Blogroll: Emmanuel Evangelical Church

I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 27 posts from the blog 'Emmanuel Evangelical Church.'

Disclaimer: Reproducing an article here need not necessarily imply agreement or endorsement!

Subscribe to Emmanuel Evangelical Church feed
Blog and Talks from Emmanuel Evangelical Church, North London
Updated: 16 min 24 sec ago

Adorned for the Lord

Mon, 17/07/2017 - 00:00

1 Peter 3:1-7 causes confusion and perplexity for all sorts of reasons, many of which have to do with the shameless resistance of our culture to biblical teaching about marriage, male and female sexual identity, and a host of related topics.

But even for Christians who are seeking to understand what the text actually teaches (as opposed to those who are actually seeking to explain it away), some exegetical questions remain. Among them is the significance of the surprising word-group kosmos / kosmeō in vv. 3, 5, where it’s normally translated “adorning”, “adorn” or suchlike.

However, a glance at the other biblical occurrences of the term (especially in the Greek translation of the OT) quickly reveals what Peter has in mind. Here goes:

1. Imagery of holiness, especially connected with the Temple

  • 2 Ch 3:6 King Solomon adorned the house of God, the Temple, with precious stones, gold, and so on.
  • Luke 21:5 Temple was adorned
  • Esther 1:6 Description of the palace of King Ahasuerus of Persia, which is itself described in terms reminiscent of a counterfeit Temple

2. Imagery of "right-ness", especially with hints of a moral sense

  • Ecclesiastes 7:13 Translated "straighten", in the sense of "straighten out", "make things as they ought to be".
  • Mic 6:9 (LXX =/= MT) Similar to Ecc 7:13
  • Mt 12:44; 23:29; Lk 11:25 Decorate, put in order

3. Imagery combining the "Temple" and "(moral) right-ness" themes

  • Jer 4:30 "Adorn" in a negative sense, apostate Judah "adorning herself" with makeup when in fact she's a moral ruin. Significant, perhaps, for 1 Pet 3.
  • Ezek 16:11, 13 The LORD adorns his bride, Jerusalem, with gold and fine clothes and jewels etc as a gesture of love and an image of spiritual beauty
  • Ezek 23:40-41 Jerusalem and Samaria depicted as beautiful women who prostituted themselves to foreign nations
  • Tit 2:10 Godliness “adorns” the gospel
  • Rev 21:2, 19 Bride Jerusalem, holy city, “adorned" for her husband, Christ

4. Other usages

  • 1 Tim 2:9 Adorn with clothing
  • Mt 25:7 Lamps trimmed

With all these in mind, the links from “adornment” to “Temple” and thus to “holiness” become obvious. This in turn makes sense of the context in 1 Peter, with its reference to “the holy women [hagiai gunaikes]” in v. 5.

The point is that women are being urged to adorn themselves with a particular form of godliness, since in this way they become "holy women", the fulfillment of God's OT holy temple-sanctuary, the place where the Spirit of God dwells, a concrete picture of the holiness of the bride of Christ, the church.

Categories: Friends

1 Peter 3:1-6, Being a beautiful woman

Sun, 16/07/2017 - 00:00
Categories: Friends

Salvation by allegiance alone

Sat, 15/07/2017 - 00:00

There's an interesting introduction here to Matthew W. Bates' book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It's a podcast interview between the author and Scot McKnight. Worth a listen.

Categories: Friends

Help with your Hebrew, step 2

Sat, 15/07/2017 - 00:00

OK, so let's imagine that you've moved past the first-year level of Hebrew, so that 100 Hebrew Translation Exercises aren't going to be much help any longer

You're at the weak verb stage, which means you're at the you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-I'll-never-remember-all-that stage.

What you need is a simple way of condensing all the stuff you've learned about the crazy Hebrew verb system into three simple rules which will allow you to actually read this strange and wonderful language. Then you can read a couple of verses each day, and perhaps have a hope of arriving back at college in September without having forgotten everything you've spent two years learning.

You need the Hebrew Weak Verb Cheat Sheet.

Here's an extract from the introduction:

Lots of theological students find weak verbs a bit baffling. Way back in the day, I was one of them. James Robson, our lecturer at that time, was (and is) an utterly outstanding teacher, and produced dozens of full-colour sheets designed to help us chart a course through the minefield of weak verb paradigms. Some of my fellow-students even managed to learn them. Yikes - there were some smart folks in that class. But not everyone has the neck muscles to support the planet-sized brain necessary to memorize all that stuff.

Fortunately, it turns out that there’s an easier way. If you think about it, you don’t actually need to learn all of the rules for forming Hebrew verbs if your only aim is to translate from Hebrew to English. The range of possible meanings for any given verb is constrained both by the root letters that remain and by the context. This means that if you have a good grasp of Hebrew vocabulary, and if you’re sufficiently experienced at actually reading the Hebrew Bible to have a reasonable idea of the context, then a few simple rules will enable you to identify the root letters of almost every weak verb in the Hebrew Bible. You won’t impress your purist friends, but you should at least pass the exam, and you might even find yourself able to read the Hebrew Bible. Now there’s a neat idea.

Categories: Friends

Help with your Hebrew, step 1

Fri, 14/07/2017 - 00:00

It's the time of year when theological students have finished their exams and have a few months to forget everything they've learned since September. And the first thing to disappear from the mind of the average student is the large stack of Hebrew vocabulary and grammar that they've spent the last nine months stuffing into their aching brain.

Actually, let's be honest, it never really stuck in the first place, did it?

Don't worry - all is not lost.

Wouldn't it be great if you could get to the start of next semester better at Hebrew than you were just before your end-of-year exams?

Well, it's all now possible with the help of 100 Hebrew Translation Exercises.

100 Hebrew Translation Exercises contains 100 short texts from the Hebrew Old Testament, together with English translations, footnotes to help with unusual or irregular phrases, and a vocabulary list.

So, now you have no excuse.


Categories: Friends

Calls to worship

Fri, 14/07/2017 - 00:00

I was reading through Robert I. Vasholz's excellent book Calls to Worship, which prompted me to look again at the liturgical responses we use at the start of our services at Emmanuel. With the help of Vasholz, we now have a set of ten call-and-response elements which feature as part (not all) of the "Call to Worship" portion of our liturgy. We'll be cycling through them on successive weeks. Just on the off-chance that they're useful to anyone else, here they are:

Ezekiel 37:12, 14

Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will open your graves
and raise you to new life, O my people.
And I will put my Spirit within you,
and you shall live.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD;
I have spoken, and I will do it,’ declares the LORD.


Isaiah 60:1-2

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.


Psalm 33:20–22

Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.


Ps 106

Save us, O LORD our God,
And gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
and glory in your praise.
Blessed be the LORD our God,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Praise the LORD!


Psalm 118:19; Zechariah 8:21

The LORD has opened the gates of righteousness,
that we may enter through them
and give thanks to his name.
Let us seek the favour of the LORD,
and rejoice in his goodness!


Isaiah 55:1-3, 6

“Come, everyone who is thirsty,
come to the waters,” declares the LORD.
“Incline your ear, listen diligently to me,
draw near to me, that your soul may live!”
Let us seek the LORD while he may be found,
and call upon him while he is near!


Psalm 30:3–4, 12

Sing praises to the LORD, all you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name,
for he has brought you up from the grave,
and spared your life from the pit!
O LORD our God,
we will give thanks to you for ever!


Psalm 29:1–2, 11

Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,
ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name;
worship the LORD in the splendour of holiness!
May the LORD give strength to his people;
May the LORD bless his people with peace!


Psalm 50:1, 5, 15

The Mighty One, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth:
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
Let us call upon the LORD;
he will deliver us, and we will glorify him!


Psalm 66:1–4

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Awesome are his deeds, and great is his power,
all the earth will worship him and sing praise to his name!


Categories: Friends

What is the Call to Worship?

Thu, 13/07/2017 - 00:00

The “Call to Worship” is the first formal element of our service of worship at Emmanuel. But what does it mean? And what is it for?

There's a great deal of very helpful reflection on this question in a little book by Robert I. Vasholz entitled Calls to Worship (Christian Focus, 2008). Among the highlights is the Foreword by Bryan Chapell, which contains so many helpful insights that I was sorely tempted to copy the whole thing out here. But since I thought the publishers might (rightly) object, I took the liberty of paraphrasing and editing and expanding a few of the most striking moments below.

(All credit to Dr Chapell for anything that's good, and all blame to me, please, for anything misleading or wrong.)

"The first point to notice is that God calls us to worship him. We do not invite him to be present; he invites us.

"Because the call to worship is always from God, we are reminded that he always takes the initiative, while we respond. This is a profound truth not only for our salvation, but also for our worship of the One who calls us.

"The call to worship is not simply a perfunctory greeting, a way of saying “Hi!” at the start of the service. Rather, the Minister speaks on God’s behalf to invite the congregation to join the heavenly host worshipping the Living God around his throne.

"The call to worship is also an invitation to respond to God’s revelation. By using the words of Scripture in the call to worship, the Minister is urging the congregation to respond to God’s own disclosure of his character and purposes. And by responding with Scriptural words and phrases, the congregation is voicing their acceptance of, and obedience to, the word of God.

"This reflects the vital principle that we don’t approach God on our own terms, but rather on the terms that he has established. When God speaks, it is our obligation and privilege to respond appropriately in praise, prayer, repentance, and so on.

"The call to worship also reflects the fact that God is pleased when we worship him. God wants us to worship him – otherwise why would he invite us to do so? What a remarkable privilege this is: even as we are brought face to face with our sins during the confession near the start of the service, we are reminded that God has already invited us, sinners though we are, to draw near and worship him."

Categories: Friends

The commissioning of the Chelashaw family

Mon, 10/07/2017 - 00:00

Yesterday we had the tremendous privilege of commissioning Kip' and Rachel Chelashaw and their children Elijah, Ezra, Susanna and Bethany, as they prepare to leave the UK at the end of August to plant a church in Nairobi, Kenya. Kip' is a native of Kenya, and Rachel was born to missionary parents, and therefore has considerable experience of ministry overseas.

As a former member at Emmanuel, Kip’ has asked us to be their sending church. We'll therefore be praying for them and keeping in touch with them regularly, seeking to provide support, encouragement and accountability as his ministry begins

But we're certainly not the only church supporting the Chelashaw family. The Chelashaws are partnering with United For Mission, an established mission agency with experience in over 40 countries. They're also being supported by nearly a dozen other churches besides Emmanuel, as well as around twenty other individuals taking an active part in praying for the work and supporting it financially. We thank God for the privilege of joining with so many brothers and sisters in Christ to participate in this exciting new ministry.

To listen to the sermon that was preached at the Chelashaw's commissioning service, click here.

If you'd like to find out more about any aspect of the Chelashaw's ministry in Nairobi, please email

Categories: Friends

Seminar 5: The Authority and Canon of Scripture

Wed, 05/07/2017 - 00:00

Emmanuel Training and ResourcesModule T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation

Seminar 5: The Authority and Canon of Scripture


Having considered the theme of natural revelation (God’s revelation in the created world) last time, we continue our study of the doctrine of revelation in this seminar with special revelation (God’s revelation in Scripture). In particular, we’re thinking about two issues:

First, the authority of Scripture. What kind of authority does the Bible have? Why does it have this authority? How does the authority of Scripture relate to the authority of the church? What authority should we place upon personal “revelations” from God?

Second, the canon of Scripture. The phrase “canon of Scripture” refers simply to the list of 66 books that make up the Bible. We’ll therefore be thinking about why the Bible contains these particular books it does, how the canon was established, what authority it has, the place of the church in establishing the canon, and so on.

We’ll be reading two texts: a portion of Calvin’s Institutes (I.vii-ix), and an essay by J. N. Birdsall on “Canon of the New Testament”, pp. 169-175 in the New Bible Dictionary (IVP).

Calvin develops the theme of the necessity of Scripture and discusses how its authority may rightly be established. Birdsall explores the historical process that led to the clarification of the New Testament canon.

If you’re pushed for time, omit the questions marked with a *.

Introductory questions

Think about these questions before your start reading. Try to identify what you really think about these questions, not what you think you ought to think.

a. Why do you believe that Scripture is the inspired and authoritative word of God?

b. Why do you believe that the 66 books of the Bible are exactly what ought to be there – no more and no less?

Study questions on Calvin, Institutes, I.vii-ix (1:69-96)

1. What, precisely, is the nature of the “pernicious error” that Calvin identifies in I.vii.1?

2. How does Calvin respond to this error in I.vii.2?

For reflection: Take a closer look at Ephesians 2:20, the text Calvin cites in I.vii.2, and also at Ephesians 3:5. Do you think Ephesians 2:20 supports Calvin’s argument here? Why or why not?

In I.vii.3, Calvin discusses Augustine’s controversial statement, “I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the catholic church” (cited by Calvin on p. 76, footnote 6). Calvin argues that Augustine did not mean by this what the medieval Catholic church claimed that he meant.

*3. How has “that statement of Augustine” been misinterpreted by Calvin’s opponents (I.vii.3; cf. footnote 6)? How, in Calvin’s view, should Augustine be understood here (I.vii.3)?

4. According to Calvin, what is “the highest proof of Scripture” (I.vii.4)? How does Calvin expand on this in I.vii.5)? Do you agree with Calvin here?

For reflection: If Calvin’s argument here is correct, how should we seek to persuade unbelievers that Scripture is God’s authoritative word?

5. How significant, in Calvin’s view, are the arguments for the authority of Scripture outlined in I.viii? In what context are they significant?

6. Can you identify and summarise the following arguments for the credibility of Scripture, outlined in I.viii:

  • The content of Scripture (I.viii.2)
  • The great antiquity of Scripture (I.viii.3)
  • The miracles described in Scripture (I.viii.5-6)
  • The prophecies of Scripture (I.viii.7-8)
  • The character of the New Testament (I.viii.11)
  • The testimony of the church (I.viii.12)
  • The testimony of the martyrs (I.viii.13)

For reflection: Which of these arguments do you find most persuasive? Which do you find least persuasive?

7. What is the error of the “giddy men” whom Calvin criticises in I.ix.1? How does Calvin respond?

For reflection: Have you ever come across anyone who sounds like these “giddy men”? What sorts of things did they say?

*8. How do the texts alluded to in I.ix.2 support Calvin’s argument?

9. In what ways does Calvin express the relationship between God’s word and the ministry of the Spirit? (I.ix.3)

Study questions on J. N. Birdsall, “Canon of the New Testament”

10. During the New Testament period itself, “there [was] no sense ... of a Canon of Scripture, a closed list to which addition may not be made” (p. 170). Why not?

11. When and why did “awareness of the concept of a canon and scriptural status [begin] to reveal itself in the thought and activity of Christians” (p. 172)?

12. What did Marcion believe, and what did he do (p. 172)?

13. What three “criteria were utilized ... to establish that the written documents are the true record of the voice and witness of apostolic witness” (p. 174)? Can you explain why each of these criteria would have been regarded as important?

For reflection: Does it disturb you that there is no divinely inspired list of the books comprising canon of Scripture? Why or why not?

Categories: Friends

What's the hottest thing in the contemporary church?

Tue, 04/07/2017 - 00:00

This article from Tim Challies made me smile. Here are a few extracts:

According to a new study by Gallup, the hottest thing at church today is not the worship and not the pastor. It’s not the smoke and lights and it’s not the hip and relevant youth programs. It’s not even the organic, fair trade coffee at the cafe.

The hottest thing at church today is the preaching. Not only is it the preaching, but a very specific form of it—preaching based on the Bible. And just like that, decades of church growth bunkum is thrown under the bus.

As Christianity Today says, “Despite a new wave of contemporary church buzzwords like relational, relevant, and intentional, people who show up on Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most services: preaching centred on the Bible.”

Click here to read the whole article.

Categories: Friends

Abortion and moral schizophrenia

Mon, 03/07/2017 - 00:00

Last Saturday, we read about the heartbreaking case of the youngest victim of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Logan Gomes. The child of Marcio and Andreia Gomes, Logan was as yet unborn when the fire struck. His mother Andreia was taken to hospital following her escape, where doctors discovered that poisonous fumes from the blaze had claimed the life of the unborn child. Logan was born while Andreia was in an induced coma, and Mr Gomes was faced with the unthinkable task of breaking the news of his youngest child's death to his wife and the couple's other daughters, Megan and Luana.

Just a few days previously, we read that "the UK’s largest doctors union", the British Medical Association, "has called for the complete decriminalisation of abortion and for women to have access to terminations on demand." The article continues, "If the BMA gets its way, medics would not face criminal sanctions for providing, or women for procuring, an abortion in any circumstances, at any stage in a pregnancy."

That is to say, the largest union of doctors in the UK is calling for the legalisation of the deliberate killing of children at precisely the same stage of life as young Logan Gomes. The BMA (an association of doctors - people with the job of saving lives) wants the law make abortion legal for any reason whatever, at any stage of pregnancy, right up to birth.

What are we to make of this?

Well, most obviously, we must assume that none of those doctors who support the BMA's proposal have any sympathy whatever with the Gomes Family. For you cannot mourn the tragic death of a child on the one hand, while on the other hand simultaneously arguing that a mother should have the right to have her child killed deliberately without the need to feel any remorse or grief at all.

Either these unborn children are human beings, with the same rights as the rest of us, or they are not.

You cannot have it both ways.

Categories: Friends

Psalm 42, Your Personal Life of Prayer

Sun, 02/07/2017 - 00:00
Categories: Friends

How would you impress a Queen?

Thu, 29/06/2017 - 00:00

When the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon at one of the high points of Israel’s history, she was overwhelmed – literally, “she was breathless” with amazement (1 Kings 10:5).

But what was it that so amazed her?

In part, it was “all the wisdom of Solomon” (v. 4), known to us in part through the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs.

In part, it was “the house that he had built” (v. 4), either a reference to Solomon’s palace, or to the Temple of the LORD which stood nearby.

In part, it was “the burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD” (v. 5), reflecting the LORD’s grace to his people and their devotion to him.

But there was something else that amazed the Queen of Sheba when she entered Solomon’s palace: “the food of his table” (v. 5).

She was stunned by the care and attention to detail displayed when the people ate together – not only the food itself, but also the seating arrangements, the servants’ clothing and so on – and she was overwhelmed by the joy this created in the hearts of Solomon’s people.

The goodness of our God is made known to the world in and through the care, the love and even the extravagance that we display when we eat together on special occasions of celebration.

And we celebrate the life, death, resurrection, exaltation, reign, and future return of the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Next Sunday at Emmanuel is Big Sunday Lunch. Don’t miss out.

Categories: Friends

1 Peter 2:18-25, Frustrated at work?

Sun, 25/06/2017 - 00:00
Categories: Friends

How to fail in the pursuit of godliness

Wed, 21/06/2017 - 00:00

I want to say a few words about a common way in which we often fail to grow in godliness. As it happens, parents also sometimes make a similar mistake in raising their children, with the result that their kids go off the rails as they approach independent adulthood.

Let's start by taking a look at Hebrews 1:8-9, which quotes Ps 45:6-7 as part of a description of Jesus, the Son of God. There's one particular phrase I'd like to draw your attention to:

"You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness" (v. 9).

What's intriguing about this is that it doesn't simply talk about what Jesus does (and doesn't do); it talks about what he loves (and hates). He doesn't just act with righteousness; he loves righteousness. And since we’re called to be like Jesus, we’re called to do the same – to love righteousness and hate wickedness.

This is one of the most valuable lessons we’ll ever learn about growing in godliness. It’s not enough just to do what’s right from day to day; this isn’t a sufficient safeguard for us. For the time will surely come when the temptation to sin grows stronger, at which point unless we actually love righteousness the temptation to sin is likely to be too strong to resist.

To put it another way: when the crunch comes, we don't do what we’re told to do, but what we love to do. And unless we love righteousness, the day will eventually come when we turn away from it.*

This is particularly relevant for parents in the process of raising children. It’s fairly easy to make a small child comply with the word of God. A strict and consistent regime of parental discipline will produce children who so what they’re told – at least for the time being.

But unless we raise our children to love living in obedience to the word of God, the time is surely coming when they will stop doing so.

With good reason, then, Psalm 119:97 declares, "Oh how I love your law!"

* For more, check out James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, and Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises.

Categories: Friends

Seminar 4: The Knowledge of God

Wed, 21/06/2017 - 00:00

Emmanuel Training and ResourcesModule T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation

Seminar 4: The Knowledge of God


The reading for this seminar takes us to a well-known section at the beginning of Calvin’s Institutes on the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves (Calvin, Institutes, I.i-vi [1:35-74]). It’s worth paying close attention to the development of the argument in this portion of Calvin’s work (especially chapters i-iv and vi) in order to grasp fully what Calvin is saying, both because it lays some important foundations for what follows, and also because some contemporary scholars have misread Calvin at this point.

In order to help you understand what Calvin is saying in these chapters, I’ve included a brief outline of his argument below, along with some comments about how people sometimes misunderstand him. Much of this outline can be gleaned simply from the chapter headings in Calvin’s work, which, though not written by Calvin himself, nonetheless provide helpful and largely accurate pointers to the direction of Calvin’s thought. Note: this should not be taken as a comprehensive summary of all the nuances of Calvin’s thinking here, but only as a guide to the overall flow of his argument.

Once you’ve got a feel for what Calvin is saying here, you’ll quickly see that this section (along with the key biblical passages to which Calvin refers) have profound significance for understanding the status of non-Christian religions, the fate of the unevangelized people of the world, and a range of other important contemporary issues.

If you’re pressed for time, omit the questions marked with a *.

Outline of the argument in Calvin, Institutes, I.i-v

Chapter i. We can’t know ourselves fully without knowing God (I.i.1), but we can’t know God fully without knowing ourselves (I.i.2). Let’s start with God (I.i.3).

Chapter ii. To know God truly and rightly means not just to know that he exists, but to revere, trust and honour him. (Calvin is talking here about the kind of knowledge that would have been possible for us if Adam had not sinned, simply by observing God’s self-revelation in creation.)

Chapter iii. All people have some “knowledge” of God through God’s self-revelation in creation (I.iii.1). Indeed, even the many religions of the world prove this (I.iii.2). Not even the most wicked of men are able to cast of all knowledge of God (I.iii.3).

Chapter iv. But this “knowledge” (spoken of in the previous chapter) is smothered (Romans 1), as people turn from the true God revealed in the creation to idols of their own making or imagination.

Chapter v. Again, all creation speaks clearly about the glory of God (esp. I.v.1-10), but all people ignore and suppress this knowledge (esp I.v.4, 11-15).

Chapter vi. Scripture is therefore necessary for anyone to know God as Creator.

This brief outline helps to clarify how some people misunderstood Calvin’s argument at this point. They note rightly that Calvin affirms the doctrine of Natural Revelation – that is, God reveals himself in the creation of the world, so that even non-Christian religions reflect a deep-seated awareness of God’s existence (I.iii).

However, they then wrongly conclude that this Natural Revelation leads people to a Natural Theology – that is, that people develop a right understanding of God’s character, and even a right relationship with God, through his revelation in the created world.

This is a misunderstanding of Calvin (and of the Bible, for that matter). For Calvin, following the apostle Paul in Romans 1, argues that all people suppress this Natural Revelation of God, with the result that Natural Revelation does not lead anyone to a true knowledge of God (I.iv). Instead, Natural Revelation alone results only in idolatry. We need Scripture in order to come to a true knowledge of God (

Questions to think about

a. If someone who had never heard of Jesus and never read the Bible were stranded alone on a desert island, what could they discover about God?

b. If the person described in the previous question died without hearing about Jesus, could they be saved? Why or why not?

c. I have a good friend who’s a Buddhist. He’s a delightful chap, but he doesn’t believe in Jesus. What does God think of him?

d. Read Psalm 19. What do vv. 1-6 tell us about how we can find out about God? Why do you think vv. 7-11 are included at this point in the Psalm?

e. Read Romans 1:18-32. According to these verses, what has God revealed about himself in the creation? What do we naturally tend to do with this knowledge?

Study questions

In I.i (book I, chapter i), Calvin explains how the knowledge of God is related to the knowledge of ourselves.

1. “No one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God” (I.i.1). Why not? According to Calvin, what particular aspects of the world lead us to contemplate God?

2. “Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face” (I.i.2). What does Calvin mean by this? What examples does he give?

In I.i.3, Calvin discusses some important biblical evidence to support the point made in the previous section, namely that “Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face” (I.i.2).

3. What biblical evidence does Calvin provide in I.i.3 to support the point made in the previous section?

In I.ii, Calvin discusses in more detail what he means by “the knowledge of God,” the nature of such knowledge, and so on.

4. What does Calvin mean by “the knowledge of God” in I.ii.1? What kind of response to God should such knowledge involve (I.ii.1-2)?

In I.iii, Calvin explains and seeks to prove that there is in the natural human mind “an awareness of divinity.”

5. What evidence does Calvin give in I.iii.1 that “there is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity”?

For reflection: What do you think of the evidence that Calvin gives here? Are you persuaded? Why or why not?

6. What would Calvin say to someone who thought that “religion was invented” by men as an instrument of power (I.iii.2)?

For reflection: Where do you think Calvin would say that the various different religions of the world come from?

I.iv is a crucial portion of this part of Calvin’s Institutes, for it explains what men and women do with the knowledge of God which has been implanted within us.

7. How do human beings naturally respond to the “seed of religion” implanted within them (I.iv.1)?

8. What would Calvin say to people who thought that “zeal for religion ... is sufficient” (I.iv.3)?

For reflection: How would Calvin respond to the claim that some non-Christians are genuinely seeking to worship and serve the true God?

For reflection: What implications does Calvin’s argument have for contemporary evangelism?

9. In I.iv.4, Calvin discusses “a second sin.” What is this sin, and how (according to Calvin) do people commit it?

For reflection: How does Calvin’s argument so far (I.i-iv) fit with what Paul says in Romans 1:18–32?

In I.v Calvin covers in more detail some of the themes he has already discussed in the previous chapters. I suggest you move more quickly through this chapter, though you may find it helpful to look at the sections highlighted in questions 10 and 11.

*10. In what particular ways does God make himself known to humanity (I.v.1-2)?

*11. How do we naturally respond to what God has revealed to us (I.v.4-5, 9-13)?

*12. What important points does Calvin make as he summarises his argument in I.v.14-15?

13. What has God done in order “to direct us aright” to him (

14. How should God’s revelation in Scripture affect how believers look at and understand the world around us (

For reflection: How does Calvin’s argument in these chapters shape your attitude to evangelism?

Categories: Friends

Weekly Bible reading plan

Thu, 15/06/2017 - 00:00

A while ago I posted a week-by-week Bible reading plan, designed to get you through the NT and Psalms twice in a year and the rest of the Bible once, while also allowing a degree of day-to-day flexibility and variety. Here it is again, with a couple of errors corrected:

Week 1 Gen 1-19; Mt 1-4; Acts 1-5; Ps 1-8; Pr 10:1-13

Week 2 Gen 20-35; Mt 5-7; Acts 6-9; Ps 9-17; Pr 10:14-26

Week 3 Gen 36-50; Mt 8-11; Acts 10-14; Ps 18-21; Pr 10:27-11:6

Week 4 Ex 1-12; Mt 12-15; Acts 15-19; Ps 22-28; Pr 11:7-19

Week 5 Ex 13-27; Mt 16-19; Acts 20-24; Ps 29-34; Pr 11:20-31

Week 6 Ex 28-40; Mt 20-23; Acts 25-28; Ps 35-38; Pr 12:1-13

Week 7 Lev 1-16; Mt 24-26; Rom 1-7; Ps 39-44; Pr 12:14-26

Week 8 Lev 17-27; Mt 27-28; Rom 8-14; Ps 45-50; Pr 12:27-13:10

Week 9 Num 1-14; Mk 1-5; Rom 15-16; 1 Cor 1-5; Ps 51-58; Pr 13:11-23

Week 10 Num 15-28; Mk 6-9; 1 Cor 6-12; Ps 59-65; Pr 13:24-14:10

Week 11 Num 29-36; Dt 1-4; Mk 10-12; 1 Cor 13-16; Ps 66-70; Pr 14:11-23

Week 12 Dt 5-21; Mk 13-16; 2 Cor 1-10; Ps 71-75; Pr 14:24-35

Week 13 Dt 22-34; Lk 1-2; 2 Cor 11-13; Gal 1-6; Ps 76-78; Pr 15:1-13

Week 14 Isa 1-14; Lk 3-4; Eph 1-6; Phil 1; Ps 79-85; Pr 15:14-26

Week 15 Isa 15-30; Lk 5-7; Phil 2-4; Col 1-4; Ps 86-90; Pr 15:27-16:5

Week 16 Isa 31-44; Lk 8-10; 1 Th 1-5; 2 Th 1-3; Ps 91-98; Pr 16:6-18

Week 17 Isa 45-58; Lk 11-14; 1 Tim 1-6; 2 Tim 1; Ps 99-104; Pr 16:19-30

Week 18 Isa 59-66; Joel 1-3; Lk 15-17; 2 Tim 2-4; Tit 1-3; Phm; Heb 1; Ps 105-106; Pr 16:31-17:10

Week 19 Josh 1-15; Lk 18-21; Heb 2-8; Ps 107-113; Pr 17:11-23

Week 20 Josh 16-24; Jdg 1-4; Lk 22-24; Heb 9-13; Jas 1; Ps 114-119:56; Pr 17:24-18:7

Week 21 Jdg 5-19; Jn 1-3; Jas 2-5; 1 Pet 1-4; Ps 119:57-176; 120; Pr 18:8-20

Week 22 Jdg 20-21; Ru 1-4; 1 Sam 1-7; Jn 4-6; 1 Pet 5; 2 Pet 1-3; 1 Jn 1-2; Ps 121-134; Pr 18:21-19:9

Week 23 1 Sam 8-20; Jn 7-9; 1 Jn 3-5; 2 Jn; 3 Jn; Jud; Ps 135-141; Pr 19:10-21

Week 24 1 Sam 21-31; 2 Sam 1-6; Jn 10-12; Rev 1-7; Ps 142-147; Pr 19:22-20:5

Week 25 2 Sam 7-19; Jn 13-17; Rev 8-16; Ps 148-150; Pr 20:6-18

Week 26 2 Sam 20-24; Am 1-9; Obad; Jn 18-21; Rev 17-22; Pr 20:19-30

Week 27 1 Ki 1-18; Mt 1-4; Acts 1-5; Ps 1-8; Pr 21:1-13

Week 28 1 Ki 19-22; 2 Ki 1-8; Mt 5-7; Acts 6-9; Ps 9-17; Pr 21:14-26

Week 29 2 Ki 9-21; Mt 8-11; Acts 10-14; Ps 18-21; Pr 21:27-22:8

Week 30 2 Ki 22-25; Hos 1-14; Mt 12-15; Acts 15-19; Ps 22-28; Pr 22:9-20

Week 31 Jer 1-11; Mt 16-19; Acts 20-24; Ps 29-34; Pr 22:21-23:4

Week 32 Jer 12-26; Mt 20-23; Acts 25-28; Ps 35-38; Pr 23:5-17

Week 33 Jer 27-39; Mt 24-26; Rom 1-7; Ps 39-44; Pr 23:18-29

Week 34 Jer 40-52; Mt 27-28; Rom 8-14; Ps 45-50; Pr 23:30-24:7

Week 35 Ezr 1-10; Neh 1-13; Mk 1-5; Rom 15-16; 1 Cor 1-5; Ps 51-58; Pr 24:8-20

Week 36 Dan 1-12; Mk 6-9; 1 Cor 6-12; Ps 59-65; Pr 24:21-34

Week 37 Est 1-10; Job 1-11; Mk 10-12; 1 Cor 13-16; Ps 66-70; Pr 25:1-11

Week 38 Job 12-29; Mk 13-16; 2 Cor 1-10; Ps 71-75; Pr 25:12-24

Week 39 Job 30-42; Jon 1-3; Lk 1-2; 2 Cor 11-13; Gal 1-6; Ps 76-78; Pr 25:25-26:8

Week 40 Prov 1-9; Mic 1-7; Lk 3-4; Eph 1-6; Phil 1; Ps 79-85; Pr 26:9-21

Week 41 Ecc 1-11; SoS 1-8; Lk 5-7; Phil 2-4; Col 1-4; Ps 86-90; Pr 26:22-27:6

Week 42 Lam 1-5; Ezek 1-9; Lk 8-10; 1 Th 1-5; 2 Th 1-3; Ps 91-98; Pr 27:7-19

Week 43 Ezek 10-23; Lk 11-14; 1 Tim 1-6; 2 Tim 1; Ps 99-104; Pr 29:20-28:4

Week 44 Ezek 24-37; Lk 15-17; 2 Tim 2-4; Tit 1-3; Phm; Heb 1; Ps 105-106; Pr 28:5-16

Week 45 Ezek 38-48; Nah 1-3; Lk 18-21; Heb 2-8; Ps 107-113; Pr 28:17-28

Week 46 1 Ch 1-16; Lk 22-24; Heb 9-13; Jas 1; Ps 114-119:56; Pr 29:1-13

Week 47 1 Ch 17-29; 2 Ch 1-5; Jn 1-3; Jas 2-5; 1 Pet 1-4; Ps 119:57-176; 120; Pr 29:14-16

Week 48 2 Ch 6-23; Jn 4-6; 1 Pet 5; 2 Pet 1-3; 1 Jn 1-2; Ps 121-134; Pr 30:1-16

Week 49 2 Ch 24-36; Jn 7-9; 1 Jn 3-5; 2 Jn; 3 Jn; Jud; Ps 135-141; Pr 30:17-33

Week 50 Hab; Zeph; Hag; Mal; Jn 10-12; Rev 1-7; Ps 142-147; Pr 31:1-9

Week 51 Zech 1-14; Jn 13-17; Rev 8-16; Ps 148-150; Pr 31:10-20

Week 52 Jn 18-21; Rev 17-22; Pr 31:21-31

Categories: Friends

Divine sovereignty and human responsibility

Thu, 15/06/2017 - 00:00

We looked at this topic at our Wednesday Night Bible Study this week. Here are a few of the notes:

Divine sovereignty and human responsibility

1. How can I be free if God is sovereign?

What kind of “freedom” do we have?

Freedom of indifference: “I’m free to choose, seek, desire or will anything at all.”

Freedom of spontaneity: “I’m free to choose, seek, desire or will anything that is in keeping with my character.”


Illustration: Are you “free” to eat a bowl of live cockroaches?

If you find yourself thinking that the answer is “yes and no”, you’re right.

Yes, in the sense that there’s nothing physically stopping you from doing so. (In technical terns, there is no natural inability constraining you.)

But no, in the sense that there is (probably!) something “within” you that prevents you from tucking in to the crunchy arthropods. (In technical terns, there is a moral inability constraining you.)


Natural inability and moral inability

Examples of natural inability: “I can’t fly to the moon; I can’t do the ironing and wash the dishes and cook the dinner in 3 minutes.”

Examples of moral inability: “I can’t stop myself checking my Facebook feed; I can’t obey my mum’s instruction to do the ironing when Strictly Come Dancing is on TV.”


2. How can I be morally responsible for sins that God has predestined?

Moral responsibility requires freedom of spontaneity, not freedom of indifference

Knowledge and consent are required for moral responsibility

The freedom to have chosen to do otherwise (freedom of indifference) is not required for moral responsibility


Illustration: The red door, the green door, and the perfect bank robbery

Johnny is in a room with two doors, a red door and a green door. The doors look identical apart from their colour, and they both lead out of the room to the same destination.

There is only one difference between the doors: Johnny is reliably informed that if he exits through the red door, £10,000 will be withdrawn from the bank account of a random individual and deposited in his (Johnny’s) personal account. The transaction will be irreversible, the victim of the theft will not be compensated, Johnny will never be able to discover the victim’s identity, the destination of the money will never be traced, and the crime will be completely undetected. The money will be Johnny’s to keep.

Johnny is instructed to leave the room through whichever door he wishes.

He chooses to leave through the red door.

Is Johnny guilty of theft?

Think very carefully about your answer.

Don’t scroll down yet.









In particular, think very carefully about why Johnny is guilty of theft.








Keep thinking...









It later transpires that the green door, which Johnny never even touched, was in fact locked.

Does this fact make any difference to Johnny’s guilt?

Why not?


In order to be morally responsible for a sinful action, it is sufficient that you (1) Knew what you were doing and knew about the relevant ethical norms (knowledge); and (2) Chose to perform the action (consent).


In order to be morally responsible for a sinful action, it is not necessary that you should have been (hypothetically) “free” to have done otherwise.


3. How can God predestine sin without being morally culpable for doing so?

Aspects of ethical actions: Context, consequences, motives, intentions


Biblical texts

Acts 4:23-30, esp. v. 24 (“Sovereign Lord”) and v. 28 (“whatever your hand and your plan had predestined”)

Isaiah 10:5-19, esp. vv. 5-6 (“my fury ... I send him”), v. 7 (“but he does not so intend”), v. 12 (“the arrogant heart of the king ... the boastful look in his eyes”)


Illustration: Dark regions of a beautiful multi-textured painting

Categories: Friends


Additional Terms