The Marcions have landed. A warning for evangelicals

By Carl Trueman
February 20, 2013

When one asks the most influential thinkers in the modern evangelical church are, one might find names such as Jim Packer, John Stott, and Don Carson.

I would like to suggest, however, that there is one whose influence is perhaps much greater than we are aware of, yet whose thinking all but pervades the modern evangelical church: Marcion.

He’s the man who gets my vote for most profound influence on evangelicalism, from canon to theology to worship practices. You never see his books on the shelves in your high street Christian bookshop; you never see him advertised as preaching in your local church; but, rest assured, his spirit stalks those bookshops and pulpits.

He’s the man who gets my vote for most profound influence on evangelicalism, from canon to theology to worship practices. You never see his books on the shelves in your high street Christian bookshop; you never see him advertised as preaching in your local church; but, rest assured, his spirit stalks those bookshops and pulpits.

Marcion is – or, rather, was – a somewhat shadowy figure, with most of what we know about him coming from the hostile pen of Tertullian. Apparently, he was a native of Pontus (in modern times, the area by the Black Sea), who flourished in the middle of the second century, dying circa 160. His major distinctive was his insistence on the Christian gospel as exclusively one of love to the extent that he came to a complete rejection of the Old Testament and only a qualified acceptance of those parts of the New Testament which he considered to be consistent with his central thesis (i.e. ten letters of Paul and a recension of the Gospel of Luke).

So how does Marcion influence modern evangelicalism? Well, I think evangelicalism has become practically Marcionite at a number of levels.

Exclusively love

First, the emphasis upon God’s love to the utter exclusion of everything else has become something of a commonplace. We see this in the collapse of the notion of penal substitution as an evangelical doctrine. Now, maybe I’m missing something, but of all the things taught in the Bible, the terrifying wrath of God would seem to be among the most self-evident of all.

Thus, when I hear statements from evangelical theologians such as ‘God’s wrath is always restorative’, my mind goes straight to countless OT passages, the Bible’s teaching about Satan, and NT characters such as Ananias and Sapphira. There was not much restoration for any of these folk – or are being swallowed alive by the earth, consumed by holy fire and being struck dead for cheating the church actually therapeutic techniques intended to restore the individuals concerned?

And when leading evangelicals tell me that penal substitution is tantamount to cosmic child abuse (don’t laugh – this is seriously argued by some leading evangelical theologians), I’m left wondering whether I should sit down and explain the doctrine to them, or whether I should merely tell them to go away and grow up. Do they really expect the church to take such claims as serious theological reflection?

Out with the Old

Then, there is the constant tendency to neglect the Old Testament, in particular in our theological reflections, and our devotional lives also need to take full account of the Old Testament. We need to read the Bible as a whole, to understand each passage, each verse, within the theological and narrative structure of the canon as a whole.

As evangelicals we can often err by focusing purely on the straight doctrinal teaching of the letters in the NT and the great passages in John’s Gospel. An NT scholar and friend once said to me that he thought the average evangelical’s life would be pretty much unaffected if the whole Bible, except for the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Romans, simply disappeared. Hyperbole maybe, but probably not by much. We need a solid biblical theology – not one which downgrades everything to the level of economy at the expense of ontology but one which takes full account of the central narrative of the Bible and seeks to do justice even to those bits of the Bible we don’t like.

God’s songs

Then, in our church practice, we need to take the Old Testament more seriously. It astounds me, given the overwhelming use of psalms as central to gathered worship in the first four centuries, the absolute importance given to psalmody for the first two centuries of the post-Reformation Reformed churches, and the fact that the Book of Psalms is the only hymn book which can claim to be universal in its acceptance by the whole of Christendom and utterly inspired in all of its statements – it astounds me, I say, that so few psalms are sung in our worship services today.

Moreover, often nothing seems to earn the scorn and derision of others more than the suggestion that more psalms should be sung in worship. Indeed, the last few years have seen a number of writers strike out against exclusive psalmody. Given that life is too short to engage in pointless polemics, I am left wondering which parallel universe these guys come from, where the most pressing and dangerous worship issue is clearly that people sing too much of the Bible in their services. How terrifying a prospect that would be.

Imagine: people actually singing songs that express the full range of human emotion in their worship using words of which God has explicitly said, ‘These are mine.’ Back here on Planet Earth, however, there is generally precious little chance of overloading on sound theology in song in most evangelical churches as the Marcion invasion is pretty much total and unopposed in the sphere of worship. Yet I for one prefer Athanasius to Marcion as a patristic thinker and, in his letter to Marcellinus, he gives one of the most beautiful and moving arguments for psalms in worship ever penned (available at aletterm.htm). It is a pity more have not taken his words to heart

Making God unknowable

So what will be the long-term consequences of this Marcionite approach to the Bible? Ultimately, I think it will push ‘the God who is there’ back into the realm of the unknowable and make our god a mere projection of our own psychology and our worship simply into group therapy sessions where we all come together to pretend we are feeling great. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – take that identity away and what do we have left? As the OT is the context for the NT, so the neglect of OT leaves the NT as more or less meaningless. As our reading, our sermons, and our times of corporate worship neglect and, sometimes, simply ignore the OT, we can expect a general impoverishment of church life and, finally, a total collapse of evangelical Christendom.

Indeed, there are mornings when I wake up and think it’s already all over, and that the church in the West survives more by sheer force of personality, by hype and by marketing ploys rather than by any higher power. We need to grasp once again who God is in his fullness; we need to grasp who we are in relation to him; and we need teaching and worship which gives full-orbed expression to these things – and this will only come when we in the West grow up, ditch the designer gods we build from our pick-n-mix Bible where consumer, not Creator, is king, and give the whole Bible its proper place in our lives, thinking and worship.

Think truncated thoughts about God and you’ll get a truncated God; read an expurgated Bible and you get an expurgated theology; sing mindless, superficial rubbish instead of deep, truly emotional praise and you will eventually become what you sing.

Carl Trueman is Professor of Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, USA. This article is adapted from Carl’s editorial in Themelios Vol. 28 No. 1 from last autumn and is used with permission

Notes (near transcript) of Sermon 1/27/13

The Now and Future Kingdom


Do you have an over-realized eschatology?

Do you have an under-realized eschatology?

Eschatology– a theological word. Simple explanation: eschaton “last” -completion, final blessings.

An over-realized eschatology would be one where a believer thinks that all the powers and promises and blessings of heaven are here NOW. It is only a matter that the believer “claim” these promises by faith and they will be received. If they are not received it is due to the lack of faith of the believer. i.e. healing and health, financial supply, victory over sinful habits are ours for the taking “by faith”

This viewpoint is characteristic of some Pentecostal/charismatic churches.

A rather odd outlier cult that believes something like this is the so-called “Christian Science Church” which teaches that sickness is an illusion. Chr.Sci. practitioners teach followers that if they will believe they are well, they will be well.

An under-realized eschatology focuses on the darkness and sinfulness of the world and expects and experiences very little of the blessings promised to believers.

  • At best it provides the promise of heaven.
  • At worst it provides an excuse for a Christian life that is defeated by sin and its effects with no hope of deliverance except in heaven.

Years ago I heard a preacher in a Presbyterian Church in Chicago tell a story about a woman who came a rather staid and formal church service. She sat in the service soaking in every word and song about Jesus. She got excited a few times and said out-loud “praise the Lord,” “halleluiah,” “glory to God.” After a few of these outbursts of joy an usher came to where she was sitting and told her to be quiet. She apologized and answered exuberantly, “Oh, I’ve met Jesus and I just can’t get over it.” The usher answered, ‘that may be madam, but you did not meet him here’

That is the sort of church characterized by an under-realized eschatology.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:11-27?

Remember the situation: Jesus is on a Journey to Jerusalem.

He is doing amazing things, such as healing, deliverance, teaching about a revolution where God’s kingdom raises the faithful poor and casts down the rich despots.

He is teaching and pronouncing blessing on those who were considered unimportant: Children, women, poor, Gentiles….and lately a chief tax gatherer named Zacchaeus. In fact he has just announced “Salvation” to Zacchaeus’ house with a wonderful transforming response on the part of Zacchaeus!

It is more than likely that some of those watching and hearing are thinking that the Kingdom is ready to appear in all its eschatological fullness…. as soon as Jesus reaches Jerusalem.

Jesus has tried to make it clear:        And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34 ESV)

But, they are not getting his words: they did not grasp what was said.

Now we may understand the parable:

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore,

“A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

BTW: This actually did happen in 4 BC when Archelaeus went to Rome seeking to be made king:

He was the son of Herod the Great, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod Philip I.

Archelaus received the Tetrarchy of Judea by the last will of his father, though a previous will had bequeathed it to his brother Antipas. He was proclaimed king by the army, but declined to assume the title until he had submitted his claims to Caesar Augustus in Rome. Before setting out, he quelled with the utmost cruelty a sedition of the Pharisees, slaying nearly three thousand of them. In Rome he was opposed by Antipas and by many of the Jews, who travelled there to testify against him, who feared his cruelty; but in 4 BCE Augustus allotted to him the greater part of the kingdom.

So Jesus is using a past current event to illustrate something: Archelaus had been named king, but went away to get royal authority and then returned to rule.

Jesus was teaching them that although He is king by rights, he must go away to receive the Royal Authority before the kingdom will be fully realized. This is the true eschatology: The kingdom really has come in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of David the King, but there are aspects of it that are some distance future.

What should Jesus’ faithful disciples do in the interim?

He is going to be rejected, condemned, killed, rise from the dead… and ascend to heaven.

What should his disciples do while they await the full redemption, the fullness of the Kingdom?

v. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’

“Ten” represents the full number of his disciples, and a fullness of gifts to use.

They are to ‘Engage in business until I come.’ That is, do the work of the kingdom!

          And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

This is what Jesus’ disciples are to do NOW! We live in the interim. Christ has ascended and is at the right hand of God. “and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”

We are to engage in the business of his Body, the church, the new society of God.

WCF 25 “The visible church….…is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God…”

(1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ESV)

          For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

          For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

          The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

The church is to proclaim the gospel- the good news of a present and future SALVATION……and we are to demonstrate the same by the way we live in the Body and in the world around.

We are to be the kindest, most gracious, most charitable, most loving people because we have been given the undeserved kindness of God!

We are to live in the light of the 100% forgiveness of sins purchased for us by Christ’s death on the cross and received by faith, given and nurtured in the means of grace ordained by Christ in his church.

We are to preach the gospel and send the gospel messengers throughout the world which IS Christ’s greater domain!

We are to do this in a world rife with sin and its devastating effects, but with sure and certain hope in the future restoration of all things.

15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

What is in view here? What is Jesus telling them?

Answer: He is telling them that they must use the gifts of grace He has given to them for the Kingdom! Spiritual gifts, callings, offices, talents, temperaments, training, time!  It is not that everyone will do the same thing but that everyone will do something appropriate to their endowment.

He is promising to bless them and reward them for their faithful service.

Not salvation by works, but works by salvation!

He is showing them that there are different circumstances and situations in which they will serve with different results:

(1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV)

          Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Our missionaries in Karamoja, Uganda have a great and arduous task!

The Karamoja region in northeast Uganda is the most marginalized in the country and one of the least developed in the world. Home to cattle-herding nomads, Karamoja has been trapped in a cycle of conflict and neglect for generations as clans of warriors have battled the government—and each other—for cattle and survival. Meanwhile the region continues to hemorrhage people as they leave to eke out a living begging on the streets of Uganda’s bustling capital, Kampala. Invisible even in their own country, are the lives of ordinary Karamojong, from cattle rustlers to child beggars.

And yet:

The Karimojong have immeasurable pride in their traditional way of life, and many have remained resistant to change no matter the force trying to change them. After all, in a desert-like land, the Karimojong have survived for centuries, and sometimes survival is all that matters.

Our Missionaries: Painfully slow work! Many hours of highway travel from Kampala to Mbale then a 40 mile dirt road trip just to get there. A clinic with doctor and nurse, an evangelist/pastor and family, a missionary deacon and family.

A congregation of Jesus Christ! The kingdom has come and yet it must come as the believers “engage in the King’s business” in remote Karamoja

While I was writing this sermon: My Daughter-in-law, who works with very poor immigrants wrote this on Facebook:
This morning I saw a cruel reality…. a 14 yr old and her mom waiting in the pavilion of a growers nursery to start working at 7 am but got there at 5:30 am because that is the only ride they have. The pavilion has no windows or doors to protect them from the cold weather, no coffee pot… the saddest part of all, this girl will not go to school and get an education, not get a better job. A cycle of poverty will be repeated because it is her duty to help her family by working- not by going to school. What is it that I can do, O Lord?

I do not have the answers to all the problems of this world, but Jesus Christ has given to His 10 (full measure of his Body) a 10 (full measure of his gospel and grace gifts) to us to ‘engage in kingdom works” until he comes.

God has given some of the gifts and answers to you!

Recently, two women in this congregation decided to offer to serve some of our young adults by an act of gracious hospitality! Will this save the world?

It will do something in that direction! Something is much when God is in it! Something is better than NOTHING! Something is an act of love and faith and stewardship of grace gifts.

20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” (Luke 19:11-27 ESV)

Someday Christ our King will return.

What will he say to us?

  • The church is to proclaim the gospel- the good news of a present and future SALVATION……and we are to demonstrate the same by the way we live in the Body and in the world around.
  • We are to be the kindest, most gracious, most charitable, most loving people because we have been given the undeserved kindness of God!
  • We are to live in the light of the 100% forgiveness of sins purchased for us by Christ death on the cross and received by faith, given and nurtured in the means of grace ordained by Christ in his church.
  • We are to preach the gospel, send the gospel messengers throughout the world which IS Christ’s greater domain!
  • We are to do this in a world rife with sin and its devastating effects, but with sure and certain hope in the future restoration of all things.

We are to “engage in this business” until The King returns.

How is your eschatology? Over-realized or Under-realized?


The Gospel in Isaiah 59

Dear Congregation of Jesus Christ

On the last Sunday of 2012 I preached from Isaiah 59 emphasizing the sinfulness and failure of humans (Israel) to keep God’s covenant:

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV)

I also preached about his sending his Son, “wrapped in zeal as a cloak,” dressed for battle to save us and pointed out that this is parallel to the armor Christ offers to each Christian in Ephesians 6.

The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. (Isaiah 59:15-17 ESV)

At the end of this beautiful passage I referred to the future blessings which ensue when God’s people follow in his covenant in the gracious covenant-keeping work of Christ for us from the final verse:

v. 21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

Burk Parsons continues the same teaching in the Tabletalk article quoted below for January 8, 2013.

Covenant Blessings

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (vv. 3–4).

Leviticus 26:1-13

God’s covenants clearly have conditions, as we have seen over the past few days. The question before us now, however, is what happens when these conditions are met and what happens when they are not met? The answer is that meeting the conditions perfectly leads to eternal life, and, in the final analysis, we can only do this by trusting in Christ Jesus alone, who alone has kept the covenant perfectly (2 Cor. 5:21).

Although meeting the covenant conditions leads ultimately to eternal life—via the faith-alone imputation of the merit of Christ, the perfect covenant-keeper—there are also earthly blessings for keeping covenant that anticipate the life of the world to come. This is particularly evident under the Mosaic covenant, which was the foundational covenant for the prophets’ ministry. In fact, the blessings that the prophets announced to ancient Israel were the blessings promised to those who kept the Mosaic law. These blessings are revealed most clearly in Leviticus 26:1–13 and Deuteronomy 28:1–14.

The two lists differ slightly, but the teaching of both texts is the same. God promised the Israelites that if they were to keep the covenant, they would experience food harvests so great that they would be unable to gather everything in before it was time to sow the seed once more (Lev. 26:3–5). Faithful Israel would enjoy peace, victory over her enemies, and fruitfulness in the womb (vv. 6–10). The blessings build to the crescendo of the greatest covenant benefit of all—the presence of God Himself with His people (vv. 11–13).

When the prophets announced blessings to Israelites who persevered in covenant obedience or returned to the Lord after grossly breaking His law, they promised the very blessings we have just listed. Jeremiah 23:1–4, for example, promises the faithful remnant of Israel that it will experience great fruitfulness. Ezekiel 36:22–32 looks forward to the Spirit of God dwelling within the hearts of His children.

Ancient Israel was not to look at keeping God’s covenant as a means to earn their salvation. Thus, for the old covenant people, faithfulness did not mean perfect obedience, which is impossible for sinners. They were to strive to obey, repent when they failed, and look for the Messiah to earn salvation for them by His following the law perfectly (Gen. 3:14–15; Lev. 18:5; Deut. 18:15). But as they conformed, generally speaking, to God’s law, they enjoyed a foretaste of eternal life in the new heaven and earth.

Coram Deo

The book of Job and other portions of Scripture warn us about making a strict one-to-one correlation between the blessings or trials we receive and our obedience to God. Nevertheless, we can expect the Lord to show His favor to us when we keep His covenant and seek to obey His Word. We do this not to earn our redemption but to thank Him for saving us from our sin. Are you striving to obey the Lord and receive His blessing?

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 4:1
Isaiah 55
Matthew 19:26–30
Romans 5:12–21

Sermon at Lessons and Carols

Christmas Eve 2012

Angels are very prominent in the Readings of this Service. These are very high ranking Angels too! Whether The Angel of the LORD or Gabriel, these are Cherubim which guard God’s very throne. These High ranking Angels appear in six of the Lessons read this evening.

Years ago I took a course about angels. We learned that angels are always active in God’s work in the world, but that they are particularly active and the highest ranking ones are active, when God is doing a BIG NEW thing in his plan to save the world.

*Think back with me.

The first reading tonight was the account of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. Then and there, God promised to save them by sending a Son, His Son, through the woman! Right after that, the Lord drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and He placed cherubim in the garden to guard the way to the tree of life. By guarding the way to the tree of life, these angels function as messengers of God’s punishment, but also of His grace. They barricade the way to the tree of life because eternal life is no longer found in an earthly paradise. Adam and Eve must look to the promised seed of the woman, the Messiah, who will open the way to the paradise of God. The angels turn the attention of man to the need for a Savior. They kept Adam and Eve away from the tree and out of the immediate presence of God. If they had not done so, Adam and Eve would have been consumed by the wrath of the LORD.

Years later, in the second Lesson, when God renewed his promises to save, he made a covenant with Abraham promising salvation. This was announced by The Angel of the Lord, and it was the Angel of The Lord who commanded the sacrifice of Abraham’s only Son and then rescued Isaac from the knife saying: “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

The Third and Fourth lessons tell what God’s salvation through his Son, will mean for the world and where he will be born.

The Fifth lesson tells about the Arch-angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she is the woman who will give Birth to the Savior. Mary then rejoices greatly and accepts the mission of God.

This was going to be a big problem for Mary’s betrothed husband Joseph, so in our Sixth Lesson the same Arch-angel eased removed his doubt and concern by announcing that this is God’s doing for the Salvation of the world.

Finally, in the Seventh Lesson, the angel of the Lord together with a whole army of angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds near Bethlehem and they sang: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

These are intensely frequent appearances and messages of God’s angels because God’s long ago promised salvation has come!

And that is what Saint John tells us in the Ninth Lesson. The Creator of the universe has come down from heaven, has become a human, born of a woman, to make a way for us all to come into God’s presence in Paradise. He has come to destroy our darkness by dying in our place in sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins, the darkness of sin and hell and to make a way for us to be saved, a way back to God’s fellowship in Paradise.

This salvation, this Christmas message of the angels is for you.  You are included in the word “all.”

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This is the message of the Angels…and it is for you!

Blessed, merry Christmas!

Reformation Day Sermon 10/28/12

Of Sinners and Saints

How did you become a sinner?


Original Sin: A Study in Evangelical TheologyDavid Parker


The doctrine of original sin which refers to the ‘morally vitiated condition in which we find ourselves at birth as members of a sinful race’ is commonly regarded as one of the most difficult parts of Christian theology. With talk of such matters as imputing Adam’s sin to the race and our real incorporation in Adam, the doctrine seems to many to be a good example of some of the worst features of medieval scholastic speculation.

Some theologians would go further and regard it as ‘offensive’ and quite ‘untenable in its traditional forms.’


In an essay in The Fundamentals Thomas Whitelaw lists a number of key Scriptural passages in support of the doctrine, and then concludes:


If these passages do not show that the Bible teaches the doctrine of original, or transmitted and inherited, sin, it is difficult to see in what clearer or more emphatic language the doctrine could have been taught. The truth of the doctrine may be challenged by those who repudiate the authority of Scripture; that it is a doctrine of Scripture can hardly be denied.


How did you become a sinner? By imputation of Adam’s first sin: Which yields a life of increasing ungodliness, independent of the influences of the Holy Spirit.

Does not seem fair! Not democratic! How do we know it is true? The Bible!

[12] Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—[13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

[19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners

Every child conceived in the womb is a sinner by constitution! That’s why they commit sins as soon as they become cognizant and have the motor skills to do so. Similar to venomous snakes…cute, but they will bite you and inject venom as soon as they gain the maturity—-by nature!

How do you become a saint? By imputation of Second Adam’s righteousness: Which yields a new life of increasing holiness in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

A leading evangelical in the Church of England- Bp. Tom Wright, has called this imputation “legal fiction”

He says it is not possible for a judge to pass his personal righteousness across the courtroom to a criminal. The mistake he makes is a category mistake. A human judge may be compared to God but important differences remain.

1. God is not a mere human!

2. God is able to declare things creatively by his Word!

(Genesis 1:3-26 ESV)

  • And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
  • And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.
  • And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.
  • And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.
  • And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”
  • And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.
  • And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.
  • Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And man became a living soul.

(Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV)

  • Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (the Word), whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

BUT, God could not declare us righteous without a legal basis. It would be pure fiction (a lie) to call me a saint “holy one, righteous” without a legal ground.>> Perfect life, sacrificial cursed  judgment of death “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

This declaration of you and me as righteous also does not seem fair!

Do you want fair? Or do you want to be saved?

THANK GOD this RIGHTEOUSNESS is not “legal fiction” but Legal imputation of a real alien righteousness-

-the record of Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrificial atoning death is imputed in place of my disobedience. Without the legal ground of the righteousness of a legal representative to absorb my sin and clothe me with his perfect record, I am hopeless!~

Rom 5 [15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [17] For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

          [18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Summary: this could not work in a human courtroom because human judges are mere creatures- limited, but God is able to legally declare by creative fiat what is impossible for humans.


(2 Corinthians 5:16-21 ESV)

 [16] From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.

We don’t look at people the same way they are viewed in the world: children as ornaments, neighbors and colleagues as assets. We don’t view each other in the church as mere human SINNERS>>but as Saints, Elect, brothers and sisters, co-heirs of all that Christ gives!

We who are Simul Iustus et Peccator – require special treatment. Guidance, government, support, reproof, correction, training in practical righteousness

??Wait a minute, why do we need to be trained in righteousness if we have already be declared righteous? Because we are>> “Simul iustus et peccator”

Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.

He sees Christ, not as a mere human, prophet, etc. but as the creator and redeemer of this world! NOW WE ARE IN Christ

[17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. [18] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. [20] Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. [21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

That’s justification: He made Him sin…we have become the righteousness of God!

How do we get this Righteousness?  FAITH!!!!! Described here->>             (Romans 4:13-25 to 5:1 ESV)

The original example of a justified sinner.

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief  (unfaith) made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith is trusting God’s provision! Clinging to Christ!

Faith does not exist in isolation.

(1 Timothy 3:15 ESV)

Elders……Deacons….   I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

The church as founded and ordered by Christ her head is not besides this faith, not an extra-curricular option to this faith!

The sacraments are not incidental or unessential to this faith but comport with this faith and nourish it.

Confession of Faith 25

2. The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

3. Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.


The core remains by faith only in Christ only who has ordered and constituted the church and sacraments empowered by the Spirit for the life of faith while we are “Simul iustus et peccator.”

How did you become a sinner?  By imputation of the sin of another.

How do you become a saint? By imputation of Second Adam’s righteousness received by faith. Which yields a life of increasing holiness in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, a new life………. in the church the household of faith…the pillar and buttress of truth.                        Amen.

Sermon: Counting the Cost- Forgiveness

Counting the Cost- Forgiveness

Luke 14:25-35

In The Gospel Narrative,

[25] Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, [26] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. [27] Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

If he were campaigning for president…GAF!!!

Polls would plummet!

Jesus is on mission to save the world…forgiving sinners who had made themselves enemies. This mission is set forth as finishing with a great feast…the feast of Messiah, the feast of Salvation and reconciliation.

Last week…..Immediate previous teaching:

[15] When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” [16] But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. [17] And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ [18] But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ [19] And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ [20] And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ [21] So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ [22] And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ [23] And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. [24] For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

The essence of Jesus’ mission is forgiveness and the banquet is a meal of reconciliation and celebration of forgiveness.

Not trying to win their vote but save them from Hell.

By Adam’s sin humans are at enmity (strife) with God. God against man.

Jesus is planning to change this situation>> putting enmity between the “Seed” of the woman, his elect, and the seed of the Serpent, those who follow the Satan. He was going to accomplish this in Jerusalem by dying on the cross to purchase forgiveness for those who are his.

>>>>The difference between these two groups is FORGIVENESS or the lack thereof.

His blessed Seed are to know forgiveness and reconciliation through his death.

The seed of Satan are opposed to God and his forgiveness. They hate God and God’s ways. They love strife.

The mission of Christ is forgiveness and peace which preserves, restores, savors like salt. He is on a journey to Jerusalem to make a feast of forgiveness through his torn body and his shed blood .


He illustrates:

[28] For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, [30] saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

John Stott, years ago in his book Basic Christianity, wrote, “The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict half-built towers. The ruins of those who began to build them were unable to finish for thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called nominal Christianity.


[31] Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? [32] And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. [33] So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Following Jesus is a personal Battle.

Are you ready to go all the way in the battle with evil? Evil in yourself? Evil in others…compelled by the GOSPEL of FORGIVENESS and PEACE?

When we set out to follow Christ, we set out to live a life of costly forgiveness because we have received a costly forgiveness.

Jesus counted the cost! Jesus calculated the battle losses!

The Son of God goes forth to war,
a kingly crown to gain;
his blood red banner streams afar:
who follows in his train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
triumphant over pain,
who patient bears his cross below,
he follows in his train.

Forgiveness that transforms what it touches in us…… and through us extends to others.

Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message to the commonwealth- December 2011

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Savior, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

Will you follow Christ?           How far?


Will you receive God’s grace and keep it selfishly?


[34] “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? [35] It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Salt—-According to one source: The Hebrew people harvested salt by pouring sea water into pits and letting the water evaporate until only salt was left. They it  for seasoning and as a preservative. In addition, salt was used to disinfect wounds. (We tend to eat too much salt, but) Salt is a necessity of life and was also used as a unit of exchange.


“Salary” “worth your salt”

The Salty Gospel of forgiveness, is essential, preserves, disinfects, seasons….and is the currency of the King and the Kingdom.


Will you lose your saltiness?     Washed out?


An old grandfather, whose grandson came to him with anger at a schoolmate, said, “Let me tell you a story.

I, too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have hurt me so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.”

He continued, “It is as if there are two animals inside me: One is good dog who does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will fight only when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the other is a wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is hard to live with these two inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The grandfather said, “The one I feed.”


We are the well-salted people! Soaked in the brine of baptism into Christ, which as Peter said in Acts 2 is “a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”


The meal before us here is salty with forgiveness when we receive it in faith. When we receive it feeds our new life and our old enmity is starved out.


If we do not receive it in faith or refuse it, we preach an un-gospel of non-forgivness to ourselves and others. We lose our saltiness and are good for nothing but to be cast out.


“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Come to the feast of Messiah! You are invited…may God’s grace compel you to come in.

Come get re-salted with gospel forgiveness and be prepared to forgive others.

Come for all things are now ready!

Who Draws the Line: Who has the authority to decide doctrine?


Who Draws the Line?

By Sean Michael Lucas

As Jesus ascended into heaven, He delegated His authority to the Apostles to make disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20a). This delegation of authority has typically served as the basis for thinking about the authority (or power) of the disciples gathered as the church. In other words, here Jesus grants authority to order worship (implied in baptism and teaching) and to declare doctrine (implied in teaching what Jesus commanded).

Because the church has authority to declare doctrine, it is the church that has authority to draw doctrinal lines and serve as the final judge on doctrinal issues. Scripture teaches us that the church serves as the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) by communicating the biblical witness faithfully to succeeding generations (2 Tim. 2:2), by defending it from attack (Jude 3–4), by presenting reasons for belief (1 Peter 3:15), and by witnessing to its truthfulness and power (2 Peter 1:19–21).

In our age, this understanding—that the church has Jesus’ authority to serve as the final judge on doctrinal matters— rubs us wrong for three reasons. First, it rubs us wrong because we are pronounced individualists. This is especially the case for contemporary American Christians, who have a built-in “democratic” bias to believe that the Bible’s theology is accessible to all well-meaning, thoughtful Christians. Because theological truth is democratically available to all, such individuals can stand toe to toe with ministerial “experts” or ecclesiastical courts and reject their authority. As one church leader said some years ago, “Ain’t nobody but Jesus can tell me what to believe.”

Perhaps it is this individualistic, democratic perspective that has led to the rise of websites and blogs in which theology is done in public by a range of folks who may or may not be appropriately trained and ordained for a public teaching role. While the Internet has served as a “free press” that has provided important watchdog functions for various organizations, there are two downsides of the new media, which ironically move in opposite directions. On the one side, the new media (blogs, websites, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter) allow everyone to be his own theologian and judge of doctrinal matters. But because everyone is shouting and judging, the ironic other side is that those who are the mostwell known and have the biggest blogs gain the most market share and actually become the doctrinal arbiters of our electronic age. In this new media world, the idea that the church as a corporate body actually has authority to declare doctrine and judge on doctrinal issues is anathema.

Next, believing that the church has authority to judge doctrinal matters rubs us wrong because we have a faulty understanding of “the church.” We have long been told that the church is not a building—it is the individuals in the building who make up the church. While that statement might be true when couched in a certain way, we should say that it is particularly when the church gathers under the Spirit of King Jesus that He promises to be with us. That is to say, it is when the church gathers as a “court” (defined as a formal meeting or reception presided over by a sovereign) that the church declares doctrine because that is the time when we trust that King Jesus is present and presiding (Matt. 18:19–20).

For some of us, again reflecting our individualism, such understanding of the church unnecessarily limits voices and perspectives that might be helpful in conversation. But restricting access to debates and judgments about theology to those who have been set apart as elders in Christ’s church and who have gathered for the purpose of study, prayer, and declaration actually ensures a more thoughtful process and a surer understanding of Christ’s Word than a pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all. Not only do we trust that a multiplicity of voices is represented by the eldership, but, above all, we trust that the single voice of the Spirit of Jesus will be heard in our midst.

Finally, this understanding that the church declares and judges doctrine bothers us because it seems slow and prone to error. After all, doctrinal error is significant: precious souls are at stake, so the church must speak quickly in order to protect the flock, the thought goes. Yet, how often is it true in the life of the church that haste makes waste, that rapid response actually spreads doctrinal deviancy by giving it an undeserved attention? Or we end up failing to honor our brothers in Christ with whom we disagree by not listening well to what they are saying? The seemingly slow processes of the church as it works its way through doctrinal confusion and conflict actually preserve the reputation of our brothers. After all, “the one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17).

Of course, such slow and deliberate processes do not guarantee a biblically appropriate result. After all, the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that “all synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred” (WCF 31.3). Sometimes, entire denominations err significantly as they prayerfully consider Scripture and judge doctrine. Such error, however, does not negate Jesus’ own delegation of authority to the church and set the stage for a free-for-all. Rather, errors are appealed to the judgment of the larger church—whether higher judicatories within a denomination or the global church itself.

And if the particular church does not repent of her errors, then the third power of the church is invoked: the church’s authority to discipline itself (Matt. 18:15–20). Sometimes this discipline occurs within the courts of the church. Sometimes this discipline occurs when congregations are forced to exercise “discipline in reverse” by leaving a particular denominational body. Such is never done with rejoicing, but always with tears. However, the main point is actually reinforced: Jesus has delegated authority to the church to declare and judge doctrine, and so discipline herself. As the church does this, she demonstrates her submission to her King, who rules over all things and who continues to speak His Word through His church. Thankfully, we have His sure promise: He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul.© Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

Quote from Rev. John Otis

The Triumphant Lamb of God! Quoted in Vesper Worship Service July 8, 2010 Rev. John Otis: The Great Commission of Christ in Matthew 28:18-20 will be accomplished in history prior to Christ’s Second Coming. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea as promised in Isaiah 11:9 and in Habakkuk 2:14.  King Jesus will take possession of His inheritance as was promised Him by the Father in Psalm 2:7,8. Verse 8 says, “Ask of Me and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.” From His ascended throne in heaven, King Jesus exercises His kingly reign by subduing His enemies, making them a footstool for His feet just as Hebrews 10:12,13 says, “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.”

Praise for Grace and Peace (OPC)

I have visited and worshiped at G&P several times over the last two months or so.  I must offer praise and thanks to be able to participate in a worship service with a Body that understands completely that corporate worship is His service, not ours.

Your classic liturgical order of worship that honor’s holy scripture across the board, would not be unique in an earlier day.  What you practice is now precious indeed.  Gratitude to the Lord for His redemptive work came across with clarity in every Service.

I have been with you occasionally due to transitioning from Maryland to Arizona where my wife (who’s been out there several months) & I are worshiping at Prescott Presbyterian OPC.

While my time of worshipping in Maryland is now past, I pray that the Body at G&P continues to thrive confessing our faith and worshiping our Triune God.

In Christ Holy name

Geoffrey Parker Col, USAF (Ret)

From my sermon 4/29/12 – reference to C. S. Lewis “Three Kinds of Men”

There are three kinds of people in the world.

The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them.

In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them—the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society—and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on. Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time “on parade” and “off parade,” “in school” and “out of school.”

But the third class is of those who can say like St Paul that for them “to live is Christ.” These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

And because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us enough to live on. As long as we are in this class we must either feel guilt because we have not paid the tax or penury because we have. The Christian doctrine that there is no “salvation” by works done to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.

The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort—it is to want Him. It is true that the wanting itself would be beyond our power but for one fact. The world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us.