Questions and Answers

By Ian Potts

Recently some readers have asked me a number of questions. As these are the sort of questions which others might also ask, I thought it might be helpful to compile them, along with answers, for others to read. It should be noted that these answers are not exhaustive and were not written as 'articles', so there is much more that might be said. Nevertheless I trust this will provide a little more background about myself and this website.

Ian Potts, October 2006


Ian, what makes you a Christian or how did you become a Christian, what was the process?

God made me a Christian. He sent His word to me by the preaching of His Gospel by those men whom He sent to preach it, and in due course, through such preaching I came to see what a wretched sinner I was before God, how I was lost, how I was "dead in trespasses and sins" and how God would be just to condemn me to an eternity in hell. God convicted me of my sin and brought me low before Him, in order to bring me to call out to Him for mercy. He showed me His Son, Jesus Christ, and how He came into this world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and how in His death He died in the place of His people, taking their sins to be His and suffering under the outpouring of the wrath of God against those sins. By dying in my place Christ paid the just punishment due to me for both my sinful nature and my sins and by shedding His blood, that blood washed me from my sins. In being brought to see what Christ did for me at the cross God revealed to me that Christ had died for me, washed me clean in His blood, caused me to stand as righteous before a Holy God because all my sins had been blotted out, and on the third day Christ rose again conquering death and giving me everlasting life in Him. So, brought low as a sinner before God I came to see that Christ had blotted out my sin and died to save me, hence God answered my cry for mercy and gave me everlasting life in Christ and peace with God.

All that was done by God for me. I didn't seek Him - God sought me; He showed me who He is, and what I am. He showed me I was lost, by His Holy Spirit He opened my eyes to see that, but also to see that God showed me mercy in Christ, saving me from my sins. Nothing I ever did deserved this, I did not merit my salvation, nor did I 'choose' Jesus - God sought me and saved me. God showed me that I was one of His people chosen in Christ and purchased by His precious blood, shed on the cross for my sins.

My being brought to see and know this didn't happen overnight. In fact it took years and I had truths about Christ and His work preached in sermons many times over to me through those years before I fully understood them. At the beginning of this work of God I was brought to see I was a sinner. I was AWAKENED to my condition and an ALARM was sounded in my heart about my state before God. I knew I was heading for hell if I remained in my sins. I prayed that God would have mercy, and in fact, for some time I thought He had heard me and that I was saved. However for several years I was simply walking in my own strength - I 'embraced' Christianity because I was afraid of hell, not really because I loved Christ. I knew in my HEAD what Christ had done, I had a mental assent to the truth, but that truth hadn't really penetrated my heart. I had a sort of faith, but not true saving faith. I would read the Bible at times, but at other times was disinterested. When I fell into sin I would grieve and seek God, but when things seemed 'fine' my mind would be elsewhere. So I was indeed awakened to the reality of sin and hell, but had yet to be fully convicted of my sin, fully brought low before God, and had yet to love CHRIST for WHO HE IS - the glorious, eternal Son of God who died for those He loved with an everlasting love.

But over time God brought me to an end of myself in religious things. He brought me to see how sinful I was, how weak I was, how wretched I was. He brought me to see that all my own efforts at 'being religious', at Bible-reading, prayer and so on, all came to nothing, unless GOD did the work in me. In the end He brought me to my knees and showed me plainly that salvation was ALL OF GOD, from start to finish. It depended nothing on my ability to live right, on my religious duties, on my efforts to lead a moral life, or worship God aright - for all that, being stained by sin, was pitiful in God's eyes. NO, my salvation depended entirely on GOD'S GRACE - on His showing mercy to me, by sending His Son to die in my place, to bring me everlasting life, the forgiveness of sins, peace with God. When GOD showed me THAT - then a mighty change was wrought within me. Then I came to praise God truly for His great work in saving me, then I had true peace with God, then I knew that I stood before him as righteous in Christ no matter how weak I felt in myself or how I stumbled or fell in my walk. THEN I loved Christ, not just for saving me from hell, but for who He is - the Son of God "who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). In this I had been "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." 1 Peter 1:23. God, the Spirit had over the years shown me my lost condition and then showed me the Saviour I needed. He drew me irresistibly to His feet to bow and worship the Saviour of sinners. And there, by the grace of God, I have been to this day. Sometimes in my flesh I rebel, sometimes I grow cold, sometimes I get confused, but God in His great mercy always draws me back to Christ, who loves me, who washed me in His blood, and I know that I am accepted by a Holy, Righteous God, not for any good I have done, but because of what Christ has done for me - I am accepted in Christ, the beloved Son of God. The Spirit brought this dead sinner to LIFE to know all this and gave him FAITH to see and believe it, and to this day God has kept me and caused me to walk in the truth of it. The truth that "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20.  It is this truth which I love and wish to proclaim to others.


What is your understanding of the word Gospel, What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Well... I have presented something of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my answer to the previous question so I'll be brief here. 'Gospel', is an old English word used to translate the Greek word Evangelion, which essentially means 'Glad Tidings', 'Good News', or God's MESSAGE (His good message) to mankind. God's message to man is delivered in Jesus Christ, who is the 'Word of God'. God speaks through and by Christ and declares the message of His salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for sinners - for those whom the Father chose and gave to Him before ever the world was created.

The Gospel is objective and definitive and sets forth the Person and the Work of Christ. It encompasses all God's truth regarding Him and His salvation. It is the message of God's word, the Bible. It concerns God and man, good and evil, life and death, time and eternity, heaven and hell. No question is more important than how we stand in relation to the Gospel of Christ. How it it with your soul? Do you believe in the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners? Is Christ your Saviour? Do you love His Gospel?

Paul says of that gospel in Romans 1:16 "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth".

However the Gospel is offensive to the natural man. 1 Corinthians 1 clearly tells us that. But it is also man's greatest need - man is lost in sin and needs a Saviour, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Oh! That many would be given ears to hear, and eyes to see the wondrous truths of God's mercy towards sinners set forth in the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To that end, elsewhere on this website you will find plenty of articles and audio messages which declare this Gospel. May God be pleased to use them for the good of His people and for His glory.

(For an exposition of just what the Gospel is download and listen to the audio MP3 message by John Metcalfe called 'Paul not ashamed (of the Gospel)' on Romans 1:16 from this website - see the"Audio" page.)


Must one hear the Gospel preached in order to come into salvation?

I think the straightforward answer to this question, is that as a general rule, yes. I don't state that as an opinion, for my opinions really don't matter. What matters is what the word of God says - and any truth we hold to must be founded upon the word of God. From my reading of the scriptures, I see and believe that God repeatedly stresses in several places that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save sinners. A few simple references will demonstrate this.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it [the gospel] is the power of God unto salvation..." Romans 1:16.
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." 1 Corinthians 1:21
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." ... "But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." 1 Peter 1:23,25
Now here are just three verses which demonstrate that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, that it pleases God by the foolishness of the preaching of that gospel to save them that believe, and that we are born again (regenerated by the Spirit) by the word of God, that word being preached unto us in the gospel. That are many other passages of scripture which emphasise the same things.
It is certainly true that God is sovereign and can do as He pleases. He certainly isn't confined in His power to having to use the actual preaching of the Gospel through the lips of mere men in order to save people. However the fact is that He has chosen to do His work this way. It has pleased Him to save sinners through the preaching of the Gospel. He could, and He is able to, just save sinners Himself by the direct inworking of the Holy Spirit without the use of the gospel whatsoever. But what God is able to do and what He pleases to do are sometimes two different things. The fact is that scripture repeatedly stresses that God is pleased by the foolishness of preaching (the gospel) to save them that believe. That is His appointed means. Why? Because it confounds the wise for God to take poor weak base men and to speak His word through their lips to the saving of others (see 1 Corinthians 1), because God is pleased to make known the truth of His salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in this way. Very simply, in God's great wisdom He has chosen to work this way.
However, some people have reacted to this truth with a certain wariness based upon essentially good (though misguided) motives, and because of an overemphasis of other truths. What they rightly recognise is that salvation is entirely of God, that until man is born again of the Holy Spirit he is dead in trespasses and sins and unable to comprehend the truths of God aright, that man can only believe the Gospel when God regenerates him and gives him faith to believe it. Man doesn't comprehend the truth with his natural mind. He has no strength or ability in himself to turn to God and no faith by nature with which to believe. In seeing all these points some then conclude that the preaching of the Gospel itself cannot save, because man first needs to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit before he can understand and believe that Gospel. Thus they emphasise that regeneration (the new birth) is a sovereign act of God, entirely 'without means' (without the preaching of the Gospel), and as a result of that new birth man is given faith to then believe the Gospel when he hears it. Some of these peopel have thus divided things into two stages in which they stress regeneration by the Spirit without means, and then (afterwards) 'gospel conversion' where a person, already regenerated, hears the gospel and believes it with the faith which they have been given by the Spirit in regeneration.
Now, all that sounds plausible, and is certainly based upon certain truths. 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 emphasises that the natural man (before the new birth) cannot understand spiritual things, so until he is born again by the Spirit he cannot fully comprehend the truth of the Gospel. Some things may make sense in the natural intellect, but not properly. However whilst that is true, and whilst man cannot believe the Gospel until God regenerates him (causes him to be born again of the Spirit), because naturally he has no faith (faith being a gift of God), nevertheless that does not alter the fact that God has said that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save His people. Romans 10:13-17 emphasises the necessity of the preaching of the Gospel and the fact that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". In order to believe the Gospel heard, one must be sovereignly born again of God. But God is pleased to quicken/regenerate sinners to life actually under or as a result of that preaching of the Gospel. This is how He is pleased to work. The work is entirely of His sovereign mercy and grace, but the Spirit of God chooses to work through the preaching of the Gospel, through the lips of those men whom He calls and sends to preach it, in order to quicken sinners to life. He sovereignly sows the word of God as a seed, and when He is pleased He causes that seed to bring forth life in the hearts of those whom God has chosen in Christ.
The order goes something like this: A dead sinner hears a God-sent preacher preach the Gospel. Initially being dead in trespasses and sins the sinner cannot truly understand that Gospel - he remains dead under it. He may comprehend many facts of the Gospel in his head, in his natural mind, but really they just remains facts, mere head knowledge. He never comes to see Christ by faith as He really is, and know the power of His grace, or experience eternal life in Christ by His indwelling in the heart by the Spirit. No, such a sinner merely hears the outward word of the Gospel in his ears, he hears various facts, and may comprehend them to a degree, even 'believe' them (with a natural persuasion) as being right, with his natural intellect, but nevertheless his heart isn't changed, he remains spiritually dead.... And such a state can go on for many years. With others, if they are not the elect of God, that is the state they will remain in until the day they die. Some people sit under the preaching of the Gospel all their life but are never saved by it, because it isn't the outward word alone which saves. This is important to recognise. The Son of God must speak to us inwardly by His Spirit in order to quicken us unto life.
However, for the elect, there comes a time in God's sovereignty, by the preaching of the Gospel when God is pleased to sovereignly regenerate that man unto life, give him a new heart, and grant him faith to believe the truth which he is hearing. Now the word ceases to be just the outward words of man, but become living words of the Holy Spirit which come in power. Having been alarmed by the Gospel to the truth of the day of judgment, having been awakened to his own sinful condition before God, having been convicted of that sin, now, being born again, by the word of God (as spoken by the preacher yes, but also by the Spirit inwardly within the heart), this elect child of God is given faith and by that faith he comes to truly see Christ in the Gospel and believe on Him, embracing Him for salvation, for deliverance from the wrath to come. Now the words which he used to hear in the Gospel which were once just in the 'dead letter' are now living words. What was once a mystery is now revealed, is now made known, and the elect, being born again, knows what it is to know Christ, the power of God, as revealed in him in the Gospel.
So you see, those who question the importance of the preaching of the Gospel in salvation are right to recognise that regeneration is a sovereign act of God the Holy Spirit, and they are right to recognise that the Gospel when spoken by man can remain as simply the 'dead letter' of scripture, words which fill the natural mind, but never enter into the heart in life. However, it is wrong to separate what God has joined together. It is wrong to see these things and separate the new birth by the Spirit from the preaching of the Gospel, or the word of God. It is wrong to react to errors such as the modern emphasis on 'easy believism' and man's supposed 'free will' and natural ability to believe, by not only rejecting those errors but also rejecting an emphasis upon the preaching of the Gospel for salvation as though that presupposes some natural ability in man to believe it. It does not. The scriptures teach, repeatedly and in many places, that salvation is entirely the work of God, but that God uses the foolishness of the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe. Who are they that believe? The elect of God, chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and redeemed by Christ at the cross, to be sovereignly born again of the Spirit in due course... by the word of God, "and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." 1 Peter 1:25. God uses the preaching of the Gospel to save His people. Not every one that hears the Gospel with the outward ear will be saved, for man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins, yet God is pleased to take the outward words preached by those whom He sends to preach it, and speak them quietly by His Spirit into the hearts of His own, quickening them into life, and granting faith that they might believe that word unto the salvation of their souls.
In Ezekiel 37 we read of the vision of the valley of dry bones and how God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy unto the bones that they might live. Was there any ability in Ezekiel to bring dry bones unto life? Or were the words of a mere man able to do such a thing? No, only the power of God can work such a miracle. Yet, God was pleased to show forth His power in this case by having His prophet speak unto the bones. Through that speech God mightily worked in the vision to bring the bones to life - the whole vision being a picture of the Gospel and its proclamation unto dead sinners, 'dry bones', who are totally dependent upon God's free grace to quicken them unto life. The power to do this does not lie in the preacher or in the eloquence of his words, but in the Gospel preached when applied by the Holy Spirit in power to the hearts of the hearers - living words which bring life. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." John 5:25. 
This is God's usual and normal way in which He is pleased to save sinners - through the word of God, through the preaching of the Gospel, not "in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" 1 Thessalonians 1:5. That Gospel which sets forth the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed for "it is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). Some may contend for exceptions to this 'rule' and point to exceptional conversions such as that of Saul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), and it is certainly true that God can, and has, saved certain people in such exceptional ways by a direct preaching of the Gospel from on high, in certain circumstances. God is, after all sovereign and all powerful. But nevertheless this isn't His usual way, or the way in which He is usually pleased to work. We can't take the exceptional experience of one of the twelve apostles to overturn what God repeatedly states in the scriptures about the preaching of the Gospel. It pleased God by the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe, and this is why God has through the ages continually sent forth preachers of that Gospel to proclaim it in power, by the Holy Ghost, that fallen, elect sinners might hear of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of Sinners, be born again by the word of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with God-given faith believe on the Lord Jesus Christ even unto the salvation of their souls. No wonder then that Paul writes, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth".


What is faith?

This is a question over which there is much confusion. Many think faith is just some belief in certain things, a belief which man can produce naturally, a response of man's will to the Gospel. Yet scripture teaches clearly that man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins, that he is spiritually blind and spiritually deaf, and that he cannot know the things of God except the Spirit of God reveal them unto him. "The natural man receiveth not the things of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (See 1 Corinthians 2:10-16). No, man by nature does not have faith - it is something he must be given. Scripture teaches us that faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), which is given to God's people, in order that they might believe the Gospel preached unto them. It comes by the preaching of God's word for "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? ... So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" Romans 10:14,17.

In Hebrews 11:1 we are told that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It is that principle by which God's people live, for "the just shall live by faith", and without faith it is impossible to please God "for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6).

But there are some who speak of faith as being a mere mental assent to the truths of the Gospel. Yet true, saving faith, is far, far more than mere mental assent to the bare letter of truth. Whilst many do reject the truth, it is also true that many who are religious make mental assent to the Gospel whilst having no real, personal, revelation of the Son of God as their Saviour. They consent to the facts, but the truth declared by those facts has never been revealed to them inwardly as a reality in which they are personally concerned. A bare intellectual belief that Christ's blood was shed to wash away His people's sins, does not mean for certain that we are one of those for whom that blood was shed. True faith is far more than mental assent. It is that which springs from a new life within, having been born again of the Spirit (John 3), which lays hold upon the Son of God as revealed inwardly in the heart of the believer as his personal Saviour, that which not only sees outwardly the blood shed to wash away sins, but knows the application of that blood sprinkled within upon the heart and conscience. Yes, saving faith is a reality, not a mere mental assent. It is that by which we see and know, believe and trust, lay hold of and are united, inwardly and by revelation to the Son of God, who loved us and died for us, who believe.

The tract 'Faith and Presumption' by John Metcalfe expounds this subject very well, from which I provide the following quotes which should prove helpful.

"Faith is that work of God in man by which and out of which one is brought to trust in God through Jesus Christ the Lord and Saviour. It is the necessary consequence of regeneration. Regeneration creates in man that life which must look believingly to Jesus Christ from whom shines the radiance of the glory of God. Truly, the life is the light of men. Such a quickening work raises from interior death, and liberates from the bondage of unbelief, bringing the issues of new and everlasting life to saving faith.

Faith is the firstfruits of regeneration. It is not causative, but it is the effect, the consequence of regeneration. The quickening of regeneration issues in a life that necessarily believes. Given regeneration the soul lives, and lives by faith. Faith is the effect of regeneration, the reflex of regeneration. The regenerate cannot but believe. The quickened have faith of necessity, because the Father reveals the Son, and the Spirit opens the eyes of the blind. This interior revelation results in the regenerate believing and embracing Christ and Christ alone for time and eternity, life and death, justification and sanctification, remission and salvation, for adoption and redemption, for church and worship. In such a light, Christ is all and in all.

And, in response, Christ whispers within, Blessed art thou, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."

… For faith witnesses that "'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'

Hence faith is seen to be the answer of the quickened heart to God's interior revelation of the Son. Not the exterior revelation of written scripture, which, albeit revealed and inspired, is of itself the dead letter. But the revelation, immediate and inward, of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father, illuminating the Son. 'When it pleased God… to reveal his Son in me.' This response of the quickened heart, to that revelation of the Holy Ghost, is called, The faith of God's elect." ...

"All this is an infinity of divinity away from and beyond a bare assent of belief in texts, affirmed on the basis that the letter of scripture is itself revealed. It may be, but that revelation took place two thousand years ago to the apostolic writers. The revelation needed, according to the word, is that from the living God upon the Son in the interior man today.

Faith is not in the outward letter, but in the spiritual revelation of the Son himself, set forth in the gospel. Faith does not stand in the bare text, it penetrates to reach to the very spiritual sight of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, divinely illuminated by the Holy Spirit of God."


In your understanding of Christianity, is the Bible the only authority for what is done today by Christians?

Yes it is our authority, as it reveals Christ to us, who Himself is our ultimate authority, as the Head of the Church, His Body. He has spoken unto us by His word, and that is recorded in scripture, hence scripture is our authority. But the Bible must be revealed and applied to Christians by the Holy Spirit - without the Spirit the Bible is a 'closed book' to mankind (See Romans 8:1-10 or 1 Corinthians 2:10-16). To this end Christ sends preachers, whom He calls and sends forth with His word to preach it and expound it, by the Holy Spirit, for the edification of His people (See Ephesians 4). The Gospel is 'embodied' in that God puts it into the mouth of those preachers whom He sends forth with it (Jeremiah 1:9). Such preachers, ministers, are given a rule over God's people, and those people are called to obey those who are given the rule over them, as unto the Lord. Not all are gifted as preachers in this way, or sent for such a work. The authority of these ministers is not their own, but Christ's, in whose name they speak as His ambassadors. Nevertheless God's people are called upon to discern between true God-sent preachers and false, and to compare their words with scripture. 2 Corinthians 11:4 gives us instruction in discerning those who truly are sent of God to preach His Gospel - Do they preach the gospel, the Jesus of the Bible (who died as according to the scriptures)? Do they preach by the Spirit? In this way their authority can be tested.

"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isaiah 8:20.

Thus we see that every true preacher preaches according to the word of God, hence it is absolutely true that the Bible is foundational. The Gospel of Christ as set forth in those scriptures forms the foundation of the church (Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone) (Ephesians 2:20).


Who is the most significant leader of Christianity today, UK or worldwide?

The Lord Jesus Christ! Yes, he sends gifts - preachers - to His church (see Ephesians 4:11-12) to preach His word, and believers receive those preachers who preach the truth - they recognise them, appreciate them, love them for the truth's sake - but it is CHRIST who is the Head of His church, His body, and He has the ultimate authority in it. Christ speaks through those whom He sends to preach, by His Spirit, through His word, and they are given authority but it is always subservient to His. I could list names of faithful preachers today but you can find those elsewhere on this website. However, none is a 'pope' - Christ is the Head of the church, and HE builds it. It is His church, His Body, for whom He died. "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

"Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" Ephesians 5:25

To what or whose church would you say you belong?

The simple answer is to Christ's church. Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". There is essentially only one true church, that which Christ builds. He 'builds' this by sending forth preachers to preach His Gospel (the teachings concerning Him and His work in dying to save sinners) by the Holy Spirit, by which people are saved and are added to the church (the Father having revealed Christ to them as the Son of God). The church is the people for whom Christ died, His Spiritual Israel, as typified and foreshadowed by Israel of old.

At the beginning, following Christ's death, burial and resurrection, twelve apostles were sent forth to preach this Gospel (see the book of Acts) and a number of congregations (or assemblies) were gathered under their preaching, first at Jerusalem, and then elsewhere. The Apostle Paul was sent to the Gentiles (non Jews) with the Gospel and many were saved throughout Asia, Europe and elsewhere. We see in the New Testament descriptions of the places he went to and the churches (assemblies) which were formed at places such as Philippi, Thessalonica, Rome and so on.

That was in the beginning. Over the course of 2000 years (from then until now) many different denominations and sects have arisen which describe themselves as Christian. Often denominations were formed when people left another denomination or church because of error they saw in its teaching. They then met separately and after time usually became a 'denomination' of their own. For example the church at Rome gradually became the Roman Catholic church. In the 1500s the church in England split from this, and as you may well be aware became known as 'The Church of England'. This split occurred primarily on two grounds - one was simply the desire of Henry VIII to divorce (and the church at Rome was against it, so by leaving that church the king could do as he wanted!) - and the other was the growing influence of the 'Reformation'. This was a movement amongst various preachers of the day who came to see that what the Roman church taught on various important issues was wrong (especially on 'Justification'). Luther and Calvin were two prominent preachers of this persuasion, but others in England such as Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were also greatly influential at the time in the establishment of the teachings of the Church of England.

Later on, as the Church of England began to largely abandon the teachings upon which it was founded (set forth in its '39 articles'), various preachers left it and different denominations ended up being formed. Some became 'Methodists' (Wesley, Whitefield in the 1700s), others Baptists (eg. Philpot or Tiptaft in the 1800s). Some, such as J. N. Darby and William Kelly considered all 'denominationlism' ('denominations' being defined in a certain way) to be wrong and ended setting up 'non-denominational' meetings. However their movement (known as Brethrenism) became, obviously, a group in its own right, and many might consider it to be simply another denomination.

So, today, we are left with an almost bewildering array of different denominations and churches. Which one is right? Which one preaches the truth? Some started off with truth, some used to preach the Gospel, but no longer do. Many of our towns have several 'churches' in them - a Roman Catholic one, a Church of England one, a Baptist, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Brethren, an Independent etc. etc. But which is right?

My answer to that is that the Church (or Ekkesia in the Greek) which Christ builds (as He did in the Apostolic days and continues to do today) is founded upon the teaching of the Gospel, the same truths about Christ and His work which the Apostles preached. Those 'churches' (congegations, meetings) where the Gospel is faithfully preached are 'true', they are of Christ's building - but those where such truth is altogether neglected, abandoned - perhaps in favour of sacramentalism, or singing, or entertainment, or whatever - are essentially false. For the foundation of the church is "the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" Ephesians 2:20. Now that doesn't mean the foundation is the apostles or prophets themselves, but what they taught, and that is recorded in the Bible. Where the truths declared in the Bible about Christ and His salvation of sinners are faithfully maintained and proclaimed amongst a gathering of believing people - there is Christ's church, ie. the people - those who love and embrace the truth.

Now, I've written the above simply to give you a background to my answers. I believe I (and my wife) belong to Christ's church for He taught me (us) His Gospel (through the preaching of men whom He sent with it) and revealed Himself to me by that Gospel. It is that Gospel - which teaches about Christ and His work - which forms the foundation of what we believe and provides the ground of unity with other believers. It is Christ and His Gospel which binds us to other believers, not a denomination, organisation, creed or party.

...But you may still feel I haven't answered your question! Well... I have been a believer now for around 20 years. I have attended various different churches over the course of that time including independent Evangelical churches, Brethren churches, Baptist churches and others (the Gospel Standard Strict Baptists at the present time). What I have sought whereever I have been is to hear the truth preached and to meet others who love that truth as it is in Christ Jesus. So, God having taught me His Gospel, in whichever town I have lived (I've moved about a bit over the years) I have sought out those places where the Gospel is preached (some more clearly than others, if at all...). It didn't matter much what the denomination was - the truth was what was important.

For many, the first question asked is not "What gospel do you believe?", but "Which denomination are you?" Yet 'denominationalism' whereby different denominations have arisen, each emphasising (or over-emphasising) different points (different forms of church government, different views of baptism etc), is essentially a dividing up of the one church (at least to the extent that true believers are scattered amongst these denominations). There are certainly good, historical reasons why this has happened (often through faithful believers leaving churches which have embraced error, in order to gather elsewhere under the truth), and it is true that God has truly blessed His people in different denominations at different times. However their existence is still representative of division in the church, and too many have too much allegiance to their particular denominaton, rather than to the Gospel itself - rather than to Christ Himself. Although some denominations 'began well' with an emphasis on Christ and His Gospel, sadly, in the wisdom of man, all too often they have sought to 'fence in' truth as they saw it and keep out error through the adoptions of forms, hierarchies, man-made confessions of faith and church rules which often end up dividing God's sheep rather than actually uniting them. Oh, how humble we need to be, how receptive we need to be made to the leadings of the Spirit (Revelation 2:7). For what is of God unites, it gathers the sheep (for the Gospel is sent to gather a people as one), but what is of man divides, it scatters.

Nevertheless… we are not 'ecumenical' (in the popular sense). Ecumenicals essentially recognise division in the churches and wish to see all professing Christians united. However they end up doing this at the expense of truth - they seek for the lowest common denominator to unite everyone and the truth effectively gets jettisoned. We firmly believe that Christ's church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, upon the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. It is that which unites God's people, as it is revealed to them by His Spirit, it is that which is foundational to the church, it is that which we embrace and declare, and we are happy to unite with believers out of any denomination if they believe that truth, the Gospel of Christ.

Because of this firm belief that the GOSPEL is what saves sinners and it is what gathers them into one church, and because there has been a great famine of the preaching of the Gospel in this area in Devon, back in 1999 the Lord put it into our hearts to start holding meetings in our home at which we gather with others to hear the Gospel preached. That is the sole ground on which we meet, and what unites us - Christ and His Gospel. These meetings have continued to this day, and we thank God for His goodness to us in them. "This is the LORD's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes." Psalm 118:23. (You can see details on the 'Meetings' page of our website.) The Adversary is happy to see God's people scattered and divided. But God in His sovereign mercy continues to unite and gather His people by the preaching of His Gospel, and will continue to do so until the day He returns - that great day in which the Lord's people will be gathered as one around His throne to sing praises unto their Redeemer, the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega, the Lord Jesus Christ, for ever and ever, world without end, Amen.


Ian, in your comments about Hassell's 'History of the Church of God' you write "This is an interesting and extensive history of the church from the creation until the 1800s (although strictly speaking the church, the ecclesia, came into being following Christ's ascension but was prefigured by Israel in the Old Testament)", but isn't the word ekklesia used of Israel by Stephen in Acts 7:38? Is this not because the ekklesia, the church, comprises the remnant in Israel as much as the believers in the Last Days?
It is correct that the term ekklesia/ecclesia is used in Acts 7:38 with regard to the called out congregation of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. But the use of a term in more than one place does not mean that it always refers to exactly the same thing. The usage in Acts 7:38 is a general usage based upon the meaning of the word ekklesia (called out assembly) and fits in with the context where Stephen has spoken in v36 of God having brought out the people of Israel from Egypt. The AV translators have chosen to render the word 'church' in v38 but this simply confuses the 'assembly' of Israel with the New Testament 'church' in the minds of many. Stephen isn't referring to simply the elect, the remnant amongst Israel, in Acts 7:38 but to the whole assembly, the whole 'called out' people of Israel who were called out of Egypt and led forth by God in the wilderness, which congegation is itself a picture, a type, of the New Testament church brought in following Christ's ascension, but isn't actually the same thing (for one thing Israel contained believers and many unbelievers, but Christ's ekklesia is comprised entirely of believers, so 7:38 cannot refer to one and the same thing).
There is another general use of the word ekklesia when speaking of the assembly at Ephesus (Acts 19:32) but context clearly shows that this assembly is not the same ekklesia which Christ builds.
Christ's ekklesia, considered accurately, is that which He brought in following His ascension when the Spirit was sent down at Pentecost to the disciples who were all gathered with one accord in one place. From thence it has been built upon "the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20-22). From this point on the Gospel went out to Gentile nations as well as to the Jews bringing together a people in Christ gathered from amongst every tongue and kindred. Such things were promised from of old (eg. the particular event at Pentecost was prophesied by Joel), but clearly the revelation of one God in three Persons, the revelation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost and their dwelling in the church, the people of God, by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22), was a new thing brought in with the New Testament - promised of old, yes, but fulfilled in and by Christ. 
Does this ekklesia not include the Old Testament saints? Certainly it does - the OT saints were elected unto salvation in Christ just as we - who believe today - have been, they were saved by the same Saviour, were atoned by the same blood and had the same faith as us (as seen in Hebrews 11). When the world is no more we will worship Christ in eternity with them as one people. With respect to God's outworking of His eternal purposes in time however there are differences between what existed before the coming of Christ and what came into being following His ascension. The OT saints lived by faith like as we do, but they looked forward to the fulfillment of promises which had yet to be fulfilled. They looked to the coming of Christ and the establishment of His ekklesia, they embraced such things by faith but those things were never fulfilled in their lifetimes. "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were presuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" ... "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Hebrews 11:13, 39-40. No, the OT saints did not see the fulfillment of the promises in their lifetimes, for the ekkelesia in its true sense was brought in by Christ following His resurrection as the firstborn from the dead, and He builds it from Heaven on high, being the Head of His body. From thence He sent the Spirit by which God dwells in His body on earth, and by which that people are spiritually united with the ekklesia in heaven, being even now seated in heavenly places with Christ. The OT saints are now part of that ekklesia, united with the NT saints (together "made perfect", 'complete', Hebrews 11:40) as they are now in heavenly Jerusalem to which we come - "the general assembly of the firstborn" Hebrews 13:23 - but when Christ speaks of 'my ekklesia' in the New Testament He does not, strictly speaking, refer back to the OT remnant of saints within the assembly of Israel during their lifetimes before His coming. They would be united with the NT saints when Christ began to build His ekklesia from on high following His ascension, but much that is true of the ekkelesia now was not true for the OT saints then - for example, the particular indwelling of God by His Spirit in the church.
That Christ's ekklesia is a 'new thing' brought in following the resurrection (where He became the firstborn from the dead, hence Hebrew 13's reference to the "general assembly of the firstborn") can be shown from many scriptures, but one simple example is Matthew 16:18 where Christ says "upon this rock I will build my ekklesia". Notice the wording here is "I will build", not "I have built" or "I do build" or "I continue to build" or "I am building", but "I will build". Then it wasn't built in this way in Old Testament days. Yes, it would comprise OT saints as well as New when built, but that doesn't mean that it was built before Christ's commencement of the building following His resurrection - it simply means He already had some of the stones from which He would build it! The reference in Ephesians 2:20 to "the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone" also demonstrates that the building commenced following the coming of Christ and His calling of the apostles.
This ekklesia is something which Paul describes in various places as a mystery "which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God" (Ephesians 1:9) ... "even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.... Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:26-27). Such a mystery now revealed (in the New Testament) concerns the church, Christ's ekklesia, which is "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).
In Matthew 16:18 Christ refers to the rock upon which the ekklesia would be built. What rock is that? It is the revelation made to Peter by the Father in heaven (Matthew 16:17) that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." This is the rock upon which Christ builds, this revelation, for all those built into the ekklesia have this truth revealed unto them, for it is in such that God dwells as confirmed by 1 John 4:15 "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God."
This revelation of the Son of God and of what became a reality from Pentecost onwards in His building of His ekklesia is so much greater than anything that preceded it that to refer to the collection of the Old Testament saints during their lifetimes by the exact  same name (Christ's ekklesia) as though there was little difference can take away from our appreciation of the reality of what Christ brought in following His ascension. Yes, the OT saints were the people of God, as are the NT saints, but Christ's ekklesia is far more than just the collected sum total of the people of God - whilst the term ekklesia in its general sense can be used to refer to God's people in the OT, at that time, nevertheless we must not confuse that with what Christ began to build together in the NT: 'my ekklesia'; the OT saints were not themselves, in their lifetimes, an 'habitation of God through the Spirit' (although God did meet with Israel outwardly in the tabernacle He was hidden behind the veil, accessible only by the High Priest with the blood of a sacrifice, whereas in the New Testament Christ has brought His people to the Father through the rent veil of His body broken for them). This became a reality when the mystery hid from ages and generations was manifested in the NT - 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. The New Testament constantly refers to Christ's ekklesia in this context.
It is certainly true that the OT saints are part of that church now it has commenced to be built (and of course were chosen in Christ from all eternity to be part of that church, whom Christ loved and gave Himself for), and it is true that there are many passages of scripture which show the continuation of God's people, of the 'tabernacle of David', of spiritual 'Israel' and so on throughout all ages, but that does not alter the fact that Christ actually commenced to build His ekklesia together following His death as a habitation for God (having risen again and ascended on high). This is seen typified by the fact that the Temple was not built until after David's death, David himself being a vivid type of Christ. Hence it is correct, when speaking of the unfolding of God's eternal purposes in time, to consider the church as having been established in the New Testament, following Christ's death, as prefigured by Israel of old.
More could be written on this but I trust this clarifies my short comment. Some view 'the church' in simple terms as being the collection of believers from both Old Testament and New. However, Christ's ekkelesia brought in with the New Testament is much more than that - it is the very habitation of God, in which Father, Son and Holy Ghost dwell, not outwardly but inwardly. God met with His people in Old Testament days in various ways but now He dwells in His people by His Spirit - amazing!  God "dwelleth not in temples made with hands" Acts 7:48 - yet now He dwells in the ekkelesia, His people, having revealed Himself to them as one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Truth so astounding it can only make us fall on our faces in worship! What access, what nearness, what grace, what mercy!
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom he also made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." Hebrews 1:1-4
"...for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." 2 Corinthians 6:16
"Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." 1 John 4:13-15


(Regarding 'The church' I'd recommend downloading and listening to the audio MP3 message by John Metcalfe called 'The church' based on Ephesians 5:25-27 from this website - see the"Audio" page.)


Questions on LAW and GRACE

Ian, I've been looking at some of the links from your web site and have some questions on the subject of law and grace. Many 'Reformed' writers teach a lot about the law being our 'rule of life' and they very much have an emphasis on "doing" - one example is the following, which paraphrases what one writer has to say about the subject. (See also, for example,

"I'm going to discipline myself to godliness. I'm going to work at it. I'm going to engage in sustained daily effort in doing God's will and obeying God's requirements. I'm going to deny self and crucify self every day. I'm going to put to death the old life patterns of the old man. I'm going to say 'no' to self and say 'yes' to Christ every day. As I do these things I will be developing godly habits. I will not give up but I will persist in doing right. I will do what the Scriptures say regardless of how I feel. I will live a commandment-motivated life of holiness oriented towards godliness."

This is the sort of teaching that I have heard for many years, but recently I have come to see things more Biblically and now see that the believer's rule of conduct is the Gospel and not the law. But I do have some further questions and wonder if you might be able to help...

The Reformed position says that salvation is all of grace (without works or law) but when it comes to sanctification they tend to bring in the law (as with the above quote - which is perhaps a bit extreme but nevertheless gives a good illustration of their thinking).

1. So my first question is, what is the actual place for Exodus 20 for the true New Testament believer?

2. In Ephesians 5 and 6 Paul exhorts believers to good Christian conduct. But in Eph 6: 1/3 he says: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." Why does Paul make a direct appeal to the Law (Ex 20:12) as he now writes in the New Testament times? What's more, a number of these children could well be believers.

3. The works of the law are essentially "doing" things, it's understood that these works are not meritorious as far as salvation is concerned. But allied to 2) above when we come to the last part of nearly all of Paul's epistles we find a whole catalogue of commandments (or precepts if you prefer). If the believer is bound by these precepts, then is there not a sense in which his rule of conduct is the precept? A particular reference might be 1 Thess 5: "Rejoice evermore, Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings" … and so on.

I would be intested in your views..


Thanks for the questions. This is quite a big subject, so although I'll try to answer below I may not have the time or space to fully do the subject justice.

Some brief comments to begin with though... Yes, the teaching that 'the law is the believer's rule of life' is predominant amongst those who call themselves 'Reformed'. It is the 'third use' of the law, as they say. However the Reformers themselves had different understandings of the law, for example Luther's teaching is quite different to Calvin's on this (and I prefer Luther in many ways actually), so I have to ask what gives these modern men the right to take the title 'Reformed' to themselves? As a title it doesn't even give a clear idea of their teaching as the Reformers had a wide range of different ideas about various things - so 'which' Reformer are they following? If their teaching be examined it is more akin to the Puritans than the Reformers, and even then only a certain section of the Puritans who were themselves diverse in their teaching. 

Your paraphrase of one writer's sentiments, I have to say, rather left me cold. Whilst some of the sentiments are in the right place it nevertheless reminded me of the self-confident promise of obedience which the children of Israel made in Exodus 24:3 "All the words which the LORD hath said will we do". Well, how long did that promise last? Whilst Moses was still in the mount they rose up to play and fell into all manner of sin.

...and that's the whole point of the law. It finds out man's sin - it brings it to the surface. For "By the law is the knowledge of sin" Romans 3:20. Not the knowledge of righteousness, note, but the knowledge of sin. The law was given to show man his sin, to expose it, to bring him in guilty before God. And it didn't take long with the children of Israel.

Frankly, would not any true child of God shudder to utter words with such self confidence as  "I will do what the Scriptures say... I will live a commandment-motivated life... I'm going to discipline myself to godliness" etc? Why? Because they know from bitter experience that they can't last but one hour in such a pathway. As soon as they proudly say "All the words which the LORD hath said I will do" they fall into sin in an instant, and their very words condemn them. For sin isn't just what is done outwardly, but it is all the inward thoughts, motives, desires and feelings which we can hide from others but which are painfully apparent to ourselves when God the Holy Spirit makes us aware of what is within, taking the veil away from our eyes. In our ignorance and the darkness and deadness of the flesh we might not have known these things, but a quickened child of God knows what proceeds from his heart and he finds the law to be a killing letter and nothing more. Oh, yes, it might prescribe conduct which is excellent, and for that he loves it, but he finds no ability in himself to keep it - Romans 7 - hence he cries out for One to deliver him from this body of sin and death... and in the Gospel he finds such a Deliverer!

But you do raise some good points regarding the precepts and exhortations which are to be found in the New Testament... does their existence not argue for a continuation of the law in some fashion? I'd answer, No. Why? Because the law is more than simply precepts. The fact that both law and gospel may have precepts does not mean that they are essentially similar, but in 'different packaging'. They are, in fact, diametrically opposed both in nature and character. Their whole principles are totally diverse, so that Gospel precepts are on a completely different footing and basis to those found in the law.

The law is founded entirely upon the basis of works, with a motivation of self righteousness and fear of the law's penalty, demanding of man what he must do. Whereas the Gospel reveals God's grace to man and is characterised by faith and love - which is the believer's motivation towards obedience to Christ, as led by the Spirit, outworking what God has wrought in the heart - because the Gospel declares what God does.

The law says 'do and live'. The Gospel says 'live and do'. Man can't do under the law, so he dies. But man is made alive by the Gospel so he 'does'. The Gospel does not do away with all 'doing' but it makes men alive and gives them not only the ability to do but also the will (for it is God who worketh in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" Philippians 2:13), so that anything it exhorts, it also provides grace and ability to do, hence Christ's yoke is no burden and His commandments are not grievous.

But, the 'Reformed' scholars tell us, that that's the whole point. Christ gives us life in the Gospel and then sends us back to Moses to 'sanctify' us, as we now have the ability to do what Moses commanded in the law. But in this they greatly err (What! Is Christ subservient to Moses?). Because the law is not simply a set of precepts, or exhortations, similar to those found in the Gospel which we can now set ourselves to doing. The law is law! A law is set of commandments with penalties attached on failure of doing. If you go back to the commandment "Thou shalt not covet", then when you do covet, you will find yourself back under its penalty. "But", some say, "its penalty has been met in Christ, we are freed from its curse". Yes, we are, but that is because we are also freed from its precept - we are "dead to the law", "not under the law", "delivered from the law". As far as the law is concerned we are dead men, whom it can no longer penalise, but whom it can also no longer command.

Law is law - it stands as a whole. You can't separate the penalty from the commandments. They are forever joined together. If we have been freed from the one then we must have also been freed from the other. Likewise if we put ourselves back under the one (the commandment) then we also put ourselves back under the other when we fail to keep the commandment, hence the curse is back upon us. When Galatians tells us that Christ has freed us from the curse of the law it does not mean that the curse has been 'detached' from the law - it means we are freed from the law entirely, both curse and commandment.

So, to get to your questions…

1. What place does Exodus 20 have for the believer?

It stands as that which once condemned him, from which he has been forever delivered. It gave him a knowledge of sin, whilst also demonstrating in measure the holiness and goodness of God. It demonstrates to him the justice of God and points in measure to the Gospel and what Christ did in delivering him from the law's penalty. But as to his actual relationship to the law now, the believer is dead to it. It has exacted its penalty upon him, in Christ, and with Christ he has died. The law has no more to say to a dead man (which he is in the sight of the law, though now risen and alive in Christ, the other side of death). It is neither his rule, nor his guide. It cannot be used as 'guidance' for it is still law - to take its commands, but ignore its penalty is to use it unlawfully, not knowing what one says or affirms, for the law is not made for a righteous man, which is what the believer is in Christ. See 1 Timothy 15-11. We simply can't get past passages such as Galatians 2:19, 2 Corinthians 3, Romans 6:14, Romans 7:1-6 etc. in relation to this. The 'Reformed' arguments about these passages either referring only to justification (and not sanctification), or referring to the 'judicial' or 'ceremonial' parts of the law, and not the Ten Commandments, are, in my judgment, just sheer sophistry. They don't hold water. They make a mockery of these texts which are plain, simple English stating plain truth - we are dead to the law, that we might serve God (now, ie. 'sanctification'). We cannot serve God whilst still alive to the law, whatever the legalist might argue. The fact is that all who go to the law in their self-will break it continually, and they can only have any sense of having kept it if their eyes are blinded to their real state, and the totally depravity of their hearts. Hence they demean God's holy law by bringing it down to their own meagre, sinful, fleshly level. Not only that but they treat it unlawfully by using it as 'advice' severing it from its curse, and dividing it into three by rejecting the ceremonial and judicial 'parts' and retaining what they call the 'moral' part - the Ten Commandments. This is not to use the law lawfully, and is 'anti-law' hence it is Antinomianism, properly so called.

However, the law is part of the overall teaching of scripture, and in the sense that all scripture is profitable to us in various ways it therefore still has its use. But scripture must be divided rightly, and not all scripture applies to all men at all times. Few 'Reformed' writers would claim that the dietary laws of the Old Testament apply to New Testament believers - they have no problem whatsoever in seeing that (yet the fact is that the Bible never divides the Ten Commandments from the rest of the law, including the 'judicial' and 'ceremonial' aspects - the whole stands as one - the Law of Moses - and we are either under all of it, or under none of it). They also clearly see that the OT priesthood and sacrificial system has gone. Is all that teaching regarding those things in the OT of no use to us now then? No, it is of much use as it sets forth the Gospel in type and figure. So, too, does Exdous 20, in that it shows forth much of God's holiness and justice, it gives a knowledge of sin (most especially when applied by the Spirit as Paul found in Romans 7, when 'the commandment came'), it shows what Christ delivered us from. But we, being delivered, are now no more under those Ten Commandments than we are under the dietary or judicial parts of the law. They have no power to condemn us. "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Romans 8:33-34.

2. You make a mention of Ephesians 6. Yes, Paul refers to Exodus 20:12, and in fact elsewhere in the New Testament a number of the other commandments are quoted. I think we can make some conclusions from this. First of all, we might ask that given that the NT does in fact quote most of the commandments why do most 'Reformed' writers have such a problem with something like article 16 of the 'Gospel Standard Articles of Faith' which declares that the Gospel is the believer's rule of life? Why do they not just agree with that statement, given that 9 of the commandments can be found recorded in the New Testament also? Why not? Because deep down they have a legal spirit which gravitates towards law and not Gospel (and they must also cling to the Sabbath commandment which is not repeated as such in the NT). The fact is they don't really rejoice in the deliverance we have from the law, because the law has not really been applied to their conscience before being brought to Christ, hence they don't know the liberty of the child of God in Christ. Those who know what it is to be slain by the law are glad to be free from it.

But why does the New Testament repeat these commands in places then (for example Romans 13:8-10)? Well, there is a difference between 'right and wrong' and law. The law as I stated before is law - it has commandments with penalties attached, which cannot be divorced. However right and wrong exist apart from law, because 'right' concerns the very character of God with whom we have to do, who is just, holy and righteous. It is wrong to worship other gods, whether the law says it or not. Before the law was ever given at Sinai, it was still wrong to worship idols. Thus our deliverance from the law does not make us free to serve idols - no, it delivers us from a law which dictates one thing, but actually causes us to do the opposite. Our nature in the flesh, when commanded not to do something ends up doing the opposite, and the law then condemns us. That is the nature of the law and the effect it has upon our flesh, so we need to be delivered from it.

But that doesn't alter the fact that it is still right to worship the one true God, and it is right, whilst in this world, for example, to honour our parents. (Nevertheless such a command, and in fact several of the ten commandments, tend to regard our conduct whilst in this world - whereas when we enter heaven they won't have the same role, as there we aren't given to marriage, we won't have children etc. So such commands are types and shadows in that they point us to what is spiritual, that we are God's children, that we are Christ's bride and so on). Hence Paul, in context, refers back to the commandments because what they say is still "holy", "just" and "good" (Romans 7:12) and as believers we certainly don't seek to break them. No, through the Gospel we actually fulfill them, because the Gospel gives us faith, which works by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law. It is in this context that Paul quotes most of the commandments in Romans 13 - not to enforce the commandments, but to illustrate that the love wrought by God through the Gospel actually fulfills the law.

Nevertheless, despite there being exhortations and precepts in the New Testament there is a world of difference between the exhortatory nature of the epistles, and the cold, commanding, nature of the law. So... to answer 3…

3. In the epistles there are many exhortations and precepts. However there is a great difference between the nature of these and the context in which they are given, and the law. Whereas the law uttered a commandment and exacted a penalty of death if broken, the gospel presents a message of life and then encourages and exhorts the believer with that life to walk in a way which is in accord with his natural desire and inclination in the new man. The new man of grace knows to do right, it loves to do right, it loves to follow the Lord and show love to the brethren. The exhortations in the epistles simply address this new man of grace and encourage him in such a pathway, and exhort to mortify the flesh, for the flesh always wars against the Spirit. As with Christ's commandments - His yoke - such exhortations are not grievous, they are not a burden, but are gladly taken up by the child of God. As the Gospel is not 'Antinomian' (against the law), some of these exhortations will be in accord with that set forth in the law, and that love encouraged and exhorted in the Gospel will in fact fulfill the law, because as the faith of the believer is drawn out, that faith worketh by love (Galatians 5:6) and love fulfills the law (not by looking to the law, but by just living out that life of faith and love, doing what is natural to it, as exhorted in the epistles).

We must keep in mind the difference between earthly man in the flesh, and the new, heavenly man of grace in the Spirit. As believers we were once entirely in the flesh, the offspring of Adam, dead in trespasses and sin, but now we have been crucified with Christ, and have risen again from the dead, having a new life in Him, being His offspring, of the Last Adam, the Second Man - the heavenly man. The law respected earthly man in the flesh and his conduct in this world. The Gospel brings men into newness of life in Christ and it respects their heavenly nature in Him, their walk in the Spirit and their being led out of this world unto the new heaven and new earth. Hence the Gospel regards heavenly things, not earthly things. Indeed we are spoken of as being seated in heavenly places now. Then what does a command not to covet our neighbour's house or wife have to do with that? What does a command to keep the sabbath day holy have to do with a realm where we dwell in righteousness in an endless day, an eternal sabbath? How could such a command be broken in such a state and in such a realm? (In reality the command is broken spiritually now by ceasing to rest in Christ alone and returning to work at keeping the law...)

So, the Gospel, rightly seen, respects our new man of grace who is heavenly. It tells us to reckon ourselves dead to this world, to mortify the deeds of the flesh. We are to think of ourselves in Christ in heaven, as citizens of heaven (* see note), to have our gaze set there, not on earthly things. Whereas to use the law as a rule of life is to be taken up with earthly things. It is to be earthly minded - but Christ has brought us into newness of life, in His Gospel. Yes, the Gospel has exortations, for we are still in this world, and we do still have the flesh. But the exhortations are always given in a context. What is that context? In the Doctrine of Christ, the Gospel. They follow on from the doctrinal parts of the epistles which set forth Christ and His work. Only after having set the believer's gaze upon Christ does the Apostle then exhort the new man of grace to follow Christ by walking in various ways. This is very different to the law, which has nothing to do with faith, for the "law is not of faith" and which simply says "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not". The Gospel first declares Christ, conveys life, and then directs that life. For we walk not by sight (looking upon earthly things) but by faith (looking unto heavenly things).

Certainly the Gospel precepts respect our conduct and could therefore be described as a rule of conduct - in fact the Gospel as a whole will govern our conduct. We could even say that the whole word of God is a rule of conduct (because ultimately Christ is our 'rule of life', as set forth in the Gospel, and as set forth in all the scriptures, for He is our life [see also Galatians 6:13-16 for mention of 'this rule']). But to say that the law, in particular, is our rule of life is to go to that very part of the word of God which would condemn us - how foolish (See 2 Corinthians 3). But, yes, the Gospel precepts do direct us, because the Spirit does not work in a vacuum. Galatians 5 tells us that if we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law. But the Spirit does not direct us apart from the word of God - He uses that word and applies it to us on a daily basis. Rather than having us mechanically going to a fixed set of rules (such as the ten commandments) seeking to obey them by our own will-power, the believer is directed by the Spirit in a living way and given grace to walk in that way. The believer submissively follows the Spirit's leading, and each day the Spirit leads him in the scriptures, applying one passage one day, another passage another day and directing his pathway in a living way, appropriate for the time and cirumcumstance he finds himself in.

Ultimately this is a pathway of faith - Faith which works by love. This is the nature of the Gospel and the pathway in which the believer walks. It is very different to a pathway of works, or of a legalistic mind.

However, it is not good enough to simply say "the gospel is my rule of life, not the law", because many bring a legal spirit into the gospel. They simply turn Gospel precepts into legal commands, strive to perform them in their own strength (and hence ignore the leadings of the Spirit and ultimately grieve Him), and effectively condemn others if they don't walk as the Gospel directs. But we are not to use the Gospel in such a judgmental fashion, nor are we to set to follow its precepts in our own strength. We must never lose sight of the fact that the Gospel is on an entirely different principle to the law - it is about faith! And this faith is not of ourselves "it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). For "the just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17). Neither must we lose sight of the central truth of the Gospel to which such God-given faith is directed - "Christ and Him crucified". Only when the eye of faith is continually set upon Christ, does a sheep then follow its Shepherd. And when exhorted to look to Him alone, the exhortations to mortify the deeds of the flesh, or control the tongue, or flee fornication, or rejoice evermore are gladly received and performed.

You make mention of 1 Thessalonians 5: "rejoice evermore", "pray without ceasing", "in every thing give thanks". Well, such exhortations demonstrate what I have been writing about above. The believer whose eye is set upon Christ will gladly 'rejoice everymore' for he sees Christ, his reason for rejoicing, he will gladly pray without ceasing for he is looking to Christ from whence his help comes, he will happily give thanks, for he sees the One to whom he is thankful, he will despise not prophesyings for he loves to hear of Christ, and he will grieve not the Spirit for the Spirit leads him to Christ whom he loves and to whom he gladly goes.

So, in summary: the law is about works and respects this world. But the Gospel is about faith, concerning Christ, and respects the world to come. The just shall live by faith, and the precepts of the Gospel are not grievous to faith, because faith works by love, and as James rightly tells us (James 1:17), faith without works is dead, being in reality a mere profession of faith, but true, living faith always produces fruit, it always produces the works of faith, as led by the Spirit. For "If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law." Galatians 5:18.

(Finally, an interesting observation... In our home we have a daily text calendar. After having written the replies to your questions above I looked at today's text, which was "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" Galatians 2:19.... Our God's timing is perfect, is it not?)

* A friend had the following to say on this subject which I thought was worth repeating here: "I remember reading of a believer being accused of depreciating the law because he maintained that he was not under it. His reply was that the law of, say Australia, was a good law, and just, but he was not under it because he was a citizen of England. Likewise he acknowledged that the Siniatic law was a good law, and just, but he was not under it as he was a citizen of Zion."


"Ian, thanks for your answers which are very helpful. Just one or two other questions on the same subject though... what did Paul mean when he said in Romans 7:22 "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man" and also in Romans 7:25 "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin"?

Why did he say that with his mind he served the law of God? If we say that this is the Gospel, what biblical proof have we? And if the law has nothing to do with the believer, then why did Paul "delight in the law of God after the inward man"? I would have thought that he would have delighted in the Gospel after the inward man!"

These verses come at the end of Romans 7 and must be read in the context of the whole chapter. The context being that Paul is demonstrating that we are "dead to the law by the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4) that we should be married to another - even to Christ - that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Clearly we could not bring forth fruit unto God until we died to our old 'husband', the law.

In expounding that truth Paul seeks to show just why we needed to be delivered from the law. He goes on throughout the chapter to show the effects that the law had upon his flesh. He demonstrates that the "motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death". Thus, whilst the law demanded that which was good, nevertheless, because of our sinful flesh it actually caused us to sin and bring forth fruit unto death.

But does that mean that the law is bad? That it is flawed, or sinful? No! Paul goes on to show that the fault lies not with the law itself but with our sinful flesh. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid."...."Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good". No, the law itself is good. The fault lies with sin in our flesh... "But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (Romans 7:13). Hence the need is not for the law itself to be abrogated, for the law itself is good, but for us to be delivered from the law, because the fault lies in us, in our sinful flesh - therefore we need to have died to the law.

So, having demonstrated in verses 4-6 that we have died to the law, that we might be married to Christ to bring forth fruit, Paul then shows that this was necessary, not because the law itself was a bad thing, but because the effect it had upon our flesh was to bring forth sin unto death. Paul shows the law itself to be good. But from v14-21 Paul shows the effect that the law has upon him as a believer. Whilst he has a new man of grace which wishes to serve God, nevertheless he still has the flesh which sins, so he finds that though he wishes to do good, the effect of the commandment when it comes to him is to cause him to sin (v19). Verses 22 and 25 simply reinforce the contrast between the desire of Paul in the new man of grace (to serve God and walk righteously) and the outworking of sin in his flesh under the commandments of the law. Paul delights in the law of God after the inward man (of course he does - the law is good, in that what it commands is good, and the inward man loves what is good), but there is another law in his members, in his flesh, which causes him to sin (v23). Verse 25 shows that his mind would serve the law of God, it would do what it demands because the law is 'holy', 'just' and 'good', but the flesh serves the law of sin.

We see the contrast here between what is served. The one is the law of sin, the other is the law of God. What Paul is showing is that his mind does not serve sin. It serves God. In that the law of God teaches against sin his mind as a believer must agree with the law of God. But this is not because he is under the law, serving it as his rule of life, but because he is under grace, with the Gospel as his rule of life. Gospel righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the law (Matt 5:19) and hence the law is fulfilled by one who walks in the Gospel, by grace (Romans 8:4).

So does the statement in 7:25 that Paul with the mind serves the law of God mean that the law is his rule of life? No, it cannot, because Paul has clearly shown in 7:4-6 that he has been delivered from the law, and that he has a new 'husband'. Then why does he state in verse 25 that his mind serves it? Simply to show that the law itself (in terms of what it commands) is not the problem but his flesh. Whilst in the flesh (which we are in until we enter heaven's glory) the law will always have the same effect on it, so that whilst our believing mind might say that the law is good and we would wish to walk accordingly, our flesh rebels and causes us to fall into sin and under the law's condemnation. Our only hope is to be delivered from this body of death and to be delivered from the law. And that is just what Christ in the Gospel does - He delivers us, from sin, from death and from the law.

In Romans chapter 7 Paul is showing that we are dead to the law, we are delivered from it, but not because the law itself is bad, but because the flesh is sinful. Thus he shows that the law is good, just and holy, and that he delights in the law of God after the inward man. But such delighting in the truth of it, in the righteousness of it, does not in any way alter the fact that Paul needed to be delivered from its bondage, he needed to be married to another, even to Christ, he needed to be delivered from the rule of the law and brought into union with Christ, and under His rule, whom he now serves, not in the letter (as under the law), but in the Spirit (as in the Gospel). "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit". Romans 8:3-4. It is our being delivered from the law by having died to it in Christ that causes us to fulfill the law. We walk in a way which brings forth righteous conduct which fulfills what the law requires, but not by the law, by being under its rule, but by the Spirit, by being under Christ's yoke in the Gospel, by walking by faith - for faith works by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law.

(And whilst Paul may indeed have delighted in the law of God after the inward man, he certainly delighted much more in the Gospel as is abundantly evident elsewhere - eg. Romans 1:16-17, 8:12-18, 8:38-39, 12:33 etc - for the Gospel concerns heavenly things, not earthly; the glory in the Gospel far exceeds the glory seen in the law as Paul clearly demonstrates in 2 Corinthians 3, and the Gospel actually fulfilled all that which the law could only demand, and far, far, more than that!)


"But does not the Lord Himself uphold the law?

Matthew 5:17-19 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.'

Hear He says that "whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." - Do and teach what? Surely the whole context contrasts "the prophets", ie the law as given by Moses?"

Certainly Christ upholds the law - He was made under it, He magnified it and made it honourable. And so do we - the fact that we are delivered from the law by death does not in any way alter the law, abrogate it, or take away from it. The law continues to stand in all its glory, rectitude, immutability and justice. All that it commands is unalterable, but, praise God, all that it commands has been answered and fulfilled in the death of Christ for us, who believe on Him. It is our having died in Christ to the law that delivers us from its rule. Christ never destroyed the law nor altered the law, but that does not mean that the believer remains under it.  No, Christ fulfilled the law, He answered its every charge against us, and legally delivered us from it. In the Gospel all has been fulfilled. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" Romans 10:4.

In Christ the believer is delivered from the law, from its curse, and from its commandment and is brought into the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2) which made him free from the law of sin and death. The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, by which the believer walks in the Gospel (which is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus), causes him to fulfill the righteousness of the law (Romans 8:4) and hence he does not break the commandments, but does them and indeed he teaches them. But the fact that he does and teaches them does not mean that he does what the commandments of the law demand by the law, nor does it mean that he teaches the law to be the believer's rule of life. No, it means that he does what the law demands, by walking in the Gospel and Gospel righteousness - by the Spirit - for the Gospel brings in an everlasting righteousness of a character and nature far exceeding anything that the law ever demanded or required. Gospel, or evangelical, righteousness is not 'less than' nor contrary to the law, but it exceeds what the law demands, hence any under the Gospel as their 'rule of life' will do what the law demands, not by the law, but by the Spirit through the Gospel. Believers love the law of God for they see the holiness, justice and goodness of God in it, and they see the perfect fulfillment of it in Christ. They "delight in the law of God after the inward man" for they know it is good, but they rejoice much more that Christ has delivered them "from this body of death" (Romans 7:24) to walk no more after the flesh, as under the law, but after the Spirit, as under the Gospel - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Believers don't cease to do what the law commands, for the Gospel causes them to walk in a way which fulfills the law, and neither do they cease to teach the law but they do teach the right use of the law. They teach that "by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20) and that by "the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified" in God's sight. They teach that the commandment of the law is right, that the "law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good" (Romans 7:12), but they also teach that sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceives us and slays us (Romans 7:11), and that in order to keep the commandments, to fulfill the law, we must be delivered from it (Romans 7:6), delivered from this body of death (7:24), that we must become dead to the law that we might bring forth fruit unto God (7:4). Believers know, from bitter experience, like Paul in Romans 7, that whilst under the law, whilst bound by it, whilst alive to it in any way, shape, or form, their flesh will simply bring forth sin, their members will bring forth fruit unto death (7:5). But they see in the Gospel a deliverance from sin, from the flesh, from the law and its rule and condemnation - they see a deliverance in Christ, who died for them, and in whom they died, and in whom they rise again having the Spirit of life in Him. This brings forth fruit unto God, this fulfills the righteousness of the law (Romans 8:4), and nothing else can.

The believer is dead to the law that he might live unto God (Galatians 2:19). He walks under a new rule, the rule of a new creation in Christ, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This causes him to walk in Gospel righteousness which far exceeds that demanded by the law. It is this righteousness which Christ expounds in Matthew 5-7 where he continually contrasts what the law says (not what the scribes said about the law, notice, but what the law actually says) with what He says in the Gospel - "But I say unto you..." Yes, the Gospel brings in a righteousness which not only fulfills the law's demands, but far exceeds it, hence Christ can say in Matthew 5:20 "That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kindom of heaven." Under the Gospel Christ's sheep have such a righteousness - Gospel righteousness, evangelical righteousness, the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, which soars above anything the law ever demanded (* see note). But also, unlike the law, this isn't a righteousness demanded of men which they cannot perform, but a righteousness wrought by God - the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ - and given to men by God, by His grace! It is this righteousness which God both imputes to His people and brings forth in them by His Spirit as they walk by faith looking unto Jesus their Saviour. It is called the "righteousness of faith", not the righteousness of the law (Romans 10:5-6) and such righteousness is seen by confession of the Lord Jesus and belief in the heart that God raised Him from the dead. Such faith is a believing unto righteousness and a confessing unto salvation (10:10). "For the just shall live by faith" - dead to the law, but alive unto God and married to Christ, "even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." It is this very righteousness of God which is revealed in the Gospel and which gives the Gospel its power to save...

... "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Romans 1:16-17


(* It is a failure to recognise the distinction between the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel and the righteousness of the law, which characterises the thinking of many who fail to see the truth of the believer's deliverance from the law. Some theologians speak of the Ten Commandments as being a 'transcript of the Divine nature'. Some [eg. Malcolm Watts in an article on the 'moral law' in the Sword & Trowel] even go as far as to describe it as 'the express image of God's person'. Yet scripture never refers to the law in this way - in fact it is Christ who is referred to as the express image of God's person in Hebrews 1:3. However to those who consider that the Mosaic law is a transcript of the Divine nature they can not envision deliverance from the law because they have essentially made the law itself synonymous with God Himself - which scripture never does [yes, the law reveals God's holiness and justice, but the full revelation of God's righteousness and His character is found in Christ in the Gospel]. The law to them is everywhere, it is inescapable. Hence even the other side of death, in heavenly glory they can only see the believer as still bound by the law, for he is still under God's authority. Yet scripture actually teaches a distinction between the righteousness of the law, which was given for earthly man whilst in this world, and the righteousness of God as revealed by the faith of Christ in the Gospel, which concerns the new man of grace in Christ - a heavenly righteousness for a heavenly kingdom. The believer is delivered from the law but has the righteousness of God in Christ. He is under the law of faith, the law of Christ, the law of liberty and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. What laws are these? They are the Gospel, which gives faith, love, liberty and everlasting life in Christ Jesus to all those chosen in Him unto salvation.)


Questions on the Sabbath Day

Ian, you mentioned that Sabbath keeping is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament whereas nine of the other commandments are quoted. Is there any implication to this? It seems to me that it is omitted because the Sabbath (or day of rest) was mainly instituted at the Creation, ie God was 6 days working and on the 7th He rested? What would your practical views be on the Sabbath now, for example would you be happy to do your groceries shopping on the Sunday? If not, then why not?

I do think it is very significant that the Sabbath command is not repeated in the New Testament. This is because it was essentially a type, a shadow, pointing to the rest which the believer has in Christ. Before then the believer is under the law, labouring. But when brought to faith his 'six days' of work come to an end and he enters into rest, have been crucified with Christ and risen with Him the other side of death. Then he is in rest, having the reality of what the sabbath was but a shadow. Hence in the NT with the coming of Christ, and His work being finished at the cross, the sabbath comes to an end. Therefore we read in Matthew 28:1 "In the end of the sabbath", regarding the resurrection of our Lord. This is not simply referring to the end of that particular sabbath day, you see, but this refers to the end of the sabbath, full stop.

You make mention of the sabbath at creation. Yes, it is true that Genesis 2 mentions the seventh day, and of course Exodus 20 refers back to this in relation to the sabbath law. However, it is significant that no where else in Genesis is the sabbath mentioned. There is no mention of it being made a law or requirement of man to keep until Moses brought Israel out of Egypt. We never read of the Patriarchs observing a sabbath in that sense. Certainly at the creation the 'type' of the seventh day is mentioned, because it would be - the account is of God's creation and is figurative of what He brings in in the new creation in which there is an eternal rest. The law of Moses certainly refers back to this because again the Sabbath law is a figure of that which is to come so it refers back to the previous figure (and it is made a law to teach us that to 'break' such a rest by working in it is wrong, because this is tantamount to adding our works to Christ's in order to be saved, but we are to rest in Him). But the fact remains that no mention is made elsewhere in Genesis of sabbath observance, and the strict requirements of how to observe the sabbath are only stated in the law.

When we arrive at the New Testament we have various references to the sabbath in the Gospels and Acts, but many of these references are to what Christ did on the sabbath to the consternation of the Jews who accused him of being a sabbath breaker. In the epistles the primary mention is in Colossians (2:16) which is highly significant as there the teaching concerns deliverance from earthly things, into which men seek to bring us into bondage. Paul seeks to set the Colossians' gaze upon heavenly things showing them that these earthly types and figures have all passed away in Christ.

So, in summary, in the NT we are delivered from the law, including the sabbath law. The mention of the seventh day rest at creation doesn't alter that, because the position of the believer is one of being dead to this present world, this present creation, and alive in Christ risen in newness of life the other side of death. What pertains to this creation is but a type and figure of the reality brought in in the new creation. The seventh day rest pictures that eternal rest we have in Christ. In Galatians 6:14 Pauls tells us that the world is crucified unto him, and he unto the world. If so, he is crucified unto all worldly, earthly things, including the observation of holy days, sabbaths and so on. We are not under a legal bondage in respect of such things (We are both dead to the law and also to the world.) I could write more... but as I hinted above in my previous answer we have to be mindful of our position in Christ the other side of death, we are no longer earthly in the first man Adam, but heavenly in the Second Man Christ. We are called to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and if so, we reckon ourselves dead in the flesh, dead to this world, hence dead to what is earthly. Types, figures and shadows served their purpose in the Old Testament but now the reality has come, now the true Light has dawned, we put such things away and walk in liberty in Christ our Saviour.

But how does all that work out in practice? Obviously despite our state in Christ we do still have the flesh, we are still in this world (though not of it) and we do have weeks with days and nights.... And for that reason, whilst I do not believe that I am under any legal obligation to keep a sabbath day, being dead to the law, I do nevertheless think that the principle of one day of rest in seven, whilst in this world, is a good one - physically and spiritually, in this world, in many ways, we need it. Also, it is good to worship our Lord as often as we can, and having one day a week set aside specifically for that purpose, without the distraction of our daily work is helpful. So the historical situation in our country that gives us (many of us) Sunday off work is something to be thankful for, and I am happy (voluntarily) to set such a day aside for the worship of God, it being the first day of the week which is the day that Christ rose from the dead (so not the sabbath day itself anyway, but still one day in seven, and a good day to remember our Lord's resurrection). Personally I do prefer to avoid shopping and work etc. on such a day as it distracts (and also it might be said, old ingrained habits probably die hard...). But I don't believe it is a legal obligation, and I don't think we should be judgmental of others who see their liberty in Christ differently. I know of some who recognise that we are no longer under the sabbath law who therefore treat Sunday just like any other day (except for attending a meeting or two on that day). Well, they have the liberty to do that, but I personally wouldn't want to do that as I think it would be better to raise every day up to the same standard, rather than bringing this one day down to the standard of others (in terms of being taken up with earthly cares and duties). But as we can't bring all the other days 'up', because of the need to work, shop, etc., and although I would love to have two, three or more days a week like this one, I am nevertheless thankful for one and think it is good to at least be able to treat this one day differently - to give our time in it freely to the Lord, if you like (to be mindful of heavenly things, putting aside earthly cares). It isn't 'the sabbath', it isn't legally binding, but I think it good to do so freely out of love for the Lord. As a day of rest may we be reminded of that eternal rest which we have in Christ who has delivered us from bondage and brought us into liberty, as children of light who walk in the light of His countenance in the power of an everlasting life in Him, who having died for our sins rose again as the Firstborn from the dead, in whom we have our life and being.


Ian, by what criteria do you recommend books by, or include articles or messages by, any particular writer or preacher?

Very simply, I recommend those books, or include those articles or messages on the website in which I find the Gospel of Christ to be clearly proclaimed. It is the Gospel, the truth as it is found in Christ Jesus which is the criteria for inclusion. Of course there are those writers or preachers whom one comes to recognise preach the Gospel clearly and consistently with a 'Thus saith the Lord', but it is not my intention to promote the men themselves, but the message they proclaim, and the One of whom they testify - the Lord Jesus Christ. The men whom God sends to preach His Gospel are simply messengers - it is the message they bring which is important - the message of God's free grace in saving sinners through the Person and Work of His precious Son the Lord Jesus Christ. It is those books, articles and messages in which I find this truth proclaimed which I seek to recommend and include on 'Grace and Truth Online'.

Sometimes one can be accused of 'following men' when recommending books or articles. Well, as I have said, it is not the men whom I seek to promote but their message, the Gospel. It is that message which is important, not the men. But if a man regularly preaches that message then I will certainly recommend his preaching or writing to the extent that he preaches and follows Christ. We should follow those men sent of God who follow Christ to the extent that they do preach Christ. (See my article "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" on this subject.) All men are but men at best, all have faults and failings, and this side of Glory we will never come across a preacher (other than the Lord Jesus Christ) whose comprehension of the truth is perfect. It has "pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21) and God in His wisdom calls and sends men, imperfect men, weak, lowly, despised men (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) to preach His Gospel. As such we gladly receive the preaching of such men, but we are also aware that everything that is written or preached by man should be tested by the word of God "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" Isaiah 8:20. So whilst recognising those who preach with authority, who demonstrate evidence that they have been taught and sent of God with His message, and gladly receiving that message as it accords with the scripture, being the same Gospel concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as has been taught from the beginning, by Christ and His apostles, we nevertheless should always be careful to test both the message preached and the spirit by which it is preached (see 2 Corinthians 11:3-4), for that Gospel which is of God comes "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" 1 Thessalonians 1:5.

One lesson the Lord taught me many years ago was to "cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils" Isaiah 2:22. Ultimately all men have failings, all are subject to the same temptations and weaknesses, and even the best of men, the seemingly Godliest of men, those who seem to be the most used of God, can fall, can err, or can let us down. I have seen this many times over the years. I have seen good men fail in various ways, I have seen some succumb to temptations, others become puffed up with pride, and others fall out with each other, perhaps over minor differences of doctrine or clashes of personality. Whereever there is a work of the Spirit the flesh, and the fruit of the flesh, is never far away. How dependent God's people are, especially those whom He sends to preach His word, on the keeping Hand of God, on His preserving grace to keep them humble and contrite before Him, that His work may be seen to be entirely of grace owing nothing to the strength of man in the flesh. But whilst men may fall or stumble the truth proclaimed remains. God's word, His Gospel, stands sure for evermore, "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" 1 Peter 1:24-25. God uses men to preach His word, but they are merely men, just earthen vessels, subject to many weaknesses, and God is pleased to work in this way in order to ensure that we don't glory in man but in God and in the work of God alone. Hence Paul can write in 2 Corinthians 4:6 "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us". So whilst God calls His people to recognise those whom He sends with His word, and to follow them as they follow Christ, to receive their preaching as it accords with the scriptures, He nevertheless also warns us against taking our gaze off Christ, of whom they testify, and setting it upon man. We must receive the message of Christ and follow Him, not simply the messengers whom He sends. We follow them as they follow Christ, but only as far as they follow Christ. We love God's messengers for Christ's sake, but it is ultimately Christ whom we must follow, not man.

So often there can be a tendency amongst Christians to set great preachers up on pedestals. Many speak of this preacher or that one in such glowing terms that they are in danger of revering them above their station. This can especially be seen in the regard some have for great men of the past, for example the Reformers or some of the Puritans. We must guard against making too much of man. Indeed the Lord has a way of ensuring that His people don't fall into such a walking by sight, rather than by faith, by teaching them the meaning of Isaiah 2:22. Often they will be brought to be let down by some whom they have trusted or looked up to. Ultimately God ensures that His people trust in the only One whom they can entirely trust, the only man who is without sin, who is perfect in every way - the Lord Jesus Christ.  By ensuring that those whom He sends with His word, even the best of preachers, retain many failings, and many weaknesses, God reminds His people that the power of God does not stand in the preacher, nor in his eloquence or oratory, nor in his might or personality, but that it stands entirely in the Gospel of God and in the Holy Spirit's application of that Gospel as it is preached. God uses men to proclaim that Gospel, but the power to save lies not in man, not in the preacher, but in the Gospel itself. The power lies in the message preached, the Gospel of Christ.

It is to that end that I recommend books or include articles or messages on this website that proclaim that Gospel. Not to promote man in any way, but to proclaim that one message, of the one Saviour, which is the power of God unto salvation. Read the books, articles, and messages I commend as containing the Gospel of Christ; follow the preachers who bring that message as far as they bring that message, but ultimately follow man only as far as he follows Christ, recognise those who preach with a 'Thus saith the Lord', but test their message by the 'law and the testimony', by the word of God, and be sure to set your affection not on man, nor on the things of men, but upon the One of whom they testify - God's only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Romans 1:16-17