The State of Evangelicalism Today

The State of Evangelicalism Today

(based upon our April 14, 2011 webcast)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Many churches and individuals identify themselves as being “Evangelical”. This is a good term that has an important historical meaning. In time, good words are often used in ways that become detached from their original meanings. What does being an Evangelical mean today?

The word “evangelical” is an adjective from the word “evangel.” It comes from the Greek root word euangelion (ευαγγελιον). It is a compound word which combines ευ, a prefix meaning “good”, with angelia (αγγελια), a word meaning “message”. The related word for “messenger” is angelos (αγγελος). In the language of that time any messenger, both military and civilian, was called “angelos”, an “angel”. The same word was used for those spirit beings who were the messengers of God.

This compound word, “evangel” means “good message”. It is the message that God and lost sinners are reconciled by grace through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The message is “good” because it restores the lost to God’s eternal blessing and fellowship.

An “evangelical” person promotes
God’s good message of redeeming grace.

Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

The word “gospel” in that verse is the word “evangel” (ευαγγελιον).

There is an historical and theological meaning for the word Evangelical.

The Christian churches which believe that the lost need redemption are divided into two camps. The Sacerdotalists believe that God works mediately through the church which administers salvation through the sacraments. In contrast, the Evangelicals believe that God works immediately upon the individual to forgive and to restore him through the proclaiming of the gospel.

The historical dedication of Evangelicals to biblical principles has eroded.

1. Many now play down the importance of biblical doctrine
There is a tragic lack of concern about what the Bible actually says in many churches claiming to be “Evangelical.”

In a series of articles about the state of 21st Century Evangelicalism, Dr. Paul Elliott of Teaching the Word Ministries quoted from a survey reported in Christianity Today. The survey was based upon work done by Barna Research. Dr. Elliott’s article points out the following responses from young people in Evangelical churches:

  • 80% could not place Moses, Adam, David, Solomon, and Abraham in chronological order.
  • 85% could not place the major events of the earthly life of Jesus in chronological order.
  • 80% did not know to look in the book of Acts for the account of Paul’s missionary journeys.
  • 40% did not know where to find the Ten Commandments.
  • 67% did not know where to find the Sermon on the Mount.

In a similar survey of adults who call themselves Bible-believing Christians in America today, less than one adult in six said that he reads the Bible regularly. 35% of the adults surveyed said they never read the Bible at all.

Dr. Elliott said, “The church unplugged becomes the church uncertain about Biblical truth. And the church uncertain becomes the church that doesn’t really care how its people live.”

He then quoted from a Barna Research survey conducted in 2001 to show the following statistics:

  • 37% of adults in Evangelical churches do not believe the Bible is totally accurate.
  • 45% do not believe Jesus Christ was sinless.
  • 52% do not believe Satan is real.
  • 57% do not believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life.
  • 57% believe that good works play a part in gaining eternal life.
  • A similar number of Evangelical adults believe that other religions are “valid ways to God.”

2. Many in these churches show a lack of biblical morals.
In another Barna survey, less than 10% of adults in Evangelical churches cite the Bible as the primary basis of their worldview and behavior. Dr. Elliott reported that according to a 2008 survey by Pew Forum, 19% of those who are living with a partner outside of marriage identify themselves as Evangelical Christians.

Dr. Elliott referenced the book Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church (the Purpose-Driven Church). It said that although 91% of its people stated that their highest value in life is having a deep personal relationship with God, 25% of the church’s singles, 38% of its single parents, and 41% of its divorced members “admitted to having illicit sexual relationships in the last 6 months.”

Dr. Elliott then concluded, “… systematic, expository Bible preaching has given way to motivational lectures where the Bible is rarely mentioned, much less really studied. The singing of Bible-based, doctrinally-rich, instructive hymns has given way to the use of repetitious, cliché-filled songs and choruses.” … “Many of these churches base their programs and policies on the latest fad how-to books rather than on the Bible. They model their services on the practices of television mega-churches rather than on the principles given by the Holy God who is the only legitimate object of worship, in His Word.”

Restoring the Good News to Evangelicalism:

Though the state of 21st Century Evangelicalism is clearly unhealthy, there is great hope. God’s word is powerful because of it’s source. God promises to transform the hearts of his people when they learn his word, pray for his direction, worship him as they ought, and encourage one another as a spiritual family.

There are things we can do to turn the tide of an eroding understanding of the gospel.
1. We need to restore the focus of the gospel to reconciliation with God and restoration to godliness, rather than just proclaiming a rescue from perdition.

2. We can also encourage our pastors and teachers to restore worship sermons to themes derived from the exposition of Scripture, rather than from popular motivational topics.

Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ ”

Dr. Elliott’s helpful articles were found on the web at the following locations:
Part 1, The Greatest Story Never Read? By Dr. Paul M. Elliott

Part 2, What Do 21st Century Evangelicals Believe? By Dr. Paul M. Elliott

The surveys come from:
Barna Research (
Bible Literacy Center (
The Pew Forum (

The Obvious God

The Obvious God

Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011

When I was very young, in my early years of elementary school, my grandfather on my mother’s side took me to see New York City. Along with the Statue of Liberty and the famous subway, one of the things I wanted to see was the Empire State Building which I believe was then the tallest building in the world. We wandered around for a while looking for it. Finally we stopped a policeman on the street. When we asked where it was, he just pointed — we were right in front of it.

Sometimes we miss things not because we can’t see them, but because we just don’t recognize the obvious.

Our main duty here is to declare the glories of God.

Toward other believers in Christ, that means daily encouragement. We can help one another see and obey the revealed ways and truths we find in our Bibles. We can also remind one another about God’s amazing providence and the wonders of creation surrounding us.

However, when we declare his glory to the unbelieving world, there’s a problem. We need to remember that we are speaking to those still blinded by sin. It’s like declaring the colors of the rainbow in a society where everyone is totally blind. They have heard about colors, but have no conception of what they really are.

In their unbelief, in their blindness to the way things really are, they believe that God can be tested by their own set of rules, and measure up to their standards. They presume they are able to see things as they really are, and are able to rule out what they don’t want to believe is possible. All their theories, as improbable as they may be, are unquestionably accepted if they help them explain away the truly supernatural workings of an infinite God. It goes deeper than just their assumptions about science, philosophy, and theology. The real motive is to convince themselves that they aren’t accountable to the God who made them.

Here’s where the problem comes in. When they assume they can test God by their own man-made rules, they already presume that God isn’t what he is, and they aren’t what they are. By this circular reasoning, man puts himself, the creature, over the Creator. He makes up the test with the prejudice of his fallen heart. The test is designed with the expected outcome already in mind.

Paul shows how foolish this is in Romans 9:20, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”

How do we urge the unbeliever to believe in God?

Our duty is quite simple. We are to tell the unbeliever what God has made known, even though we know he will at first deny them because of his blindness. We can do this with confidence because God isn’t a hidden secret. Everything God made declares him to everybody all the time.

In Psalm 19:1-2 it says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.”

In Romans 1:18-21 Paul says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Even the human conscience, while fallen in sin, testifies to truths fallen men neither want to see, nor to admit.

In Romans 1:22-25 Paul goes on to say, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man —and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

It’s not that God’s word in nature and in our conscience is unclear. It’s that sin prejudices fallen humans so that they miss the obvious.

Not every believer in Christ has the knowledge to debate the philosopher, the evolutionist, the social liberal, the nihilist, or the post-modern theologian. But all have God’s truth in the Bible. Our job is to declare what’s already obvious, and to patiently pray leaving the results in the hands of God who alone can change the disposition of the heart.

We need to be careful so that the declaring of God’s truth is done well. We all have a duty to understand the Scriptures as well as we can. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to be taught well and systematically.

We need to be sure that the word is growing in our hearts, not just in our heads. If our lives contradict what we say, our message will be confused too. This doesn’t mean we need to be sinless. That attitude would directly conflict with Scripture. We need to admit our sins humbly. By example as well as by our words, we show what it is to trust Christ for forgiveness, and to be sincerely working to overcome our sins out of love for God.

This approach isn’t always going to bee well received. We shouldn’t expect it to be. Nobody likes to be told that he’s so prejudiced that he denies the obvious. What’s even worse to the unbeliever is to be told that aside from God’s grace he is unable to do anything about it. However, the facts stand out clearly on the pages of Scripture.

These ideas have been under attack for a long time. Not only from those outside the church, but also from those who manage to sneak in as wolves dressed as God’s sheep. It shouldn’t surprise us that Satan would infiltrate, promote his ideas, and battle us by trying to weaken us from within. This is what human enemies have done for ages.

In the early church there were all sorts of cults and mystical claims that attempted to distort what God had really said. The Middle Ages saw the invasion of rationalism into the church which tried to elevate man’s fallen nature so that it was only slightly damaged in the fall. The Bible says we are all dead in our trespasses and sins, not merely wounded.

As time distanced the church councils from the teachings of the Apostles, some adopted ideas that were not in the Bible. At times individuals claimed to receive visions on their own. Some have believed stories of miracles that attest to ideas completely contradictory to the Bible. In each case, information from outside the Scriptures creeps in to confuse God’s message.

When Liberalism came in, it tried to explain away all the supernatural elements in God’s word. Then came Post-Modernism that promotes the idea that it’s not even important to determine if there is real truth or not. It all becomes subjective and unimportant. Man becomes the test of what’s valuable subjectively, and God fades into being a nice but forgotten myth.

Through all this, God has kept his truth alive in his church.

A Biblical way to present God’s truth
is by what we call the Presuppositional Apologetic.

Presuppositional Apologetics is not a simple area of study, which is probably why they use those big words in it’s name. It would be impossible here to get into all the details of it. However, the basic idea is very simple.

The truth about the way things really are doesn’t begin with us and how we see things. It begins with the Creator who made everything, including us. The mistake people make is when they try to understand the world by assuming they can be neutral about everything, and can see without prejudice. The fallen heart dares to believe that it has all the information it needs to decide about what is right and real.

The lost “suppose” ahead of time, that their senses are reliable, that all they need is what their limited intellect and the findings of science tell them. The problem remains: their “supposes” are wrong. All truth has but one source, and that is God the Creator. We as creatures can only know what is true because God has told us. We can only submit to what he says when he changes us inwardly through the the Savior’s work of removing the barrier of guilt that separates us from our Maker.

All of creation declares God’s truth and glory all the time. He made us creatures with a conscience that condemns our sin and points us to God.

But there’s a problem: Sin has blinded us to truth as God presents it to us. The message is clear, but we are prejudiced against it because of sin’s effects. Since the fallen mind begins its thinking with the creature instead of the Creator, it’s bound to come up with a distorted view of everything. To the lost every beam of light, particle of matter, and wave of energy is stripped of it’s message. The truth is suppressed and the measurable facts are explained away as mere products of chance and evolution. In that blindness he believes he is capable of judging what it all means.

So when we talk about God and Creation, the world hears something different. The unredeemed think of God as a religious idea we came up with on our own. They think of him as a bigger, but not an infinite being since he couldn’t keep evil from happening. This makes God either an illusion, or mean, or incompetent, or powerless in moral matters. To the unredeemed who are religious, they think of God as great, but still in some ways limited. They believe God needs us to permit things to go his way. They imagine that the church and our permission control the redemption of individuals. This is why a humanistic or social gospel has taken the place of the message of grace and salvation in so many places.

So how can we deal with the atheist, the cynic,
the confused, and the religiously deceived?

We tell them the truth simply and honestly. We confidently assume that what God himself tells us is what really is. We don’t test the Bible by the inventions or imaginations of men. We test what we believe by the Bible since it was given to us by God himself. We pray as we tell them the truth because we know that only God can change people’s hearts by his grace.

All our evidences, arguments, proofs, and pleadings can’t change the lost heart, but all these can be effective tools when the power of Christ is at work.

Is there a God? You may as well ask if you had parents. Since we are here, we had parents. Their image is stamped all over us. It’s in our eye color, the color and texture of our hair, our bone structure and facial features, and in the skills we inherit and learn. Since the universe is here, there is a Creator – just like the one whose image is stamped all over it.

I like to say, the Bible is the sword of the Spirit. Don’t argue about how sharp it is. Stick them with it. God blesses his word and his faithful people’s use of it.

There is a God. What he’s told us about himself is there reliably in his word. We begin with him, not with ourselves making up tests for him to pass to satisfy us.

We should learn and declare by word and life what God has made known. We should encourage others to trust and obey those principles and promises. However we must remember that God alone can change the lost heart, so we pray and live in confidence of God’s power and wisdom.

Dr. Van Til wrote, “no one can see Scripture for what it is unless he is given the ability to do so by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.”

John Calvin saw this in the Bible too. Without a truly Sovereign God who changes us by grace alone, there is a different gospel that rests somehow more on the creature than the Creator.

Van Til said that for even those who don’t understand theology well. “in practice every evangelical who really loves his Lord is a Calvinist at heart. How could he really pray to God for help if he believed that there was a possibility that God could not help him?”

What could possibly be easier than to simply point out the obvious? We have the power of God and his promise, that everyone who hears our message, and those he intends to believe it, will without fail both believe and come in faith to Christ. Those who don’t come show that he hasn’t worked in them yet. In some he never will.

We are not to try to figure out who will believe or when to give up trying to deliver the truth to them. We are to keep on with the Good Message. If we obey — should the results go either way — we can’t possibly fail in our mission.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Living Lovingly

Living Lovingly

Characteristics of the Christian
by Bob Burridge ©2001, 2011

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

There are specific characteristics that should be seen in the life of every Christian. Our interest isn’t just to define them, but to learn to do two things:

1. to develop these attributes in our own lives
2. to encourage them in those around us.

A good way to begin is to look at
what it means to love one another.

Love is the first item in the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Jesus himself said that love was the summary of all the law and prophets. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus was asked what was the foremost of all the commandments. His answer, quoting the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, was this …

“Jesus said to him, ” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Love is so important in Scripture, it would require a whole series of studies to do it justice. Love is the word the Bible uses to summarize the way believers should live. We we need to look at what exercises will strengthen the love Christ put in us by his grace.

There is a divine command that God’s children should learn to love.

Jesus said that loving one another was a mark of discipleship. John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

If all men know we are Christ’s disciples by our love, then we need to know what it means to love, and what love looks like when we do it.

Love has many meanings the way we use it generally. We should define it the way God uses the word love in his word. I suggest this definition:

“Love is a disposition implanted into needful human hearts by the prevailing grace of God whereby we are enabled joyfully to obey the revealed desires of our Creator; both toward the Lord himself, and toward others.” (Pastor Bob Burridge)

Obeying God’s desires as to how we should behave toward him and toward others involves a lot. We need to know how to be loving at home, at school, at work, at play, in worship, socially, shopping, and while we are fixing things. We need to know what it means to love in every situation. It needs to become a part of what we are, and of what we do all the time.

Love is described in some depth in 1 Corinthians 13 (we will use the New King James translation). The old KJV uses the word “charity” instead of “love.” In 1611 AD charity meant love at its noblest.

This chapter doesn’t tell us everything about love, but it is a good summary of what our lives should be like when we love.

If love is a fruit produce by the Holy Spirit working in us, we should know how to nurture this fruit. We need to know the seed that begins the growth of love in us, the labor needed to cultivate it to its fullest yield, and the good harvest our labor can reap from this important seed.

What is the seed that makes love begin to grow in us?

Biblical love as a disposition is alien to our fallen human nature. Left to our inclination at birth, human love lacks an essential quality. It does good to others so that it can improve it’s own situation.

The self-centeredness of fallen human love is obvious. It wants companionship, help, sex, and opportunity. For those reasons it focuses on what it can do for others to get these things for itself.

It loves other people as long as it gets what it wants. When hurt comes along, or when the companionship is strained, what the world calls love produces accusations, arguments, and fightings. Sometimes it leads to infidelity, gossip, divorces, law-suits, and defamation. In extreme situations it even leads to perjury and violence. This kind of love isn’t just artificial, it is a cruel costume for selfish evil.

Biblical love begins when the seed of spiritual life is implanted in regeneration. Only when the fallen creature is restored by grace through Christ can anyone begin to realize love as the Creator intended it to be.

The Bible says, “we love because He first loved us.” If God hadn’t first sent his Son to redeem us, love as God reveals it would be completely unknown in our world.

Love is an essential evidence of our belonging to Christ. That is why Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

When you grow a plant, its life is in the seed. But to make it grow to its fullest, there are things you need to do. It needs water, soil, nutrients, proper lighting, and protection from disease, insects and hungry animals. When God implants this love in us there are things we are called upon to do.

What labor is needed to cultivate love to its fullest yield?

The Bible speaks of love as an action. It is a command. God says you should love your neighbor as yourself. He tells husbands to love their wives, and he commands us all to love one another. So when people say “I just can’t love that person”, they imply that God makes unreasonable demands of us. Love is first an obedience before it becomes a feeling. This is good news. It means there is something we can do when love doesn’t seem to be there.

God doesn’t say, feel love for your neighbor, or husbands feel love for your wives. He doesn’t say fall in love with others. He tells us to love them. It’s a direct command. Do you have trouble loving others? Then here is a message of hope. You can do something about it.

God’s word tells us specific things to work on to nurture love to grow in us. It defines what we do toward God when we love him, and toward others when we love them. This seed implanted in us by grace requires these obediences as it grows. The same grace that implants love enables and moves us to grow in our obedience to God’s word. We need to do loving things while trusting in God’s promises to succeed.

Paul presents 16 qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. …”

Notice that this love isn’t presented in some abstract, ideal environment. It is shown acting in the real world, a world where bad things happen. It responds to being provoked, wronged, and generally attacked. We see how love bears up in the midst of adversity and selfishness.

People who are loving in these ways, show that its seed has been planted in their heart. Love is directly defined in the Bible as doing what God has commanded toward others:

John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
John 15:17, “These things I command you, that you love one another.”
1 John 5:2-3, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

This is what we need to do when there is a lack of love in our lives. We need to learn God’s moral law, and determine by Christ’s enablement to obey the biblical commandments toward God and toward our fellow humans.

When the seed of love is implanted in regeneration, and when it is cultivated by the means of obeying God’s instructions, we will enjoy the full harvest of this fruit of the Holy Spirit.

What good harvest can our labor reap from this small seed?

When we do what God commands, he blesses us with that feeling of love. The general form of his covenant promises is this: “Do and be blessed.” This does not imply that God waits for our efforts. It means that God uses the power of his word and the work of the Holy Spirit to produce our efforts. It is all by his grace. When we are made aware of the need, and of the way God has ordained for the need to be met, and when we obey lovingly with confident expectation of success, we discover the work of God active in our hearts. As we then do what we are moved to do, the full blessings of love in our marriages, homes, communities, and church family will be realized. We will feel the love God promises that we will experience.

It is this effect of love, the feeling, that the world craves. But fallen man wants the feeling without faith, without the obedience. So he becomes frustrated at the work of conjuring up a feeling. He runs from church to church, from job to job, from marriage to marriage, community to community, club to club … looking for love and finding no reward.

Our duty before God is without dispute.

First: We need to make sure we are made alive by Christ, and that we are humbly thankful for that work of grace. By faith, lay hold of the promises God makes, and trust in his enablement. If the seed is not planted, love cannot grow to what it ought to be.

Second: We need to cultivate implanted love by obedience to God’s word. We must learn to keep God’s commandments toward one another, and toward God himself. Without the evidence of obedience, there is no reason to believe the seed has been planted. Of course all of us are imperfect in our obedience. So another part of our obedience is to help others to love, and we should forgive their failures as we are forgiven by our God.

Third: We need to expect God’s blessing when we obey him, and treat others as he says we should knowing that God will give the increase.

When we are patient and kind, and are not envious, braggardly, arrogant, rude, or self-seeking, and are not easily provoked, or take wrongs into account, and we do not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rather we rejoice in truth, bear all things, believe all things, hope in all of God’s assurances, and endure all things, and when we do all this persistently, then God will bless us with all the rich feelings of love in our hearts.

Note: The verses in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

No More Dark Trails

No More Dark Trails

Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011

We appreciate having some kind of light to help us see where we’re going when it’s dark. People have used many ways to get light at night or in dark places. They have used torches, candles, lanterns, flash lights, flood lights, and many kinds of each. One of the great advantages of modern police and armed forces is their night vision capabilities. While the typical the enemy is blinded by darkness, night vision equipped forces can see where he is, and move in on him.

A few years ago there was a story in the Back To God Hour’s devotional booklet Today about a missionary in the Philippines who lost use of his headlights on his way home late one night in is old Jeep. He said, “Leaning out the side doors, we made it home by the dying beams of a couple flashlights.”

God’s word often uses light to teach about seeing our way in moral darkness.

Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

God’s information and comfort are there to guide us along the right path. In our fallen condition we’re unable to see the dangers or to recognize them effectively.

God gives us a powerful light in his word. It shows us what we need to know about moral dangers and warns us about the consequences of certain things if we do them. Without the light of God’s word we would stumble around morally and take the wrong paths.

Just having the light is not helpful if it’s not used. A Bible that’s never read won’t protect you from lies, deceptions, and temptations.

God’s word needs to be read regularly
A flashlight home on the shelf won’t help when you’re out on the road or away camping. God’s word needs to be in your heart and on your mind. You need to be filling your mind with it so that it’s there when you need it. You won’t have time to look things up for the first time when problems come along.

God’s word needs to be studied so that it’s properly understood.
This is why good Bible instruction is needed. Those God has gifted, and who develop good Bible study tools are the Lord’s provisions for his family. Those who claim to be Bible teachers need to be examined and approved by a sound church. We have the authority God gives to those he calls to office to help us discern the reliability of what we are taught. There are many who teach wrong things as if they come right from Scripture. Be familiar with what the Bible says so that you recognize the counterfeit teachers.

God’s word needs to be thought about and prayed about.
This is how you gain the ability to see the path it lights up for you. The Bible needs to be applied personally and practically. Let the light shine on your path, on the things you’re doing or dealing with, and think about what the light of the word shows you.

Though it doesn’t show us everything, it shows us what we need to know to make wise and godly decisions to the best of our ability for the glory of God. That is what we are created and redeemed to do. That is why God gave us his word and opens our hearts by the power of Christ so we can live by it.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

Three Exercises For the Soul

Three Exercises For the Soul

Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011

We would all like to be healthy and physically fit. To do that we need to eat well, get regular and sufficient sleep, and keep our bodies exercised regularly.

We also want to be spiritually healthy. We would like to be confident, comforted and, calm in the Lord as we live each day.

To become spiritually healthy believers we also need to do certain things. We need to pray, to feed on God’s word, to worship, and to fellowship with believers in Christ who can encourage us and help us correct wrong attitudes and behaviors. There are some good spiritual exercises that help us grow strong.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us three good spiritual exercises to do daily. However, like exercise videos you won’t benefit by just reading about them, or by doing them rarely. They must be used regularly.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (KJV), “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Spiritual Exercise #1: Rejoice evermore.

Joy comes into a believer’s heart by God’s grace. It is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). To begin with, make your salvation sure. Hope of a real enduring joy without Christ is an empty dream.

Rejoicing is also something God commands his children to do. This verse is an imperative, a command. It says literally, “Always be rejoicing.” The grammar shows that this is an ongoing thing to be doing. It is a regular daily exercise, not just something you do when all is going well.

The world’s rejoicing is based upon outward circumstances. Anyone can stir up joy when things go well. The reality is: things don’t always go well.

The believer’s rejoicing is based upon spiritual circumstances. We know that in all situations God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Don’t just rejoice when you get what you want. Trust that whatever comes is part of the greatest good. Rejoice in the assurances God gives you. Circumstances change and are not always pleasant, but his promises and faithfulness are changeless.

Even when the Thessalonians were going through persecutions, even when the Apostle Paul was arrested and beaten for his faith, he told us that he had good cause to rejoice.

God’s spiritual blessing that is found when you look to the reality behind what you see outwardly.

Spiritual Exercise #2: Pray without ceasing.

Being engaged in prayer is a continuing obligation. “praying without ceasing” doesn’t mean going around with closed eyes. It doesn’t mean that we are always consciously talking with God. That’s not the way those who are our examples in Scripture prayed.

It means that God should never be out of our thoughts. It means that we are constantly aware of him, and that we regularly turn our thoughts to him to call out to him in prayer. The healthy soul lives in continuing appreciation of God’s presence, assurances, and power.

    Be quick to turn to the Father …

  • to praise him for his wonders
  • to thank him for his blessings, and daily provisions
  • to ask his help for yourself and for others
  • to admit your moral failures and weaknesses
  • to express your trust in the Savior and his promises

Spiritual Exercise #3: In everything give thanks

Nothing is exempted from thankfulness. We need to learn to see all things as they relate to God’s plan. The healthy soul learns to thank God even when it doesn’t understand the good he’s doing.

The Thessalonian believers were being treated very cruelly by pagan neighbors and persecutors. Even in all this there was reason to thank God.

The Christian’s thanksgiving doesn’t come from what he understands is happening. It comes from his confidence in the Lord who loves him so.

Thank him continually, all the time, every day. Paul had suffered false arrest, beatings and a long jail term. He had been sent as a prisoner to Rome and held there for trial. While under arrest he wrote to the church in Philippi, saying;

Philippians 1:3-4, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy”

Notice that all three spiritual exercises are present in this comment by Paul: He was rejoicing, he was praying, and he was giving thanks to God.

Even in hard times, the believer who exercises himself in these things will be spiritually strong.

Paul ends this section by reminding us that these things are God’s will concerning us. It pleases God when we keep up with these three exercises. To be spiritually strong and to please God, we need to make regular use of these exercises.

We need to remember that our exercise must be done from our position “in Christ”. Before someone gets into a physical exercise program he should be sure he is physically able. People often check with their doctor to be sure that they can safely do what’s required in the program without danger. If someone is unfit or has a respiratory or cardiac problem some exercises might be harmful.

Before you can expect to benefit from these spiritual exercises, you need to be fit for them. You can not do them while depending upon yourself in pride and self-confidence. You need to draw your ability and strength from the promise of God as a person redeemed in Christ. Only those confidently trusting in God’s provision of grace are fit to engage in these exercises.

When you recommend these three exercises to others, don’t imply that they are able to become strong by them without Christ. The first advice you need to give them is to make sure they are trusting only in the atonement for sin accomplished by the Savior. As we and others rest in him, God’s three-part exercise program will make us stronger.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

The Valuable Bible – 2 Timothy 3:16

The Valuable Bible – 2 Timothy 3:16

Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011

2 Timothy 3:16

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness

This is one of the Bible verses people commonly memorize and quote. It’s simple, straight forward, easy to learn, and not hard to understand. Yet it summarizes one of the great and most basic truths of the Christian Faith. It tells how the Bible came to be, and how useful it is.

It begins with a profound fact: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”

The original Greek word for “Scripture” is graphae (γραφη). In the verse just before this (3:15) Paul is talking about the same writings, but there he calls them “The Sacred Writings”, ta hiera grammata (τα ιερα γραμματα).

He doesn’t mean just any writings. He used expressions common in his day to refer to the books of the Old Testament. These were the writings that were known by Timothy growing up as a Jewish child. These terms were consistently used by the Rabbis then to refer to the whole Canon of the Hebrew Scriptures. Those words were used the same way we use the word “Bible” today.

The Bible didn’t come from some church council or a group of editors. It was given to us from God himself by the act called “inspiration“.

The word “inspiration” translates the Greek word theopneustos (θεοπνευστος) which literally means “God-Breathed”. More exactly the word means “to expire” or “to breathe out” since the sounds of speech are made by the expiration of air through the larynx. In English the word “expire” also describes something that is outdated. An expiration date tells when something has gone past its effective date like an expired driver’s license. Since God’s word never becomes ineffective with time, “expiration” would not have been a helpful translation. The amazing fact is that Scripture originated as if it was breathed out of the mouth of God himself. It is his word spoken to us who read it.

Some who refuse to accept everything in the Bible as being true have tried to change this verse to make it say something different. They translate it as, “Every scripture which is God inspired …” as if there are some parts of the Bible that are human words and are not “God-inspired”. Technically the difference in translation depends on how you understand the adjective. It may be taken as a predicate adjective or an attributive adjective. Both are grammatically possible. But it doesn’t change the meaning of the verse either way it’s translated. It’s always the context that shows how an adjective is to be understood. Clearly Paul was using well established terms referred to the books of the Old Testament. These are the books Timothy had studied from his youth, and that are profitable for all the things the Apostle lists here. It’s not consistent to assume that Paul was saying that some Scripture was not inspired and profitable. The debate over the two grammatical possibilities is overrated at best.

Since the Bible is God’s own word to us, it is fully authoritative and reliable. Scripture is said to be, “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”

The Bible is “profitable” [ophelimos (ωφελιμος)]. Literally this means that God’s word is helpful and gives an advantage. Then it lists the things that follow from this important fact:

The Bible teaches [didaskaliean (διδασκαλιεαν)] us what is right and true. We call teachings about what we believe “doctrine”. What the Bible teaches is absolutely true and reliable always. What the Bible doesn’t address is just theory. What contradicts the Bible is absolutely false and misleading.

The Bible “exposes” and condemns [elegmon (ελεγμον)] false beliefs and bad behaviors. The idea here is to give evidence that shows what is true and good so that by contrast it reveals what is not true and good.

The Bible “corrects” [epanorthosin (επανορθωσιν)] deviations from God’s path. It makes the crooked path straight again.

The Bible tells the “way of righteousness” [paideian taen en diaiosunae (παιδειαν την εν δικαιοσυνη)]. That’s how we know what pleases God. It points out what ways are good for us to follow. If we don’t learn the right ways, we are bound to go in the wrong ones.

This verse is God’s own word about his word. It’s very unwise, even dangerous, to neglect this good advice. God’s people must be a people of the Book. It is our connection with God’s truth that tethers us to the immovable rock. How sad when Christians neglect such an important tool and gift.

For more information about the inspiration of the Bible see Unit One of our Syllabus.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

The Prime Motive – 1 Corinthians 10:31

The Prime Motive – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011

The reason why we do things is very important. Our courts have to consider the motive of the accused when someone is believed to have committed a crime. Accidental damage should not be punished in the same way as intended evil. Determining the intent behind a crime is crucial and morally necessary.

For example, If a person causes someone to die, it is not necessarily a crime of murder. The regretful killing may have been done in self-defense. In war people are killed in the defense of a nation. There is a provision in God’s word for rightful civil authorities to take the life of those properly convicted of capital crimes. Executions are not the same as murder. There are also accidental deaths where no harm was intended. Some may cause others to die because of their negligence, or irresponsible carelessness resulting in deadly unintended consequences. There are also those terrible instances where killing is planned with intended malice. In these cases it is considered a crime of murder. In each of these cases, the reason why a killing took place is important.

The Bible supports this principle. The reason behind what we do needs to be considered when making moral and judicial decisions. Harm and damage is not always moved by evil intent.

Those things which seem to benefit others are not always moved by good intentions either. Good deeds are truly good only if they are done for the right reasons. People may at times give things in order to get things. Some give with an attitude of selfish pride so they will get recognition for their seeming generosity. Some give out of a guilty conscience as if a good deed will wipe out a bad one. Good done selfishly is just evil in a costume.

There is only one motive that should be at the root of everything we do. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31,

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Food and drink are necessary for life, health, and growth. God made them pleasureful so we can enjoy getting our nourishment as provided by our Creator. While God reveals that we should be concerned about all matters that sustain us and that give us pleasure, our own benefits are not to be our prime motive. Everything in life should flow from one primary motive alone. All we do should be done for God’s glory.

There is little to misunderstand here. Literally there are only five words in this part of the original Greek text. It reads: “… all – unto – glory – of_God – you_be_doing”, panta eis doxan theou poieite (παντα εις δοξαν θεου ποιειτε). There should be nothing in which we engage that is not centered upon this principle. The honoring of our Creator-Redeemer by promoting his attributes, purposes, actions, and promises must be what shapes our attitudes and choices.

This one moral principle should be your thought in everything you do. It should govern your entertainment, your daily schedule and priorities, your budget, your hobbies, how you do business, and how you run your home. Everything must be done in such a way that God’s glory is promoted.

That means you need to know and to truly care about what pleases God. If his glory is the motive behind all you do, then you need to be a faithful and regular student of God’s word. To honor him centrally in your life you also need to show your total reliance upon his power and strength in your life. This means you ought to be diligent in prayer with confidence that because of the work of our Savior Jesus Christ your prayers are used by God in carrying out his plan for the ages, and in maturing you as a Child of God.

To glorify God you must also encourage and be encouraged by others who want to glorify God too. His word teaches us that we are redeemed to be part of a body of believers living for their Redeemer and joining for worship in the manner he prescribes in his word.

God made all things for his own glory. If your motives are primarily based upon any thing other than this fundamental principle, you defy the whole order of the way things were created to be, and you will certainly bear the sad consequences.

In contrast, there is wonderful blessing promised when your intentions move in harmony with God’s intent, when you live to give him the glory in all things, in whatever you do.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

The Meaning of Propitiation

Watch the Propitiation Video Presentation

The Meaning of Propitiation

By Bob Burridge ©2010, 2016

The word propitiation is not commonly understood by the average reader of the Bible. The New Testament uses the word only a few times. The noun form is only found in two verses, both are in First John (1 John 2:2 and 4:10). The verb form “to propitiate” is also just found in two verses (Luke 18:13 and Hebrews 2:17). A related word is translated various ways in the New Testament.

The English verb, “to propitiate” means to appease an offended person. Propitiation is when an offensive or upsetting matter is dealt with in a way that satisfies the offended person. The goal is to restore the relationship broken by the offense.

In the New Testament the Greek word translated “propitiation” is hilasmos (ἱλασμός). The verb form is hilaskomai (ἱλάσκομαι), and the related word mentioned is hilastaerion (ἱλαστήριον).

In Hebrews 9:5 “hilastaerion” is translated as “Mercy Seat”. It is the covering over the Ark of the Covenant in the ancient Tabernacle of Israel. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for that covering is caporet (כּפּרת). It simply means the “covering”. The “the Mercy Seat” was a slab of pure gold, almost 4′ long and a little over 2′ wide. It was laid as a covering over the Ark of the Covenant that contained the tablets of God’s law. The law exposed the reality of our sins against the moral principles. The covering symbolically represented how God would cover our guilt through the promised Redeemer.

The Latin word for this covering of the ark is “propitiatorium” the root of our word “propitiation.” The Latin verb “propitio” meaning “to appease.”

When the priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices they were symbolically covering over sin (Leviticus 4:35 10:17 16:30). In this sense, propitiation is a covering over sin to hide that which is offensive to remove God’s anger as the offended party.

As faithful high priest Jesus is the covering over the sins of his people. He is their propitiation. He did what the priests of the Old Testament could only symbolize. The effectiveness of the ancient sacrifices was based upon the future work of Jesus, the great Propitiator. He paid the debt by dying in place of the repentant sinner. His work covers their guilt to satisfy God’s justice, and turn away God’s wrath. That wrath was poured out on him and satisfied God’s demand for justice toward his people.

1 John 2:2 is often taken out of its context. It is talking about Jesus Christ when it says, ” … he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

This verse is not saying that the sins of all people were covered by the work of Christ. It corrects an error. Some Jews thought they were the only ones to have a Propitiator. Here John says that Jesus was not just the propitiation for the Jews. He is the only propitiation God provides for the whole race of humans. This included even those who were not Jews. Not all Jews were included in the work of the Savior, but not all non-Jews were included either. The point is that all people from all the nations of the world need to turn to him as the only possible propitiation for sin. There is no other hope.

The work of Christ is represented by a variety of English words today. These words all have technical meanings drawn from Scripture. In early English these words were much more common in use.

1. Atonement is making amends for a wrong done, for a loss or injury caused. This is a more general term and must be used cautiously because it includes the whole process of making us right with God through the work of Christ.

2. Expiation is the actual satisfaction of a wrong, making atonement for it. Expiation is particularly the effect of satisfaction upon the sinner’s guilt.

3. Propitiation is the appeasing of the one offended by covering the cause of his anger. Propitiation speaks primarily to the effect of satisfaction upon God as the offended party.

4. Reconciliation is our restored fellowship with God resulting from the removed offense. The New Testament verb is katallassein (καταλλάσσειν). The noun form is katalagae (καταλλαγή). It means to exchange, to change a person from enmity to friendship. This works in both directions: We are reconciled with God, and he with us.