the valley, God is our shepherd and promises to be with us.

God is with Us

This passage describes the shepherd’s rod and staff as a comfort, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” A shepherd was known to carry a staff to use in keeping and guarding his sheep. As our shepherd, God also comforts us with his rod and staff.

He uses his rod to rule: A shepherd used his rod to rule over the sheep. He told them where to go; he was their master who led them from one grazing hill to another. Likewise, God is our ruler; he reigns over all things. He governs our life. He determines where we go. He is the one we look to for guidance and wisdom. When we go through dark valleys, he is the one leading us. As our shepherd, we can trust him to bring us to the other side.

He uses his rod to count: A shepherd often used his rod to count his sheep as they walked by him. Our Father chose us in Christ to be a part of his flock and he knows each of us by name. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). When we wander from God, he goes to whatever lengths necessary to bring us back to him, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” (Matthew 18:12). When we walk through dark valleys, we can rest assured that our shepherd never loses one of his sheep.

He uses his rod to guide: A shepherd used the crook of his rod to pull back sheep when they wandered from the flock. He also used it to chastise them. When they were slow or distracted, he used the rod to prod them. So the Lord does with us. As the writer to Hebrews 12:5-6 said, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Sometimes our dark valleys are places where the Lord brings us for purposes of training or discipline. We can trust that he does so out of love.

He uses his rod to protect: The shepherd also used his rod to protect his sheep from wild animals. God protects us from evil. Some valleys are so dark it seems as though God has forgotten us. It can be tempting to doubt his love and goodness. We can be confident that our shepherd will never leave us or forsake us. There is nothing and no one that can keep us from his love. He will keep us from all evil (see Romans 8:38-39).

Christ and the Valley

All of Scripture points to and is fulfilled in Christ, including Psalm 23. He is the son of David promised in Ezekiel 34, the shepherd who would rule over, provide for, and protect his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:11).

Jesus walked through the valley of the shadow of death before us. We can rest assured that our Savior knows the way through whatever valley we walk. He knows what it is to feel the shadows of death creep over him. He knows what it is to face evil, temptation, enemies, and emotional turmoil. As Spurgeon wrote, “As surely as this Word of God is true, your Lord has felt he chill of the death-shade. There is no gloom of spirit, apart from the sin of it, into which Jesus has not fallen! There is no trouble of soul, or turmoil of heart which is free from sin, which the Lord has not known”[1] Our Savior journeyed through the valley, sacrificed his life on the altar for our sins, and conquered death when he rose from the grave.

Psalm 23 is a comforting psalm, reminding us that we don’t walk through the valleys of life on our own. We have a Good Shepherd who went before us and even now leads us, guides us, and protects us.

1. https://www.spurgeongems.org/vols25-27/chs1595.pdf

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

Coveting Beauty

By Donny Friederichsen

As the people of God stood on the banks of the Jordan River and cast a wishful eye toward the Promised Land, Moses passed the mantle of leadership over to Joshua. As the new leader of the people, Joshua was to take the people across that river, remove the Canaanites, and take possession of the land the Lord had promised them. The first city to be handed over to Israel was Jericho. In a miraculous battle, the Israelites destroyed the city wall with a shout and completely overwhelmed the city. The people were strictly charged that except for Rahab and her family, “all that is within [the city] shall be devoted (hebrew herem) to the LORD for destruction” (Josh 6:17). Silver, gold, bronze, and iron was to go into the treasury of the LORD. This first city was to be offered to the LORD as the firstfruits of their receiving the Promised Land. The dedication of the devoted things was a spiritual offering to God. It was worship.

“But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things” (Josh 7:1). Achan, the son of Carmi, had taken some of the devoted things for himself. But Achan’s sin went unnoticed by most for some time. It wasn’t until Joshua led the people into battle again that the consequences of Achan’s sin were felt by the people.

The next city to be taken was Ai. Joshua sent fewer men than before but these soldiers fled from the men of Ai. Thirty-six of the Israelites died and the hearts of the people “melted like wax” (Josh 7:5). Joshua was undone. He tore his clothes and fell before the LORD asking why this had happened. The LORD responded to Joshua and revealed that the people had broken covenant by taking the devoted things. The people had stolen the things devoted for destruction and lied about it, now the LORD would devote the people to destruction.

Achan still did not confess his sin. Only after Joshua cast lots and narrowed it down to the tribe of Judah, then the clan of the Zerahites, the family of Zabdi, the son of Carmi, and then to Achan, only then was Achan exposed. At this point Achan confessed his sin to Joshua. “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them” (Josh 7:20, 21). The sin of the people was now exposed to the light.

The initial seed of Achan’s sin was that he did not obey the voice of the LORD. He was tempted to ignore God’s authority by his desire, “then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). Achan’s confession revealed three actions in his sin: I saw (hebrew raah), I coveted (hebrew chamad, and [I] took (hebrew laqach). These are the same three verbs used in the Genesis 3:6 depiction of Eve’s sin: she saw (raah ) the fruit, it was to be desired (chamad), and she took (laqach). What was the initial seed of Eve’s sin? She did not obey the voice of the LORD. She was tempted by the serpent when he questioned and subtly twisted God’s Word by asking, “Did God actually say?” Notice also the subtle twisting of Achan’s confession, “When I saw among the spoil…” (Josh 7:21). Spoil (hebrew shalal) is booty that a victorious army was allowed to take after a raid. But in this occasion the LORD had prohibited “spoil” and declared all the items as devoted to destruction (hebrew herem). Achan had subtly tried to change God’s Word to minimize or rationalize his sin.

Alexander Whyte summarized Thomas A’ Kempis’ description of the successive steps of successful temptation, “First the bare thought of the sin enters. Then a picture formed of the sin is hung on the secret screen of the imagination. A strange sweetness from that picture is then let down drop by drop into the heart; and then that secret sweetness soon secures the consent of the whole soul, and then the thing is done” (Whyte, A., Bible Characters From the Old and New Testament, 172). Achan was betrayed by his eyes when they caught sight of the gold and silver. He coveted the treasures and had to have them. Then his actions fulfilled the desires of his heart and he took them. His desire gave birth to his sin.

The Psalmist gives the instruction that the Law of the LORD is “more to be desired…than gold, even much fine gold” (Ps 19:10). Achan’s sin was that he coveted the silver and gold. This violation of the tenth commandment was born out of a violation of the first commandment. This is similar to how the apostle Paul equates covetousness with idolatry in Colossians 3:5. There is nothing wrong with beautiful things. But when their beauty captivates our eyes and our heart more than the beauty of Christ, then we have begun to worship false gods. Achan had cherished the things devoted to the LORD more than he cherished the LORD. And the consequence for his false worship was that he became what he worshiped. He became devoted to destruction.

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The Law Court to the Living Room

By David Prince

Is the message of the Protestant Reformation still an important one for today? Having just recently celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Pew Research Center decided to do a study for release on August 31, 2017 to find out if Protestant Christians believe today the truths that were fought for during the Reformation. When they released the results, they titled it, “U.S. Protestants Are Not Defined by Reformation Era Controversies 500 Years Later.”1 The study explains that 52% of Protestants say that both the good deeds and faith are necessary in order to get to heaven, a historically Roman Catholic view.

The Reformation is never really over. In every generation, there is a struggle for the very heart and truth of the gospel. Preserving the Solas of the Protestant Reformation, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, and Glory to God Alone, is vital. The “Alones” makes all of the difference. This task is never merely abstract or theoretical; it is practical. How these questions are answered affects the way people live. I believe that the Protestant Reformers were correct: any notion of our merits contributing to our salvation produces fear, insecurity, bondage, and a stricken conscience. I believe that Calvin’s relentless determination, following the apostle Paul, to always express the gospel not only in terms of the courtroom, which is foundational, but also in terms of the family room, is a path we would do well to recover.

I once spoke with a family who adopted a teen girl who had been terrified that she was going to age out of the system with no family. When the girl first came home with the family after the judge had declared legally that she was their child she was still full of fear. In the morning when the parents woke up and went to her bedroom, she would be sitting on the bed and her room would be immaculate. And often she would say something like, “See how clean my room is. Can I stay?” This idea that she had to earn her place to stay in the family broke her adoptive parent’s hearts. They told her, “We love you because you are our child no matter what you do! Nothing will change that!”  The first time the parents got up in the morning and saw that she had not cleaned her room they high-fived one another. It’s not that they didn’t want her to clean her room, it is just that they did not want her to do it as a servant’s wages. After all, she now possessed a son’s inheritance, and she did not have to earn it.

In his sermon on Galatians 4:4-7, John Calvin explained Paul’s purpose in Galatians: “The apostles object is to show that the grace of adoption, and the hope of salvation, do not depend on the law, but are contained in Christ alone, who therefore is all.”2 Paul’s argument in Galatians builds to his explanation of adoption in chapter four. As J.I. Packer notes, Paul’s argument is that “adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification.” He explains,

“Justification is the primary blessing, so it is the fundamental blessing, in the sense that everything else in our salvation assumes it, and rests on it—adoption included. But this is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the gospel. Adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves.”3

Adoption and Redemptive History

Paul explains, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son” (Gal 4:4a). In the previous chapter of Galatians, Paul focused on the Abrahamic promise and the law of Moses, contending that justification is by faith alone and not through law keeping. In fact, the law exposes our unrighteousness and leaves us with no hope but justification by faith alone. While there are distinctions between people in terms of ethnicity, class, and gender, in terms of the need for the gospel and what it means to be in Christ, we are one. Our distinctions are no longer barriers for those who are in Christ, they represent the unique glory of familial relationships, the household of God (see, Eph 2:11-22). Paul summarizes in Galatians 3:23-29:

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

In Galatians 4:1-3, Paul builds on the categories he has already introduced by way of an illustration. An “heir,” Paul says, is “no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything” (Gal 4:1). The “heir” is a Jew who had the law of God. He is not different from a slave in that, like the slave, he has no access to an inheritance. The inheritance was “under guardians and managers,” (Gal 4:2) meaning the law (Gal 3:24), until the appointed time of the Father. In Galatians 4:3, Paul says that Jews and Gentiles were “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” In the context, it seems that Paul is referring to the ABC-like natural defaults that people choose for justification. Many Jews corrupted the law of God by treating it like a path for salvation, and many Gentiles followed their own self-generated fleshly desires as a means of righteousness. Both the Abrahamic promise and the law of Moses pointed beyond themselves toward Christ.

Adoption is not a metaphor Paul invented, but rather it is where redemptive history was always heading. In Ephesians 1:10, Paul says that God is at work in the world with “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.” When, in the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, it was a significant turning point in redemptive history. After all, Galatians begins with a reference to “the present evil age” (Gal 1:4) and concludes with a reference to “a new creation” (Gal 6:15).

Adoption and the Messianic Mission

As Paul continues, he characterizes the Son with two pregnant descriptors. The first descriptor is that the Son was “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4b). He was the incarnate Son, which points all the way back to the original gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, that a seed born of woman will crush the head of the serpent. The second descriptor is that he was “born under the law” (Gal 4:4b), which means he was born ethnically an Israelite. The Jewish nation was the people to whom the law and promises were given. The two descriptors of the Son are immediately followed by two hina (purpose) clauses, which describe his mission. The first purpose is stated in legal terms: “to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal 4:5a). In the previous chapter, Paul stated that Christ removed the curse that believers deserve by becoming a curse for us on the cross (Gal 3:13). God the Son, Jesus, is able to redeem because he was the only Jew fully obedient to the law and covenant promises. The second purpose of Jesus’ mission is stated in personal terms: “so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:5b).

Paul’s two descriptors and two purpose statements tie Jesus’ person and work together. The saving mission of the unique son of God is expressed in terms of redemption and adoption.  In the previous chapter, when Paul wrote that Christ became a curse for us (Gal 3:13), he followed that assertion in the next verse with a statement of blessing: “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14). Calvin explains, “The word Blessing is variously employed in Scripture: but here it signifies Adoption into the inheritance of eternal life.”4 To summarize, God sent his Son as the Redeemer on the messianic mission of adoption. J.I. Packer describes this as “adoption through propitiation” and asserts, “I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.”5

Adoption and the Spirit of Adoption

According to Paul, our sonship in Christ is to become our controlling identity. Paul writes, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6). In a parallel verse in Romans, Paul writes, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom 8:15).  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and another title for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption. The indwelling Spirit of God is at work in the believer’s life, confirming their identity as children of God. In other words, we live in the freedom of God’s love. Consider Calvin’s warmth as he comments on these verses in a sermon,

“We have been assured that God pities us and bears with our weaknesses, as a father with his children,…we are not to lose confidence if we stumble or fall, or make mistakes; that is to say, if we do not fulfill all the is expected with the desired perfection. We are not to feel totally defeated, for we can be sure that God still holds our hand and will not bring us to account for each thing, or scrutinize us rigorously.”6

Calvin believed it was significant that Paul used the word “crying” for the work the Spirit does in our hearts (Gal 4:6). He explains, “Paul could well have used the word ‘saying,’ but he goes further, for a reason…he says that we cry out that God as our father with a loud voice and absolute certainty, coming to him boldly to glorify him because we are his children.”7  Calvin further explains that the believer has exchanged a fearful “spirit of bondage” for the “Spirit of adoption as sons” (Rom 8:15), which brings assurance. Assurance of sonship that is so clear we can cry out to God with the intimate language of “Abba! Father!” “Abba” is in Aramaic word. So why would Paul use it in a letter written primarily to Greek speaking Gentiles? Because it was the way Jesus, the only begotten Son, cried out to the Father (Mark 14:36). In Christ, sons of God, speak to God the Father with the intimacy of God the Son.

Herein lies Calvin’s problem with the church of Rome. He explains, “They say that we can never be sure of God’s [Fatherly] love,” whereas according to Calvin, “the most important thing for us to be persuaded about is that God is our Father.”8 In Galatians 4:7, Paul adds, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Calvin believed that any system of salvation that included human merit, while it might speak of grace, left men living in fearful servitude rather than freedom as sons. He writes,

“First, let us be heartily convinced that the Kingdom of Heaven is not servants’ wages but sons’ inheritance [Eph. 1:18], which only they who have been adopted as sons by the Lord shall enjoy [cf. Gal. 4:7], and that for no other reason than this adoption [cf. Eph. 1:5–6].”9

Salvation is by grace alone from beginning to end. If the almighty Judge has declared you righteous because his Son has paid your penalty in full and if he then stepped down from the bench, not only forgiving your debt, but also declaring you now his Son with full rights to his inheritance, what is there to fear? What can you be lacking if the one who owns everything has adopted you as a son, united you to his only begotten Son, and given you the Spirit of adoption? Let us conclude with Calvin’s final words in his Galatians 4:4-7 sermon:

“Now let us fall before the presence of our great God, acknowledging our sins, and praying that he would make us aware of them so that we humble ourselves before him. At the same time, let us not lose courage, since he accepts us, and willingly deigns to listen to our petitions when we come to him with complete trust. May he grant us grace to overcome all problems and hindrances, and all arguments and questions that the devil sets in our hearts, that we may know the truth of that promise, that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21). Thus, we all say Almighty God, and our heavenly father.”10

  1.    See, http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2017/08/30155023/US-Protestant-Reformation-FINAL.pdf
  2. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, 112.
  3. J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 207.
  4. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, 88.
  5. J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 214.
  6. John Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, trans., Kathy Childress (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 372-373.
  7. Ibid., 375-376.
  8. Ibid., 379.
  9. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:822.
  10. John Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, 384

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

Teach Us to Pray…

By Matthew Holst

Prayer is a spiritual discipline which is, in equal measure, both difficult and rewarding. Our struggles are surpassed by the blessings we derive from God’s love in answering our prayers. Yet prayer remains difficult. Perhaps it is difficult because we do not view it as an act of worship, and even less so, communion with God. Here are seven principles derived from the Lord’s prayer which are meant to assist us in prayer, worship and communion with our Father in heaven:

First, there is the obligation to pray. In Matt. 6:5, our Lord says, “and when you pray.” He does not leave the matter to chance or choice; rather, he assumes the practice in the Christian life. It is an expectation and obligation of the Christian life, and yet we ought to see it as more than that. Perhaps it is even the greatest privilege of the Christian life, that we are brought into such a close communion with the Triune God when we pray. Perhaps if we thought of that privilege, the duty of prayer would become more like the delight of prayer.

Second, there is the importance of prayer. Prayer is of such importance that our Lord instructs his disciples in the matter on at least two occasions: once at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew) and then later (in Luke) at the request of his disciples. If our Lord saw fit to train us through explicit instruction (not mention the abundance of implicit instruction in Scripture) we can be certain the practice of prayer is, indeed, important. It deserves our study, energy and zeal.

Third, we are taught how to pray. We do not know how to pray naturally. “How should we pray?” is quite a good question for us to ask. Given our Lord’s instruction, we ought to take stock of our natural inabilities or inherent spiritual laziness and understand the Jesus here, gives us a seminar on how to pray to God. Thomas Watson wrote, “Our souls lie at stake, eternity is before us; and to entreat with God on the business of eternity, is business that needs direction”1

Fourth, we witness in the Lord’s Prayer, the heart of prayer. While it is called our Lord’s Prayer, it could equally be called, “How not to pray like the hypocrites and Gentiles.” The prayer is a prayer of contrast, between the faithless hypocrite and the Gentile without knowledge. Neither knows God – they think they can earn righteousness or be heard by their mode of outward expression. Christians pray to “our Father in Heaven.” That sets this prayer on another plane altogether. It is a prayer to the Most-High God, the Eternally Righteous Judge, who we can call our Father. Faith in Christ grants us that access. Let us never forget such.

Fifth, who is to pray? Jesus says “when you pray go into room.” The you here is singular. Christians are to pray as individuals. Christians, as individuals are to commune with God in prayer. Yet our Lord also says we are to pray “Our Father in heaven.” Clearly Christ has in mind corporate prayer, whether in the assembly of the saints or in smaller groups. Families, friends, Christians are expected to pray, with and for each other.

Sixth, the pattern and from of the prayer. Is the Lord’s prayer a pattern or a set form? It appears to be both, if you look at the corresponding accounts in Matthew and Luke. However, does the prayer provides us with insight into how we should pray? Look at the division of petitions: the first three pertain to the glory of God, the second three to our needs. That ought to be the ordinary order in which we approach God – concern for his name and glory then for our own needs. Perhaps an over-emphasis on our own needs impoverishes our prayer lives?

Seventh, the content of Prayer. A cursory glance at the petitions will reveal that they are all petitions found in Scripture. The glory of God’s name, the growth and coming of the kingdom, God’s will being done etc. are all biblical petitions. Christ is teaching us to preach Scripture, for then we are certain to be praying according to the will of God.


1. Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion, Part 2, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 2 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1848), 556.

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The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.

A Free Speech Loving Gospel

By Justin Poythress

Has free speech ever really been free? The growth spurt of ‘safe spaces’, the label of ‘hate speech’, and the push back against speech-induced violence have created a reactionary surge in America to protect our 1st amendment rights. While the goal of safeguarding open dialogue serves the cause of Christ, and the advance of his kingdom, we cannot neatly tuck gospel proselytizing under the umbrella of free speech.

Few, if any people, would advocate completely open and free speech with no consequences. For example, we do not allow people to yell out ‘fire’ in a public space. We have rules against libel and false witness. People who issue threats against others’ lives or property face punishment. Christian schools do not allow professors or clubs to promote LGBT agendas. Turns out we have quite a few rules governing how people speak. Speech never has been, nor should it ever be, one hundred percent “free.”

If we bear this in mind, it becomes easier to understand those who argue against, and wish to ban ‘hate speech’, which they define as attacking a person based on things like gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc. In their eyes, such bans simply serve as a logical, 21st century extension of protecting a human being against direct threats to his person.

This begs two questions: “What constitutes a direct threat against someone’s person?” And, “what do we mean by ‘free speech’?”

In a robustly relativistic culture, in one sense, every statement, every sentence anyone utters ‘threatens’ the hearer’s existing belief paradigm. If all truth is up for grabs and individually defined, then your flat, close-minded assertion that, for example, ‘a rabbit is a mammal’, could theoretically ‘threaten’ me, if my unwavering belief that rabbits are sui generis (in a class to themselves) is close enough to the core of my being. Functionally, we can all be grateful that politically correct boundaries have not swollen to such absurd territory. However, we must not naively believe that because words are not actions, they cannot pose a threat. Nor should we be surprised when media, universities, and the world at large reveal that they have an established, if fluid, set of doctrines, or accepted beliefs, which they will vigorously defend from antithetical truth claims. This is nothing new.

In Jeremiah’s age, his message (though true and immensely practical) that God would give Jerusalem over to the Chaldeans, was not well received. The leaders saw that if people believed Jeremiah’s words, it would have direct consequences on their actions and their motivation to defend the city. So they chucked Jeremiah in a pit. (Jer 38) This was a man speaking unpopular words of God’s judgment on a sinful people. The response of the leaders, though compounding their guilt, was by no means irrational. We cannot pretend that words do not have power. God promises that His Word will always have an impact, and will not come back void. (Is 55:11)

This brings us to the second question, which is: What do we mean by ‘free speech’? If free speech entails the ability to live free from hypocrisy, free from speaking out of both sides of our mouth in order to stay alive, free to seek for truth, free to express minority opinions and desires, then this is a noble and good cause. If, however ‘free speech’ means equal validation of every truth claim, or even a commitment to promote a level playing field for every voice to receive an equal hearing, then we are expecting a scenario not only humanly impossible and chaotic, but also immoral. Christian leaders of businesses or institutions are doing a great disservice and harm to those they influence if they so much as indirectly imply the possibility for many truths to coexist in parity. All ‘truth’ is not created equal.

However, the gospel does not triumph through coercion. The gospel triumphs because it is the truth, and the truth sets people free. Christians need not clench up in fear and raise the drawbridge when we see false worldviews approaching with their dangerous conclusions in tow. We can, by the open statement of the truth, commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2). Christians should embrace debate and healthy controversy because we trust the inherent superior attractiveness of the genuine light of Scripture, and the saints whose actions reflect a product of the Holy Spirit’s work. The Christian message loves and promotes the arena of free speech, because Scripture will announce itself like the lion let out of his cage. The gospel contends for hearts and minds, not primarily through shutting down falsehoods, but through shining a spotlight on its own glory, its coherence, its demonstrable power in changing and transforming lives.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

The Christward Collective is a conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting The Christward Collective and the mission of the Alliance.